A tale of two events

It’s been awhile since I’ve given you a pictorial post and added the captions, so I thought it was time.

It may be an unfair comparison – the reboot of a longtime staple of Salisbury cultural diversions against an established old favorite – but I have to wonder just went wrong with the Downtown Salisbury Festival, which seems to me somewhat of a failure in its new time slot of early June.

I will say, however, that weather probably played some role: while I was taking these photos at the Downtown Salisbury Festival, Ocean City was getting a historic deluge of rain. Salisbury was hit by the next line of storms a couple hours later. Yet I don’t think it was all about the weather.

Looking eastward along Main Street to the narrow row of rides that spanned a block.

I turned around and looked westward down the next block. Still not much traffic.

It was a little better down the block. Since it’s political season, it should be noted the tent on the left (with the orange-clad folks) belonged to the Clerk of Courts campaign of Bo McAllister.

But as you worked westward on Main Street, the crowd thinned out. On the left is the luckless campaign of Democrat Michael Brown, a Salisbury resident running for the right to challenge incumbent Andy Harris.

This was from the west end of the art area. It’s hard to see them, but the local Democrats were camped out in front of the Chamber of Commerce building on the right, without a tent.

In future years, it’s likely the DSF will be centered along the riverfront and the amphitheater under construction. But construction wasn’t done for this edition.

Another photo along a deserted riverfront.

Some of the food court was along the river side.

The food court had plenty of choices, but didn’t have much business.

At least there wasn’t a line for the petting zoo.

I’ll grant that I wasn’t there for the DSF on Friday night and the crowd may have been better. But I think in the future they’ll either need to condense the event a little bit or perhaps institute a shuttle to ferry people from stop to stop – maybe 3 or 4 stops. I didn’t think late April was a really bad time to have it, either. On the first weekend in June people are thinking about graduations or the beach.

Conversely, the weather was picture-perfect Friday night for Third Friday and people responded.

I walked onto the Plaza and what did I see? Lots of people!

The event was also hot and cold running politicians. The local GOP was set up across from District 4 County Council candidate Suzanah Cain.

On the other side of the spectrum, we had the Lower Shore Progressive Caucus a couple spots in front of County Executive challenger Jack Heath’s spot. It’s also noteworthy that Suzanah Cain’s opponent Josh Hastings was walking about with his sign.

My friend Sarah Meyers has a cool job: she’s the curator of Poplar Hill Mansion. She was out at 3F promoting their festival next Saturday, the 23rd.

This month’s theme may have helped with the promotion: people were encouraged to bring their dogs. They could have partaken in this course.

Even at 7:30 there was still a serious crowd out there.

This month’s band was one of the better ones I’ve seen.

Muskrat Lightning was the band, making a great soundtrack for the event.

It took several years for Third Friday to find its stride, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so hard on the Downtown Salisbury Festival. But I remember when they tried to use most of Main Street and being so spread out meant something was shortchanged. It’s become successful since they focused on the Plaza and the Division Street side of the courthouse.

So if the DSF wants to take advantage of the riverfront, maybe they need to place the exhibitors where the food court was and use one of the side streets as a food court. There was a visual effect missing on this layout – if you were at the rides or checking out art vendors you wouldn’t be aware of the food court or stage, which made the event seem small. It needs to be tied together better, and maybe having the amphitheater done will help in that regard.

I guess we will find out next year for the DSF, as well as the First Saturday and Fridays at Five events – the latter two on hiatus for this year as construction occurs at both sites. Maybe we will get better weather, too.

Odds and ends number 86

As I culled the vast number of possible items I had in my e-mail box down to a manageable few for this latest excursion into stuff I can handle in anything from a couple sentences to a couple paragraphs, I took a break – then promptly forgot I’d started this and let it go for several weeks. Sheesh. So, anyway…

The election season is here, and it’s blatantly obvious that the Maryland Republican Party feels local Senator Jim Mathias has a vulnerable hold on his position. One recent objection was the vote to both pass and overturn Governor Hogan’s veto on House Bill 1783.

If you want a cure for insomnia you could do worse than reading all 53 pages of the House bill. But what I found interesting is the vast difference between the amended House version and the Senate version that never made it past the hearing stage. The bills were intended to codify the recommendations of the 21st Century School Facilities Commission, but the House bill added two new wrinkles: eliminating the input of the Board of Public Works by upgrading the current Interagency Committee on School Construction to a commission and adding to it four new members (two appointed by the governor and two by the leaders of the General Assembly) and – more importantly for the fate of the bill – adding an appropriation to prevent it being taken to referendum. All those amendments came from the Democrat majority in the House Appropriations Committee, which meant that bill was put on greased skids and the other locked in a desk drawer.

Yet there wasn’t a Democrat who objected to this, and that’s why we have government as we do. It also proved once again that Senator Mathias is good at doing what the other side of the Bay wants – obviously since I have done the monoblogue Accountability Project since the term Mathias was first elected to serve in I know this isn’t the first time it’s happened.

But the fair question to ask is whether anyone else is listening? Results of a recent poll tended to be a little disheartening to me. According to the Maryland Public Policy Institute:

Marylanders support spending more money on school safety and career and technical education, according to a new statewide poll. But they are less enthusiastic about expanding pre-kindergarten or paying teachers more if those initiatives mean higher taxes or reductions in other services.

(…)

Broad majorities oppose paying more in income or property taxes to expand pre-K. Voters are against making cuts to roads and transportation (70% total less likely), public safety (70% total less likely), or children’s health insurance (77% total less likely) to afford expansion of pre-k education.

They should be opposing universal pre-K in general. Far from the days when kindergarten was optional and getting through high school provided a complete enough education to prosper in life, we are now working on taking children as young as 4 or even late 3 years old and providing schooling at state expense for 16 to 17 years – pre-K, K through 12, and two years of community college. This would be more palatable if public schools weren’t simply Common Core-based indoctrination centers, but as the quality of education declines quantity doesn’t make up for it.

For example, a real public school education would teach critical thinking, exhibited in these facts about offshore drilling and steps the industry is taking to make it safer. After all, logic would dictate they would want to recover as much product they invested in extracting as possible – spills benefit no one.

Interestingly enough, my friends at the Capital Research Center have also embedded a dollop of common sense into the energy argument.

This goes with the four-part series that explains the pitfalls of so-called “renewable” energy – you know, the types that are such a smashing success that the state has to mandate their use in order to maintain a climate that, frankly, we have no idea is the optimal, normal one anyway. (For example, in the last millennium or so we’ve had instances where vineyards extended north into Greenland – hence, its name – and times when New England had measurable snow into June due to the natural cause of a volcano eruption.)

Solar and wind may work on a dwelling level, but they’re not reliable enough for long-term use until storage capacity catches up. The series also does a good job of explaining the issues with the erratic production of solar and wind energy and the effect on the power grid.

On another front, the summer driving season is here and we were cautioned that prices would increase by the American Petroleum Institute back in April. Oddly enough, a passage in that API piece echoed something I wrote a few weeks later for The Patriot Post:

But while it isn’t as much of a factor on the supply side, OPEC can still be a price driver. In this case, both Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC Russia have put aside their foreign policy differences and enforced an 18-month-long production cut between themselves – a slowdown that has eliminated the supply glut (and low prices) we enjoyed over the last few years. And since those two nations are the second- and third-largest producers of crude oil (trailing only the U.S.), their coalition significantly influences the market.

Finally, I wanted to go north of the border and talk about 2020. (No, not THAT far north – I meant Delaware.)

Since Joe Biden has nothing better to do these days and needs to keep his name in the pipeline for contributions, he’s organized his own PAC called American Possibilities. (He’s also doing a book tour that comes to Wilmington June 10, but that’s not important for this story.)

A few weeks ago his American Possibilities PAC announced its first set of candidates, and so far they’re uninspiring garden-variety Democrats. Supposedly they were suggested by AP members, but we have two incumbent Senators in vulnerable seats (Tammy Baldwin and Jon Tester both represent states that went to Donald Trump), current freshman Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Florida (another Trump state), and challengers Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania and Andy Kim and Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey.

As of this writing, all are still in contention; however, this comes with caveats. Baldwin and Tester are unopposed in their upcoming primaries for Senate seats, Houlahan and Kim are unopposed for nomination as well, and Murphy has token opposition. The one race that will test Biden’s “pull” is the NJ-11 race, where Sherrill is part of a five-person race on the Democratic side to replace retiring Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, a GOP moderate. All three House challengers Biden is backing are trying for GOP seats, as a matter of fact – no insurgents here. We’ll see in November if he fails.

Shifting sides on the political pendulum, here’s some good political news from our friends at the Constitution Party:

We received great news this week! The Constitution Party effort to gain ballot access in North Carolina exceeded the required number of registered voter signatures to qualify for ballot access in 2018 and 2020.

To do this they needed 11,925 valid signatures in a timeframe that stretched about five months – so far they have over 16,000 total signatures and 12,537 have been declared valid (at least until the NCGOP sues to deny them access because it will be deemed to hurt their chances – see the Ohio Libertarian Party cases for examples of this.) If that development is avoided, it will be the first time the Constitution Party has had ballot access in the state.

Honestly, I believe the two “major” parties should be made to live with the same petitioning for access standards the minor parties do. If they are that popular then it shouldn’t be a problem, right? Once the 2018-22 cycle gets underway, perhaps the same thing should be tried in Maryland.

Lastly is a housekeeping note: in updating my Election 2018 widget, I’ve decided to eliminate for the time being races that are unopposed and focus on the primary races only. So you’ll notice it’s a bit shorter.

After seven weeks of interim, now you know the truth: writing delayed is not writing denied.

A weekend to remember, 2018 edition

May 28, 2018 · Posted in Delmarva items, Personal stuff · Comments Off on A weekend to remember, 2018 edition 

After a one-year hiatus and a whole host of changes, I’m bringing back my coverage of the Memorial Day weekend occurrences.

Last year’s Memorial Day celebration, to me, wasn’t much to write about. It’s not that the ceremony was any different, but to be honest I wasn’t in the mood for taking photos or recording the events. Couple that with the demise of another Memorial Day weekend staple event I enjoyed, the Concert for a Random Soldier, and I suppose I saw no point.

While the CRS is still lamented and missed, this Memorial Day weekend was special nonetheless because Kim’s daughter graduated from high school on Saturday, so we celebrated that fact with friends and family. Yet I didn’t forget to recall those who made the ultimate sacrifice at the Civic Center this morning.

The usual crowd of those who remembered made it a point this morning to be at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center.

More and more of those looking on needed a seat. With the exception of those in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, our veterans are from conflicts that occurred over a quarter-century ago.

I’ve seen the program several times before, so I pretty much have the order of ceremonies down. Longtime MC Tony Sarbanes is still at his task.

Former County Councilman Tony Sarbanes, an Army veteran, continues in his post as host.

We recognize the Gold Star mothers, the veterans who are attending, the committee that annually puts the event together, and elected officials. In recent years, however, the purpose of this table is explained as well.

This is known as America’s White Table. One deviation from the custom (likely because of the chair selected and the POW-MIA flag) is that the chair is supposed to be tilted inward.

After the reciting of branch prayers, and before reading the list of names for each war, which varies from the two local residents lost in Operation Enduring Freedom to the 109 who perished in World War II, this bell is tolled two times, in succession – four rings for each. Since the annual event began in 2002, there have been seven names added to the list, the most recent being SGM Wardell B. Turner three years ago.

SCPO Dave Suiter, USN-Ret. has been tolling this Red Knights Memorial Bell for a number of years now.

We conclude, as always, with the playing of Amazing Grace, laying of a ceremonial wreath, a volley of arms, and Taps. Just try not to get misty-eyed.

Hearing Amazing Grace performed by Matthew Wallace is always a moving portion of the program.

A unit from the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Department gives a nine-gun salute – three rounds of three shots fired.

Tom Hehman emerged from his seat to the side to play Taps.

As an aside, we also had Taps played in our church service Sunday. John Jochum, who is the member of our church who played it for us, has also performed at this event in the past.

The wreath that is laid to remember our fallen. Doing the honor of placing it was Silver Star and Bronze Star recipient William James Byrd, Sr. SFC RET MPC U.S. Army.

The location for the ceremony is a permanently dedicated section in front of our Wicomico County Youth and Civic Center. While it is a fine location for our county, it is far from the most unique location for such a memorial.

Last weekend my wife and I took a mini-vacation to the Shenandoah Valley, with a stop at the Luray Caverns. Near the end of our tour, we were informed about a most unusual feature – the Page County Veterans Memorial, which, like Wicomico County’s, honors their fallen from World War I onward. Our guide explained that, in a county of 28,000 people, the local veterans’ organizations felt there was no better place for a memorial to be seen than at an attraction that draws over a half-million annually. So there it stands.

The Page County Veterans Memorial in Luray Caverns, Virginia.

Aside number two: while the Luray Caverns are nice, I highly recommend visiting the Luray Valley Museum across the road. I could have spent another hour there looking at the pioneer-era to Civil War displays inside the museum.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind my readers that today, Memorial Day, is a day set aside to honor those who perished in battle. Yes, we should express our thanks to veterans as we see them, but that particular ceremony is appropriate for Veteran’s Day in November.

A brief return

May 14, 2018 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off on A brief return 

Because I thought you might be tired of music reviews…just a couple things on the agenda you might want to look out for:

Governor Larry Hogan is basically all that is standing in the way between you and getting your hot little hands (or cold, big hands – it really doesn’t matter to me) on the 2018 monoblogue Accountability Project for Maryland. He has until May 31 to decide what he will do with a few bills that I used which have not been dealt with yet – chances are none of them will be vetoed, but I prefer having things all official-like when I put the mAP out. So the target date for release is June 4.

That’s one thing which has been taking up my time. The other is doing some editing of my book, which is coming along a little more slowly than I thought it would – however, it’s to (hopefully) impress a particular literary agent a new acquaintance of mine recommended. I’m still hoping to go that route with the book even though I could probably do a fair job self-publishing it as it is. But this gentleman was intrigued by the concept of a TEA Party history written from a right-leaning perspective as most prior books have looked at it from the Left – however, I think he has a slightly different take on it that I do so I also want to make sure my arguments are sharp. Thus, I’ve added a handful of resources here and there.

The bad news (if you don’t like my music reviews) is that I have a couple more lined up, just needing to actually listen to the album in question a couple times and write the review. Since the client makes it worth my time, though, I don’t mind too much (especially when the songs are good.)

I know that I’ve really let this blog go over the last couple years, but the book and my other projects just keep finding their way to the front of the priority list. Maybe as the election draws closer I’ll have more to say, but frankly this primary is boring and I’m ready for it to be over. When it takes the sudden demise of one of the candidates on the ballot to move the news needle, the primary season isn’t very newsworthy.

That, my friends and readers, is your quick update.

Thoughts on 3rd Friday – April 2018 edition

The beauty of having a blog is that I don’t have to be in any hurry to post what, to others, may be old news by now.

Yes, this month’s Third Friday is a hazy weekend past and normally about this time I would be starting my wrapup of the monthly Republican Club meeting. But since I don’t play as much in the political game (and I had a previous commitment anyway) I was someplace else tonight. (Apparently I missed the annual legislative wrapup this evening, but it doesn’t matter because I’m working on the real legislative wrapup called the monoblogue Accountability Project. What do you think I spent a good part of my weekend doing?)

Digression aside, on Friday evening the family and I went downtown for a little while to see what we could see.

Looking west down Main Street as the sun starts to sink on downtown Salisbury.

The parking lots were about full, but it didn’t seem like that translated into a lot of people on Main Street. It was a nice gathering, but I’ve seen wall-to-wall people down there, too.

The wares of Zockoll Pottery.

One business that has seemed to be down there month after month is Zockoll Pottery. Now I’m a little biased because I know Brent through church, but he’s quite the artisan and even tossed a little bit of clay while he was down there. His business is slowly recovering from a fire that damaged his studio around the holidays.

At the top of the Plaza hill looking east down Main Street.

As I strolled up Main Street to the top of the hill, it seemed to me the crowd was a little thinner. Granted, we arrived about 6:30 or so, thus the sun was going down and it was cooling off rapidly. Also, there’s been a bit of a change in the setup where the area that’s being closed off has increased to the first block of Market Street so the focus of Third Friday is geographically shifting a bit to the west.

This is the forgotten corner of Third Friday, down St. Peter Street.

The photo probably doesn’t do this justice, but this is where the bubbles were coming from. Sometimes there’s been a food truck down there but this is also where the Jaycees sell the beer. It’s an unusual setup to have such a large open container section since there are two blocks of space where people may imbibe.

The band of the month was a staple local cover band called Tranzfusion.

The musical choice was one of the more unusual ones – normally they don’t do a straight-ahead classic pop cover band. Normally they choose something in a more alternative or acoustic vein, but these guys kept a decent crowd nearby. Wasn’t completely my thing but that’s quite all right.

Back in the day Third Friday used to be more ambitious with multiple music groups on two or three stages, but in recent years they’ve settled on the single stage of the Plaza for music and maybe some other act (like a youth dance group) on the courthouse steps. One thing that I’m going to be curious about regarding downtown development is whether Third Friday will eventually be relocated to focus the music on the amphitheater that’s under construction – alas, that location doesn’t leave a lot of space for artisans unless they are placed across the river.

Not much was up on North Division Street this particular Third Friday.

The event that would make good sense based around the amphitheater is the “Fridays at Five” event (like the last one from 2017 that I attended in this North Division Street location.) That is a gathering where such a focal point would enhance the event. (The same goes for First Saturday, which I’ve always managed to miss. Half the time it’s held inside anyway.) I think there will be some events held in and around the amphitheater this summer as a dry run for the National Folk Festival.

Suzanah Cain, running for District 4 County Council, was one of several candidates at Third Friday. By the way, she’s not in the photo because she was circulating as a good politician would.

While Third Friday’s physical location lies just outside the district, both County Council District 4 hopefuls were pressing the flesh. I saw Josh Hastings out walking around, while I got to at least introduce myself to Suzanah Cain before I left. At the time she was standing with the guy in the ultimate catbird seat, Delegate Carl Anderton. (The third in the confab was one of my favorite Democrats, Sarah Meyers – so it was a reach across the aisle.) Also making his rounds was Clerk of Courts candidate Bo McAllster, who I saw for the second time in less than a week. He had his wife and two kids in tow.

One place I didn’t stop by and say hello was the Republican Women’s booth. (Honestly, I’m not sure which of the two local groups was there. I’m sure someone reading this would tell me and break my you-know-whats for not dropping in.) But this was while I was still walking with Kim – shortly after she stopped and I kept going until I got to the band – only to turn around and see she was talking to Carl Anderton, who I had seen a couple minutes earlier and said hello to walking by. (Turnabout is fair play, I suppose.)

Anyway, we checked out the scene and departed as things were already breaking down about a half-hour before the scheduled (but informal) 8:00 close of festivities. Seeing them bail early was the second part of the foundation of my theory that the crowd was less.

A final thought: in years past this particular Third Friday date would have been a lead in for Pork in the Park. But for just the second time in over a dozen years, there was no Pork in the Park in April. (In 2014 it was held in May because it would have fallen on Easter weekend.) A few months back Wicomico County finally decided to pull the plug on that event to concentrate on the WIcomico County Fair, which is held in the same location.

You could couple that somewhat official excuse with the cyclical nature of food-related events. Even the venerable old Delmarva Chicken Festival that had dated from the 1940s ran out of time a few years ago and was – ironically – folded into the former Wicomico Farm and Home Show and rebranded as our county fair in 2015. It’s sad because Pork in the Park was one of my favorite weekends of the year until they ruined it by being greedy. That began in 2012, which was the year they alienated half their food vendors, and then a couple years later Pork in the Park doubled down by charging a hefty admission fee. Anyway, to get a “do you remember when” back when Pork in the Park was a premier event, here is a nice walk around video from 2012 (with a cameo from Jonathan Taylor of Lower Eastern Shore News – watch from the beginning and you’ll see him.) After those spectacular failures and the loss of the KCBS competition, it was never the same. Even worse, the event that succeeded it with KCBS (Pig and a Jig, down in Snow Hill) also seems to be no more.

But the demise of Pork in the Park and the former Salisbury Festival a few years apart means that two staple events of the so-called spring shoulder season are no more. The Wicomico County Fair is held in the traditional late-summer slot one would associate with a county fair, while the Salisbury Festival is being rebranded as the Downtown Salisbury Festival and they will try it in early June, when the june bugs are in OC.

With those cautionary tales in mind, we will see how Third Friday fares as the years go on. Has it reached its peak like all these other events did?

The state of the ballot

March 24, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Personal stuff, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The state of the ballot 

Is it just me or is the 2018 primary season just not that exciting?

The reasons it could be just me are both an accident of geography and the fact that something is missing. Since we moved again last year, I’ve returned to County Council District 5. If you are a voter there of either principal party, you have very little to choose from on a district level: we have one Republican running for County Council (incumbent Joe Holloway, seeking a fourth term) and one person for school board (incumbent John Palmer, who we Republicans appointed a few years back. Bear in mind school board is non-partisan.) The poor Democrats in my district don’t even have a candidate.

In fact, unless you live in County Council District 1 and are a Democrat, there’s no need for a primary to whittle the field for County Council. Both parties found the requisite two candidates for the at-large seats, and all district incumbents who chose to run (John Hall of District 4 did not) except Ernie Davis in District 1 are unopposed for their spots. The Democrat primary in District 1 decides the seat, since no Republicans ran there.

That District 1 race will be interesting as it features three familiar names. Marvin Ames ran for the seat last time around and was third in a three-person field. More than likely that will be his fate yet again as he takes on the incumbent Davis and the former Salisbury City Council member Shanie Shields, whose district there overlaps to a great extent with the County Council District 1 boundaries.

Council Districts 1 and 4 have the best school board races as well, as there are three contenders for that position. To be perfectly honest, I don’t know if there’s a primary runoff for the position to whittle three candidates down to two or if it’s left to voters in November. I think the latter course of action is more prudent, particularly since more unaffiliated voters would be involved in a non-partisan race. There are four vying for the two at-large spots, which would reflect the County Council at-large race – so it’s likely that’s how a primary would proceed. Having an elected school board is a new process, so there’s no experience to back it up.

I mentioned earlier that something’s missing: well, that would be me. The ballot looks strange without my name on it for the first time in twelve years. But they found – for the third cycle in a row – thirteen Republicans to run for nine spots on their Central Committee, and the Democrats (who are showing their segregationist roots) feature the same number but split among five women and eight men for four spots apiece. (If you are keeping score, Republicans have four women in their thirteen-candidate field, the most in recent history. When I was first elected in 2006, we had none.)

I can’t speak for the Democrats, but the GOP Central Committee is assured of some significant turnover. Only four of the nine elected four years ago are seeking another term, as is appointed incumbent Nate Sansom – a.k.a. the guy who I recommended for the job when I left. If just one of them loses the WCRCC will be a majority of “new” people, although most have been involved with the party for several years beforehand. It also means I’ll cast multiple votes for the position for the first time – nothing against my peers, but in a race such as that you better believe I bullet-voted just for myself. This time I may cast a half-dozen or more as a sort of referendum on job performance.

Now I haven’t even discussed some of the bigger, statewide races. That boring primary in my County Council district extends to those who happen to reside in the state District 38B end of it, where Carl Anderton will be elected by acclamation. Those Democrats still have nothing to do in the adjacent District 38C (which overlaps into that Council district) because none ran there – my Republican fellows, on the other hand, have a great four-person race to attend to. On the other side of the county, District 37B Republican voters have a four-person race they get to whittle down to two, and Democrats in District 37A pit the incumbent Sheree Sample-Hughes against fellow Democrat Charles Cephas. (There’s also a Republican in the race for the first time in eight years.) Meanwhile, on a State Senate level, the fields are already set.

For all their bluster, Republicans who were upset with Larry Hogan as governor couldn’t put their money where their mouth was and find a primary opponent (like Brian Murphy in 2010 against Bob Ehrlich.) At least there are GOP candidates for the other two statewide slots, so neither Peter Franchot nor Brian Frosh get a free pass.

As for Democrats in the governor’s race, having a governor who governs from the center means they are positioning themselves just as far-Bernie Sanders-left as they can go. I don’t think there’s a conservative atom in their collective bodies, although to be fair I don’t know all of their positions. If they have any conservative ideas, they hide them well.

It’s also interesting how many Democrats signed up for the “I’m the insurance policy in case Ben Cardin crumples over from a coronary” part of the ballot. (Based on name recognition, the winner in that case could be Chelsea Manning, the artist formerly known as Bradley.) There are eleven Republicans in that race as well although none of them have thrilled me yet to put my support behind them like a Jim Rutledge, Dan Bongino, or Richard Douglas did. And considering none of these eleven had a current FEC account, voting for one may be an exercise in futility – in their defense, though, the FEC only reports quarterly so this doesn’t yet reflect 2018 results.

So pardon me if I have to suppress a collective yawn for this election, particularly given the tendency for both parties to govern in a manner that’s reminiscent of two teenagers fighting over who’s going to go out and wreck Dad’s car. They may not know the result at the time, but that’s what’s going to happen if they win.

A plea for common sense

January 29, 2018 · Posted in Culture and Politics, Personal stuff · Comments Off on A plea for common sense 

This could be the most unusual story idea I’ve ever had.

Back before Christmas I received the usual card from my parents, with some of what’s going on with them since we had previously spoken at Thanksgiving. So this evening I was cleaning off the coffee table and found the card, which I had kept out because enclosed was a clipping of a local op-ed piece where she wrote “Write a chapter about this!!”

At that point I remembered I was indeed going to write about it – not as a chapter in my book since it’s not TEA Party-related, but certainly it would be worth a blog post. The writer in question is a guy named Tim Smolarick, who is the editor of the Highlands News-Sun (their local paper.) So I dd a little bit of digging to link the article, called “More common sense and less red tape” for your perusal.

My mom’s highlighter isn’t the best, but this was the part she highlighted:

We have a two-party dominant system that spends entire cycles between elections blaming one another for all the problems that exist and, at the end, whoever convinces us better gets the seat. That has to stop. Back in the day we really believed in the people we voted for, not the party rhetoric. (That part was the most highlighted.)

The overall article talked about hunger as an issue brought up to the writer, and how, if the people of Highlands County put their mind to it “with common sense and less red tape” they could solve this problem. And, to be quite frank, I see no real reason they couldn’t do it on a local level.

(Just to set a scene: if there were an Eastern Shore of Florida, Highlands County might be it. Substitute orange groves for chicken houses and you get the picture. Unlike the perception most people have of Florida, Highlands is a very rural county that’s smack dab in the middle of nowhere insofar as the Sunshine State is concerned. But it’s where my late grandparents chose to go when they retired so my parents were familiar with it. The county compares with Wicomico County as far as population but has over twice the area.)

My mom’s point is valid in this day and age where we pit the Red Team against the Blue Team in an ongoing struggle for political power; one where people will look past the character flaws inherent in candidates if that candidate represents your side. Once we expected better of our representatives, but over the last 20 to 30 years we’ve become more forgiving of flaws in the pursuit of power.

Yet the beauty of Mr. Smolarick’s approach is that it transcends politics. If you’re not worried about who gets the credit and not in it to perpetuate a problem just to keep your job, there is a lot that can be accomplished. I tend to look at this as a faith-based operation because it’s a model I’m most familiar with, but there’s nothing that says it has to be denominational in that manner either. An atheist who has a good idea shouldn’t be dismissed on that basis alone.

As a society we’ve become conditioned to look to government as the only available problem-solver, forgetting that we have means and methods at our disposal if only we choose to employ them. “There oughta be a law!” scream the people, but sometimes they hold the solution in their own hands.

So I hope some people in the middle of Florida step up and figure out how to address their issues without having to hold the hand of government every step of the way. Back in the day that’s how Americans used to do it.

Say, maybe this is a TEA Party-related article after all – didn’t Tim Smolarick just advocate for limited government? I think he did! And thanks to my mom for the inspiration.

So THAT’s what I have been doing wrong all these years…

January 1, 2018 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Personal stuff · Comments Off on So THAT’s what I have been doing wrong all these years… 

I guess I will hit the ground running in 2018, as I take a quick break from writing the book.

Have you ever had unsolicited advice on your job? If you’re a nurse, the guy off the street tells you how to do patient care, or everyone’s suddenly a real estate agent, lawyer, architect, or any of a thousand other tasks where there’s some specialized skill or training involved?

Try being a blogger.

A few days back I received a list of everything I do wrong. This is copied verbatim except I fixed the bullet points to format.

Hope you are doing well.

A quick analysis reveals your website Monoblogue.Us having different technical glitches, where natural traffic is very low. Well, this is not the only reason for your website performance, because this list prolongs.

What we see from initial analysis of your website, it has been impacted much with recent updates from Google.

Here are some points where your website needs immediate attention:

  • For many competitive keywords or, phrases your website stands beyond 10th page of Google.
  • Your websites compatibility with many browsers and devices seems inconsistent.
  • Found lot more scripts and css files that are increasing page loading time.
  • Multiple links from same directory and author sites, downgrading link authority score to 30%.
  • As far as social shares and posts are concerned you need to work and improvise a lot.

It could well be I’m guilty of all of them. Still, if I were to write back to “Sonia Rose, Marketing Consultant” I would have to ask whether they realize that we speak English here and tell them that proofreading is your friend. In this case, though, I’d rather shame them publicly.

You see, I really don’t give a rat’s rear end what Google page I’m on for “competitive keywords” because that’s not why I do this. “Link authority score”? I link to what I need to in order to get my point across. Scripts and CSS files probably come from WordPress, not from something I add. I’ve run the same theme since 2010 or so, thus the widgets are probably legacy ones but no matter.

If you’re worried that I’m suddenly going to sell out, not a chance. I’m still going to feature the same insight and occasional snark as I have since 2005 here in 2018, although probably less than most readers would like since I want to get a book out, too.

I just think it’s hilarious that people want me to hand them over good money to tell me how to be a blogger. I think in almost 13 years at it I know a little bit – but the two most important lessons are to write from the heart and never write something you’ll lose sleep over. As long as I don’t stray from those two tenets I have a success regardless of Google placement.

To you and yours, have a happy and blessed 2018!

2017: a monoblogue year in review

December 31, 2017 · Posted in Personal stuff · Comments Off on 2017: a monoblogue year in review 

Perhaps more than any other, this was a year that tested me.

I guess that’s why it started with a treatise on “stuff.” 2017 had far less clutter here than in most years, that’s for sure. I also began an annual feature that follows the top musical groups I review.

But I continued January by reporting on a job-promoting event that actually occurred in December – it wasn’t the only time Annapolis would be in the news here as a new “90 Days of Terror” began. One enterprising Delegate, though, sought to lop 30 days off that reign of terror, while I also announced I would be tracking legislators across the border.

What really got my goat, though, was an attempt at deception that came about because a Presidential spoiler entered the race so late – yet it also gave me an idea who could better promote the Constitution Party I voted for. Being #NeverTrump came with a price to pay for one well-known blogger, though. That #NeverTrump attitude convinced me this would be “a Republican administration like no other,” but it was more than the “thanks for nothing” I gave his predecessor.

My cohort Cathy Keim also chimed in with her thoughts on God’s role in the Trump inauguration, the Golden Rule, and covered the March for Life for me. As for me and women’s issues. you know I had to chime in on the women’s march the day after President Trump was sworn in. And for all his faults, the new President started off well with the affordable energy crowd.

At month’s end, we lost someone who was sure Trump would prevail. Fortunately the Prince of Darkness hung around long enough to see Borat leave office.

In truth, Cathy started February by discussing one of her favorite topics, immigration. That led to me discussing two of my favorite topics: repealing Obamacare and renewable energy.

I came up with a new hashtag. I also came up with a new, much more politically purple state.

On the flip side, the Left decided to try and emulate the TEA Party and I got to cover it. But their emulation includes phony events and a general bad attitude, one which Cathy began March by discussing. She also related how families can make America great again in her view – even if interrupted on live TV.

As for me, I decided Trumpcare wasn’t really my cup of tea, and let the junior Senator of my state know in no uncertain terms that his budgetary objections are misplaced. Meanwhile, we steam away from our economic safe harbor into perilous waters.

I guess what really pissed me off though was being betrayed by our governor, who ignored job creation for dubious claims of safety. To show the typical thanks from the Left for a Republican reaching across the aisle, my one April news post discussed the Andy Harris townhall at Chesapeake College. The liberals in the district didn’t like him in May either.

Nor did they like Donald Trump when he announced an intention to allow for oil drilling off the Delmarva shore. (I liked it though.) I also weighed in on a controversy roiling a Maryland Christian school.

But the biggest thing I had to do was explain my hiatus from the site and what it means going forward. For one thing it meant all I talked about in June was the upcoming summer of discontent. In turn, I started July by explaining another long absence.

With the new abode, I could get back to doing a little bit of discussion on attitude and betrayal on a national scale. I also talked about the first halfway-serious 2020 Presidential candidate from Maryland not named Martin O’Malley and provided my usual coverage of a state political event. Many of those politicians were the subject of this year’s rendition of the monoblogue Accountability Project, which I released in August. Another annual event I chronicled was a day at the local county fair.

The events in Charlottesville prompted me to revisit an earlier assertion, while yet another obstacle to this website’s continued presence was surmounted.

I began September with a perspective on Hurricane Harvey, but it also set the scene for an increased tempo of work. And work was the subject of my Labor Day message, too, the first of three “holiday” posts that also commemorated 9/11 and Constitution Day.

But the month is also a sad time of the year for me, as it closes out the Shorebird season. At that time I always select my Shorebird of the Year in a seasonal review and discuss my picks and pans as a fan.

I also began a new, but eventually short-lived series of posts called DLGWGTW, which stands for Don’t Let Good Writing Go To Waste. It chronicled some of my social media comments. There were some of those in October, but outside of that I attended an event which continued a local controversy over the Civil War and another with a group of Civil War re-enactors, including a stand-in for President Lincoln.

Fortunately the latter event came after my week without a phone, although it cost me two prospective posts about the Good Beer Festival. Beforehand, I had waxed eloquent about the way things ought to be and found out about a surprising but exciting prospective development on the labor front in Sussex County, Delaware.

While I began a short-lived series in October, in November I renewed two long-standing ones with a Weekend of Local Rock reprise and a fresh batch of odds and ends. Neither odd nor an end described the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that began being discussed during the month, but there was a school of thought believing the 2017 off-year election had an odd but rectifiable result.

A group already beating the drums for 2018 came out to harass our Congressman at a local town hall meeting, but the “traveling roadshow” forgets how much ground needs to be made up to make this a competitive district.

Turning away from politics, I revisited one of my favorite series of posts from last year with an update and extended Thanksgiving greetings once again.

December always starts with a review for my website’s anniversary, which often leads almost directly into the induction of new players into the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame. After that, though, I parted with a Sunday thought and more odds and ends before wrapping the year up with my Christmas greeting, a short treatise on taxes, and a review of my top 5 albums of the year.

A departure from past years, though, is that I’m not going to look ahead to 2018 in a formal post. Truth be told, I’ve stepped back from the political and I just think my gut feelings aren’t as attuned to the scene anymore. So I’m just going to comment as things occur while I back away.

In another departure from past years, readership has tumbled to about 13,000 year-to-date. Obviously this is about where I was in year 1, so all that I gained in subsequent years is gone – but so is a lot of the hassle that went with building an audience (that was apparently pretty fickle) by posting daily – even if it was unimportant, barely readable dreck. One good bit of news is that I had my 500,000th visitor (according to StatCounter) on/about April 25. When you think about it, that’s a lot of people and visits over 12 years, probably more than 99% of blog sites have ever seen. So while I don’t have the huge numbers anymore and will probably be less than a drop in the bucket in World Wide Web history, I can always say that I don’t lose sleep over anything I write.

So that’s the year of monoblogue. Hopefully 2018 brings you everything you wished for.

Wishes for a Merry Christmas 2017

December 24, 2017 · Posted in Personal stuff · Comments Off on Wishes for a Merry Christmas 2017 

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:1-14, KJV)

You may recall that I began my Christmas Eve post last year with the exact same reference to Scripture. But things are a little different this year.

It’s interesting to ponder how, every so often, the week before Christmas embroils us in a political fight. The two examples I’m thinking of are the 2009 fight about Obamacare, which had its Senate vote on Christmas Eve before Congress could beat it out of town, and this year with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that will likely be known as the Trump tax cuts. Before I get to all of my “best of” and retrospective pieces to close out a tumultuous 2017, I will write up something on that piece of legislation.

Yet there’s something different about this Christmas once again. Maybe it’s because, for the first time I remember, I have a real tree in my house? Doubtful. Instead, it’s almost like people think they are allowed to enjoy the season for the first time in awhile. Notice we’ve heard nothing about the “War on Christmas” and people seem to be in a better mood this year. Now obviously that’s one man’s perception, but I also suspect having Christmas Eve fall on a Sunday will be good for churches across the nation. (I’m timing this so I can share the fact my church, Faith Baptist Church in Salisbury, will be having its usual morning service today at 10:45 after a potluck breakfast.)

Thanks to the job I secured over the last year, I was able to spend a little more on gifts this year. I will probably drop a little extra in the collection plate this morning too. (Bear in mind that, while salvation costs nothing, the actual church building and ministry does come at a price.)

Tomorrow will be the day I spend Christmas with Kim’s family, which is a far sight easier than spending it with my parents in Florida (although their weather is way better.) As the children of the family get older, with one now in junior high and the other a high school senior, we’ve found the number of presents gets smaller but the price tag of each goes up more than enough to make the difference. I must say, though, that ours is being thoughtful enough to buy gifts for her best friends and mom. It’s a welcome sign of maturity.

Now if only our political discourse will take the hint, right? Anyway, on this eve of Christmas Eve as I sit here in my chair in Salisbury, Maryland with laptop in lap and write this lengthy treatise on the holiday for publication on Christmas Eve I think I have finally arrived at the point where I can honestly say it’s Christmas time. From my family to yours, have a Merry Christmas and I will see you all on Tuesday.

A doozy of a dozen: monoblogue turns twelve

December 1, 2017 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Personal stuff · Comments Off on A doozy of a dozen: monoblogue turns twelve 

Well, my friends and readers, it’s that time once again to celebrate the anniversary of my website. Truth be told, there’s not as much to celebrate as this has become a part-time operation at best: over the last year I started in earnest on my second book, stopped on that task to take advantage of a job opportunity I couldn’t pass up (in essence, I spent about five months moonlighting with both a full-time and part-time job), then got back to work on the book. So this website has become more of a secondary or even tertiary outlet for me at times, since I’m often engaging with people on social media.

My general disillusionment with politics has subsided a little bit, but I’m still not really into the whole 2018 election thing yet. Yet the filing deadline isn’t all that far off, and to be realistic those who are campaigning for high-profile seats should already have made their intentions known. To try and start a campaign in January for a June primary against an entrenched incumbent, or as a newcomer, or both, is a nearly impossible task. (So ends the free political advice portion of the blog post.)

I did a quick check of my statistics and it confirmed what I had already figured. My readership was about half of what it was last year, which is probably appropriate because I did half the posts (or probably less.) So I guess I’m down to the diehards now. It’s almost like I’m back to where I was at in the beginning, and that’s sort of fitting as well since I’m working in the same place I was when I started, too. Of course, much has changed in the blogging world since that time. Here’s a good example.

Of late I have been working on my Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame page for its return next Thursday. As I’m in the midst of adding the Class of 2017 and updating the older profiles, I keep going to my menu of pages to work on the SotWHoF page (it’s a page and not a post) and on that same menu is a link to a private page I’ve kept called the 2009 Guide to the Maryland Blogosphere. It was something I started at the suggestion of a fellow blogger but didn’t keep up, what with all that political and TEA Party jazz going down at the time. (I probably had it public for about a year, since the last edit was in October of 2009.)

Anyway, I scrolled down through the list of over 50 blogs and found out I still link to just two – doesn’t mean some others aren’t active, but I can vouch for about 10 or 15 that I know are deceased. A couple I clicked on to check hadn’t been updated since Obama’s first term, so they’re basically dead, too. (On the other hand, one was just updated Monday so that’s still alive and kicking.)

It takes a lot to keep a website going. There was a period this summer where I had to sweat out fixing the very WordPress program this site runs on because it was failing to do automatic updates and my server provider was upgrading the PHP to a version incompatible with my old WordPress version. So I had to spend an afternoon figuring out how to manually upgrade the site; fortunately (and obviously) I succeeded. But I may have another upcoming headache with photos because Photobucket is phasing out the service level I use and I take up too much space there for the free version. (This is not to mention the years’ worth of photos lost when my old system went away and didn’t repoint – hence the blank spaces on posts from around 2009 to 2012 or so.) And so on and so forth…for some who have jobs, kids, lives – they throw in the towel on this type of outlet.

I will admit that I derive more enjoyment these days from writing my book, but there are times I need a break or I have something off the topic that I need to say – so I go to social media. But that’s not really the best venue for long-form writing like this.

To that end, I think I will stick around for another year. I’m not going to promise anything groundbreaking, new, or exciting will occur here, but you never know when I may get one of those manic periods where I may write more than a couple times a week. 😉

Happy Thanksgiving 2017

November 23, 2017 · Posted in Personal stuff · Comments Off on Happy Thanksgiving 2017 

As is tradition, I’m going to count my blessings on this day of giving thanks.

The last year has had its share of tumult and chaos for our God-blessed nation, but there are still things for which we all should be thankful; first and foremost that we still have the freedom to do so. Those of us who are seeing our families can count that as a blessing too, although we shouldn’t forget to say a Thanksgiving prayer for those who chose to be in harm’s way for us as we celebrate the holiday. There are a number of young men that I know who are going to join that group in the coming months as they complete school so this time next year they will be included in that prayer.

In reading last year’s message, I noted my gratefulness to have a full-time job, but the good Lord has blessed me still further by bringing me back to my old company. This development lent new meaning to the phrase “circle of life.” It’s almost like everything old is new again in a way. In that same vein I will likely be with most of the same company today to celebrate the holiday, with one certain subtraction being the late husband of my sister-in-law.

But I’m still blessed with family and those friends who have stuck with me in the post-political phase of my life. Things were still a little bit raw at this time last year, but I think time is healing whatever wounds we might have unless we wish to keep on inflicting them upon ourselves.

If I were to have a blessing I were to be thankful for – besides the obvious ones of my wife and family – it would be the gift I was given to put words together in ways that people enjoy reading, and that make a positive difference in the world. Rush Limbaugh often speaks of his “talent on loan from God” and I have no other explanation for what I have, either: my father’s been a common laborer his whole life and my mom worked for a bit as a secretary before my late older brother was born, or so I’m told. Back then being a high school graduate was enough to make your way in the world and that’s what they did. So I also should be grateful to be blessed with the opportunity to be able to carve out the time to work on things like my website and my upcoming book, which as I write this is closing in on the halfway point in the first draft.

But I’m going to close by quoting myself from last year, because I liked what I wrote then and still do today.

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 they haven’t quite learned that 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 count your blessings.

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

 

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