Mao Lives!

Normally, I don’t pay a lot of attention to cars with vanity plates.  I find many of them too difficult to decipher … especially when tailgating … in traffic … trying to just read them.

But today, I stumbled on a discovery that shook me up …

Mao is alive!  And he has a LiMO!

But, Mao …. a Chevy Equinox?!?  How very proletariat!



A most unlikely Senator

The 2016 election cycle will bring enough fireworks at the National level for many people to forego down-ticket races that do not directly involve their vote. In a political season where being The Outsider threatening to turn over the Party Table and chase the money-changers from the Temple, it’s the long shot, disruptive dark horse that is drawing attention and excitement … with varying degrees of success.


John Fetterman … an unmistakable physical presence

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders draw the bulk of attention at the Presidential level. For those not living in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it might also be interesting to watch the race for U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania … especially if John Fetterman wins the Pennsylvania Democrat primary for the Senate nomination!


How does a U.S. Senator live something like this down?

Fetterman is nothing, if not the most atypical candidate for Senate since Al Franken attempted – unsuccessfully IMHO – to shed his Saturday Night Live persona when he went on to win a Senate seat in Minnesota. The difference between the two is that John Fetterman has been a serious man … always serious. And he has a successful background as a man who has gotten things done politically and socially.

Fetterman was born to teenage parents who struggled financially until John’s father started his own insurance business.  He attended his father’s alma mater – Albright College – and successfully completed his Masters in Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.  In between, he did volunteer stints with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America and AmeriCorps.

His AmeriCorps gig landed him in Braddock, Pennsylvania, a bedroom community to the long-gone steel mills of Andrew Carnegie in and around Pittsburgh.  The town lost most of its jobs with the disappearance of the American steel industry.

In 2005 Fetterman challenged the incumbent mayor and won election by a single vote!  The job paid $110/month, barely adding much financially to his $30,ooo/year job directing the Out-of-School-Youth Program.  He won re-election in 2009 by an almost 3-1 margin.

He purchased the First Presbyterian Church, slated for demolition, a nearby abandoned warehouse, and numerous house, which he redeveloped and offered with cheap or free rent.  Fetterman used the promise of cheap rent and initiated a rebirth of Braddock as an artsy Renaissance town complete with a two-acre organic garden managed by the Braddock Youth Project.

091023-Fetterman-hmed-10a.grid-6x2Those accomplishments certainly qualify John Fetterman as a most interesting and active public servant.  But it’s his non-conforming physical and vocal presence that really sets him apart from the usual dry, buttoned-down Senate types.

Fetterman is physically imposing at 6’8″ tall, weighing 320 pounds.  He has numerous tattoos, an imposing bald head, huge unruly chin beard, and a manner of plain dress that will definitely shake up the sleepy U.S. Senate chamber, if he were to get that far.

So deep is his dedication to Braddock, he has its Zip Code tattooed inside one arm!

Unfortunately, Fetterman trails a lightweight front-runner in Katie McGinty, whose limited claims to fame were serving in various National and State environmental roles and as Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s campaign manager …

… And then there’s wacky Liberal re-tread Joe Sestak.

As a Republican sure to vote for incumbent Senator Pat Toomey, I tend to tune out the most liberal Democrats, as I was John Fetterman.  That was until I saw the following Fetterman ad.  Then I read his resumé …

If one concedes John Fetterman has a hopelessly uphill battle to bring his unorthodox – but productive – style of politics to the Senate, one cannot but hope he finds a way to continue his work in Pennsylvania. His sense of empathy and get-it-done attitude is something from which we all might benefit!



Prescription for 2016 Philadelphia Phillies fans


Maikel Franco

Spring is in the air!

OK … not so much today with temps in the 30s. But somewhere they are playing Major League Baseball, and that should be close enough to prove that the Spring has sprung.

With this baseball season, comes many conflicted emotions for Philadelphia Phillies fans.  After two seasons of barely watchable baseball, the organization has turned over a good chunk of the roster, including highly-respected, World Series contributors (Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley); opened the gates to its minor leagues prospects of the Future; and hired a manager – Pete Mackanin – befitted to let the Future develop under an appropriately watchful and instructive eyes.

Led by an infield of Maikel Franco, Freddy Galvis, Cesar Hernendez with the compromise platoon of Ryan Howard and Darin Ruf, the Phils should bring the enthusiasm and hunger of youth ready to prove to all they belong in The Show.  And at some point this season, the Phillies look to get even younger and – as a result – LESS experienced.


Manager Pete Mackinin

As Phillies fans, we just have to be patient, understanding, resisting the urge to be overly critical or incessantly accommodating like Little League helicopter parents.  There will be bumps, lumps, and frustrations along the way.

The Future looks bright if the organization’s prospects pan out, especially on the pitching mound.  And the Phillies will have to find out who can play, who can hit, and who can pitch.  It’s a process that can alternate between Promise and Disappointment.

Now, the 2016 Phillies might just surprise us all and jump out to a fast start … Yesterday’s come-from-ahead loss aside.  They could make a run at contending or at least make a run at looking like contenders.  But those odds are long and smaller than a Kerwin Danley strike zone!


Pitching prospect Jake Thompson

For the 2016 season, Phillies fans should fall back on the tried and true concepts of baseball as the best way to spend a Summer’s evening or a Saturday afternoon.  Harken back to days when you visited minor league stadiums and marveled at how hard hungry young men playing a kid’s game can be as you watch this young flock of Phillies go through their growing pains.  Maintain perspective when young mistakes and journeyman veterans kick away a Win.  Look at each Loss as a learning opportunity that just might make 2017 or 2018 a bit more interesting … and promising.

As the saying goes, it takes a few broken eggs to make omelet.

And who knows, maybe these kids might surprise us all!


Remember the joy of kids playing a kid’s game

‘Tween the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea


This is my third fourth attempt to write a blog post about Donald Trump.  I scrapped previous versions because they sounded either defensive of his potential nomination, or were too critical of a phenomena many suggest has been long overdue in American politics.

Trump was not my first pick (Jeb Bush), second (John Kasich), third (Chris Christie), fourth (Scott Walker … I obviously have a thing for Governors for The Oval Office.) , or fifth pick (Marco Rubio).  Yet here he sits, presumptive favorite to win the Crown as the GOP’s nomination for President.

As a Pennsylvanian, I haven’t yet been given the opportunity to express my views via the ballot box, which is one reason I tend to be stand-offish when it comes to getting emotionally invested in my presidential hopefuls.  In 2012 my early favorite was Jon Huntsman, which kinda provides my audience with an additional measure of my American political astuteness.

Stop laughing!

Ronald Reagan was another. But this is definitely NOT a comparison of Reagan v. Trump!

360_reagan_lede_0204I can remember shaking my head and wondering aloud – during one of Reagan’s primary debates – how we could possibly end up with a former actor as our President.  Two or three years into Reagan’s  first-term, I was a full-fledged Reagan devotee!

My lesson in all of this is when it comes to Presidential politics, my finger is not exactly on the Pulse of the American voter.   Which brings me back to Donald Trump …

I can no longer avoid the very real prospect that Mr. Trump will be the GOP candidate.  At this point, I do not believe the Party has a choice.  For whatever reason – and there are many – Donald has tapped into a  broad and deep vein of American political frustration.  And if anecdotal information is accurate, Trump’s appeal goes beyond Republicans to include Independents – many of them recent former Republicans, who felt the GOP had pushed them away – and even moderate Democrats.

My gut feeling is that any Party move to deny Trump the nomination will cost the GOP dearly, affecting even those “down-ticket” Republican candidates for the Senate, House, and Governor races!

latestAs for my feelings about The Don, I fancy myself an amateur student of Presidential history … more so the behavior and performance in office as opposed to the politicking beforehand.  From everything I have read or studied, Donald Trump is simply the least presidential candidate I can remember.

Trump’s pronouncements on issues like immigration, terrorism, opposing candidates, party leaders, etc.  set him apart from all known successful POTUS candidates from our recent past at least.  The difference is that on some visceral level, Trump has become a conduit for every frustrating political development over the past two decades.

For the GOP at the National level, they only have themselves to blame.  The failure to develop well-grounded, exciting candidates for President.  The tendency to make “the tent” smaller, as opposed to broadening it.  The inability to act prudently and unselfishly as an opposing party.  Disappointment after disappointment has given rise to Donald Trump.

That and a healthy dose of eight years with President Barack Obama!

I really thought we had seen the last of Trump in 2012, when he bowed out fairly early in the process, citing television contractual requirements connected to his show The Apprentice.

Silly me …

A sizable portion of the Electorate is angry at all things political, particularly when it comes to Washington, D.C.  They are very clearly ready for a candidate that might just burn it down.  Which reminds me of Thomas Jefferson‘s quote …

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

MTE5NDg0MDU1MDEwMjQ4MjA3If one recognizes “the blood of patriots and tyrants” as purely metaphor, representing the kind of political upheaval not seen since Chicago in 1968, you can better appreciate where Donald gets his trump.  The People are ready to clean out the outhouse.

The political class should be very grateful that The People have not – as yet – dragged out the guillotine!

The Democrats do not get a free pass when it comes to this either.  The best they could muster for 2016 is a has-been from the 1980s, who firmly believes it is “her turn” and an old hippie from the 1970s.  When you have the younger Democrats flocking to the 1970s hippie, many vowing not to vote for another Clinton no matter what, you know you have a problem too!

If there’s anything worse than a bombastic blowhard for President, it’s the person who spent four years hiding what they were doing in a Cabinet-level job from Public scrutiny and official oversight … while their former-President husband racked up millions in fees speaking to a host of entities with interest conflicting with his spouse’s official duties … and while their “charitable organization” pulled in millions from similarly conflicted sources …

That would be Hillary Clinton, just in case my references are too obscure.

ap_hillary_clinton_tsu_02_jc_150604_16x9_992So for me, the question comes down to the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.  Who would be the Devil?  Who the Sea?

The Devil I know wants to be President because she’s a woman.  Hillary wants our vote because she served as First Lady, then as an unremarkable U.S. Senator and an openly duplicitous Secretary of State.

Donald Trump is my deep blue sea, full of dangers, mysteries, and the potential for political upheaval many of us might welcome in an age when Politics is an eight-letter, four-letter word.


If it comes down to the two of them, I hope the water isn’t Titanic-ly cold!

As for you, my reluctant reader … Feel free to define who be the Devil and who be the Sea.  Just remember …


Here there may be Monsters!

The Inconspicuous News

American Board of Thoracic SurgeryDr. Achintya MoulickDylan PurcellTom Avril Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Children’s Hospital of PhiladelphiaDiscussion and comment on selected articles from The Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday, March 20, 2016.

(Jeff Gamage) printed an article, Those Kids Never Got to Go Home about a small, sad cemetery located within the confines of the U.S. Army base in Carlisle, PA. … about 125 miles west of Philadelphia.

The U.S. Army base in Carlisle, PA is the object of an unusual request from the Rosebud Sioux Indian tribe of South Dakota.  Long before the army base existed, the site was home to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, the flagship of federally-funded, off-reservation boarding schools where the motto was “Kill the Indian, save the Man.”


A photo of the student body of the Carlilsle Indian School from March, 1892, is photographed on the school grounds where it was taken. The Rosebud Sioux in South Dakota have begun efforts to repatriate the remains of the 10 Rosebud students buried on the Carlisle school grounds. CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer

Within the Army’s current home 186 graves of Indian children from numerous Native American tribes.  The children victim of disease, abuse, and inadequate care at the industrial school intended to assimilate Indian populations with white culture and society.  The children were largely the offspring of Indian chiefs, who were convinced by the program’s agents that the children would be properly educated and better prepared to lead their scattered tribes to relationships on more equal footing with their white counterparts.

The intent of the program might be looked upon today as simply one of those backward thinking, even “progressive” attempts to help a defeated and exiled people to adapt and even prosper within the dominant society.  Maybe even a noble cause to promote better relations with the Europeans, who were spreading westward like ants.

However the abuses, including forced labor, beatings for refusal to speak English, physical and sexual abuse, and inadequate care, exposed the program as an attempt to expunge Indian cultures.  These 186 children never made it Home.

The Rosebud children were sent 1400 miles away from home. Some were pried away from parents forced with the choice of giving up their children or their food rations.  Many of the children died from diseases and malnutrition, some due to abuse.

675abb611e806736640cba306701eeb7Leaders of the Rosebud Sioux tribe had forgotten about the spirits of their dead children buried (some without parents even knowing they were dead) so far from home.  The issue was raised after a group of young Rosebud students visited the cemetery after a trip to Washington, D.C. last Summer for the Tribal Youth Gathering.

Now I never understood the motivations and mindset of our earlier American ancestors as they set upon a vanquished Nation, taking advantage of Position and Power to denude Indian cultures and then to exploit them in their imposed poverty.  This example seems to be one of the more egregious ones, although the effort does reflect much of the social and cultural thinking of the time.

I hope we have evolved beyond that kind of social engineering think.

As for the Spirits the Rosebud Sioux insist are restless to return home, demonstrated – they say – by the swarm of fireflies that visited the cemetery after a traditional Sioux ceremony, the Army should simply allow the Rosebud Sioux to take their children home.


Next up is a rather disturbing article about the length of post-operative stays at Philadelphia’s St. Christopher’s Hospital for complicated newborn cardiac surgery vs. stays for similar procedures at regional counterpart, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).  The article, Recovery Times for Newborns Lengthy, written by Tom Avril and Dylan Purcell, suggests the extended stays at St. Chris’ have much to do with the quality of post-operative care.

6e1c643a636c67f002280f826731ae3e.jpgThe Inquirer’s study, based on a review of insurance claim forms, follows another study that found St. Christopher newborn cardiac patients were also much more likely to die than similar patients at CHOP.  St. Christopher’s recently stopped all non-emergency heart procedures as it conducts an internal review of its heart surgery program.

As bad as all that is, one also learns that Dr. Achintya Moulick, head of the heart surgery at St. Chris’ is not certified by the American Board of Thoracic Surgery!  This in contrast to the other five heads of pediatric heart-surgery program in Pennsylvania and Delaware.  Dr. Moulick does possess certification in thoracic surgery from the University of Bombay (Mumbai) in India … from 1995!

Now, I’m no medical professional, but I would presume that in the 21 years since Dr. Moulick attended the University of Bombay, there have been a few changes in the ways thoracic surgery is performed, particularly for infants.  When you consider that the Head of Thoracic Surgery also sets the tone for those performing under him, you get the idea that maybe it’s time for Dr. Moulick to break out his “How to …” books and seek an American-style recertification from this particular century!


Finally a story, Bringing Down Blumberg, by Aubrey Whelan on the history and destructive end on the Norman Blumberg Apartments at 22nd and Sharswood Streets in North Philadelphia.  Blumberg was built in the late 1960s as a high-rise apartment complex dedicated to low-income residents.

l_phabuildings-3“But within a few short years, the towers came to typify all that had gone wrong with the public-housing policies of the 1960s – a symbol of misguided urban planning, concentrated poverty, and official neglect writ large.”

Two intricately related resident reactions – just seven years apart underscores the kind of hopelessness that permeated mass low-income urban housing in many parts of the country.  In 1967, the day Blumberg opened to its brand new residents, one gushes how “Each resident helps out the other.”.  Just seven years later after a gang-rape at Blumberg, a resident told The Inquirer, “The amazing thing is that no one helps anybody out.”


Cranky Man’s March: In like the Tundra, out like a Lawn


Gentlemen, start your engines!

March 2016 has been a wacky ride so far in the SouthEast Region of Pennsylvania.  Started off nice enough; then turned windy and stormy; followed by two days in the 80s; then back to raw, windy Ides of March weather.  Now, there’s a whispered rumor of snow for this Sunday.

In other words, perfect late Winter lawn weather!

To complete the picture the early blooming trees are already out in pink, white, and lavender.  Soon Spring will have officially sprung!

As any dedicated lawn nerd knows, now is the time to get to work.  You had your post-holiday Winter weekends all to yourself, where your biggest worry was over-napping. (At least mine was …)

So let’s get crackin’ …

1. Love your Equipment, and it will Love you back!

Get your lawn mower into the shop for a seasonal tune-up that includes blade replacement.

I’m pretty good in Equipment Condition, having just bought a new grass-eater last June.  I will get a full season out my mower before worrying about a pre-season tune-up next year.  As for other equipment … like trimmers, edgers, and leaf blowers … I tend to simply use them until they die. To me sending them into the repair cycle is hardly cost-effective, given the relative affordability of smaller equipment and the Cheapness of their Owner. 

This year I plan to add a new blower/sweeper.  I just need to figure out if another gas model is needed, or if an electric version will do the job without too much aggravation.

2. Cut the lawn short to clean it up!

First thing I do every Spring is low-cut the lawn (i.e. lower than I would normally dare during the rest of the year).  This makes it easier to clean up the entire lawn of Winter debris, including loose twigs and soggy leaves.

After cutting one section (maybe 3-4 passes) I will use a rake to make sure I get up all the sodden leaves and debris buried deeper in the grass.  Particularly when it comes to those nasty, rotting leaves, it’s best to get them up.  Otherwise they tend to become a block to new spring growth, and if allowed to collect can kill underlying grass plants.


obligatory Forsythia shot

3. Look to the Forsythia to Vanquish the Crab!

Crabgrass … That bane of Summer lawns, proliferates in the heat of the Summer.  The hotter, the better for the little bastards!

But crabgrass seedlings, left dormant over the long Winter, germinate in the early Spring, roughly around the time when average soil temperatures exceed 55° for three or more days.  Of course figuring out when that magical moment occurs is a bit more complicated than simply checking out ambient air temperatures since the ground always takes longer to warm than the air above it.

Fortunately, Mother Nature provides its own ground temp indication in the form of the Forsythia.  When the forsythia blooms, the ground temperatures will be just about right for your first lawn application of the season (Preemergent).  But if you cannot wait for Miss Forsythia to show her yellow blossoms, ’tis better to apply a preemergent early than late.

Frankly, I only concern myself with the front lawn at our house, since it’s the portion that gets exposed to the hottest periods of sun.  Our backyard is significantly more shaded, so crabgrass from experience has never been a serious issue …

Well, except for my one neighbor, who several seasons ago was raising more weeds than grass, including a copious assortment of bastard crabgrass plants.  They are much better lately.  We even cooperate on chickweed eradication.  But I still apply several passes of preemergent (and weed ‘n feed) along our common border.  I view it as similar to prophylactic doses of antibiotics! 

4.  Is Aerating over-rated?

Absolutely not!


How core aerator works

I have written much on the whys, hows, and wherefores of aerating your lawn.  Aerating has numerous benefits to your lawn, especially if your lawn suffers a lot of foot traffic during the Summer.  Click HERE to link into a short discussion of aeration benefits and the proper equipment to use.

Aerating is a preferred time to add a layer of grass seed, known as over-seeding, to thicken your lawn.  It’s not necessary for lawns already sufficiently thick, and most lawns will thicken – if well fed – during the Spring growing season.  Skip over-seeding if you don’t need it!

BIG HINT TIME:  I know some people who will aerate twice every year.  Personally, I do it once a year, and even skip it if my timing doesn’t allow for it.  But trust me … If you aerate your lawn at all, don’t do it in September when Summer-baked soil will make ground penetration almost impossible.  Aerate in the early Spring when Winter snows and Spring rain renders the soil softer and easier for the aerator to do its job properly! 

5.  Weed ‘n Feed done right at the right time.

Timing is important – for several reasons – when applying weed ‘n feed.  The first crucial factor is to make sure, if you applied a preemergent earlier, to wait 4-6 weeks before applying any other fertilizer.

Second, decide whether you need a “direct application” to eradicate weeds that are present, or whether your lawn is sufficiently weed-free to use a simpler momentum-type product to maintain your lawn’s present balance.  Direct application products require wet conditions, either by using a liquid spray or by applying a sandy-type dry product early on dew-soaked mornings or right after a rain.

Your last “timing consideration” when fighting weeds is to watch the weather.  Weed control products require 48 hours of rain-free weather.  Otherwise the rain washes the direct-application product off the weeds, defeating the primary purpose of using them.

I like the sandy, dry weed ‘n feed products.  They have become harder to find, but Scott’s has a good dry product, Scott’s Turf Builder Weed ‘n Feed 3.  Fortunately, my lawn is tight on the weed control front, so I use a momentum-type, sustained release in pellet form.  Using a momentum-type product takes a lot of the guess-work out.

So now you are primed and ready to get your lawn off to a Spring-loaded start.  Remember … What you do in March and April has much to do with how your lawn will look in July and August!

And while I can’t guarantee you that all that work and exercise will make you look like this rather self-absorbed lawn fan, …


…  I can assure you your lawn won’t look like his either!


Has my Absence made your Heart grown Fonder?

mccainofflawnThis Winter has been a killer – motivation-wise.

Not sure exactly what the problem has been; but I have a few suspicions with which I will not bore those who still care enough to open those Cranky Man’s Lawn e-mail notifications they may wish they never requested.

Tough darts there, my friends!

I’m back, baby!  And I will be imposing my beliefs, viewpoints, and advice in your general direction regardless of your silent trepidations that – one day – I might rediscover my keyboard.

Here are a few ideas I am working on for near-future proselytizing:

  • A return to my roots – so to speak – with a renewed season-long look at keeping your lawn Cranky Man worthy!  Only this time I will reveal what I really do instead of what the Lawn Bible preaches.
  • a Trump dump … Not to be confused with a “Dump Trump” movement, this will only be my attempt to lance a boil I have been struggling to understand.

(Big Hint:  If it’s Hillary as the Democrat nominee, I would likely vote for just about any one or thing rather than to see her in the Oval Office unopposed by my guaranteed Right … even if I have to hold my nose the entire time I’m working the polls in early November.)

  • a look at the upcoming Phillies season with a different twist on what looks to be a painful, disheartening, glamour-less baseball season for Philadelphia’s faithful.  Now, doesn’t that make you want to run out and buy a Phillies season ticket plan?!?  Could be worse … They could be playing in 76ers jerseys!

So hang in there kiddies!

Rumors aside … The Cranky Man isn’t lawn fertilizer yet!