The problems with ‘progress’

May 3, 2011

As you know, I put a lot of work into my yard. Trying to get grass to grow (as well some of my plants) isn’t as easy as you would think it should be. I’ve even come close to throwing in the towel and simply put down mulch to cover over the bare spots. But since I live on the fringe of the woods, I want to try to maintain as much of the natural beauty as possible.

Of course, my development wouldn’t exist without destroying the natural beauty that existed. With progress comes some sort of destruction, and that is what is currently going on with the new development that is being built near my house. Every day, when I drive passed the construction site, more and more trees are gone, and more dirt has been moved to level out the original hill that existed there. But even with this destruction comes a bit of beauty … if you’re an engineer like I use to be.

Tree MulcherThe size and shapes of some of the equipment they’ve brought in to do the site development are impressive. I’ve seen Volvo dump trucks, tree mulchers (see photo), and even JCB backhoes. In just a few days, they were able to clear-cut approximately 20 acres and are currently leveling the lot. In the past, it would have taken an army of wood cutters to do all this work, but now they can do it with about 20 or 30 workers. Very impressive.

But while it is impressive, I wish they would have done a better job of preserving the existing trees and build the new homes around them. That is what the developers of our neighborhood did, and we are surrounded by full-growth trees. It will take 20 years to recover (environmentally) the amount of damage the site developer has done. I know it is cheaper to do it this way, but there is value to be saved by saving at least “some” of the trees.

The Landscapers Challenge

April 12, 2011

Spring has sprung, and that means it’s time to hit the outdoors.  I’ll be spending a lot of time over the next few weekends enjoying the fresh (pollen-filled) air, warm days, and the sound of the birds, but it’s not because of camping or hiking or sight-seeing.  No, it’s time to get out there and work on the yard again.

The work I did last year survived the Winter … except for my one trouble area.  After on season of sod and two seasons of seed, this is my last try before giving up and fill the area with mulch and flowers.  Below is what the area looked like last year after the grass seed took off and I landscaped around the sidewalk.

Looks lovely, doesn’t it?  Nice and lush and green?  There isn’t even any signs of pet grass stains.  Well, eight months later, this is what the same area looked like following a few snow storms (and some digging by the power company to replace a failed power line).

It is hard to believe that these pictures are from the same lawn.  Hopefully the improvements I am doing this year will pay off.  To combat the erosion problem, I have carved out a drain a few feet away from the edge of the driveway and graded the soil towards the drain.

I need about 3 or 4 more bags of gravel and then cover it up with a layer of soil as well.  In addition, where you see the erosion in the foreground, I will place a gravel drain in the planting bed as well.  This “should” resolve the problem.

This section of the lawn use to be the area with the thickest grass for years, so why it has become such a barren area now is beyond me.  One way or another, this is the last time I try to grow grass here.  HOPEFULLY it works.  I’ll keep you posted.

Is it ok for men to comment on wedding dresses?

February 5, 2011

This time last year, I was making plans to travel to New York and support my friend in her first major promotional event for her wedding and events company.  Later on in the year, the same friend had one of her brides featured in TLC’s program “Say Yes to the Dress.” Needless to say, I was very excited for her successes and shared my excitement with my other friends.  One friend said that there was something “not right” about a man watching a program about wedding dresses, so it made me wonder – is there anything socially wrong with men taking an interest in such things?

To be honest, I really don’t care about fashion in general.  I’m your classic “jeans and t-shirt” kind of guy, and if you ask me what tie goes well with a dress shirt, I really couldn’t tell you.  Ladies I’ve dated over the years have tried to alter my outlook on fashion including taking me to stores to update my wardrobe, but with no real success.  When it comes to women and dresses though, I always seem to have an opinion – and men should as well.

In watching “Say Yes to the Dress,” I’ve learned how dress styles are not transferrable for all shapes. The designers use various cuts and dress embeleshments to accent what is best on the lady’s form. For example, wedding dresses for slender women might have ruffles below the waist line to accent their figure, but you don’t find the same design on plus size wedding dresses.  In turn, a fuller-figured lady will have a more plunging neck line, but a softer curve will be found on petite wedding dresses.

Let’s be real for a second – most men love the female form.  If we didn’t, we probably wouldn’t have swimsuit calendars, super models, and beauty pageants.  So appreciating a woman in something like ball gown wedding dresses or power suit is natural.  However, commenting on it seems to be out of the norm.

Men, let me tell you something.  Women love your opinions on how they look.  Why do they always ask you how they look?  Take the moment and appreciate that a woman really does want you to check her out from head to toe.  That way, you can better gauge which outfits and designs look better on her than others, and that will win you brownie points down the road.

An unusual business marriage?

January 22, 2011

Another odd musing by yours truly.

A few weeks back I was watching a program on TV that discussed “Earth-friendly” businesses, and one of them caught my interest. There is a landscaping company in North Carolina that specializes in clearing overgrown brush on large properties, especially on the slopes of hills and mountains. But instead of using laborers with large lawnmowers and other power tools, the man simply uses goats. These eating machines will chew through some of the thickest brush and thorny weeds without complaints. And while it does cost a little more to hire these eco-landscapers, there isn’t any noise pollution nor exhaust being pumped into your backyard while the brush removal is occurring.

I mention the goats because, in the same week of seeing the program, I passed by a parking lot that was advertising yet another interesting business. This business, I think, would be a great partner for anyone hiring goats as landscapers. Called the Pooper Troopers, this company will come out and clean up waste left behind by pets. When you think about it, after a few hours of eating brush, goats will leave behind a lot of waste.

Animal waste can be beneficial to the environment if allowed to naturally mix into the soil and become a part of compost. However, in most residential areas, animal waste can end up coming back into the house through normal foot traffic, spreading bacteria in living spaces and leading to illnesses. So, I would think, businesses similar to the ones mentioned above would make a perfect business marriage: one that creates the mess, and the other that cleans it up! Hopefully they watch their steps though, or at least have good truck floor mats in their work vehicles. If I may recommend, what better floor mat to put your dirty shoes on than that with the Dallas Cowboys logo on it?  Just saying…  🙂

Make Money Online: Free Blog Themes

January 20, 2011

As you can tell, I did not win the lotto two weeks ago.  In fact, I didn’t even come close.  Oh well, it’s a good thing that my online habits are pretty cheap.  In fact, some of it is FREE!

All the sites that I own and/or administer run on the WordPress platform.  It is a very user-friendly system that allows even the most novice of users put together a professional-looking site.  This is because of the thousands of WordPress themes out there that you can download and experiment with as many times as you like.  This site alone has used over 20 themes in the short amount of time that I’ve owned it.

If you are blogging on a budget, I recommend you use WordPress for all of the free themes available.  With just a click of the mouse, you can turn your site from serious to whimsical and from industrial to artistic.  The ease of adaptability makes WordPress the best platform available (and it’s free as well).

On one of my other sites, I was using free WordPress themes to give the site the feel of reading popular online magazines.  This allowed me to display a lot of headlines at once in a neat/organized manner.  But as the site matured, I decided a more “formal” look was needed, so with a click of the mouse, the site took on more of a newspaper feel with the latest full-length article being displayed instead.

If you want to customize the site to make it look less generic, many free WP themes come with special fields for you to augment the site as you desire.  For example, this current theme allows me to change the photos you see when you first visit the site.  However, if you come back in a few months, you might not see photos at all because I’ve switched themes again!  Other themes allows the user to upload custom graphics to the headers, change the layout, and alter text styles and border colors.

All you need to do is visit the numerous sites that provide you a listing of the free WordPress themes available so you can find a look and style that meets your needs.  You’ll be surprised by what you find.  It’s the new year … why don’t you give your site a new look?

Make Money Online: Searching for the right host

October 14, 2010

In order to take advantage of the financial potential of the internet, the first thing you need to do is stake out your claim. Blog-Now is just one of a handful of sites I operate, and I don’t have to pay for it. Well, technically, I don’t pay for it out of pocket. The hosting service I use offers their service to me at such a low price that the revenue I generate from my websites cover all of my monthly hosting fees. So how do you find out which host is the best one for the buck?

I put in a lot of research a few years back, identifying which hosts provided the needed services that I required for my site. These days, however, you just need to look in just one spot. There are a handful of sites, such as VPS web hosting that provides you all of the data you need on multiple hosting sites in one convenient location. With just one click, you can see the monthly cost for the service, customer reviews, and links that take you to the hosting site so you can find detailed information on their service.

Unless you know that your site is going to have a lot of activity (such as a download site), I recommend starting small look for the best bargain. You can always grow your hosting service as your website grows. And moving from one host to another has become easier over the years, so you when you are ready to make a move, you can revisit sites such as VPS web hosting to see what options you have.

YOU, the Internet, and Reputation Management Services

August 20, 2010

Did you hear about the woman who lost her job over comments made on Facebook?  June Talvitie-Siple, a teacher in Massachusetts, lost her job after calling the parents of her students snobby and arrogant in comments on her Facebook page, as well as referring to her students as germ bags.  Once these comments were found online, they were brought to the attention of the school district who asked her to resign.

So what does this teach you?  You need to be responsible when posting online, especially if you work in public markets.  Companies of many sizes know about the risk of public exposure online, and often tell their employees to practice responsible web use.  This is why most companies limit the access to the internet from within their own firewalls.  These actions come from the advice of reputation management services and business consultants.

When I first got online back in the early 1990s, I was too careless with my web activity.  It didn’t dawn on my that putting out my name and private information could be used against me.  Within a year, I would get random and threatening e-mails as well as people accessing my e-mail account.  It was then that I learned the importance of controlling my information online.

Reputation management services; teach individuals and companies these lessons without making people learn them the hard way.  By controlling the information you place online, and working at monitoring what others are saying about you, you can keep your reputation (as well as personal security) in check.

What does the future hold for June Talvitie-Siple?  Do you think she will be able to get another job as a teacher following this?  If she is smart, she will work hard to improve her image and reputation.  This means not only apologizing for her comments, it means she needs to go through her posting history to edit out the comments that got her in trouble to begin with.  Maybe she should look into taking advantage of the reputation management services in her area to get her life, and her future, back.