Sunday, July 30, 2006

Humble Beginnings

In only one month my alley garden is booming (see a before picture). The rain barrel has provided the majority of the daily water. Despite the need for a few tweaks, harvesting rain has worked great.

I finally took the time to put a landscape border between my front garden and walkway. It's amazing how much better it looks.

My bee exterminating days were short lived. First, they were actually wasps which changed the playing field. Wasps can eat through things, sting as many times as they want without being a martyr, and fortunately they do not re-use their colonies after they die from the cold weather. Unfortunately, this information came after I had already filled many of the entrance/exits I had pin pointed. As a result of my expanding foam offensive I found a few that had worked their way into my basement (some spiders have made meals of all of them). However, I missed one entrance (in red) and as you can see here wasps are still moving freely. I've decided to make peace when them, but I won't be providing any aid come winter and I intend to caulk or point tuck my foundation closed.

The hot weather this weekend didn't stop me from getting a bunch of work done on my roof as well. I plan to unveil my new metal chimney I installed soon (can you feel the excitement?)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

So I've always wanted some sort of stamp with a cool personal logo or crest or something. No, not an ink stamp. A stamp used with wax to seal envelopes and/or sign letters or proclamations. Turning to the internet, I found Irish family crests. Some for sale and some not. I discovered a Baltimore beer named in honor of the same fort. It sure has it's fans out there.

"Which brings us to McHenry, a smooth and toothsome amber lager from Clipper City that's now available in your liquor store's chill case. We like how it tastes--classic and gimmick-free. We like how it bills itself as "Old Baltimore Style Beer." We like how a portion of its sales proceeds go to help restore Fort McHenry. And we like how we've been able to score it for as low as $4.99 a sixer. Hell, we've paid more for the Pa. stuff."
-City Paper

"As shitty a day I had, there is nothing that my wife's cooking can't wash away. Nothing. Short of amputation of a major limb, well, nothing. She made an awesome pork tortilla corn dish that was freakin' awesome. Now drowning the last remnants of activesync craptasia with McHenry beer and Utz hard pretzels. They go together like Angelina Jolie and her brother."
-Keith Alioto

"I just dropped 6 of these through my bong and it set me straight. Damn good beer!"
-My Life Is Beer

It was nice to get a peak at the newly crowned Miss McHenry, but maybe I should stop googleing myself and just design something?

Monday, July 24, 2006

If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in the dark with a (Minnesota) mosquito. ~Unknown

With the addition of my gardens I've seen more insects that usual. I'm not complaining. In fact, this is one of the calmest mosquito summers I've experienced in Minneapolis since I moved here. My house is old and in need of a good point tucking of the entire limestone foundation. Since I've moved in I've caulked or used expanding foam to plug up many gaps and holes in my foundation and along basement windows. This action seems to have kept out water, stopped further deterioration, warded off larger pests, but spiders, ants, and bees still show up. On the South West corner of my house, under my kitchen window, I've noticed a bit of commotion lately. IT'S BEES!

Bees are harmless. However, they're dangerous. Last summer I was doing a little yard work and left my Bloody Mary unattended. After biting down on what I thought was a little pickle or pepperoncini I was surprised to spit out the back end of a bee. A small hard lump developed on the end of my tongue and it went numb. I guess bees like a good Bloody Mary, but don't enjoy decapitation. Anyways, bees are part of outside living. Before I decided to tackle the hive residing in the foundation of my house I walked my entire property to make sure this was an isolated problem. It's not, I found a small hornet hive right above my front door. That was easy to knock down (and I burned it). The bees however have proved difficult to evict. In the evening I sprayed a can of Raid Wasp/Hornet killer through the hole I witnessed the bees using. The next day things seems to be as lively as ever. Next, I decided to caulk the hole closed. I thought this had succeeded, but a couple of days past and the bees actually worked another hole through the caulking. Amazing! Did they eat through caulk? Did they just muscle through it before it dried? I decided to just plug it up with a piece of wood. That really pissed them off. Swarming all over, I decided to knock the wood out of the hole and do some research.

After I read all the bickering by these bee keepers I decided to just kill 'em all. They aren't honey bees, so I don't have to worry about the honey and wax staying behind as a starting point for more bees in the future. So what should I do? I'm leaning towards spraying a bit more Raid at night followed by forcing expanding foam into the hole. The foam expands to eight times it's initial size, then hardens. This will not only close the whole, but most likely will crush them inside. This website has lots of ideas: I could track down some bug strips, a bug zapper, use a shop vac (and suck 'em up), or just place a 2-liter bottle with some ammonia or soapy water as a trap and slowly kill them. Go ahead and vote on what you think I should do in the comments. I'm not allergic, but I'd like to limit my contact with the bees (unlike this guy). By the end of the week I'll update everyone.

Friday, July 14, 2006

At a cross-roads

Cabinet Communique (July 12): "Israel views the sovereign Lebanese Government as responsible for the action that originated on its soil and for the return of the abducted soldiers to Israel. Israel demands that the Lebanese Government implement UN Security Council Resolution #1559."

PM Olmert (July 12): "This morning's events were not a terrorist attack, but the action of a sovereign state that attacked Israel for no reason and without provocation. The Lebanese government, of which Hizbullah is a member, is trying to undermine regional stability. Lebanon is responsible and Lebanon will bear the consequences of its actions."

FM Livni: "Hizbullah is a terrorist organization, which is part of the Lebanese government. The international community, including the Security Council, has demanded, repeatedly, that the government of Lebanon dismantle Hizbullah. Lebanon has failed to act and today’s aggression is the result."

US President Bush (July 13): "Israel has a right to defend herself. Every nation must defend herself against terrorist attacks and the killing of innocent life. It's a necessary part of the 21st century."

At the center of the current conflicts are the kidnapped Israeli soldiers Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev, and Cpl. Gilad Shalit.

If Hamas and Hizbollah thought taking Israeli soldiers was a good negotiating tool, they're learning otherwise. For a better perspective on the Middle East escalations read the BBC. However reading the Israeli, Lebanese, and other world perspectives show the deep seeded frustrations on all sides. When I visited Israel in '01 I was amazed how normal life goes on with barb wire borders and people who hate your very existence surrounding you. The photo above I took at the Israeli/Syrian border. It's a great visual representation of just how close everything is in that region. I hope they can work this out without any lose of life, but all parties involved have so many years of hatred between them. A quick peaceful resolution might be impossible. The best thing you can do is seek out the facts and not jump to conclusions just because oil/gas prices keep going up as result of the Middle East.

I feel it is clear Israel did not ask for this conflict and that the attacks and kidnappings from the south and the north came from territories that Israel had withdrawn from in the name of compromise and for peace. Now that this conflict has erupted, Israel is utilizing this opportunity to do to Hezbollah what the Lebanese government was unable or unwilling to do despite the call of the United Nations. Over the next period of time, we can expect Israel to use the window of political opportunity afforded it by the world community to do what it can to wipe out Hezbollah’s capacity to make war on Israel and her citizens.

I wish everyone in the Middle East watched this video.

Monday, July 10, 2006

I already miss the World Cup

The movie theater a block from my house was packed full for the free viewing of the final yesterday (so I watched the full game on my couch). The soccer was good, but the plot lines that preceded and followed each match is what I'll miss. Watching the Italian's steal the cup on penalty kicks was a sour finish. At least Zidane and the French made it a good game. I agree with the journalists that voted Zidane the Cup's best player. He was great to watch, but more so a super story.

Zidane's goal for Les Bleus put them up 1-0 early. It was his 31st in 108 appearances, and fifth in the World Cup. His head butt (if you missed it CLICK ON THE PICTURE ABOVE) and subsequent red card will be my #1 memory from this World Cup. The French sports daily L'Equipe wrote (you can use google's translation to read): "This morning, Zinedine, what do we tell our children, and all those for whom you were the living role model for all times?" Its front-page headline: "Eternal Regrets." L'Equipe addressed it editorial directly to Zidane, comparing his best World Cup moments to boxer Muhammad Ali's heroics in the ring. "But neither Ali, nor Pele, nor (Jesse) Owens, nor any other great hero of their standing — the standing that you were on the verge of joining — ever broke the most elementary rules of sport like you did," the paper wrote. "It was your last image as a soccer player, Zidane. How could that happen to a man like you?" Maybe the translation from French is off, but the reaction is borderline hilarious >
The blow of head asséné by Zinédine Zidane in Marco Materazzi was the fact of the match of the finale of the World cup gained by Italy. Sunday, even its team-members did not know why their captain had gone crazy. The contents of the conversations between players and journalists after the final of the World cup confirmed a famous theory. To be placed in the middle of the event is not the best way of including/understanding it. Unless silence surrounding the cold heavy bleeding of Zidane, to start with that of the interested party, is the last episode in date of the retention of information issued since of the weeks between the Blue ones and the external world. What did it occur in the head from Zidane, an animal of 34 years competition, so that it decides, after a few seconds of reflexion, to condemn itself to a red paperboard while sinking in the thorax of its guardian angel, like small excited in a match of districts? Jean-Pierre Escalettes does not even want the knowledge. “Let us put at the place people. One should not criticize without stop, it is necessary to try to include/understand, indicated the president of the FFF. In the cloakroom, I saw it sad in his corner. I was not going to go to stir up the knife in the wound. I did not speak to him, I tightened to him the hand for services rendered to French football. It is damage, and sad especially. It is unhappy, it should be left quiet.” Escalettes “does not excuse” the gesture of the tricolour captain but “it does not blame it”. “That arrived to us on other levels, there it is finally of the World cup, but let us not shoot at the artist.”

Want more Zidane? Check out the head butting game (some cheeky European must have thrown this together real fast) or the collection of soccer player portraits by Mathias Breschler and Monika Fischer called Faces of Football (that includes Zidane).

Friday, July 07, 2006

White Ninja

80% of the White Ninja comics make no sense to me. I guess White Ninja is getting eaten by spiders? They are interesting enough to get the LINK OF THE MONTH honors for July.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Operation Yard Beautify

Over the past two weeks or so Christina and I have been working on some landscaping. I've attempted to beautify several areas in a small amount of time, but more importantly without spending a ton of money. I'd say mission accomplished.

Minneapolis Blooms sent me an Urban Gardener's Guide that explained:
Urban gardens can build a stronger neighborhood and improve water quality. They can add a vibrant display of color and create an attractive habitat for birds and butterflies. Gardens in publicaly visible places like an alley or boulevard foster conversation and sharing among neighbors.

I agree, and thanks to a bit of inspiration from my neighbor, we put together two raised gardens. Before both gardens where put in place with 6' timbers, I rented a 3 horsepower tiller and worked dozens of bags of manure, pete moss, and some compost into the existing soil. One bed, located on the side of my garage in the alley, helped turn a useless 2 x 22' spot of land into a native perennial flower and vegetable garden. One passing neighbor pointed out that I'll be lucky if any tomatoes make it. He figured if bunnies or squirrels don't get at them, a hungry vagrant passerby might (maybe I should support the proposed alley stranger law?). To avoid the city plows from pushing harmful salts on my hibernating plants come winter, I was sure to make it a good foot high. It's the only spot on my property that gets partial to full sun all day; but as I've found it also requires regular watering. With some rebar hammered into the ground it should stay secure. The second raised bed was constructed on the North side of my house. Sun is in short supply in this area, so Christina and I spent Sunday morning splitting several hosta plants at her mom's house. Although it was pretty hot, the plants seemed to take to their new location just fine. Some solar lights and annuals complete the garden.

But what's the big blue thing? After reading about harvesting the rain I set off on a mission to build a rain barrel (or two). Rain barrels sit under your gutter system to collect the rain that falls on your roof. City water isn't super expensive, but why pay for it when storm water is free? Although the internet offers several types of rain barrels put together and kits I opted to make my own. After finding a local shampoo factory in St Paul that gives away 55 gallon plastic barrels, I purchased some downspout adaptors, hose, spigots, teflon tape, washers, nuts, silicon, and mosquito donuts. A little trial and error and I have an environmentally responsible source of water for my house's landscaping needs. Yet another passing neighbor stopped to explain I won't get any break on the water treatment charges on my city water bill. He said I should and he and a friend of his are looking into a class action lawsuit. I'd rather bitch about high gas prices and sit back and enjoy my new gardens.