Thursday, January 31, 2008

Kitchen Repaint

We repainted the kitchen in January and I can' believe how much it's changed my perception of the house, and how come it took so long to get around to it. We went from nasty burnt umber walls and bone colored trim and cabinets to nice bright silver-blue walls with bright white trim, doors and a new coat of kitchen and bath paint on the ceiling. Everything is done in a semi-gloss and it looks awesome. We also changed the hardware on all of the cabinet doors and took the opportunity to reorganize all of the shelves.

I started the job grudgingly -- I'd wanted to paint Child Two's room and the entry-front hall first, but Mrs. Agricola and then Mater & Pater Agricolae got on me and I knew the jig was up. We originally intended to paint only the walls and ceiling, but the cabinets and trim looked so beat that we gave the whole room a total makeover and it looks great. Pater Agricolae helped tremendously in hanging the cabinet doors, which proved the trickiest part of the job, and Mrs. A got her reorganization fix in a huge way. The kitchen is not perfect, but it's a huge improvement and with the addition of a table from and bar stools from Ikea it's completely more useful. This was another good, family, project on the Quarter Acre that has improved life and fed our handy-people nature.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Raptor Dance

I was sitting in a meeting the other day (1/28/08)and saw a pair of Bald Eagles starting their mating dance. The male was striking with his white head and tail, and the female was larger and duller in coloration. They were wheeling around one another and soaring about over Joppa Flats in Newburyport. I was witnessing the flirtation stage and did not get to see the spectacular and death-defying talon-locked-tumble portion of the ritual -- no doubt, they moved out of view for some more privacy.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Disenfranchisement Rejected

Following up "Change, Right . . . " a Nevada court rejected the suit brought by Clinton supporters and the NV Teachers' Union to ban casino-based caucus places. This ban would have disenfranchised Black and Latino employees of Casinos and other companies along the Las Vegas Strip. The suit was filed on behalf of the Clinton campaign in the wake of the powerful Service Workers' Union endorsement of Barack Obama.

How is it that the Clintons get away with this stuff, and why are they such darlings of the main stream media? Are there any less attractive people than these people (and I'm not referring to physical appearance)? They are rotten to the core. Is the country really ready for at least four more years of ugliness?

I have only questions, and no answers.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Change, Right . . .

Lest anybody think that the current election, as currently campaigned by the Democrats, is about changing government and saving the working and middle classes of America, read John Fund's opinion piece in today's WSJ.

. . . [I]t was only last week [the Democrats] argued before the Supreme Court that an Indiana law requiring voters show ID at the polls would reduce voter turnout and disenfranchise minorities. Nevada allies of Hillary Clinton have just sued to shut down several caucus sites inside casinos along the Las Vegas Strip, potentially disenfranchising thousands of Hispanic or black shift workers who couldn't otherwise attend the 11:30 a.m. caucus this coming Saturday.

D. Taylor, the president of the Culinary Workers Union that represents many casino workers, notes that legal complaint was filed just two days after his union endorsed Barack Obama. He says the state teachers union, most of whose leadership backs Mrs. Clinton, realized that the Culinary union would be able to use the casino caucuses to better exercise its clout on behalf of Mr. Obama, and used a law firm with Clinton ties to file the suit.

How lovely, is the nakedly aggressive pursuit of power.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Shaking the Trees

Monday, a Nor'Easter dropped about 8-10 inches of snow on the Quarter Acre. the snow was an odd, pasty consistency that stuck really well to trees and shrubs and really bent them over but it was not that heavy to shovel. I went out just after dinner to move some snow from the end of the driveway, after a late plow run, and noticed that the trees and shrubs in front of the house were seriously laden.

The beautiful Kusa Dogwood just outside of our front door was in serious danger of collapsing from its snow cover. For some reason, neither Mrs. Agricola nor I had noticed during the day how bowed and very much in danger it was of losing one of its main leaders. In order to prevent losing this tree I started shaking it with my shovel to knock the snow out of it and lessen its load. Snow was falling all around me, and I had a slight worry, in the back of my mind, that maybe, just maybe, the shaking would break the tree and I'd get nailed by a big snow-covered branch. The shaking seemed to work, caused no further damage, and this morning the leader seemed to regain its more typical, vertical alignment.

I also shook a Rose of Sharon right in front of the house that typically stands about 12 feet high. With it's snow cover it was bent nearly in half. Now, Rose of Sharons are tough, willowy trees that grow like weeds. I'm not a huge fan of them, but this one is pretty large and shields the house from the sun so I gave it some good shakes to release some weight. It too returned to it's normal verticality.

I've shoveled lots of walks and driveways in my day but never actually shoveled trees. I've got a thing for trees though and the Kusa, in particular, is an attractive and valuable specimen that would would have been terrible to lose due to storm, or more accurately, post-storm damage. Add tree shaking to the list of homeowner's responsibilities,

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Snow Day

Taken 1 14 08

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Sunset Quarter Acre

Taken by Mrs. Agricola.

Monday, January 07, 2008

US-1 & The Modern Lovers

When you are a contractor you follow the money and take the gigs where they are (within reason). Since moving back to Boston I have taken two gigs at agencies north of the city. Since I live just west and a bit south of Boston I've had some decent commutes. The ability to write off the gas makes them profitable, and I've had the opportunity to traverse many of the north/south highways and by ways of The Commonwealth on my way to and from work.

Recently, after a meeting in Boston, I shot over the Tobin Bridge and headed up US-1 North to get to my current gig. Each time I drive this road I feel compelled to blog about it, but have not until now. This road is a throwback to the earliest days of the American interstate highway system. Two lanes in either direction, lined with motels, retail stores and restaurants, and occasional traffic lights it recalls an era when people took their time going somewhere and made a day of the motor-car outing. Today, the road can be a real nightmare of traffic and it is hard to imagine taking it from Boston to Florida, as people once did, when, prior to the opening of I-95, US-1 was the highway for North-South travel on the Eastern Seaboard. As is fitting for a road that is no longer a major route, US-1 has drifted into that netherworld of faded glory that befalls so much Americana.

To say that the road is ugly is an understatement, but it also does not do the route justice. In fact, US-1 is so ugly that it is beautiful. Steak Lovers' Beacon It runs through some scrappy little towns and cities like Everet, Chelsea and Saugus and probably boasts more cell phone stores, Dunkin Donuts and auto body shops per mile than any road in the country. These establishments occupy shoddy mid-60s strip malls and old cinder block buildings along both sides of the highway. There are some classic signs along this road. One of the greatest is the giant cactus, (with fiberglass cows grazing beneath it) of Hill Top Steak House. Another iconographic sign of US 1, complete with rounded, space age design, made from painted tin and recently refurbished in the least sympathetic way possible belongs to the Ferns Motel

There is also some excellent highway architecture along this road:

No doubt The Ship Restaurant in Saugus (now a mall I've read) once served seafood baked beneath a mountain of buttered bread crumbs and garnished with parsley.

Baked Stuffed Schrod Special $9.95
The Leaning Tower of Pizza

When the moon hits your eye

The mini golf T. Rex.

All of this brings me, finally, to a quintessential Boston-band, Modern Lovers, and their most famous song, Roadrunner:

Roadrunner, roadrunner
Going faster miles an hour
Gonna drive past the Stop 'n' Shop
With the radio on
I'm in love with Massachusetts
And the neon when it's cold outside
And the highway when it's late at night
Got the radio on
I'm like the roadrunner

Originally recorded in 1972, and released in 1976, this song still gets (deservedly so, in my opinion) air play in Boston.Modern Lovers Frist LP, 1976Written by a local kid, Jonathan Richman, from Natick, MA. It un-apologetically describes what it was like to grow up in suburban Boston where, once of legal driving age, each weekend was an extended, auto-based peregrination through your hometown and neighboring communities looking for something to do.

So, on this cold, winter day, after a meeting, driving my car up US-1, soaking in its sights Roadrunner came on the radio and transformed the drive into a classic Massachusetts moment. It was not one of those "I'm depressed, and every song on the radio speaks to that angst" moments. Instead, it was a perfect confluence of one of the most local of local songs (far more local than overplayed, tired Dirty Water, which was written by The Standells of California)about a place that you know, by a person who knows that place too, while you are in that place.
I got the modern sounds of modern Massachusetts
I've got the world, got the turnpike, got the
I've got the, got the power of the AM
Got the, late at night, (?), rock & roll late at night
The factories and the auto signs got the power of modern sounds

Right, bye bye!