Get ‘em While They’re Hot: There’s no such thing as a free lunch, but you can have a free book!

Anybody want a free book? Feeling somewhat giving in my mood, I’ve decided to cut the price of the digital version of my short story collection, Legends of Everyday Lunacy, all the way to zero. Anyone who wants one can download a copy at no charge. Top that, Walmart, and your smiley faced price slashing!

CLICK HERE FOR A FREE BOOK

So, why give it away, you ask? My grandmother would say, “Nobody’ll buy the cow if the milk’s free.” Well, its been out for six months, and I’d like more people to read it. Besides, money isn’t my only motivator. The actual paper copy still is gonna cost you, printing’s not cheap, you know. And if you do download one and like what you read, please know that the hard copy looks great on a bookshelf, is easier on the eyes than a computer screen, and has a cool and interesting cover image sure to be a conversation starter as a coffee table book. And it costs less than your average lunch, even with free milk.

CLICK HERE FOR A FREE BOOK

So get a copy now, while the gettin’s good. It won’t stay free forever. Or maybe it will, but you don’t know that for sure. Happy Reading!

Post Week One NFL Power Rankings- NFC Edition

Yesterday, I went through the superior AFC.  Now it’s on to the NFC.

16.  St. Louis Rams-  Sam Bradford looks like he might be the real deal, but he’s still a potentially injury prone rookie.  And this could be the year Stephen Jackson finally wears down from being the only game in town.  Losing at home to a hollowed out Arizona team is the beginning of another bad season.

15.  Detroit Lions-  Even without Matthew Stafford, the Lions were an absurd NFL catch rule away from beating the Bears in Chicago.  Still, with Stafford possibly missing half the season, Detroit may see a promising year go up in smoke.

14.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers-  The Bucs held on to beat Cleveland in Tampa last week, which is nice and all, but the Browns are awful.  Josh Freeman may end up as a first rate QB, but the rest of the roster is woefully thin on talent.

13.  Carolina Panthers-  If it wasn’t for the quarterback position, these guys could be amongst the top NFC teams.  As it is, they are probably good enough to lose a lot of close games.  Getting whipped by the Giants last week with three interceptions from Matt Moore makes the start of this season look a lot like last year.

12.  San Francisco 49ers-  Here they are, the it-team in the NFC.  After getting unmercilously stomped by what to even the best estimations is a pretty generally lousy Seattle team, so much for that division title.  If Alex Smith doesn’t show something soon, all that preseason hype will result in nothing more than a high draft pick on a quarterback.

11.  Arizona Cardinals-  The Derek Anderson era of Cardinals football started off with a tight win on the road against the worst team in the conference in St. Louis. With those two, and the 49ers troubles, the league may need an emergency realignment to prevent a 5-11 division winner.

10.  Chicago Bears-  The Bears held on (unlike Calvin Johnson) to win against the Lions.  Not exactly inspiring.  On the plus side, Jay Cutler racked up tons of yards and threw more touchdowns than interceptions.  Matt Forte is going to have a monster season in Mike Martz’ offense.

9.  Philadelphia Eagles-  Ain’t America great?  Michael Vick is the savior of the Eagles’ season.  Everyone in the City of Brotherly Love is channeling memories of Randall Cunningham after his second half performance against Green Bay.  The Eagles are going to the Superbowl!  Well, maybe they should win a game first. 

8.  Dallas Cowboys-  The Cowboys offense looked putrid in the preseason, and looked just as bad losing to Washington last week.  If things on the line don’t improve, Tony Romo’s season could be shorter than expected.

7.  Seattle Seahawks-  Big, big win over San Francisco.  Still, the quality of whipping put on by Seattle rates this high a spot.  But can they keep it?  Hopefully, for the western division’s sake.

6.  Atlanta Falcons-  Losing a close game in Pittsburgh, even without Big Ben, isn’t the worst thing in the world.  Still, Matt Ryan and Michael Turner better turn it on to avoid a .500 season.

5.  Washington Redskins-  A big early-season division win over the Cowboys kicked off the Mike Shanahan era.  If the defense plays like that, they’ll be in the playoff hunt all season.  And Donovan McNabb will settle in eventually.

4.  Minnesota Vikings-  Brett Favre was rusty, the receiver corps was decimated and the Vikings still almost won in New Orleans.  Make no mistake, this team will be a factor all season.  The only question is can they keep up with Green Bay in the division.

3.  New York Giants-  The Giants beat Carolina in New Jersey thanks to Matt Moore interceptions.  Still, it was a big win and until they prove otherwise, they deserve a high spot in what looks like a fairly weak conference overall.  But remember, they started 5-0 last year and we know how that turned out.

2.  Green Bay Packers-  The Pack was probably the most impressive team in the first week, at least until Michael Vick started channeling his Falcons days.  They went into a hostile environment and gave it to the Eagles.  They did lose Ryan Grant for the season, and that could be a problem, but they’ll wins lots of games.  This is the season we get a Favre against Green Bay playoff game.

1.  New Orleans Saints-  Holding Minnesota to single digits was impressive but for the Vikings issues on that side of the ball.  The offense didn’t produce like it needs to, but Minnesota is no slouch on defense , either.  I still have concerns about the Saints defense, namely their total reliance on turnovers.  Still, they beat one of the best few teams in the league and they are the defending champions.  Until someone beats them, they’re number one.

Published in: on September 19, 2010 at 5:15 pm  Comments (2)  
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Post-Week One NFL Power Rankings: AFC Edition

Instead of making preseason NFL predictions this year, I decided to wait until some actual games were played to rank the teams.  That way, actual performance on the field would theoretically be more important than hype.  Two things seems pretty clear so far, the AFC is a much, much deeper conference, and both western divisions could conceivably send under .500 teams to the playoffs.  So, here goes, my first NFL power rankings of the year, AFC version.

16.  Cleveland Browns-  Jake Delhomme looks suspiciously like the turnover machine that lost his job in Carolina last year in their road loss to somewhat-less-putrid Tampa Bay.  Holmgren or no, these guys still suck.

15.  Buffalo Bills-  The passing game is awful, the rushing game is worse and they lost at home.  But at least they were competitive against a pretty good Miami team.  That gets them a nod over Cleveland.

14.  Denver Broncos-  This team, outside of a few players, is just plain bad.  This season will likely be closer to the 2-8 finish to last year than the 6-0 start.  Getting pretty handily beaten by a mediocre Jacksonville team is a bad start.

13.  Oakland Raiders-  This team is precisely why I wanted to avoid preseason hype.  Lots of people were talking playoffs for the Raiders.  Seriously?  They played a genuinely good team in Tennessee and showed why they’re still not ready for prime time by getting beaten worse than anyone other than San Francisco.  Bad week for the Bay area.

12.  Kansas City Chiefs-  Sure they beat the only supposedly good team in either western division in San Diego, but Matt Cassell was the worst QB in the league.  Their running game alone could be enough to win this division, but that is not saying much.

11.  Jacksonville Jaguars-  Yes, they beat Denver pretty easily at home, and David Garrard looked the part of a real quarterback.  But playing in a division with Houston, Indianapolis and Tennessee is going to make for a long season.

10.  San Diego Chargers-   Even though they lost, the Chargers are still better than Kansas City.  However, Ryan Matthews looked like the early-season favorite for bust of the year, and without Vincent Jackson, the passing attack looked pedestrian, even with one of the top QB’s in the league in Phillip Rivers.

9.  Cincinnati Bengals-  Losing to New England in Foxboro is nothing to be ashamed of.  But the big question for Cincinnati is if they are the team that got blown out in the first half or played well in the second half.

8.  New York Jets-  The defense lived up to its billing, holding Baltimore to only 10 points.  Unfortunately, the offense only scored 9.  Losing a close game at home to a Superbowl contender makes the Jets a good team but not a great one.

7.  Indianapolis Colts-  Wow, is their run defense bad.  Peyton Manning went wild through the air, but it wasn’t enough to win in Houston.  It could be an uncharacteristic long season in Indy, having Chris Johnson, Vince Young and Maurice Jones-Drew running the ball in their division.

6.  Miami Dolphins-  Sure, the Fins weren’t spectacular or flashy, by they dominated the Bills on defense and time of possession on the road.  They may only get stronger as the year goes on.

5.  Pittsburgh Steelers-  Every win they can get before Big Ben comes off suspension is gravy for this team.  If the defense holds up as it did against Atlanta,  by season’s end, they will be a real player in the Superbowl hunt.

4.  Tennessee Titans-  Vince Young looks like he may finally have figured things out, Chris Johnson is the best back in the league and they just stomped the Oakland Raiders’ bandwagon out of existence. If the Colts can’t stop the run, Tennessee will eat them for lunch.

3.  Baltimore Ravens-  The defense is already in mid-season form after holding the much-hyped Jets to single digits.  The offense wasn’t exactly brilliant, but it’s bound to get better against defenses that aren’t one of the top two or three in the league.  They have a strong-armed quarterback, quality receivers all over the field, a deep and talented backfield and a first rate defense.  They might be this season’s Saints.

2.  New England Patriots-  They looked absolutely dominant in the first half against Cincinnati, then took their foot off the gas a bit.  If they stay healthy and focused, a run at a playoff bye is a definite possibility.

1.  Houston Texans-  Matt Schaub had a very average game, but the emergence of a monster running game led the way in a victory over the defending AFC champs.  The defense did allow over 400 yards passing and three touchdowns, which is concerning.  But the Colts also happen to have the best passing offense in the league, so it’s understandable.  The offense will get better, and the defense should, too.  Finally, this will be the year the Texans made a play for the top of the AFC.

Published in: on September 19, 2010 at 12:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Watershed Chronicle’s Greatest Hits

It’s been a little over a year since I began posting things to this site, and I thought now would be a good time to look back.  Using the handy little stat counter built into wordpress, I’ve made a list of the ten most read posts from the past year.  One thing you’ll notice is that they’re almost all about local publishing companies, with only one exception.  So, here they are, in reverse order, the top ten posts in the history of this blog:

10.  End of an Era-  May 2, 2010

One of the more recent posts on this list, End of an Era was about the closing of the Chesapeake Publishing printing facility in Elkton.  In this piece, I lament the loss of the only local printing plant in Cecil County and what that could mean for the future of our local paper, the Cecil Whig.  Even though this was four months ago and virtually all of the announced changes by Chesapeake have been made, it still stings a bit to see our more-than-century-and-a-half-year-old newspaper lose its local production.  Times change, I suppose, but not always for the better.

9.  Remembering My Friend Bob- Nov.19, 2009

This one inspired a handful of comments, and even a few photos emailed to me.  I wrote this the day I got the shocking news that my friend and former colleague Bob Liddell had passed away.  After sharing a few of my memories of Bob, I received several phone calls from mutual friends, good conversations about Bob and the time we knew him.  It even inspired a second piece, More Recollections of Bob, which included some comments sent to me about him.  All in all, it ended up as a pretty nice way to deal with the untimely death of a friend.

8.  A Bad Joke-  June 21, 2010

This is the most recent post on this list and one that I’ve referenced several times already.  It’s also climbing the list little by little everyday, even though it’s three months old at this point.  As anyone who reads this site regularly knows, this was my wrap-up rant about the company of the year award going to an unquestionably undeserving recipient.  I won’t rehash the details here, suffice it to say that this was an exceptionally popular subject.  So much so that another post on this topic checks in at number two on this list.

7.  He Rode In On a Pale Horse and His Name Was Death.  And He Carried an iSlate-  Jan. 5, 2010

This is the only post on this list that isn’t directly related to local publishing.  It’s a fairly non-descript review of the possible effects of the release of the then-unnamed Apple iPad.  At the time, I liked the name iSlate better, hence its use in the title.  It’s not even one of my better efforts.  So why so many hits, you ask?  It’s the name.  I’ve had more traffic come to this article with searches for “death” and “he rode in on a pale horse” than anything else.  People are apparently obsessed with death and, in particular, biblical references to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  In honor this piece being the most searched for of all my work, I watched the Clint Eastwood western Pale Rider the other day.  Now that’s what I call riding in on a pale horse.

6.  Department of Reader Response-  Nov.11, 2009

This is one of my personal favorites.  I received a typo-riddled comment from an annoyed reader after some criticism I had leveled at Nor’easter Magazine in the post that is coming up at number five.  Rather than simply ignore the comment, I chose to simultaneously respond logically in defense of the criticism of my criticism as well as ridicule the writer’s typos.  Maybe not the most mature way to respond, but it was fun.  And judging by the reaction I received from readers, a large number of them enjoyed it, too.  Especially the Sean Connery school of elocution crack; people just loved that one.  This also led to another post the next day, Calling a Skink a Skink, where I went after one particular typo.
The funny thing is that in all this criticising his typos, I made some myself.  Sure, I could change them now and no one would ever know, but I’m the kind of guy who will stand by my own hypocrisy.

5.  The Changing Face of Local Publishing-  Oct. 30, 2009

This piece is the one that inspired the rather nasty comment that led to number six on this list.  Funny thing is, I hadn’t really intended to make those criticisms in the first place, they just kind of came out as I was writing.  On the whole, this post was all about how the larger publishers had begun talking about local as a buzzword that would save their profit margins.  Ironically, at the same time, they were outsourcing work away from local pubs to save money.  My entire point was that if the legacy publishers were going to abdicate their local staffs, then new startups that really are local would spring up to fill that void, and they have in increasing numbers.  One other point I made, specifically about Nor’easter, was that the magazine’s change to a smaller print size could have negative results in addition to just saving money.  Well, Nor’easter is now off the market, and two of the main complaints I heard were that customer service suffered having to deal with production staff hundreds of miles away, and that the smaller publication size was wildly unpopular.  I hate to say I told you so.  Well, actually, that’s not true.  I love saying I told you so.

4.  I Got Canned!  A Farewell To The Mariner and Chesapeake Bay Boating-  March 21, 2010

It’s not every day you get to tell someone you worked for to shove it in front of, well, everyone in the world.  Last year, I was the editor of The Mariner until I was let go.  It was a sometimes fun, mostly frustrating experience that once again found me butting heads with management about how to make a magazine successful.  To my credit, by the way, in the six months since my departure, the mag has shown no appreciable growth, and, much like Nor’easter, may be on a corporate death watch without a serious uptick in advertising or interest.  Anyway, judging by the number of people who called or emailed me after this post was published telling me how “they laughed their ass off”, there must be a large number of ass-less people wandering around out there.  I have to say, despite getting the ax, this one was pretty satisfying.

3.  A Eulogy For Ira Black’s Nor’easter Magazine-  Dec.11, 2009

After Bob passed away, and Nor’easter made the changes talked about in number five on this list, I picked up a copy of the magazine, and it just seemed like the publication I remembered was no longer there, so I penned this farewell to the magazine that I had helped found.  Oddly, I ended up writing two more articles for Nor’easter before they went belly up in July, but it still wasn’t the same.  It really is true what they say, all good things come to an end, whether we want to believe they will or not.

2.  Wow, The Times Must Be Tougher Than I Thought.  Lowering the Bar For Company of the Year-  May 9, 2010

So this is the one that set off the interest in what qualifies a business to win a company of the year award.  Fresh off the news that the long-standing Elkton printing plant was being shut down, and the resulting layoffs that came with that decision, I received a tip that the company in question would be honored by the Chamber of Commerce as company of the year.  Honestly, I thought it was a joke at first.  It was and still is inexplicable to me how something like this comes to pass.  I mean, really?  There’s no one else who could have won?  After discovering that no one else was even nominated, along with the close involvement of an employee from the company in question in the process, it started to make sense, distasteful as that may be.  Bad economy or not, it’s just like old times in Cecil County.

1.  Manning the Helm For Cecil County’s New Weekly Newspaper-  Nov. 7, 2009

Coming in at number one with a bullet is this piece announcing the possible editor-ship of the then-unreleased Cecil Guardian weekly newspaper to Ira Black of Mariner and Nor’easter fame.  Of course, his position turned out to be short lived, amounting to a few months of irreverent editorials kicking off each issue, but it was an entertaining ride, if brief.  As for the Guardian, or what was originally supposed to be the Cecil Observer, headed by former Whig-staffer David Healy before a dispute over a non-compete agreement cost the paper his involvement and the name, it appears to be doing just fine.  Page and ad counts seem to be improving steadily, and the emergence of extra and special sections shows even more progress.  With or without Ira’s involvement, and the currently reeling Whig to compete against, the Guardian may be around for a while yet.

So, there they are, the ten most-read posts in the history of this blog.  Eventually, I intend to do a list of ten of my favorite pieces regardless of hit counts, but that may be a while yet.  After all, I’ve got about 200 posts to choose from.  Thanks for reading.

I’m Back! A few goodbyes and a new beginning

So, after a brief hiatus, I’ve returned to writing my random ramblings here.  In the month and a half since my last post, much has changed.  For one thing, I have a new residence in Chestertown.  After spending all of my life in Cecil County, I felt it was time for a change.  The job market is pretty lousy, to say the least, and I just couldn’t bring myself to believe that the folks entrusted with bringing economic prosperity to Cecil really had the best interests of the people who live and work there at heart.

Perhaps the last straw really was the company of the year award that I wrote so much about previously here, here, here and here.  I just can’t reconcile how a failing company shedding people virtually by the day can win such an award.  Plus, there’s one more little tidbit of info about this.

Considering that I was basically the only one publically calling out nearly everyone involved in this absurdity, how’s this for a coincidence?  My mother worked at Chesapeake Publishing for something like 25 years.  Less than a week after the award was given, and I wrote the rather scathing piece entitled “A Bad Joke”, my mother was summarily dismissed from the company.  She was called in on a Friday afternoon and told, “today’s your last day, we don’t need you anymore.”  Odd, no?

The funny thing is, mom does’t even read this site, let alone know what I write about.  And she was always amazed at how I had better information than the people who work there.  I never once used her as a source for anything, nor would I.  Yet, only a few days following my post, which included this little not-so-polite quote: 

“There is no way I would have accepted an award like this in similar circumstances even if given. And I certainly wouldn’t have lobbied for it. Thanks but no thanks. I would have had a little respect for the community I was trying to serve by allowing someone who really deserves the recognition to receive it, not just so I can hang another plaque on the wall, have a soundbite in the paper, and call myself an “award-winning” company. An honor like this that isn’t really deserved has no meaning.”

My mom got the axe.  Coincidence?  You be the judge.

In other news, it turns out that the eulogy I wrote for Nor’easter Magazine, which I helped found with many others, was just a short few months premature.
Written two weeks before Christmas, it was a glance at the magazine’s final issue of 2009 and how the last few remaining traits of the style of the magazine we started in 2001 were gone.

Well, by the 4th of July of 2010,  Nor’easter had published its final issue ever.  Interestingly, I was contacted to do some writing for Nor’easter, beginning with the July 2 edition.  I had two articles in that issue, giving me the unique “honor” of being the only person involved with the magazine’s first issue and its last issue.  I suppose that kind of complete circle well and truly wraps up the cycle of Nor’easter Magazine.  To be fair, the letter I received announcing the ceasing of publication did say that, if and when the economy and the boating market specifically rebounds, they could come back on the scene.  But that’s a very large uncertainty at this point.

In my eulogy, I said about Nor’easter’s possible future:

“The market will ultimately bear out how well the new direction plays.”

Well, it looks like the market provided about six months of life support.  I still think the December 2009 issue is a more fitting closing.  The 2010 season was sort of like Johnny Unitas playing for the Chargers or Joe Namath with the Rams.  Sure, they were great in their day, but they should have hung up their cleats before that one final,  reputation damaging season.

Anyway, now that I’ve got this app for my Android phone, I’ll be writing again regularly.  And who knows what any of it will be?

Published in: on September 9, 2010 at 4:58 pm  Comments (3)  
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