Buy now, or pay more later

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

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

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

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

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

The back nine and the golden moment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Birthday 2014

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

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


An abrupt change in plans

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

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

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

The final appeal

Tomorrow the vast majority of those who will participate in our primary process this year will go out and vote. While early voting did bring a few to the polls, about 70 to 75 percent of the overall vote is cast on election day, based on previous results. And if you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m on the ballot tomorrow as I run for one more term on the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee.

Perhaps some of the others who are running have spelled out their agenda for the next four years, and we on the Central Committee have a lot to do in the next 4 1/2 months – our terms do not end until after the polls close November 4. I’ll be busy trying to find volunteers for the Farm and Home Show, Good Beer Festival, and Autumn Wine Festival. All these events are important for voter outreach and I have served as a coordinator on all these the last several years, along with being the Secretary this term.

But a couple weeks ago, before early voting began, I wrote a piece on my campaign’s social media page outlining my goals for the next Central Committee should I be fortunate enough to be re-elected.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


I was also one of the few Central Committee candidates to fill out a survey from the state’s League of Women Voters. Bear in mind I had to stay under 400 characters, so it was a tough editing job.


1. Qualifications: How do your qualifications and experience prepare you for the duties of this office?

I have already served on the Central Committee for eight years, currently acting as the Secretary. It’s the culmination of nearly two decades of political involvement both here in Maryland and in my native Ohio. I also serve as the Secretary of the Wicomico County Republican Club, and have been entrusted with a leadership position there for the last several years.

2. Priorities: What should be the priorities of the party?

As a local Central Committee, our most important job is recruiting and supporting Republican candidates for elective office. But a key secondary duty is registering new voters as we try to make this a Republican county. Our candidates should stand for limited government which exists at the level closest to the people, so that local matters are handled here in Wicomico County and not Annapolis.

3. Filling Vacancies: If the Central Committee is called upon to choose a candidate to fill a vacancy in the General Assembly or other office, what would be your criteria for selecting the replacement?

In my time on the Central Committee, we’ve had to replace Page Elmore in the House of Delegates and Bob Caldwell on Wicomico County Council. While the rules are different in each case – particularly in Elmore’s case, where he passed away during a contested primary – the aim is to find a good, conservative candidate who will best represent the people as well as hold the seat in the next election.

4. Open Primary: Would you support opening the party’s primary to voters who have not chosen a party affiliation on their voter registration?

I do not support an open primary. While there are compelling arguments for an open primary, I believe that the closed primary represents an incentive for interested voters to choose a party. Unless the primary is opened up for both Democrats and Republicans so that unaffiliated voters have that choice, the GOP should maintain its closed primary system.


In closing, I should remind voters that many of those who are or seek to be on the Central Committee will be in attendance at the Wicomico County Republican Club meeting tonight. We’ll be meeting at the Chamber of Commerce building, 144 E. Main Street in downtown Salisbury. The social time begins at 6:30 and meeting at 7.

Several members also attend a pre-event Happy Hour at the Cellar Door Tavern, which is located at 111 Camden Street. That begins around 5-ish and runs until around 6:30 – we’re informal like that.

And despite the fact it’s elsewhere on the page, let me note: For items which pertain to my campaign Michael Swartz for Republican Central Committee – Authority: Kimberley Corkran, Treasurer, Michael Swartz, Candidate.

There. Now I’m covered. So if you want to cover the common-sense conservatism space on the Central Committee, I would appreciate your vote tomorrow.

Extra hours

January 31, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off 

Now I know why I couldn’t be a politician.

Tonight I went to a fire company banquet. No, I’m not a volunteer fireman: I attended because my future mother-in-law was honored for 50 years of service to the local ladies auxiliary. But not only was I there, along with a significant portion of this town’s fire company, but so were two local Delegates, the State Senator, and most of the County Council and town commission – oh, and a candidate for Delegate that I recognized as well.

You may read about it in the local news, but the point is multiply that by a half-dozen local fire companies in the county and then add the fundraisers, parades, and other local events where it’s good to have a face in the place and you wonder how the elected officials ever get any sleep. At least the State Senator had a plate of food – which was very good, by the way.

It also impressed on me the sense of community many still feel. Unlike certain political clubs, I noticed a nice mix of ages at this banquet as there were many members of the Millennial Generation in attendance, with most being involved in the fire company. While I was brought up for part of my adolescence in a rural area, it truly was a rural area and not a small town. The closest incorporated community was five miles away from me, although we lived about a mile from a small hamlet of a couple hundred, mostly residents of a trailer park. So I never dealt with the local fire department.

One part of the ceremony was the receipt of several checks from the county, the town, and the ladies auxiliary (which was the largest.) This body of women put together over two dozen charitable events each year for the fire company, a sum which supplemented the overall funding from the town and county. That dedication was echoed in the awards given out to various firefighters who went beyond the call of duty, one taking many extra hours to test equipment vital for the safety of all.

Living in an area which has primarily volunteer fire companies, I’m well aware of the many methods the various small-town outfits use to try and raise funds – anything from renting out the fire hall (pretty much a staple) to selling food by a busy intersection to holding Monte Carlo nights. It’s those events which really take most of a volunteer firefighter or EMT’s time – this small town only had 84 ambulance runs, so it probably didn’t have a vast volume of fire calls. None of the firefighters made it to more than 2/3 of the calls, but I’m certain they did their share for the fundraising.

But I hear a lot from those running for office about making the time to stop by the firehouses as part of their campaigning. I guess I sort of understood the intent, but since I’m not a volunteer firefighter I didn’t quite get the point. Tonight’s event helped in that respect, particularly when you consider they were in session today. Makes for a long day.

While the scope of the work has changed over the years for the colunteers, it’s hard to imagine a small town without a volunteer fire department, and even harder to imagine politicans not gladhanding at their banquets. It was something from which I learned quite a bit.

A toast to a Happy 2014!

January 1, 2014 · Posted in Personal stuff · 1 Comment 

The last time I wrote this sentiment (2007) the year turned out pretty good for most of us, so why not try it again and see if I can bring back that mojo?


Friends, fellow bloggers, and countrymen:

May 2014 be the best year of your life and the worst year of the rest of your life!

Michael Swartz


Drink ‘em if you got ‘em.

Wishes for a Merry Christmas 2013

December 24, 2013 · Posted in Personal stuff · 1 Comment 

I’m returning to tradition this year and leaving monoblogue dark for Christmas. Hopefully you have much better things to do with your family than to be reading my website – it will be back Thursday.

Last year I informed you that I work on a peripheral basis with the retail industry, since writing and book sales don’t pay all my bills. This is now the third Christmas I’ve been involved in this, and maybe the “new norm” is that store traffic isn’t spectacular, but steady. Granted, this year I happened to not be working during the days immediately before the holiday so perhaps things picked up at the last minute. Honestly, the only stores which seemed to be doing great business out of those I do were GameStop and Toys R Us, probably because of the recently released PS4 and Xbox One. Seemed like a lot of people were investing in video games.

On the other hand, Best Buy, Target, and Walmart and our local mall were steady but not really as large as I’ve seen before. Of course, Target has its own set of problems these days.

Naturally we still have family and the original reason we celebrated the holiday to begin with as items to fall back on. I’ve noticed over the years that the stuff we buy is generally of a fleeting amusement – things which may eventually find their way to the back of the closet, break down, or otherwise fall from usefulness in a short time. But family is hopefully much more long-lasting, even if what seems to be an annual occurrence of global warming (in the form of a snow and ice storm) made travel to see those family members difficult or impossible. As a native Ohioan, I’m a veteran of a few Christmases where my intent to travel and see family were thwarted, such as the year the plans of turkey with the in-laws turned into frozen lasagna with my parents. 8″ of blowing snow will do that.

Of course, there was a time a couple thousand years ago where we all had a reason for hope thanks to the birth of our Savior, and that’s really what the celebration should be about. To that end, once again for your holiday listening pleasure I bring you my friends from Semiblind doing  ‘O Holy Night’. (You may have to goose the file and start Windows Media Player to get it to play, but it’s worth it.)

Merry Christmas to all of my friends and readers.

Our latest generation

December 23, 2013 · Posted in Business and industry, Personal stuff · 2 Comments 

Despite what many consider a less-than-successful holiday shopping season, there apparently is one category doing quite well. The recently-released Microsoft Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 4 game consoles are hard to come by because they’re flying off shelves worldwide, with both selling over 2 million units according to this New York Times story.

Both are driving customers away from the Nintendo Wii U console, which came out in 2012 but has suffered from “meager sales.” My impression on this is that the serious gamers decided to wait until the new generation Microsoft and Sony products came out the next year, and the kids who seem to be Nintendo’s biggest market moved from their DS handhelds to tablets rather than to the Wii U. (At least that’s the path my fiance’s nephew took.) Our household has a Wii unit which is rarely used – I guess it’s just so 2006 – and the leading gameplayer tends to play on her phone while my fiance prefers a tablet.

This is just a small sample size, though. I want to talk about a trend.

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that everyone has a Christmas budget to spend. Given the $499 price point of the Xbox One and $399 retail for the Sony PlayStation 4 – although would-be entrepreneurs who pre-ordered extra units are charging more online, taking advantage of supply shortages – it’s clear that the Christmas lists get a lot shorter for those looking to purchase these units as a key component. Factor in another $100-$150 for games and you may have a sparse-looking set of presents under the tree. Many people went to GameStop or Best Buy to purchase the units and pretty much wrapped up their Christmas shopping in one stop.

To the extent that I don’t participate in online or offline computer gaming, you can call me a Luddite. I understand, though, that electronic gadgets have surpassed actual social interaction as the leisure-time preference of those in the Millennial Generation. Even I’ve fallen into that trap because I spend a good portion of my waking hours sitting in my chair with my laptop, reading or creating more content for you to enjoy.

Yet it’s amazing how far we’ve come in the last century, since leisure time itself is more or less the end result of technological advances in that period. That’s not to say there wasn’t a little bit of time for frivolity in the 1800s, but those brief stretches tended to simply punctuate a life otherwise filled with drudgery and back-breaking toil to keep a family fed, clothed, and housed in a three-room hovel. In this day and age there are still those who don’t have enough food, shelter, and clothing to thrive but the vast majority are pretty much assured of three hots, clothes to wear, and a place to call home. Some of those common household items those in “poverty” own, such as air conditioning, microwaves, and cell phones, might well have been considered living like a king just a half-century ago and still would in many blighted regions of the globe.

Speaking of a half-century, in less than a year I reach the Big 5-0 myself. So I was a youngster when the home version of Pong first came out – the one we received was actually a competitor called Odyssey. We wired this bulky white console to the television in our living room (which was the spare room in our house at the time, since the family watched the other television in the family room) and marveled that we could manipulate that little dot on our screen with the rectangles we could move up and down, even back and forth!

My memory on this is hazy, but my recollection is that the Odyssey was a gift from our parents to the three of us, and probably was the one large item we received that year. Back then we probably opened six to eight presents apiece, a total which included clothes. But we had new clothes to wear, a newly-built house with five acres of yard to play ball on, and plenty of food – definitely your prototypical middle-class family, which for the majority of my childhood had my dad as the sole breadwinner. (My mom began working part-time when I was in middle school.)

The point is that things sometimes evolve in unexpected directions. Aside from the advance in technology, the Christmas we had in 1976 or 1977 when we got the Odyssey isn’t going to be all that different than this year’s edition when the kids find an Xbox One or Sony PS4 under the tree. But the world in which we find ourselves is a whole lot different, because the kids of today may be shuttled to and from the homes of various parental units and generations rather than spending Christmas at one place with the entire family. Mom might have to work late at one of her jobs on Christmas Eve, so no getting up before dawn to open presents on Christmas morning.

I suppose that if there’s anything I wish for this Christmas, I would like to see the next generation of gaming consoles be purchased and given in homes where the family units are strong because people are enabled to enjoy the blessings of liberty in such a way that only one earner is required, and that the decision to have children isn’t one taken lightly as a “choice” rather than a child. I don’t think I was deprived of a thing growing up as I did, even if my mom and dad didn’t always cater to our every whim and money was occasionally tight. We didn’t get all we wanted, but looking back I received most of what I needed. (Some of it you just have to learn on your own.)

The old adage is that the family that plays together, stays together. I suppose it matters not whether the game is Monopoly or on the Xbox, just that the family is together.

Eight is not enough (the monoblogue anniversary post)

December 1, 2013 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Personal stuff · 1 Comment 

Today marks the 3,615th post in the (now) eight year lifespan of this website.

If you haven’t noticed, I’m heavily into milestones because to me they best represent certain points in life. For example, I usually mention the fact I’m on a post number with a multiple of 500 as it should be sometime in 2014 when I make it to 4,000. By the same token, almost every December 1st since this site’s first anniversary in 2006 I’ve written a piece about where this enterprise has been and where it is going. Today won’t be an exception.

One would have figured this to be a down year for monoblogue because it wasn’t an election year in 2013, but the signs point to my readership actually increasing slightly. For most of 2013 the readership line on my Google Analytics stayed 10% to 30% ahead of 2012′s numbers, aside from a barely slower summer this year. Unfortunately my Analytics was down for about a month last fall; however, I determined from looking at my StatCounter reports that naturally my October 2012 numbers were 58% higher than 2013′s but those figures from November of last year vs. November of this year will likely be nearly identical once I get the summary later this week. So I would expect October 2014 to be a banner month, and the state probably did me a favor readership-wise by pushing the primary to June, which is generally one of my slower months. It won’t be next year.

I chalk that increase up to being a better promoter of my work, although I think being named one of the country’s best state-based political blogs by the Washington Post didn’t hurt, either.

When I wrote this summary last year, I had two writing goals in mind for 2013. One was to finally make it to CPAC, and even though it was just for one day I indeed CPAC badgeattended the venerable event held outside Washington, D.C. It allowed me to meet a number of my cohorts from around the country, which was a plus. Certainly it would have been more helpful in that regard if I could have made it to the Blogger’s Bash, but when you are an hourly employee and work comes on someone else’s time schedule sacrifices sometimes have to be made.

One way I was hoping to escape that economic necessity was by working on my second book; alas, I made very little progress on that front. Maybe I haven’t sold myself on the idea I’ve chosen, which I think is unique but requires more dedication than I’ve given it. Perhaps I’ll find a little more time in 2014 but honestly I’m not holding my breath with my current situation.

Yet I think there is a way I can provide a useful service. Not everyone agrees with my methods, and others pout about how they believe I judge moral equivalence, but those who exist behind the scenes and don’t seek to grab the headlines or attention are perhaps the most loyal members of my fan base. If my numbers went up (or at least held serve) between an election year and a non-election year, that seems to indicate I have a fair idea of what I’m doing and have some talent. Never mind I’ve also outlasted dozens and dozens of Maryland political sites – go back to this list and ask yourself where the others went.

So the question becomes one of how I improve the situation to make myself more useful to the pro-liberty movement? I know readers have helped a little here and there by rattling the tip jar or buying my book – for some reason, November has been by far my best sales month of the year – and I certainly appreciate the support.  But while monoblogue serves me as a great base to practice my craft, this enterprise isn’t nearly enough financially – and that’s all right. Unless people are going to start throwing a couple grand a month at me to advertise here, I really don’t think that by itself monoblogue is going to be my financial savior. It’s a hobby which takes on the average an hour or two of my day and it makes a small profit, so I’m okay with that.

But in reading a lot of the GOP candidate websites, I have to say that their writing style and conveyance of message leaves a lot to be desired. I’ve talked to insiders who complain about the same thing, and actually alerted one of the gubernatorial candidates about a glaring error in his platform, which has since been fixed. Yet when reading the websites on the other side, I don’t often see these problems – the message may be counter-productive to the state as a whole, but it’s presented in a readable way. So maybe I can be of service? I mean, I won’t work for free, but I don’t think I’ll be all that expensive and proofreading is really your friend. Just let me know.

As for the site itself, I think it’s in a pretty good place. It may need some freshening up in spots and those improvements will come as needed. On the front I just discussed I have a couple advertising leads from candidates, but I’d love some good ads for products and services which will appeal to a potentially large Maryland-centric audience. (I can think of a couple businesses which could use exposure throughout the state, but are locally centered around Salisbury. They would be great clients if they want to take the leap.)

One feature I think will become a jewel is the one I started recently called GO Friday. (The GO stands for “guest opinion.”) It’s off to somewhat of a slow start but there’s true potential for growth there. GO Friday was intended to give voice to up-and-coming bloggers trying to build their own audiences out of my reader base, but it’s open to anyone with a good opinion. It also gives me a breather to work on other avenues, such as the aforementioned potential writing tasks.

And don’t think I’m abandoning some of my other features like Shorebird of the Week or Weekend of local rock. I think there’s still plenty of mileage left in both, although the latter hasn’t been as prominent lately.

When I started this enterprise, I said from the beginning it wouldn’t be totally political because then I’d get burned out. There are days I’ve struggled to keep pace with my personal goal of daily updates (and I missed one this year because of an internet outage) but with that rare exception it’s been one goal I’ve accomplished. Fortunately I’m not prone to writer’s block and have something I want to say so the combination works well.

Anyway, this is where monoblogue is at as it begins its ninth year. Hope you enjoy the ride as long as I do.


Happy Thanksgiving 2013

November 28, 2013 · Posted in Personal stuff · Comments Off 

If this looks similar to what I wrote the last couple years, you’re right! But why mess with good sentiment, I always say.

As always I’d like to take a little time on this holiday which values family and the things we hold dear to wish you and yours a blessed Thanksgiving.

In my case it will be spent with both friends and family, although technically I haven’t married into my significant other’s family (we are engaged, though, so that’s a start.) Once that occurs it will give me something more for which to be thankful.

For those who travel, it looks like the weather in these parts will be conducive for doing so, if a little cold and windy – looks like we escaped the snow and ice, though. I have about two hours of driving between the two stops for which I’m scheduled, but luckily both are both pretty much off the beaten path so traffic shouldn’t be an issue.

So I hope all of you who take the time – whether daily, weekly, or even a first-timer – to read my site have a great holiday. Even though times have been somewhat rough over the last several years, I’m thankful for what I have and look forward to spending time with people I hold dear. If my Lions can run roughshod over the Packers and actually win a Thanksgiving Day game for the first time in ten years, so much the better.

After today, we’ll be into the hustle and bustle of trying to find the right Christmas gift and making New Year’s plans, so it’ll be five weeks of overdrive for our schedule and overindulgence for our bodies. So take the time today and relax. Work will be back before you know it.

Oh, and if anyone tries to spout off Obamacare talking points at the family table, keep in mind that cranberry sauce stains – so aim carefully. Or just throw the drumstick at them, then alert them to reality.

Happy Thanksgiving, all. And for my Jewish friends, a Happy Hanukkah! Today is the first full day of that celebration, and I heard this is a once-in-a-lifetime coincidence.

Par for the course

November 20, 2013 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Personal stuff · 1 Comment 

I think I plugged this once or twice early on, but as I wrote on the subject a couple weeks back I figured I had no shot of winning a Mobbie Award for Best Political Blog or Best News Blog simply because it’s more or less a popularity contest. I have good readership, but not necessarily within the Baltimore Sun‘s primary readership area.

So now that I lowered expectations enough, I found out last night I finished 10th of 14 in Best News Blog (won by Baltimore Brew) and 8th of 18 in the Best Politics Blog (Maryland Reporter came out on top.) Although I cracked the top 5 last year in the latter category, over the years I have generally ended with about the same overall placement I came in this year. Mine was the top finisher outside the I-95 corridor, though, so I’ll take it.

At least I beat out Governor O’Malley.

There were a couple winners in other categories for whom I cast a few votes, most notably Chesapeake Journal in the Lifestyle Blog category and The City That Breeds in Best Humor Account.

But I would like to thank all those who nominated me and took the time to cast a ballot or two my way. I’d be curious, though, to know how this would have turned out if you could have voted for more than one in a category.

In the meantime, I hope those who attended the bash enjoyed the free food. While they were partying I was getting stronger signals that a particular rumor may be true – we’ll know for sure soon enough. Once I find out, you can bet I’ll be analyzing the effects of the change as the days pass. It’s what I do.

Weekend of local rock volume 56

October 6, 2013 · Posted in Delmarva items, Local Music · Comments Off 

It wasn’t quite a garden party, nor did I reminisce with old friends – I made a couple new acquaintances, though.

Regardless, the music was pretty good so I decided on the spot to make this volume 56 in the long-running series and place it the day after volume 55. Why not make a single weekend of it? Because the events happened 15 days apart, that’s why. And while Kim had mentioned there would be a band at the party, I just assumed it would be some cover band playing old standards. So I was pleasantly surprised by the difference from expectations.

Anyway, from what I read about Muskrat Sally, they are originally from here but they don’t often play here as they make a lot of appearances across the Bay.

Many of the songs they played while I was there I didn’t recognize as covers, but once I heard them I immediately thought of a much more well-known performer, George Thorogood. Like Muskrat Sally, it seemed that Thorogood plucked a number of retro blues tunes out of obscurity, put his own stamp on them, and sold them to the masses. In fact, their finale was a song Thorogood remade in the late 1970s, “Who Do You Love?” And they indeed played one standard – what band doesn’t know “Mustang Sally” by heart?

What makes Muskrat Sally different and unique from other similar local blues acts, such as Tom Larsen, was the female vocalist and performer. It also afforded more interesting banter between songs. (Interestingly, she’s not listed on the websites. Maybe this was an all-star band of sorts? It’s a private party, so why not?)

And since it was a party with presumably well-heeled clientele, why not make a little money on the side? (Literally.)

If you liked slide guitar and gritty old blues, this was the band for you. They had my toes tapping as I ate some barbecued pork (it was a pig roast, after all) and batches more food and homemade beer than I probably should have (just the food, not the beer. I could tell it was potent stuff.) Fortunately, there was still plenty left for the band when the sun went down and it became too dark to play out there. (Hence, the reason the photos are dark. My cell phone doesn’t do bright backgrounds.)

I’m certain that many a band has played an event like this – literally in someone’s backyard on the grass, with part of the pay being all the food you can eat. Sounds like a lot of fun, and if I’d thought about it maybe I would have dusted off my moribund YouTube channel for a video. Too bad we didn’t get there earlier when the light was better.

Since it’s likely we’ll have an invite next year, we’ll see if Muskrat Sally makes a return. They certainly played well enough to deserve one.

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