This page includes posts from May 25-31, 2003 in the usual reverse
order. Each posting on the home page is perma-linked to these
Life imitating The Wind in the Willows
On occasion I become impatient with those who write
editorials for a living, and others seemingly content to express opinions on
public issues without also volunteering to do something about their
A line from the first chapter of one of my favorite
books, Kenneth Grahame's
Wind in the Willows, often captures my reaction to these folks:
"Oh, its all very well to TALK," said the Mole, rather pettishly....
Blogging is similar to editorial writing, at least in
the form I practice it. Therefore, after considering my sentiments about
those who talk without taking action, I decided to press forward with a
proposal I'd been working on for about eighteen months.
I went public with the idea last week--to create the
first new city in Delaware in the last twenty years.
Those interested can read about the proposal for the
City of Brighton, Delaware at this
site, or follow the media coverage links at the site for more
Thus far the direct public contact I've had about the
idea has been very favorable, with a few exceptions.
I'm looking forward to seeing how far I can take this
new city proposal to completion, with the help of others who share my views.
May 30, 2003
The Internet and dated cultural references
I have a few things
in common with James Lileks--relatively short stature, a regular newspaper
column, and the fact that our wives are our own
In addition, despite
the wise counsel our spouses freely give us, we both continue to enjoy
making cultural allusions to items from our pasts, even when a dated
reference causes others to furrow their brows, struggling to recall how it
could fit the current topic.
As my wife tells me
on too many occasions, not everyone is my age. Not everyone read or saw
every book or movie to which I’m referring in some attempted witticism.
Sometimes, and far more often than I can tell, the listeners’ smiles are
meant to be polite, not to show that they understand and agree.
For the stuff I post
on this site, however, the Internet can provide mystified readers and/or
listeners with a quick way to discover how these cultural touchstones go
I just have to
remember to find the reference and put in the necessary URL citation, for
For example, today I
an odd little story published by the AP that led with the following
Warthog Goes for Wild Ride in Van
The article reported
that a sedated warthog at an Indiana zoo revived itself momentarily, and
the van in which it was riding into gear. The vehicle then rolled down hill
before crashing into a fence to a stop. The warthog was slightly injured,
but was asleep again when zoo officials caught up to it.
That’s not what I was
thinking when I first read this news flash.
I was thinking of the
underground comic superhero
Wonder Warthog, for whom
the idea of a wild ride in a van fit absolutely perfectly.
For others, however,
that reference would only make sense if they remembered him.
At least this time I
recognized that my allusion was just a bit obscure.
Now I suppose some
twenty-something reader will write in to tell me they learned about the Hog
of Steel in their college's Cartoons and History course.
Kids these days.
May 29, 2003
No stringers here
occasion I’ve had
fun with R.W. “Johnny” Apple, Jr., the long-time NYT correspondent.
On the other hand, in
some respects the man’s talent is undeniable.
I refer specifically
to his penchant for identifying and appreciating some of the finest in
paean to Philadelphia’s contribution to this nation’s gustatory delights
is a very good example.
Apple shows he
understands the subtle flavors, the complex mix of not-so-healthy stuff that
millions of Mid-Atlantic Region residents enjoy daily, including (in no
particular order) cheese steaks, hoagies, and, of course, scrapple.
How can one rank
one’s favorite foods, after all?
They’re each great in
their own way.
It’s probably true
that these particular items, along with ice cream and
Tastycakes, are among the major contributors to Philadelphia’s status as
haven for the very well fed.
Having tried other
region’s attempts at mimicking cheese steaks and hoagies, however, all I can
say is, nice try. Go find better rolls, and you’ll be on the way to coming
closer to the real thing.
In addition, if you
want to be taken seriously around here on other important issues, do not,
ever, call a cheese steak a
“steak and cheese” sandwich.
Apple notes that even
within the region, variations can co-exist peacefully, notably in the
different ways folks prepare scrapple.
In my family, for
example, a perfectly done slab is between 3/8ths to ½ inch in thickness,
fried to a golden brown on both sides, with the middle kept semi-soft. In my
wife’s family, however, the scrapple pieces are only 1/8 inch thick, and
fried totally crisp all the way through, somewhat like a chunky potato chip.
To help maintain
domestic tranquility, therefore, we alternate these approaches.
I also choose to
believe that Apple did his own research for this remarkable report, despite
the NYT’s recent credibility challenges noted by
Andrew Sullivan, Mickey Kaus,
site, among others.
It’s impossible to
imagine that Apple used any stringers to help gather the facts and opinions
sprinkled throughout his article. The man looks like he enjoys
every minute of the process of conducting his own, in-depth analysis, at
least for these pieces.
And after all, who
can blame him?
May 28, 2003
Finding the money by tapping Uncle Sugar
Part of the Bush
Administration’s deal-making for the newly-signed tax cut legislation
included a nice piece of change for the states from Uncle Sugar: $20
billion, in fact, divvied up according to a population-based formula,
according to this
Washington Post article.
As the piece noted,
the Federal one-time grants come at a very opportune moment for the states,
most of which are struggling to make budget targets.
Darn shame that only
the Feds can print money, isn’t it?
Democratic Party types were a little snarky about the cash going to the
states, as shown by this quote:
Some Democrats argue that $20 billion falls far short of what is
Alice Rivlin, head of Office of Management and Budget under President
Bill Clinton, said yesterday at a conference sponsored by the National
League of Cities that "$20 billion is a good idea . . . but it's not
nearly big enough to fill an $85 billion budget gap." Rivlin, founding
director of the Congressional Budget Office, referred to the states' total
shortfall projected for fiscal 2004.
I’m a little surprised that Rivlin
would say this. I gave her more credit than what this statement implies.
That’s because the only way to take
this statement at face value is to agree with its underlying
assumption—there should be no cuts in spending in any state budgets.
With all due respect, that makes no
Fortunately not all Democrats agree,
although on a personal level it stings a bit.
Yesterday, for example, the Delaware
General Assembly’s Joint Finance Committee agreed with Governor Minner’s
suggested budget proposal to
eliminate most state employee pay raises for the next fiscal year. It is
part of her program to manage Delaware’s fiscal shortfall, and there’s no
question that taking this step along with (mostly) freezing new hires will
save many millions of dollars.
Delaware is not in great shape, but
it’s in far better financial condition than most of its sister states. In
part that’s because there’s been a long-time
bipartisan consensus on most budget issues, including some truly
important financial policies such as recognizing the difference between
one-time money sources such as estate tax receipts and long-time revenue
streams such as income taxes.
Some of the problems other states now
face can be traced to forgetting this and other prudent budget principles.
For now, one can only hope that the state governments continue to find the
money by deciding they need less of it in the first place, instead of adding
to their deficits by avoiding some painful choices.
Shakespeare behind the wheel
The Washington Post ran a story today
by Dee-Ann Durbin about a survey disclosing a wide variety of
bad driving habits among American drivers. The surprising thing about
the piece was the open and honest response made by those answering the
percent of drivers of all ages acknowledged at least one risky activity in
the previous six months, including 71 percent who said they sped; 59
percent who ate while driving; 37 percent who used a cell phone; 28
percent who wore no seatbelt and 26 percent who used no signal when
turning. Fourteen percent admitted to reading while driving.
With all due respect, most of these
folks are rank amateurs when it comes to driving with less than perfect
adherence to safety considerations.
The ones who admit to only one unsafe
activity at a time are mere pikers, in fact.
My regular commute adds up to over 400
miles per week, most of which takes place on dual highways with a posted 55
mph speed limit.
Without going into detail about
particular dates and times, on more than a few occasions I have sped too
fast, while chewing a
McNugget or other car-friendly snack, while not wearing my
seatbelt, while talking on my cell phone, while changing lanes
without using my turn signal, and while glancing over at the
passenger seat to read the newspaper's headlines.
It’s a combination of driving faults
not everyone could match, and which I’m not too proud to admit I’ve done far
My own bad habits stand in sharper
relief now that I’ve been riding with younger daughter, proud possessor of
her new driver’s license permit. For the last few weekends she's been
driving the two of us into town to her sales job at a local gift store, as I
officially guide her own tentative steps toward automotive independence.
Observing how careful she is and how
she drives the right way (most of the time) only makes it more obvious that
I should do the same.
all, the fault, dear reader, is not in our cars, but in ourselves.
Fortunately no one
Otherwise, it just
wouldn’t be right to comment on an incident that occurred here this weekend.
That said, as I read
the police reports in
today’s statewide newspaper my first reaction was to wish that this
entire episode was captured on videotape.
The woman now facing
a wide array of criminal and traffic charges could have filled an entire
COPS show with her alleged antics.
Bridge takes the only dual highway around here, State Route 1, up and over a
railroad spur. A few county roads
connect to Route 1 a short distance north of the bridge, and lead to a few
homes and some farm acreage. South of the bridge lies the Five Points
intersection, where travelers split off to head east to Lewes, south to
Rehoboth Beach, or west to Georgetown.
According to police,
at about 2:15 a.m. Sunday morning a 29-year-old Rehoboth woman left one of
the side roads north of Nassau Bridge and began driving her 1997 Accord
south toward Five Points--in the northbound lanes, however, at approximately
the posted 55 mph highway speed limit.
At just that time, a
southbound police cruiser was in the area, and spotted her.
(Here’s where the
video would start running).
The state trooper
activated his siren and lights, but it had no effect on the errant driver.
She continued south, up and over the Nassau
A northbound SUV
swerved to evade her on the bridge, but apparently seeing a land yacht
coming directly at her didn’t make an impression. She kept going.
The trooper then
drove across the median to the northbound side to try to stop the woman. The
tactic had no effect, and she continued south in the north lanes.
Fortunately, a whole
passel of troopers managed to maneuver their vehicles to a point in her path
just above Five Points. That worked.
She was taken into
custody, charged with drunken and reckless driving, reckless endangering,
and resisting arrest. The police took her to their local troop station, less
than half a mile from Five Points.
The video should keep
running, however, as suggested by the dry tones of the police report:
[The woman] also was charged with criminal mischief,
disorderly conduct and a host of traffic charges, as well as failing to
submit to fingerprinting, and with theft for allegedly stealing
fingerprint cards, [police spokesman Sgt. Walter] Newton said.
I can perfectly
visualize the events in the booking room that led to this interesting
additional collection of allegations.
would make a great COPS show all by