Friday, January 10, 1997

A Hectic Pace
if you have never seen a 30'x60'x16' building constructed in two short (Winter) days even a structure as simple as a pole building it's quite amazing. The new 30' x 60' storage building is moving right along. Five or six Amish men are working on it; it's hard to tell how many there really are, they move so darned fast. The weather's perfect: 40-50F and sunny and, most important, dry. They'll be finished in two days. I shot some more pictures and as soon as I can, I'll put them up.

My other two buildings the Main Retail and Storage are both pole buildings, albeit the Retail Building is somewhat more custom-built and finely-detailed inside. But they're the most efficacious and functional buildings for an expanding operation of this type. Modifications can be made almost effortlessly and seamlessly (I've always wanted to use that word somewhere) and usually within a few days. Quick and slick.

Landscaping 101
It's already happening: the calls are coming in for Spring jobs. People are coming in over the weekends to book us for mainternance work and for landscape installations. I already have a dozen new jobs on the Spring schedule for the landscape crews, and it appears that we'll carry over 3-4 others from 1996. That's considerably better than the 22 we carried over from 1995 to 1996. That leftover situation messed up the schedule all the way through the 1996 season. Although each successive year has been a record-setter, I'm not satisfied until we break the $1million mark. Perhaps this year; we just missed it last year.

Journal Format
Several people have sent me notes saying that they'd like the old graphic format back: it was clean, easy-to-read, had less visual impact, but wasn't as tricky with their current browser. I appreciate the feedback, but I'm trying some new things here. I'll alternate between the old format and what I've been doing for the last month with new, colored and formatted tables, javascript, different html tags and more animations. The same old thing every week bores me; with all the new tricks that our browsers can do, why not have some fun with them? If you're using anything other than Netscape v3.0, you're doing yourself a disservice. Go get it; I'll still be here when you get back.

There's a new journal poll available for you to give your comments and feedback to, if you care to. The sponsoring group, called WebRing - Open Pages is a bit curious (especially Jackie) about who reads these online journals and diaries, and why. If you've got a few spare minutes, they'd greatly appreciate your feedback.

GC&N Projects
In addition to the new 30'x60' building, we're still working on finishing up all of the projects we started around the Garden Center & Nursery from last month. All of the 600 trees and shrubs are now back in place and secured for the Winter. The stone base for the new roads are in. Drainage and septic work is completed. Trenches are closed up after wire and pipe was laid for current and future plan expansion. There's still much work yet on the existing 20'x30' building to modify the interior for the landscape crews' use in the Spring. My crew started that project today, and we have the entire Winter to complete the work.

As always, I have piles of paperwork to wade through. The confirmation orders are finally beginning to come back, letting me know what nursery stock will be delivered, and what won't. Next, I have to scramble with my reps and order what I'm missing for Spring through other sources; otherwise, we'll have some gaping holes in the Spring lineup. People from 5 neighboring states have come to expect certain things from a nursery of our caliber, and I do not plan to disappoint them. I never do.

The Blizzard of '96
This time, last year, we experienced a horrendous blizzard that wiped out eight states for several days and caused billion dollars in property damage and cleanup, not to mention hundreds of deaths. We've been very lucky so far into January of 1997; the northwest hasn't. They've gotten pounded by blizzards and floods, much the way we did in '96. The weather has a strange way of assigning its punishment to the entire country, region by region. No one needs that kind of misery and hardship.

whacker MMX Chips
Intel released its MMX (miltimedia extensions) Technology Pentium processor chips this week, much to the delight of the online gamers, also known as people with way too much free time on their hands. (Some people collect games to play; I delete them wherever I find them.)

This new breed of processing chips can improve performance up to 60% over standard Pentium series hardware, if the corresponding, compatible software is used. There's very little of that software available now, but watch for a real proliferation in the coming months. Otherwise, a 10-20% performance gain in processing is readily noticeable. Wow.

What do you think all those tens-of-thousands of people who purchased new Pentium-based computers in 1996 yours truly being one are thinking? No, I'm not pissed off; I can easily re-arrange the usage of my current cadre of computers to take advantage of this new release for my own personal involvement.

Although I think games are the biggest waste of time and technology in the civilized world sorry, Jeff I'm always interested in any appreciable performance gain. Plus, all new software releases in the coming years will now feature the new MMX-compatible technology.

On the bright side: many thousands of people will also get deals on existing Pentiums, now languishing on store shelves and in manufacturer's pipelines. Now is the time to buy a stock Pentium; dealers will want to move those units rapidly at a great discount to make way for this new technology, already rolling out into stores as you read this.

Newt... Continued
As a Conservative, I was dismayed to see Newt Gingrich re-elected as Speaker of The House this week. He doesn't deserve it or the loyalty of other Conservatives or Republicans.

He's on a par now with Hillarious Clinton as both being known as petty liars; the difference being that Hillarious will be indicted within the next two years for her crimes and Newt won't for his crimes. But he is tainted and his present and future performance in politics will always be suspect. It will be impossible to listen to him pontificate anything about ethics or values after what he's done over the past two years, maybe longer. His credibility is permanently damaged, in my opinion.

It's not that he did something stupid or sleazy; we could handle that and put it behind us. What he did was lie about it for years and now makes the very lame excuse that it was his attorney's fault. Pity he couldn't just tell the truth.

The vote was close, but he won. I was glad to see some of the Republicans in The 105th Congress abstain or vote for someone else; those votes were from people of real conscience, oblivious to the arm-twisting that is parc el-and-part of politics. Of course, two of the biggest liberal, moron crooks in Congress Gephart and Bonior were the alternatives to Gingrich's re-election, so there was never any real question of them over him.

Although Gingrich has declared that no more revelations will be forthcoming, who really knows? Nothing's over until it's over. And somehow I feel that this just isn't over yet.

Bitter Cold
I think Winter has finally arrived, after giving us a reprieve for a few days to finish some outside work and new building construction at the Nursery.

Temperatures are hovering around 0F this morning, and things are freezing again. Forecasts are coming across the electronic media, but especially on NPR Radio signalling an impending Winter Storm moving toward the southcentral Pennsylvania area. Northern Maryland would be affected too, of course. Misery loves company.

I expect to see the stores loaded with people unloading all the bread and milk they can once again carry home, and the gas stations with waiting lines extending around the next corner, comprised of people who only have half a tank left. shit, you'd think the end of the world was at hand the way some of these people react to a simple snow forecast.

Me? I don't worry: I have a 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee LTD V8. It eats snow, mud and other 4WD vehicles for snacks. 'Nuff said.

Totally Tool-less
When I began building my Garden Center & Nursery seven years ago, I had a tremendous set of Snap-On and Craftsman professional grade tools from my earlier years. I loaned them out; left them in all their polished glory in the Landscape Services Building. Over the years, they've gradually disappeared into "tool heaven" where I can't access them anymore.

Every once in great while, I run into an old friend: a wrench or pliers or screwdriver that I'll recognize. My stare is enough to melt the nickel-cadnium plating: "I remember you, old friend!" But their stare is hollow and unremembering all these past years. The rpm's, torque and rust have taken their toll. I kept those thousands of tools clean and immaculate. What's happened?

Left on a tailgate of a truck, fallen-off into a field, left out over winter, buried in the mud, dropped in a mulch bed a thousand scenarios that I'll never comprehend the 'whys and wherefores' of. shit.

I use a large Swiss Army Knife now. It can help me do anything except change a tire. And I think they're working on that.

HTML By Email
Two friends of mine Greg and JoAnn are trying to learn html and are in the process of building personal and/or business Websites.

They have a thousand questions on the intricacies of html and gifs and other stuff that's taken me almost a year to learn. (I'm a slow learner. heh...) I enjoy helping people with that stuff, but email is a forum that doesn't lend itself to show-and-tell very well.

The best I can do is give a brief explanation and attach some of my documents for them to study. I had to rely upon HotDog's Help and Tutorial to get me started, and then spent months viewing Source Code to figure out how people do that stuff with code. I still do that on a daily basis. When I see Web pages that I like, I save them and spend some time studying code until it stares back. If I can replicate it without too much teeth gnashing, I'm satisfied.

Things like the mechanical end of html don't come naturally to me, as they do to some lucky people. I have to work at it daily to keep in practice. The creative end is great; I enjoy doing new things with it. But once everything comes together and makes sense, you're off-and-running. They'll get the hang of it soon, I think.

Spring Forecast
Spring 1997 promises to be a year commensurate with 1996, in that the weather cycles will remain similar (much too wet around here), customers will continue to want the ultra-high quality rare, unusual and hard-to-find plant material that we feature.

The wet situation bothers me somewhat: plants don't need or like that much moisture. We had over 57" of rain this year; a normal year portends ~40" with pronounced dry periods. I constantly tell customers not to overwater: it's much easier to add water than to remove it.

Nature did all the watering last year. Peoplekind didn't have much of a say in things. In this vein, things are beyond our control and plants suffer: mildew, black spot, scale and dozens of other diseases and pest infestations occurring that would normally be averted.

Only companies like Ortho Pharmaceuticals prosper in these times. Gardeners and especially their plants just suffer.

Digging Out
Yesterday's winter storm left about 3-4" of snow and a 1/2" coating of ice all over the area. Fortunately, the road crews had run out of card games to play (at $26/hr) and did their jobs, salting and spreading cinders where the need was greatest: on the hills and country roads.

Upon arriving at the Garden Center this morning at 8am we're on Winter hours now, so the extra hour or so of sleep is much welcomed I noticed that Greenhouse-1s 6-mil poly coverings was sliced in many places from the sheets of ice sliding off. There are two poly layers of every greenhouse, with an air layer in between, providing a .75-R value of insulation. GH-1 is the Propagation House, where all cuttings, root division and seed sowing are done, so it's heated during the Winter, and it's important to maintain that small insulative value for heat loss protection. It's almost 0F outside; way too cold to use patching tape. We'll have to wait until a warmer day comes along and try to get it repaired.

I learned long ago that it's always something when I built this large and complicated place. No problem, I'll just put that project on the list of things to do.

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