The uprising

Saturday could be an interesting day in Salisbury.

I’m sure you know I am writing a book on the TEA Party (more on that in a bit) so one restore point I like to return to in my political memory was the first Tax Day TEA Party we had out in front of the Government Office Building. On a rainy Wednesday afternoon there were probably 400 to 500 people in attendance. Three months later we celebrated Independence Day with a gathering of perhaps 200 to 300. (Sadly, I wrote great pieces on both events but the demise of my photo repository means the photos are dead links. Someday I will rectify that – but I have to find the photos on my old external hard drive, which I also have to find! *sigh*)

Anyway, Saturday could be the flip side of the TEA Party since there’s a completely different protest planned, called the “No Ban No Wall No Registry” Salisbury rally. And unlike the TEA Party of yore, this one will have a counter-protest called the “Resist the Resistance” rally. I’m guessing that the opposition to Trump will have the larger numbers, if only because they’ve secured a little bit of publicity for their event and it’s something that indeed unites certain segments of the community.

Yet I have to question their sincerity, since they haven’t batted an eyelash when the last six presidents have put up a similar ban of some type against particular countries, not to mention the recent change in policy toward Cuban refugees. (However, I may give them the benefit of the doubt if they chastise Trump’s predecessor for that change.) I also have to question their reasoning as to why we should not secure our borders, which is our right as a sovereign nation. Once upon a time we were more secure in the fact that two oceans and inhospitable terrain shielded us from the world, but no more. By the same token, is it not our right to know who is visiting the nation and for what purpose? If only they were against a registry for firearm owners, we may be on to something.

While I agree that Donald Trump is a lowering of the standard one should expect from the President, so was Hillary Clinton. (Thus, I voted for the Constitution Party nominee.) I can’t promise anything because I also have a family commitment that day, but if I have the chance I may wander down there to see what’s going on and maybe play reporter once again. Lord knows I haven’t been much of a blogger lately because I’ve spent a lot of time working on The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party.

So it’s on that front I’m going to make my final point of the night. I had envisioned the book being done by this fall, but recently I have had a different opportunity placed before me that I think is worth pursuing for some other personal and professional goals I have. At this time, it will take a significant portion of my already limited free time so in order to give this a fair shake I think a more realistic timetable for the book is now the first half of 2018. I’m going to put it on pause for a few months, with the hope that this opportunity may morph into something else that would give me the time back.

One other benefit: it can give me a chance to see how this resistance movement pans out and how it compares to the grassroots TEA Party. So there is that, and Saturday will be the first chapter of that story.

Prayer requests?

February 8, 2017 · Posted in Personal stuff · Comment 

This will be more of a faith exercise than anything political.

As I get deeper and deeper into my faith, I find that a lot of people request prayers for things, which I think is perfectly fine. I believe that God answers all prayers; however, this comes with the caveat that you may not necessarily like the answer. Setbacks will occur in life in order to test our faith.

But something we stress at our church and in our small group study* (which is actually where I’m at as this posts) is that prayers need to be made with authority. I can’t pray for something and believe it will occur on my own, but with God all things are possible. (Not just a reference to Matthew 19:26, but the motto of my home state.) So we end our prayers with an invocation of Jesus’s name. The phrase I would use in writing this out (since I text out the prayer request reminders for small group) goes something like “this I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

You may also know I am writing a book on the TEA Party, which has nothing to do with prayer or faith except that I pray it sells well and have faith it will then spread the message I’m writing on to a wider audience. But one facet of the TEA Party’s rise was the introduction of the Twitter hashtag #TCOT (for Top Conservatives on Twitter), which made it easy to find relevant information for those who were conservatives looking for worthy reading or messages to pass along. Since then, we’ve often heard about hashtags as shorthand for movements, like #MAGA for Donald Trump supporters. (It stands for “Make America Great Again,” Trump’s slogan.)

So it dawned on me: if we want to share our prayers and give them authority, perhaps a hashtag of our own would be good for collecting and sharing. It’s a little clunky, but if you take the first letters in my phrase you have #TIPIJNA. I think it’s a good idea if we can somehow make it viral, so you would write something like this on social media.

I give thanks to You, Lord, that we have a small group for prayer and fellowship each week, and pray that more parents come to our small group to learn for themselves about raising Godly children in a lost and dying world. #TIPIJNA

I think I went over 140 characters there, but you get the idea. Give it a try. It may be our little secret for awhile, but it can’t hurt and may help.

__________

* Instead of doing the usual Bible study as the rest of our church is doing on the Book of Colossians, as parents of teens in our church youth group our small group (led by our youth pastor) is studying and discussing the parenting book Shepherding A Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp. I’m sure we will return to the next small group study, whatever it is, since over the spring and fall we tackled the Books of James and Philippians. (In summer we do “Picnic on the Go,” which features more fellowship and testimony, instead of a formal study.)

If you live in the Salisbury area, let me know and I can give you the information.

Thoughts fit for a Prince

January 28, 2017 · Posted in Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off 

Like many on my social media feed, I was stunned to learn of Friday’s sudden passing of Maryland political figure Joe Steffen, who reportedly died from a stroke and cardiac arrest at the age of 57. As a regular follower of his writings, I seem to recall this wasn’t the first stroke or heart issue Joe had endured, but this was one he did not survive.

While a lot of people are relating their experiences with Joe, including accounts of lengthy late-night chats and other time spent together, my time with Joe in person was relatively fleeting. I think the last time I ran into him was at last spring’s Maryland GOP convention in Annapolis, and I seem to recall as part of the general chit-chat I asked him how his books were coming. But the fact he could set aside his political career and write something that was totally 180 degrees out of phase with that part of his life – as opposed to books in the political realm - was admirable. Yet Joe had finished two novels in what he called the Death, Wish trilogy and was working on the “prequel” third part at times over the last few months. (Death, Wish debuted in 2013 and Dead, End came out last summer.) So I guess we’ll never know how Charlotte got to be the main character in Joe’s work.

But one thing that has inspired me to this day is that he would occasionally update his word count as he progressed with his novels, and that’s where I got the idea with my social media for updating with the running total of the word count on my forthcoming book to keep people in the loop on my progress. Perhaps it was also a tangible reminder to him as well, but I liked the idea so I’ve taken it on.

Since Joe was such a fixture on social media, though, I did engage with him quite a bit on some of the most unlikely subjects. One subject in my wheelhouse was baseball, as Steffen was a fan of the Oakland A’s and I like to follow my Detroit Tigers as well, so I would chime in at times during baseball season. And while his musical tastes weren’t exactly like mine, he often selected what he called “Get Your Ass In Gear” songs that I enjoyed hearing, too.

The one thing that seemed to endear Joe to many of the same people I engage with in the political realm, though, was his rebellious attitude toward party politics in Maryland. I don’t know about you, but at a wake of a Maryland GOP Fall Convention back in the bleak post-election landscape of 2010 – an election where the TEA Party wave that swept the nation somehow missed our state – this was my one cherished memory: the Renegade Room.

Somewhere on that document is my signature, too. Yet Joe insisted to the end that he didn’t dislike defeated 2010 candidate Bob Ehrlich – he just lost all respect for him. Obviously this and a lot of other statements from Steffen led to a lot of friction with certain quarters of the Maryland Republican Party, including areas where little guys seem to congregate.

Anyway, I went to his blog site and it turns out his last post is only about a week old. And it was interesting that the seminal event he picked out insofar as defying the conventional wisdom that there was no way a Trump election victory would occur is the day Donald Trump hired David Bossie, our National Committeeman. With that move, Steffen believed Trump had just won the election – turns out he may have been correct.

So if there’s one good thing we can look back on and smile about regarding Joe’s life, it’s knowing that he managed to live until “Borat” was safely out of office.

Now I’m sure there will be a formal service and whatnot for Joseph Steffen, but in reality he will be remembered by most in an informal manner for years to come when people continue to toast his memory with the adult beverage of choice. Yet there will be a few special people, including the princess of his world, who will remember him fondly for a lot of other things after the weeping of the immediate present is finished. It’s those people who deserve our thoughts and prayers upon Steffen’s sudden passing.

All this serves as a reminder that we all have our time in this world (after all, Joe was only about a half-decade older than I am now) but those who make the most of it are the ones long remembered. I don’t often write pieces like this – in fact, the last time I did was for my late brother almost seven years ago – but seeing the outpouring of shock and grief on my social media page, and having the respect for him that I did, even if from afar, I felt it was something we all needed. And in Joe’s memory, I did it in 851 words.

Ringing in 2017: a treatise on “stuff”

January 1, 2017 · Posted in Personal stuff · Comments Off 

I had a vacation day left over from work last week, so I did what a lot of people do and took it in the dead period between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

So as I sat in my chair as I often do when writing, I took a look around. We still had all the Christmas decorations up and many of the presents we received remained under the tree in the gift bags we got them in. Obviously we appreciated the sentiments and the thought, but there was also a part of me that saw it as just so much clutter that we had to find a place for, either cramming it in with all the other things we already have or getting rid of the old. That weeding-out process seems an appropriate way to close out one calendar year and begin another: the thing I think people like about New Year’s Day is the clean slate and fresh start – never mind you will likely fall back into your old habits before the first robin of spring shows up.

And the same may be true for me, but then I wondered about all the other people out there whose mindset anymore is that “he who dies with the most toys, wins.” I don’t have the retail sales numbers handy, but I’m sure most of them had plenty of floor traffic and online sales to make their Christmas season brighter. As far as that goes for keeping people gainfully employed and shareholders happy, that’s a good thing. But what does the newest electronic gadget really add to one’s life, especially if it replaces one that’s still functional but perhaps slightly outdated as far as technology goes? (As an analogy, it’s like replacing a 2016 model automobile with a 2017 model because it was “redesigned” – the old one still achieves its purpose just fine.) I asked for and received stuff I found useful: sweaters for a chilly office at work, gift cards to Wawa for the days I don’t pack a lunch, and things like that. But I still need more hangers in my closet thanks to the sweaters.

On the other hand, the things I gave to family were at least no more than a couple degrees of separation from experiences: our daughter likes hunting so I got her a gift card she can use to further that which she enjoys, while Kim got a place to store all the photos she takes when we go away or have memorable events. I also gave her something where she can have her own rather unique experience with people of her choosing. Those are the kinds of gifts I like to give when I can.

It may be a facet of my personality but I do not like clutter and prefer order; on the other hand, I also have the tendencies of a pack rat when it comes to certain mementos. But I had a time in my life when I needed to purge a lot of “stuff” and it was among the most liberating things I did. And, if you are on social media, have you ever considered the meme that shows some desolate one-room cabin in the woods and asks something along the line of “would you stay in this place with no internet for a month for $100,000?” More often than not, people say yes. But you better believe they would want some of their stuff to take along. I’d rather have the internet and live with just the basics.

Unfortunately, over the last several years we have seen what conspicuous consumerism has wrought for some people. Certainly there were those who, a dozen years ago, used the equity on their home to buy a boat, a motorhome, and the latest in electronic equipment – only to have to dispose of these things at fire sale prices (or less, such as losing all they had paid on the big-ticket items) when everything about the economy went to hell in a handbasket. Even a lot of people who otherwise did things the “right” way (as they were told) fell victim to overextending beyond their means when the rungs on their economic ladder were sawn off by a job furlough. And they were layoffs caused in no small part by people who wanted all the “stuff” they could get and borrowed the money to acquire it. In one perspective that boom period of a decade ago had a great system: letting people have everything their hearts desired, making profits for bankers, and goosing up production at thousands of factories around the globe, enabling them to hire more people or invest in devices that increased production – but it only lasted until the fiscal house of cards we had built on derivatives collapsed under its own sheer weight.

So imagine what it would be like to have less “stuff” by your own choice and not the force of external events. Would it have an effect on the overall economy? To hear the corporate shills tell it, they would be mortified at the prospect and would sell you on the siren song that gloom and doom awaited as thousands would be laid off and we would have a depression, not a recession. But, once we divested ourselves of the excess and that which was salvageable found its way to those who could better use it, I think we would see our standard of living improve from a spiritual and societal standpoint. Perhaps we would treasure fellowship over frivolity, enjoy the slower pace of life, and turn our backs to the world to some necessary degree. It doesn’t take retreating to a Spartan cabin in the woods to get closer to your true self. But ponder as I have during the time that I wrote this piece whether you are living to acquire things or to enjoy life’s rich palette of experiences, and plan your 2017 accordingly.

As this is posted our family will be in church and will soon enjoy the fellowship of a pork and sauerkraut New Year’s lunch afterward. Perhaps a good resolution for readers who haven’t made that decision would be that of setting yourself right with our Creator?

Just remember: you can’t take “stuff” with you.

But if you insist on the political, I went back and looked up my thoughts as the economy bottomed out after the 2008 financial crisis. While I still agree with what I wrote in a political sense, this eight-year period sure has seen a lot of change in my life otherwise!

Programming notes, a book update, and bleg

December 26, 2016 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Culture and Politics, Personal stuff · Comments Off 

To allocate a word from the hapless “Married With Children” character Al Bundy regarding the mouse in his house, this week is the deadest. It’s a week news outlets fill with year in review items and for me it will be no different as I sandwich my single-part look at things to watch in 2017 between my monoblogue year in review Thursday and the top 5 list of the albums I reviewed on Saturday. Now I won’t go as far as the blog expert who suggested that bloggers need not come back until mid-January, but unless the creek rises there’s no real need to write a deep thought piece here this week.

So I’m saving the deep thought for my book, which is now past the 10,000 word barrier in its initial draft. Overall, I would like to cover the subject in about 80 to 100 thousand words, which is at least half again as long as So We May Breathe Free was (and remember, this is all original.) I also have a couple more books on my list to acquire and read.

One thing I have done is put together a rudimentary, somewhat under construction social media page for the book. As I get farther along I will be adding more features to it, and perhaps create another outlet. After doing a book all by myself, this time I have some idea of what to avoid for round two.

And finally, I learned this morning The Patriot Post has someone willing to match donations as their year-end campaign reaches its final week. I added to my total for the year to keep them going, so if you enjoy reading it as much as I like writing there, perhaps you should consider a donation too. It’s a valuable outlet for news and informative perspective from a pro-liberty, pro-faith traditional point of view.

I told you Saturday I’d be back Monday, and so I have been. I just didn’t promise the longest of pieces.

Wishes for a Merry Christmas 2016

December 24, 2016 · Posted in Personal stuff · Comments Off 

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)

So here we are again, celebrating our Savior’s birth with faith, food, friends, and family.

For many years I have kept up a tradition of leaving my site dark on Christmas Day, as oftentimes that would be the only day I take off from blogging in a year (at least in theory because I regularly schedule prewritten posts, like this one.) But as you obviously know, priorities in life change and things of this world that were once important or valued for their surface worth eventually fade away. So I will again leave the site dark for Christmas but of late that’s not been a unique occurrence.

I’m not sure if I can put my finger on just why this Christmas feels different than many of the rest. Since I’ve moved to Maryland (and even a time or two when I lived in Ohio) we’ve gone without snow in the runup to the holiday, and there have been those years when we have been told how bad it was at Christmastime. My messages over the last couple years have focused on the senseless tragedy in our nation leading up to the holiday, and last year for me there was a sense of great loss.

Things always happen for a reason, though. Each week I am given a writing assignment by my editor at the Patriot Post, one which I don’t know in advance. Yesterday, for our final day of original publication this year (there will be some “best of 2016″ items this coming week) I was charged with writing on the rebirth of hope as this otherwise dreadful year came to a close. It got me to pondering the Christmas season, which is one reason I didn’t finish until after midnight Thursday night.

In this place we call Delmarva, within the nation we call the United States of America, we live on the border between two disparate nations within a nation. On this sandbar we go to church to worship our Savior, deposit lots of money in those red kettles and perform other charitable endeavors, and say with feeling and caring, “Merry Christmas.” Yet just a short distance away there are people who also inhabit this country who worry more about buying the perfect gift, attending the best parties, and having “Happy Holidays.” Their giving is meant to be a reflection on their works, not what’s in their heart.

But no present can top the gift we received in that manger long ago, and it’s worth remembering that salvation comes absolutely free of charge. Perhaps this is why I don’t necessarily feel like I’m conforming to the Christmas spirit as corporate America would have me do. I don’t watch Christmas specials, change the station when many Christmas songs come on, and curse at the traffic holding up my ride home. (Prayer request: pray I’m granted more patience in the coming days.) But I enjoyed the Christmas presentations at my church because they focused on the truly important part of Christmas: I did not hear one reference to Santa Claus there.

So if your church has a Christmas Eve or Christmas service, I encourage you to attend. (Our church has theirs at 3:00 Sunday; alas, we will be eating dinner with my in-laws.) If you don’t have a church, this is a good time to have your own spiritual birth. Of late I have been praying for a nationwide revival, so perhaps it will answer my prayer in a small way.

In the world Christmas has become a holiday month defined as beginning when shoppers line up as they digest their Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing and ending when the radio stations that go wall-to-wall with holiday music wrap things up around New Year’s Day. I suppose it’s a good thing that we take so much time to celebrate a holiday that is religious at its heart, but as the years pass I’ve begun to compress my idea of celebration to just a few days right before the actual holiday, aside from functions I attend that are held earlier like my company party.

Thus, 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 Monday.

monoblogue turns eleven

To borrow a phrase from Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel, I have to give this post that extra push. Whether that push is over the cliff or not remains to be seen, but this website is going to 11.

Once again I’m writing this “state of the blog” address on its anniversary. Since this is year 11, I don’t have to be as fancy as I was last year with “10 from 10″ – just one post will do. That’s a good thing because, to be quite frank, this past year was a brutal one for this site that I would rank as the worst, for a host of reasons. Maybe it’s the realization that it may never quite be all I wanted it to become since I just don’t have the resources or talents to make it so. And almost everything I’ve tried to do recently has failed to make an impact.

So I came to the decision back in July that this could not be an everyday endeavor going forward. The reward just hadn’t been there for the effort I had been putting in, either in readership or political change.

I have had the same program count my readership for nearly a decade, so I have a pretty good idea of what the numbers will look like in any given year: even-numbered years generally outperform odd-numbered ones because this is, after all, a political-based site so interest will peak coming into an election and wane for awhile afterward. (Since only 32,000 people live in Salisbury and only a tiny percentage of them bother to vote, municipal elections really don’t help the readership cause out much. Moreover, I don’t even get that modest benefit next year because the city adopted a system similar to the state of Maryland: all of last year’s winners are set until 2019, so there’s no city election in 2017.) With Maryland’s four-year election cycle, this makes 2012 the most comparable year to 2016 – and unless I hit a readership number in the next month I haven’t had in many moons I won’t even reach half that 2012 level. Simply put, since the 2014 election my numbers have been terrible in comparison to my peak years of 2012-14. For 2016 they may not even make it back to my previous all-time low year of 2009, which was be the similar point in the cycle as 2017 will be. I never really got the October peak my site usually gets in an election year, but what’s done is done I suppose.

Another conclusion that I reached last year was that I couldn’t do justice to my Shorebird of the Week series, so it’s gone by the wayside. And given the paucity of other long-running features such as Weekend of local rock (just four volumes in the last year) and odds and ends (only six this year, and one since March), this site is undergoing a transition to a completely different look and feel that reflects my own changing priorities. (That’s not all my doing, though: I will miss having Marita’s columns each week, too. Hopefully Cathy Keim hasn’t forgotten me, either.)

One of those priorities used to be that of being a reporter, but because of the aspect of political change I haven’t recently done a number of on-the-spot posts I had previously done – and they’re not coming back. Because I decided I couldn’t support a particular candidate, there was no longer a monthly Republican Club post, reports related to events I would attend on their behalf such as the Good Beer Festival, Autumn Wine Festival, or Lincoln Day Dinner, or the other “insider” stuff I used to receive. (As an example, the Maryland Republican Party will elect a new leadership slate on Saturday – and I haven’t seen or heard a thing about it, as opposed to the contested elections we had in the spring when I was still on the Central Committee.)

Perhaps that’s why I didn’t get the October bump, but then again if you were reading this site just for that sort of reporting you were somewhat missing the point. And if you’re on a jihad against me because I wasn’t a good Republican who fell in line to support Trump (as many of my cohorts did, for the sake of party unity) you probably don’t understand the philosophy I live by. If the choice is between my conscience and increased readership, I will choose the former and live without the latter, every time. We all have choices to make in life and I made mine.

So now that I’ve gone through all the doom and gloom as well as the murmurings and disputings, allow me to look forward. And yes, despite the lower readership numbers, there will be a forward. The site is paid up for the next year so I may as well use it every so often.

Where I see this enterprise going is that it becomes more of a teaching tool, and part of that is because of another project I am doing simultaneously with this website.

We have three elements at work here: first, we have the results of socialism and government overreach that arguably were rejected with the latest election returns. (At least they were rejected in enough states to put Donald Trump in the Oval Office.) Secondly, we have the premise that President-elect Trump will govern from the center to center-left rather than the Right, at least on balance. Most of his “alt-right” supporters are surely disheartened with his transition as he’s backed away from several campaign planks and placed those who didn’t necessarily support him in positions of authority, but I never expected Donald Trump to be a doctrinaire conservative in the first place. This premise leaves the distinct possibility that some faction of the GOP will not back Trump on his proposals like paid maternity leave or increasing the minimum wage, among others. For those issues Democrats will cross the aisle to support him, probably in return for additional liberal folly.

Thirdly, and most importantly, there is an argument to be considered: was Trump a product of a conservative wave that gave Republicans resounding victories in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections, or was Trump’s election a populist revolt rather than a conservative one, meaning conservatism as governing philosophy is back to the place where it was before Ronald Reagan? Corollary to that, one has to ask whether the TEA Party movement was extinguished by Donald Trump or is he their logical extension?

Truth be told, I was thrilled by the TEA Party because I thought the populace was finally coming around to where I was in terms of political philosophy, and I embraced it. So the question above is fascinating enough to me that I am underway with a book that will answer these arguments and questions for me and (prayerfully) many thousands of other readers. It’s something I am truly enjoying researching and writing, so I will ask your pardon if this website isn’t updated on a daily basis. Answering these queries is going to take some of my time, although I now enjoy the advantage of having a little more of it being away from the active political world.

So the book will address the third part of my above troika, but the philosophy of this site will ponder the first two elements, as well as those issues I care about within the states of Maryland and – to a more limited extent – Delaware. I’ll still be doing the monoblogue Accountability Project, for example. It may not be the type of content you’ve come to expect over the first eleven years, but I’m still striving to make that content I write of the highest possible quality.

For your consideration, that is the push I’m going to give you when I take this site to, and beyond, 11.

Happy Thanksgiving 2016

November 24, 2016 · Posted in Personal stuff · Comments Off 

As things sometimes happen to fall in life, for me Thanksgiving begins a short period of recollection and gratitude each year because it generally falls within a week of the anniversary of my website. So I write a pair of summary-type navel-gazing posts in a short period of time, although I use this one to think about my station in life and the December 1 post as a look back at another year of blogging. Last year I did a combination deal because I used an older Thanksgiving post that happened to fall into the “10 from 10″ retrospective I did to celebrate a decade of monoblogue, so really I didn’t do my usual thoughts on my life.

Yet to say the least, a lot has occurred over the last two years: I’ve become a relatively regular churchgoer, found a steady full-time job in my original field of work, got back on the Central Committee after a hiatus away as a non-voting secretary only to leave less than a year later, and (of course) married my sweetie on a definite day to remember. And that’s just the big stuff.

So I indeed have a lot to give thanks for, and despite the fact most people have some sort of bone to pick with 2016 I didn’t think it was all that awful of a year. Yes, it was definitely different than most in the 52 I’ve been here, but it wasn’t horrible all things considered.

However, there are things I miss about Thanksgivings past. Obviously growing up as a child most of us have family traditions, and as you get older you begin to look back fondly on the way things were – the warts seem to fall away. It’s been over a decade now since I celebrated the holiday with my parents and family, although this was by my choice to great extent since I live here. In this case, it’s also true that you can’t go home again as my parents moved to Florida not long after I came to Maryland and my older brother is no longer with us. Alas, all those memories are part of the past, and over the last two years I’ve missed out on another regular Thanksgiving tradition as one of the friends who graciously hosted me (and later Kim and Kassie) for several years passed away last December at the age of 41. (She was too ill to host Thanksgiving last year as her cancer was finally beating her after a seven-year fight.)

Yet even with those sad realizations, I just have to remember it’s part of life. None of us are here forever, so it’s a good thing someone came up with the idea of annually taking the time and being thankful for the bounties life provides for us - even if we don’t always recognize them.

One of my latest writing assignments is one that I’m not paid for, doesn’t really come with a regular schedule, and has a fairly limited audience of just a few: I summarize the prayer requests of our small Bible study group and text out a reminder to keep praying for these things. Somehow this has fallen on me, but that’s not so bad because it’s a way to be better connected with the extended family of our church and (in our case) fellow parents of teenagers in the church’s youth group. And we all pray for different people we know or problems we have, with the understanding that God does answer all of our prayers. (The answer isn’t always the one we want to hear, but He is in control for a reason.)

But 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, and we will see if my other, more modest prayer for a Lions win over Minnesota is answered in the way I’d like it to be. Despite being division rivals, this is their first Thanksgiving meeting since 1995 – Barry Sanders played in that game, to illustrate this lengthy interregnum. And unlike a lot of Thanksgivings in the past, this game has a lot of meaning: the winner grabs first place in the division.

Enjoy your dinner, friends, and family, and count your blessings. Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)

Trying to help?

November 14, 2016 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging · Comments Off 

It’s amazing how many people want a piece of this website. For instance, over the last two months I have received three e-mails following up on this appeal:

Hi Michael,

I am currently working with a news outlet, I noticed your site has published a very interesting article, which is why I think a collaboration between us could work well.

We would like to feature a bespoke piece of content on your site, which we think would be of great interest to you and your audience. For the privilege of being featured on your site, we would be happy to offer you a fee of $50.

We hope to hear back from you soon.

I write a lot and think I have a pretty broad vocabulary, but I had to look up what “bespoke” meant:

made to fit a particular person; also : producing clothes that are made to fit a particular person

Yet despite the fact the writer made me look something up in the dictionary, what he conveniently forgot was to add for whom he’s currently working! Nor does he cite which of my many interesting articles he was referring to. Obviously this makes me quite suspicious because I have built up a brand (such that monoblogue is a brand) and he wants me to put it at risk for $50? Very, very shady – yet I wonder how many people take him up on it? After all I just did have a server fee to pay.

Needless to say, the answer is no. I like my bespoke pieces of content to be written by this bespeaking person or the other two who I allow to contribute.

And then on my other e-mail address was this:

I am contacting you with an advertising proposal: we are seeking to publish one permanent article with one DO-follow link on your website Monoblogue (monoblogue.us).

The link inside the article will point to a real-money online gambling website.

The article in question will be original, unique, and good quality. It will be provided by us, and it will be relevant to the topic of your website, or have the topic you choose. (It won’t necessarily be an article about online gambling).

Please, if you are open to such deals, reply with a price for such an article under the above conditions.

Besides, please let us know if you own or maintain any other websites that we could include in our deal. Maybe we can even work out a bulk deal for multiple articles.

Thank you in advance.

So this person wants me to promote online gambling? I don’t care if it has a “dofollow” link or not (SEO is not something I worry about with this site anyway – I write in my own style) nor is that sort of advertising worth any price to me. The fact I sleep soundly at night, confident in what I place on my website, is just another enhancement of the brand I have built.

And these solicitations often make me wonder who the article writer is on the other end. Chances are it’s someone from a third world nation/non-native English speaker who is getting a dime for an article he or she dashed out in 15 minutes for a content mill. And because writing is so easy to come by, they are killing the industry for good writers. (Trust me, there is a difference. I may not be a great writer, but I still have clients who pay me rather well for what I do if you figure it on an hourly basis.)

I think I will return to this subject in a day or two (for reasons you may understand by then) but suffice to say the answer to both is no. To paraphrase Patrick Henry, I guard this website with jealous attention and suspect anyone coming near this precious jewel.

All over but the shouting

It’s the end of the “road to 2016″ for me.

For me personally this has been a very strange election cycle, with the only one closely like it in the last 20 years being 2004. That was the year I moved to Maryland in October, too late to register here. So I voted absentee in Ohio and helped George W. Bush carry that state.

That was the one year I can think of (besides this year) where I didn’t work a poll for a state or national election. I thought my political career was winding down then but I was bitten by the bug soon enough. Less than a year later I was going to Republican Club meetings and by 2006 I was back in the mix as a member of Wicomico County’s Republican Central Committee.

But this time it was truly different. Once I left the Central Committee, disgusted and disheartened that my party could select such a poor nominee that belied so many of its small-government principles, I essentially shunned the political process entirely in the sense that I didn’t go to meetings, work at headquarters, or stand at a poll. Yes, I did express my support for particular candidates, but at that point in the process I was looking forward to a new and different chapter of involvement. Things look a lot different when you are 52 and married than 40 and single. I think I have done my part – now it’s time for all those voters Trump supposedly brought onboard the “Trump train” to help the Republican Party, or perhaps what’s left of it if we are saddled with a Hillary Clinton presidency.

I still have an agenda, though. Just because I’m not doing the political events doesn’t mean I won’t be interested in promoting the ideas of limited, Constitutional government in accordance with Biblical values. It’s a combination that truly made America great, and in order to make America great again what we really need is to change the paradigm. It’s a little bit like having the choice of Coke or Pepsi but longing for 7-up. This cycle has really brought the false duopoly from which we suffer home to me: too many people suffer from the delusion that not voting for one candidate is voting for the other. Imagine you support neither, read that sentence again and you will realize how little sense that “not voting for one is a vote for the other” theory makes.

Somewhere someone got the bright idea that Republicans needed to be more like Democrats to win, so they convinced Republicans to simply promise to make government work better rather than do the hard work of rightsizing it. Notice Donald Trump did not talk about promoting liberty, nor did he speak to Biblical values. (Perhaps “2 Corinthians” gave him away?) It reminded me of Larry Hogan’s 2014 campaign – and yes, it worked in Maryland but aside from some tinkering around the edges what limitations of government have been achieved?

The process of political education (or re-education) needs to begin once we know who wins tonight. That’s the one thing I hope to bring to the table going forward, leavened with the other stuff I like to write about because all politics and no play makes Michael a very dull boy.

But I am truly glad this saga is over. There was a time in my life where I treated Election Day like the Super Bowl, but I was almost always disappointed. Looking back, I’m not sure I made a difference being a field worker. Yet I have what people tell me is a God-given talent to write, and with that I hope to teach and learn a few things, too. I have a project in the works I’m hoping to have finished this time next year. Some of you may be aware of this, but I’m working on a book about the TEA Party. To me, it’s a fascinating political movement that deserves study for what it did right – and what it’s done wrong.

Since I slowed down my writing pace here over the summer, I enjoy sitting down and writing more. Has it cost me some readership? Perhaps, but that’s also something the remaining readers can work on by sharing and promoting my posts.

But I’m looking forward to the next cycle regardless of who wins, and it’s because it opens a chapter of life that I can’t wait to write. Someone was saying to me they saw a 100,000 word blog post coming on, but I think I’ll reserve a good chunk of the remaining 99,200 words, give or take, for my book and other future writing. As for tonight, I’ll just trust God is in control.

Picks and pans from a Shorebird fan – 2016 edition

When the 2015 season came to a close in early September, you may recall that the Shorebirds embarked on a project that, it was hoped, would reduce the number of games lost to weather. By stripping the field down to bare earth and reworking the entire drainage system (along with redoing the sod) I have to say the field looked very good most of the season and perhaps that may have had a little to do with the Shorebirds finishing second in the league in fielding percentage. That set of renovations, along with improved lighting, was the second of three phases in a complete renovation of Arthur W. Perdue Stadium – the first phase, completed during the 2014-15 offseason, concentrated on player amenities.

With the field complete, Delmarva was closer to the league average when it came to openings. No SAL team went without at least one rainout (Columbia, Greenville, and Hickory came the closest by having just one) but the Shorebirds had 65 openings and the league averaged 66.3 per team. However, while attendance rebounded slightly this year to 209,120 patrons, the per-game average fell by 13 fans to 3,217. Given the performance around the league, however, holding virtually steady in attendance can be regarded as a victory: only three of the thirteen returning teams increased their gate average from 2015 to 2016 and the overall league average increased by just 62 per game despite the relocated Columbia Fireflies drawing nearly twice as well as the Savannah Sand Gnats they replaced. West Virginia, Rome, and (particularly) Kannapolis saw precipitous year-over-year declines in their average draw.

The program for this offseason, though, is an ambitious one, and it’s already underway.

(Photo credit: Delmarva Shorebirds)

One of the key changes will be all new seats, which includes the replacement of the bleachers that were the general admission seating with regular fold-up box seats. This can be a good thing – if the seats are the same size. While I am slowly losing pounds and inches, my concern is that the new seats may be a little bit smaller than the ones they are replacing since fewer seats fit into the original bleacher space because of armrests, so stadium capacity would decrease by some percentage. Of course, the sections can easily be rearranged to suit thanks to the way the seats were originally laid out (you just drill new bolt holes as needed.) I fit just fine into the seats that were there, thank you, so hopefully us bigger folks will have ample room on the new ones.

It’s my understanding that the other key construction project is the extension of the concourse to be a 360-degree concourse, presumably at the level of the top of the outfield fence (so a home run would likely bounce on the concourse.) When I discussed this idea last year, I used another SAL park I’ve visited as a comparison because I recalled it also had a similar setup.

Lakewood’s FirstEnergy Park has most of the same amenities as Perdue Stadium but also uses their outfield concourse for a tiki bar, pizza restaurant, and a third picnic area. It’s nice but I think there are other food and drink possibilities that we could use as well, like moving one of the Dippin’ Dots carts out there or adding mini-hotdog stands. If some of the areas are made a little wider, such as the triangular area near the foul poles, they can use them to set up for postgame entertainment (such as the Thirsty Thursday postgame shows of a decade ago) or pregame activities like the player autograph sessions we also haven’t had in some time.

But the crowning achievement in all this will be the new videoboard. Over the last two to three years the stadium has lost use of the videoboard, the bottom section of the scoreboard (where the player information used to be) and, at times, the scoreboard itself would go on the blink. In truth, a videoboard could serve as a scoreboard with one panel reserved for that purpose. It would also be nice to have an alternate ribbon scoreboard located on the opposite end of the stadium – if the main scoreboard stays in left field, the ribbon would be placed along the first base side. Then you could linger in the outfield concourse but still be able to keep track of the score, inning, balls, strikes, and outs while watching the action.

If you look at the minor leagues from a promotional standpoint, over the last decade the trend has gone away from one-night novelty acts (like Myron Noodleman or Reggi) to a plethora of giveaways of everything from bobbleheads to hats to posters to beach towels to doormats. Fireworks continue to be a staple as well, although my perception is that the difference in attendance isn’t all that great anymore – then again, I don’t go to more than one or two fireworks nights a season. They’ve also become far more clever in figuring out ways to fill the sixteen half-innings that a normal game features with games and giveaways.

But something I think would be interesting (and it can be done with a new videoboard) is a game with no between-inning promotions, walkup music, or PA announcer. It would be sort of like those April midweek nights when there might be 300 people actually in the stands, which is neat because you can hear the players and umpires. It’s probably not in the cards because it would be a promotion aimed at traditionalists like me – the guy who thinks the designated hitter and interleague play should be eliminated – but put it in the hopper.

And lastly, the concern on everyone’s lips regarding the improvements to the stadium is: what’s it going to cost me? They raised the parking fee this year to $4 from $3, although I’ve been a fan long enough to remember when parking was free. (I think some selected ticket prices went up this season, too.) But I have been told that the idea is to hold these fees steady for several years if possible, so once they go up they should be constant for 3-5 seasons.

However, if they eliminate the general admission bleachers for what I would guess is ticketed individual seats, will that now be considered a box seat? Presently there is a $5 difference per seat from general admission to reserved box. My guess is that the new box seats will have their own tier priced somewhere between the current GA price and the reserved box cost (but kept under $10 so it’s still considered affordable.)

If you consider the league as a whole, it’s something of a wonder that Delmarva makes it to the middle of the pack in attendance because it’s among the smallest markets. (The most comparable SAL franchise in terms of population and metro area is Rome. Hagerstown and Hickory are in slightly larger cities and counties, while the city of Kannapolis is of similar size to Salisbury but lies on the edge of the much larger Charlotte metro area. The rest are significantly larger in population.) And once the thrill of getting a new team wore off after the first few years, in recent seasons the attendance has been remarkably consistent at around 3,200 per game – which translates to just over 200,000 per year.

These improvements probably won’t bring back the days of 300,000 or more attending Shorebird games over the course of a season, but I think 250,000 can be a realistic expectation if the product on and off the field is improved. For the millions of dollars spent on renovations, it bears noting that each person probably spends at least $20 at the ballpark so an extra 50,000 patrons brings in at least $1 million. If you add that much value to the experience, the dollars spent on renovation will be worth it.

I had no idea until I checked out the hotel the first night I stayed here (to interview for my old job the next morning) that Salisbury even had a minor league baseball team – I basically followed the Mud Hens so I knew a little about the other Tiger affiliates and the other teams in the International League where the Toledo nine plays. Since the Shorebirds were in neither category, I was pleasantly surprised to find that out about the city I would adopt as my hometown.

To be quite honest, though, having a brand new, critically acclaimed stadium (at the time, Fifth Third Field was 2 years old) in a much larger AAA market spoiled me for Delmarva, so I was left a little bit wanting for the first season or so. It took getting used to. But now that I am here and have probably attended a couple hundred games or more, I would like them to stick around so I’m pleased to see someone else wants to improve the Shorebirds’ nest and maybe make it like new again.

I can’t wait to see what the old place looks like come April. But it would look a lot better with the 2017 SAL pennant on the flagpole.

Is America forgetting 9/11?

September 11, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Culture and Politics, National politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off 

Since the inception of this website I have written a 9/11-themed piece almost every year (I skipped 2006, which was the first year monoblogue existed.) If you’re interested in my personal 9/11 story I wrote it back in 2007.

But now that we have made it to year 15, I think the more apt paragraph is that which I wrote a year ago for the Patriot Post. This was part of my original submission but edited out for length. It’s still the truth, though.

As time passes away from the 9/11 attack, we tend to forget that those who best recall the horrific day as working adults are becoming less and less a part of the prevailing culture. The fall of the World Trade Center occurred just before my 37th birthday; in a week I turn 51. On the other side, those entering college this year were toddlers at the time and may not recall the shock we felt as adults.

Add another year to those totals (since I’ll turn 52 in a couple weeks) and realize that a child born on that date is most likely a high school sophomore now. Those in our high schools and college now were probably too young to remember their experiences that day – maybe the college seniors will think about how it affected their nap time in kindergarten (if they still do that anymore.) For them, the link is now their history books or their parents, not personal experience.

And as that generation comes to adulthood, they have also been soured on the patriotism and purpose that accompanied our fight against radical Islam, to the point where neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump wishes to commit a great deal of resources to the effort; rather they would use surrogates to do the actual fighting. It’s a far cry from the thousands who signed up for the military to take the fight to Osama bin Laden in the weeks after the World Trade Center and Pentagon were targeted. Rather than patriotism, kids now emulate the custom of kneeling during the National Anthem as a form of protest.

While we haven’t had an attack equivalent to 9/11 recently, the threat from radical Islam is still there. Since our last observance of Patriot Day Americans were gunned down by Islamist radicals in San Bernardino and Orlando, with other major incidents abroad in Paris, Indonesia, and Istanbul, just to name a few. The world remains a dangerous place and we live in interesting times.

The fact that Pearl Harbor Day and 9/11 occurred almost sixty years apart provides the opportunity to make one direct parallel. While Islamic terrorism is still a campaign issue 15 years after 9/11, we expended a lot of blood and treasure over the following four years after Pearl Harbor, with one of those war heroes successfully being re-elected President in 1956. There was a finality to World War II because the opponent was a governmental entity – once the regimes in Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany surrendered, the war came to an end. But in this case there may not be an end for generations. A decisive military defeat could hasten the process, but subduing this threat isn’t solely a military process, just a piece of the puzzle. By definition, terrorist attacks aren’t conducted by military forces but by civilians who may use military-style tactics.

So we once again come to the anniversary and remembrance of 9/11, an occasion that almost 1/4 of our population (73.6 million) has little to no memory of because they are under the age of 18. Some of the timeless images will remain, but the actual memories of how Americans were affected will be lost as those who were of Social Security age back then are passing away – this was the generation that fought in Korea and World War II, and we are losing them by the hundreds daily. The rest of us are getting older too.

Let’s just hope that we aren’t simultaneously losing our collective identity as a liberty-loving nation thanks to the threat presented by the terrorists. In the end, that may be the legacy of 9/11 we have to reject.

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