Sunday, August 12, 2018

Build an Alien Garden or Write a Book About It

Estimated read time: 8 minutes

People make money writing on the Internet.  Some people make a lot of money writing on the Internet.  I simply want to make my weekend beer money writing on the Internet and this blog ain't doing it.  Since starting this blog, I've made enough to buy four Bud Tall Boys and that's it.  It remains a mystery to me how people make a living writing on the Internet.

One of obstacle of making money comes in the form of ad blockers.  On this blog, I have one little, non-intrusive ad near the top.  That, by itself, doesn't generate a whole lot of money.  If you don't see the ad up there, you have an ad blocker app running.  I make nothing on computers using ad blockers.

I'm a purist, though.  A blog shouldn't become an advertising billboard with columns of ads on the right and trending stories underneath, trending stories designed for the purpose of generating more ad revenue.  I've come across my share of big name websites that dim my screen with a drop down sign informing me they rely on ad money.  I'm instructed to whitelist (allow ads on) their site so they can continue to provide free material.  I never do.  I'm not there to read ads.

With my purist attitude and my firm commitment never to ask a reader to whitelist me so that I could buy four more Bud Tall Boys by the end of the year, I began a search on how to make money writing on the Internet.  I came across this article by Steve Gillman on The Penny Hoarder on how he made $2,000 in one month on an ebook he wrote in one night.  From the article, I gathered that this guy, who's a good twenty years younger than I, has made a living writing on the Internet for at least the last five years.

I already knew blogging isn't how you make money directly...unless you have hundreds of thousands of visitors per day and your blog is plastered with ads and articles hidden in between the ads somewheres.  The blog is a tool to help land public speaking gigs and promoting books.  Up until I read Mr. Gillman's article, I thought publishing a book meant investing a few thousand dollars to self publish.  Turns out, publishing a book can be completely free thanks to the Internet. 

"Ok, if he can do it, so can I," I thought to myself.  As we seen with the 2016 election, one doesn't need to be talented and know something to succeed at a career.  One only needs to do it and pretend they know what they're doing.

Mr. Gillman's article inspired me to write my first ebook.  I'm an expert at nothing, but nothing created the universe and everything we know in one big bang.  I'm not aiming for that grandeur.  I just need some extra beer money.  This is where you get to help me.  Below is my introduction for my ebook, Build an Alien Garden.  What I need to know is if you were browsing the ebook section of Amazon and came across this intro, would your interest in the book be piqued?  Would you shell out a buck or two to learn more?  Would a hundred bucks for the book be asking too much?

Ok, I know the answer to the last question.  I don't need that much beer anyway.  So here goes:

Here's a challenge for you.  Next time you take your dog for a walk around the neighborhood, pay attention to people's yards.  What do you see?  Take note of the lawns, gardens, bushes and trees.  Do you notice a consistent theme?  If an alien walked your dog with you, he would ask, "Are you and your kind a species of 'monkey see, monkey do'?"  If you paid attention, as the alien learning about earth would, you would see what he saw - sameness with little variation.

You'd pass front yard after front yard with a grassy expanse.  Off to the right (sometimes left) grows a small tree ten to twenty feet high, usually a Japanese red maple or a crape myrtle.  Once in awhile, someone will throw in a dogwood or flowering cherry to be different.  In the center of the grassy expanse, a bird bath may sit - more as a decoration than a maintained watering hole for our feathered friends.

The tree will be neatly mulched in about a six-foot diameter.  To mark off the mulched area, a circle of rocks, sea shells painted white, or a small edging fence circles the tree.  Shade loving plants, usually annual impatiens with a perennial fern or two for texture variation call the mulched area home.  Nestled in the plants will be a small garden statue, most likely a frog, rabbit, or gnome.

Extending three- to four-feet out from the house, and usually wrapping around the side of the house, are the long flower beds.  At each corner of the house will be a small conical evergreen tree, the Alberta spruce being a favorite.  If the conical evergreen is too formal looking for the home owner's taste, roses, dwarf hydrangeas, nandinas, and hawthorns are good substitutes.  In between the bushes are evenly spaced perennials, most likely phlox and coneflowers (for the mid summer blooms), chrysanthemums (for the fall bloom), and daisies (for the late spring and early summer blooms).  Daffodil, tulip, and hyacinth bulbs have the early to mid spring covered and annuals such as vinca, petunias, and gazanias fill in between the perennials after the spring bulbs are done blooming.  

If the homeowner has a mailbox, the base of the mailbox is planted in a similar fashion to the tree, only smaller in diameter.  It will be mulched and cordoned off to match the tree.  Instead of ferns as a perennial, a trellis a bit higher than the mailbox rises from the back to support a vine.  The vine is almost always a variety of dwarf clematis.  Coming around from the trellis is a thick growth of flowering annuals.  Almost always the flowers will be petunias, although interspersed may be a coleus or two for texture and color variation.  At the end of summer as the petunias and coleus wind down, they will be replaced with marigolds, a fall favorite, and pansies, a winter favorite.

There might be some specialty differences, but equally predictable as the rest of the yard.  If there is a door to the outside near the kitchen, an herb garden may be growing on either side of the door entrance for easy harvesting while cooking dinner.  The vegetable garden, if there is one, will be in the backyard towards one of the far corners.  Even rarer in a yard than a vegetable garden is the water pond.  If there is one, it'll be located closer to the house, most likely off to the side of the patio opposite the entrance to the backyard so no one will fall into it.  Instead of looking like a natural feature of the backyard, it will look more like an out-of-place fancy hole in the ground to hold koi or goldfish.

Is your yard a "monkey see, monkey do" design?

It'd be easy to fix the "monkey see, monkey do" look if you were walking around the neighborhood with a real alien.  You could ask him for seeds from his planet and have something growing in your yard no one else has.  Since aliens aren't known to stroll around our neighborhoods, the option of growing plants in a garden from another planet is unlikely.  But that little hiccup shouldn't stop you from planting an alien garden.  Plant a bog garden.

Ok, the plants are of this earth, but bog plants meet the alien look definition.  They eat insects, too and most will over winter with minimal care.  A bog garden is easy to build and maintain and can provide a great learning experience for children.  The best part: you'll most likely be the only one in your neighborhood growing this alien looking garden.

One word of warning, though.  Since we are a species of "monkey see, monkey do," don't tell your neighbors how easy and cheap it is to build a bog garden.  That'll be our secret.

TL;DR Folks:
Bad news, folks.  I'm asking your opinion so please grab a beer and read the article so you know what I'm asking.

For your listening pleasure:

Posted by A Drunk Redneck

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Mark Zuckerberg Is a Jackass

Dear Mr., Zuckerberg,

After many years (at least eight, if not more), of maintaining an account on your social media platform, you informed me that a "possible security breach" required me to verify my identity.  The options I had to verify my identity were to provide my birthday, ask friends for help, or submit bills or mortgage statements with addresses for verification.

Yeah, right.  You're a jackass.

Wait a minute.  Let me rephrase that.  YOU'RE A JACKASS.

When I signed up for access to your platform (or anyone else's platform for that matter), I don't give real information.  If I asked you for your real phone number and address right now, would you give it to me?  Of course you wouldn't.  Why should I give you mine?  YOU'RE A JACKASS TO THINK I WOULD.  And that's why eight plus years later, I don't remember the information I signed up with.  You're a jackass if you think I signed up with real information and your a jackass if you think I'd remember the false data eight plus years later.

Yup, I can see the family resemblance.  Can You?
Are you getting the impression I think you're a jackass yet? 

There was some security breach on my account, an account I created with a lot of false information because you don't deserve my information any more than I deserve your information.  Since there was a "breach in security" after eight plus years, I want to delete the account.  I can't remember the fake birthday I created the account under.  (Care to tell me your birthday?)  Over the years, I've changed my emails my thirteen friends might know, if they ever knew it, so their help is useless.  (Care to tell me your email?)  And I'm not going to send you my electric bill and mortgage/rent bill (Care to send me yours?) so how do I reclaim or delete my account?  My electric or mortgage bill wouldn't match the address I gave you over eight years ago anyway, even if I gave you my real address back then.

You'd think reclaiming or deleting my account would be easy.  Go online to talk to a FaceBook representative or email someone.  Oh well, think again.  While you want to make it easy to know everything about me, you keep it top secret to know anything about you.  Locked out of my account, I can't even find a FaceBook employee through chat or email to resolve my problem.

Since I don't have an email address to send this complaint to, if, by chance, my letter goes viral and you catch wind of it, delete my dang FaceBook account. 

Confused how to do it?  My email link is in the right hand column.  Click on it, compose your email, and include your email address, date of birth, three friends' verification of who you are, and a copy of your electric or mortgage bill before I click ok for you to delete my account. 

Oh, and include your favorite ice cream flavor.  Ben and Jerry's has been bugging me to find out the answer and I would love to be able to fill your online experience with ice cream ads.  I hope it's rainbow sherbet.  That would make for a gay and colorful online experience, wouldn't it?


Posted by A Drunk Redneck

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Tactical Preparations Millennial Style

Over the last year, my TV has been flooded with Bell + Howell TAC productsA buff warrior of the Paintball Dome tries to sell me something by the TAC people.  I think the TAC spokesmen are really auditioning for soldiers-only-dot-com or your local health store pushing muscle protein shakes.  They're hoping to get discovered in case the pretend warrior gig doesn't work out.

"Normal sunglasses make things darker.  That could be dangerous in a tactical situation."

"It collapses into full armor mode."

Hey ladies.  You want something rugged...the
glasses I mean?  (More on Nick Bolton)
No lie.  Those are selling points for their TAC glasses and lanterns.  Should I worry about waking up one morning and finding myself in a tactical situation?  Is Trump going to order Homeland Security to invade my home?  Or maybe the Russians are coming through my computer and into my living room in a blitz attack?  Talk about getting up on the wrong side of the bed if that were to happen.

So far, I need to get flashlights (a couple of different models including military grade lights), amplifier for my ears, sunglasses, night vision glasses, lanterns, visors for my car, and a TAC tool.  I'm sure the list is growing.  I almost can't wait to see their next product release.

Will someone tell me why all of a sudden I need to prepare for a tactical situation?  Am I going to end up as chattel mindlessly being herded to an internment camp if I don't get all this TAC stuff to protect me from...Trump?  Congress?  Russians?  Roseanne?  Christmas shoppers?

For the big brave men hawking the Bell + Howell TAC gear, I wonder if they have the TAC phone accessories to handle their spouses' tactical situations.  No hands car mount for the phone makes it easy and safe for them to call pest control to kill the spider in the bathroom.

Whew!  Another dangerous situation averted...and they didn't need to leave the Paintball Dome to take care of it.

Posted by Five Drunk Rednecks

Friday, July 6, 2018

Open Season on Cats

Judge Milian of the People's Court issued a bonehead decision.  She wins Bonehead of the Month, which puts her in the running for Bonehead of the Year.  She can relax, though.  I'm sure Trump will win Bonehead of the Year hands down.

The case she ruled on revolved around a cat that "accidentally got out of the house," as the sweet little old lady claimed, and jumped into the neighbor's fenced in yard.  The neighbor's dog attacked the intruding cat, killing it.

The sweet little old lady, who wasn't so sweet once she began talking, claimed her neighbor owed her a new cat.  The dog owner countersued for the almost four hundred bucks he owed in vet bills after the attack.

Judge Milian ruled against the plaintiff saying the neighbor's dog was in its fenced in yard and wasn't roaming free.  She then ruled against the neighbor's countersuit saying there are no cat leash laws so the cat was simply another animal in the yard.   The plaintiff can't be held any more responsible for her cat jumping in his yard than if a squirrel or raccoon jumped from her yard into his.

Come to think of it, maybe I should take back the Bonehead of the Month award.  Judge Milian set a precedence that could be used to justify an open season on cats.  Since there are no cat leash laws and Judge Milian ruled that a loose cat is the same as any other wild animal, we have justification to subject cats to a hunting season.

We're all familiar with the hunting season.  Various wildlife are legal to hunt at different times and with different weapons.  Coyote and nutria are legal to hunt year round in Maryland as is fox in Charles and Dorchester counties.  Year round hunting is colloquially known as "open season."

The interesting theme of the hunting season is that, with the exception of the fox, open season targets non-native invasive species that wreak havoc on our environment.  (Coyote and nutria are not native species to Maryland.)

Sika elk, however, break the non-native rule.  A small species of elk imported from Japan, they are protected on an equal basis to our native white tail deer.  Despite the damage sika elk wreak on our tidal marshlands, the elk support a strong hunting economy.  Money talks...and saves...when you're an invasive species.

That leaves us the paradox of the fox, a native species.  Why would the state allow an open season on the hunting and trapping of fox?  The fox is native, belongs here in the web of the ecosystem, and should be protected and regulated as any of our native animals...or so one would think.

No one will probably ever get a straight answer from the Department of Natural Resources on that question.  It's doubtful the head of Maryland's Department of Natural Resources, Mark Belton, could tell you which species of animals are native and which ones aren't.  A graduate of the US Naval Academy, it's unlikely he ever studied biology or ecology to understand what the bird visiting his backyard feeder is called, if it's native, and how important or detrimental it is to the local ecology.

In all fairness to Mr. Belton, he holds an impressive résumé.  A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, he majored in political science, served active duty for seven years and reserve duty for another seven.  His tour of duty included Kosovo and Baghdad.  He also owns a near book length list of agencies and commissions he's served on since leaving the military.

But nothing in his list of experience includes one wildlife management class.  One would think that some sort of experience or schooling would be a requirement to be the head honcho of a bureaucracy charged with wildlife management, but politicians and bureaucrats don't need experience.  They only need to network with the right people to get those inside jobs that you'll never see advertised on the Maryland Workforce Exchange Board.

We have a regulated hunting season to ensure a continual, healthy population of our favorite native animals.  We have open season (year round hunting) on non-native invasive species (coyote and nutria) unless that non-native species looks like Bambi (sika elk).  (For my astute readers and any DNR people who may take issue with my claiming Sika are an invasive species, I'll spare you my anecdotal evidence and let you read what the Chesapeake Bay Program suggests and Wide Open Spaces warns.)

It doesn't look like a chicken,
but I bet it tastes like chicken!
In at least two counties, one of our native animals is subject to an open season (fox), which throws a wrench in my explanation of how our DNR works, doesn't it?  Not really.  Since the DNR show is run by people with little or no experience in wildlife and ecology, three things work against the fox.  First, DNR relies on what they are told and since they aren't experts in wildlife management, they enact laws based on what others (experts and non-experts) tell them.  Second, fox ranks in the top five as carriers of rabies so that's a good enough reason to regulate their numbers.  Third, five major chicken producers (Perdue, Tysons, Mountaire, Allen Family Foods)  would love to see a fox-free Delmarva.  When the chicken producers talk, politicians bow in subservience.

Judge Milian set the precedence that a cat on the loose is like any other wild animal, singling out the raccoon and squirrel as an example.  Our DNR has set a couple of examples of how it regulates wildlife.  If the animal is an invasive non-native species, open season is in order unless it generates money for the state.  Non-native or not, if the animal is a rabies carrier and/or threatens our chickens (which threatens state revenue), open season is in order.

The cat is a non-native invasive impacting our local wildlife, a top five carrier of rabies (right behind the fox), and will take a chicken faster than a hungry football team at a chicken BBQ fundraiser.

Three strikes.  The cat is out.

Still opposed to an open season on cats?  This ecological impact statement could change your mind.  Americans eat 8.56 billion land animals each year.  Cats kill three times that number, up to an estimated 26 billion small animals and birds, yet are only a third of the population of people.  But cats don't raise the animals they eat on farms.  They take them from the wild.

DNR should act quickly to institute an open season on cats.  Left unchecked, the football team might not have enough chicken at the next BBQ fundraising event.

For your viewing pleasure:

Posted by Five Drunk Rednecks

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Let's Make This Year an Andy Harris Free Zone

Estimated read time: 11 minutes

Who should be our representative in Congress?  It is far easier for me to answer who our representative should not be than it is to answer who our representative should be.   That's a sad statement on our choices.

Let me start by stating emphatically and unequivocally - let's make the Eastern Shore of Maryland an Andy Harris free zone.

Pardon me.  I don't want to offend him.  Since he's always quick to point out that it's "Dr." Andy Harris, perhaps I should afford him the respect and refer to him as doctor.  Of course Congress isn't a doctor's office.  Perhaps Andy Harris should've remained in practice, which is where I would refer to him as "doctor" if I were brave enough to seek his medical services.

Yes, something about my elected official insisting he be referred to by a title rubs me the wrong way.  Since the government is of the people, for the people, and by the people, Mr., Ms., or full name is all an elected official should expect to be referred by.  It would serve politicians well to emulate George Washington's example and shun titles in sincere humbleness.  Note I didn't write "President" George Washington, but who does?

There's more to my opposition to Andy Harris than his bit of arrogance on insisting he be called doctor.   It's his voting record that has me saying, "Enough already!"

Andy Harris rode the Tea Party wave into Congress eight years ago.  I don't know the principles that describe the Tea Party other than they are mostly old people fifteen or twenty years either side of Andy Harris' age.  They coasted on the peaceful road of success during their early adulthood.  When the world changed after 9/11 and their life of luxury collapsed with the Great Recession in 2008, they grew angry and started hunting for scapegoats to blame for all their woes.

Andy Harris' voting record reflects that angry, blame everyone-not-like-me mindset.  Voting along strict, far right party lines, his support of the extreme ideology of his party is more important than the ideology of his constituents.  I'll let the group, Politics That Work, a nonpartisan group providing fact based information for voters, sum up Andy Harris' voting record.
Summary of voting record: Representative Harris opposes taxing businesses, consumer protection, disaster relief, funding education, environmental protection, financial sector regulation, gun control, public health, foreign and humanitarian aid, humane immigration policy, labor rights and wages, LGBT rights, avoiding default, poverty amelioration, racial equality, increasing revenues, taxing the wealthy, a robust safety net, higher spending, domestic surveillance, women's rights and supports big business, hawkish foreign policy, taxing the middle class. 
Of the summarized list, I can applaud Andy Harris only for his stance against domestic surveillance.  Since I'm not a one-issue voter, his stance on domestic surveillance and rights to privacy are not enough to sway my overall negative opinion of his performance in the last eight years.

If what I have given so far is not enough to convince you Andy Harris is bad for the Eastern Shore and bad for the country, consider his call for his colleagues in the Senate to refuse to hold confirmation hearings on President Obama's pick for the US Supreme Court seat vacated by Anthony Scalia.  I wrote him asking why he would encourage the Senate not to do their job as dictated by the Constitution.  I also asked a whole series of other questions related to his support for ignoring the Constitution.  You can read my letter and his response (or should I say non-response?) here.

In a nutshell, he gave me a lesson on the Constitution, which happened to be the same lesson I gave him while asking my questions.  He ended his response with the House doesn't hold confirmation hearings.  The Senate does.  Again, I already told him that.  I wanted to know why he was encouraging the Senate not to hold the confirmation hearings in defiance of the Constitution, the main question he never did answer.

If "no" to Andy Harris, who does that leave us with?

Slim pickings.

I perused each and every candidate's official website and, if they had one, official FaceBook page.  Each and every one had a bunch of words tied together with a lot of hot air to make sentences out of their collection of words.  A sample:
  • I served in the military.
  • I believe in the second amendment.
  • I am for taxing the wealthy because Republicans won't.
  •  I'm running because people need a representative who cares and works for them. 
  • I think we need responsible gun ownership.
  • I can get things done unlike the career politicians currently in Congress.
Those are paraphrased quotes that give a feel for what the eight candidates (excluding Andy Harris) pass off as their qualifications.

"Wait a minute," you might say.  "There's eight candidates, but only six quotes.  Are the other two candidates you didn't quote the qualified ones?"

Hardly.  Two of the candidates shared the "I served in the military" qualification.  The other candidate, Michael Brown (D), doesn't have a campaign website.  I can't even verify he knows he's running for office. For the same reason, I excluded Libertarian Jenica Martin.  She supplies no evidence she is a serious candidate such as an active campaign website or active social media account.

Guess what?  I have all six qualifications claimed by the seven active candidates.  Would you vote for me?  If your answer is no, then you know why we have slim pickings in candidate choices this year.

For the primary election, I will vote for Martin Elborn for two reasons.  First, I missed the deadline to change my party affiliation to Independent so I can still vote Republican.  Second, he won the coin toss.  That means Lamont Taylor is out.  He's probably a nice guy, but lousy at winning coin tosses.

On the Democrat side, I can eliminate five candidates right away.  Michael Brown because best I can tell, either he stands for nothing or he doesn't know he's running.  The four of the five remaining are running by virtue of the gerrymandering of our district.  I strongly believe congressional districts should be drawn on geography and population, not on how the redistricting favors one party over another.  Those four, Steve Worton, Erik Lane, Allison Galbraith, and Jesse Colvin, live on the other side of the Bay.  They talk a lot about themselves and a little about life over there, but not one mentions the Eastern Shore, our watermen, or our farmers.

At least none of the Democrats refer to the Eastern Shore as the outhouse of Maryland, but none of them seem to care we're over here, either.  (Yes, the military had me out in the Arizona desert when a former Democrat governor called the Eastern Shore a more vulgar term for outhouse, but even I heard the remark way out there.  This drunk redneck also has a long memory.)

All this rambling means there's one Democrat who lives over here, Michael Pullen.  His slogan play on words involving his first name struck me as odd.

"Pullen for Congress"
"Pullen for racial, social, and economic justice"
"Pullen for women"

Ok, that last one is creepy, but you get the idea of what he's doing.  If this is as creative as he and his staff can be, we may as well start recruiting our congresspersons from middle school, if we haven't already started that.

Reading his official website, I got the feeling a student in grade school wrote the page content for him.  I'm not the world's smartest man, but I know when I'm reading a children's book and a children's book is how his web page read.

I use a tool for my own writing, the Hemingway App, and I was curious how Mr. Pullen's writing stacked up.  The app passed him with flying colors.  The app also strives for a sixth grade reading level and Mr. Pullen's came in at the seventh grade level.  Major newspapers, like The New York Times or The Washington Post, are written on the eleventh grade level.  This article by me you are reading came in at an eighth grade level.  The low score might mean I've had a couple of beers too many.

Now I have to be careful here.  Some of your most famous authors, even the Pulitzer Prize winning ones, stick to the seventh to ninth grade reading level.  I don't know the science that goes behind these reading apps and how the levels are determined, but I can read Hemingway or King or any of the other great authors and not feel like I'm reading a grade school student's work.

My conclusion?  Mr. Pullen either wanted to get his message across in the clearest, simplest manner using the easiest to understand language and structure or, like Andy Harris insisting he be referred to as doctor, Mr. Pullen holds a degree of snobbery and contempt for us commoners.  Yes, most people are more comfortable reading two levels below their grade level so most high school graduates are comfortable reading at the ninth or tenth grade range.  Perhaps Mr. Pullen doesn't realize most of us on the Eastern Shore have graduated high school.

The last tidbit sealing my decision to make the Eastern Shore a Michael Pullen free zone in addition to an Andy Harris free zone is last summer, against the backdrop of the Talbot Boys (a monument honoring Talbot veterans who fought on the Confederate side of the Civil War), Mr. Pullen called for the immediate removal of the monument.

First, we honor all veterans, even the veterans from unpopular wars.  We don't diminish any veteran's service through faddish revisionist history claims.  It's imperative our elected officials stand behind our veterans, even our veterans from unpopular wars.  Second, the Talbot Boys is a local issue.  Congressional members (and candidates) concern themselves with national matters.  Mr. Pullen's ploy was plain, unadulterated pandering to a select group of voters.  Mr. Pullen spat on the veterans of a past war for the vote of Richard Potter, president of the Talbot NAACP, and possibly one disinterested citizen.  Pictures don't lie.

If she were running, I'd vote for her.  Looks like
she could take on DC one claw tied behind her back
Does all this rambling mean I endorse Martin Elborn?

Sorry, no.  So I'll ramble more for you entertainment or frustration.  I'll try to make it short, but you might want to grab a beer or a glass of wine just in case.

My normal method of looking for achievements and measurable goals failed to pick a suitable candidate to replace Andy Harris.  I have to lower my expectations and set the bar for the candidates that even they can hurdle.  Where they live and the coin toss is out.  How straight and narrow they toe the party line is in.  The more one plays party puppet, the less likely they'll get my vote.

On the Republican side Martin Elborn will get my vote in the primary.  I don't know if I'll vote for him come the general election, but if he wins the primary, he has a lot of work ahead of him.  Lamont Taylor is probably a nice guy, but he regurgitates the party line almost word for word - pretty much like Andy Harris does.  We have too many puppets in Congress.  We don't need to send another one.

On the Democrat side, I have to bring in the four candidates who live on the other side of the Bay since Michael Pullen is in exile with Andy Harris.  We have, in no particular order, Jesse Colvin, Allison Galbraith, Erik Lane, and Steve Worton.

Following the standard of who toes the party line the straightest, Steve Worton is out.  The overall tone of his official campaign site reeks of us vs them, that is Democrats vs Republican and Democrats are the only ones who have it right.  I can't vote for him in the primary, but if he shows up on the ballot in the general election, I'm in a real dilemma if he runs against Andy Harris.

Allison Galbraith, Erik Lane, and Jesse Colvin pass the puppet test.  Since I can't vote for any of them in the primary, I only gave a cursory glance at where they stand on the issues.  One didn't stand out over the others.  If Andy Harris is on the ticket come November, I hope one of these three oppose him.  They will get my vote.

If you want to learn more about any of the candidates, please visit Ballotpedia.   You'll find every candidate listed and all the links to their Internet presence (official website, FaceBook, and Twitter accounts).  Know you candidates before you go to the polls!

TL;DR folks:
We need to make the Eastern Shore an Andy Harris free zone.  While we're at it, we may as well as make it a Michael Pullen free zone, too. 

For your listening pleasure:

Posted by Five Drunk Rednecks

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Christopher Adams for State Delegate

Estimated read time: 9 minutes

Primary elections are right around the corner - June 26th.  As a voter, you have been given the position of Human Resources Hiring Manager and tasked with the job of reviewing each candidate's qualifications.

The simple way to decide whom to vote for is to look at the letter following the candidate's name.  While that may be the simplest method to weed through the candidates, it's not the most reliable.  Think about how many jobs a Human Resources Manager rejected you for because they didn't see the letters BS, MS, or PhD after your name.  Do you think the candidate with one of those sets of letters after their name was more qualified than you?  If not, why would you think a D or an R after a candidate's name automatically qualifies them for the position they are running for?

You can also ignore the list of qualifications that includes such nonsense as born and raised on the Eastern Shore, go to Church every Sunday, and want to make our community a better place for my kids to raise their families.  Those types of statements tell you nothing about their qualifications for the position they seek.

What does that leave you to look at?  The person, their accomplishments, and their plan of action.

At least one candidate has given you his résumé loaded with some impressive accomplishments.  He prefaces his accomplishments with the introduction that he "served on the House Economic Matters Committee and worked directly on legislation that affected policy on banking, energy, business regulation, and commercial law."  He also stated that the House of Delegates, which he is a part, passed the state budget and worked on "well over 3,000 bills."  In other words, he did his job.

Now comes the hard part.  How well did Delegate Adams do his job?

Again, straight from his résumé, we can verify he did exactly what he outlined for us.
  • Delegate Adams is the primary sponsor of a HB135 that, in effect, edits an existing law.  The edits change the distance of offshore wind projects from "10 - 30 nautical miles" to "not less than 26 nautical miles."  What is important to understand about this bill is Delegate Adams created it in response to concerns that that the turbines - which are now much larger than originally proposed five years ago - will produce an eyesore that could have a negative impact on tourism.  As Delegate Adams told WMDT News, and they reported, "he's not against the turbines - he just wants them out of sight of beach goers." 

    Just as we should be concerned with preserving our rural and agricultural landscape, we should also be concerned with preserving our ocean seascape.  The opposition to Delegate Adam's bill doesn't live near the ocean and so ignore the potential negative aesthetic impact the turbines might have.  They are only concerned with the added cost to build the turbines six to nine nautical miles further out than with preserving the aesthetics of the beaches.  As of March, HB135 received an unfavorable report by the Economic Matters Committee and no further action has been taken.  Apparently, money matters more to those in Annapolis who won't have to live with the turbines than the people of Worcester County who will.

  • Delegate Adams is the primary sponsor of HB1163, Waterfowl Hunting License Reciprocity.  The bill allows a hunter from another state to hunt snow geese in Maryland if the hunter holds a valid hunting license from their home state, their home state also allows Maryland hunters to hunt snow geese in their state without holding that state's license, and the hunter purchases a Maryland migratory game bird stamp.  While I'm sure this bill cost Delegate Adams the snow geese vote, the bipartisan bill might stimulate economic activity here on the Eastern Shore benefiting more than hunters.  

    "What?" you might be thinking. 

    If you remember my article, Are You a Hole in Your Community's Leaky Bucket?, think of your community's economy as a bucket with holes and money as the water the bucket is supposed to hold.  Money leaves your community through state and federal taxes, spending at national companies (your big chain stores), and you leaving town for vacation, to name a few.  When money leaves your community, your quality of living goes down.  Money comes into your community through your pay check (if you are employed outside of your community), government grants, and, yes, tourism, to name a few.  When more money comes into your community, your quality of living goes up.

    Delegate Adam's HB1163 positions the Eastern Shore as a more desirable hunting destination for out-of-state hunters than other states that lack a hunting reciprocity agreement.  Hunters from another state means more money coming into your community.  More money means your quality of living goes up.  How does your quality of living go up?  More money circulating in your community means more money for your schools, more money to get local projects done, more jobs, including more seasonal jobs to earn extra Christmas money, to name a few. 

  • Sole sponsor of HB1426, Natural Resources - Aquaculture Leases and Public Shellfish Fishery Areas.  This bill is very near and dear to my heart.  When I first formed Five Drunk Rednecks with four other friends a few years ago, my friend Brian (The World Is Emptier Today) would spend many hours talking about how the state is forcing independent watermen out of business.  Burdensome legislation, buy backs of commercial licenses, waiting lists to get a license, prohibitive costs to get a boat licensed and on the water - and the list could go on for pages and pages - all create an expensive and tangled maze of obstacles to earning a living on the Bay.  As Brian said, "They [the government] want us out of business so the big corporations can lease the Bay bottom to farm it.  Most watermen can't afford to start an aquaculture enterprise.  Most of us don't even make enough money to get the credit we need to start in the first place."

    HB1426 attempts to step in to protect the independent watermen from the encroaching commercialization of the Bay.  The most endangered species on the Bay right now is the Maryland waterman.  HB1426 attempts to level the playing field to give our independent watermen an equal footing with multi-national corporations before our independent watermen disappear from the Bay.

The rest of Delegate Adam's résumé package gives an overview of other measures the House of Delegates worked on and gives you, the Human Resource Hiring Manager, a good feel for where Delegate Adams stands on various issues.  When he talks about the work on the budget and how Governor Hogan's plan, "Protecting Maryland Taxpayers Act of 2018", would shield Marylanders from paying an estimated $600 million in taxes, he notes the act never made it out of committee.

"Unfortunately, the temptation of new tax revenue is too much for the General Assembly to pass up," he wrote.

Delegate Adams echoed the sentiment many on the Eastern Shore have felt for several decades, if not longer.

State wetlands administrator Bill Morgante?
What do you mean there are no buffer zones
on Kent Island?  I see a couple of trees down
there.  The law doesn't say how many trees
make a buffer zone.
Watermen witness the transformation of a tidal marshland island, Kent Island, into a sprawling conglomeration of houses, condominiums, and big business connected by acres and acres of paved roads and parking lots.  In the last three years alone, approval has been given for a one thousand plus housing community, a community center complete with 108 parking spots and an active senior citizen community of an additional almost three hundred homes adjacent to a community of just over two hundred single family homes currently being built.  Rough math translates this growth to one building per less than one acre of land, which means close to a thousand acres of prime critical bay habitat is being paved and built on.  That's a thousand acres gone forever.

The watermen scratch their heads over the lack of the one to two hundred foot required buffer zones and the thousand foot limited development zone.  In the critical bay habitat the watermen live in, they can't build a house on less than five acres unless it is a house for a close family member.  They need to own twenty acres to build a house for anyone else.  Kent Island has become a suburb of Annapolis over the last thirty years and, apparently, is no longer considered by the Annapolis elite as critical bay habitat subject to the same rules as the rest of the Bay area.

Farmers witness the expansive lawns of mini-estates right to the water's edge and the lack of buffer zones, lack of storm runoff drainage ditches for filtering pollution and controlling erosion, and lack of strict limitations on all the fertilizers and herbicides used to create the perfect lawn.  They scratch their heads as they drive by an estate booked for a weekend wedding accommodating a couple of hundred guests trampling the perfect lawn, the trampling that will be fixed the next day with more fertilizers and herbicides before next weekend's booked event.  Lawmakers in Annapolis, apparently, don't view waterfront mini-estates in the same light as farms despite the evidence that private residences contribute to at least half of the Bay pollution and possibly even more.

Enough of blaming the little guy.

Delegate Christopher Adams has given you a comprehensive employment package you can read below.  From it, you can see the action he has taken, why he took those actions, and deduce what more he would like to do if hired for another four years.  He has actively fought for the average Worcester resident who doesn't want to look at an eyesore every day as she looks out over the ocean, an eyesore that has the potential to deter tourism and negatively affect her local economy.  He's actively fought for the hard working watermen to help preserve the long history of their way of life by giving them a fighting chance to remain competitive as corporate interests gobble up the leasing rights from them.  He's actively fought for local businesses and made it easier for hunters to hunt in this state, a move that may entice more hunters to come to the Eastern Shore and support our local businesses.

That's a pretty impressive record for a freshman delegate.  If he could do all that in his first four years, imagine what he could do in the next four. 

TL;DR folks:
Delegate Adams has built an impressive record of accomplishments during his first four years in Annapolis.  If the article above or his newsletter below are too long to read, then take my word for it.  Vote for Christopher Adams in the primary on June 26th.

Related Links:
Jury reform may have a sympathetic ear in a genuine statesman

For your reading pleasure:
Some readers may find this smaller version of the flip book below difficult to read or control.  You can either right click the newsletter and select "view in a new window" or click here to read the enlarged version at its home website,  Yumpu is the third party website that allowed me to create the flipbook of Delegate Adam's newsletter.  No registration is required and it is not a spam site.  It's a legitimate website run by a company based in Germany.  You can visit the site with the same sense of security you visit any other web site.

Added bonus for your viewing pleasure:

Posted by Five Drunk Rednecks

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The feeling that no English word describes

Estimated read time: 14 minutes

I watched Stephen King's 11.22.63 miniseries with the only other drunk redneck remaining, Keith. 

Ok, quick review for readers who may not have seen the show.  It was ok and entertaining for me.  Keith loved it.  He thought it was a beautiful love story with a supernatural/sci fi element and he'd watch it again.  I thought Stephen King saw the movie, The Butterfly Effect and wrote 11.22.63 as his interpretation of the phenomenon. 

Now back to my story.

At the beginning of the movie, a character, who had traveled back to 1960, says to the main character of the story that the food back then tasted better than it does today.  Keith turned to me and said, "See?  I told you the food was better back when I was a kid."

The food did taste better when we were kids, didn't it?  The thought may have triggered an emotion in you that no English word describes.  It's a nostalgic, almost melancholic desire to return to days that have long since passed.   We hear the emotion expressed every day.

"Back when I was a kid...."

"In the good ol' days...."

"Whatever happened to...."

"I remember when...."

Yet there is no English word to describe the emotion being expressed.

Ok, don't pretend you have no idea what I'm talking about.  "Back when I was a kid...I used to love caramel apples."  That's not the feeling I'm describing. 

"Back when I was a kid...caramel on caramel apples was richer and creamier.  Those were the good days when the food tasted better" - now that's getting closer to the feeling I'm describing.  There's a certain longing or desire for food to taste like it once did.  For soda to taste sweet like it did when they used real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.  Or candy bars to be loaded with whole peanuts instead of lightly coated with peanut pieces.  Or chips to be liberally doused with their flavorings instead of sprinkled with just enough to be able to call them something more than just chips. Or...well, you get the picture, but if not, Mark Schatzker delights us with an entertaining read of why everything tastes like chicken today.

A few of my articles touch on this emotion that no English word describes.  The historic tours of Maryland's Eastern Shore's watermen communities or one man's fight to save an island are a couple of examples.

An entire industry was built on this emotion.  From blues to rock and bluegrass to hip hop, songs lament for the days when life was simpler and love was virgin.  Songs as disparate as longing for a lost love or searching for greener grass where the corn don't grow, the lyrics express a longing for what was, but we know we can never have again.

Most anything can trigger the emotion.  The trigger can be an article, a song, a scene in a park, the sight of an old house abandoned and crumbling, the smile of your spouse years after you first met, and, yes, even the taste of your favorite dish.  Sometimes, it can be more than one trigger over a period of days...or even longer...that elicits the emotion of aching longing you finally feel.

Coming across the Choptank River Bridge in Cambridge shortly after sunset, a waterman chugged his boat into port, the red and green bow lights leading the way.  I could hear the quiet, hollow splashing of the bow waves as the work boat cut its path towards the dock.  No, my hearing isn't that good.  I experienced a touch of this emotion no English word describes.  I have been on a boat enough to know what it sounds like as it chugs into port.  As the waterman chugged his way in, the sight triggered the sounds in my head, the sense of independence of doing a hard day's work, and the longing to be free and independent like that waterman.

A week and a half later, I passed through some watermen towns on a road trip that I haven't been through since I was a kid.  Many of the buildings once lived in lay empty and deteriorating, skeletal reminders of glory days gone by.  My thoughts flashed back to the waterman's boat chugging into port as I crossed the Choptank Bridge.  With the backdrop of these dying watermen communities, the slow chug and quiet, hollow splashing of the bow waves echoed the dejected emotion of another hard day's work that yielded a poverty level catch - a catch caught under the burden of excessive regulation designed to put the independent waterman out of business.  As much as we cherish our waterman past, the waterman is a dying breed - one our grandchildren might only get to read about in books.

My road trip that day took me practically the entire length of Delmarva.  With the exception of Betterton Beach - an excursion into this emotion of melancholic longing in itself - my travels were off the beaten path and even further from the tourist's path.  It's off the freeways and beyond the two-lane roads with their neatly painted center lines that one discovers the glorious past of what once was and has since been lost.  It's off these beaten paths that you discover the lost hopes, shattered dreams, and the collective death of a way of life - the death of a culture.

Heading north on US 301 on my trip to Betterton Beach, I passed Joe's gas station.  Anyone who passes Joe's would see an abandoned gas station and next to it, another abandoned building that could've been a retail outlet or restaurant.  Some might not give the sight a second thought.  Others might be hit with a twinge of the emotion that has no English word equivalent.

Why were these buildings abandoned?

Who owned these businesses and what happened to them?

Why did they close?

Where did the people go?

Were times here better long ago?

Who lived and worked here and what stories will they not get to tell?

                What faded dreams look like                 
 That fleeting glimpse of two abandoned buildings takes  
 you back to where you lived and grew up...back to the  
 time when the food tasted better and life was simpler. 
 You have no connection to the abandoned buildings nor  
 to the area you're passing through, but somehow you  
 feel a little empty.

As I passed Joe's, I felt that emptiness and longing to go back to when the area was vibrant and alive.  The difference for me, however, is I didn't need to guess the story behind the abandoned gas station.  Since I grew up in the area, I sort of knew the story.

Joe, the garage mechanic and owner of the now abandoned shop, wore light colored overalls and a light gray baseball cap that hugged his skull.  Oddly, I remember his nose being almost Bob Hope like, but not as pronounced in its upturn, and more flattened on its tip with a bit of a crease down the middle.  A couple of deep wrinkles on his face told me he was old, but to a ten-year-old, anyone out of high school was old.  I simply knew he was as old as my Mom and Dad, if not older.

The only other thing I remember is a huge pot sat on the floor by the window and a huge jade tree flourished in what looked like no soil.  When I asked Mr. Joe how he got the tree so big, all he said was that he dumped cigarette ashes and coffee grounds in the pot every morning along with the dirt he swept up every evening.  He watered it whenever he remembered, which, he said, might have been two or three times a month.

My Dad wasn't fond of Joe and only used his services a couple of times in an emergency.  As a kid, I didn't know the reasons why nor did I care about the games adults play.  I do remember my Dad talking in conversation at home that Joe held onto that gas station because some day it would make him rich.

"Plans are," my Dad claimed, "to reroute all the 95 traffic cutting through DC and Baltimore going to Philly and points north over the Bridge to alleviate the DC/Baltimore congestion.  The new route will bring tens of thousands of truckers and travelers right past Joe's.  Joe figures he's sitting on a valuable piece of real estate when all that traffic comes."

Those may have been the plans over forty years ago, but the traffic never came.  Joe's gas station and the Howard Johnson's next door are boarded up, vacant buildings today.  The buildings stand as testament to the lives that were and the hopes and dreams that faded away.

All along my trip, abandoned or crumbling buildings dotted my journey.  I didn't know the story behind those buildings like I knew the story behind Joe's gas station, but that feeling of aching, almost melancholic longing, created their stories for me.

Passing through the town of Crumpton, MD, the deteriorating houses peppering Main Street triggered that feeling no English word describes.  Passing a dilapidated house, I saw ten-year-old Billy and Eric on the wrap around porch eating watermelon and spitting the seeds out across the sidewalk in a competition of who could spit the seeds the furthest.  Eric's sixteen-year-old sister, Melissa, storms out on the porch shooing her brother and his friend away.

"Go on, Eric.  Take Billy with you and go eat your watermelon across the yard.  Tommy's coming by and I don't want you embarrassing me in front of him."

Eric teases his sister a little more and then motions for Billy to follow him to the river bank where they eat more watermelon while doing a little bit of fishing.

The scene takes place some seventy or eighty years ago, back in the dilapidated house's heyday.  Little brother Eric, like everyone in town, knew when Melissa would graduate high school in two years, she and Tommy would get married and start a family of their own.  Tommy would work the water like his father and his grandfather did, and like all the men in his family did as far back as anyone could remember.  Melissa would tend to the house, raise the children, and she and the children would farm their acre or two, the farm that would provide all their vegetables through the winter with maybe some extra pickled and stewed vegetables to sell to Mr. Grimble, owner of the general store down the street.  She would even grow watermelon so her son and his friend could spit watermelon seeds from their porch.

Within a year after chasing her brother and his friend from the porch, though, tragedy struck Melissa's family.  Mom got real sick.  The community came together to try to help the family.  Melissa's high school held a series of bake sales to raise money to help cover her family's medical expenses, including the frequent trips to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore across the Bay.  The congregation at the Church prayed every Sunday and held a few bazaars and charity bingo nights to help Melissa's family meet their financial costs.

In the end, though, Melissa's Dad had to sell his boat and then the house with the wrap around porch that Eric and his friend, Billy, spat watermelon seeds from.  Halfway through Melissa's senior year of high school, Dad had sold everything Melissa had ever known as her life so they could move across the Bay to a smaller, city dwelling.  Mom had to get better and the only way she could get better was to be nearer to the hospital trying to treat her illness.

Before leaving, Melissa promised Tommy once she graduated high school over there, she'd come back to him.  Tommy promised he would work hard and have a house waiting for her when she returned.

Tommy graduated high school, but Melissa never returned.  He wrote her and she him, but the letters came fewer and fewer apart as the months passed.  The last Tommy heard from Melissa was a year and a half or so after he graduated high school.  Because of the move halfway through her senior year, the city schools held her back a year.

Tommy knew Melissa would return to him.  He worked the Bay hard and saved every penny he could.  He wanted to buy her old house if the current owners ever sold it.  That would be his gift to her, the house she grew up in, when she came back.

One day, about three years after he graduated high school, Tommy took the boat out to dredge some oysters.  All the old timers warned him to stay in port because a big storm was brewing, but he brushed off the warnings.

"Pop can't get out like he used to and we still have bills to pay.  I can get at least a half day of dredging done."

Tommy never returned to port that day.  After the storm had passed, his boat was found adrift, but half full of water, about thirty miles down the Bay.  Three days after the storm, Tommy's body was found washed up in a cove.

Rumors were Tommy was so heart broken, he committed suicide that day out on his boat.  Others said the storm grew more quickly and more fierce than anyone could predict and Tommy was caught off guard by it.  Others said he was just too cocky of a young man who tried to defy the conventional wisdom of the old timers and paid the ultimate price for his youthful arrogance.  Whatever happened on the boat that day, no one will ever know, but they'll all talk about it as if they were there.

Tommy's parents buried him up on the hill.  His Pop didn't have the energy to go out on the water any more after Tommy died.  They sold their house and disappeared from the community.  Rumors abounded, none worth repeating.

Many years later, when Billy was well passed middle age, he claimed he saw a guy about his age with an older woman wandering around the tombstones up on the hill.  They stopped at Tommy's grave.  The woman stooped down and gently touched the cold concrete tombstone and then the two wandered off.  Billy swears the guy was his childhood friend, Eric, and his sister, Melissa, but by the time he stumbled up the hill, the car they were in had already driven halfway down the road out of town.

That makes for a nice story, but no one in town believed Billy.  He grew up to be the town drunk, and probably stoner, so some say.  Since no one else saw the strangers up on the hill, townsfolk entertained Billy's story, but none really believed him.

You almost want a rewind to when Billy and
Eric spat watermelon seeds from the porch
No one in Crumpton today, who sees Melissa's old, falling down home, knows anything about the house or who lived in it.  The people who would know have long since died.  Their children, who might remember something, sit in a nursing home today reminiscing about their own lives, and probably reminiscing in some other state far from Crumpton.  They might be able to vaguely recall the story and their tragic ending, but, honestly, Melissa's house outlived everyone's memory of Tommy and Melissa.

People are very adaptable to change.  They come and go in their pursuit of stability for their families and for greener pastures.  The footprints they leave behind - abandoned businesses, overgrown gardens, vacant homes, and, yes, tombstones - are stories of hopes and dreams manifested, but never told...lived, but long forgotten. 

Perhaps I inadvertently explained why we experience this almost melancholic, yet hopeful yearning emotion that no English word describes.  We fear facing and accepting the fact our existence here is insignificant pixel in the bigger picture of existence.  We want to go back to the time when life's experiences we're new and we believed we had forever to learn and enjoy all life gave us.

We don't have a word to describe this emotion, but the Portuguese do.  They call it saudade (pronunciation).  Maybe we should face our mortality and adopt the Portuguese word for the emotion that took me over two thousand words to convey.

And maybe we should start living every day as if it's our last because you'll never be able to recapture it later when you miss it the most.

TL;DR folks:
There's an emotion we all experience, but no English word describes.  It took me over 2,000 words to try to describe it.  Sit back with a beer or glass of wine and savor the reading.  Some day, you might miss the good old days when you weren't so hurried to do things.

For your listening pleasure
Since I could not find an appropriate video to go with my song selection, Love and Rocket's Saudade, I had to make my own video.  That meant scouring hours and hours worth of video to find the perfect clip for the story I had in mind to tell you.  After listening to the music selection, please click on the links to YouTube videos I used to tell my story.  These professional storytellers tell a story much better than I can in a song clip.

Posted by Five Drunk Rednecks