Monday, April 30, 2007

Lawn Gods

Mother nature and her copious drenchings and our lawn fertilization have done wonders for the grass on the Quarter Acre. The lawn is very green and quite thick. We've not mowed it yet, but it's almost time. When that happens the season will be open in earnest and then Mrs. Agricola will lose her husband to, as she says, "the Lawn Gods."

We're not completely insane acolytes of the religion of the lawn, but it is an endlessly interesting task for us as we struggle to keep alive one of the most fickle plants cultivated by man. We will not go so far as to say grass is useless -- it preserves our home's resale value, helps prevent erosion, keeps our property cool and produces O2 while removing CO2 from the environment (one must keep their carbon footprint small, after all). It's a challenge that, while maddening at times, keeps us entertained all summer. It's also a task that affords the opportunity to work outside, use our disappearing muscles and a power tool and gives us a sense of accomplishment when it finished.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Hen Turkey: Two

Mrs. Agricola reports that the hen turkey was back yesterday, and this time she was kicking around the Quarter Acre. A neighbor reported that she and her family saw it walking down the middle of the street. We're looking forward to seeing if the bird decides to stick around the neighborhood -- perhaps it has decided to make a home amongst us.

This is pretty cool, but also somewhat problematic. We've heard of turkeys ruining cars by sitting on them and doing what turkeys do. They can also be aggressive birds, and with little kids around we will need to keep an eye out for the turkey to make sure she and the kids don't come to blows -- toddlers would not fare well in that encounter.

That said, it's interesting and we look forward to seeing how things develop. As we noted in a previous post nature is all around us, and we are living in ever-closer proximity to wild animals despite the seeming tameness of our surroundings. Were the turkey a coyote we might feel differently, but even if it were it would still be exciting to have the opportunity to watch nature up close, over our morning coffee.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Hen Turkey

Tonight, while cooking dinner, we looked outside the side-kitchen-window towards our neighbor's house and noticed a very large hen turkey scratching away on his lawn. We rustled up the kids and Pater Agricolae (he was dining with us this evening since Mater Agricolae is still in Chicago) and went to the front stoop to watch the turkey in action.

She spooked quickly and headed for more concealed forage across the street. We had neither the time nor the presence of mind to grab a camera until it was too late so we have no photographic evidence to back up our story. All in all though, it was very cool to see a turkey near the Quarter Acre. Increasingly we see more and more of these large birds all around the area, but, until today had never seen one in our neighborhood. She was a handsome bird, and we all got a tremendous kick out of our encounter.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Beautiful Sunday

St Clements W Demming P Lincoln Park

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Patriots Day

Concord Hymn
by Ralph Waldo Emerson

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set today a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Greening

The Northeast is greening up despite the cold and damp that's still hanging over the region -- the tail-end of the weekend's storm.

We suppose it should be getting greener given all of the moisture that lawns, trees and shrubs are receiving, but it's more than simple moisture that is hastening the reemergence. Buds grow larger, green grass blades overtake brown and our tulips and daffodils seem to be growing visibly each day -- the latter ahead of the former in the bloom department.

Some forsythia have finally bloomed, their yellow blossoms much welcomed in the dreary landscape; shrubs that we pass on our morning run sprout small leaves again and many trees in the neighborhood -- not just the early flowering ones -- are budding rapidly, ready to burst. It's a hopeful time of year, despite the dreary weather and desolate news reports. But, as she does each year, Nature sheds her winter garb to reveal her reborn beauty and we welcome the change with open heart.

She's returned not a moment too soon.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tax Day

“To take from one, because it is thought his own industry... has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who... have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.” —Thomas Jefferson


“The collection of taxes which are not absolutely required, which do not beyond reasonable doubt contribute to the public welfare, is only a species of legalized larceny. The wise and correct course to follow in taxation is not to destroy those who have already secured success, but to create conditions under which everyone will have a better chance to be successful.” —Calvin Coolidge

“Are you entitled to the fruits of your own labor or does government have some presumptive right to spend and spend and spend?” ++ “The federal government has taken too much tax money from the people, too much authority from the states, and too much liberty with the Constitution.” ++ “Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” --Ronald Reagan

Monday, April 16, 2007

Virginia Tech

What does one say when confronted with events such as transpired today in Blacksburg, VA?

As a cynic we await the coming media-coverage onslaught. The media has already written much about this event and created multi-media content in their coverage. More will follow, no doubt, until every conceivable angle will have been covered, uncovered, dissected and reassembled until some other horrible event yanks away the media's attention. Liberals will also use this as one more opportunity to confiscate guns (we don't own a gun, the highest power in our land, Mrs. Agricola, won't permit it, so, we comply).

As a blogger we are fascinated by the user generated content especially the video phone footage, camera phone stills and the story of the journalism class that posted from inside of Norris Hall during the attack.

As a father, a husband, a brother and a human being we acknowledge the terror and the tragedy of this event. We can only imagine the pain of the parents who have suffered the greatest loss imaginable, and offer the families and friends of the victims our deepest condolences and sincerest prayers.

Nor' Easter



Taken Sunday, April 15, 2007.

Following-up a Couple of Posts

We've written a couple of posts recently about public service and taxation at the local level.

We found a great link over on Newmark's Door to an article in City Journal by Theodore Dalrymple that chronicles the degradation of the British system of public service. It rings true for us, and like Dalrymple we think it bespeaks a larger issue in society at large.

Newmark also pointed us to a terrific article by Jack Kelly in the Pittsburgh Post & Gazette about 300 that is definitely worth a read.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Friday, April 13, 2007

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Overridden

The override in our town, on which we voted on 10 April, passed in resounding fashion by a vote of 59% yea to 41% nay. Obviously, we will conform to the wisdom of the electorate but it is disheartening that at a time in Massachusetts politics that many towns are voting down their overrides our town approved a pair of them that may cost us anywhere from $352 to $704 in the first year -- one of the questions concerned a debt exclusion that will supposedly decrease in cost to the taxpayer over the life of the 20 year bond.

The reason for our uncertainty about the actual cost of he override concerns the definition of taxpayer. There are two people on the Quarter Acre Tax Bill -- are we considered one taxpayer, or two? We're not sure, but we'll find out when our bank sends us the notice of increase in our escrow payments because the taxes have now risen, again . . .

When will we, the people, force the government to stop reaching into our pockets? When we have budget shortfalls at home we reduce spending. The government taps the "never-ending" supply of money within the population. The big argument for the overrides was to "keep our schools strong." We live in a town with a very good school system (as far as public school systems go). Had the override not passed, teachers would have been laid off, and class sizes would have increased. No one ever said how many teachers would be fired or by how much classes would have grown. The argument was purely emotional, and couched in fuzziness though the drain on our finances is anything but fuzzy (though it is emotional).

The money that we must now pay to the town equals at least one car payment, and possibly two depending on the actual definition of taxpayer; a nice weekend away; at least a few nice meals, and possibly several in a restaurant; a new dishwasher, Mosquito Magnet or some other type of durable good. Yet, we are happy to support the schools, we don't really need those things.

We moved to our town partly for the schools -- not because we're sure we want to send our kids to them, but for the value it adds to our real estate investment. If things continue to go according to history, there will be another override next year, and our property taxes will rise yet again. Eventually, this will affect our investment by making it harder to sell our house because of high property taxes.

There will be another sob story next year, and more lamentations that our schools will be weakened . . . if you want private-school-education send your kids to private school, don't rely on the public dime to provide it. Taxation is a power issue. By claiming ever more of our money, the government removes our power to decide how we want to live. Some day it may stop -- though we fear that will be the day that we, like so many other Massachusetts refugees, flee the burgeoning Peoples' Republic that is the Commonwealth.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Civic Duty

We did our civic duty today and voted in the town election. We didn't vote for any people -- just the two tax-increase ballot questions. The strange thing about local elections is that despite their proximity we know very little about the candidates. Our lack of knowledge about our neighbors who wish to be in local politics prevents us from voting for anybody (we also never vote for those who run unopposed).

Last fall's elections in Iraq inspired us tremendously to go out and exercise our right to vote. If the Iraqi people can risk life and limb to vote, literally, then we can find 20 minutes in our day to stop by the local elementary school and fill out (some of)the ballot. We are lazy in our exercise of democracy in this country and at this present moment in time we can't afford to be.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter Sunday

But at daybreak on the first day of the week they took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb; but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them. They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground. They said to them, "Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day."

And they remembered his words.

Then they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others. The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; the others who accompanied them also told this to the apostles, but their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb, bent down, and saw the burial cloths alone; then he went home amazed at what had happened.

Luke 24: 1-4

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?

Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?

--Traditional, African American Spiritual

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Public Till

We've lived on the Quarter Acre for about 2.5 years. Next week we are facing our third property tax vote since moving in. As a March 31 article in The Boston Globe states this month 50 towns in the Commonwealth are voting on property tax increases to cover shortfalls that will save libraries, teaching and police jobs and lifelong public employee 80% pensions.

At what point, we ask, will the government -- local, state & federal -- realize that they can't keep coming to the citizens for cash? At what point will we, the citizens, begin to demand that they stop? Last year 59 of 89 tax hike proposals were defeated in the Commonwealth. Perhaps the tide is turning, but the bureaucrats don't seem to get it and property tax-hike-proposals continue to flow to the electorate. We appreciate the opportunity to vote on them, but are indignant that the powers-that-be can't get their financial houses in order.

We understand the governmental tropes about rising health care, pension and other costs, but, at some point, things need to be cut in order to service those commitments. Decisions need to be made about what is truly important and what is not -- never an easy for a bureaucrat, but a daily decision for the taxpayer who is compelled by law to pay the taxes or else. No other "career" has such cushy bonuses and perks as does that of the "public servant" -- we're obviously excluding the UAW here.

We work in private industry, and we have no pension beyond what we save ourselves, nor will we have gold plated health care benefits upon retirement. Why should public service of twenty years equal lifetime comfort from the age of 42 until death? We think that the founders never intended for "public service" to be a career, and certainly never intended for it to confer a life-time sinecure financed by the public weal.

On the Quarter Acre we cut back in lean times, and moderate our expenditures based on cash flow -- we freelanced for a long time, so income was not always steady -- would that the government do the same. Alas, that will never happen because once an entitlement is granted, or a program started it must be honored in perpetuity. Hopefully, the voters of this state flock to the polls and defeat the latest encroachment into their pockets. We will be there, on April 10, casting our vote against all overrides in our town (there are two on the ballot) in an effort to keep more of our money where it belongs -- within our family, spent as we see fit, on things that we need, want and desire.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A Few Good Quotes

“Patriotism is as much a virtue as justice, and is as necessary for the support of societies as natural affection is for the support of families.” —Benjamin Rush

“We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.” —C.S. Lewis

“Politics, n. strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.” —Ambrose Bierce

From (Patriot Post) Patriot Vol. 07 No. 14 | 04 April 2007

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Athlete-Media-Relations 2.0

Regardless of where you stand on Curt Schilling, he is a unique talent both on and off the field. While he rubs many the wrong way -- esp. The Boston Globe's curmudgeonly Dan Shaughnessy -- as a self-promoter, he is redefining the way athletes relate to the media and the fans.

We happen to think Schilling is terrific and we look forward to his weekly chats with Dennis and Callahan -- the morning drive guys on Boston's sports-radio-giant WEEI. He always sheds great light on the game, and provides terrific insight into how it's played at the highest level -- at least in his POV.

Schilling has long been an active participant on the Boston Dirt Dogs and Sons of Sam Horn bulletin boards. He's also known around these parts to sports radio listeners as "Curt in the Car." This spring Schilling launched his own blog, 38 Pitches. It must be a nightmare for team-management to have a guy as savvy, intelligent and opinionated as Schilling out and about, opining and talking about whatever he wants.
This is a perfect example of the issue of how brand owners are losing control of their brand. Ownership, understandably, wants to control, what their employees say, but they have to be even-handed and judicious in how hard, and when or if, they come down on a player such as Schilling. We think that ownership understands that they would surely lose in any war of words with Schilling. This new foray into the blogoshpere is certainly forcing them to walk a razor thin line.

For now, ownership of the Sox is showing forbearance and continuing to permit Schilling to be visible and opinionated. It will be interesting to see how long they permit this, especially as the season progresses and Schilling draws nearer to free agency. Like the Sox, Schilling also has a brand to maintain and he does so by being open and pushing his message across multiple channels. There have been athlete blogs in the past -- ESPN has contracted with marginal players to chronicle a season -- but this is about as high-a-profile a player as we know of to go the route of the personal blog.

We'd love to hear and see more players go this route as well. It will radically change the relationship between player and fans as well as player and major media outlets. Part of this, no doubt, lies at the root of the issues between Shaughnessy and Schilling. In Shaughnessy's world, the player is supposed to sit there, give good quotes to the grizzled, old-media pro and allow the latter to control the message. Alas, the days of the gate-keeping, myth-making, and mythical reporter as major arbiter of player access are numbered.

Welcome to Athlete-Media-Relations 2.0. People like Schilling are helping to change the field of play (so to speak). The ballpark scribes now need to compete with the athletes themselves for the scoop. As long as this foray into the brave-new-world of DIY news production, brand management and self promotion doesn't distract too much from on-field performance -- Schilling got lit up on Opening Day by Kansas City -- we are all for it and look forward to the evolution.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Opening Day

Opening Day is upon us, again. The Boston Red Sox are in Kansas City playing a daytime season opener and the whole summer lays out before us filled with potential and dreams of October glory.

The Quarter Acre season opener was March 31, 2007. Along with Pater Agricolae we thatched and raked all day. In what is developing into a tradition, Quarter Acre was tended first and then we travelled to Pater Agricolae's Acre and did the same. It was a great workout and a beautiful day to be outside working. The yard looks neat and clean, and though still in its latent period it is about to burst back to life. We helped things with a dose of fertilizer -- the season's first -- and look forward to the greening.

The season is open!