Because it’s mine

Was so, so close to having the garage finally cleared out from the renovations.

Plenty of room to move around.  No more playing Sliding Block Puzzle just to find the tool box.  Maybe even fit two cars in there for the snows expected tomorrow!

(Get your milk and bread! NOW!!)

And then it was finally time to get the father-in-law moved in.

Mike's Scratch 'n Dent

Mike’s Scratch ‘n Dent

I hate my life.

But my wife had some comforting words, “Stop whining.”

She doesn’t understand me.

No man is an Island … unless an Island he is


Now I know what a Zombie Apocalypse
might look like …

I stand alone.  It’s official.

At some point this week, my last hope that good parenting, a quality standard of living, and the example – so often set here – that a grounded political philosophy can hold up to any intellectual challenge was smothered in the simple act of renewing a Pennsylvania driver’s license.

My youngest son changed his voter registration to Democrat.  And he is the smart one!

Was the smart one …

How did he express his change of affiliation when asked?  “I changed my mind.”

He made it sound like he was changing his socks.

Maybe it’s a statement on my Leadership.  Maybe I didn’t politically proselytize enough when the boys were so impressionable the correct politic would have been permanently ingrained, like their Philly accents.  Maybe I made one too many mistakes as a parent.

Oh well …

So now I am surrounded.  But that’s OK.  I can take solace in the following.

    • Neither one of them votes to my knowledge; and unfortunately, getting an Absentee Ballot is about to get a lot harder for one Temple Owl!
    • Mr. Hoot is also going to love taking the Broad St Subway back to school in the company of so many of his Democrat buds!
    • The two lost offspring who still list our home as primary residence do not as yet have to buy their own healthcare on those sterling examples of Government efficacy and Democrat “know how”, those Obamacare exchanges.  (I just want to be in the room when they find out how much they will be paying!)


    • Neither have they had to worry about supporting themselves entirely on their own, and by doing so discover just how hard it is to stay ahead of the curve all the while supporting so many who simply don’t bother trying.
    • Nor do they possess the baseline from which they can gauge all that marvelous Hope and Change to which they are obviously drawn.
    • I still hold very limited influence over my Better Half. Carol votes Republican – I think – but has little interest in changing party affiliation for some reason.

In the end, I will continue to stand as the Lion at the Gate.  Politely accepting the political materials dropped off at the house by my Democrat opposition during elections cycles and quietly sorting the mail.   Not sure why those materials never seem to arrive with their intended receivers.

I guess all’s fair in Love and Poltics!

Of course I told the house’s latest Democrat that he will always be welcomed back into the real Party of Progress … once he regains his senses!

But for now, I am the lone Grand Old Party stalwart beating back the political zombies seeking to weaken the ramparts, while keeping the inmates calm and reassuring them that they can have their political say the second Tuesday of every November!

That day in November …

riderless horse

A look at the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy through the eyes of a 7-year-old …

My memories of that day in 1963 are disjointed and spotty.  About what you would expect from a 7-year-old, who was too young to grasp the significance, the gravity of what had happened … A child too innocent to realize how harsh the world could be.

I was barely aware that John F. Kennedy was President.  My appreciation for what he meant to the country politically or to my Irish-Catholic parents culturally was lost among the toys and activities of a sheltered childhood.

Lyndon B. Johnson  takes The Oath of Office

Lyndon B. Johnson
takes The Oath of Office

I can remember sitting in Sister Ann David‘s first-grade class at the Immaculate Conception grade school on Chelten Avenue in the East Germantown section of Philadelphia, PA.  It was nearing lunchtime.  I had yet to completely synchronize my internal clock to the rigidity of your typical Catholic school day.  So I was constantly counting down the minutes to when I could leap from my seat (single file line, of course!); grab my lunch; then run around the schoolyard until the interminable afternoon session began.

The first announcement was sudden and confusing.  Something along the lines of “Please say a prayer, the President has been shot!”

Then several minutes later the statement – much more subdued and unrushed than the first – resulting in days of dread for those older than me, including those selfless Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary …

TV shot“The President is dead.”

Much of the rest of that morning is lost, that is until I got home early that afternoon after a hurried dismissal.

The oddities in a chain reaction, started on an unknown street in Texas, rippled for days through the country and the rest of the world like a rock that’s dropped into a still pond.  Our home was no different.

Coming home to find Mom on the living room couch, tears in her eyes, hand to her mouth as she watched the small black and white TV.  Dad coming home from work at the steel plant early and joining her in front of the TV – before even showering – for what seemed like hours.  Watching unfolding scenes from Dallas, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.  Mom beside herself; Dad comforting her with that dazed look on his face. When TV discovered what it could do

caissonDays where even the slightest sound or disturbance would illicit an urgent ‘Shhhhh …!” or a more comforting invitation to watch with them something I could not quite grasp.  A nighttime broadcast of an airplane, a hearse, a coffin on a high lift, groups of solemn people, a woman named Jackie, a new President …

Even in my child-eyed innocence I knew something profound had occurred … something ominous, unexpected, and shocking to every adult I saw.  You sensed their disbelief, their anger, their mourning.

They tried to explain what had happened, to whom it had happened, and why it was so incredibly sad.  You tried to understand.  You stayed close to your parents because you could feel an overwhelming sadness coming from them.  As a child, it was unsettling.

For four days our little world among a small strip of working-class homes revolved around a tiny TV set.  Back then this was an extraordinary exception to normal life.  I struggled to make sense of the images.

AP: Nation stopped for funeral

Entering Arlington National Cemetary

Entering Arlington National Cemetary

A closed casket sitting for days in front of a ceaseless procession of everyday citizens and dignataries, a parade like no other you had ever seen … a riderless horse, a two-piece caisson, funeral dirges in lieu of John Phillip Sousa marches, a church funeral service shown live on TV, a little boy caught in a child’s salute, something called an eternal flame …

At some point, it seemed like everything went back to normal, although I doubt any of those people I had seen or stayed close to over those four endless days ever felt that it did.

eternal flame

JFK’s Eternal Flame
at Arlington National Cemetary

You read it in the Sunday papers.

This is a regular feature … as in regular, not weekly … of Cranky Man’s Lawn, where we look at – and comment on –  a few articles that catch our eye during my regular … as in weekly … Sunday morning coffee’n paper lounge-about.  My regular Sunday morning read is The Philadelphia Inquirer.  But if you do not get The Inqy delivered to your door, links to the applicable articles are provided as the header to each discussion.


Need a watch “dog”?  You can get one for less than $5

Parts of Texas and northwest Louisiana are in the grips of a long-lasting drought.  When drought strikes, it means cattle and sheep cannot be sustained in a way that’s profitable for ranchers.  Aggravating the situation even further is the ragged, slow state of the economy which affects the costs of everything including the price of hay, which is used to feed the herds.  As a result, ranchers have been forced to unload their livestock in order to reduce the financial footprint of the ranching operation.

One unusual consequence of the situation in this region of the country is the releasing of hundreds of donkeys by ranchers who can no longer afford to maintain them, nor can they find buyers when the animals are put on the market.

Apparently, donkeys make exceptional watchmen!   They are able to provide a passive security of sorts for the herds they accompany as they – the donkeys – eat, sleep and live among the cattle and sheep.  The ranchers use FEMALE donkeys to provide security for herds located in isolated pastures on the very large ranches located in this region.  The donkeys are naturally hostile towards wolves and coyotes.  They will even go to lengths to attack them should they come into close proximity!

The problem is that they eat the same hay that the herds eat; so if you are not feeding livestock you don’t have, you don’t need the donkeys or the costs of feeding them.  So what happens is the donkeys are simply set loose or are pushed onto the lands of other ranches … a sort of reverse rustling.

The shame is that the animals are abandoned and left to fend for themselves.  Animal rescue organizations are overwhelmed, their valuable resources used to clean up an unfortunate mess.  So if you could use a sentry animal or a decent burro around your spread, check into acquiring a Watch Donkey.  They’re going cheap!


Reading the minds of Supreme Court Justices

This has become a favorite activity of cable and television commentators, political bloggers and analysts, State and Federal officials, and health insurance executives over the past week.  Three days of unprecedented testimony was held this week over the challenge by 26 states, including Pennsylvania over the mandates set forth in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare).

We have seen this coming as early as the day former House Speaker (I still enjoy saying that!) Nancy Pelosi stated that to find out what’s in the bill, Congress would have to pass it!

It was an amazing admission of just how rushed and ill-conceived the Obamacare package really was.  With so much power concentrated in the hands of the Democrats in their heady days when Hope and Change were the agenda, they stupidly threw together a terribly complex and pork laden bill (like Nebraska’s special Medicaid deal to land Senator Ben Nelson’s support) and shoved it down the Legislature’s – and America’s – throat.  Even its favorable and sensible aspects, like covering dependent children until age 26 and ending exclusions for people with pre-existing conditions, may be lost because of the short-sighted hubris of the Democrats.

In The Sunday Inqy’s Business section Chris Mondics Law Review column took a look at the comments and questioning that emanated from the Supreme Court Justices to gauge their leanings on the law.  His take was not good news for the Democrats.

There is no surprise that Justice Antonin Scalia was pointed, sarcastic, and a bit testy with U.S. Solicitors representing the Administration’s case in favor of the law.  But the questioning coming from Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy were much more troubling for the Obama Administration and the Democrats in Congress.  Both Roberts and Kennedy have been seen as the only hope for a majority decision in favor of Obamacare; yet neither seemed impressed with the Administration’s arguments.  Worse yet for the besieged healthcare law, both also seemed unlikely to let separate parts of the bill stand if the central buttress – the individual mandate – gets overturned.

The Democrats should have seen this coming the moment Nancy Pelosi opened her mouth!

The funny thing is, if the Democrats had framed the healthcare law as a tax to pay for national coverage, similar to Medicaid, it most likely would have passed muster with the Supreme Court.  But no, they were not committed enough to covering the uninsured to go to that great length.  Why?  Because they KNEW the word “TAX” would have cost them enormous political capital and a few elections along the way.  I guess being in power and staying there was just a tad more important than universal healthcare, eh?

By the way, if you have ever had a meltdown speaking in front of an audience during an important presentation, listen to find audio of Soliciter General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. hemming and hawing; uhing and duhing; gulping copious amounts of water; and rambling barely coherently during his presentation on the individual mandate.  It goes on and on for much, much longer than presented in the link.  One wonders if he suddenly realized as he began his presentation, “Sh*t, this law really is unconstitutional!”


U.S. Navy and environmental pollution

Seems the U.S. Navy has been getting a lot of attention from environmental groups over it SINKEX program, under which they tow old out-of-commission ships to sea and allow Navy ships to hit them with bombs, torpedos, and missiles until the sink.  They do this quite naturally to give its sailors the chance to use the same weapons they will be called upon to use in a real ocean conflict.

The problem?  The ships often contain unacceptable levels of toxins from PCBs to asbestos.

I won’t get into the rest of the article, which makes a lot of good points about sinking toxins in the ocean.  Instead I wanted to address the work being done by the Navy in its efforts to REDUCE the environmental footprint it leaves on the oceans it travels through and operates in.

For several years I have worked with a group responsible for environmental policies applicable to all Navy ships, though I have not worked directly in any of these programs.  The Navy has spent a lot of money on reducing the amounts and types of garbage they eject from their ships every day.  All ships do this, from those luxury cruise ships you like to travel on to those tankers and cargo vessels our economies rely upon.

Garbage in the form of biodegradables like foods, some paper products, and human waste generally present no harm to the ocean environment provided they are treated in some way before disposal.  Other trash like plastics, styrofoam, caustic solutions and industrial products are another story altogether, and should never be dumped into the seas.

The Navy has been working deliberately and diligently to eliminate the dumping of any non-biodegradable substances into the oceans.  The fleet is under strict guidelines to prevent to eliminate the need to dump dangerous substances into the ocean.  The Navy has re-engineered the way it collects, handles, and removes harmful substances that are unavoidably generated by ships holding hundreds – if not thousands – of sailors along with their weapons, aircraft, and equipment.

I have worked for a short time on one program that dealt with the handling and disposal of trash generated aboard nuclear submarines as they spend upwards of six months cruising – non-stop at times – around the world’s oceans.  You can not grasp the difficulty of this effort to reduce ocean pollutants until you appreciate the problems faced with the mess that gets created aboard a cramped, closed system – essentially a tube filled with people, electronic equipment, and war fighting capability.

Suffice it to say, the U.S. Navy has been doing a heck of a job in getting on top of their waste issue and in its efforts to eliminate to the extent possible its fleet’s impact on the ocean environment!


Generation Y is having a difficult time with life after college.

This post is already getting a bit too “wordy” as my friend, Bob likes to remind me; so I’ll leave you to read the specifics of the series in The Inqy that started on Sunday about the problems college graduates are having finding work  in a stifled economy.

I have one son just out of Millersville University and exploring the job market.  But he just completed his requirements in December, so he’s fairly new to the market.  And my youngest is a freshman now at Temple University.  So the details of Generation Y’s post-college job market frustrations is of particular interest.

I was not really sure how to take the stories provided in The Inquirer article.  I guess I hope that these are the worst case scenarios.  But as a parent you worry.  You want the best for them.  Who wouldn’t?

So my message to my sons – all three of them – is to make sure you are making the right decisions as you build your background and your resume’.  Don’t take shortcuts.  Don’t blow off classes.  Don’t be satisfied with “OK grades”.  Maintain your flexibility when it comes to future employment opportunities and career choices, unless you are truly fixed on a very specific field of study and profession.  Don’t limit yourself to specific jobs to certain employers in limited geographic areas.

The reality is that you could do everything right and still not land a suitable opportunity.  But a well-developed resume’ and maximum personal flexibility should give you the best chance of getting a job of which you can be proud.

Good luck to them and to all who are searching for a fair post-college opportunity!


(I hereby pledge – despite this blog’s name – to keep the lawn references to an absolute minimum.  Having said that, I think “Roots” best describes a discussion of where one comes from … a sort of “from the ground up” perspective.  Apologies to Alex Haley!)

Product of lower-middle-to-middle class, blue-collar Irish-American parentage … More American than Irish in a time when most adults in my version of the ’60s and ’70s more readily identified themselves with their hyphenated semi-European ethnicity.  Fact is, they were probably the last generation that relied so heavily on hyphenated Americanism to describe who they were.  But back then in Philly, it was still easy to identify sections of the city as having been at one time predominantly German, Polish, Italian, etc.

Dad was a World War II vet and worked in a steel processing plant – not in one of those huge, imposing steel mills that dotted much of Pennsylvania, making steel from raw ores.  It was more a facility processing steel into finished industrial products (wire, sheet metal, washers, fasteners, etc.).  He worked very hard in a dirty, sweaty environment.  But despite working in a union shop, it often seemed he could barely keep our financial heads above water.  He was a strongly committed and active Roman Catholic, insisting on maintaining his tithe to The Church even when he had trouble making ends meet.  Dad had his faults, but being anything other than a good father wasn’t one of them. 

Mom was a mom, and solely a mom.  Nothing other than wife and homemaker was necessary in describing her.  She stayed at home.  She never held outside employment.  Didn’t have much of an outside life period.  Never even drove a car.  Relied on Dad for everything.  It was remarkable in a way you NEVER see today.  But in the end, it was extremely limiting to her sense of self outside the family.  I never really appreciated what she gave up until Dad passed away, and she was left with no way to do anything for herself.  But as a mom, she was always there.  We always had that presence in the house.  And I honestly can’t recall more than a day here or there when she wasn’t there for us.  It was a sacrifice that’s impossible for me to adequately put to words.

Both Mom and Dad came from HUGE families … the Irish-Catholic way!  It mattered not which side of the family was involved; extended family gatherings were incredibly loud and crowded affairs.  To a kid it was both intimidating and wondrous. Who were all these people?!?

Of course, my parents were also products of The Great Depression (These stories alone could shape a few posts here!) and World War II, which had to be extremely difficult circumstances for large families.  So I often wonder whether that was why – despite their standing as “good Irish-Catholics” – there was only me, my brother Patrick, and my sister Joanne.  But I sure do remember many references to “the rhythm method”!

There is so much more I could go into here … some other time perhaps.  But going only this far, serves my purposes for the moment.