Sneaking Suspicions
Archives-- July 31-August 13, 2005

This page includes posts from July 31-August 13, 2005 in the usual reverse order. Each posting on the home page is perma-linked to these archive pages.

August 8, 2005
Summer Blog Break

I'm taking a short break from blogging, and will be back by next week. In the meantime, take a look around in the back issues, if you'd like.

August 8, 2005
Not so perfect club

Before a raging thunderstorm halted the tournament around noon, I spent a few hours yesterday sweating through the second round of the President's Cup event at Shawnee Country Club.

Socially speaking, former club presidents are expected to play in this two-day event. That's fine with me. As usual, however, the heat and humidity caused my Bermuda shorts to make me look like a candidate for a Depend commercial, in the Before category. Geez.

On the other hand, what happened at the practice range before the event was unusual.

Last year a public relations firm sent me a Perfect Club to try out and then, they hoped, write about it for my golf column. It was their Accuracy model, a steel-shafted fairway wood with a 24-degree loft.

As it turned out, I really liked how it worked. I took my 3- and 4-irons out of the bag and replaced them with this club. It continued to be really useful, until the steel shaft snapped off just after hitting a range ball yesterday morning.

That's never happened to me before. I'd heard of folks snapping steel putter shafts over their thighs, or breaking a club in two by whacking it against a tree after a wretched result, but not during a routine swing.

The club pro said he'd have it fixed in ten days or so. Under the circumstances, I didn't think I should send it back to the company for repair, seeing as how I didn't actually pay for the club in the first place.

August 7, 2005
Traffic Report

Yesterday marked the 43rd month of this site's existence. During that time, 417,799 visitors have read 559,610 pages.

Thanks very much for your patronage. Come back often.

August 6, 2005
Summer Beach Reading

Newspapers often run summer beach reading guides that stress entertainment over edification or enhancing one's career.

I've always thought of these guides as one of journalism's finest public services.

In that vein, here's what I've read thus far this summer, other than golf books or work-related stuff.

I really enjoyed Mark Kurlansky’s Salt: A World History. The book's structure is very similar to his natural history of cod, which I also highly recommend. Both books should appeal to those who decide to make up for their previously less than enthusiastic approach to science education, but without making their hair hurt in the meantime.

Reading Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything gave me the impression that he is one of us, in fact.

Joe Queenan’s Queenan Country: A Reluctant Anglophile’s Pilgrimage to the Mother Country is another great screed, by a guy who knows screed and does it unusually well.

For reasons I can't explain I somehow missed reading anything by Carl Hiassen for many years. I've been making up for it since, and am now catching up with this very funny writer. So far this summer I've read and laughed my way through Skin Tight and Native Tongue, and am about to start Lucky You.

During and since college days I've had an interest in American history from the Civil War through the First World War. I also enjoy reading true crime stories. Erik Larson's Devil in the White City combined these two interests perfectly, with its fascinating story of a serial killer in Chicago during the 1893 World's Fair.

Michael Graham's Redneck Nation covers some previously well-trod ground, but with a fair amount of good humor and political perspicacity.

When I saw several glowing reviews of Blink, Malcolm Gladwell's new book , it reminded me that I hadn't yet read his previous bestseller, The Tipping Point. I finished it a few weeks ago, and enjoyed its well-written analysis of that phenomenon.

I saw a copy of Zivony Zinik's Mind the Doors at a bookstore and bought it on a whim. This collection of "long short stories" about Soviet emigres in England is translated from the original Russian, and a bit uneven. Nonetheless, at least two stories are very good--No Cause for Alarm, and the title piece that finishes the book. Mind the Doors.

August 5, 2005
Karen L. Johnson

This afternoon I went to a beautiful memorial service for Killer.

That was Karen Johnson’s nickname, as I learned when we first worked together in the City of Wilmington Law Department in the mid-1980s.

I had heard various stories about how the tall blond, a former managing editor of the Catholic University Law Review and law clerk for then-U.S. District Judge Walter Stapleton, earned that title. None seemed any more plausible than any other. Nonetheless, I came to believe it described her tremendous drive to do well in whatever she was engaged at the time.

Karen died on July 29 at age 50 from a ruptured arteriovenous malformation, a bit like an aneurysm.

She packed a lot of life into her relatively short time here, and made some real contributions to improving the lives of thousands of Delawareans.

After serving the Wilmington Law Department, for example, she became the first female Public Safety Director for the City, overseeing the Police and Fire Departments. When that political appointment ended, then-Governor-elect Tom Carper asked her to join his cabinet as the first female Secretary of Public Safety. At the time this position oversaw the State Police, the Division of Motor Vehicles, the Delaware Emergency Management Agency, and several smaller units.

Karen served the State for six years. Carper, now one of our U.S. Senators, gave a fine eulogy in which, among other examples, he told how she spearheaded a host of improvements to rural pockets of deep poverty in southern Delaware. The changes in the physical environment, wedded to an increased community policing effort, helped produce a steep drop in major crimes in these formerly forgotten areas.

She left the cabinet for private industry, and also devoted more time to raising her two children, Kate and Chase, with her husband Charles Butler, a very good criminal defense attorney, former Attorney General candidate, and genuinely nice guy. They also expanded their family. As Charlie explained in a letter to the memorial audience, read by one of the ministers, Karen felt called by God to go to Eastern Europe and adopt children. They came back from the Ukraine with Daniel and Julia.

U.S. Senator Joe Biden read Psalm 90 to the audience, and the rest of the service was also very well-done. The choir sang some beautiful pieces, including I’ll Be Singing Up There, Oh Happy Day, I’ll Fly Away, and I’ve Got Peace Like a River.

There weren’t many dry eyes by the end.

It was a real privilege to know and work with Karen. From the filled pews at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, perhaps her children could see that was true for all those in attendance.

Her family hopes to continue Karen’s legacy. They have formed the Karen L. Johnson Fund, P.O. Box 30757, Wilmington, DE  19805, to assist children living in orphanages in Eastern Europe.

August 4, 2005
If Senator Foghorn has just one question to ask the nominee, please God, let it be this one

I have an extremely limited tolerance for watching any kind of Senate confirmation hearings. Too much grandstanding and not enough mature dialogue mars most of these occasions.

Of course, if by some miracle I'm ever nominated for a Federal position requiring Senate confirmation, my opinion may change.

In the meantime, I'm forever grateful to Howard Bashman and those who submitted entries to his recent contest to determine the most dumb-ass question to be directed to Supreme Court judicial nominee John Roberts.

My own personal favorite is Entry No. 7--not least of which because if it were ever really asked, the videoclip of the response would be absolutely priceless.

August 4, 2005
Thpeaking of donationths

While we're on the subject of making donations, you might also want to consider this other worthy candidate for your charitable impulses.

Makes my teeth hurt just thinking about it.

August 3, 2005
Choosing advertiser deals is just not a problem

It's been interesting to read the various blogger posts about the potential benefits and pitfalls of entering into advertising agreements to support one's blogging habit.

See this post by Ann Althouse, for example, or this piece by Dean Esmay.

The discussion is stimulating, and fine for those who seek the cash, but without any current relevance to the ways things are around here.

My work for the State requires me to obtain permission to engage in any other remunerative efforts. Several years ago, my superiors were kind enough to say "yes" to the golf column and related pursuits, for example. If I took ads to offset the modest cost of running this site, however, that requirement could come into play once more, and I would rather not push that issue, thankewverymuch.

Besides, for me this is a really cheap hobby. It costs far less than $10 per month. If visitor traffic ever jumped so high that I was looking at serious excess bandwidth charges, I might begin thinking about running ads. For now, though, the dollar cost of keeping this site going is just not a big deal. Finding time to write for it is a far bigger challenge.

On the other hand, if anyone would like to show their appreciation for what they've read here, I'd be happy to learn from the Epilepsy Foundation of Delaware or the ALS Association that someone's made a hefty donation as an alternative gesture of support. That way the money would be available for folks who could really use it.

August 2, 2005
Econ 101 returns to car sales

At first blush, I have to wonder why the fact that GM and Ford are lowering their base prices on several of their products is sufficiently startling to be considered newsworthy.

One would think that the fact that these two major manufacturers are following the law of supply and demand was a standard practice--or else, they would have gone the way of the Hupmobile a long time ago.

The story includes at least a partial explanation for GM's reluctance to follow the standard advice when one's widgets aren't moving as fast as one would like:

G.M., in particular, is facing high and rising costs for wages, retiree health care, and raw materials like steel. The company has had little success in renegotiating contracts with the United Automobile Workers union.

I respectfully suggest that the company's woes are not only based on labor difficulties. Take Chevrolet for example. This model year it finally ended production of Cavaliers and S-10 pickups, and began selling two new replacements (Cobalts and Colorados, respectively).

It can't be easy to convince folks to buy old technology when newer concepts are so readily available from the competition.

Based on anecdotal evidence, at least around here, these two new lines are striking a chord with their target audience.

The lowered base prices will make it easier for folks like me to stop by the showrooms and see what's there. Whether we'll be impressed enough to make an offer or haggle our way to a deal will take more than just a price cut, however. A good test drive, good mileage, and a good array of features are still basic requirements.


Contact Information:

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


Home Page
Table of Essays
Table of Essays 2004
Table of Essays 2003
Table of Essays 2002
Links to the Weekly Archives

Official small print disclaimer: This is, after all, a personal web site. Any opinions or comments I express here are my own, and don't necessarily reflect the official position of my work as a government attorney or any of my clients.

That fact may become obvious later on, but it needs to be said here anyway.

© Frederick H. Schranck 2002-2005