Sneaking Suspicions
Archives-- December 31, 2006-January 13, 2007

This page includes posts from December 31, 2006-January 13, 2007 in the usual reverse order. Each posting on the home page is perma-linked to these archive pages.

January 10, 2007
After the end of the darkest month

We're now a week past the darkest month of the year.

These 30 days don't correspond to the formal beginning and end of any month. It is the 15 days before and after the winter solstice.

One of the nicest things about this part of January is that the ride home from work is no longer entirely after sunset. For the first 10 miles or so below Dover, some pleasant views to the west are now there to be enjoyed, such as this one from tonight:

Sunset, Kent County, DE near Little Heaven, January 10 2007

The last 30 miles are still ridden in darkness, but that condition will dissipate soon enough.

January 10, 2007
I think I'm going to like this guy

Two days ago the Supreme Court held oral argument on a Commerce Clause issue involving waste management ordinances in New York state.

It's an interesting legal issue, touching upon what most folks consider as a routine government function and how municipalities and other solid waste authorities handle these responsibilities.

Anna Holloway of Harvard Law School wrote a good re-cap of the argument, which you can read here.

The folks at SCOTUSblog also provided a handy link to the argument transcript.

Let's face it, though--solid waste laws and their Commerce Clause implications are pretty dry stuff. So when I read Chief Justice Roberts's reaction to one of the petitioner's arguments, I laughed out loud:

MR. TAGER: Well, the case you have here is are you going to adopt a new formalistic particular distinction between public and private ownership, when in the past this Court has concluded that a lot of these other distinctions were unworkable.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Well, so, you say formalistic as if it's a bad thing. But the, the distinction, say in the First Amendment, if the private contractor the day before the municipality bought the facility for a dollar had fired an employee because of his or her political views, you wouldn't argue that that is state action just because the next day it was going to be controlled by the public entity. And yet the next day, that type of action would be subject to First Amendment scrutiny. It may be a formalistic distinction but in many areas of the law it makes all the difference.

As someone else is fond of saying, I don't care who you are, that's funny right there.

And if this quote is typical of the Chief Justice's approach to oral argument, I'm going to read more of these transcripts.

January 8, 2007
Weasel Watchers

Not long ago I sent a link to a recent post about a lesson from history to Hube of Colossus of Rhodey. Hube wrote back and said that he'd nominated the post for a review and vote by members of the Watcher's Council.

They select winners in two categories, as shown in the most recent winning council post and the winning non-council post, and also post the list of results for the latest vote, among all the nominees.

Finishing among the top non-council winners made it a very pleasant first-time experience that I certainly didn't expect.

January 8, 2007
Another pint or two or three, please

Apparently the folks at the Blood Bank of Delmarva weren't satisfied with taking a pint from me last month.

Now they'd like to make a regular routine of it.

Actually, I'm fine with that suggestion.

The letter I received says that they would like to put me on a list of donors that they can call on short notice for a fresh batch. It seems that my blood type is in regular and large demand--hence the request.

It's all part of National Blood Donor Month, according to a story in the Delaware State News today. The Blood Bankers have several good reasons to pick this part of the year for this effort:

“There’s a nationwide blood shortage in January,” said Blood Bank of Delmarva marketing director David V. Bonk.

“There are so many holidays late in the year that most blood banks have a shortage because fewer people donate. School blood drives are tough to schedule in December.”

Many of those who do turn out to donate are turned away because they are sick — only 80 of 100 volunteers qualify to donate, Mr. Bonk said — which is normal during cold and flu season.

Additionally, more blood is needed after New Year’s Day because many people put off elective surgeries until after the holidays, Mr. Bonk said.

All of that translates into a rough patch in the beginning of each year.

Well all right, then.

And if you're able to make a donation yourself, they'd be happy to add you to the list.

January 8, 2007
Glitches at HBH

One of the good things about using different web hosts for your web sites is that if one of the sites is boogered up with web host technical glitches, the other site is available to notify those readers who regularly go to both places.

It's a small point, but about the only good one for the current situation.

Hole By Hole is my golf site, and the Georgia-based web host I've been using for it has handled its modest duties without too much difficulty for several years--until this weekend, when I tried to upload several updates.

The upload failure messages note that a sub-item failed, but I simply don't know what that means.

As it is, the HBH home page is now a complete blank, as are the last several weeks of golf column pages. The rest of the site's pages, such as the book reviews, are apparently un-boogered--at least so far.

I reached customer tech support (not so helpfully blessed with work hours that end at 5 pm EST), and later tried their suggested fix, without success.

More fun tomorrow, I suppose.

January 7, 2007
Steyn alive*

This weekend I finished reading Mark Steyn’s America Alone. You should read it, too.

Those who read his columns or hear Steyn on the Hugh Hewitt radio show or other media outlets will not be terribly surprised by either the tone or direction Steyn lays out in this extended argument for a strong defense against Islamofascists in their war against the West.

With this book, however, Steyn’s fans can use his polemic to help convince their doubting acquaintances that there really is a significant threat to the Western tradition and those who have benefited from it.

As I read this book, Steyn’s focus centers on the demographic element of the Islamofascist peril. With frequent references and statistics on steeply falling birthrates in Western Europe and members of the former British Empire, such as Canada, compared to significantly higher birthrates for Islamic countries, Steyn’s analysis is at the least disturbing, if not frightening in its projections.

At times, however, I thought that perhaps his argument was a bit too Malthusian in its apparent reliance on continuing birthrate patterns, without sufficient regard to factors that could alter those results significantly between now and some decades hence.

Even if the population shift changes don’t take place at quite the pace Steyn predicts, however, there is nonetheless the continuing problem of what to do about the Islamists in the meantime. If September 11 showed us anything, it is that the West is significantly at risk from asymmetrical warfare, especially from barbaric foes more than happy to leave this world for another.

You might think that no one needed to learn that lesson any more. Unfortunately, far too many folks continue to think (or hope) that leading a blameless life is itself sufficient protection from those whose world view is both radically intolerant and easily expressed in a wide variety of deadly forms.

Steyn’s book can correct this misimpression.

*I know this is a really bad pun, but it was irresistible.

January 7, 2007
No brag, just fact

This morning I was in the middle of making scones with dried cranberries, when my wife came downstairs. She suggested adding some dark chocolate, so I mixed in something between an eighth and a quarter-cup of crushed chocolate drops.

As it turned out, this was a very, very good combination.

January 7, 2007
An acceptable substitute

Ann Althouse posted one of her pithiest and funniest posts last night, noting through her link the passing of Momofuku Ando, inventor of Ramen Instant Noodles.

The comments section below the short note in Metafilter to which Althouse referred is full of appreciative commentary from current and former college students, thanking Ando for inventing the cheap food that filled their stomachs without emptying their wallets.

Our daughters and their friends have had far more experience with these instant noodles than my wife and I did during our college and graduate school days in the mid-1970s, so in that respect I can only celebrate Ando’s contributions through a generational filter.

I don’t recall a similar near-universality of instant noodle fans among my fellow law students. At that time, the most popular cheap carbohydrate source tended to be the store brand version of the macaroni and powdered “cheese” boxes, usually available at the MacArthur Boulevard Safeway in DC at five for a dollar.

The nutritional labels on these boxes claimed that each contained four to five servings, but we knew better. That goal could only be achieved through the addition of a pound of browned ground beef, a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup, and a small can of peas.

The running joke was that the peas were added for color. Considering these were canned peas in the 1970s, this is what passed for ironic commentary on our dinner of choice for an average minimum of three nights out of seven.

As with the instant noodles, no one could argue that these M&C casseroles-in-a-pot were high up on the cuisine scale. On the other hand, they perfectly fit a low-budget lifestyle.

Many years later, as noted here previously, my daughters came to enjoy an updated version--one that used real cheese.

January 3, 2007
Taking the fifth

Today marks the fifth anniversary of this blog.

It’s still fun, although other demands are cutting into the time available for routine posting.

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to fix that, if possible.

In the meantime, thanks to the roughly million or so visitors to Sneaking Suspicions since its opening date. I hope you all have enjoyed reading this as much as I have enjoyed writing it.


Contact Information:

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

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© Frederick H. Schranck 2002-2006