Teenage angst: monoblogue turns thirteen

To the consternation of many, this website has survived another year.

Considering the frequency over the last year nearly matches that of the year before, it appears I have found my comfort level of posting that averages out as twice a week. It’s likely the days of daily content are behind me given the circumstances in which I find myself: while the first three years of monoblogue were done with me having a full-time job, I also was single – so what else did I have to do besides blog? Now I have a great wife and take time out of my week for bowling (while that was an activity I did pre-marriage as well, it was easier to write with bowling on Friday nights as opposed to midweek) and small group at church to go with the full-time gig. Until recently there was also this book thing going on, too.

But when I look back at all the things I have done and written about, vast portions don’t seem as important as they once were. The hot takes have gone cold, the newsmakers are making news elsewhere, and yesterday’s political flavor du jour is today’s ant heap of history. But there are posts that I still like to consider as a diary of sorts, and they’re generally my photographic posts. An ongoing project I can hopefully get back to is that of salvaging as many posts as I can where the photos were lost thanks to the demise of the old Adobe photo service. Those who say the internet is forever, though, never followed the dead links to my Examiner pages where half my good stuff was placed. I think this is the year I’m going to try and set the record straight.

You know as well as I do that politics has been my site’s bread and butter from the very beginning. But frankly I am just sick and tired of the whole thing and my growing distaste of social media isn’t too far behind it. Sometimes I feel like I’ve given months or even years of my life to try and convince people who can’t be convinced, just like leading horses to water and watching them turn up their noses. Call me jaded or accuse me of a lack of empathy, but I’ve stopped caring whether they die of thirst or not and I’m arriving at the point where I think I need a different and more productive obsession. Add to that the whole “fake news” phenomenon and the increasing difficulty of using social media to build an audience and maybe it is time to set that whole thing aside. (My website kept screeching that it can’t properly connect to Facebook, so I bagged the connection. It’s a sign.)

I suppose one thing I may get to in the next year is my 5,000th post. Had I stayed on my frenetic pre-2016 pace I would have likely blown by that mark around the middle of last year but at 100 or so posts a year it might be the middle of next year. And that’s all right with me.

Perhaps it wasn’t in the cards for me to be a world-famous writer who made his fortune with a simple blog of his questions, problems, thoughts, opinions, or comments (to paraphrase Mr. Geer, my freshman science teacher.) But it doesn’t mean I can’t try to make this the best blog I can, and one of those aspects is writing about things that interest me in such a fashion that I don’t lose any sleep at night worrying.

In the more immediate future I have some final record reviews to write to finish the year and my Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame has some new players – ones that can finish filling out a 40-man roster. I may not be as political but I still have some old standards to work on as I begin year number fourteen.

Happy Thanksgiving 2018

In Ecclesiastes 1:9 we are told “there is no new thing under the sun.” This Biblical line is well-suited for my message this year, as I was tempted to put last year‘s back up because it pretty much still applies. I still like growing older with my wife.

I suppose, though, there are some things that have changed, even if they’re not really new. Since matters electoral remain the bread and butter of my writing it’s worth noting that politically we are entering a brave new world of divided government under a populist Republican president – the last time that happened I was still in college. (That, kids, was a looooong time ago.) I guess I should be thankful the “blue wave” didn’t crest as high as once thought.

One thing about our present climate still bothers me, though. Too many people can’t get along because they see the political registration, hear the wrong talking points, or walk around in different colored hats. It seems lately, though, that I talk online quite a bit more to Democrats than I do Republicans. (Those folks I catch offline, as you’ll find why in a bit.) Sure, the Democrats know I’m barely left of militia but we can talk about issues and choose to disagree or occasionally even find a patch of common ground. It’s a good balance because most of my church family leans to the right, and I’m sure a few of them may, from time to time, fall short when it comes to decorum with those on the other side politically. I try not to, although the “progressives” make it difficult sometimes!

So I suppose that besides the obvious blessings I have of food, family, friends, a steady place of employment, and roof over my head, I should give great thanks for being blessed with the insight to see beyond the political labels and into the content of character. I can’t say I’m completely immune from getting my exercise through jumping to conclusions, but I feel like I’m getting better about it. Heck, even my in-laws don’t always agree with me but we still get along all right.

Anyway, I am going to conclude by taking one bit of license from previous writing because I still like the material:

Some of our prayers are simple expressions of thanks for His works, and it’s with that in mind that I hope you share today that which you are thankful for with our Creator. I understand for some that list may be far too short, and for others I’ll grant that they haven’t quite learned their long list of blessings is there in no small part thanks to His intercession. (I think He is certainly approving of the endeavors and efforts one undertakes in pursuit of those blessings, though.)

So I pray that all of you have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving. Enjoy your dinner, friends, and family, and (above all) count your blessings.

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)

Coming attractions

Thank goodness the election is over, notwithstanding events in Georgia and Florida. I even got around to tossing out the political mailings.

So now we get a little break, although there’s one recent piece of interesting Maryland political news: an announcement in the wake of the Fourth Circuit’s edict that Maryland redraw two of its Congressional districts to re-enfranchise Republican voters who were gerrymandered out of the Sixth Congressional District, a district that became much less compact and contiguous because Martin O’Malley and Maryland Democrats wanted to create a Congressional seat for onetime State Senator Rob “Gas Tax” Garagiola. To achieve that goal, they shifted the district southward to cover a large portion of Montgomery County – the fact that it covered Rob’s State Senate district was just a coinkydink, of course – excising Republican-rich swaths of Frederick and Carroll counties from the Sixth District and placing them in the MoCo-dominated Eighth Congressional District. By next March the districts are supposed to be redrawn, presumably back close to their pre-2012 configuration.

Seeing that, an opportunity has arose for my two-time monoblogue Accountability Project Legislator of the Year Neil Parrott to run from cover by forming an exploratory committee, perhaps doubling the mAP LoY delegation in Congress as he would presumably join Andy Harris in the House. Add to that, in an unrelated story, reigning and two-time mAP Top (Blue) Dog Jim Brochin trying to pay off campaign debt with a “bipartisan” fundraiser, and you can tell it’s the silly season of politics.

Aside from those above diversions, politics tends to slow down quite a bit. Sure, there may be an issue or two that emanates from the upcoming lame-duck session of Congress, but for the most part things are buttoned up during the holidays only to be ramped up as we return to normal after the new year.

As it works out, this post-election hiatus provides for me a chance to catch up on a couple other things. One (which is really sort of a navel-gazing set) is contemplating my annual Thanksgiving message for personal thanks and the “state of the blog” anniversary post as monoblogue becomes a teenager this year, with all the moodiness and angst to go with it – although the last couple years have foreshadowed that to a great degree.

The second is updating my Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame. Fortunately or not, the early Thanksgiving gives me a little extra time to do it as I generally take the page down on that day so I can update it in time for the first Thursday in December, which falls a full two weeks after Thanksgiving this year. I have five players to add, but with a number of trades made I also have some photos to update. I can’t keep using the Zach Britton, Manny Machado, and Jonathan Schoop photos I’ve had for years because they’ve suited up elsewhere.

So I may not be posting much before Thanksgiving, in part because I also want to work on a different website: the one I’m creating for my book. (I’ve had the domain name for a few months now, so it’s time to make it active.) Maybe my anniversary here will also be the debut there.

It’s time for a few mental health days.

Reviving the circle of life

Last Thursday night I had the opportunity to assist a great local cause and ministry, the Eastern Shore Pregnancy Center.

Now I’m probably not the best at relating to mothers or fathers-to-be in need, which is among the things they do. But I can laugh with the best of them (and sign a check) and that’s what I did a lot of that special evening – okay, one check but plenty of laughing. It’s something I will get to in due course.

When I last wrote about one of these events three years ago, they had a somewhat different approach to the issue of fundraising and securing a speaker: generally it was a message from someone who combined the desired Biblical message with a significant helping of appeal for donations. That’s not to say it wasn’t a good formula, but perhaps it was a formula getting less and less effective. (Which probably explains in part why I didn’t do a post on the 2016 event, the last time I attended.)

So I liked the change in format as well as location, as they have moved to the more intimate parish hall at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Salisbury. (It also meant the dinner was a lot better, as Black Diamond Catering did a fantastic job.) I’m hoping the results made this nice lady’s ministry a lot easier.

“By the grace of God, at least 60 babies have been saved” in the past year, said ESPC director Jackie Seldon.

The goal was compatible with that which I recalled from previous years, and I made sure to share a little more of those blessings I received this year. What they shared was the testimony of one of their clients and her mentor through the experience, and as Seldon noted the ESPC has now been around long enough that they are beginning to see second-generation client families.

I don’t recall the exact reason I failed to attend last year’s event, but among the things I missed was this gentleman’s debut with the Labor of Love banquet.

Repeat parenting offender and comedian Gordon Douglas was the featured performer.

Once named (with his wife, of course) as a Parent of the Year in Pennsylvania, Gordon Douglas had some unique takes on parenting, and – more importantly – the blessing of being a good and caring person.

The part of the story that captivated me was how he got started in the business of parenting. (The comedy part in Hollywood is interesting, too, but I don’t recall all the names he dropped and that’s not the red meat of this narrative, anyway.) I just hope I’m doing justice to the story in a few hundred words and so-so memory.

As a teenager Gordon was the same rail-thin self he is now, but was not particularly athletic or popular and had an impoverished upbringing because his disabled father could not work. Thus, it was perhaps understandable that Gordon wrote a school paper detailing his questioning why he should go on living when the “best time of his life” was so miserable. What did he have to look forward to?

Perhaps Gordon had a guardian angel, for the teacher grading the paper took him under his wing and gave him the encouragement he needed – not to say that it was all smooth sailing from there, as there were other funny mishaps in his high school days and then his young adult life once he got married. But because he found a mentor at his lowest point, when Gordon got started on his initial career in youth ministry he had business cards with three things: his name, his phone number, and a quarter taped to them. The message was: if you needed someone to talk to, he would be there, day or night. Soon enough a 14-year old with a terrible home life called him up, and when he went to ask the parents if the boy could stay overnight, the parents said, “Keep him.”

So he did. For Gordon and his wife, this boy was the first of many children they took in. Besides, when you desire children and are told you can’t have them, what’s the next best thing? Well, that is, until you have a miracle and don’t stop until you have five.

To make what was a long story much, much shorter: between children, wayward young adults, and even a couple prisoners they’ve taken in from the detention center (“you can’t tell it’s them if you don’t see their ankle bracelets”) there are upwards of two dozen kids they’ve taken care of over the years. Some couples have the baseball batting order, but the Douglases filled out the whole roster.

Needless to say, it was a great story, I also had the pleasure of speaking to him afterward as I offered to make him famous. (Or, I guess, infamous, depending on your perspective of this website.)

Gordon was also a quick change artist. Actually, he had copies of his printed and recorded works on sale, and some folks (myself included) got autographed copies. There’s nothing wrong with some entrepreneurial spirit, and hopefully he’s sold many more books than I have!

It should be noted that Gordon comes by this specialty of assisting pregnancy centers like the ESPC naturally as he served for many years on the board of his local pregnancy center. Now he helps others with his comedic talent, although he pointed out that when he started there were 4,000 Planned Parenthood facilities and 300 pregnancy centers, but now the numbers are becoming reversed, which is a blessing.

I stayed awhile afterward to see if the ESPC made its goal, but had to leave in order to finish one of my other jobs (on deadline writing for The Patriot Post) before I could find out. But if I find out in the coming days what the total was I’ll certainly update the post.

Of course, it doesn’t mean you can’t help them out yourself, as the ESPC definitely serves the least of us, as in the message of Matthew 25:35-40. Or put in a somewhat more secular way: to have the pursuit of happiness you need liberty, but to have liberty you must have life. They’re put in a specific order for a reason, so I encourage the support of these budding lives where I can.

Weekend of local rock volume 74

This will be a unique post in the WLR annals because I’m going to depart from chronological order.

As I noted the other day in discussing the AWF, I wasn’t there as long as I had been in the past – so out of six bands listed here I only saw the last two.

By the schedule in front of me, we came while The Haymans were playing.
These guys really looked cold. “Yeah, a ‘second season’ outdoor show – that should be fine!” Uh-huh.

While this duo plays often about town, this was the first time I saw The Haymans. I call it a duo because there’s two of them, but they also incorporate a backing track into their set to provide the rhythm section. That was a bit distracting and somewhat a bummer because I like watching musicians play.

Now if you liked watching a lot of women who had sampled the grape dance, this band was just the ticket.

I don’t know how many consecutive years they’ve done it, but I’m certain that some people go to the AWF on Sunday just to see On The Edge close it out.

If it was that “funky music” recorded between oh, maybe 1964 and 1994, and you can dance to it, On The Edge most likely plays it. And the fun part (besides watching the lead singer test out the limits of his wireless microphone circulating through the crowd) was seeing the migration up front.

This is almost the same shot I used Friday to show where everyone was at 3:00. They were waiting to dance it off.
The guy in the red Phillies regalia by the sound board? Yeah, he’s the singer next to the few dozen already shaking their groove thing. Pay attention to the picnic table at photo right.

Fast forward about a half-hour…

You probably couldn’t walk through up front by this point. Just two left at the table…
…and now they’re gone too. Had to join the rest of their crew.

On the way out I met up with Jim Mathias, who was coming in to sing with these guys. He thanked me for being engaged (presumably in the political realm) so I thank him for supporting local music, which is much better for the sanity in this current climate.

Maybe this current climate needs a dose of part 2 of this piece. As I said, I usually work in chronological order but in this case I saved the best for last. I’ve often bent the “local rock” definition to fit national acts playing local shows, and the AWF weekend kicked off with a trio of Christian artists at the Civic Center. Here are some of my favorite shots from the concert featuring MercyMe, Tenth Avenue North, and Tim Timmons.

Timmons was the opening act, and while he only played three songs he got some assistance from the headliners at the end.

First up was Tim Timmons, a walking miracle: he was given five years to live with his cancer 14 years ago.
A little help from his friends.

Tenth Avenue North is a high-energy group. It’s unfortunate that I couldn’t get a good shot of the singer milling through the crowd.

I really only got one good shot of Tenth Avenue North, but this was a cool moment too.

I actually liked them a shade more than I did MercyMe, but to each his or her own.

This was from the opening song MercyMe did.
Maybe the best shot I got all night comes from MercyMe.

We ended up doing the Happy Dance to close out the night. It was a long show – 7:30 until almost 11.

They were doing the Happy Dance in the Civic Center as the confetti blasted out.

So that, folks, was the weekend in local rock.

2018 Autumn Wine Festival in pictures and text

Just like the Good Beer Festival last week, my photographic series on the Autumn Wine Festival returns after a three-year hiatus. And like the GBF, a lot has changed over the last three years, but not necessarily for the better. The best thing is that it gives me a break from political posts.

Once again, I can allow the captions to help tell the story.

As we arrived about 1:30, the party was already underway despite a blustery, chilly Sunday.

I’m not going to have a ton of photos this year. Unlike other years when I was somewhat of a captive to the event as the guy who coordinated the GOP tent for almost a decade and hence was there almost the entire time, this time I was a “civilian” who was simply serving as DD for my wife and generally just tagged along for about 2 1/2 hours Sunday – enough to get a flavor of the place. So a lot of my photos were taken of the two bands I saw as part of an upcoming WLR segment.

Speaking of political hostages…

Notice anything missing? The Democrats didn’t have a tent – however, they were not the only ones baring it in the sunshine.

This was the Democrats’ space. In looking at it in the photo, I’m wondering how much extra property they took outside the 10′ x 15′ square you’re usually assigned to get all those signs up – including perhaps the only two Ben Jealous signs in Wicomico County. (Okay, I’m kidding on Jealous – but I don’t think I’m kidding by much.) But seriously – it looks like they are way outside their boundaries.

Shawn Jester (behind table), Woody Willing, and a little of my finger were representing for the GOP.

By comparison, the GOP wasn’t overstepping by too much. They had a reasonable business going, but not spectacular. Nor did I see a whole bunch of folks at the competing spaces for Bo McAllister and Chris Welch. I got Welch’s space in the photo below.

On the left is the tentless space of Chris Welch, whose crew abandoned the tent on Sunday morning thanks to the high winds.

I thought I caught McAllister’s tent in a shot but it turns out I did not. It was just to the right of this photo, and you can see the dearth of people on this side.

Just off the right side of the photo would have been Bo McAllister’s tent. By the time 3:30 rolled around this end was about dead.
I’m looking up toward the food court here. The arrangement was somewhat similar to the GBF as far as the food and stage were concerned.

I will say the food selection was excellent. I tried a place called The Street Kitchen, which is the white truck way off in the background of the shot – good pulled pork and outstanding slaw some may kill for. Come on back to the next festival!

Unlike last week, those who wanted to sit and watch the game on a comfy couch were indulged. Or maybe they had the Hallmark Channel on, I dunno.

One thing I did before piecing this post together was read my previous posts (2007-15) from the AWF. (2007 was the first year I worked it, so the cool thing is the institutional knowledge – which will get even better when I dig up the photos missing from a couple of those years.) Once upon a time they had a VIP area, so I wonder why they did away with it?

The real VIP area on this day would have been smack dab in front of this fireplace. If you could see the stage from this spot I think there would have been a whole cast of people camped out there – including me!

Here is another vendor who can come back. I walked by there coming in and felt the heat.

I noted the stage in my last caption. These are views looking toward the front of the stage at 3:00 and 3:30.

They were already beginning to camp out in front of the stage by 3.
I’m looking down from the south end of the winery tents toward the stage. People had pretty much vanished from the end tents by 3:30-4:00.

Even the lines to the porta-potties were practically non-existent by the time we left, right around 4:00. To be perfectly honest, the vendors could have packed it in about 3:30 and Kim said a couple were.

So I took some shots of signs and wine bottles I liked.

Love the play on a phrase.
New variations on the old Gollywobbler theme. It’s a popular drink.
The old sun + wine bottles shot, in this case courtesy of il Dolce Winery.
Olney Winery had the neatest bottles, though.

In speaking to a vendor (in this case, the wife of a candidate) I was told they had 2,400 people there Saturday – in that case it seems like a down crowd. Granted, it was cloudy but it was also about 10 degrees warmer and about 1/4 as windy. According to the vendor application, though, the county expects an attendance of 3,500 for the weekend.

So I think they were probably about there, and even though I’m not a great judge of crowds it’s sort of sad to see the lowered expectations. In doing some digging I found out the event eight years ago drew 4,651 (and the first-ever GBF had 2,378.) But the problem for the vendors is that they need to sell probably a net $500 worth of merchandise just to cover all the fees associated with the event, let alone make up for the time. My older pictures of the event show long rows of vendor tents, but this year’s had some large gaps in them.

And when you think about it, what is the county providing? It’s their property, but it’s paid for. You have to pay for two nights of security and rent of generators for a couple days as well as pay the talent and for the printing of the tickets, I know this (as well as the GBF) is supposed to be a fundraiser, so then the question becomes how cheap is too cheap?

I’m a guy and I don’t drink wine, so right there I seem to be eliminated from their target audience as Women Supporting Women is a lead sponsor. But I am also the DD for someone who is in their target audience, so you may want to rethink a couple things next year.

In the more immediate future I’m thinking you’ll see two WLR posts over the weekend as I clear out that docket.

Dealing with facts in Senate District 38 (last of four parts)

Late edit: Need to get up to speed? Here are parts one, two, and three.

In this final installment comparing the differences between District 38 State Senator Jim Mathias and his challenger, District 38C Delegate Mary Beth Carozza, we have the second-smallest number of voting differences between them for this term. But as I wrote in my wrapup of the legislative year for the monoblogue Accountability Project (mAP):

Turning to this year’s session, one conclusion is inescapable: the last four years have been a steadier and steadier test of wills between a governor who is trying to promote a particular agenda and a state majority party that had its apple cart upset and is being begged by the special interests that control it to put those apples back and bring back the regular order of things where everyone was fat and happy except the private-sector working families and taxpayers. We’re at the point now where political victories are more important than improving the citizens’ lot, on both sides of the aisle.

In 2018, Mary Beth got just 12 votes correct out of 25, although she stumbled into the twelfth by changing her incorrect vote on HB1302, the “red flag” gun bill. Jim Mathias may have always intended to vote the correct way, but the 22-day hiatus between Mary Beth’s vote and Jim’s tally was punctuated with a loud outcry from the 2A community that Mathias had to hear. [However, despite the NRA support Mathias joined Carozza on a vaguely-written ban (HB888/SB707) of so-called “bump stocks.”] Jim’s only other instance of getting a vote correct (a term-low 2 correct out of 25 votes) was sustaining the veto for HB694 – but that was the “ban the box” bill he originally voted for!

Is it any wonder that people like me can be cynical about Jim’s record?

A major bill that the pair parted ways on will also be decided in this election – same-day voter registration is already in place during early voting, but HB532 established a referendum for this year that mandates its inclusion on Election Day, presumably beginning in 2020. Jim Mathias may not mind this extra work for poll workers and increased risk of voter fraud, but Mary Beth stood against it.

That government we elected last time around kept trying to usurp power from the executive branch, and they succeeded with a pair of measures that Carozza and Mathias voted opposite ways on: Mary Beth was correct in attempting to stop HB230/SB290 (a bill requiring legislative approval to pull out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative scam) and the sour grapes represented by SB687, laughingly referred to as “state vacancy reform.” Unfortunately, Jim Mathias backed an effort that succeeded in creating an unelected board to distribute school capital funding, removing the duty from the partially-elected (2 of 3 members) Board of Public Works – a slap at Democrat Comptroller Peter Franchot, who apparently votes too often with the Republican governor. (To his credit, Mathias voted for a floor amendment to restore the BPW to its place, but its failure was not enough to either dissuade him from voting for final passage or overriding the veto.)

The Big Labor interests that have supported Jim Mathias to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars over the last twelve years got their money’s worth this term – bills that dealt with making new hires opt out of being harassed to join the union rather than having to opt in (HB1017/SB677), another allowing disgruntled employees disputing prevailing wage decisions being allowed to take their suit directly to court (rather than to a state arbitrator, part of HB1243/SB572), and a huge gift as the precedent was set (with Jim’s support) for paid parental leave in SB859. This was on top of getting the veto override of HB1 from 2017, in part thanks to Mathias.

Mary Beth stood with providers by opposing a bill written by the insurance companies (HB1782) establishing a re-insurance program through a renewed assessment (formerly on a federal level, but being shifted to a state one) on those same insurers. Jim Mathias obviously isn’t into fee relief.

Finally on the environmental front, Mary Beth was on the right side of a proposal (HB1350/SB1006) that mandates certain state-funded construction projects be adapted to conform with weather conditions brought on by supposed global climate change. It may be prudent in some instances, but will certainly bust the budget elsewhere.

Because District 38 is my home district, I have been paying particular attention to the race. But it’s worth noting that a similar race exists in Senate District 8 which pits Senator Katherine Klausmeyer against Delegate Christian Miele.

While the differences aren’t as stark between those two as they’ve been between Carozza and Mathias, they are still there: over the last four years where they have served together, Klausmeyer has racked up annual mAP scores of 32, 2, 24, and 4 for an average of 15.5, while Miele has scored 58, 44, 60, and 26 for an average of 47. On the average, then, Miele would get 7 to 8 more mAP votes correct than Klausmeyer each term, which can mean more money in your pocket and more opportunity for businesses to thrive and create good-paying jobs. The records are there for inspection on the sidebar.

One final word. We can talk about voting records all day, but there are those who swear by Jim Mathias because he “works hard for the district” or some variation of that remark. As proof they can point to social media, where Jim is often going live at some event or gathering – even if it’s walking in a parade 100 miles outside his district. Look, I’m into hometown pride as much as anyone given my affinity for particular sports teams and number of my friends still hailing from mine, but the whole “look at me” attitude seems a little artificial and contrived after awhile.

Over this campaign I’ve pointed out the perceived flaws in Jim’s record in both the votes and money he takes for and from special interests, groups that seemingly are more concerned with combating the good things Governor Hogan does (yes, there are a few) and keeping the state as the East Coast’s answer to California and Chicago than they are with the needs of our diverse district. It’s telling that the latest charge by the Annapolis Democrats against Mary Beth is that she’s a “Washington insider” because she’s worked for several members of Congress and in the George W. Bush administration. If the party roles were reversed, they would call that “a career of public service.”

I noted four years ago that many of Mary Beth’s former cohorts provided the seed money for her campaign, but in this round it’s become far more local as she has gained the confidence of those who donated to her. Mary Beth wasn’t someone I knew well prior to her 2014 campaign: I met her years ago when she worked for the Ehrlich administration, but it’s not like our paths crossed a lot.

One thing I’ve noticed as she’s run her two campaigns, though: that woman is everywhere. But she isn’t one to plaster it all over social media, opting to be more of the work horse than the show horse. Maybe that costs her a few votes among those who like glamour and popularity, but the thoughtful voters notice.

I saw Jim on Sunday at the Autumn Wine Festival, just as Kim and I were leaving. While he probably shook more than a few hands while he was there, the reason he came was to sing with the band that was playing to close out the event – more on that band in a future post. It’s nothing new, as Jim has sung with On The Edge before at the AWF and, in general, has been around the local music scene as long as I’ve been aware of it. Obviously that’s something he enjoys doing, and I don’t see a thing wrong with that – in fact, I wouldn’t mind him having more time to sing after this November.

In short, the reason I’ve been on this race so much and for so long is that I think Jim’s a fine enough and likable fellow, but is also a political mismatch as a representative of this district – he seems to be much more suited for a district across the bridge, a place from where a significant portion of his financial support comes. Here we have a district that is much more right of center than he is.

So while she’s not as far to the right as I would prefer, I think that in order to make a better team for local success throughout District 38 we need to promote Mary Beth Carozza to be our next State Senator. I urge you to vote accordingly, whether at early voting beginning tomorrow and running through next Thursday or on the traditional November 6 date.

2018 Good Beer Festival in pictures and text

It’s been a few years since I got to share my experience at the GBF, for various reasons: I involuntarily skipped the 2016 event (because I couldn’t go that Saturday and Sunday was rained out) and last year I went but lost all my photos when my phone crapped out a few days later. So since the last time I got to do such a post a whole lot has changed – including the captions I can add.

I’m going to begin by thanking my DD, who is better known to most as my wife. She got this photo coming in to pick me up.

We were nicely welcomed to the grounds of Pemberton Park. You can tell she was coming to pick me up by the sunshine. Photo by Kim Corkran.

One major difference was having the GBF move to a Friday evening – Saturday schedule. From what I could gather from asking around, attendance Friday night was decent but not earthshattering – probably akin to a normal Sunday. But since photography isn’t nearly as good at night and being an amateur photojournalist is half the fun for me at the GBF, I chose to only attend Saturday.

I arrived there a little after noon for a 12:30 opening and the crowd was pretty strong already.

They added a few different games for the people to try, like the large-scale beer pong and unique bowling alley.

This is harder than it looks. I think I’ll stick to the bowling where they return the ball to me.

It was a modest beginning to the day. Seemed like a lot of people in line, but once they scattered it looked a lot emptier.

This is the local beer garden. It seemed to me that there were a larger proportion of local breweries vs. out-of-towners than before.
The beer garden from the “back” end.

If there’s one thing the GBF was not hurting for, it was food. This didn’t catch every food vendor, either – there were a couple around the corner.

I had a really good brat with peppers and onions. My only suggestion would be to get real Polish kielbasa for the sandwich.

On Friday night, this was the karaoke barn. On Saturday college football ruled the day.

It used to be that they had couches and comfy furniture at The Pub. Maybe that’s why no one was in there.

This was one of a few tents with the non-local breweries.

The first beer tent I stopped at, a half-hour in. I tried a couple, but missed out on the cider when I went back later. Bummer.

Not that I needed a map, but this was the substitute for the guides they used to give out.

It wasn’t Google, but it did the trick.

The problem with not having the guides (although most of us don’t carry a pen around, either) is that I had nothing but my phone on which to write down the ones I liked. As I’ll expand on later, though, they were few and far between.

Of course I stopped by to see my friend Shawn Jester, the leader of the local Republican club. It was his turn to be the hostest with the mostest.

I guess you can call this my old stomping grounds. It was nice to be on the outside, though.

Being a local election year, I was very surprised to not see them on the GBF video I saw from Friday night. Shawn explained that flooding at the warehouse where their items are kept put the kibosh on getting set up before the event, so they came early Saturday morning. Nor was the GOP weren’t the only vacancy, as there were a couple other open spots.

However, it’s worth noting that both Clerk of Court candidates were there: Bo McAllister was set up to the left of the GOP a few spots down and Chris Welsh to the right. It was good because I finally got to speak with Chris.

The aforementioned McAllister tent is third on the left, red with the orange tablecloth. An hour in and the crowds were still modest.

The Lions Club ran the cornhole tournament, which seemed to draw decent enough interest. There was usually someone playing as I walked by.

Not sure who won or how much the Lions Club made, but hopefully it was a successful run.

Finally, the sun came out and the crowds came out of nowhere to frequent the beer garden. This was taken about 2:30, two hours in.

Once the sun came out, so did the people.

Among that larger crowd: someone with a hat like this comes every year.

This is always a fun look.

Remember that shot I took of the back of the beer garden? By 4:00 the place was hopping.

Where did all these people come from? Too bad the event was over in an hour or so.

Even the human foosball was finally happening.

Human foosball. That sounds like a way to work off those alcohol calories.

I had to leave about 4:00 when the event ended at 5:30 because of a family event. So here’s my parting shot, photography-wise.

Still going at 4 p.m.

Now that I’m through with the photos, it leaves room for a few thoughts.

I really can’t be a judge of how it went Friday night because I wasn’t there. But to me the issue with doing the event in this manner is that it discourages tourism – if you live across the bridge you would have to take off a half-day to attend and I don’t think all that many are willing to do so – particularly if Saturday looks bad weather-wise. I guess they were trying for a 3rd Friday vibe but I’m doubtful they succeeded. Nor did I think going to this sort of event after sunset was a smart play, particularly barely 24 hours after a torrential downpour from Tropical Storm Michael. (Notice the amount of straw in the photos.) Unfortunately, it meant I missed the better of the bands.

And speaking of that: I truly miss the two-stage setup. Sure, it left room for the games on one end but those were really underutilized. And they actually could have placed the main stage on the south end, kept the karaoke tent on the north end, and used that as the side stage. I guess as a cost-cutting move they hire fewer bands by having one stage.

In reading my older posts on the GBF, it’s apparent that either the number of breweries represented has declined somewhat or they are just not doing as many varieties. It was said there were 100 beers on tap, which may have been the case: but do you have to have half or more be IPAs? There are those of us who like the lagers, pilsners, blonde ales, and hefeweisens just as others like the stouts and dark brews. I felt a little underrepresented, although there were also a smaller number of pumpkin beers there, thank goodness. Of course, without a booklet guide it was hard to see where I wanted to go and what to try.

I also don’t know if you increased the vendor price but that seemed to be lacking, too. Granted, my experience was as a non-profit so our rules were a little different but the row of vendors seemed to be more anemic this time around. I also liked the previous practice of having the local beer garden more defined instead of just seemingly a random segment of tents that were clustered together.

I guess it’s time to stop beating around the bush with this piece: this year it felt like the GBF was the red-headed stepchild no one wants (not the craft brew of the same name.)

It seems like a whole lot of corners were cut this time around: for example, they always wanted the setup to be on Friday but having a Saturday-Sunday event meant two nights of security. Shift Sunday to Friday night and suddenly you only need one night of security, plus the lights that had to be there anyway could be taken down early Saturday night once the breweries were broke down.

Or make the Pub a karaoke tent and now you don’t need to rent a lot of seating. They’ve done one stage for a couple years, anyway, but by chopping time off each day of the event (it was a 5 1/2 hour window on Friday and 5 hour window on Saturday, instead of six both days) and cutting off the band time even further by the bands wrapping up a half-hour before the “official” end they’ve succeeded in cutting maybe 11 hours of live music down to eight. But you still have to have the sound set up so why cut the music?

When we lost Pork in the Park after a fairly successful run, we were told it was because the county wanted to concentrate on its other event held at Winterplace, the Wicomico County Fair. But the writing on the wall for Pork in the Park came a few years earlier after they mismanaged one year’s event into a cluster that angered a good number of vendors, then decided to double the admission price in the hopes a more well-known musical act may save the day. When neither worked, they downsized the event too much and never got the momentum back; meanwhile, our food tastes moved away from barbecue and on to other things. Now we have no such festivals when for a few years two had reasonable success.

I’m surprised to find that Maryland is one of the least successful states for craft beer – perhaps due to antiquated laws or just a population group that prefers other adult beverages. (By contrast, Delaware is a heavy-drinking state.) Another interesting fact: excluding Prohibition, the number of breweries in America hit its all-time low in 1978, when there were only 89. (Now just between Maryland and Delaware there are 94, a small segment of 6,372 American breweries listed in 2017.)

But at some point we will reach saturation. Remember how there were so many coffeehouses two decades ago? There is still a thirst for coffee, but the industry has consolidated: there are a few major players, particularly Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, while regional and local shops such as Rise Up or Pemberton Coffeehouse remain as well. I suspect we are ready for a similar shakeout in breweries because tastes change and markets are fluid.

By the same token, where the Good Beer Festival was a rather unique event on its founding eight years ago, there are now beer festivals occurring in this region most weekends between spring and fall. Basically, I think the Good Beer Festival needs to become more of a destination: instead of dropping Sunday to add Friday night, go the opposite way and make it a whole weekend. Go back to multiple stages for music and catch those good up-and-coming regional acts like you did when you began. Perhaps try to get more beer-related vendors there, almost like a trade show. I think there can be a larger tent on the south end just for them so that aspect can be rain or shine.

By doing this and expanding the scope, you create an event that people interested in craft brewing regionally may want to spend the weekend at, sort of like how Pork in the Park used to attract BBQ teams from a wide area – except these folks won’t be camping outside cooking pigs, they’ll be using our lodging and eating at our other restaurants after hours – speaking of which, why not a 5:00 to 10:30 Friday, noon to 10:30 Saturday, noon to 5 Sunday event? Make it worthwhile.

Oh, and one more thing (and I can’t believe I’m saying this): they need to put a little fill line back on the cup. Maybe others need the full shot glass to taste, but I can get a good enough swallow with a half-shot to know whether I like it or not. People that stand at a tent and try six different brews have basically just consumed half a six-pack when it comes to alcohol (since craft beer is generally stronger.) I didn’t see too many unsteady people being held up by their friends yesterday but I didn’t stay until the end either.

The event this weekend came dangerously close to “meh…” for me, and if 40 people feel that way and stop showing up that’s $1,000 less the event brings in. As this is a fundraiser, one would think they would work on maximizing revenue by making it more attractive rather than get overly greedy for a subpar event or nickel-and-dime it to death like they did with Pork in the Park.

Oh, and I didn’t forget the music. There is a WLR upcoming from this, too.

Odds and ends number 88

As you might guess, the mailbox groans with new items when it’s election time. So this is a fresh edition of stuff I can deal with in a sentence to a few paragraphs.

I regret not bringing one of these items up a few months back when it came out, but as we get ready for state elections there are two key pieces from the Maryland Public Policy Institute that voters should not miss.

First of all, you all know that I have done the monoblogue Accountability Project for several years, with this year’s intention to wrap up that work.** While it doesn’t evaluate individual voters or bills like my evaluation does, their 2018 Annapolis Report is a useful, broad look at the overall picture and where it can stand some improvement in the next term, It’s nice work by Carol Park and our own Marc Kilmer.

It seems like a new Democrat strategy (besides cutting and running to Virginia) to combat Larry Hogan’s effective campaign is to talk down the state’s economy, but Park puts the lie to that in a more recent piece. Notes Park:

(I)t may be more helpful to look at Maryland’s future economic prospects than to focus on the historical figures to assess the validity of Jealous’s claim. After all, 2015–2017 was a period of strong growth nationally, so it may not be fair to attribute every aspect of improvement of Maryland’s economy to Hogan, nor may it be fair to criticize him for perceived shortcomings relative to other states.

There are a number of indicators that macroeconomists consider important for predicting a region’s long-term economic growth prospects: wage, entrepreneurship, innovation, and income inequality. We can look at these figures one-by-one to assess whether Maryland is in fact faring poorly compared with other states in the Mid-Atlantic region under Gov. Hogan.

It turns out Maryland isn’t doing so bad after all according to the selected figures. Now I know the whole deal about lies, damned lies, and statistics, but if you ask almost any Marylander whether he or she is better off than they were four years ago, the answer would likely be yes – unless you work for the federal government, in which case times may be a bit difficult. If – and this is a really, really big if considering we are over two years out – the Republicans can maintain their grip on Congress for the next two cycles and President Trump is re-elected – we may see a significant rightsizing of government that will likely put Maryland into recessionary status given our addiction to the federal crack pipe of taxpayer money and government jobs. (I’ve said it before – if not for the federal government, Maryland would be *pick your chronically high unemployment state.*) It will be painful, but it is necessary.

The MPPI also pointed out that small businesses will be able to take advantage of a modest tax break made necessary by the adoption of paid sick leave. (I say modest because it’s a pool of $5 million – as originally envisioned, the pool was far larger and assisted more employers. Both those provisions were killed or watered down in committee.)

Sliding over to another campaign, Dr. Ben Carson called him “a true patriot who has served our nation and made personal sacrifices for its well being.” But before he debated his two most prominent foes for the U.S. Senate seat on Sunday (more on that in a few paragraphs) Tony Campbell had one simple request: Pray.

This campaign is David vs. Goliath.  As a dear friend of mine told me this week, our job is to be in position to take advantage of God’s providential miracle.  Your prayers are crucial for our campaign’s success.

Now before the anti-“thoughts and prayers” crowd has a cow, they need to explain to me what harm comes from prayer. If it’s in the Lord’s plan to give Maryland a far more sane representative than that which we have now, why not give encouragement that thy will be done?

From calling on the Lord to calling out larceny: that’s the segue I make for the next item.

One minor topic that takes up a couple pages in my forthcoming book on the TEA Party is a look at the “scam PACs” that started up in the wake of Citizens United, conning well-meaning small donors into supporting the lavish consulting fees of companies related to the overall PAC rather than the candidates or causes they purported to support. A three-part series from the Capital Research Center called Caveat Donator delves into that topic as well, and is worth the read.

Back to that Senate debate. I have found my way onto Neal Simon’s mailing list, and his spin doctors were ready:

Throughout the one-hour debate, Simon focused much of his criticism on Cardin’s lack of leadership in moving forward legislation that focuses on Maryland’s interests. Simon went on the offensive right out of the gate, painting a picture of a career-focused politician focused on placating the party leadership and cow-towing to establishment donors in order to keep his job. Cardin’s voting record is the most partisan of all current sitting senators as he has voted with Chuck Schumer more than 97 percent of the time.

When referring to the numerous internal threats and dangers facing America today, Simon said, “I’m not sure which is most dangerous, Trump’s Twitter feed or Ben Cardin’s rubber stamp.”

As I watched the debate, I noticed it was Simon who was the more aggressive toward Cardin, which is to be expected because he really has to swing for the fences now. There’s a month to close what’s a 40-plus point deficit between him and “our friend Ben” (who’s no friend of common-sense voters.) To that end, Simon is emphasizing Cardin’s fealty to Democrat leadership based on voting record.

But we need to pray for Tony to get another bite of the apple because his debate performance was “meh…” Whoever prepped him needs to step up his or her game because there were a couple “deer in the headlights” moments for Tony – on the other hand, while Simon seemed scripted he was very personable. Cardin was his normal low-key self, almost like “okay, I have to do this debate, let’s get it over with.” But he was more or less prepared for what he would get.

The best possible scenario for this race involves Republicans staying loyal while slyly inviting their Democrat friends to send a message to Cardin by voting Simon – after all, what Republican ever wins in Maryland? I don’t care if it’s one of those 35-33-32 deals: as long as our guy has the 35, he has 6 years to build up the next campaign.

You may remember in the last Presidential go-round that the most centrist of Democrat candidates was onetime Reagan administration official Jim Webb of Virginia. While his campaign didn’t gain much in the way of traction, Jim landed on his feet nonetheless: he now draws a paycheck from the American Petroleum Institute and advocates for offshore energy exploration, to wit:

The United States can increase these advantages (in energy exploration) through renewed emphasis on safe and technologically advanced offshore exploration, which is increasingly in use throughout the world. Ninety-four percent of federal offshore acreage is currently off limits to energy development. The Trump administration’s National Offshore Leasing Program for 2019-2024 would change that by opening key areas off the Atlantic Coast and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Recent advances in safety solutions, plus improvements in business practices and tighter government standards, guarantee that offshore exploration can be safe, targeted and productive.

Maybe that’s why Ben Jealous had the commonwealth on his mind the other day. But that’s the place I’ll use to bring this post home, and I have an old friend of mine to credit. My old “Rebeldome” cohort Bob Densic spied this in the Daily Signal and knew I’d be interested – it’s a piece on the current state of the TEA Party in Virginia.

So that will (almost) be a wrap for now. I might get enough to do another one before Election Day, but we will see.

**I’m thinking of getting the band back together, as it were, for a limited engagement. To me, it may be a useful exercise to maintain the Maryland edition of the mAP, but restrict it to the three districts (36, 37, and 38) on the Eastern Shore. Anyone else can do their own research on their members of the General Assembly.

Is it really that hard to file paperwork?

As I promised in last night’s post, I looked up some of the many campaign finance accounts that were opened for this year’s election, including older accounts that have been around for years. My focus was on those who are on the November ballot in Wicomico County, although I also looked at candidates who failed to advance beyond the June 26 primary.

This post was inspired by the long-standing deficiency of Kirkland Hall, who went several months overdue without filing the required campaign finance paperwork with the state Board of Elections. However, as I found out in looking at the 64 candidates who are/were on the Wicomico County ballot, it must be a mean feat for some people to do this.

(Hall and opponent Delegate Charles Otto are not actually on the Wicomico County ballot, but they are part of our District 38 nonetheless. Otto was first elected in part with Wicomico County votes in 2010, before District 38A was gerrymandered to place Otto and former Delegate Mike McDermott in the same district by shifting it eastward into the southern end of Worcester County.)

I’m going to reach back into my memory bank for this, because one needed change for 2018 was a revision to campaign finance laws to make them easier on party office candidates (as I was.) Prior to that, I ran for office three times in 2006, 2010, and 2014.

The first time I had a treasurer who took care of the modest amount of paperwork for what they called a Personal Treasurer Account (PTA), with the biggest (only) contribution I had being the $100 I donated to my campaign, the in-kind donation that I was advised to consider my website as, and the two expenditures my filing fee and the $58 or so I used to buy palm cards to distribute among my close neighborhoods. At that time, you could have a non-continuing account so after that campaign it went away, with the proceeds donated to our Central Committee.

But the second time in 2010, they eliminated the PTA option so I had to keep my account open for the four years between the 2010 and 2014 elections, which meant I had to file all the 2010 reports, the annuals for 2011-14, and all the 2014 reports until after my primary when I formally closed the account since I didn’t intend to run again. During that time, my treasurer/(then) fiance and I missed the 2013 Annual Report by five days, so we had to pay a $20 fine. Honestly, I don’t remember seeing the little green reminder card so I think it went to our previous address – the 2012 one came right at the end of our forwarding order. But I should have known it was time.

So I have some empathy for those who miss the deadline by a few days, especially in a small-scale campaign like most of those at the county level. However, it turns out that group was the minority as out of 64 candidates I checked – the majority were in complete compliance:

  • 36 of 64 had no violations.
  • 15 of the remaining 28 had just one violation, with fines ranging from $10 to $250 – these two gentlemen on the extremes both missed the 2012 Annual Report, but Senator Jim Mathias was a day late and County Executive Bob Culver was almost a year late. Neither have missed another deadline in the last six years, though.
  • 4 of the remaining 13 had two violations: County Council at-large candidates Julie Brewington and Jamaad Gould, Senator (but at the time of the violations, Delegate) Addie Eckardt, and perennial primary and write-in candidate Ed Tinus. All have racked up over $200 apiece in fines.

And then you have the serious scofflaws. All of these nine have three or more violations; however, since Christopher Adams has only generated $40 in fines for three offenses, his reports are only a day or two late at most. It’s the rest who seem to have some issues. This is done in order of fine, smallest to largest:

  1. Delegate Christopher Adams, District 37B: 2014 Pre-General 1, 2017 Annual, 2018 Annual – $40 in fines
  2. William Turner, candidate, Wicomico County BOE District 3: 2018 Spring, 2018 Pre-Primary 2, 2018 Pre-General 1 – $90 in fines
  3. Michelle Bradley, candidate, Wicomico County BOE District 1: 2018 Spring, 2018 Pre-Primary 2, 2018 Pre-General 1 – $220 in fines
  4. Larry Dodd, Wicomico County Councilman (District 3): 2016 Annual, 2018 Annual, 2018 Pre-Primary 2, 2018 Pre-General 1 – $490 in fines
  5. Kirkland Hall, candidate, District 38A Delegate: 2018 Annual, 2018 Pre-Primary 2, 2018 Pre-General 1 – $1,340 in fines
  6. Mimi Gedamu, candidate, District 37B Delegate: 2018 Pre-Primary 1, 2018 Pre-Primary 2, 2018 Pre-General 1 – $1,390 in fines
  7. Ernest Davis, Wicomico County Councilman (District 1): 4 in 2010, 2011 Annual, 2015 Annual – $1,530 in fines
  8. Marvin Ames, candidate, Wicomico County Council (District 1): no filings since inception in February 2018 – $1,890 in fines
  9. Jim Shaffer, candidate, District 38C Delegate: no filings since inception in February 2018 – $1,890 in fines

Yes, Ames and Shaffer have never filed a single report. Since both lost in the primary, their campaigns are finished but they cannot close their accounts until the fines are waived or (more likely) paid. Honestly, I think they have more in fines than they raised for the campaigns!

In case you wanted to use this as evidence that one party or the other is worse about the situation, be advised that of the highest nine there are two in a non-partisan race, four Republicans, and three Democrats. Ironically, none of the top 4 face a November race as Ames, Shaffer, and Gedamu lost in the primary and Davis (who, admittedly, seems to have put these issues in the past since he’s been “clean” for almost three years) is unopposed.

I may take a look at the situation again when the last pre-general reports come out later this month but I suspect most of the campaigns will be careful to file coming into the election. No need for an October surprise on that front.

Picks and pans from a Shorebird fan – 2018 edition

On August 30, the Delmarva Shorebirds were in a precarious position. But thanks to the prospect of free stuff through a Fan Appreciation Night raffle and a rare Thursday night fireworks show, a crowd of over 6,000 gathered to send the team off to its final road trip to Lakewood. Thus, by a margin of 1,330 fans the Shorebirds avoided their first-ever season where fewer than 200,000 attended the games.

One could blame the locally subpar spring and summer weather – a chilly April turned into a rainy summer that always seemed to time precipitation for the weekends – for the drop-off from last season’s attendance of 207,131. But you can’t do anything about the weather and we still managed 65 openings, 2 more than the league average. The 3,097 per-game average was the second-lowest in franchise history, besting only the 3,072 in 2011.

Honestly, though, I don’t believe weather was the deciding factor.

If you ask me – and by reading this it’s assumed you want my opinion as a renewed half-season ticket holder – the problem lies with the onfield product.

Over the weekend, with a little downtime from spending it with my grandson and his side of my family, I did a little catching up on the SAL to find that Lexington pulled a bit of an upset to win the SAL flag in four games over Lakewood. It was the end of a decade-plus drought for the Legends and it put Delmarva in yet another unique but dubious position: thanks to Lexington’s winning the second half SAL South title it meant that since 2013 every other franchise in the SAL has been in the playoffs at least once. And if you toss out Augusta (last appearance in 2013) the other twelve have made at least once it in just the last four seasons. Toss darts at a dartboard and you should get that sort of probability given two teams from each seven-team division qualify each year, so we must have a special kind of bad karma to miss the playoffs thirteen seasons in a row, and counting.

So I think it’s safe to say that the on-field product provided by the Orioles is lacking, especially since not a single one of their seven minor-league affiliates made the post-season this year. And it’s not just recent history: our “feeder” team in Aberdeen has made the NY-Penn League postseason exactly once in 17 seasons, only to be bounced out in the opening round. (That 2013 Ironbird team had six future SotW Hall of Fame players on the regular roster, as it comprised the base of our 2014 Shorebird team that has the most members of the SotWHoF.) Of course, we’re not going to scrap the Oriole affiliation any time soon so we have to hope that a renewed focus on Baltimore’s international scouting and player development bears fruit 2-3 years from now when these young players reach the full-season A-ball level.

But I also believe their development program is wrong. There are some franchises that develop players as individuals, and some that seem to emphasize winning more. Unfortunately, the “Oriole Way” hasn’t been a winning way since the halcyon days of a half-century ago.

I sat down with one of my favorite websites (Baseball-Reference.com) and did some research on how Oriole affiliates fared in the era when the Orioles were regularly successful – basically from the early 1960’s to the early 1980’s. As they went, oftentimes so did their affiliates:

Their lowest-level team in Bluefield had the Appalachian League’s best record or won its division 6 times in 14 seasons from 1963-76.

At the time, their A ball team was in Miami (before MLB expansion gave that city the latter-day edition of the Miami Marlins) and the Marlins/Orioles won their Florida State League division 8 times in 11 seasons from 1968-78.

At the AA level, the affiliation moved several times during that era: from Elmira, New York, then of the Eastern League (1963-68), to Dallas-Fort Worth of the Texas League/Dixie Association (1969-71, until the Washington Senators relocated to that metroplex and became the Texas Rangers), then on to Asheville of the reformed Southern League (1972-75) before the franchise moved to Charlotte for the 1976 season, remaining in the Southern League. But in 14 seasons their AA affiliate was 1st or 2nd in their division 11 times.

Finally, at the AAA level Rochester made the International League playoffs (top 4 qualify) 10 times in 11 seasons from 1966-76.

Obviously at that time the “Oriole Way” was as much about winning games and division/league titles as it was player development. Now they seem to be happy with winning a random league title now and then, and it seems like random doesn’t come our way: we get good players for a few weeks and they are gone to Frederick.

I believe winning comes from a culture where you are expected to win: look at the Patriots or Steelers in the NFL or, closer to home, Salisbury University’s lacrosse program. They don’t seem to accept anything less than a winning effort. The Orioles seem to be fine with developing a player like Manny Machado, Dylan Bundy, or Trey Mancini every year or two (or guys that they trade away for a rare playoff push like Josh Hader, Eduardo Rodriguez, or Zach Davies) but maybe at the expense of the organization players who make up good teams.

So a sea change in attitude at the top is first on the wish list. Now I want to focus a little more locally.

As a half-season ticket holder, I have to say I’m very satisfied with the flexibility I have. Sometimes Kim wants to go to a game so the exchange policy is great – I don’t mind taking a vacation from my spot sometimes. The staff will generally bend over backwards for me, too. And aside from keeping some of the lame video promotions, I do like what they are doing with the interactive aspect of the now two-year-old videoboard. The “Shore Report” is a neat feature made possible by the investment in video equipment, so we can all “turn and watch it go!”

But I have to say that my other big complaint is the food, which has been a pan of mine for at least the last couple years. I don’t often eat at the ballpark, but on those occasions when I did I was too often disappointed with the quality and freshness of what I was served. For example, a hot dog would come with a stale bun, or the fries were too salty.

Adding to the frustration was the lack of availability of some products. A slice of the specialty pizza sounded good – but it wasn’t available that night. I wanted a lid for my souvenir cup, but they were out.

And then I heard horror stories about the wait time on some nights, particularly the scrapple night. Kim got a scrapple sandwich that she had to take back. I think it literally took her 2 1/2 to 3 innings to get back to her seat for a sandwich she still wasn’t really satisfied with. Granted, it was a special night and newly-created menu but that seems to me an issue with management not preparing staff properly.

A bad experience like that, along with a mediocre team that faded not once, but twice, after great starts, isn’t the best way to put casual fans in the seats. Granted, I don’t mind it so much when it’s just the diehards like me but if it comes down to having just them we eventually have an empty stadium because there are fewer and fewer rabid fans each season. Go and count the empty seats in Baltimore for one of their games of late to see what I mean – two straight losing seasons (as well as 14 of the previous 19) and the prospect of rebuilding from just about scratch thanks to a barren minor league system have taken their toll on attendance and interest. A humdrum, bottom-feeding team that plays at a stadium that doesn’t seem to have a great deal to offer in either food or amenities isn’t going to draw well, either. How many of those kids and families who get the “Hit the Books” free tickets in April and May come back over the summer?

However, with the promised construction of the 360-degree concourse on the horizon this off-season, we now have new opportunities for food and entertainment. And maybe it’s time to re-imagine things on an even broader scale.

If the new concourse is designed properly, not only does it open up the possibility of new and different vendors in those locations (imagine covered areas with local vendors, similar in style to a food truck) but even a venue for post-game concerts and entertainment. I know I’ve spoken to Chris Bitters about this as it related to another topic, but maybe it doesn’t necessarily have to be the full-blown shows of years past – maybe a diet of local solo performers can be the impetus to bigger and better things down the road.

And down the road is what I’m thinking of for the broader scale. What if that location were the linchpin of a new entertainment venue?

Once upon a time, I was part of a big dream: the idea of creating a hotel and office park along Hobbs Road, straddling the exit ramp from U.S. 13. Because of the work I helped to do, there’s infrastructure in place to develop the site, even though the collapse of the building market prevented further development a decade ago. They are discussing the site for usage as a new Sheriff’s office, but I must say to waste the opportunity for developing this site as an eating and entertainment venue to complement Perdue Stadium would be criminal.

One reason downtown stadiums are favored is this very opportunity to develop an year-round entertainment district in an area that has the infrastructure in place. My hometown has something along that line: just down the way from Fifth Third Field (home of the Mud Hens) is the Huntington Center, where the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye play. The two were built about seven years apart, but they function as a way to stretch the season for entrepreneurs who want to serve the half-million-plus Mud Hen fans in the summer and over a quarter-million Walleye hockey “finatics” in the fall and winter. (This doesn’t count the other events the Huntington Center hosts, such as concerts.)

But because Perdue Stadium isn’t close to downtown and plans to replace the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center at the stadium site have been shelved, the synergy has to come from something else. It’s obviously a more modest goal, but why couldn’t the LLC that owns the Shorebirds buy those nearby parcels (there are two, owned by the same LLC) and use their connections to bring in two to three attractions that can feed off having the stadium there? (This is where I would have loved to have a fall league team like the onetime Maryland Fall League that featured the Delmarva Rockfish, to give an extra 20 dates a year for the stadium.) Even some places that a family can go to in the afternoon before the game or a couple can go to afterward would be nice.

Another possibility: the new concourse becomes the passage between the stadium and a new building along the right field line. [Granted, this is a homage to Toledo’s Fifth Third Field (pictured below), although our version need only be tall enough to have the seating and deck overlooking the field.]

If the Orioles can have fireworks in downtown Baltimore, I’m sure something can be worked out in that event.

Certainly I’m glad the Shorebirds are finally going to get the 360-degree concourse they’ve been talking about for the last half-decade. But that should be just the beginning of rebuilding the team both on and off the field to bring back those days where a Shorebird ticket was a hot commodity.

Back to a Tuesday…

As this posts up, we once again pause to recall the events and immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks in 2001.

The passage of 17 years, however, has not only seen the weekday cycle back to Tuesday for a third time (as it was in 2001) but has also seen a number of key players exit the stage – some who perished at the hands of the very nation attacked and others who passed from more natural causes. The recent news that the “cesspool of cancer” also known as Ground Zero is cutting thousands more lives short means the pain has returned for many families of survivors.

Of course, life on this earth is cyclical and doesn’t last forever. A child who would be celebrating his or her 17th birthday today is most likely a senior in high school. I mentioned last year that 27% of the U.S. population was under the age of 21, and while that percentage isn’t significantly different the group that remembers little to nothing about that day will naturally grow and the population of those of us who lived through it will dwindle. You’d have a hard time finding someone who clearly remembers Pearl Harbor now, but when I was 17 those folks were simply known as our grandparents because they were at least middle-aged and often somewhat older.

Yet while we often refer to the lives lost in 9/11 and its aftermath, we don’t often think about the aftereffects. During the Cold War, we called it Civil Defense, and I vaguely remember seeing the triangular CD logo and (moreso) the black-and-yellow “Fallout Shelter” signs in places like my school. In looking it up, I found out that Civil Defense was absorbed into FEMA in the late 1970s as their focus shifted away from nuclear holocaust and more toward other emergencies and disasters. But in the wake of the WTC attack we have an entire Department of Homeland Security, PATRIOT Act restrictions, and TSA molestation at the airports. In the seventeen years since 9/11, the federal government has placed us on a war footing for a battle which perhaps doesn’t exist anymore – not that the threat from radical Islam has completely vanished, but the rules of engagement seem to have changed from large-scale events like 9/11 and regime change among nations in the “Axis of Evil” to smaller-scale attacks such as the San Bernardino or Pulse nightclub shooting and dismantling the so-called Islamic State caliphate. (As an aside, those shootings also have the added benefit to the enemy of riling up gun control supporters.)

Instead, I think the happy medium would be to return to a more subtle vigilance without the overbearing hand of Uncle Sam. Certainly he should protect us – after all, it IS a Constitutional mandate – but I don’t think we need the nanny state anymore. The way I see it, each freedom we lose is a victory for the terrorists.

And one more thing: over 3,000 people woke up on September 11, 2001 expecting to get through their day and return to their home – but the Lord had plans to call them to His home. To me, it’s a good time to remind my readers to ask themselves: what if today were your final day? I know my debt is paid, so I invite you to enjoy that peace of mind, too.