Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Seasonal Closure

Rather than spend the weekend after Thanksgiving battling the masses for silly sale prices on silly things we don't need (at Christmas time or any other time of year for that matter) we spent the weekend around the Quarter Acre shutting down the yard for the season.

We've raked the yard a couple of times this year, mowed the lawn close, applied the winterizer and basically kept things looking sharp. This past weekend was the final push. At the back of the property is a hill that runs the entire the width of the plot. Atop this hill sit several oak trees that produce copious amounts of acorns that litter the lawn and leaves that blanket the hill.

The leaf-blanketed hill is messy-looking, and we spent 6 hours raking it, bagging the leaves and taking the refuse (23 thirty Gallon bags) to the giant leaf pile at the town dump. It was one of the best days yet on the Quarter Acre -- a crisp, beautiful, November, Saturday, outside, engaged in good honest hard work that added a blister to the inside of our thumb, and a new layer of dirt and scuffs to our boots. Additionally, we cut the dead Hostas, Astilbes and other perennials to the ground; raked out beds; mowed the lawn for the last time (mainly to pick up stray leaves); put away the gas grill and the Adirondack chairs and disposed of a completely rotten chimenia.

The yard is neat and trim and looks as spare as the leafless trees that surround it. There is a beauty now to the Quarter Acre that is both of and from the season that increasingly settles upon it. Stripped down, dormant and waiting, the yard is closed for the season, anticipating the Spring and the beginning of next year's ministrations.

Crazy Friday

A friend of Quarter Acre asked us to write about the first shopping day of the 2006 Christmas Shopping Season. This friend was horrified by of our fellow Americans and described them as "greedy" as they bum-rushed the gates of stores to scoop up holiday bargains. We certainly agree that the behavior of our fellow Americans on this day is disturbingly boorish. However, we're not completely sure that it's evidence of greed, per se, but rather misplaced priorities and consumerist venality.

One thing that we've always thought is that people like to shop on the day after Thanksgiving because they want something about which to talk and complain. Americans love to tell stories that involve distress and discomfort. For us, there is nothing more uncomfortable and distressing than the thought of arising at 5:30 AM to push and shove strangers at the door of a store to buy things that will be thrown out, disused and forgotten within weeks of their receipt -- because, honestly, isn't that the fate of most of the things we buy in the big box stores? Yet, each weekend immediately following Thanksgiving, the media, and our personal spheres are filled with tales of shopping-woe and mall-based-misery arising from the "Official Kickoff to the Shopping Season." If the so-called savvy-shopper doesn't know that this weekend is going to be miserable by this point then there is not much that we can do to help them; and, if savings of 50% - 70% off regularly priced items don't mitigate the agony then is Thankgiving-Friday shopping really worth it? What's wrong with internet shopping?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving Eve

Today is Thanksgiving Eve, the true kickoff to the Holiday season. This is one of our favorite days of the year, and the start of one of the most enjoyable times on the Quarter Acre. There is much work to be, much to be prepared over the next month, but it is all fun and all driven by love and cheer. We love that the darkest, coldest time of year brings this period of heightened focus on family, home and charity -- the old boys who set up the Ecumenical calendar knew what they were doing all right. As we try to do each day, but particularly on Thanksgiving, it is fitting to give thanks for all that we have, especially:

Food on the table
Our Armed Forces
Being an American

Happy Thanksgiving to all who may stumble upon the Quarter Acre.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Milton Friedman, RIP

“Those of us who survive, who remain in this fight can—and should—take courage from [Friedman’s] example. Few of us will live as long; even fewer will be able to match his achievements. Still, we can continue the struggle, do our part to leave the world a bit better, striving always to advance freedom; and, in doing so, we will benefit greatly from the intellectual ammunition and the personal example he leaves us. For that and much more, we should all mourn and honor this great man.”
—Fred L. Smith, Jr., President, Competitive Enterprise Institute

“[Milton Friedman was] able to thoroughly discredit the idea, common since the Great Depression, that capitalism is inherently flawed and requires the ‘fine tuning’ of government to avoid excess and disaster. This has been the central conceit of the Keynesian state, administered by educated elites, adjusting tax-and-spending policies to tame the business cycle... Friedman attacked these beliefs at their root. He ambitiously argued that the Great Depression was not caused by the ‘defects’ of capitalism but by government incompetence. Going back to the 1930s, he demonstrated that the one-third fall in GNP was due to a one-third cut in the money supply from 1929 to 1933. ‘The Great Depression in the United States, far from being a sign of the inherent instability of the private enterprise system, is a testament to how much harm can be done by mistakes on the part of a few men when they wield vast power over the monetary system of the country’.”
—Ed Feulner, President, the Heritage Foundation

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

By Hand

One of our favorite things about the suburban transition is that the domicile is in need of work. Now, we're not talking about major renovations, but rather about cosmetic changes -- painting, cleaning, yard work. We just finished painting the dining room. This necessitated patching walls, the ceiling, sanding, cleaning, priming then the application of two coats of paint to all surfaces in the room (yes, we painted the ceiling and all the woodwork, if you don't do that, don't paint the room).

There is a lot of woodwork in our dining room -- chair rails, base boards, crown moldings and three door frames, a window frame and a neo-Classical styled corner hutch -- and it grew tedious near the end but looking at the finished product is gratifying. The job took several nights of work, after the day job and after the children were put to bed. A professional could have done it faster -- though not necessarily better -- and we would have been free to remain forever ensconced before the video altar. But, we took matters into our own hands, and got dirty, got paint splotched, and started to work on the callouses, toughening up relatively pink office hands.

One of the realities of living in a service based economy is that we can pay others to do nearly everything for us. Others can paint our dining rooms, mow our lawns, cook our meals and even train our children to pee in the pot. We like to do manual labor around the Quarter Acre. It reminds us of where we come from. It permits us to connect with our surroundings; use our hands on something more than a computer keyboard; take greater ownership of our property.

Friday, November 10, 2006

With Gratitude

“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. A man who has nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety is a miserable creature who has no chance at being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.” —John Stuart Mill

With deepest gratitude and respect we thank America's Veterans, and her active duty troops. You are in our thoughts and prayers this Veterans' Day, and every day.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Next Blog & Portuguese Blogs

One of our new favorite web pastimes is to come onto Blogger and keep hitting the "Next Blog" button. It's fascinating what you bump into. One thing that amazes on a daily basis is the number of Portuguese-language blogs that we encounter. We're unsure how the randomizer works on this button and what the criteria are, but we've never blogged about Portugal, or Brazil, though we have visited the former and loved every moment of the trip. Perhaps the next blog button has some sort of psychic powers, and can read our mind and thus connect us with people who also have a connection to Portugal. It would not surprise if Google had this in Beta . . .

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Together We Can . . .

That was/is the motto of the Commonwealth's first African American governor. It's a terrific marketing line. It says much and says nothing. It's brilliant and permits the reader to finish the line and therefore believe that the coming administration will fulfill his or her governmental dreams. The Patrick campaign never permitted itself to be defined, to take a stand or to declare its beliefs. Instead, it used its brilliant slogan to make the electorate believe that anything is possible. It's a great message, it's a great slogan but unfortunately the lack of substance, and the apparent lack of a plan behind the slogan don't bode well for the Commonwealth which is now a true, one party state.

Kerry Healey did not deserve to win. She ran an abysmal campaign that focused on one small part of Patrick's past. It was illustrative of the type of governance that we can now expect, but it never helped to define her, or help the electorate see how her proposed vision was better for the Commonwealth. Locally, nationally, and even more forbiddingly, internationally, it was a bad election day for Republicans. Like Kerry Healey they didn't deserve to win. They have spent the past two years aping Democrats -- spending like drunken sailors -- and failing to uphold the conservative credos that swept them to power in 1994.

A person close to us thinks that this election spells the end of the conservative movement and that conservatives will be out of power for at least another 12-15 years. We disagree with that, and take heart in the fact that conservatism actually seems to be on the rise, last night's results not-withstanding. It was a bad night for Republicans, not conservatives. Many of the Democrats who challenged and won were not Howard Dean/John Kerry leftists, but conservative, pro military, pro-religion candidates. The conservative movement will carry on. The Republican congressmen and senators of the 109th congress will not. This is a painful lesson for the Republican party, but perhaps they will return to their conservative roots and remember what it is that first brought them to power. Together we can . . .