Picks and pans from a Shorebird fan – 2018 edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How much will it cost? (Part three of a multi-part series)

August 25, 2018 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off on How much will it cost? (Part three of a multi-part series) 

Despite the fact he’s trailing by sixteen points in the latest poll, I still think it’s worth the time to dissect the policy proposals of Democrat gubernatorial hopeful Ben Jealous. In recent days, he’s reshuffled his priority list, displacing his previous #1 priority of education and replacing it with a jobs agenda he calls “Make It In Maryland.” As always, though, the devil is in the details.

Jealous begins by complaining that we have fallen behind Virginia in something called the New Economy Index. It turns out, interestingly enough, that Maryland is the bottom of the three states comprising the Delmarva region – although being on the bottom is still sixth-ranked in the nation. Here’s what the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation said about our three states:

Virginia comes in fourth with some of the fastest-growing companies in the country, and its proximity to the nation’s capital attracts high-skilled workers for the numerous R&D-focused firms in the region. Fifth-place Delaware is perhaps the most globalized of states, with business-friendly corporate law that attracts both domestic and foreign companies and supports a high-wage traded service sector…Sixth-ranked Maryland holds its place among the leaders primarily because it has a high concentration of knowledge workers, many employed with the federal government or with federal contractors in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.

In theory, then, a downturn in federal government employment would hit both Maryland and Virginia hard, displacing them from the top tier of the rankings. But the bulk of his “Make It In Maryland” outline speaks to something federal workers seldom have to endure: working for minimum wage. Over the next five years, Jealous would increase the minimum wage in Maryland to $15 an hour for regular workers, with tipped employees reaching the plateau three years afterward.

While Jealous claims that a $15 per hour minimum wage would increase the pay for 573,000 Maryland workers, such a raise would place those just over that threshold at risk for a significant decrease in their standard of living. After all, the extra expense businesses would have to shoulder would have to come from someplace, and that someplace generally lies in two regions: increasing prices or decreasing labor costs by lopping off the least productive or lowest-skilled employees. As I often say, the true minimum wage is zero, from being jobless.

In a properly functioning marketplace, the wage one makes is just a shade less than the amount of value that employee creates – the small difference keeps the business profitable and viable. Obviously this is a relatively subjective category, best expressed by those who work on a straight commission and/or own their own business. And it doesn’t always take a lot of skill: for example, not to pick on landscapers but doing yard work isn’t the most highly skilled job – however, it is time-consuming so there’s a market of people who don’t want to take the time and effort to maintain their lawns that’s being met by entrepreneurs of all sizes who make it their job to take care of yards.

In fact, my first job was helping my brother take care of an older lady’s lawn – for 2 to 3 hours of work after school once a week I was paid the princely sum of $5. Luckily we could ride our bikes there – about 2 miles – and we used her lawnmowers and gas can filled with $1 a gallon gas. So it was not a high-skill job but it was one she was too old and frail to do, so she found two teenage boys willing to do it. That was the value to her, since she wasn’t able to perform it herself. And as it turned out, if we were efficient I would come close to making the minimum wage, which at the time hovered around $3 an hour. (Since my brother got $10 for riding the tractor to do a maybe 3/4 acre yard while I did the trimming with the push mower, he was already making minimum and then some.)

My second job was somewhat similar, but there was a catch. For most of three academic years I made minimum wage working in the dining halls at college. If we were busy, I was creating value by ensuring the cafeteria maintained a stock of clean dishes. On the other hand, if it was early in the shift all of us standing around were a money pit. The same was true at my first job out of college, working in a department store – again, for minimum wage. If there was a customer I could assist in some way and that customer made a purchase, well, I was creating value for Hudson’s. If not, I was a money pit. Luckily, I had acquired a good education so my time there was short – just weeks later I had my first architectural job, one that I spent four years at college learning the ropes to secure. In turn, I got quite the education learning in the workplace. In the next half-decade through on-the-job training I went from being a ink-on-mylar draftsman to a CAD operator (way back with AutoCAD version 11) which made me more valuable to them. Increasing skills and knowledge to maximize production: that’s the way it’s supposed to work.

Conversely, if you artificially raise the wage without getting a corresponding increase in value, do you know what you get? Kiosks at McDonalds or self-service checkouts at Walmart. Unfortunately, those were among the jobs that people in my generation got to grasp as the first rung on the ladder, but increasing the minimum wage is going to leave those people behind – particularly in areas where the wage support isn’t already present. (There are places in the state where $15 an hour is pretty much a de facto minimum, particularly in the DC area.) In any case, increasing the minimum wage isn’t going to help very much in areas with persistent unemployment because there’s little there with which to create value.

But one place increasing the minimum wage will help? State coffers. While some will lose their jobs, I’m sure the Jealous campaign is banking on enough income being created out of whole cloth to help grease the wheels on some of their other pipe dreams. So I honestly don’t know what it will cost, but I’m sure we will all pay the price nonetheless.

Now, there’s actually more to this section than just the minimum wage. But I liked this here piece so much that I decided to split “Make It In Maryland” in two and cover the rest next time.

What a party should be looking for

June 20, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on What a party should be looking for 

The other day I ran across a social media post from a friend of mine remarking how it was strange to see her name on the election ballot. Conversely. for the first time in 12 years, my name isn’t on a gubernatorial primary ballot in Wicomico County – so I retire with a record of 4-2. Granted, three of the four wins were situations where I could not lose, but a W is a W. (I won twice in three tries in Ohio, too.)

Anyway, since there are several former colleagues of mine who are running this time around, I didn’t want to make endorsements so much as give you an idea of what I think a good Central Committee member would be like.

In Maryland, Central Committee members for the GOP run on either a county level at-large or as part of a district within a county. In those instances where aspirants run for an entire county, there are normally seven to nine seats available and the race basically comes down to having enough name recognition to place in the top portion. For a district, it’s harder because there is generally just one seat to be had – so those seeking the seats often need to spend money or go knock on doors, or both.

One drawback in either case is being forced to compete with someone who’s already in elected office. For example, here in Wicomico County we have County Councilman Larry Dodd running both for County Council and the Central Committee. Obviously there’s no regulation against it (several elected officials around the state also sit on their county’s Central Committee) but one has to wonder whether they are doing it to boost their party or simply enhance their chances at re-election.

So we eliminate the self-servers. What that leaves is a collection of some people who know the ropes and a number of prospective newcomers. Using the slate I face as an example, 5 of the 13 on the ballot are already on the Central Committee, with four elected in 2014 and one appointee who happened to be my replacement when I left. One of the four remaining is running for a fourth term (coming in the same time I did), two are running for a third, and one is seeking re-election for the first time.

Obviously I know these people well because I worked with most of them, so that clouds my judgement a little bit. But if you’re on the outside, the operative question to ask is whether the party you’re a member of is better off than when they started. For instance, one longtime goal of our Central Committee was to get an elected school board – it took 12 years and removing a number of elected officials who were standing in the way, but this year we finally get a choice. (Well, some of us do: my district happens to have just one person running. But there are options for the at-large seats.)

As far as elected officials go, over the last twelve years my county has gone from having a 4-3 Democrat majority on a County Council that handled both legislative and executive duties to a 6-1 GOP majority with a Democrat county executive that became a Republican in 2014. Republicans gained the Sheriff and State’s Attorney positions but lost a spot on the Orphan’s Court. The local GOP also lost one State Senate seat but picked up one Delegate seat at the same time. (In theory, the GOP lost a seat but that was because one Delegate was redistricted out of the county.) In 12 years, though, the Republicans have gone from trailing Democrats in registration by 4,145 at the end of 2006 (a D+8 county) to trailing by 3,703 as of April (a D+6 county.)

The gains have been incremental: the Sheriff came in with the 2006 election (along with one County Council seat), the State’s Attorney in 2010 (with 2 more Council seats), and County Executive in 2014. In 2010 we gained one GOP Delegate but that was because the Democrat moved up to Senator, replacing a Republican stalwart. So there’s been a pretty good record of success for the Central Committee incumbents in my county, but your mileage may vary. (It was also a very stable group: for one term – 2010 to 2014 – we had no turnover at all. The nine elected in 2010 all served their full term, although some did not wish to return.)

The final qualification, though, is pretty subjective and requires some thought on your part.

There are some people out there who believe in their party, wrong or right. They’re the ones who complained about everything Barack Obama and Bill Clinton did but defend Donald Trump and the legacy of George W. Bush simply based on the letter behind their name. In honor of onetime Maryland GOP Chair Audrey Scott, I call them the “party over everything” group.

Eight years ago when I was first standing for re-election down here I wrote a post called “Party uber alles?” In it, I said this:

Yes, I’m proud to be a Republican but the “R” next to the name doesn’t guarantee a vote when I think they fall short on principles. That’s why I am unabashedly a (2010 GOP gubernatorial challenger Brian) Murphy supporter – on the other hand, Wayne Gilchrest was one of those types who wasn’t what I considered a good Republican to be.

(…)

It’s what makes your local Central Committee elections almost as important as choosing the best Republican candidates to follow the party’s conservative, limited-government philosophy through to a seat in the General Assembly.

It’s no secret I am to the right of the GOP’s center – I’m only half-joking when I say I’m “barely left of militia.” I left my Central Committee when my party left me and supported Donald Trump, who I considered to be too far left. (As a President, he’s often been a pleasant surprise in his manner of governing but isn’t the Reaganesque leader I was seeking.)

On most local Republican Party websites they will have a list of principles, often called “Why I Am A Republican.” The problem is that party leaders and elected officials too often talk a good game, but fail when it comes to principle. Above all, a good Central Committee member has to have principles more or less in line with their party’s – but a great Central Committee member has principles in line with the Constitution and its original intent.

So next Tuesday I’m going to fill out my ballot with some of those running, although I’m not going to vote for the full nine. (Not that I ever have: no disrespect to my erstwhile colleagues, but I always bullet voted just for myself. I didn’t care so much about who I served with so long as I served.) But as long as you’re not on the ballot, feel free to vote for the candidates you believe will fulfill the Constitutional principles that made our nation great. That’s how I’m going to do it.

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.

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

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

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

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

Try being a blogger.

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

Hope you are doing well.

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

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

Here are some points where your website needs immediate attention:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishes for a Merry Christmas 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A doozy of a dozen: monoblogue turns twelve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

My week without a phone

October 20, 2017 · Posted in Personal stuff · 1 Comment 

I revisited my inner Luddite this week, although not necessarily by choice.

On Monday night I was looking at social media when my phone decided to reboot out of the blue. I thought it strange but after a few minutes of letting the phone sit there with its brand logo staring at me, I figured something was amiss – so I did the old pull out and replace the battery trick and got functionality back for maybe a minute before it rebooted again.

So after a little bit of searching on the internet I discovered what could be the problem and the suggested remedy, which I tried to no avail. The only other step would be a factory reset, which was distressing because I had hundreds of photos on there which weren’t backed up yet and I didn’t want to wipe the phone clean. I also found there were programs to possibly restore the files, if so for a not-so-nominal fee.

The next day I went on my lunch break to my local carrier, who gave me the bad news: in so many words, my phone is f’ed. And as a middle-class employed type whose money was a bit tight, a new phone would have to wait until payday today. So not only did I not have my primary means of communication for three days (we don’t use a land line) but I also lost my alarm clock, camera, and link to social media when I’m away from home. Thus, over the last few mornings I’ve woken up to my wife’s phone alarm, couldn’t take any photos, and have been a virtual stranger to social media. To be honest, though, the worst parts were not having the alarm clock and a way to text my spouse. And this experience revealed some key lessons.

First off, the weather this time of year doesn’t really change much from the night before, so checking it a couple-three times a day wasn’t necessary. And it’s easy to fall into the trap: you have a moment from work, and you check your social media. Without that, it seemed I was just a little more productive this week: got a small commercial kitchen project out and today I got most of the owner comments for a house taken care of, with maybe a couple hours’ work on Monday to go. (I have to raise the roof, which takes time.)

To me, it wasn’t quite a mini-vacation (since I still had social media available to me on my laptop at home) but it got me to thinking. We went out to eat twice over the week (three times if you count the snacks we had at small group at church on Wednesday) and because I was sans phone, I had to try and engage in actual conversation. Someplace awhile back I read a news item which made the claim that people are spending more time eating out: the average restaurant visit has expanded from a little over an hour to beyond an hour and a half. The culprit: people reading their social media as they sit at the eatery. This, in turn, cuts into business because tables turn over fewer times a night as five parties turn into four, but they’re not spending the time lingering over dessert.

(By the way, another drawback to not having a phone: at church I use a Bible app so I don’t carry a physical copy of the Good Book with me, It’s easier to go from, say, Romans to Leviticus on a phone in a few clicks than flipping through hundreds of pages.)

Anyway, if you were trying to get a hold of me this week I wasn’t ignoring you, I was just down incognito for a little bit. I got the new phone tonight, and I’m seeing how much of my stuff stuck to the Google cloud so tomorrow I should be somewhat good to go.

But the break wasn’t so bad either.

Picks and pans from a Shorebird fan – 2017 edition

September 21, 2017 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Personal stuff, Sports · 1 Comment 

If you remember last year, the big buzz around Perdue Stadium was the replacement of all the seats with brand new seats, which permitted an upgrade of the old bleachers to regular seats (and frankly made the ballpark look better.) While I was worried about the size of the seats, for the most part my fears went unrealized. I’m not sure about the “cushy” seats that make up the front rows and all the 300 “luxury” level, though. Maybe it’s the cupholders, but those seem slightly smaller.

But these new upper seats are priced at a reasonable $9 and the vantage point is good…considering you are maybe 12 feet farther and perhaps 4 to 5 feet higher at the closest point above the action for $4 less, that’s not a bad deal. (Not to mention a $2 Monday, where the difference is $11.) If you prefer shade or a high perspective, these seats are available for that, too, and they are way more comfortable than the bleachers were.

They also finally put in the new videoboard, as promised. It’s a great addition, and they were smart to place it where they did because more people sit on the third base side (so it’s straight in front of them.) It’s a good-sized board, and as the season went on they began to utilize it a little better. But it would be nice to have a couple more pieces of information like pitch count and more specific info on the batters (i.e. singled and scored in first, grounded out in third, flied out in fifth, etc.) Honestly, I don’t need to see for the tenth time that one player likes lobster or one of the other players was a black belt. I think as the video operators get more experience, we may see things like replays and more in-game highlights, too.

And please tell Pohanka to invest a little more in making their cheesy car race more interesting. (You know, it’s intriguing how much the local auto dealers spend on promoting themselves at Shorebirds games.) Same goes for Perdue, because the chicken needs to do something else.

So that was two of the three things I thought they had on the “to-do” list last offseason, but as it turned out the 360-degree concourse was pushed back to happen this off-season. One thing I found out about it was that it won’t be as high as I thought it would be because they will use the outfield fence as a railing. Now this could be good but it may be problematic because the better solution would be to have a fence where people can be seated and still see the game. Since the Shorebirds employ opaque sponsor advertising signs that idea goes away.

I’m also hearing that it will be a narrow concourse, more or less the width of the aisles which go around the space between the lower and upper reserved seats, which is maybe about 10 feet. That doesn’t seem like enough to employ the hot dog or dippin’ dots stands I suggested last season, let alone a beer seller. Hopefully I misunderstood the intent and the concourse will be more like 14 to 16 feet wide, at least in some spots.

Overall, though, I had my share of picks for the season. I suppose the one major pan that I have is in the food, which doesn’t seem to be all that great in either selection or quality. There needs to be a little more creativity, but then I’ve noticed that some of the stands that used to be there aren’t operated anymore. (For example, wasn’t there an angus stand along the first base side for about three seasons? Don’t recall that being there this year. Come to think of it, I believe they sold some other exotic thing there – nuts maybe? – for a couple seasons before that.)

Maybe it’s Delmarva and we just don’t have the sophisticated palate, but I think the reason some things don’t sell is that people don’t want to spend $8-10 on something they’re not sure they will like. Hot dogs, chicken, and pizza are reasonably safe choices. But why couldn’t we borrow an idea from other parts of the food service business and have homestand specials on the less mainstream items? For example, maybe instead of selling an Angus burger for $8, for one homestand they could make it a $5 deal. They do this with $2 hot dogs and Pepsi on Mondays, but why limit it there?

And now that they have the video people watching the games, it’s time to bring the feed into the restrooms so people can keep up with the action. At one time they had the audio feed of the broadcast in there but that’s gone by the wayside, too. You may try to go between innings, but sometimes nature calls when there’s only one out.

Out of an attendance of 207,131 – slightly less than last year, but based on one fewer opening so their average increased by 19 folks a game to 3,236 – my share is about 16 or 18. But having done this for so long I think I have a pretty decent idea of crowdthink, just like I have a reasonably good idea of the strike zone from my seat’s vantage point because I’ve sat there for so long.

There’s something that keeps the Shorebirds in an extremely narrow band of attendance year after year. (Since 2014, the range of average attendance has been within the 19-person difference from this year to last. Since 2010 it’s been in the 3,200 to 3,300 range in all but one year, 2011.) While we had a tiny bit of Tebow effect this season (for two games, with him only appearing in one) and benefited from the first rehab stints in three seasons, especially Chris Davis in July, that seemed to be offset by some less-attended fireworks nights and iffy weather all summer. Unfortunately, it’s been so long since we’ve had a consistently competitive team that it’s sort of an unknown how that would affect us. (Our last playoff appearance was in 2005, which is the longest losing streak in the SAL – in the meantime Augusta, Asheville, and the former Savannah Sand Gnats have made five trips, while Hickory, Greensboro, Lakewood, West Virginia, and Hagerstown have punched a playoff ticket four times. Lexington has a drought one season shorter than ours, but everyone else still in the league has participated at least twice.)

Fortunately, it doesn’t look like the Shorebirds are going anywhere, as their attendance runs about the middle of the pack in the SAL despite being one of the small-market teams. But on a per-game basis, it’s actually the lowest among Oriole affiliates. I think we can do better, and maybe my suggestions will help a little.

So ends my Shorebirds coverage for the season. I’ve also updated my Shorebird of the Week tracker so that’s good until the Arizona Fall League season gets underway in the next few weeks. The next time you’ll see coverage unless something major breaks is when I induct my Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame Class of 2017 in December. As of right now that class consists of Stefan Crichton, Michael Ohlman, Josh Hader, Jimmy Yacabonis, Nicky Delmonico, and Chance Sisco.

Upgrading for the long haul (hopefully)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A long-awaited return

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

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

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

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

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

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

And boy do I have a lot to say!

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