P4k

November 5, 2014 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Personal stuff · Comment 

Those who know me and have some idea of what makes me tick realize pretty quickly I am a numbers guy, and there is just something about round numbers that I like. So every time I turn the odometer of 1,000 posts it’s a big deal to me, and hitting the 4,000 mark is no different than hitting 1,000, 2,000, 2,500, or 3,000. (For the record, the last 1,000 posts took 853 days to compile.)

But today is an interesting day in the life of monoblogue. As you probably know, mine is primarily a state-based blog so I write constantly about Maryland politics. Aside from the first year of this site’s existence, though, I have been on the side which was out of power and had little to no say in the governing of this state. Last night, with the election of Larry Hogan, that all changed. While I’m not going to get into my election observations quite yet – I’m saving that for tomorrow morning’s post – but it should suffice to say that it will be interesting going trying to hold Larry’s feet to the fire.

Unlike the last few observances of Pxk, I don’t really have any earth-shattering news on the writing front. Obviously there may be a subtle change in direction now that I won’t be as active in the state GOP, but hopefully the nuts-and-bolts of a party in power will be relatively smooth and uninteresting writing anyway. (The Democrats, on the other hand – now that could be intriguing as a number of them will be pointing fingers about the demise of Anthony Brown statewide and the shellacking they took locally and many may be lining up for 2018.)

Honestly, I don’t know what part I played (if any) in recent successes, but one thing I do know is that I’m glad campaign season is over. Frankly, the last 2 or 3 weeks was a definite grind writing about the political because I was bored with it. When you figure I started covering this election in earnest about the middle of last year (arguably earlier since David Craig was in the running unofficially since 2011) it’s no surprise that I needed something different to write on.

There are some areas I’m thinking may be included here more, though. Thanks to the exposure of doing American Certified for a few months, I have more interest in the nuts and bolts niche of manufacturing, which is a worthy subject to explore. I’ve also had more of an interest in energy issues recently, in part because the two go hand-in-hand to a great extent.

Yet there’s one thing which has carried me through and that’s the support of my readers. I suppose I would be writing something even if I had five readers a week, but getting the occasional accolades and “attaboys” about pieces I write doesn’t get old. I’m still humbled by the recognition. When I see the Paypal notice about a hit to my tip jar or get the payment from an advertiser (or, as has happened before, a check from a supporter of the site) I’m still proud to have made that impact with someone. Look at it this way – my advertisers were 3-1 in their races.

I suppose if I have remaining goals for this site, they would be to maximize the readership which can be attained from a part-time blogger (who also has writing clients and works outside the home) and make it even more of a profitable enterprise. I’m hoping those political advertisers who helped me during campaign season transition into non-political ones who keep this thing going for the 3 1/2 years we’re not doing the heavy vote gathering.

In less than a month I’ll be starting my 10th year of doing this site, which is longer than many of those who I link to. Maybe I wasn’t in at the ground floor, but I wasn’t too far from the foundation.

Most blogs don’t make it to 400 posts, let alone 4,000. But as long as I enjoy doing it and am able to do so – I just renewed my server for another year – I hope you keep looking in this space for readable and thoughtful political content.

My political ‘will’

Next Monday, nearly a week after the election, the time will come to formally bring down the curtain on my eight-year tenure as a voting member of the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee. As of now, the plan is to meet at the Chamber of Commerce and have the incoming group elect their chair and officers. It’s a little different than four years ago, but we have a member who is heavily involved with poll watching and may not be finished until late in the evening. So we decided last night to wait a week, although I would have rather gotten it over with.

I originally wrote the following on my (now private) campaign page back on June 12, when early voting for the primary began, and updated it as the days went on so it would come up on the Facebook wall each day. It was intended as my platform for the next four years on the Central Committee but as it turned out I fell a few hundred votes short in my last campaign. The finality hit me the other day as my treasurer and I finally closed the campaign account.

Even though I didn’t get another four-year term, I believe the items which were on my to-do list are ones which should be followed by my successors. There are indications we will have success this cycle, but some of these items should be attempted regardless of the results today.

**********

Now we’ve begun the actual voting process, the culmination of a campaign which began for me when I filed back in February. I could only imagine how it is to toil for 18 months or more to win a regional or statewide office, and several candidates have gone that long in their quest. The beginning of the end of my quest for a third (and final) term on the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee opened last Thursday morning at the Civic Center when the polls opened.

Bear in mind that, win or lose, my current term doesn’t end until the polls close on November 4, 2014. We all have a single-minded goal to win as many elections as we can for local Republicans, particularly in races where we can unseat longtime Democrats like Rick Pollitt, Norm Conway and Jim Mathias. With that said, while I’m pleased with a lot of what I’ve done over the last eight years, I have some unfinished business I’d like to attend to over the next four.

First and foremost, candidate recruitment has to step up. We have a good team in place right now, but there are some holes we need to fill around the county, and a particular focus for the next four years is finding people willing to participate at the community level in towns like Salisbury, Delmar, Fruitland, and the others around the county. These local elections are stepping stones for eventual candidates, but they’re also the place where prospective campaign managers and treasurers can learn the ropes as well. This even extends to recruiting for other appointed posts such as zoning boards and similar local openings which can use a dose of conservatism. I would like to see a well-connected member of our group be the point person for knowing which openings can be filled and looking for the right people to apply.

A second focus is the quest for an elected school board in Wicomico County. Obviously we can go a long way toward that goal by making a couple changes in our elected officials this year, since Rick Pollitt and Norm Conway have been the roadblocks in place over the last four years. If not, we have to aggressively pursue other avenues such as a petition drive. We believe the county should join much of the rest of Maryland in pursuing that course; personally I think we could model it on our existing County Council districts.

Lastly, there should be better organization at the precinct level. Now that we’ll have an idea of just where precinct lines will be, the next step is to seek out and find local leaders who can work at the grassroots level. It’s a role which can evolve, but as an example when I led a precinct over a decade ago I printed and distributed a quarterly newsletter to my GOP constituents alerting them to candidates and issues we as a party were promoting. Some of us are already developing databases which can be of assistance in this regard.

Don’t forget you can vote for up to nine of us. I can work with any of the other twelve on the ballot, but the key for me is making it into the top nine once again. In 2010 I made it by just 30 votes and I wouldn’t be surprised if things are that close again.

You can make the difference. Ask yourself: what other candidates have spelled out their agenda to such a degree? Only a few of us bothered to fill out the League of Women Voters questionnaire, but I’ve not been shy about saying exactly where I stood on the issues.

So this is my case. I’m asking for and would appreciate your support between now and June 24.

**********

One thing which amazes me still is that we made it through an entire term without turnover, which to me proved we took our role seriously. So the three new members – Dr. Greg Belcher, Julie Brewington, and Dr. Mark Edney, who have all been relatively active in the Central Committee meetings or Republican circles over the last few years – have a tough act to follow. I wish them success.

As for me, there has been sentiment within the group that they want to keep me around as Secretary, which can be done because it’s allowed to be a non-voting position. I could participate and record meetings, but would not have a vote. At this point I’m willing to do so; however, there are a few party-related burdens I have which I’d like to divest myself from and I’ll discuss those with the group in due course.

Finally, it turns out to be a happy accident that I will reach a milestone tomorrow, so after the votes are counted tonight I can take stock of where I am personally and professionally and plan accordingly. I’m sure you will be here to find out.

2014 Autumn Wine Festival in pictures and text

October 21, 2014 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off 

Yet again I was found at Pemberton Historical Park for an event involving potent potables. But this one was more like work for me because I’m simply not a wine drinker – didn’t have a drop. Yet I did take a few photos.

So once the ribbon was cut by (among others) County Council members Matt Holloway, Stevie Prettyman, Gail Bartkovich, and John Hall, we were underway. I was really there for our Republican booth.

Carol Rose is a big fan of monoblogue and now she’s famous. Actually it gives me an opportunity to thank a whole crew of people who helped out for at least part of a day for the two events: Jackie Wellfonder, Shawn Jester, Carol Rose, Greg Belcher, Linda Luffman, Phil Adkins, David Warren, and Larry Dodd, who you’ll see in a little while. Jim Jester didn’t sit with us, but he was valuable for helping me to set up and take down for each event. That’s a job in and of itself.

But I wasn’t the only person helping get out the vote. Circuit Court judge candidate M.J. Caldwell had his own space.

These were the Ritz crackers with cheese. Sunday visitors got the upgrade to Triscuits.

On the other side of the aisle (literally) were our friends, the Democrats. Pete Evans was there most of the weekend, and as I noted this morning I spoke to Delegate candidate Rod Benjamin for a bit while I was there. I also saw Laura Mitchell from afar.

I was a lot closer to Mike McDermott and Chris Adams, who stopped by Saturday to try and collect votes.

As I noted, District 3 contender Larry Dodd was by on Sunday checking out my neighboring tent while helping man the table.

It’s worth pointing out that attendance between Saturday and Sunday was like night and day. While I took these from different vantage points, the time of day was pretty close between the Saturday photo on top and the Sunday one at the bottom.

Something else a little different was the use of one space. On Saturday, the top photo shows a VIP area. On Sunday it was converted to an artisan’s tent with some of their wares put out.

For a few extra dollars on Saturday, you got the nicely appointed tables, a bigscreen TV, a large sectional sofa, and private restrooms. With the exception of the tables, they kept those things on Sunday but very few were there.

Of course, the weather had a lot to do with the spotty Sunday attendance. While it was in the 70s and balmy Saturday, a chilly, cloudy morning and gusting gales on Sunday reminded me again why I call it the Autumn Wind Festival. And those gusts created havoc at the other political tents, oddly enough.

M.J. Caldwell’s tent reared up on two legs before being corralled. But as David Warren saw with his photo, the Democrats weren’t as fortunate.

You’ll notice how devoid of people this end of the festival appeared on Sunday. Unfortunately for a lot of vendors, it was that way Saturday, too. I took this about 3:45, just at the end of the peak time.

While a few were playing games and some watched the college football – granted, the television tent was a little busier on Sunday afternoon for the Ravens game – there was another place people stayed.

Bear in mind I took the next picture Sunday, with the smaller crowd.

Practically every section of this fence had a group staked out. They were close to the wine tents, lucky ones had a view of the stage, and they had their chairs for the duration. With the layout of the event, it was tough on the vendors beyond the last tent – we were lucky enough to be on the back side of it so at least we had some traffic.

If you noticed the chair Larry Dodd was sitting in, it was part of a collection from this vendor.

They have an interesting story since this couple, who I presume are married, traveled from Ohio to the AWF – apparently they do several similar shows a year around the country with the next one in Texas.

So if you wondering who the couple in the Cleveland Browns gear was, there’s your answer. And the chairs seem to be fairly comfortable based on my limited experience of sitting in one for five minutes, so why not give them a plug as thanks? Besides, at $139.95 I figure a year’s free advertising on my site is a fair trade for an air chair. (Never hurts to ask!)

Of course, my better half might prefer the Gollywobbler.

That was fairly good marketing, but not as unique as this tagline.

And since I had the hop head from last week, why not the grape guy?

Still, I favor the more traditional. I really liked the usage of the barrel.

And, of course, the more colorful the bottles in the sunshine, the more likely it is I’ll use the shot. The Winery at Olney gets that honor this year.

But as a vendor, I want to close with my two cents. For those at the south end of the festival, it was pretty brutal. One thing about the layout they use is that 80% of the people can conceivably cluster around the four large tents and the stage in the middle all day. I saw a few people who brought their lunch so they were all set aside from the bathroom breaks.

What I would suggest is a two-stage setup like the Good Beer Festival employs, because it may entice a little more churn in the crowd. Yes, you will get your campers but they may be more inclined to move during an hour break between bands than a 30-minute one.

I’m sure we’ll be back next year, even though it’s pretty much an off-year election (except for the city of Salisbury, which will be in campaign mode.) We may have a little Presidential material as well as those who may run for the Senate, but we won’t have a lot to give out. I would like a little more traffic, though.

Buy now, or pay more later

September 30, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Maryland Politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off 

Due to the need to comply with the law that states a business with a presence in the state must collect sales tax, for Maryland residents today is the final day of shopping on Amazon tax-free. The opening of a distribution center in Baltimore made the change necessary.

This affects me to a small extent because I’ve been an Amazon Associate site for a number of years. I doubt I would be the one to collect sales tax, but I’m sure my small cut of the action won’t be increased by the extra six percent things on Amazon will cost to Maryland residents. (In fact, government will be making more money than I do in most cases.) In the past, though, Amazon has ended associate programs in states where they collect sales tax, so it’s very possible that this little revenue stream of mine will go away effective tomorrow.  (At the moment, it appears that it will not.) It might be great for people who found a job in one of these Baltimore distribution centers, but those of us who made a little bit of coin in this manner aren’t happy.

On another front, it would be interesting to know how many people with relatives or close friends in Delaware that they visit frequently will be simply slapping their address on the shipping label, although I suppose having a method of payment with a Maryland billing address may bring up the charge as well. Surely we all know someone who went to Delaware to purchase a big-ticket item in order to avoid paying a couple hundred extra dollars in sales tax to Maryland, so I have no doubt people may do the same thing for Amazon. With Delaware being so close and most in this area knowing someone who lives there I would suspect this will become a bit of a trend.

In the meantime, the box on my right sidebar awaits – get while the gettin’s good.

The back nine and the golden moment

September 22, 2014 · Posted in Personal stuff · Comments Off 

I’m going to tell you about my weekend, but I want to tell you a recollection first.

Some years ago, Rush Limbaugh talked about doing a book called The Back Nine. As I recall, it was going to be about the lessons he’d learned and some of the things he wanted to accomplish in the second half of his life. As it turned out he instead decided to pour his writing energy into children’s books and that Back Nine project presumably will stay on the back burner if it’s even still on the stove.

Well, this morning I begin my back nine. Some of you who read this were privy to the clubhouse celebration on Saturday, and you also know a lot more than me about how it came about. One of my friends let me in to the fact there was a secret Facebook group to plan all this, sponsored by my social media maven of a fiance. (Heck, she has more Facebook friends than I do, although not by a whole lot.)

On Friday morning, though, I planned out my weekend of writing. The Weekend of Local Rock segment I posted yesterday was originally supposed to be Saturday’s piece and something else would have gone on Sunday – I would have figured that out. But Friday afternoon I was shocked to see my parents’ van in the driveway – yes, my Depression-era parents came up from Florida to celebrate my half-century.

A few hours later, as we were playing cards, I got a call from my daughter, to whom I jokingly said, you could join the party in 10 hours if you drove down from Ohio. Her and my son-in-law walked in 10 minutes later.

I soon figured out that all the chairs in the garage weren’t spare junk Kim’s relatives were getting rid of and figured we would be hosting many of them the next day. On that count I was correct but there were quite a few others who came by as well – to all I say thanks for sharing the day, even if it was two days early. That’s why Saturday’s post was so brief and cryptic. I was a little preoccupied during the day but I didn’t want to go completely dark.

So today, the actual birthday, is almost anticlimactic. Yes, I will have a blizzard of Facebook notices, but it will otherwise be a day where I run a number of errands. (I am skipping the WCRC meeting tonight, though.)

But turning 50 creates a change in one’s mindset. Not that I could really help it, but I have never liked having a birthday which is regularly the first day of fall because I am a summer person and can’t stand winter. But at least in this locale it’s normally in the midst of a weather period where the days are still summerlike yet the nights are cool and clear, the start of what we call “second season.” Time for the locals to enjoy the beach again.

By that token, perhaps I am getting into my own “second season.” Admittedly, I’m not in the best of shape but hopefully I’m not too far gone to fix it up. I still have a couple decades of work to give, yet have plenty of experience behind me to know how to do things right. In just a few years Kim and I hopefully will have an empty nest, with that young lady successfully making her own way.

So there’s a lot to look forward to. I even get a birthday Google. (I know, so does everyone else, but it is fun.)

Birthday 2014

I have to admit that for the most part my forties were a stormy decade with a great number of challenges and doubts. I’m not out of the woods quite yet, but I figure someone has a plan for me and things will turn out for the best. After all, how many people have a fiance who would go out of her way to the extent she did to plan this event?

So I look forward to my fifties and the start of my back nine. Yes, there are a few hazards I will have to deal with but I figure there’s a reason the 50th anniversary is the golden one.

Fore!

Weekend of local rock volume 61

September 21, 2014 · Posted in Delmarva items, Local Music, Personal stuff · 1 Comment 

Delmarva Bike Week traditions are many: lots of bikes, loud pipes, and long nights in the local haunts and watering holes. But one tradition has a charitable side: each year the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition benefits from (Save the) Breast Fest, which this year marked its sixth anniversary.

As always there were raffles, drawings, and various people selling their wares to donate to the BreastFest cause, which has raised thousands of dollars over its run.

The lovely Iris pictured above is one of several volunteers who help the organizer, local musician, DJ, and breast cancer survivor Michele Hogsett.

Giving a big assist is her husband Jim, who emcees the event and helps with the details.

These bands and the sound man donated their time to the event. So how did they sound?

Leading off the classic rock fest was Front Page News, which got an A+ for expanding the stage.

Front Page News leaned on the older classics, although they threw a couple more recent ones in there. It was a good warmup and helped attract a crowd.

It was something Fuzzbox Piranha kept around as they kept the mainstream classics coming.

Then it was time for the ladies to hit the stage. Witches Brew has the distinction of playing all six editions of BreastFest. And if you weren’t aware of their presence, there’s just something about these guitars that say things will get a little heavier.

Obviously I’ve seen Susan and the boys enough to know most of their set pretty well, but they create a strong presence nonetheless. It’s not difficult with the songs they chose.

You’ve seen them here many times as Semiblind, but the recently-rechristened Something Grey took the fourth slot on the bill. They’ve been around long enough to know their audience, so the set was red meat classic rock punctuated with Jim’s guitar work.

We went back to a little harder edge with Chainbreak, although they had a fill-in drummer who incidentally is also a cancer survivor.

I think they were having a couple sound issues – “Flirtin’ With Disaster” was a mainly three-piece and I had a hard time hearing the lead guitar. It was better by the time they got to Led Zeppelin.

Finally, we got to Native Grave, who I really liked for one reason: they weren’t afraid to play a few originals. And yes, they were heavy because the guitarist is indeed the same one who plays for Witches Brew.

The true challenge for the 1 a.m. band is to keep the dwindling crowd there and Native Grave did a fine job in that regard – the place was still fairly crowded for last call.

Not only is the event a good way to raise awareness for the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, but it seems to be holding its own as far as an attraction for the increasing number of people who like a little music with their Bike Week festivities. Considering BreastFest was up against Travis Tritt at the OC Bike Fest stage and Slaughter at the Soundwave Music Festival outside Berlin, not to mention entertainment at other area venues, they did pretty well.

Look for the seventh edition next year.

An abrupt change in plans

September 20, 2014 · Posted in Personal stuff · Comments Off 

Well, my plan for tonight was to go down to 3rd Friday and get some pictures for a post. But plans change and I won’t be by the computer a whole lot the next couple days.

So if you want good 3rd Friday coverage, Jonathan Taylor always makes an effort to take plenty of pictures. I also will let you in on a returning advertiser and whatever else comes up in the next 36 hours or so. Just stick with me, the payoff will be worth it.

AC Week in review: September 14, 2014

September 14, 2014 · Posted in Business and industry, Personal stuff · Comments Off 

First of all, let me get you up to speed on what I wrote.

In my first featured piece, I took a look at what’s being called a “skills mismatch.” It’s the reason a million jobs are going unfilled. I also got resolution at long last on the vexing problem of dumping a steel product called Oil Country Trading Goods, where Korea was found to be indeed running afoul of the law and had punitive tariffs placed on their products.

And that’s where I left it. But there are reasons.

Back at the end of August, just before Labor Day, I found out the editor who I was working with at AC was leaving the company. In his place came another editor, but also a fairly dramatic change in the purpose of the American Certified blogs. Instead of featuring news, analysis, and information, the new direction would be along the lines of quirky, list-driven stories, more in the style of a BuzzFeed. It’s just not something I enjoy writing, so I decided after some thought to part ways with them for the time being. If they decide they want to get back to meatier content, they know where to find me.

Listen, I hope the new direction works well for them because the overall concept of the company is something I’m firmly behind. If it takes a BuzzFeed clone for them to drive business and succeed, I’m happy to step aside for their good. But I have the opinion that there’s always room for gravitas.

Moreover, this experience has piqued a new branch of interest I enjoyed working with. My intention with the Sausage Grinder site was along the lines of what the company originally intended:

Finally, American Certified will feature news and blogs depicting thorough analysis and trends related to the most recent happenings in American manufacturing and consumption. Members of the press and AC shoppers can sign up for a free weekly news summary, reporting on the Buy American movement from all sides, without bias.

I thought I did my part toward that end, but perhaps it just wasn’t something worthy of attention. It would have helped to have more faithful writers to build the readership, but that is what it is. I found out coming up with content is tough when you aren’t doing it full-time.

But as it turns out, though, I’m not sure they ever did the weekly news summary – as part of seeking that job I put a mock version together. That was a pity because I thought I did well in knocking the test summary out. Now it’s all water under the bridge.

And while the storyline about OCTG I cited above came to a conclusion, there are a lot of others I don’t want to leave hanging. Go back through these “AC Week in review” posts and you’ll find a lot of topics worth discussing. I’m hoping to add more of that content here as sort of a step away from the horserace aspect of politics and into more of a policy arena.

But again, I wish the AC crew the best of luck. I was hoping it would be more than a four-month endeavor, but at least I got the experience, a few dollars along the way, and a great opening party in a town I’d never heretofore visited. And as I said before, I’m not closing the door if they’re not.

So now I will have to find something to fill my Sunday space again. Sheesh, no more Shorebird of the Week on Thursday or AC Week in review on Sunday – I might have to become creative.

Reliving the first battle

September 11, 2014 · Posted in National politics, Personal stuff · Comments Off 

It may seem an odd way to begin a post about 9/11, but remember Pearl Harbor?

While most casual observers think that World War II began when we were attacked by Japan on December 7, 1941, the reality was that hostilities began over two years earlier when Nazi Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. It was the culmination of several years of concessions to appease Adolf Hitler that proved to have the opposite effect.

The Long War between America and the forces of radical Islam came into sharp focus on 9/11, but there were several skirmishes leading up to that date. I’m old enough to remember the takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and the 444 days we watched as Americans were held hostage. Certainly some had flashbacks to that incident during the events in Benghazi, Libya two years ago on 9/11.

And then we had the original World Trade Center bombing in February 1993, an event which made clear that building was a target. Eight years later, the planners changed their tactics from a single truck bomb to two jet aircraft hijacked for the purpose of becoming civilian-laden missiles.

But like Pearl Harbor or, to borrow a different violent event, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the lives of millions of Americans were defined that day in such a way that most remember what they were doing when they heard the news. (I was at work at the former Hobbs+Black Architects office in Toledo, on a glorious late summer day.)

A key difference between Pearl Harbor and 9/11, though, is that America knew who the enemy was and spared no expense or effort in fighting it. Less than four years later Hitler was dead, Japan had surrendered, and the world began a transition from a global war of destruction to an uneasy peace between adversaries in the sense of liberty – a peace defined by the knowledge of mutually assured destruction if either pulled the nuclear trigger. But America had vanquished all of its Axis foes, yet was assisting in rebuilding where it could.

On the other hand, we responded to 9/11 with somewhat conventional warfare but found out that it’s a model which doesn’t last and is ineffective against an enemy which glorifies death and rarely fights in a conventional manner.

Since the Benghazi incident in 2012, we’re more aware that 9/11 is a pivotal date on the calendar .People are looking over their shoulders today, waiting on the other shoe to drop and another terrorist attack of some sort. They all but expect it given our current weak leadership.

But just a few years after abandoning Iraq and in the midst of doing the same to Afghanistan, now it’s Barack Obama believing we can dispatch the Islamic State with a minimum of blood and treasure. I don’t see it happening, at least not unless we go back to fighting like we did in World War II and junk the ridiculous rules of engagement and political correctness. Blasting the whole thing into a sea of glass appeals to some, too.

History always repeats itself somewhere, sometime. A millennium ago Christians began a series of Crusades to beat back the Islamic invaders, and this may signal the need for a second round our grandchildren may yet fight someday. The instruments of war are far different, but the toll on advancement of civilization is often the same.

Wicomico Farm and Home Show 2014 in pictures and text

It’s not a whole lot, but it is ours. Over the weekend another Wicomico Farm and Home Show – the 78th annual – was put in the books. As has been the case the last several years, I was there to help with the Republican table.

Of course, the indispensable part of the program was sitting at the table when I took that shot. Blan Harcum was one of many volunteers who helped out, though, so thanks to Helen, Marc, Jim, Woody, Leonard, Ann, and anyone else who spent some time there.

Some of the candidates stopped by over the weekend as well. Thursday afternoon brought two County Council members and a third who wants to join that body.

Marc Kilmer (left) is running to represent District 2 on County Council, and as he noted it’s the most rural district of the five. Arguably, Joe Holloway (right) represents the second-most rural district in District 5, while Bob Culver (center) is currently an at-large member who is now trying for County Executive. His watermelons were a hit.

I didn’t stay too long Thursday; my main job was to get set up and check on the photos we entered. (More on that in a bit.)

So when I came back Saturday, I wanted to see what else was going on around the WHFS, beginning with the exhibit hall.

It was dominated by one feature, which returned from last year.

The National Aquarium brought back its inflatable whale, along with a table and accompanying signage.

In a similar vein but parked outside was the Phillips Wharf Environmental Center bus.

But the main purpose of the show was to highlight the farms and crafts of Wicomico County. On the farm side, there were all sorts of barnyard animals, such as these.

Just outside there, nervous contestants waited as their animals were judged. I think these guys were done, though.

On the inside of the exhibit hall, there were crafts and hobbies galore. I can see why this quilt won, although the best in show was very nice too.

Fortunately, it wasn’t just these attractions. The kids had their own little tractor pull, although there wasn’t a version for the big kids this year like there was last time.

Not that they didn’t have tractors around.

I’m sure the old ones are priceless to the owners, but I was floored to find out a similar tractor to the one I pictured (a Case/IH model as opposed to a John Deere) can run well north of $35,000.

As they did last year, there was a car show – one with its share of trucks, naturally.

But the most interesting truck to me was this – one of the two military-themed trucks in the show.

The directional sign is supposed to resemble the one from the old TV show M*A*S*H, and it indeed includes Toledo in honor of Corporal Max Klinger. Actor Jamie Farr is a Toledo native.

This was a nice touch as well.

There was plenty of action in the horse pen, with an exhibition of Cowboy Mounted Shooting.

CMS is supposedly a fast-growing sport, with seven to ten new people signing up daily. It combines the agility of barrel racing with the accuracy of shooting – competitors try to shoot each of ten balloons on a preset course, with time penalties for missing a balloon or knocking a post over. Among the participants in this exhibition was the reigning Ohio state champion, who’s from Delaware but recently won the title in a competition in Wooster, Ohio. (By the way, the bullets are modified theatrical blanks.)

It would be interesting to see if they could get a real, sanctioned competition here next year. Unfortunately, the organizers really didn’t have much in the way of activities during the late afternoon hours leading up to the awards.

One of those awards came right back to my household, as my fiance Kim won Best of Show in black-and-white photography. And if you recall that old tractor I pictured above, my photo of the slightly-less restored version from last year won me a second place ribbon in its category. (Yes, I took it at the 2013 WFHS but didn’t use it in the post.) Not bad for a rookie who only entered three photos – although Kim and her daughter Kassie both had more first place ribbons than I had photos.

For next year, I’m sure the Wicomico GOP will have a presence, although it will be more muted after the 2014 election. If the creek don’t rise I’ll have some pictures and hopefully they’ll attract more events. The 2016 rendition will be the 80th annual so it’s time to build momentum.

The war over e-books

August 13, 2014 · Posted in Business and industry, Personal stuff · 1 Comment 

This particular piece has a little more meaning to me than to most of you. The other day I received an “Important Kindle Request,” which is reprinted at this website. It basically compares the current situation in the e-book market to that of the era paperback books were introduced.

The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position that lower e-book prices will “devalue books” and hurt “Arts and Letters.” They’re wrong. Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books. On the contrary, paperbacks ended up rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. The same will happen with e-books.

Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. They think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive. (Emphasis in original.)

The gist of the story is that Amazon and Hachette, a distributor of e-books, are in a pricing dispute – Amazon thinks they should be cheaper while Hachette releases them for $15-20. That’s for an e-book, folks. We’re not talking the hardcover $30-40 tomes, we’re talking about something which loads to your Kindle or other reading device and takes up negligible space on its hard drive. In essence, to buy the book is to transfer a copy of the file from source to customer – no need for book sellers or trying to predict the market and risking either selling out too quickly or having thousands of unsold books to unload at a reduced price. Instead, supply adequately meets demand.

And volume is king – would I rather sell 1,000 copies of a $14.95 e-book or 100,000 at $4.99? Truthfully, it does no harm for my e-book to sit on their servers, and the hard copies are created as needed.

There was some interesting synchronicity between the arrival of this e-mail and a request to buy an autographed copy of my book. (Yes, I keep a few on hand.) It got me to thinking about book number 2, which has been on the back burner for quite awhile, and what to do about my first e-book.

So what I decided to do about the latter is try and boost its market share by cutting the price in half. Unfortunately, to do so I had to cut my commission half again, for Amazon wouldn’t let me sell below a certain price with full commission – so I have to sell fourfold the number of e-books to make the same amount. But it’s a risk I’ll take to see what the market will do, plus it’s been two years since its release. (That’s hard to believe.)

As for book number two, I make no promises. The idea is there, but I haven’t figured out a particular direction to take it quite yet. It may wait until after the election.

The e-book industry is probably going to see its prices decline, because marketers will likely see this Amazon’s way. Given the amount of material out there, thanks in part to a far more lucrative compensation setup than most authors going the regular route can dream of, there may not be a choice.

Leaving the resistance: a case study

This article was actually going to be about one piece of information I received, but then I got another which I can tie in. I do that every now and then.

The TEA Party movement, depending on how you determine its beginning, is somewhere between five and seven years old now. Thousands upon thousands of activists have participated in it, but in reality conditions have generally become worse in terms of its main fiscal goals.

It’s a well-documented lack of success, and perhaps that lack of reward is frustrating those who want real positive change. Take this piece I received an e-mail the other day from an area TEA Party group lamenting the writer’s Independence Day plans.

This year for the July 4th Holiday I spent it doing laundry or something mundane like that. No family gathering, no special commemoration or meditation on my part to mark this critically important day. I cannot let this happen again.

When I think of the miracle of the founding of this nation and the sacrifice made by millions to preserve it I am ashamed that it passed like another day, a long weekend. I’m sure most of you reading this didn’t abuse this important day to the extent that I did – hopefully. I serve in a position of leadership in this organization; I know better. God forgive me but God help me to do better not just next year but every day from this point on.

This organization didn’t participate in (a local) event due to lack of interest from the membership. We didn’t walk in the July 4th Parade, also due to lack of interest. The Summer BBQ will most likely be pushed out again due to lack of interest. These are perhaps less important than what we do daily to mark the miracle that is this precious nation BUT they are outward expressions of our commitment to each other, to this nation, to our God in front of others. If we don’t stand up in front of an unschooled community every chance we have, how can we hope to shift this paradigm?

I know we are all tired, exhausted, hardly able to pay our bills and take care of our families. Perhaps we are in our senior years and feel that we have paid a hefty price already. Many of us are weary from trying to inform a willingly uninformed public, legislature, clergy, education system, healthcare system, etc. I get it; I’m part of that tired and huddled mass.

If you go back on my website you’ll find numerous references to TEA Party gatherings, local meetings of an Americans for Prosperity chapter, or the Wicomico Society of Patriots – these are all groups which flourished for a brief time but then died due to lack of interest, leadership issues, or both. Some of those organizers have moved into the mainstream of politics, but many others found that activism too difficult to keep up when their family’s financial survival was at stake.

But then we have the diehards, among them the purists who will accept no compromise. That’s one lament of Sara Marie Brenner, a conservative activist who announced on her Brenner Brief website yesterday that she was taking a hiatus from her news aggregation website and radio show.

I bring this up as I’ve interviewed her for my now-dormant TQT feature as well as talked about a venture she launched late last year. While I definitely haven’t agreed with her on everything and incurred her wrath by pointing out the lack of viability of her many past and present enterprises in the new media world, I think she makes some very good points in her lengthy piece.

For one, I nearly laughed out loud when she wrote about the Ohio PAC where $7,000 or the $7,400 raised went to the leader’s own company knowing that the Maryland Liberty PAC has a similar history – the majority ($14,826.03) of the nearly $26,000 MDLPAC spent last year went to Stable Revolution Consulting. It’s one thing to collect money for a cause, but the same people who question the Larry Hogan connection with Change Maryland may want to ask about that arrangement as well.

As a whole it seems that some in the TEA Party movement can’t be happy unless they either amass power and wealth for themselves – making them little better than the big-government flunkies they decry – or refuse to compromise on one particular issue, forgetting that they may need their conservative opponent for some other pressing issue tomorrow. Brenner brings up two hot-button items of interest – Common Core and Glenn Beck’s charity effort to assist the unaccompanied minors streaming over our southern border from Central America. On these I only agree with her 50% but as I said she makes other good points.

I don’t blame Sara Marie for backing away from the fray; that’s her decision just as it was to get involved in the first place – and I wish her nothing but the best in her ventures as she follows her other passions. But we have to remember that the other side wins when we stop fighting.

It was a more hopeful tone from the other side of the TEA Party:

I hope that we will always remember that no matter what the political ideology, we must find commonalities if we are going to make any progress. I hope that we make a concerted effort to reach out in peace to at least one person over the summer that we have heretofore had disagreements. We know that the truth is on our side as long as we deliver it in peace and love.

Now if anyone would have sour grapes and wish to take their ball and go home, it might be me given recent election results. Believe it or not, though, after nearly two decades in the political game I am still learning and listening, so losing an election won’t crush or define me – it just means I retire with a .500 record. But I’m still going to participate because it’s important, if not necessarily lucrative.

The trick is getting new people into the fray to replace those who can’t go on for whatever reason. Because I have a talent for writing – or so I’ve been told – I have soldiered on with this website for going on nine years. It may not be the most useful or unique contribution, but it’s what I have.

So those who have departed will be missed. However, they are always invited back once they recharge and reload because we can always use the help.

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