Friday, May 26, 2006

Got a job you wouldn't do?

In a refreshingly lighthearted look at the current comprehensive immigration reform debate, Santa Monica Mirror writer Steve Stajich writes a column this week on "Jobs This American Won't Do." It's funny, not political, and it'll make you mentally create your own list of "thanks, but no thanks" jobs. Mashed potato scooper? Thanks, but uh ... no.

Check it out here, from the Santa Monica Mirror, May 25-31, 2006, edition.

--Stephanie Ricca, managing editor

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Tragedy shows even long-timers need safety reminders

Two recent incidents involving landscape workers underscore the continuing need for safety reminders. This is true even among veteran landscapers.

Jesus Samaguey, 55, died when the mower he was operating in Dublin, CA, started sliding on wet grass on a steep incline and turned over on him just before noon May 17. The incident is under investigation by California Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

In Riverdale, NJ, Joseph Schwarz, miraculously survived after being jolted and receiving burns to his head, hands and stomach after coming in contact with a power line. Schwartz, an experienced arborist, was in an elevated bucket trimming branches when the top of his head struck the power line. Witnesses said they saw three flashes of electricity pass through his body before Schwarz slumped over unconscious in the bucket, according reports in the local press. — Ron Hall

Friday, May 19, 2006

We're not there yet but . . .

We have the means to reduce illegal immigration using technology. Already some folks are talking about bio-metric identification cards. There are even more sophisticated ways to track things, including people.

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is here. Most of us don't know much about it. As we learn more about it we will be astonished and, perhaps, frightened by the many ways it will be used.

RFID tags consist of a flat antenna and an embedded chip that can be as small as a grain of sand. The tags work in conjunction with a reader that emits radio waves as it searches for tags. Once the tag is within reading distance (it varies but can be as far away as 40 feet or more), it picks up the unique information on the tag.

The technology is, in a sense, this generation’s version of a bar code, but more sophisticated and intrusive. And with the ability to deliver a lot more unique information.

To date, RFID is tracking pallets of goods as they’re shipped around the world, and even individual items within retail stores. But the technology is not confined to hard goods. Club goers in some European cities are embracing subcutaneous chips, which allow them to party to their hearts’ content without the need of carrying a wallet or purse. Apparently their identification, which is matched to the club record of their credit card informaiton, can be pulled from the chip. Pets are getting the chip too. If Fido wanders off, all a dog warden has to do is pass a reader over him to find out where he belongs.

Is implanting humans with RFID— guest workers, tourists, felons, sex offenders, whatever — a good idea? The idea scares me to death. But the technology to track people is here . . . and you can bet somebody somewhere is considering implementing it in some form. — Ron Hall

Why all the crime?

You've heard me mention Google alerts before: The system at where you can set up news alerts on specific topics to be delivered to your e-mail inbox every day. One of my key words is "landscaper" and in the last few weeks, every Google alert for that topic has returned a list of headlines from news sources all over the country large and small linking landscapers with one crime after another: petty theft, welching out of contracts, you name it.

"News" often means "bad news," and we hear a lot about why mainstream TV news shows don't play enough of the good news. Is this a similar situation? I can count on one hand the number of "good" landscaper stories that have come across my Google alert wire in the past few weeks. Makes me think that it wouldn't hurt to spend a little time spreading the good news about your own company in your local papers.
--Stephanie Ricca

Monday, May 15, 2006

Goofy journalism — you be the judge

This morning's Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper carried a front page article with these "facts" (among others) regarding lawn care.

7 million — approximate number of birds that die each year as a result of lawn-care pesticides

17 million — gallons of gasoline spilled by Americans every summer in the process of refueling their lawn mowers, leaf blowers and other gardening equipment, "or about 50 percent more oil than marred the Alaskan coast during the notorious Exxon Valdez disaster."

Who actually goes out and counts dead birds and then figures out what kills them? As for the number of gallons of gasoline being spilled, who's wasting gasoline at today's prices? This newspaper article reads like something you would see on a tabloid as you're waiting to pay for your bread and milk at the grocery checkout.

The reporter Michael K. McIntyre culled the "facts" came from a recent book by a Ted Steinberg, an environmental historian at Case Western Reserve University here in Cleveland. Steinberg's been getting a lot of positive press with his book that bashes America's so-called "obsession" with lawns.

Don't know what it is about a pretty green lawn that sets some people off. Criticizing and condemning lawns and lawn care seems to have become an obsession with them. — Ron Hall

Saturday, May 13, 2006

TruGreen invades the UK

TruGreen is now in UK in a big way with 60 lawn care franchises and many more on the way. There are an estimated 20 million gardens in the UK, but lawns there are much smaller than lawns in the United States. The TG franchise owners use small vans to deliver their lawn care services. The model for the franchise owners is to move from owner/operator to four or five service delivery techs and vans. TruGreen, a division of ServiceMaster, began selling lawn care franchises in the UK in 2003, and is making eager lawn pros from many different backgrounds. They pay about 25,000 pounds (which is about $50,000 or $55,000 U.S. dollars I think) to get their franchise and training.

Another big lawn care franchise operation in the UK is a company called Green Thumb. I'll fill you in about them as I find out more. — Ron Hall

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Stupid mower tricks

About 80,000 people suffer lawn mower-related injuries annually in the United States. The most common types are objects being flung out by the blades and stiking somebody, serious cuts, sliced off toes, etc.

A buddy of mine, back about 15 years ago, while maintaining an apartment complex, backed a riding mower over his two-year-old son. I read a nice article about the kid a few years ago when he was a high schooler, how he had discarded his prosthetic leg and become a pretty good interscholastic swimmer. No kidding. Bet he would have been a lot better swimmer had his dad been more careful.

I can't tell you how often I see dads mowing their lawns with a tiny junior or sis on their laps. Makes me shiver to think about what could happen. Also reminds me when I allowed my three-year-old son to climb aboard the new pony my dad, his grandfather, had just gotten him. Whammo, off it went, right into a busy street with my son clinging to its back.

What was I thinking?

That's the point — I wasn't thinking. This brings me to a recent article in the local newspaper about another braniac on a mower. It seems a guy in small Vermilion, OH, after having a few too many beers, hopped aboard his landlord's riding mower and headed to the drugstore about a mile away. When the police nabbed him and charged him with OVI, operating a vehicle under the influence, he responded: "If I knew that was the law, I would have walked."

Judges in Ohio interpret the word "vehicle" to mean just about anything with wheels on it, including roller blades and skateboards.

But even if you didn't have a beer buzz on, isn't a riding mower a strange way to get to a drug store? The pros know that a mower is a money-making tool and not a toy or a vehicle, but even they sometimes get careless. When they do, sometimes they pay dearly. — Ron Hall

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

We didn't make this up

The folks in London, Ontario, Canada, have been in a furious debate concening the use of lawn care chemicals. Some people want to ban their use and many people do not. Caught in the middle is the city council. This same scenario has played ou all over Canada these past few years and just when you thought you had heard about every reason there could be for banning lawn care chemicals somebody comes up with another.

Louis Guillette, a zoologist and an associate dean at the University of Florida, said that he wouldn't use pesticides on his lawn because studies have shown that animals, including humans, suffer unwanted affects to their reproductive organs when exposed to environmental contaminants such as pesticides. One of the affects is decreased penis size. Guillette made this and more detailed comments on the subject during a recent speaking engaggement at the University of Western Ontario, which is in London. — Ron Hall

Check it out: "Pesticides may affect penis size," The London Free Press, April 29, 2006