Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: May 2018

June 7, 2018 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · 1 Comment 

After getting off to a flying start in April, the wheels seemed to come off for the Shorebirds in May, particularly after an unscheduled three-day break in the action mid-month thanks to Mother Nature. But this month’s Player and Pitcher of the Month weren’t reasons for the team’s lack of success as both had breakout months.

I’ll begin with third baseman Trevor Craport, who swatted seven home runs during May to ably fill his stat sheet in that regard. A player who previously had just three round-trippers to show for his pro career caught fire during the last month and also began bringing his batting average closer to the mark he established in 52 games with Aberdeen last season (.302/3/30/.857 OPS). In 26 games Trevor led the team with a .323 average, hitting those seven home runs and knocking in 19. with a solid .956 OPS based on a .383 on-base percentage and .573 slugging percentage thanks to those home runs.

Craport came to the Orioles in the 2017 draft, where he was the eleventh round pick out of Georgia Tech. As noted, the Georgia native had a good season with Aberdeen last year and, after a bit of a slow start, seems well on his way to duplicating those efforts here. On Tuesday it was announced that he would be one of three Shorebird position players selected for the SAL All-Star Game later this month – April SotM Zach Jarrett is also on the squad, as is first baseman Seamus Curran, who was also in the running for May honors along with Kirvin Moesquit. However, one extra RBI out of Curran was all that denied Craport the month’s triple crown. so he was a deserving honoree.

In fact, it would not surprise me to see the 21-year-old prospect (he turns 22 in August) promoted at mid-season. Third base is not a position that’s very strong in the Orioles’ system and those playing immediately up the ladder aren’t having distinctively great seasons by any stretch of the imagination. (A couple up the line have been, honestly. rather disappointing.) So given the Oriole brass propensity to yank good players away from Delmarva every chance they get, this time next month Trevor could be sporting a Keys uniform.

Speaking of disappointing, there were a number of observers whispering that last season about my Pitcher of the Month, Matthias Dietz. A second round pick back in 2016, Dietz was expected to be one of the top prospects gracing the Delmarva roster last season but struggled to a 3-10 record and 4.93 ERA with the Shorebirds. Add that to a nondescript season with Aberdeen in his pro debut (in seven starts, none intentionally longer than three innings, Matthias was touched for at least one run in six of them) and the talk about being a highly-paid bust was more than a rumor.

So when Dietz was touched up for 8 runs in 14 1/3 innings early on this season, including an outing where he walked seven batters, the question probably became whether he was more suited for the bullpen or more work at extended spring. Maybe it was just the weather, though, because a different pitcher emerged in May – four starts covering 23 innings where Dietz allowed only 3 runs on 15 hits, including a pair of shutout starts to close the month May 20 against Hagerstown and May 25 against Lakewood. (Overall, the shutout streak in May was the last 17 innings, and it was extended briefly in June to 19 2/3 innings before Dietz allowed a run June 1.) It was a good enough performance to grant the Illinois native and attendee of John Logan Community College there the top honor from the Orioles as their Minor League Pitcher of the Month, and I concur.

The whole key to how far Matthias will get in his career is throwing strikes. That may seem too simplistic, but he’s been prone to starts where he will average a walk or more an inning, and eventually those runners score. Over his career Dietz has averaged about 4 walks per 9 innings, and that needs to come down by at least one to have a chance at success. Oddly enough, even with his success so far this year (cutting a 4.93 ERA to 2.91 and a 1.5 WHIP down to a league average 1.3) his base on balls average is slightly higher than it was last season thanks to two poor outings where he walked 12 in a combined seven innings – neither of which occurred in May.

While Dietz is in his second tour of duty with the Shorebirds, I don’t see him as being promoted to Frederick very soon. Having said that, though, if he maintains consistency he’s a good candidate to be here until August then allowed a couple starts with the Keys to get his feet wet to start out there next season.

Announcing: the 2018 monoblogue Accountability Project

June 4, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Announcing: the 2018 monoblogue Accountability Project 

For the twelfth year in a row, I have graded all the legislators in the Maryland General Assembly (189 this year, thanks to the passing and replacement of a State Senator) based on their voting patterns on a number of key issues. Beginning with sine die back in April, I started looking into floor votes trying to find those which reflected conservative principles, with an eye on civil liberties as well. The final product, all 20 pages, can be found right here or, until the 2018 election, in its usual sidebar location.

Once again the number of relevant issues dictated I use all floor votes, as I had in the early years before committee votes were made readily available. Also. three of the 25 votes are veto override votes, two from legislation carried over from 2017 and the other from a bill proposed this session.

Because it’s an election year, I have also rearranged the lists of legislators in both House of Delegates and Senate to reflect whether they are not seeking re-election, are unopposed (like my local Delegate, Carl Anderton), running for another office, or simply looking for another term. (Hint: the majority don’t deserve one. If you can’t even get one vote on my list correct, begone!)

Also because it’s an election year and the governor is a Republican (not the norm in Maryland), the partisan divide was harder than ever. Among Senate Democrats there were literally fewer than ten correct votes from a group of 33. Unfortunately, with a governor furiously tacking to the left to preserve his perceived chances at re-election, a number of feckless GOP legislators followed him. The overall number of correct votes was, by far, the lowest in this four-year cycle. You can see this for yourself because I’m leaving the 2015-17 reports available as part of a long-term process to show trends for this term.

As I’ve stated before, this will be the final rendition of the mAP for Maryland. However, sometime in late summer I should have the Delaware edition complete for this two-year session of their General Assembly (the 149th.) If you were sharp-eyed this past weekend you would have noticed I did a soft opening for this edition as I worked on this post Saturday morning and wanted to have the link available. If not, take a look and behold – and vote accordingly later this month and in November.

Is the answer blowin’ in the wind?

June 3, 2018 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Don't Let Good Writing Go To Waste, Maryland Politics, Politics, Radical Green · Comments Off on Is the answer blowin’ in the wind? 

Of late I’ve heard a lot of talk about energy in various forms and how they will be affecting this Eastern Shore of ours. While I write mainly on political items, longtime readers know I have an interest in energy-related issues as well.

So if you read social media, you’ll find that one thing I enjoy doing is setting those who inhabit the left side of the political aisle straight on the reality of the situation – particularly when it comes to energy. I’m going to borrow something as not letting good writing go to waste and then build from that, since there are other facets I’d like to explore, too.

This was something I wrote to Congressional candidate Allison Galbraith – say what you will about her politics, she is well-engaged on social media. Galbraith recently linked a story from WMDT about a proposed offshore wind study, to which I most recently responded:

You’re making a giant leap of faith that we as mankind can slow down sea level rise. As for having houses underwater, that’s a risk one takes for having waterfront property – just like those who build along a hurricane-prone coastline.

My point is that, based on their merits as far as reliability goes, wind and solar are not ready for usage on a large scale. If one wants to invest their money in solar panels for their house or a windmill out back, great – have at it. (Personally, I don’t think these sources should be mandated, but the issue is properly a state-level issue and in our case that’s where it was determined – my beef is with Annapolis, not Washington. I don’t like ethanol subsidies either and that was a different story, dictated from on high.) But the problems come in being tied to the overall electrical grid, which is already a balancing act due to the vagaries of weather and usage.

If some smart entrepreneur wanted a good problem to study, she or he would figure out a way to level out the output gained from these systems so that solar power could be used at night and wind power on humid, still days. (Notice there are few windmills in the Deep South.) We advance technology insofar as the actual turbines and collector panels, but don’t consider that storage aspect of it as much – therein lies the benefits of fossil fuels, which are a vast storehouse of the energy we need that’s been sitting there for eons until extracted for our use. On a day like today wind would be good but there’s not much demand; meanwhile, those with solar panels are hurting because the weather is so bad.

We have been blessed with abundant resources, so why keep them in the ground?

In looking at my response, the ethanol “subsidies” are actually carveouts – the EPA mandates a certain amount to be blended into the gasoline supply each year. Be that as it may…

The electrical grid aspect was something I hadn’t really considered until recently, when I did my most recent “odds and ends” piece. Thanks to a series of posts by the Capital Research Center, I learned that one key problem with renewables is their effect on the electrical grid. Since their output isn’t as predictable as that of standard power plants, there’s often a problem with mobilizing the most efficient resources. Certainly a bright, sunny summer day is great for solar power production but that also means a natural gas plant has to be temporarily put offline, then restarted once the sun goes down. However, the next day could prove to be one which suddenly turns stormy, meaning yet another cycle of starting and stopping a fossil fuel plant. Obviously, the advantage of fossil fuels comes from the constant supply, with the X-factor only being the price paid for each megawatt-hour. Wind power presents a similar problem: you can have times when the wind is just right for a constant portion of the supply, but they are few and far between, and unpredictable. While their trade association begs to differ, the fact is that there too few breakdowns in conventional sources (not to mention a critical dependence on the carveout of a federal tax subsidy specifically for these projects) for wind to be more than a bit player – certainly not to the extent some states attempt to mandate it.

(Another great source of energy industry writing I carried for a time were the columns of Marita Noon, including this one on the wind industry. She’s since remarried and retired from the writing game. It turns out my loss was the city of Lubbock’s gain – Marita’s current avocation is something she’s long been interested in, rehabbing houses for resale.)

Essentially, Allison’s job as of late has been to be the loyal opposition to our Congressman, Andy Harris. He listened to the concerns of Ocean City regarding their tourism and repeated their case that the offshore wind project the state of Maryland has tried to site off Ocean City is close enough to mar the natural beauty of the beachfront view. While the industry and its supporters contend the windmills will be too small to clearly see, they’ve never contended the lights on the turbines would not be visible overnight. (Hint: they would be – a sea of red lights flashing on the horizon. This may be true at 26 miles as well.)

On another front in the progressive ranks, opposition has sprung up to a natural gas pipeline that would run through the Eastern Shore of Maryland from north to south. As described by the Delmarva Pipeline Company when the project was announced last year:

The project will provide these regions and their residents, who have historically been without access to natural gas and the associated benefits, with access to affordable, clean-burning, and abundant natural gas supplies to help meet the growing environmental need for cleaner fuels for power generation for industrial and commercial customers. In the future, local distribution companies will be able to provide home heating, hot water, and other domestic uses.

The proposed pipeline would tie into an existing pipeline near Rising Sun, Maryland, head east for a short distance, then run southward right along the border between Delaware and Maryland before terminating at a point in Accomack County, Virginia. At this time the only natural gas pipeline access on this part of the Eastern Shore are small areas from downtown Salisbury and the town of Berlin in Worcester County northward into Delaware along the U.S. 13 and U.S. 113 corridors, respectively. On the Mid-Shore there is a branch line that runs westward from Bridgeville, Delaware to serve Easton, Maryland. Aside from that, there’s nothing south of the I-95 corridor serving the Eastern Shore. (Delaware has the three feeder pipes that terminate in Maryland to serve Sussex County.)

According to news reports, it’s a $1.25 billion private investment that will finally open up natural gas service to areas not served on the Eastern Shore. So what’s not to like? Well, apparently there is a group against it.

While their comment about possible leakage falls a little flat because it’s a gas pipeline and not oil, their real argument is served up by a sentence from a release by Blue Wicomico, which is a slate running for the local Democratic Central Committee. “If we invest in new fossil fuel infrastructure projects like this pipeline,” they whine, “it will discourage investment in the future like renewable energy projects that will bring much-needed jobs and economic growth to the region.”

Look, if you want to invest in green energy, there’s nothing stopping you. The fact that few will do so without the government goosing the system, though, tells me that the rewards aren’t enough for the risks.

And about that job creation? As Paul Rich, the Director of Project Management for U.S. Wind, testified before the Maryland Public Service Commission:

Due to the nascent stage of development of the U.S. Offshore Wind Industry, much of the highest technological components will have to initially be imported from manufacturing facilities in Europe. Components such as turbine generators, manufactured blades, and transmission cables will be most economically sourced from existing facilities in Europe.

If you’re counting on that job creation for the Eastern Shore or for Maryland in general, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

So let’s get to work building that pipeline, which is slated for completion in late 2020. Give those who don’t have it access to another reliable energy source.

monoblogue music: “Inward” by Ghostly Beard

June 2, 2018 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off on monoblogue music: “Inward” by Ghostly Beard 

Years ago, a now-failing retailer tried to change its manly image honed by years of being best known for selling tools and appliances by billing “the softer side of Sears.” Ghostly Beard is one of the few artists who purposely bills himself as “soft rock” – a contradiction in terms, but perhaps appropriate in this case.

Yet if I were to receive a shipment of these “Inward” CDs at a record store I would be most inclined to place them in a jazz-rock fusion category. Patrick Talbot, the solo musician who goes by the Ghostly Beard moniker (more on that in a few paragraphs), borrowed heavily from both genres in putting together this third release of his. While it has just ten tracks, each packs a punch as the compilation runs just under 48 minutes.

The tone is well set in its first two tracks, How Does It Feel? and The Love In Your Eyes. If anything, the former song is a touch too repetitive but the overall mood is established in the first nine minutes. Two other good examples of where I think he wants to go are in the middle songs, Night Train and Let Go, the latter featuring some great solo work for those who come from the jazz side of things.

Since Talbot is doing everything himself, save a female backing vocalist on two songs (one being the aforementioned Night Train), there are some missteps another ear to things may have prevented. To my ear, the vocals on Gone needed a little more work. And what’s with calling the rather upbeat Autumn Blues, well, blues? Just beware: it may not be what you think – still a rather good instrumental, though.

Building up “Inward”, though, Patrick saves his best for last. The echoing high-hat of It Doesn’t Matter lends interest and punctuation to a song also featuring a nice long and slow coda. Turning in a different direction, he channels a little bit of Beatles-style flavor and interesting call and response of the super-lengthy ode to cubicle-dwellers, 9 to 5 (Barely Alive).

It’s the subtleties that interest me in these songs, and what sold me on the last two tracks was the respective bass lines of Let It Rain and Going Away. It’s that final song that has the most commercial appeal, although I would have enjoyed it more without the backup singer throughout – maybe just at beginning and fade. You can decide for yourself here:

Now about Ghostly Beard: it’s a persona Talbot can freely adopt because he chooses not to perform live, instead devoting his time to his craft. That also allows him to use the proceeds from his work to benefit a Canadian musical education charity called MusiCounts. After spending a large chunk of his life on hiatus from the business (he bills himself as a “hotshot guitarist” in his youth, but found that it didn’t afford him a living) he returned as a songwriter who decided to bring his creations to life.

Frequent readers know that monoblogue music is just one man’s (modestly compensated) opinion, thus I encourage readers to listen for themselves. But unlike most who have a Spotify section or put their songs up for public consumption on Bandcamp, SoundCloud, or something similar, the best bet to listen to Ghostly Beard is directly through his website. (There you’ll find he has put out three full-length albums plus a single in less than 18 months – not touring gives one plenty of music creation time.) He also has an interesting blog there regarding the business side of being an independent, unsigned artist.

So if you run into Patrick Talbot on the street, you probably wouldn’t know it. But he has a distinct niche in the music world.

Grigorian campaign is taking notice

May 30, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, Senator Watch, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Grigorian campaign is taking notice 

Last month I received some feedback on a recent post of mine detailing, among other things, the Maryland Senate race, to wit:

Thank you for your insights into the Maryland U.S. Senate race for 2018 (“A Look at Our Federal Races,” posted April 8, 2018). We appreciate your observations about each of the candidates, and note that our candidate, Christina Grigorian, will be continuing to communicate her position on issues like preserving the Second Amendment and school choice throughout the remainder of the primary season.

We did want to respond to one point you raised in your post – Christina’s International Women’s Day video was not her first issue-oriented video. Rather, it was specially created to run in March during International Women’s Month. Christina’s campaign launch video, which sets forth her priority issues, was published on February 27 and can be found (below).

We wanted to clarify this as you continue to assess the candidates and their viability to win a statewide race in Maryland against a heavily funded Democratic candidate. We strongly believe that Christina presents the right balance of Republican “bona fides” and professional experience to turn that Senate seat into a Republican one and look forward to your further assessments on this important race.

Thanks!

Grigorian for Senate

Admittedly, this is a little bit of nitpicking on my part because I don’t consider the introductory video shown below as issue-oriented.

What I was looking for was something on a particular topic or maybe two, which meant to me that the International Women’s Day video was the first issue-oriented one since it used the occasion to present a common theme. In fairness, since I began this post (another I started and put on hiatus) she’s elaborated a little more later on various topics for a local cable show.

Given that break, this has led me to consider some of the other social media that the two leading contenders for the nomination (IMO) have put out.

From looking at Christina’s social media, I can see her travels around the state to some extent – she seems to be more focused on the center in both geography and tone. Yes, that’s where a lot of the votes are but we like a little Shore love as well and she hasn’t been over here in a month, since the Worcester County Lincoln Day Dinner.

One helpful link she did put up was a link to her answers to a candidate survey put out by the Sun. Very enlightening in comparison to the platitudes she originally based her campaign on as presented by her website.

On the other hand, Tony Campbell’s social media is full of videos explaining his positions – add that to the Sun questionnaire and I get a better idea of where he stands. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says but he makes the arguments Christina doesn’t seem to want to make by speaking more to the voters on social media. (Though he hasn’t been over here in a month, either.)

So the leaning continues, but the scales can be tipped the other way with honest and correct answers. I suspect by mid-month I will have my endorsement in place.

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.

monoblogue music: “The Glass River” by Paul Maged

May 12, 2018 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off on monoblogue music: “The Glass River” by Paul Maged 

If there’s one thing to say about Paul Maged in a non-musical sense, it would be his shrewd marketing ability. Why have one post here about his latest album when he can release it as a trilogy of EPs and make it three, spaced over a period of months?

All kidding aside, the extended timeframe of his release is evident in his body of work: in this case, the five songs (and one prelude, presumably for a song to be featured on the future third portion of the trilogy) have what I’ve come to regard as a classic Paul Maged sound: most reminiscent of Billy Joel, but not completely derivative of that musical subgenre.

What sticks out to me about “The Glass River.” though, is a sort of (barely) controlled anger and passion about the world today, taken from a perspective well left of the political center. As someone looking at it from the political polar opposite, I look at it this way: I lived through the 1980s, when most popular music stood in varying degrees of opposition to the policies (real and imagined) of President Reagan that I supported as a much younger man. To me, good music is still good music – I don’t have to agree with the message or intent. So I can listen to Gunz 4 Hire and enjoy the frenetic, hard rock pace of a straight-ahead song with fun tempo changes that, in a more musically attuned world, would find a place on the rock charts.

On the other hand, the piano-driven Corporate Hell (The Legend of Tooly McDouche) truly is what it is. If you’re wondering about Tooly McDouche, you’ll pick it up when you watch the video. (Maged claims this is a “first hand account” of working in corporate America – I just hope the end segment isn’t part of that reality.)

After that strong opening, the EP slows down with the final three full-length songs. Choices is a more adult contemporary song that would almost qualify as a power ballad. On the other hand, The Glass River (The Ballad of Alan & Jane) is less of a ballad and more of a good story song with biting commentary on the strained status of relationships. (The Alan and Jane in question, though, are Paul’s parents, which makes this an even better song.)

The undercurrent of politics returns in the last full-length song, For The Sea. (See what I did there?) It has the same feel and passion to it as the remake of Like A Stone from the first part of the trilogy I reviewed at the tail end of last year. It’s the last full-length song because the sixth and final track, Life Goes By (Prelude) is, indeed, a 68-second sample of a track that I presume will be on part three. Life Goes By will be a solid addition, based on the taste of it we get.

(And again, we see the marketing expertise: who else would use a song as a cliffhanger for the next part? “Always leave ’em wanting more.”)

I don’t know what else I will hear between now and then, but if Paul can follow this up in part three he may have another winner on his hands come the end of the year. But I’ll let you be the judge (if you don’t mind the corporate influence of Spotify) and listen for yourself. Paul Maged may be the hardest working marketer in show biz right now, but he can back it up with good music.

monoblogue music: “Little Boat” by Ajay Mathur

May 5, 2018 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off on monoblogue music: “Little Boat” by Ajay Mathur 

In his followup to an album I reviewed in 2015, Indian-born Swiss resident Ajay Mathur puts his stamp on rock with this 13-song compilation released last month.

Normally, the level of interest I have in an album as I review it is expressed in how many notes I make. Boring songs get a word or two, while better songs get several notes attached to them. So it’s worth mentioning that I have a phone full of notes (I did them as a QuickMemo on my phone as I was listening.)

Given that measuring stick, the most intriguing song on this album was a track called Grooving in Paris (All My Choices). A bluesy but brassy song, the issue I took with it was that he couldn’t seem to pull off the mood I thought he was trying to associate with the song, The same criticism goes for another song I considered in a similar vein, All Your Thoughts.

Once he added in more female harmony, though, the results were much improved. Time For Deliverance, the penultimate song on the compilation, works out much better and is one of the standouts.

Mathur tends to write complex songs, layered with several veneers that put together could be defined as an interesting version of Europop. After an almost country-flavored opening tune called Here’s the Love, I got that vibe with the weird opening to song number two, Forget About Yesterday.

“Little Boat” also features some significant mood swings. Start Living Again slows the album down before we get into the aforementioned Grooving. The same occurs later on as the collection’s best (and perhaps most humorous and true-to-life for a musician) song, My Wallet Is a House of Cards, is sandwiched between the downtempo songs There We Are (Do It Right or Not at All) and Ordinary Memory, although the latter picks up steam about halfway through. There We Are was one of those “few words” songs that didn’t hold my interest too well, but it wasn’t the worst offender: to me the “what was he thinking?” title went to the song Who’s Sorry Now. I was for having to listen to it.

In re-reading my review of his previous album, “9 to 3” I was reminded that Ajay occasionally does put such songs on his albums. I suppose I can see a reprise of Wallet sung in German (at least I presume) called Kartehuus, but why not make it a separate single when the other 12 songs are in English?

It’s things like the chord progression that I didn’t much care for in Little Boat reworking itself into a nice song that I took notice of, or the excellent solos that punctuate While I’m Still Standing Here balanced with some of the stuff that should not have made the cut that make “Little Boat” a good but not great album. But what do I know? I’m just a listener, and your opinion may be different once you endure Spotify and listen for yourself.

Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: April 2018

May 3, 2018 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: April 2018 

The more things change, the more they stay the same. After I awarded the inaugural Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month awards last season to a late-round, hot-hitting outfielder and a stylish lefty pitcher who was dominating the league early on, you would think a new year would change things up. But instead, it’s worked out to be players in a similar mold to outfielder Jake Ring and pitcher Alex Wells, who have both moved on to Frederick with longtime Shorebird skipper Ryan Minor.

Considering that Zach Jarrett hit just .201 in 45 Aberdeen games last season and struck out in nearly 40% of his plate appearances, it’s a bit of a surprise (or a testament to a lack of depth at some positions within the organization) that Jarrett was promoted to a full-season club as a 28th-round selection from last year. But instead of being the answer to the trivia question of having a famous father and grandfather (the Jarrett family is legendary in NASCAR), Zach has taken advantage of the opportunity. At month’s end Jarrett was pacing the SAL with his 7 home runs, but added 14 RBI and hit .338 with a tremendous 1.063 OPS. (An “average” player has an OPS of about .700, basically about a .330 on-base percentage and a .370 slugging percentage. Jarrett was at .400 and .663, respectively.)

As noted, we got Jarrett in the 28th round out of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, so he didn’t stray too far from his roots in that respect. (When the Shorebirds play at Hickory, Jarrett can visit his high school there; on the other hand, since NASCAR is in Dover this weekend maybe the family will stop in for a game?)

So far this season Zach has made a key adjustment in simply putting the ball in play. He has cut the strikeout rate significantly, with just 26 in 90 April plate appearances, and that is a large factor in his success. Whether the league can adjust to him or he can stay one step ahead of the pitchers is something to watch. So far, though, he has fared a little worse against experienced pitchers this season and we will see as the season goes on how much that will affect his stat line. It’s not likely he can keep up April’s frenetic pace, but keeping an average in the .280 to .300 range is a doable goal, along with a shot at 20-25 home runs. That would put him on the prospect map despite being about a year older than his peer group – Jarrett is already 23.

Zac Lowther, however, was already on the prospect map for the Orioles. Drafted in the second round out of Xavier University in Ohio, the Brooklyn Heights (a suburb of Cleveland) native was expected to do well here after pitching to a 1.66 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, and striking out 75 batters in 54 1/3 innings for Aberdeen. But not all pitchers can succeed in full-season.

Maybe it’s being used to the cold as an Ohio native, but Zac picked up where he left off to such a degree that he was named a SAL Pitcher of the Week in April. Perhaps the Orioles’ brass believed Lowther could thrive in the chill, but he certainly froze the Hickory Crawdads’ bats in his first start, striking out 13 in six hitless innings on April 9. Nineteen days later, on the return visit to Hickory, Lowther made his “worst” start by giving up two runs on four hits in six innings, getting a no-decision. But Zac has amassed a eye-popping 39 strikeouts in just 22 innings, meaning he’s struck out exactly half of the 78 batters he faced over the month. Only 9 got to Lowther for a hit and just three for walks, meaning his WHIP was a microscopic 0.55. (For a more conventional measure by comparison, his ERA is just 1.23.) Batters are only hitting .120 against Zac, which basically means no one is going to make their career off him at this level. (One chink in his armor: 2 of those 9 hits were home runs, both at Hickory.)

Based on his last start being the worst, going forward the observation will be whether Lowther (who just turned 22 Monday) reverts closer to league average after dominating or continues to pile up strikeouts. To do the former may mean Zac stays here all season, but to do the latter would probably merit a mid-season (or sooner) promotion to Frederick. At this point the Shorebirds are blessed with the makings of a dominant pitching staff the likes we haven’t seen in awhile, which is why they concluded April in first place in their division after a all-time best 7-0 start. And with Frederick’s pitching staff needing a little help (early on their team ERA is ninth in the ten-team Carolina League) the Shorebirds may lose a couple of theirs. As a long-suffering Shorebirds fan, here’s hoping the Keys staff comes around because I want to keep the team we have and end the 12-season playoff drought!

Big campaigns from my initial Players of the Month will go a long way to making that a reality.

monoblogue music: “24 Years” (single) by Mark Peters

April 28, 2018 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off on monoblogue music: “24 Years” (single) by Mark Peters 

While the photo attached is that of the root EP for Vienna-based singer-songwriter Mark Peters, the review concerns the latest single from the compilation, called 24 Years.

If you believe the press puffery which came with the release of this single, you would be told that Peters wrote this song about 15 years ago. (This makes sense when you listen, then read on and find that Mark turns 40 this year.) This would have placed Mark at a time when he was back in his native London playing in a local band called Seven Breaths. As often happens after a band is together awhile without a great deal of commercial success, some go their separate ways and this is what happened to Mark – he went separately all the way to Vienna.

So given the fact the song has been going around Mark’s head for awhile, one has to ask whether it was worth the wait? Not knowing this and listening to the initial chords, I thought for a bit that this was going to be a country song – until I heard him sing and it dispelled that notion. (This is what happens when you do a cold listen and don’t read the liner notes until afterward.)

Now while I got to cheat in that way and listen to the song a couple times all the way through before writing this, I’m going to really cheat and allow you to very easily listen and watch for yourself.

I have to say that the video was quite interesting. As for the song, I thought it was rather good – perhaps a little less so in some runs of the chorus, but as a whole a nice enough song. However, as part of the context of making a more complete review I have to say that 24 Years (as the second single) is considerably weaker than the initial release of the title track. In fact, I would rate 24 Years as the middle of the pack as far as songs from the “Spirits” EP goes.

I’ll grant that this isn’t particularly different than anything you can hear on this side of the Atlantic, but there is a market for this song and EP in the acoustic/adult contemporary genre. If that’s your thing, watch the video then check out his website, which is rather nice as well.

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  • 2018 Election

    Election Day is November 6 for all of us. With the Maryland primary by us and a shorter widget, I’ll add the Delaware statewide federal offices (Congress and U.S. Senate) to the mix once their July 10 filing deadline is passed. Their primary is September 6.

    Maryland

    Governor

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    There are three independent candidates currently listed as seeking nomination via petition: Steve Gladstone, Michael Puskar, and Neal Simon. All have to have the requisite number of signatures in to the state BoE by August 6.

     

    U.S. Congress -1st District

    Andy Harris (R – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

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    State Senate – District 37

    Addie Eckardt (R – incumbent) – Facebook

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    Delegate – District 37A

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    Delegate – District 37B (elect 2)

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    State Senate – District 38

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    Delegate – District 38A

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    Delegate – District 38B

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    Delegate – District 38C

    Wayne Hartman (R) – Facebook

     

    Delaware

     

    U.S. Senate

     

    Republican:

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    Libertarian (no primary, advances to General):

    Nadine Frost – Facebook

     

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    Green (no primary, advances to General):

    Demitri Theodoropoulos

     

     

    Congress (at-large):

     

    Republican:

    Lee MurphyFacebook Twitter

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    Democrat (no primary, advances to General):

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