Pocket Change

Friday, July 18, 1997

he fact that the silver and copper in one's pocket is heavy is no guarantee that it's worth much. I know that for a fact. I'm always reaching for cash for expenses when I'm away from the Garden Center, but usually have none on hand when I need it. The old expression, I could buy that for pocket change doesn't always ring true. Luckily, ATM machines are scattered around the area where I can find them. But that extra $1.00 or 1.50 fee for not using your own bank's ATM really sucks. How did the banking industry pull another one over our collective eyes? Does it say turnip truck bumpkin somewhere on our foreheads? Seems the banks can't quite handle the freedom of a lassiez faire economy without getting greedy and ripping their own customers off. Is it time to regulate the banking industry, again?

Government Regulation.
I hate government in just about any form. And I especially hate their incessant interference in our daily lives. Everything the government touches in any way turns to shit. A simple factoid rooted deep in history.
Liberals and democrats want nay, demand bureaucratic layers of tens and hundreds of thousands of people to administer billions of dollars of working peoples' money in suspect programs for people who should take responsibility for their own lives. The left over FDR ideas and philosophy are deeply rooted in socialism and communism.
These liberal zealots feel a need to command vast armies of technocrats, paperwork and programs to justify their own existence and socialist-communist way of life. Housing & Urban Development (HUD), Dept of Transportation (DOT), Commerce Dept (Commerce) are but a few examples of heavily multi-layered, inefficient bureaucracy. Government handouts are addictive and destructive to all who participate. That's our money these liberals are giving away to an unworthy cause. Time to end that crap.
Sure, there needs to be a safety net for the unfortunates who can't for some valid reason earn enough to live on, but the vast majority of people on welfare and other government doles should be removed from the handouts and made to work for a living. Just like the rest of us. Welfare is very addictive, counterproductive and must be replaced or better yet, eliminated altogether.
Look at France, Denmark, Sweden and a dozen other countries of Europe: socialist and communist programs in place, disguised as state welfare, now bankrupting the middle and upper classes who've worked for their money and ruining the country. Mandatory care and employment for everyone. This evil communism and socialism doctrine drains the lifeblood from all market-driven economies.
It's unfortunate that government regulation should even be necessary to protect consumers. Airlines, banks, CATV and dozens more industries get greedy and gouge on price, renege on services and ignore contracts made with consumers. That's when regulation and enforcement is needed. If the industry can't behave itself and do what was promised without raping their customers, then regulation should be imposed as a punishment. It's a shame that industries can't seem to police themselves; seems it always takes the government authority to behave. I don't think the Founding Fathers had this facet of The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution in mind when they drafted and passed each.

Campaign Finance.
Talk about major chump change. The Clinton scum did anything for money in the 96 General Election. They prostituted themselves for donations from everywhere and anywhere. They targeted racial, religious and ethnic groups in illegal ways not before done. The sold anything and everything they could, to get the almighty dollar and insure that sleazeball Slick Willie would be reelected.
Where's Lee Harvey Oswald when this country really needs him?
The amounts involved stagger the mind: $130,000,000+. A huge portion was soft money, that is, funds not coming under the scrutiny of the Federal Election Commission, themselves a worthless group of idiots, toothless to enforce any of their so-called campaign finance reform laws.
Congress is dealing with this mess in their usual way: hold expensive, public hearings, call tons of witnesses, make bold declarations, and nothing substantive happens. Same old shit, business as usual. Worthless, so-called elected representative men and women posturing for the nation. It helps their image and reelection chances, but does nothing for the problem. Both liberals and Conservatives are guilty of that on a massive scale.
With all the crimes the Clinton lowlifes have committed, more people than ever support him and his fellow criminals. How does that speak for the ethics and morals of the American public. Pretty low morals, values and ethics, I'd say. But hey, look at the numbers: 1,017 people selected for the poll. Hardly representative at all of America. Very unscientific. And those were very, very sick and fucked up people. obviously.
It's already an interesting Summer and we've got a long way to go. Pull up a front row seat and watch it unfold. Chips and dip, anyone?

Landscape Cost Comparisons.
As if my day isn't chaotic enough, I've now had three potential customers in this past week alone come through with designs and estimates questioning why my costs are so much higher than some of the older landscape contracting companies in the area. Hmmmm, let's see.
After reviewing their plans and accompanying estimates, it's easy to see why: there is no apples vs apples comparison to be drawn. It's fruit salad. Totally different plans and plant material. We've spec'd (specified) in large plant material; they've estimated costs based upon puny plants, but lots of them. We use specimen grade (read large and well-developed) material, and fewer plants since they provide a better presence and show in the garden. Less is more.
Sometimes it's a real struggle with these fruit salad comparisons in the customer's mind. They don't understand the differences; they only understand bottom line costs, regardless of the design and plant selection. The other mitigating factor is that the other landscape contractors have much larger operations than I do. They have unusually high overhead with many large crews. During the down time of Summer, they're apt to quickly drop prices to keep those crews employed, as well as layoff several dozen people. I run a much leaner ship and we're consistently busy through the so-called slack periods.
I'm most happy to explain the differences in estimates to potential customers, but when they ask if I can do any better on the price, I tell them that the wonderful world of plants (read junk) at KMart is just 10 miles away. My price is my price; I don't bargain or deal on such issues. The three potential customers after hearing and seeing the qualified differences for themselves are now considered customers.

The Drought Continues.
Seventeen weeks without significant rain and over 11" low on water over last year's measurement. Rather than just jawing about it, I bought in four 6ft rain towers with oscillating sprinkler heads to water isolated areas of the Nursery. Although the fixed watering system of overhead sprinklers does a commendable job, it doesn't reach everything. Supplemental water is now mandatory in some places.
I got the towers put together, set up, connected to the wells and running quickly. It was good to see parched nursery stock in the fields finally get some water. We did have a brief shower last week, but it merely whet the mulch. A neighboring town got 4" in a quick 15 minutes; too much rain to do any good. The water just ran-off into the streams and didn't have a chance to soak-in to any real depth.
I'm now getting in earlier (6am) than normal (7am) on weekends to run the manual sprinklers right after the automatic system has finished. By running these early and before it gets so hot, evaporation is greatly reduced. With a surface water delivery system, that's key. Drip systems can run all day and lose virtually zero water to evaporation. The overheads are great for cooling down nursery stock temperatures and refreshing the plants.
The forecast is grim; nothing significant coming this way for next week. The thunderstorms that may develop in late afternoons are spotty at best, and do little good. Their intensity is a negative factor: too much water too quickly. We need 7-10 days of drizzle; allowing the water to thoroughly soak into the ground at root system level, where it will do some good.
Last night at 9:30pm, it was 91F outside: life sucks sometimes. The AC feels nice: life is good the other times. Last year's bountiful rainfall and mild temperatures are being more than offset by the 17 week drought. Yin and Yang stuff.

The heat, humidity and drought take their toll on everything.
This morning, I feel like a truck ran over me and then made a quick left turn. It's only 4am and the sunburn is painful already. I took a few aspirin last night to ease the pain, but it's not working very well. My legs and back hurt too. The muscles are very stiff and sore from too much exercise.
Now I remember exactly why: I was spraying wasp nests and running for my life through the Nursery to get away from the flying hordes of angry B52-like creatures. Over the weekend, two customers with children were stung (just the adults), and I began the attack on the paper wasp nests located in two trees. I wiped them out, but discovered an additional large nest on Monday and had to deal with it before someone else got seriously stung.
Doing 100-200+ yard sprints around rows of trees, through and over shrubs, past ponds and greenhouse at full speed is more exercise than I've gotten in months. (Cyberspace jogging doesn't count.) No wonder I've found some muscles that I haven't used hard in a while. But at least I didn't get stung, and neither will anymore customers. The wasps are history. I went outside to get the morning paper at 5am, and the thermometer screamed 93F! I'd hoped I'd be strong enough not to look at it and get bummed out. The forecast calls for a heat index of 110F today, and no rain. Is this what Hell is like?

Surely You Jest!
I've run into some weird situations while visiting peoples' homes on landscape evaluation meetings: kids who want to play and won't take no for an answer, dogs who want to chew off my leg, a Vietnamese potbellied pet pig that charged out of a garage and caused me to climb the hood on the Jeep. No serious injuries yet; just a little embarrassment.
I run into all kinds of people with attitudes about plants, which are mostly likes and dislikes from experience that affect their view of landscaping. But I've never run into one like this morning's first appointment at 10am.
A young wife and mother, in her 20s, wanted to re-landscape the house, but didn't like shrubs or trees. She and her husband had ripped out everything the builder had put in place as a starter package; usually junk material. They'd bought stuff at local nurserys and planted it, and ripped it out too. And then they did the same thing again. Threw all that material away and wasted loys of money.
She wanted me to design a landscape, without shrubs or trees, no perennials or annuals. Huh? That'd sure be a trick. I had no idea of what to say; I was speechless. I told her I'd have to think about that request for a while, and I'd get back to her. I just shook my head and laughed on the way back to the Jeep. This one will be a real challenge.

DNS Everywhere?
Just amazing: when I logged on this morning at 4:30am, everything and I do mean everything was coming up DNS. No one was home. The Net was mostly shut down. I couldn't even get across town to the weather forecast, or to friends' sites. Adam Viener of Cyberia Communications, my ISP in York, PA, said, some T3 something something something something lines were cut in DC, and things where pretty well out of commission, until someone found the problem. It came back slowly throughout the day. It was an impressive outage.
Maybe I need to put another quarter in the Web machine for some more time?

Computer Problems?
Whether it's Windows or a Mac, it can be frustrating. Here's what one guy did to solve his problem(s).

Back To John's Journal.