Sneaking Suspicions
Archives-- January 15-28, 2006

This page includes posts from January 15-28, 2006 in the usual reverse order. Each posting on the home page is perma-linked to these archive pages.

January 28, 2006
A Household Hint

When melting old dinner-length candles for reuse in small jars and other receptacles, it is important to have a safe place to pour out any extra wax that is not being recycled.

The kitchen sink is not recommended for this purpose.

As someone in our house demonstrated earlier today, when a large amount of melted wax hits the cold water in the pipe trap under the kitchen sink, it will quickly solidify and block all drainage.

In addition, do not make the mistake of thinking that products such as Liquid Plummer® will melt solid wax. They won't, and rather than go into great detail, let's just say that the presence of these chemicals tends to complicate matters.

Removing the wax blockage may require a total replacement of the trap plumbing under the sink, depending upon the trap pipe's current stage of decrepitude. In the case of a metal trap pipe dating back to the house's original construction 17 years ago, in fact, this is a near-certainty.

You're very welcome. Glad we could help.

January 28, 2006
Shameless Self-Promotion

This morning I posted my newest golf book review, which you can read here.

Curt Sampson's The Lost Masters: Grace and Disgrace in '68 is a well-written sports biography and social history of that era, centered around one of the game's most controversial finishes in a major tournament.

January 26, 2006
Imaginary friends don't count

The depths to which some folks will go in order to obtain a perceived benefit can be truly remarkable.

Many high-speed expressways in this country encourage car-pooling, by establishing high-occupancy lanes. These travelways are usually less crowded than the adjacent lanes, but they do require at least two or more people to be in the car in order to enjoy the faster commuting time the lanes can provide.

Apparently a driver in Colorado didn't have a real friend to go with him, so he brought along an imaginary friend instead.

Unfortunately, the police tend to insist that at least two of the people riding in a car in an HOV lane must be, as they say, real:

A motorist was arrested Thursday for driving in a high-occupancy vehicle lane with a mannequin dressed to look like a passenger, police said....

Officer Mark Watters said [the driver] was southbound on U.S. 36 between Boulder and Denver. Watters said the mannequin was dressed in a gray sweat shirt and a baseball cap.

[The driver] was ticketed on a charge of driving an unauthorized vehicle in a high-occupancy lane, a nonmoving violation that carries a fine of $115 upon conviction.

He did not immediately return a call.

I can't imagine why he wouldn't jump at the chance to explain himself.

Perhaps the driver was busy making plans to go see a retrospective of the Weekend at Bernie's series.

I just hope he had someone else to go with him.

January 25, 2006
That was fun

Blogging was non-existent for the last few days, because I was also non-existent around here.

I was in Washington, DC, at the 85th Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board.

I was able to go to several fascinating sessions relating to the Katrina and Rita disasters, featuring speakers from the Corps of Engineers, the Port of New Orleans, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, and the University of New Orleans, among others.

About fifty attendees came to a session in which I made a presentation, entitled The First Amendment and Delaware's Right-of-Way: A Cautionary Tale. It was a slightly edited version of the same speech I gave in Portland, Oregon last summer to a crowd of lawyers. This time the audience included a wide range of transportation professionals, and the question and answer session reflected that fact. It was a lot of fun.

So did anything happen while I was gone?

January 21, 2006
Not so keen on capitalism

Last year’s Supreme Court decisions overturning Michigan and New York’s discriminatory laws regarding wine sales gave the rest of the states an opportunity to double-check their commitment to capitalism.

Unfortunately for libertarians and other fans of free trade, it looks like a few upstate Delaware legislators are not so keen on promoting competition.

House Bill No. 336 was introduced this week in the General Assembly. It would eliminate the direct channel to in-state retail customers that is currently available to the state’s only “farm winery,” Nassau Vineyards.

The little vineyard, whose operation is about four miles from my home in downstate Sussex County, would be forced to sell its bottles through wholesale distributors.

Somehow I doubt that a case of Nassau’s Chardonnay or Cabernet will remain relatively inexpensive if this bill passes. After all, with additional sellers in the chain of distribution, there’s this small matter of another mark-up to be paid by the ultimate purchaser. 

Given Delaware’s longstanding reputation as a business-friendly jurisdiction, it’s hard to imagine why the sponsors would try to limit a single vineyard’s efforts to sell its products to willing customers, by inserting other businesses between the grower and the buyers. 

Perhaps a detailed search of the sponsors’ campaign contributor lists would provide a clue.

Of course, I’m not actually accusing anyone of such crass motives. 

On the other hand, an alternative explanation for this Bill that doesn’t produce an ironic grin on the faces of wine-loving capitalists throughout the State hardly seems likely. 

I remain ever hopeful, of course, even as I respectfully oppose the passage of this legislation.

January 18, 2006
Slow-motion screw-up

I drove north today for a meeting in Wilmington, and reached the northbound lanes of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal bridge on State Route 1 at about 12:30 p.m. 

Most of the morning had been full of wind and rain, but by noon the sun was out. However, the pavement was still mostly damp, and the wind was still pretty stiff. 

Something caught my eye, and I looked left just in time to watch a tractor-trailer tipping over. 

The rig was on the southbound off-ramp leading from the C & D Bridge to nearby U.S. Route 13. The tractor was already on its side, as the trailer rolled over the guardrail on the outside edge. 

The accident was over in seconds, but somehow time seemed to slow down as I watched the tractor-trailer come to a stop. 

I pulled over to the bridge shoulder, and called 911 to report the accident. Other travelers on the off-ramp also stopped, and were walking toward the tractor to check on the driver.

I then called the DelDOT folks, who by then had already been alerted, presumably by the 911 staffers. 

When I came back to the area after the meeting, the off-ramp was still closed to traffic. Several folks were busy trying to figure out how to recover the wrecked vehicle from its precarious spot. I shot the photograph below and then continued south to Dover.

The truck driver was fortunate to escape with only minor injuries. On the other hand, he’s now facing traffic charges for what appears to be a simple screw-up, caused by taking the turn at too high a speed for the conditions. 

It just seemed like it was in slow-motion while it was happening.

Tractor-trailer accident off-ramp C&D bridge, January 18 2006

January 16, 2006
I surely hope he was misquoted

One of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous speeches contained this message:

[T]here is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.…

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

In a later part of the speech, Reverend King returned to this subject in somewhat broader terms, in a passage far more well-known:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

In a speech commemorating Martin Luther King Day, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin showed that perhaps he should have read this speech at least one more time:

"We ask black people ... It's time for us to come together. It's time for us to rebuild New Orleans — the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans," Nagin said Monday. "This city will be a majority African American city. It's the way God wants it to be. You can't have New Orleans no other way. It wouldn't be New Orleans."

I surely hope the mayor was misquoted.

Somehow I doubt that God has a quota-based repopulation plan for the Crescent City. In any event, Mayor Nagin's statement certainly doesn't square with Reverend King's desire that people should be judged on their character and not their color.

Hat tip: Drudge Report

UPDATE: He wasn't misquoted.


January 15, 2006
A different kind of preservationist argument

This weekend I bought and read Tom Piazza’s Why New Orleans Matters.

It’s an emotional, deeply personal argument from a long-time visitor who made the Crescent City his home in 1994.

Piazza is a novelist and an accomplished writer on music (I didn’t know there was a Grammy award for the quality of one’s album liner notes). He managed to escape New Orleans before Katrina hit, and made his way back to the devastated city shortly after the water level receded from the levee breaks. His descriptions of the flood-damaged areas are haunting, and reminiscent of some of Ernie Svenson's posts.

Piazza rhapsodizes about the city’s remarkable relationship to exceptional music, food, and civic rituals such as Mardi Gras and jazz funerals, correctly identifying these elements as critical to its broad appeal.

Nonetheless, he keys on the character of the residents, a certain resilience and ability to appreciate life and all its possibilities. He suggests that this spirit is one of the most important lessons to be learned from the city’s people:

While you are here, declare things okay as they are. Take what comes….

Go with what is. Use what happens. [A]ttending second line parades as they moved through all the neighborhoods, I would see this principle embodied in dancers who incorporate all the small accidents of geography—lightpoles, fire hydrants, cars—into their improvised dance. It was in fact the spirit of Mardi Gras itself, when for one day everyone in the city decides to go with whatever happens.

The spirit to be found among the folks who live in New Orleans is what is worth preserving. As Piazza suggests, it is also at risk of disappearing if the recovery efforts are botched by the opportunistic and the short-sighted. 

Piazza also recognizes that the effort to restore the city will call for some fundamental changes—not least of which, he argues, is the need to refuse to continue to be the victims of low-grade, persistent official corruption and incompetence. 

In this respect we agree completely.

The slender volume is a very quick read. Nonetheless, it should also spur some serious consideration of the daunting tasks facing those who love New Orleans and want it back.


Contact Information:

Fritz Schranck
P.O. Box 88
Nassau, DE  19969


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