Saturday, December 29, 2007

More Delaware Blogs

Today was gray and rainy and, aside from a run to the bank and the library and the normal kid-carting, perfect for some on-line loitering. I spent some time, therefore, poking around the web in search of more Delaware blogs to add to my ever-expanding list.

I use to track, categorize, and blog-roll a variety of blog-links over on the left side there. I keep a list of Delaware blogs in general, a list of (mostly Delaware) political blogs, and a list of other blogs I enjoy.

Sometimes I wonder why I've let myself get sucked into so obsessively tracking the blogs here in Delaware. The web is meant to be a global community, and much of what I do on-line aligns with my communities of interest -- geospatial data, music, the Dead, blogging itself. Yet I still like to track those blogs that focus here on the 2,000 square miles of the First State. It is where I live, I suppose, and these are the people I see most often.

So here are some Delaware blogs I found today (and a few days ago too). In no particular order. A few are just-started; an early New Year's resolution or a Christmas present to the self. Others are a months or more old and have been hiding in plain sight.
  • Bring Me Up -- A series of music reviews.
  • Frank's Ramblings!! -- Frank posts things he finds on his daily travels.
  • Creative Rants from Nerissa -- She says it is "her page; her rants." But there's more than ranting here.
  • Blog Avenue -- "Jen's City Blog." About life in Wilmington, I think.
  • Clockwork Jalopy -- "...where I park my many ideas and weird views." We all need that.
  • Bienvenue Chez Seals -- A transplanted Frenchwoman in upstate Delaware.
  • Just Purge -- "Clear your mind. Cleanse your soul."
  • On Transmigration -- "Gay, Happy, not quite Ecstatic, and moving on to a new life and responding well to therapy."
  • Jenny Q -- A mom From Newark, Delaware. With a teen. Bless her.
  • katielynn -- Newlywed woman in Delaware.
  • Everyday Hustle and The Fine Print -- These appear to be two young friends upstate. They each have their own blog, but there are cross-references.
  • Useless Entertainment -- Music reviews, from Milton, Delaware.
  • Another Gun Blog -- "...a 22 year old law clerk / college student and a gun nut."
  • Blue Hen Hash House Harriers -- "...announcements and write ups for the Blue Hen Hash House Harriers, a Delaware drinking club with a running (stumbling) problem."
  • Object of Complacency -- A young man. I think a Delaware high school student.
  • Shoreman -- Keeping an eye on the shore from the Delaware side of Delmar.
  • It's All Greek To Me! -- A teacher at a (Delaware?) Greek charter school.
  • along the way -- She is "a writer, a minister, a friend, a sister, a daughter, and a wanderer" who also "manage[s] a church camp and conference grounds" in Bethany Beach, Delaware.
  • VibrantPolitics -- A young man in Newark closely following the Democratic primaries.
  • Average Girl In Average World -- An average person. Who blogs.
  • Delaware Venable -- Fairly tightly focused on religion. Right-leaning Christian variety. A retired state trooper.
You may notice that most of these are Blogger blogs. My cheat for today was to surf the "Delaware" tag in Blogger's profiles. I like to do that every once in a while. This time of year is usually a good time to find new blogs.

I will, of course, continue my practice of checking all of the blogs I link to each month to see if they are still active. Those with a month or more without new posts are moved out of the blog-roll and onto the inactives list. I do track their RSS feeds to try to catch them and re-add them when they come back to regular posting.

There are a small number of Delaware-based blogs that I find that I choose not to link to. These tend towards the virulently racist and anti-semetic. As a general rule, I don't link to blogs that feature collections of fascist iconography. Call me intolerant. It's my blog-roll.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Getting Ready for a New Year

There's a "2008" sign posted on Legislative Mall, in Dover. It is next to a white-painted telephone pole topped by a chicken-wire and Christmas-light ball that will drop on New Year's Eve.

Things have been somewhat quiet around state government this week. Some of us took Wednesday off to return from holiday travel. Others took the week itself; for travel or extended family time.

The time between Christmas and New Years is a great opportunity to get concentrated work done. There are fewer calls and fewer meetings.

I've used my few days this week mostly to review draft data as part of the statewide aerial photography project we've undertaken. I'll continue that work on Monday.

Then we return to a new 2008 on Wednesday.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Merry Christmas to All

Let It Snow (Repeat)

Yesterday was unseasonably warm (despite the wind and the rain) and I found myself wishing for a white-Christmas snowfall here in the Mid-Atlantic region.

It doesn't seem likely, though, so I went back to my "making snowflakes" posts of December 2004 to find a link to Lookandfeel New Media's Make-A-Flake site. This is an on-line site for e-cutting e-paper into e-flakes. And I e-did.

I'm not sure whether or not this site has been maintained in the intervening years. The download your flake and e-mail your flake applications don't seem to be working (or maybe not with FireFox).

So I had to grab screenshots. which led me to notice a grammatical error that I'd missed in my younger days (of three years ago).

The site numbers the flakes that are made. According to the dialog-box that popped up when I was done, my flake was number 16409992. Or perhaps I myself am flake number 16409992. The box does say "You're flake #..."

And while I was taking a closer look at this site, I read the "be nice" small print to find:
Please help us keep the snowflakes clean. Report offensive snowflakes when you click the snowflake.
I suppose it must be possible to cut a paper snowflake to resemble a naked person or something otherwise untoward. But I myself lack that creative talent.

I can cut spiny, sparkly snowflakes though. And all I need is to create about 3,485,824 more!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

In Troubled Times, Where Shall a Bruised Nation Turn for Soothing Ironic Distance?

I found myself drawn to this recent headline from The Onion: Nation's Crumbling Infrastructure Probably Some Sort Of Metaphor.

The satirical "newspaper" recounts recent infrastructure failures and notes that these failures are "forcing many to question whether the nation's rapidly deteriorating roads, contaminated drinking water and groundwater, and run-down schools could perhaps be a metaphor for something."

"Everywhere you turn you see improperly maintained railways, structurally deficient bridges—not to mention billions of gallons of untreated sewage flowing directly into our groundwater," said Adam Perry, a representative for the ASCE. "Is there an underlying message here? There are so many layers, and each one is so subtle and nuanced, that I'm hesitant to make any kind of blanket statement about what this means 'for America.'"

"I think our overstretched and increasingly obsolete infrastructure might symbolize something important," Perry added. "But what?"

I find myself missing that sort of irony-heavy satirical commentary now that the TV-writers' strike has darkened the nation's airwaves. I wonder where to turn for the acerbic commentary I once depended on The Daily Show to provide.

As it happens, commercial television is not the only place to find such content. As we turn away from reality-TV, we are rediscovering thoughtful, written cynicism in all manner of formats, from traditional printed books and magazines to on-line blogs and, for the more adventurous, personal conversation.

Aside from The Onion, there are other goofy-news sites such as ScrappleFace, McSweeney's and the (somewhat NSFW) Daily Mash over in the United Kingdom. There are sites featuring humorous writing in general, such as Francesco Explains It All. And the TV writers are creating new on-line video content in their own cause at Speechless.

So, as the writers' strike drags into a new year, and we resign ourselves to television without great wit, people around the nation are re-discovering the joys of literature, learning about alternate media, and indulging in conversation.

And some -- a brave few -- are starting to express their own, very personal, satire.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Delaware Photo Blogs

I've been thinking about posting an item about Kevin Fleming's Wild Delaware blog ever since I ran across it back in September. I did add it to my blogroll, but I am lazy and easily distracted and eventually other Delaware bloggers made note of Kevin's blog and started spreading the word.

Kevin is Delaware's premier photographer. His are the coffee-table books we give when we want to give the gift of Delaware-ness. I had the privilege of meeting and being photographed by Kevin back in the spring of 2006; I'm a fan.

But Kevin is not the only one taking cool photos in our state. I've collected links to at least eight other Delaware photography blogs and even more Delaware photography web sites. So I thought I'd present a selection of those sites too. In absolutely no discernible order.

Tony Pratt also photographs nature in this area. Tony is an old friend I worked with at DNREC many years ago. He works in beach preservation and spends much of his time on the shoreline, in the dunes, and working with property owners. He is also a former Lewes leader; he helped write the City's first comprehensive plan, which I have now been part of updating.

Remind me to tell you the story sometime about working down the Delaware Coast with Tony and Mike Powell early one morning in January, 1992, during a major Nor'Easter. We were taking pictures (pre-digital cameras, unfortunately) of storm damage. It was an adventure.

I ran into Tony at the Dover Safeway one day recently. There's a decent salad bar in there and I often see colleagues wandering through at lunch time. Tony told me he'd started his own photo blog. He has been joining Kevin for early morning photography visits to area marshes. I think he's had pretty stunning results.

There are several other professional photographers with blogs. Laura Novak and Lance Lanagan both have studios and specialize in portraiture and weddings and such. There's also a blog for, by and about the Delaware Professional Photographers group.

And there are semi-pros.

Photodee blogs about her "adventures in knitting & photography." I don't know anything about knitting, but her photography is pretty cool.

Dave Wolanski has both a personal photoblog, Things I See, and a new Dave's Photo Tips blog where he offers advice and guidance on shooting with digital cameras.

And So That Happened... was a photo-a-day blog that was active from late 2004 through this past spring.

There are also bloggers who, like me, making photography a part of what they post, if not the main focus. These include, and I'm sure I'm leaving somebody out, Delmar Dustpan, Elbert (with an "E"), and The Happy Hippie.

And finally, many of us also post Delaware photography to one of several flickr groups focused on the first state or to the collection of photo collections.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Delaware State News: Off-Line

Independent Newspapers, Inc., wants me to pay $145 a year to view the contents of the Delaware State News on-line. Up until today, INI had offered a limited selection of local news stories in an ad-heavy, if not terribly exciting, web 1.0 format.

No longer.

This morning, their old "news" link led to a statement that one can now read the ENTIRE newspaper on-line. If one subscribes. And that some local news will still be included in their Newszap forums.

I didn't see any news in the forums, so I sent an e-mail to the auto-contact link they have. Here's what I got back (in part):
Thanks for your email. To be honest with you, we reached the conclusion that we could no longer give away our newspaper content for free. We are proud of the work our staff members are doing and believe we’re making a difference for thousands of people every day.

We hope you will consider purchasing an e-Subscription, which will give you every page of every edition of the newspaper in an easy-to-read format and with full search capabilities. To make this option more attractive, we have an introductory offer of 2 years for the price of 1, which we think is a great deal!
I think it's a form e-mail. I sent my question in to two separate contact links and got the same e-mail back each time. I followed the link they sent and, after a bit of searching, and working my way through a name and address data collection page (Harrington J. Millworthy, IV, at your service), but eventually I found the Subscription Rates page (above left).

I guess that 2-fer offer means I could get two years of the e-paper for $145. That's very generous, but still probably not of interest to me.

As part of my job, I scan a variety of news sources for items related to land-use planning and to geospatial data uses. Until now, the State News has been one of those sources. But given the low volume of news I usually found, I don't know that it is worth it to subscribe to an online version of the printed paper. Someone who gets that paper the old fashioned way is likely to let us know if there is ever anything worth looking at.

I don't think this change will do the State news much good. The News Journal offers a relatively complete edition on-line each day. I think they have too many ads, but understand they have to pay the bills. The Cape Gazette also offers a paid "full content" version but does post the main news of each week for free.

The New York Times tried a pay-only premium portion of their site for a while, but scrapped that plan this fall (remember Times Select?). In part, I think, they ended Times Select because people simply ignored the content that they would have had to pay to see. As a result, no one referred to it. No one linked to it. It ceased to be a main part of the discussion.

So, for now at least, I say so-long to on-line content from the Delaware State News.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Participation Generation

The old-photos blog Shorpy has had a few pictures up lately showing everyday folks making music back in the 1940s. The one at left shows a pick-up band at a Florida trailer park. An earlier entry shows "boys in the bunkhouse" gathered around a stove and a guitar.

These resonated for me with parts of an interview with Levon Helm I heard this morning on my commute. It was a rebroadcast of the December 11 edition of Fresh Air. Terry Gross was working through Helm's history and talking about his new album, Dirt Farmer, reflects the influences of his early life.

Levon Helm, once the drummer and a singer with The Band and a solo artist of some repute, has established a new tradition of regular in-studio house parties featuring a variety of great musicians at his place up in Woodstock. They started as a kind of rent-party a few years back when he was working through bankruptcy and recovering from throat cancer. They echo a style of house-party that was a part of his Arkansas childhood back in the 1940s and 50s.

Helm, musing on those sorts of parties and the fact that his father used to perform at some of them, used the phrase "participation generation" to refer back to a time when anyone might pick up a guitar, a fiddle, a washtub, or a beat-box and join in a pick-up band.

That's part of what I see in these photos.

Update: Here is an even better view of the jam session shown above.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Gee, Thanks for the Help

About.Com has an entry this week-end about our little state of Delaware from Jenny McKinney & Patrick McKinney. Jenny McKinney is a certified retirement coach. She and Patrick McKinney, a manual auditor for a major insurance company, take a look at Delaware, this week's state in their "Where to Live After Retirement" series.

Retirees are often vibrant and interesting people. But I'd like to think we can attract some young folks too.

9 10 88

My car celebrated our anniversary on Friday evening as I drove home from work. It was a few months late, but I appreciate the thought.

I knew on Thursday evening that this would roll up on the odometer. When I parked that night the digits read "91011." With the spacing of this style of number-graphic, it grabbed my attention as 9 10 11. I knew 9 10 88 was only a day' driving away.

We were married on a lovely September day in 1988. Our marriage will turn 20 years old next year. Our marriage will soon be old enough to drink. It was old enough to vote in the last election.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Too Much Weather

This is what we found when we returned home on Monday evening, after a day of gale-force winds.

This is the second of two Bradford Pear trees in our front yard to split and fall. The trees were planted by the previous owners. They bracketed the front yard and lent a symmetrical prettiness to the yard.

But these are not good long-term trees. They are a variant cultivated to be pretty. And they most certainly are. As they age, however, they outgrow their ability to hold themselves up. Eventually, without constant care and (I think annual) trimming, they split and often don't survive.

I did not keep ahead of this tree. It was due to be severely trimmed back; it was starting to brush against the house. The wind-storm came before I could contact a tree service however.

The first fell a few years back. It wasn't nearly this large. We had some trouble getting rid of the stump. The folks we paid to grind it out did a poor job, and I was left with more root mass than I could get rid of by myself. Eventually I got smart. I built a low, loose-stone wall around it and back-filled to cover the stump with rich garden soil. I planted a mess of lilies that seem to love feeding on that stump.

We had a fellow come and clear away the fallen portion of the tree on Monday. It looks like the tree will not be able to survive on its own. I'm waiting for an estimate from the tree guy to remove the remainder, but the weather has been wrong for that kind of work. After that, I'll have the winter to think about what to do next.

There is one positive note; a small dogwood that had been struggling in the increasing shade of that tree will now likely start to thrive.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

How I Spent My Week-End

A few lines drawn on my forehead and from nose to mouth. A touch of eye-liner (but only on one eye). And a liberal amount of hair-white.

An eye-patch, black top-hat and voluminous black cloak. And a completely cool tail-coat with a rich-looking pattern and scads of gold braid all over it. I really liked that coat.

This picture is the MySpace-style self portrait that I couldn't help taking while in costume just before the first performance of the Nutcracker.

In the days before children (BC), Karen and I were active with the Possum Point Players, a local theater group. Karen played in the orchestra and I took small character parts or worked backstage doing sound, props or other crew work.

I sometimes miss doing shows. I hope to get back on stage more when the girls are driving themselves and off to college. It was fun to be out in front of an audience again, if only in a small part.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

My Blue-Collar Village

I slept-in a bit this morning. We were all up very late rehearsing the Nutcracker Ballet, which goes before an audience this evening. I was awakened at by the 7:00 o'clock horn that sounds automatically each morning (Sundays excepted) from downtown. I believe the horn is mounted on the old power plant that used to provide all of our electricity and still serves as a power distribution point and shop for the Board of Public Works.

That horn reminds me that my small city -- Lewes, Delaware -- has very blue-collar roots. It blew each morning at seven to call the workers from their small frame houses in several neighborhoods of the old town, through mercantile downtown, past the busy fishing port, and to their jobs at the fish factories that once lined the Delaware Bay shore out towards Fort Miles and its shore defenses batteries.

The horn still calls out each morning. I sometimes hear it as I head out for my commute to Dover. On week-ends it occasionally calls me from my bed to my jobs around the house. The small frame worker's houses have been restored as mini-Victorians. Downtown's hardware store, five-n-dime and grocery have become a series of lovely boutiques. The working fishing boats have gone from the port, replaced by sailboats, tourist head-boats and the sleek powerboats of recreational anglers. The fish factories that once gave Lewes its distinctive odor have been plowed-under for a new crop of large beach-front and near beach-front homes. Some with full-time residents; many as vacation homes for people whose working life is hours away. Fort Miles lives on as a museum piece within Cape Henlopen State Park.

Lewes has changed in the 20 years I've lived here. Change is a constant in all life, of course, but my town has changed profoundly, I think. And not all for the best.

I remember when I first discovered Lewes. I had just begun working at a local radio station and was sent out as part of a remote broadcast from Lewes' Second Street. I loved it. It had high-end shops and a five-n-dime. The hardware store had hardwood floors and a hammered tin ceiling. The street was busy with both vacationers and local farmers and workers. It felt to me like what a small town in America should feel like. Rich and poor, white and black, workers and retirees all going about their several different sorts of business.

I knew that this was the sort of real town I wanted to be a part of. I was more familiar with Rehoboth Beach and Bethany Beach; resort towns I had visited each summer of my childhood. I love both of those towns. But, in looking for a place to settle, I wanted a year-round small town, not a busy summer resort. That was the Lewes I found.

Now, I find, my year-round working town filled with folks from all walks of life is becoming a place for wealthy people. Some are retired here. Some are here in their second homes as often as they can be and are looking ahead to retiring here.

Many of the shops are marketing to retirees and vacationers. There is still a small grocery, but for most day-to-day shopping I must leave town. The hardware store is gone. The five-n-dime is gone.

Work in Lewes is now largely retail. But retail workers can't afford to live here. There is still a hospital and medical professions abound. But, except for the Doctors, most who work in that part of Lewes' economy can't afford to live here. We're losing our economic and racial diversity. And we are losing our age-range diversity. At 45 I am often one of the youngest people at public meetings in town.

These changes hit me in the heart the other day. I was on the phone with a part-time resident who has become active in efforts to control growth around Lewes (a laudable effort). I am a part of the Lewes Planning Commission and so often find myself in conversations of this sort. I can't quote exactly what this woman told me, but it was something along the lines of "we must protect our lovely Village." I know she used the word "Village" because I remember thinking, "it's a city, dammit, please don't turn it into a quaint little retirement Village."

That's not who we were and not who we should be.