Landscaping is completed 9/23

Finished. Azaleas, Blue Juniper (for ground cover) and pine mulch have been planted.

Here is a root that had to be pulled out with rope and the truck of my neighbor.


Landscaping contiues 9/21

The latest pictures of my front yard.

Notice the huge root up against the house. It will have to be pulled out with a rope and a car.

The shrubs on the left have already been pulled from the yard. The county wouldn't take the bin full of roots last week, so I will have to illegally dump them in the wooded area across the street recycle them to the wooded area nearby.

A picture of the yellowjacket hive in my yard. Spraying got most of them; I'll give it another dose tonight as I've seen some straglers around.


Michael Steel's Commercial judgement

Michael Steele is the current Lt. Governor of Maryland. He is running for Senate on the Republican ticket. This is a screenshot of a portion of his first television commercial.

Wow. You have to see the whole commercial to get the full effect (this is not an endorsement of his campaign). There is a camera cut to this knowing glance while he is stating he approves the message. The commercial looks like the best MySpace personal ad I've ever seen. As a commercial for someone running for a U.S. Senate seat? Not so good.

Undaunted, a second commercial was produced in the same vein as the first. In this, he warns Maryland voters the attack ads are coming, including...

He does have an answer for that critique though...

He doesn't even use a different dog for the newspaper mockup.

Besides the cheapest ads outside the HeadOn pain reliever, Steele is portraying himself as an Washington outside. This may have some traction, considering his opponent, Democrat Ben Cardin, has been in the House for almost 20 years. He has also not mentioned in either of his commercials that he is a Republlican. Not the dumbest move, considering Maryland leans solidly to the left politically.

He also recently received an endorsement from Rudolph Giuliani, who I hate more than any politician in America. This means Steele has gone from an entertaining goober I won't be voting for to a asshole by association I won't be voting for. How Rudolph didn't have his security team shove a nightstick up Steele's ass for old times escapes me.


Sun Rises In East

This may be the most unnecessary front page story ever.

Carl Pavano is a pitcher for the New York Yankees. He got himself into a minor bit of controversy when he got into a car accident in Florida, broke two ribs, and didn’t tell Yankee management. This all hit the fan about two weeks ago.

Today, the Daily News reported Pavano had a female passenger in the car. One who has been a Miss Italia, Miss South Beach and Miss American Teen.

This somehow is news; a single male athlete in a car with a single woman.


Get Out Of My Pocket (9/13)

The first of a (hopefully short) series on how companies try to get me to give them extra money

Back in July, I received my mortgage bill, along with an escrow account review. It was a year after my wife and I bought our new house and the company that holds our mortgage chose that time to review taxes and insurance payments that come from them.

Our total bill was to increase by over $100. The fact there was an increase was not surprising as property rates in Montgomery County have been rising with great speed over the last few years. The size of the increase was surprising. Further investigation into the review found a ‘reserve requirement’ of about $80. I spoke to the realtor who helped sell our old home; neither he nor a mortgage contact he uses had ever heard of such a charge. It seemed legitimate; our mortgage company even had a breakdown of how the reserve requirement was determined. I finally called the company to get information on this charge. It turns out the reserve requirement is there to provide a cushion on my escrow account in case of any tax or insurance increase. If, at the end of the fiscal year, there is still money in the escrow account, that money is returned.

In other words, an interest free loan to the mortgage company. Luckily, I could ask for the reserve requirement to be removed. Which I did.

Fast forward today. I get another escrow account review in the mail (the company is settling into reviewing the account at the beginning of the fiscal year). And, shockingly enough, they tried to sneak the reserve requirement past me a second time. I quickly called and had it taken off. Again. I have a feeling I’ll be doing this every year until we have no mortgage.


Landscaping continues 9/12

The bushes on the right side of the yard have been cut back.

Pulling the roots will be a pain in the back/legs/arms/.


The latest project that will cause me grief - 9/11

The shrubs in front of our home are sickly at best. With fall approaching, it is time to remove them and add new ones. For the sake of comedy (and cheapness), I am doing the work myself instead of hiring people to do the work for me.

I was able to clear out most of the bushes from the left side of the yard. I was stopped by rain and what appears to be an undergound bee colony under the remaining bush.

After all the bushes are removed, the roots will have to go. Much digging and cursing will acompany that detail, I'm sure. Then get some topsoil, new shrubs, and mulch.

We will see how this goes. One thing I can be sure of; I won't be going to Home Depot for any purchases.