P5k

I wrote this back on November 5, 2014:

Those who know me and have some idea of what makes me tick realize pretty quickly I am a numbers guy, and there is just something about round numbers that I like. So every time I turn the odometer of 1,000 posts it’s a big deal to me, and hitting the 4,000 mark is no different than hitting 1,0002,0002,500, or 3,000. (For the record, the last 1,000 posts took 853 days to compile.)

“P4k”, November 5, 2014.

You can tell I’ve done this awhile: why dig up all the links when they’re readily available? But by my public school math, that previous pace would have gotten me to this 5,000 post mark on March 7, 2017. So what happened to push things back to March 24, 2019?

Well, back in 2016 I reconsidered a number of life decisions. One was to leave the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee after a ten-year run, but shortly before that I simply decided I couldn’t do justice to this site and my other obligations by posting every day, almost like clockwork. It was getting to be a real chore to make all my self-imposed deadlines so I decided to get rid of some of them – hence, the posting schedule is now about 1 to 3 a week. I also began on my book, which I’m working to finally finish next month after toiling on it for 2 1/2 years off and on, mostly on.

So this website, which used to be of primary importance to me, has fallen through the cracks a little bit. To be quite frank, there have been times where I just didn’t feel like posting here because I had something more important to work on. Book number two has been a joy to write, and it’s given me an idea of a topic for book number three – however, if book two is as successful as I think it may be, book number 2 1/2 will be a rework of book one, revising and extending those remarks.

At one time I had a decent-sized audience of readers, but since I stepped away from what was basically a sizable part-time job that made me very little income, that number – which was already down because the previous year was not an election year – was cut in half the first year and 1/3 of that the next. It’s somewhat depressing, but I often remind myself that the number of readers I have now was something I got genuinely excited about during the first year I had this site. That gentle reminder puts things in perspective.

Not only that, I have always suspected I attract a certain quality of readers. Once upon a time, I was put down as being “wordy and verbose,” and I’ll be the first to admit: guilty as charged. So instead of a thousand would-be political hacks taking in whatever I cooked up in the middle of the night I now have maybe a few dozen diehard readers, ones who care more about me as a person than me as a political pundit.

Because I do like working in numbers, the other day as I realized I was closing in on this milestone I got to thinking about just how many words I have put down for this website. If you figure the average as a thousand words a post, that’s five million words. (Just hope I don’t have a finite lifetime supply, right?) Considering my upcoming book should run right about 100,000 words and 300 pages, on this website I have written 50 books and 15,000 pages in 13 years and change. That’s kind of scary.

And it’s kind of sad, too. As our church is working through the Book of Ecclesiastes, it brought to my mind a passage from its second chapter:

Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.

And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that cometh after the king? even that which hath been already done.

Ecclesiastes 2:11-12, KJV.

After 5,000 posts I’ve come to realize that maybe this website isn’t going to move the political needle – but then again that’s really not for me to determine. However, it still has a purpose: it’s the journal of my thoughts, experiences, and opinions, and if it moves one reader in the right direction that’s an accomplishment I probably couldn’t perform otherwise.

The other day as I was writing to my small group, which has a potter by trade, it occurred to me that, just as clay creates his vessel, words create mine. No one ever said that I was always going to be successful making my points, but these are the talents the Good Lord gave me and who would I be to hide my light under a bushel?

So whether the “odometer” has another thousand posts in it or not (let’s hope it does) I can still say I enjoy writing here and wish to continue as long as the Good Lord allows it.

Observations on an avocation

Because people have actually paid me for doing this stuff for over a decade now, I consider freelance writing to be my side hustle. But with a steadier full-time job, I really hadn’t taken the craft seriously enough until I got closer and closer to finishing The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party – in part because I didn’t wish to repeat the mistakes I made with my first book seven years ago. (As part of taking it seriously, Lord knows the tempo of posting here has slowed to an agonizing crawl, right?)

So this year I had a door opened as I found out the Eastern Shore Writers Association was hosting a self-publishing track as part of their annual Bay to Ocean Writers Conference. I hadn’t previously been a member but now I am among their ranks, and it’s an interesting group – as I found out last Saturday.

One feature of their conference is a bookstore of their authors’ products, and I learned that, for the most part, my peers in the group work in fiction and poetry. It’s not something that I have an issue with at all; in fact, I salute their creativity and imagination in pursuing their craft. However, it should be said that I am probably the outlier when it comes to both genre and viewpoint – I tell people I’m “barely left of militia” but my observation was that most of these folks are likely left of center – and a few barely this side of Stalin.

But I think all of us share a goal of getting out our story, whether it be a fictional figment of wild imagination or a historical and political documentation like Rise and Fall. I know it may not have the audience of a Tom Clancy thriller nor the reach of someone who’s a known figure and can negotiate a $65 million advance. (Heck, I would have done cartwheels for a $6,500 advance – or maybe even $65.) Still, I was a bit disappointed that no one really wanted to take a chance on being an agent for the book, but I shouldn’t have been surprised given the hundreds of thousands of titles produced annually, many by already-established authors.

Fortunately, I have an available outlet in self-publishing and over the six hour-long seminars I attended I learned a lot about the ins and outs of selling that way. One author made her series of romance novels a hit by studying the trends of well-selling similar books and adding those elements into her stories, which are set on the Eastern Shore. Another shared her insights on producing a good finished product, still a third talked about the art of face-to-face hand-selling of hard copies, and so on. I have pages of notes and several handouts to guide me. Now I have a strategy in mind for marketing, incorporating some of the elements I already have in place such as my book website.

So now I’m doing the final edits to Rise and Fall, among other things taking care of one maddening aspect that I found to be an easy enough fix. But I suppose I can let it slip that Rise and Fall won’t be the last book I do, and hopefully in about 18 months there will be a companion to it on fine bookshelves and e-readers everywhere. At this point that’s all I will reveal.

All in all, the Bay to Ocean event was good for me, and hopefully you’ll soon agree that it made me a better writer and marketer. I have definitely found more appreciation of craft after the event.

Remembering the rant

For the first time, I’m cross-posting to my book website.

On a humdrum Thursday morning, there were probably a few dozen thousand who were watching the CNBC show “Squawk Box” and a lot of them probably weren’t paying full attention when one man’s statements were the spark that lit the fuse of pent-up political frustration. It was a fire that raged out of control for several years before being contained by a political party more interested in power and winning elections than in its stated principles.

I half-jokingly wrote that night that I thought Rick Santelli would be the next guy on the unemployment line, but instead he’s become something of a cult hero for those things he said a decade ago. Yet in looking up his whereabouts it appears he’s doing pretty much the same thing as he did a decade ago. In that respect, he’s a lot like most participants in the TEA Party who did what they did out of love for the country, not fame, fortune, or political power. I’m sure his name has come up a lot today, though.

But in just eight days after Santelli made his remarks, tens of thousands of people got together in over thirty cities around the nation and began a phenomenon that people still talk about today. And because there are a number of useful lessons that came from the TEA Party, I wrote a book detailing its history: Good Lord willing, I’ll have it ready in time to commemorate the tenth anniversary of one of the most massive and widespread grassroots uprisings in recent American history, the Tax Day TEA Party of 2009 on April 15. I was at the one here in Salisbury, and five months later I was at the unforgettable 9/12 Taxpayer March on Washington. (I posted on that event in two parts the next two days, and the posts reminded me I had even more photos on my then-relatively nascent Facebook page. Revisiting this with the new WordPress block setup allowed me to add the captions I wrote originally, too.) As they say, the rest was history.

And to think: how many people just thought February 19, 2009 was just going to be another humdrum winter’s day?

More oh-so-expert advice on how to run a blog.

After doing this for almost 14 years, you would think people would figure out I have a way of doing things and a comfort zone I’m not apt to stray from. But they keep trying and as I described last night this comes from the lighthearted stack of stuff.

These are two recent appeals that I’m going to write verbatim. I decided not to use blockquote for this one, so trust me that I didn’t make these up. But I am going to print my ongoing responses in italics.

**********

Hope you are doing good.

I think I do a lot of good every time I write. To borrow a phrase from Walter E. Williams, I try to push back the frontiers of ignorance.

I checked your website monoblogue.us and wanted to shoot you a quick note. If you want we can make few changes to make your site convert more visitors into leads and to place it higher in the organic search for some selected terms.

Leads to what? I don’t sell anything here except maybe my first book and overall philosophy, the latter of which I give freely as a mission of sorts.

If you are not on Google’s first page, your website is a waste. If you want to know the major issues of your website, I am sending few points below.

Telling me my website is a waste? Yeah, that’s a good way to drum up sales.

  • Due to poor and unauthorized link sites.
  • Relevant keyword phrases are not visible on first page listing.
  • Your website is not search engine friendly.
  • Website content quality is not high standard.
  • Website is having on-page and on-site issues.

On point one, I link to those things I think are useful to the story. Since a lot of them are news, does that mean the media is poor and unauthorized?

Points two and three are irrelevant to me since I don’t write content for SEO, but to tell me my content quality is not high standard – well, up yours, buddy. And talk to my server about point number five, since they are the ones who generally cause the issues. For some reason, WordPress seems to want to add a point six on this, too.

Area of Improvement:

  • Get quality content and theme based back links.
  • We will give you 1st page ranking on Google, Yahoo and Bing.
  • Improve your organic traffic and sales.
  • Secure your website from Google penguin updates 4.0
  • Target your local market to increase business.

The fact that I don’t know what the heck this guy is talking about for the most part tells me his quality is not high standard – although maybe you figured it out from the grammar before this point.

Note*: We give guarantee to improve your keyword ranking from the first month itself, if we fail to achieve then we will refund your money.

Is that before or after you sell my e-mail address and skim my credit card?

Our main objective is to increase your website’s online visibility which results in improvement in traffic, link popularity, goal conversion and ROI.

Then you are a poor business. Your main objective should be to make money legitimately. My online visibility is just fine.

For more details please reply. We have your WEBSITE ANALYSIS REPORT ready with us.

Let me guess – it’s the same report as the other 600 website owners you sent this e-mail blast to would get. But I figure it must be enough that if only a couple fools take up their offer, then ROI is positive.

**********

So that was batch number one of supremely helpful advice. (Update: going through my spam folder I found another but with a different “sender.” You know it’s fake when it’s a name followed by a number on Gmail.) By the way, that went to my old e-mail address I really don’t use anymore, as did the second one a day or two later.

You know, everyone thinks they can give me good content. But there’s a reason I call it monoblogue, and this leads me to e-mail number two, which came all the way from Germany. It was like pulling teeth to read this – imagine each line double-spaced.

**********

My name is Rik, I have two clients that want to publish content on your website.

Congratulations! Is it really that hard to start a blog in Germany, though? I’d rather do the work myself, thanks.

Do you allow paid content on your website?

Actually, I do. Most (but not all) of my record reviews are paid content, but the writing is mine. I would love to have a sponsor for Shorebird of the Month, though.

If yes how much does is it cost to publish an article on your website?

You know, I’m half-tempted to write back and tell him (in my best Dr. Evil voice) “one meeeellion dollars.” He’s from Germany, think he would understand?

Our budget is not limited. The better the websites metrics are the more we are willing to pay. An upfront payment is not a problem!

So where’s my check? I figured it would come in the mail if you’re this confident.

We would prefer to write the article ourselves but you can write the content also.

If it’s some boring subject where I have to insert fourteen keywords in the first 200 words I’ll take a pass. I like my own subjects and words, thanks.

We as an agency are looking for a long term cooperation since we have many different clients.

Clients as in people who are paying you to advertise or clients like the best of ESL writers from India who can subsist on a quarter-penny per word? Or maybe you suckered them into doing it for the “exposure” like I was once upon a time when I was young and naive.

Can you tell I’m a bit jaded? Does it show?

Ps. I take my job really serious please check out below my social profiles and read more about my clients testimonials.

Actually I did. I think he had two testimonials and I’ll bet he made them up.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

This is as close as you will get.

**********

As I said, each line was double-spaced when these sentences could have been combined. If that’s the writing I get then I think it’s worth what I would probably make off the deal.

Maybe someday people will get the hint that I like my sandbox the way it is and there are few invited guests for a reason. Of course, then how would I write my occasional snarky replies?

Have I told you writing is just a struggle? I know it was a struggle to keep a straight face with these two. Tomorrow you get some of my paid content as I wrote a record review last night.

2018: a monoblogue year in review

Can you tell this was an election year? If not, read on and you’ll figure it out.

But it began by figuring out (in a tongue-in-cheek fashion) what I’ve been doing wrong all these years. Seriously, January got moving with my look at what my top 5 monoblogue music artists over the last four years have been up to and kicked into political gear with the annual countdown to terror.

That terror got underway quickly as General Assembly Democrats slapped down a Hogan veto and made employers sick. And the campaign wasn’t ignored either as Democrat Ben Jealous made some chicken poop claims and I had to dredge up my old sidebars.

I also found out our neighbors to the north were doing something right and got around to revealing perhaps my most unusual story idea ever from a Christmas card. I made the plea for common sense to wrap January, and as February dawned I found out my original pick for President in 2016 had put some in the Wall Street Journal with a piece on the post-2020 GOP. Later that month I got to play the Lord’s advocate (a refreshing change) but still had to lecture people that, in the aftermath of the Parkland massacre, guns aren’t the problem.

It took me awhile, but I got March backwards: it came in like a Lamb. In light of Conor Lamb’s surprise special election win I asked if a Lamb would be slaughtered in the First District. (Turns out his clone was.) It wasn’t as backwards as the furious backpedaling a number of Maryland Republicans made once their votes on the “red flag” bill were revealed, though.

It was the spring of my discontent with the state of the ballot as well, but it did give me an opportunity to go into some website plans – which, by the way, were delayed to an extent but now may be closer to realization thanks to a nice Christmas gift I received.

The month of April began by planting a farmer’s lament, but moved quickly into a look at our federal races. That was short-lived because I had to remind people that, in 2018, we determined General Assembly session winners and losers months after session was over. I also spent a perfectly good Saturday seeing the dregs of the Democrat gubernatorial field go through the motions of a debate at Salisbury University. (Combined, those who showed ended up with 24.7% of the vote, so dregs it was.)

The next week I spent a perfectly good Friday evening downtown, giving me the opportunity to put my thoughts on 3rd Friday to pixels.

Honestly, May wasn’t much to write home about, since I did a lot of repetitive items like record reviews, odds and ends, and the return of the Shorebirds of the Month. But I found time to address a critic and return to a tradition of detailing my Memorial Day weekend.

I didn’t have a June swoon this year, thank goodness. Instead I got revved up talking about wind energy, releasing the final Maryland edition of the monoblogue Accountability Project, making my endorsement in the state’s U.S. Senate race, and advising those vying for Central Committees across the state how to be a successful member. I also took the time to spin a tale of two events.

July began when I revealed my worst-kept secret: I have an agenda. In this case, it was a chance meeting with the Governor as an opportunity to promote school choice. It was much better to write that than it was a litany of big spending that some other guy running for the job had on his platform: I covered two of the most egregious examples during the month. But I got to see both gentlemen at the latest rendition of a long-standing political event – honestly, though, the runup to the Delaware primary was more interesting to write about.

And I wasn’t through with the First State, restarting a long-dormant series with an outdoor show featuring a Christian band and spending a night at the fair.

Speaking of fairs, I took two August posts to recount the Wicomico County version. But I also returned to politics with the announcement of my Delaware version of the mAP and another part of shooting fish in a barrel – some may call it a platform critique. It was already getting tiresome, so I spent some energy digging into where an “independent” campaign got its money.

In September I finally put that platform critique to bed because the Jealous campaign was going nowhere anyway. With Neal Simon’s campaign as inspiration, I took closer looks at financials on several groups of races: Wicomico County campaigns, District 37, and the most interesting one of all: District 38. By month’s end, that District 38 money was ending up in my mailbox as full-color mailers.

Once again I revived the tradition of remembering 9/11, but on a more light-hearted note I selected my Shorebird of the Year (going off the board, so to speak) and expressed my picks and pans as a Shorebirds fan. I even found time for more odds and ends.

October was a crazy busy month that focused on different angles for the election: people who couldn’t be bothered to file required campaign finance reports, neat ways to convert poll data to votes (as well as a second helping), critiques of mailing after mailing after mailing, and a direct comparison of voting records in the District 38 race over the last four-year term. One of those contenders also got a supportive visit from the Governor while our Congressman came to say a word for the U.S. Senate candidate. But I also found time for yet more odds and ends as well as October traditions the Good Beer Festival and Autumn Wine Festival as well as the GBF and AWF music as Weekend of Local Rock pieces. I also supported a great cause with a funny guy.

We all know what happened in November, and the election hits kept coming: a look at early voting, pregame thoughts, and two parts of immediate postgame analysis for starters – and, of course, associated odds and ends with the campaigns. Then I took a few mental health days before returning with my Thanksgiving message and shopping advice for Cyber Monday.

Wrapping up in December, I began the end-of-year watch by writing about my moody teenager and performing one of my favorite tasks: inducting new members for and updating my Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame. Speaking of baseball, I opined on how Salisbury could be a better minor league town, too.

But the year’s last month brought a new look to odds and ends (and the site in general.) I also got to compare the Indivisible movement to the TEA Party (which relates to my forthcoming book, which also got a placeholder website during 2018) and provided the other usual year-end goodies of my Christmas message and top 5 records I reviewed for the year.

So that is how 2018 went. With a couple days to go, I’m some significant number of degrees of Rushalanches away from readership in my halcyon decade of 2007-16. Hey, at least I made 5 digits at 10,372, but then I really don’t promote the site on social media anymore, have fewer posts to link to, and found that people don’t think of me as much for political horserace analysis and advice nowadays – in large part because I’ve consciously stepped away from that scene. While I devoted a large part of my year to Campaign 2018, I was only made more jaded and cynical from the results and the easy manipulation of the electorate by “fake news” such as the overwhelmingly negative coverage of President Trump. If people don’t get the concept that fewer regulations and lower taxes at the federal level makes life better for them because they have more freedom to choose how they live their lives and spend the money they earned – well, I don’t know how else to help them. Lord knows I couldn’t influence the formerly Republican-held House to do its stated task of eliminating Obamacare.

So I’ll look closer to home, as perhaps I should have all along. If the Good Lord is willing to provide and answer my prayers in a positive manner, 2019 has the prospect of being an exciting year for me: a new (or new to us) home across the border, and the release of my second book The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party, which has already received a glowing pre-review from a major early participant.

Granted, there will be the fun of watching Democrat presidential contenders try to leapfrog farther and farther to the left. (Well, it’s fun until someone gets hurt or – Heaven forbid – we actually elect one of them.) Let the whole host of them try to appease the Indivisible Left, splitting the vote from the progressive wing while the establishment Democrat wins the nomination – just like the 2012 GOP Presidential race with the TEA Party. And Lord help us all if Hillary runs again.

But I’m really looking forward to the personal things I described two paragraphs ago. Over the last couple years this blog has sort of evolved from a political diary to a more personal one, reflecting (as always) what interests me and prompts me to write. So as 2019 dawns I wish it to be your best year ever, despite the seeds of chaos that will be sown by forces of darkness.

Wishes for a Merry Christmas 2018

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.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Luke 2:8-20 (KJV)

I’m not going to write a lot about this Christmas season, preferring instead to simply wish you a merry one. As usual, mine will be spent with Kim’s family so the site will be dark tomorrow.

Teenage angst: monoblogue turns thirteen

To the consternation of many, this website has survived another year.

Considering the frequency over the last year nearly matches that of the year before, it appears I have found my comfort level of posting that averages out as twice a week. It’s likely the days of daily content are behind me given the circumstances in which I find myself: while the first three years of monoblogue were done with me having a full-time job, I also was single – so what else did I have to do besides blog? Now I have a great wife and take time out of my week for bowling (while that was an activity I did pre-marriage as well, it was easier to write with bowling on Friday nights as opposed to midweek) and small group at church to go with the full-time gig. Until recently there was also this book thing going on, too.

But when I look back at all the things I have done and written about, vast portions don’t seem as important as they once were. The hot takes have gone cold, the newsmakers are making news elsewhere, and yesterday’s political flavor du jour is today’s ant heap of history. But there are posts that I still like to consider as a diary of sorts, and they’re generally my photographic posts. An ongoing project I can hopefully get back to is that of salvaging as many posts as I can where the photos were lost thanks to the demise of the old Adobe photo service. Those who say the internet is forever, though, never followed the dead links to my Examiner pages where half my good stuff was placed. I think this is the year I’m going to try and set the record straight.

You know as well as I do that politics has been my site’s bread and butter from the very beginning. But frankly I am just sick and tired of the whole thing and my growing distaste of social media isn’t too far behind it. Sometimes I feel like I’ve given months or even years of my life to try and convince people who can’t be convinced, just like leading horses to water and watching them turn up their noses. Call me jaded or accuse me of a lack of empathy, but I’ve stopped caring whether they die of thirst or not and I’m arriving at the point where I think I need a different and more productive obsession. Add to that the whole “fake news” phenomenon and the increasing difficulty of using social media to build an audience and maybe it is time to set that whole thing aside. (My website kept screeching that it can’t properly connect to Facebook, so I bagged the connection. It’s a sign.)

I suppose one thing I may get to in the next year is my 5,000th post. Had I stayed on my frenetic pre-2016 pace I would have likely blown by that mark around the middle of last year but at 100 or so posts a year it might be the middle of next year. And that’s all right with me.

Perhaps it wasn’t in the cards for me to be a world-famous writer who made his fortune with a simple blog of his questions, problems, thoughts, opinions, or comments (to paraphrase Mr. Geer, my freshman science teacher.) But it doesn’t mean I can’t try to make this the best blog I can, and one of those aspects is writing about things that interest me in such a fashion that I don’t lose any sleep at night worrying.

In the more immediate future I have some final record reviews to write to finish the year and my Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame has some new players – ones that can finish filling out a 40-man roster. I may not be as political but I still have some old standards to work on as I begin year number fourteen.

Happy Thanksgiving 2018

In Ecclesiastes 1:9 we are told “there is no new thing under the sun.” This Biblical line is well-suited for my message this year, as I was tempted to put last year‘s back up because it pretty much still applies. I still like growing older with my wife.

I suppose, though, there are some things that have changed, even if they’re not really new. Since matters electoral remain the bread and butter of my writing it’s worth noting that politically we are entering a brave new world of divided government under a populist Republican president – the last time that happened I was still in college. (That, kids, was a looooong time ago.) I guess I should be thankful the “blue wave” didn’t crest as high as once thought.

One thing about our present climate still bothers me, though. Too many people can’t get along because they see the political registration, hear the wrong talking points, or walk around in different colored hats. It seems lately, though, that I talk online quite a bit more to Democrats than I do Republicans. (Those folks I catch offline, as you’ll find why in a bit.) Sure, the Democrats know I’m barely left of militia but we can talk about issues and choose to disagree or occasionally even find a patch of common ground. It’s a good balance because most of my church family leans to the right, and I’m sure a few of them may, from time to time, fall short when it comes to decorum with those on the other side politically. I try not to, although the “progressives” make it difficult sometimes!

So I suppose that besides the obvious blessings I have of food, family, friends, a steady place of employment, and roof over my head, I should give great thanks for being blessed with the insight to see beyond the political labels and into the content of character. I can’t say I’m completely immune from getting my exercise through jumping to conclusions, but I feel like I’m getting better about it. Heck, even my in-laws don’t always agree with me but we still get along all right.

Anyway, I am going to conclude by taking one bit of license from previous writing because I still like the material:

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 I’ll grant that they haven’t quite learned 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 (above all) count your blessings.

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

Reviving the circle of life

Last Thursday night I had the opportunity to assist a great local cause and ministry, the Eastern Shore Pregnancy Center.

Now I’m probably not the best at relating to mothers or fathers-to-be in need, which is among the things they do. But I can laugh with the best of them (and sign a check) and that’s what I did a lot of that special evening – okay, one check but plenty of laughing. It’s something I will get to in due course.

When I last wrote about one of these events three years ago, they had a somewhat different approach to the issue of fundraising and securing a speaker: generally it was a message from someone who combined the desired Biblical message with a significant helping of appeal for donations. That’s not to say it wasn’t a good formula, but perhaps it was a formula getting less and less effective. (Which probably explains in part why I didn’t do a post on the 2016 event, the last time I attended.)

So I liked the change in format as well as location, as they have moved to the more intimate parish hall at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Salisbury. (It also meant the dinner was a lot better, as Black Diamond Catering did a fantastic job.) I’m hoping the results made this nice lady’s ministry a lot easier.

“By the grace of God, at least 60 babies have been saved” in the past year, said ESPC director Jackie Seldon.

The goal was compatible with that which I recalled from previous years, and I made sure to share a little more of those blessings I received this year. What they shared was the testimony of one of their clients and her mentor through the experience, and as Seldon noted the ESPC has now been around long enough that they are beginning to see second-generation client families.

I don’t recall the exact reason I failed to attend last year’s event, but among the things I missed was this gentleman’s debut with the Labor of Love banquet.

Repeat parenting offender and comedian Gordon Douglas was the featured performer.

Once named (with his wife, of course) as a Parent of the Year in Pennsylvania, Gordon Douglas had some unique takes on parenting, and – more importantly – the blessing of being a good and caring person.

The part of the story that captivated me was how he got started in the business of parenting. (The comedy part in Hollywood is interesting, too, but I don’t recall all the names he dropped and that’s not the red meat of this narrative, anyway.) I just hope I’m doing justice to the story in a few hundred words and so-so memory.

As a teenager Gordon was the same rail-thin self he is now, but was not particularly athletic or popular and had an impoverished upbringing because his disabled father could not work. Thus, it was perhaps understandable that Gordon wrote a school paper detailing his questioning why he should go on living when the “best time of his life” was so miserable. What did he have to look forward to?

Perhaps Gordon had a guardian angel, for the teacher grading the paper took him under his wing and gave him the encouragement he needed – not to say that it was all smooth sailing from there, as there were other funny mishaps in his high school days and then his young adult life once he got married. But because he found a mentor at his lowest point, when Gordon got started on his initial career in youth ministry he had business cards with three things: his name, his phone number, and a quarter taped to them. The message was: if you needed someone to talk to, he would be there, day or night. Soon enough a 14-year old with a terrible home life called him up, and when he went to ask the parents if the boy could stay overnight, the parents said, “Keep him.”

So he did. For Gordon and his wife, this boy was the first of many children they took in. Besides, when you desire children and are told you can’t have them, what’s the next best thing? Well, that is, until you have a miracle and don’t stop until you have five.

To make what was a long story much, much shorter: between children, wayward young adults, and even a couple prisoners they’ve taken in from the detention center (“you can’t tell it’s them if you don’t see their ankle bracelets”) there are upwards of two dozen kids they’ve taken care of over the years. Some couples have the baseball batting order, but the Douglases filled out the whole roster.

Needless to say, it was a great story, I also had the pleasure of speaking to him afterward as I offered to make him famous. (Or, I guess, infamous, depending on your perspective of this website.)

Gordon was also a quick change artist. Actually, he had copies of his printed and recorded works on sale, and some folks (myself included) got autographed copies. There’s nothing wrong with some entrepreneurial spirit, and hopefully he’s sold many more books than I have!

It should be noted that Gordon comes by this specialty of assisting pregnancy centers like the ESPC naturally as he served for many years on the board of his local pregnancy center. Now he helps others with his comedic talent, although he pointed out that when he started there were 4,000 Planned Parenthood facilities and 300 pregnancy centers, but now the numbers are becoming reversed, which is a blessing.

I stayed awhile afterward to see if the ESPC made its goal, but had to leave in order to finish one of my other jobs (on deadline writing for The Patriot Post) before I could find out. But if I find out in the coming days what the total was I’ll certainly update the post.

Of course, it doesn’t mean you can’t help them out yourself, as the ESPC definitely serves the least of us, as in the message of Matthew 25:35-40. Or put in a somewhat more secular way: to have the pursuit of happiness you need liberty, but to have liberty you must have life. They’re put in a specific order for a reason, so I encourage the support of these budding lives where I can.

Weekend of local rock volume 73

For this installment I return with a look at some of the music from the Good Beer Festival. Unfortunately I missed the more enticing (to me) half of the music on Friday evening – a lineup that featured The Permilla Project, Anthony Calamoneri, Uprizing, and Petting Hendrix.

These festivals always provide a helpful musical guide. It makes the job of a blogger so much easier.

So the first act of my day there was the solo artist Winship.

Winship is a solo artist, but he set a pretty good mood for beer tasting.

What I will say about him is that he was good, but not particularly memorable good. I think part of that was getting my food while he was playing, which meant I wasn’t always close by the stage. He would have been a good fit for the old “bar stage,” which used to be a home for acoustic acts before they consolidated stages. I guess I’ll go with “elevated but easygoing style.”

Next up was the band billed as the Mark DeRose Band.

The sign said Mark DeRose Band, but Mark said it was Dreadnought Brigade. I like that better anyway.

Dreadnought Brigade was the band I actually got to sit down and listen to, and I enjoyed them. While they did a sampling of originals, they made a lot of friends by putting a good spin on classics like The Way It Is (the old Bruce Hornsby song), Jet Airliner (Steve Miller) and a neat version of the Johnny Cash tune Ring of Fire.

The next band may have grown up listening to Johnny Cash, but they were far more modern.

I was talking to someone when Six Pack Rodeo came out. If the name didn’t give them away, the hats did.

I gotta be honest with you…modern country isn’t my cup of tea. They went over with me like a can of Bud Light would in the middle of this beer festival. Yeah, I remember Six Pack Rodeo playing a Skynard cover but I had pretty much tuned them out by the time I left. I’m sure they’re nice guys and solid musicians but I wasn’t into it.

Like I said, Friday presented the better musical options, although as part of what seemed like excessive cost cutting they dropped a half-hour of music off each day of the GBF (not to mention the dual stages a couple years back.) But one thing I can say is that they avoided using overly local bands for the Saturday show as two hailed from Virginia and one from Pennsylvania. (Speaking of bands from the Keystone State, it’s a shame that Smokin’ Gunnz is no more because they would have filled that last slot really well.)

So the next WLR installment for tomorrow talks about the Autumn Wine Festival, but I will have a special (and appropriate for the day) added surprise.

2018 Autumn Wine Festival in pictures and text

Just like the Good Beer Festival last week, my photographic series on the Autumn Wine Festival returns after a three-year hiatus. And like the GBF, a lot has changed over the last three years, but not necessarily for the better. The best thing is that it gives me a break from political posts.

Once again, I can allow the captions to help tell the story.

As we arrived about 1:30, the party was already underway despite a blustery, chilly Sunday.

I’m not going to have a ton of photos this year. Unlike other years when I was somewhat of a captive to the event as the guy who coordinated the GOP tent for almost a decade and hence was there almost the entire time, this time I was a “civilian” who was simply serving as DD for my wife and generally just tagged along for about 2 1/2 hours Sunday – enough to get a flavor of the place. So a lot of my photos were taken of the two bands I saw as part of an upcoming WLR segment.

Speaking of political hostages…

Notice anything missing? The Democrats didn’t have a tent – however, they were not the only ones baring it in the sunshine.

This was the Democrats’ space. In looking at it in the photo, I’m wondering how much extra property they took outside the 10′ x 15′ square you’re usually assigned to get all those signs up – including perhaps the only two Ben Jealous signs in Wicomico County. (Okay, I’m kidding on Jealous – but I don’t think I’m kidding by much.) But seriously – it looks like they are way outside their boundaries.

Shawn Jester (behind table), Woody Willing, and a little of my finger were representing for the GOP.

By comparison, the GOP wasn’t overstepping by too much. They had a reasonable business going, but not spectacular. Nor did I see a whole bunch of folks at the competing spaces for Bo McAllister and Chris Welch. I got Welch’s space in the photo below.

On the left is the tentless space of Chris Welch, whose crew abandoned the tent on Sunday morning thanks to the high winds.

I thought I caught McAllister’s tent in a shot but it turns out I did not. It was just to the right of this photo, and you can see the dearth of people on this side.

Just off the right side of the photo would have been Bo McAllister’s tent. By the time 3:30 rolled around this end was about dead.

I’m looking up toward the food court here. The arrangement was somewhat similar to the GBF as far as the food and stage were concerned.

I will say the food selection was excellent. I tried a place called The Street Kitchen, which is the white truck way off in the background of the shot – good pulled pork and outstanding slaw some may kill for. Come on back to the next festival!

Unlike last week, those who wanted to sit and watch the game on a comfy couch were indulged. Or maybe they had the Hallmark Channel on, I dunno.

One thing I did before piecing this post together was read my previous posts (2007-15) from the AWF. (2007 was the first year I worked it, so the cool thing is the institutional knowledge – which will get even better when I dig up the photos missing from a couple of those years.) Once upon a time they had a VIP area, so I wonder why they did away with it?

The real VIP area on this day would have been smack dab in front of this fireplace. If you could see the stage from this spot I think there would have been a whole cast of people camped out there – including me!

Here is another vendor who can come back. I walked by there coming in and felt the heat.

I noted the stage in my last caption. These are views looking toward the front of the stage at 3:00 and 3:30.

They were already beginning to camp out in front of the stage by 3.

I’m looking down from the south end of the winery tents toward the stage. People had pretty much vanished from the end tents by 3:30-4:00.

Even the lines to the porta-potties were practically non-existent by the time we left, right around 4:00. To be perfectly honest, the vendors could have packed it in about 3:30 and Kim said a couple were.

So I took some shots of signs and wine bottles I liked.

Love the play on a phrase.

New variations on the old Gollywobbler theme. It’s a popular drink.

The old sun + wine bottles shot, in this case courtesy of il Dolce Winery.

Olney Winery had the neatest bottles, though.

In speaking to a vendor (in this case, the wife of a candidate) I was told they had 2,400 people there Saturday – in that case it seems like a down crowd. Granted, it was cloudy but it was also about 10 degrees warmer and about 1/4 as windy. According to the vendor application, though, the county expects an attendance of 3,500 for the weekend.

So I think they were probably about there, and even though I’m not a great judge of crowds it’s sort of sad to see the lowered expectations. In doing some digging I found out the event eight years ago drew 4,651 (and the first-ever GBF had 2,378.) But the problem for the vendors is that they need to sell probably a net $500 worth of merchandise just to cover all the fees associated with the event, let alone make up for the time. My older pictures of the event show long rows of vendor tents, but this year’s had some large gaps in them.

And when you think about it, what is the county providing? It’s their property, but it’s paid for. You have to pay for two nights of security and rent of generators for a couple days as well as pay the talent and for the printing of the tickets, I know this (as well as the GBF) is supposed to be a fundraiser, so then the question becomes how cheap is too cheap?

I’m a guy and I don’t drink wine, so right there I seem to be eliminated from their target audience as Women Supporting Women is a lead sponsor. But I am also the DD for someone who is in their target audience, so you may want to rethink a couple things next year.

In the more immediate future I’m thinking you’ll see two WLR posts over the weekend as I clear out that docket.

2018 Good Beer Festival in pictures and text

It’s been a few years since I got to share my experience at the GBF, for various reasons: I involuntarily skipped the 2016 event (because I couldn’t go that Saturday and Sunday was rained out) and last year I went but lost all my photos when my phone crapped out a few days later. So since the last time I got to do such a post a whole lot has changed – including the captions I can add.

I’m going to begin by thanking my DD, who is better known to most as my wife. She got this photo coming in to pick me up.

We were nicely welcomed to the grounds of Pemberton Park. You can tell she was coming to pick me up by the sunshine. Photo by Kim Corkran.

One major difference was having the GBF move to a Friday evening – Saturday schedule. From what I could gather from asking around, attendance Friday night was decent but not earthshattering – probably akin to a normal Sunday. But since photography isn’t nearly as good at night and being an amateur photojournalist is half the fun for me at the GBF, I chose to only attend Saturday.

I arrived there a little after noon for a 12:30 opening and the crowd was pretty strong already.

They added a few different games for the people to try, like the large-scale beer pong and unique bowling alley.

This is harder than it looks. I think I’ll stick to the bowling where they return the ball to me.

It was a modest beginning to the day. Seemed like a lot of people in line, but once they scattered it looked a lot emptier.

This is the local beer garden. It seemed to me that there were a larger proportion of local breweries vs. out-of-towners than before.

The beer garden from the “back” end.

If there’s one thing the GBF was not hurting for, it was food. This didn’t catch every food vendor, either – there were a couple around the corner.

I had a really good brat with peppers and onions. My only suggestion would be to get real Polish kielbasa for the sandwich.

On Friday night, this was the karaoke barn. On Saturday college football ruled the day.

It used to be that they had couches and comfy furniture at The Pub. Maybe that’s why no one was in there.

This was one of a few tents with the non-local breweries.

The first beer tent I stopped at, a half-hour in. I tried a couple, but missed out on the cider when I went back later. Bummer.

Not that I needed a map, but this was the substitute for the guides they used to give out.

It wasn’t Google, but it did the trick.

The problem with not having the guides (although most of us don’t carry a pen around, either) is that I had nothing but my phone on which to write down the ones I liked. As I’ll expand on later, though, they were few and far between.

Of course I stopped by to see my friend Shawn Jester, the leader of the local Republican club. It was his turn to be the hostest with the mostest.

I guess you can call this my old stomping grounds. It was nice to be on the outside, though.

Being a local election year, I was very surprised to not see them on the GBF video I saw from Friday night. Shawn explained that flooding at the warehouse where their items are kept put the kibosh on getting set up before the event, so they came early Saturday morning. Nor was the GOP weren’t the only vacancy, as there were a couple other open spots.

However, it’s worth noting that both Clerk of Court candidates were there: Bo McAllister was set up to the left of the GOP a few spots down and Chris Welsh to the right. It was good because I finally got to speak with Chris.

The aforementioned McAllister tent is third on the left, red with the orange tablecloth. An hour in and the crowds were still modest.

The Lions Club ran the cornhole tournament, which seemed to draw decent enough interest. There was usually someone playing as I walked by.

Not sure who won or how much the Lions Club made, but hopefully it was a successful run.

Finally, the sun came out and the crowds came out of nowhere to frequent the beer garden. This was taken about 2:30, two hours in.

Once the sun came out, so did the people.

Among that larger crowd: someone with a hat like this comes every year.

This is always a fun look.

Remember that shot I took of the back of the beer garden? By 4:00 the place was hopping.

Where did all these people come from? Too bad the event was over in an hour or so.

Even the human foosball was finally happening.

Human foosball. That sounds like a way to work off those alcohol calories.

I had to leave about 4:00 when the event ended at 5:30 because of a family event. So here’s my parting shot, photography-wise.

Still going at 4 p.m.

Now that I’m through with the photos, it leaves room for a few thoughts.

I really can’t be a judge of how it went Friday night because I wasn’t there. But to me the issue with doing the event in this manner is that it discourages tourism – if you live across the bridge you would have to take off a half-day to attend and I don’t think all that many are willing to do so – particularly if Saturday looks bad weather-wise. I guess they were trying for a 3rd Friday vibe but I’m doubtful they succeeded. Nor did I think going to this sort of event after sunset was a smart play, particularly barely 24 hours after a torrential downpour from Tropical Storm Michael. (Notice the amount of straw in the photos.) Unfortunately, it meant I missed the better of the bands.

And speaking of that: I truly miss the two-stage setup. Sure, it left room for the games on one end but those were really underutilized. And they actually could have placed the main stage on the south end, kept the karaoke tent on the north end, and used that as the side stage. I guess as a cost-cutting move they hire fewer bands by having one stage.

In reading my older posts on the GBF, it’s apparent that either the number of breweries represented has declined somewhat or they are just not doing as many varieties. It was said there were 100 beers on tap, which may have been the case: but do you have to have half or more be IPAs? There are those of us who like the lagers, pilsners, blonde ales, and hefeweisens just as others like the stouts and dark brews. I felt a little underrepresented, although there were also a smaller number of pumpkin beers there, thank goodness. Of course, without a booklet guide it was hard to see where I wanted to go and what to try.

I also don’t know if you increased the vendor price but that seemed to be lacking, too. Granted, my experience was as a non-profit so our rules were a little different but the row of vendors seemed to be more anemic this time around. I also liked the previous practice of having the local beer garden more defined instead of just seemingly a random segment of tents that were clustered together.

I guess it’s time to stop beating around the bush with this piece: this year it felt like the GBF was the red-headed stepchild no one wants (not the craft brew of the same name.)

It seems like a whole lot of corners were cut this time around: for example, they always wanted the setup to be on Friday but having a Saturday-Sunday event meant two nights of security. Shift Sunday to Friday night and suddenly you only need one night of security, plus the lights that had to be there anyway could be taken down early Saturday night once the breweries were broke down.

Or make the Pub a karaoke tent and now you don’t need to rent a lot of seating. They’ve done one stage for a couple years, anyway, but by chopping time off each day of the event (it was a 5 1/2 hour window on Friday and 5 hour window on Saturday, instead of six both days) and cutting off the band time even further by the bands wrapping up a half-hour before the “official” end they’ve succeeded in cutting maybe 11 hours of live music down to eight. But you still have to have the sound set up so why cut the music?

When we lost Pork in the Park after a fairly successful run, we were told it was because the county wanted to concentrate on its other event held at Winterplace, the Wicomico County Fair. But the writing on the wall for Pork in the Park came a few years earlier after they mismanaged one year’s event into a cluster that angered a good number of vendors, then decided to double the admission price in the hopes a more well-known musical act may save the day. When neither worked, they downsized the event too much and never got the momentum back; meanwhile, our food tastes moved away from barbecue and on to other things. Now we have no such festivals when for a few years two had reasonable success.

I’m surprised to find that Maryland is one of the least successful states for craft beer – perhaps due to antiquated laws or just a population group that prefers other adult beverages. (By contrast, Delaware is a heavy-drinking state.) Another interesting fact: excluding Prohibition, the number of breweries in America hit its all-time low in 1978, when there were only 89. (Now just between Maryland and Delaware there are 94, a small segment of 6,372 American breweries listed in 2017.)

But at some point we will reach saturation. Remember how there were so many coffeehouses two decades ago? There is still a thirst for coffee, but the industry has consolidated: there are a few major players, particularly Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, while regional and local shops such as Rise Up or Pemberton Coffeehouse remain as well. I suspect we are ready for a similar shakeout in breweries because tastes change and markets are fluid.

By the same token, where the Good Beer Festival was a rather unique event on its founding eight years ago, there are now beer festivals occurring in this region most weekends between spring and fall. Basically, I think the Good Beer Festival needs to become more of a destination: instead of dropping Sunday to add Friday night, go the opposite way and make it a whole weekend. Go back to multiple stages for music and catch those good up-and-coming regional acts like you did when you began. Perhaps try to get more beer-related vendors there, almost like a trade show. I think there can be a larger tent on the south end just for them so that aspect can be rain or shine.

By doing this and expanding the scope, you create an event that people interested in craft brewing regionally may want to spend the weekend at, sort of like how Pork in the Park used to attract BBQ teams from a wide area – except these folks won’t be camping outside cooking pigs, they’ll be using our lodging and eating at our other restaurants after hours – speaking of which, why not a 5:00 to 10:30 Friday, noon to 10:30 Saturday, noon to 5 Sunday event? Make it worthwhile.

Oh, and one more thing (and I can’t believe I’m saying this): they need to put a little fill line back on the cup. Maybe others need the full shot glass to taste, but I can get a good enough swallow with a half-shot to know whether I like it or not. People that stand at a tent and try six different brews have basically just consumed half a six-pack when it comes to alcohol (since craft beer is generally stronger.) I didn’t see too many unsteady people being held up by their friends yesterday but I didn’t stay until the end either.

The event this weekend came dangerously close to “meh…” for me, and if 40 people feel that way and stop showing up that’s $1,000 less the event brings in. As this is a fundraiser, one would think they would work on maximizing revenue by making it more attractive rather than get overly greedy for a subpar event or nickel-and-dime it to death like they did with Pork in the Park.

Oh, and I didn’t forget the music. There is a WLR upcoming from this, too.