Hearts and Flowers

Friday, February 14, 1997

i looked outside at 5am last Saturday morning it was snowing steadily and I suddenly remembered that I like snow although we haven't had much so far this year. All things in moderation, of course. Even my two cats were watching; they were too young to really remember The Blizzard of '96, but thoroughly enjoyed Nature's current ice show.

For breakfast, I ground and brewed some Starbuck's coffee, squeezed fresh orange juice I'll have trouble ever calling it OJ again and made the classic Eggs Benedict and Canadian Ham, with freshly-prepared hollandaise sauce, and perfectly-poached eggs. Fresh is always best. When I chef for another person or for other people, I always go to great lengths to make the finest ingredients available in my kitchen. A glass of champagne would go well with this fare, but I have to leave for work soon. Best not to drink (this early) and drive (never).

I quickly scanned The New York Times and the Washington Post, CNN and WGAL TV-8 to see what happened overnight. After getting things together for the day, I took one of my cats for a short walk around the condominium complex. It didn't take Murphy long to get cold and begin shivering. I stuffed him inside my down-filled parka to keep him warm, and took him back inside. Then I left on a snowy, blustery drive to the Garden Center. The snow is always much heavier and constantly drifts across the roads near the Garden Center than in the northern part of York, PA., where I live. More farmland and open spaces down there, I guess.

Think Spring.
Since last Wednesday, there's been a constant barrage of calls for Spring employment; everyone from high school kids to seniors and in between, wanting to work somewhere at my Garden Center. On the average, several dozen calls per day, so I'm mailing out a pile of job applications. And there are a few walk-ins every day as well. Unfortunately, many don't realize what the work load consists of and think it's an easy ride. Each year, I get 150-200 job applications for the 25 or so positions here, or whatever I feel the requirements for the upcoming season merit. I could use twice the qualified personnel I now have in an operation this size; instead, most of us wear too many hats and have a load of job responsibilities that would choke ordinary mortals.

Over the past 7 years, many people have come and gone here; some just can't handle the physical work, while others show up sporadically and still expect to have the job and get paid. They want a job, but they don't want to work. I give them all the chances that they can handle if they simply try. Many can't even get that correct. Then they're in for a very rude awakening after one warning. Bang zoom: they're gone.

We train dozens of people here each year in the fields of Horticulture, Landscaping, Retail Management and Marketing. I have very competent people now in place as division heads to oversee their training and care. But I still have to get involved when I see things falling between the cracks. The onus is always on the owner.

I do appreciate and reward those who make the effort and show results. There's a core group of hardworking, conscientious and dedicated people that return every year because they enjoy the business and they're very good at it.

More Real Progress
Since the season really ended when the ground froze last December, we've been fairly busy with some major capital improvement projects around the Garden Center and Nursery.

A 30'x60' storage (pole) building was erected in less than two days by 5 Amish men from Lancaster, PA. They worked together like a well-oiled machine. We did all the site prep work. The 20'x30' Landscape Services Division Building has been modified to include restroom and shower facilities, and exclusive storage for the crews and equipment. The trucks, skidloader and tractor will be housed in the other building.

Hundreds of large trees and shrubs were dug, root-pruned and stored while a major excavation project was also underway. The new 30'x60' building site needed to be created: a 30,000 ton compost pile and much soil had to be moved to bring it to grade. After the grading, the trees and shrubs had to be moved back into their freshly-dug holes and mulched for the Winter. Heck, it is Winter.

Tens of thousands of hardy perennials are being propagated now in Greenhouse-1, then moved down to Greenhouse-4 for the Winter. Both Greenhouses-3 and 4 are full with leftover container nursery stock, kept wet, shaded and frozen for the Winter. We take loads down to GH-4 everyday. Sure, many thousands of new perennials will arrive in the Spring; we do propagate a majority of what we sell, but it would take 2-3 full time horticulturists to do the total job. In a couple of years, maybe. If I can find the personnel to do the job. The ones that I've interviewed so far aren't qualified to mow grass, let alone work at my facility. Sad but true.

The Spring nursery orders and confirmations are all in from our broker and the suppliers. I reviewed the orders with my landscape foreman and made some minor changes to two suppliers' lists: increased each order. We've got some very, very rare, unusual and hard-to-find things arriving in April and May. I'm excited.

Next, we'll concentrate on the perennials lists. Because it's a new supplier, the selection and availability may be way down. We're ordering late, but I want to start rebuilding my perennial supplies. I plan to have 500 varieties again by the end of the year. It'll take a year or two to work back up to 750, as we had two years ago. We're talking the 40,000 individual perennial plants spread out over 750 types or varieties.

I've also ordered the Windows-based version of GardenWare v7.0 so we'll be converting from the old DOS-based v5.5 GUI. I've seen the new version demonstrated at the M.A.N.T.S (Maryland Area Nursery Trade Show) held in Baltimore, MD, in early January. Very slick and powerful. The software that is, not the city.

Campaign Finance Reform?
The Washington Post's article first in a four-part series enumerated the widespread graft and corruption by both the liberal Democrats and Conservative Republicans during the '96 General Election Campaign.

It's a shameful and dirty story of what was done by both sides to acquire and spend money to promote their respective candidates. The liberals were the worst offenders, but the best at sneaking and conniving around Election Finance Laws. The resultant criminal investigations will point out some of their more sleazy tactics.

Personally, I've given up all hope that politics can be reformed and upgraded. It's just in the nature of the beast to be criminal. As a result, the few who are honest politicians (almost a true oxymoron) suffer for the misdeeds of their crooked colleagues. That's as it is in life everywhere, unfortunately.

The Fix
Instead of letting politicians off with either a reprimand, or a small fine, put the sons-of-bitches in jail for a few months or years.

If they break the law; they do the time. Simple enough. Works for the general populace; why not for politicians? Why the hell are they any damned different than the rest of us? Cut a deal? Work something more palatable out? No way! Jail the bastards!

The problem has always been that because politicians make the laws, they feel that they can break the laws (just a little...). f*ck 'em: jail the offending bastards and bastard-ettes if they break any of the laws. If there are loopholes in the laws that allow people and corporations to work around the law, close them and don't allow circumventing of the law. Set the example with several prominent people for all to see. A crime against society is a crime, pure and simple. I think that jail would have a very special way of teaching white collar criminals to mind their ethics. Forget morals: those are learned, not inherited. Jail worked wonders for the Watergate criminals. We don't hear about them conspiring or burglarizing anymore, do we? No, we don't. Prison cured that shit quickly.

The Rats Are Jumping Ship
It's apparently starting to come unravelled now: the fellow Clinton Whitewater scum are beginning to jump ship. With enough time now gone by, the convicted co-conspirators of the Clintons are beginning to realize that they won't get pardons and will have to serve some semi-serious prison time. As they're stories begin to unfold, more and more evidence is beginning to point to Slick Willie and Hillarious as playing major roles in the illegal scheme to defraud federal banks and create a windfall for each of them.

Clinton's pal and crony in crime, Webster Hubbell, is under additional scrutiny from the special prosecutor, Kenneth Starr, for other financial dealings that may unravel the twisted web of lies and crime that Clinton was engaged in.

Everyone that is, except Susan McDougal, that lying slut now in jail for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury about Whitewater. She's also been indicted in a separate and apparently unrelated incident for stealing $150,000 from concert violinist Zubin Mehta and his wife in Los Angeles, while she was their bookkeeper. My, that bitch sure gets around. I think she looks great in chains and stripes. And she was apparently haveing an affair with Slick Willie while he was the so-called governor of Arkansas. Pretty sad story all around. Typical liberal sleaze.

Her ex-husband, Jim McDougal, also convicted and facing 87 years in a federal prison, has decided to tell all. She claims he's going to lie about it all. Duh. Of course, last May he testified that Clinton had nothing to do with the Whitewater scam. Now he's singing a different tune to Kenneth Star, the special prosecutor. We'll see where it all nets out soon enough.

National Security Compromised?
In an article just published Thursday, The Washington Post now reports that the Democratic National Committee's (DNC) effort to raise funds may have included economic espoinage by the Chinese government, through that scumbag John Huang and the criminal Lippo Group of Indonesia. Here's another article on the criminal activities of the DNC. Are you listening, Bubba? Apparently not.

I'd guess that's why Chow Mein and rice is now on the dinner menu at The White House.

The PNA Speech
It's 5am Monday morning, and I'm still tinkering with my speech for Wednesday. I made the overhead slides yesterday from the Microsoft PowerPoint program, but there's always something to add. Heck, there's always something to add somewhere in life too. So I keep reviewing and re-reviewing the script and slide copy, inserting this and deleting that item. Making the points about Positioning and Marketing Warfare are critical for this audience tomorrow. I'll be rehearsing all day today and part of this evening to get the timing with the slides and overheads just right.

I spent the day attending other speaker's lectures and seminars on everything from "potting bare root plants" to "special trees and shrubs used in cemetarys and arboretums". All had nice slide shows full of wonderful looking plants. I'm sure glad that I spent three days learning MS-PowerPoint and preparing an 18-slide animated color presentation. That should really wow 'em.

At 3:30pm, I went on stage before hundreds of anxious garden center and nursery owners, and tried to start Microsoft PowerPoint where my Positioning slide show was. It locked up. I booted. I restarted it. It locked up again. Screw it. I made the presentation without the slide show. And it was a success. When it's showtime, all I need is my nerve to get through it all. Many people came up after the show to talk about the topics I'd just spoken about. They wanted advice and information on the Positioning and Marketing Warfare books by Al Ries & Jack Trout. If you're interested in some cutting-edge marketing strategies and tactics, send me a note and I'll be most happy to forward their list of books and where to get them direct.

Thanks again Bill for all your help. I sure do appreciate it.

Communications Experts

The Beeper
Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Jerry Sanders (CEOs of MicroSoft, Intel, and AMD) were in a high-powered business meeting. During the serious, tense discussions, a beeping noise suddenly is emitted from where Bill is sitting.

Bill says, "Oh, that's my emergency beeper. Gentlemen, excuse me, I really need to take this call." So Bill lifts his wristwatch to his ear and begins talking into the end of his tie. After completing this call, he notices the others are staring at him.

Bill explains, "Oh, this is my new emergency communication system. I have an earpiece built into my watch and a microphone sewn into the end of my tie. That way, I can a take a call anywhere."

The others nod, and the meeting continues.

Five minutes later, the discussion is again interrupted when Andy starts beeping. He also states, "Oh, that is my emergency beeper. Excuse me, gentlemen, this must be an important call." So Andy taps his earlobe and begins talking into thin air.

When he completes his call, he notices the others staring at him and he explains, "I also have an emergency communication system. But my earpiece is actually implanted in my earlobe, and the microphone is actually embedded in this fake tooth. Isn't that cool?"

The others nod, and the meeting continues.

Five minutes later, the discussion is again interrupted when Jerry emits a thunderous fart. He looks up at the others staring at him and says, "Uhhh, somebody get me a piece of paper... I'm receiving a fax."

Deja Vu
It's 5am on Valentine's Day. The cats are now fed and happy. And I'm looking out of the sunroom windows at the snow really coming down. Without venturing out, it looks like an easy 5-6" so far. I'm listening to WITF in Harrisburg, and there's hundreds of school closings and delays. shit, when I was in grade school and high school, it never closed unless there was a real blizzard. These kids and their teachers today are such wimps.

I must be a creature of habit or something; I made the very same breakfast that I'd had last Saturday: fresh orange juice, Eggs Benedict with Canadian Ham and coffee. As always, it was rich and filling and very satisfying.

As I scanned the headlines of various newspapers on the Web, I noticed a preponderance of Valentine's Day stuff everywhere. Duh. Today is that day. I can remember when Hallmark Co. had some senators and a president in their pocket (read payroll) back in the early 60s, and this whole national excuse for a dozen roses or slushy greeting card industry sprang up. It's a very poor excuse for retail sales, but it's now a multi-billion dollar industry. Even on the Web, scum companies specializing in rip-offs abound. Caveat!

I've never been one to tailor my social or amorous behavior according to so-called national days of observance. When I did have a significant other, everyday was a cause for something special, not just February 14th. That's the key to keeping a relationship fresh and exciting: don't wait until the greeting card companies prepare the day for you, have fun everyday. Be spontaneous and genuine to your partner. Carpe diem! Seize the day.
Happy Valentine's Day.

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