Wednesday, August 30, 2006

What the hell is RSS?

When readers visit LM's Web page they can submit a question via e-mail and those questions are routed to me. The other day I got a good one: "I see a line on your page that tells me to click on it for an RSS link. What the hell is RSS?"

RSS, a digital-universe term for Really Simple Syndication, is a cool, painless way for you to get news headlines from just about any news source your heart desires (we hope of course that your heart really desires Landscape Management). It's a direct pipeline -- We post news on the Web site and those headlines get automatically refreshed on your Google or Yahoo Web page. They don't come to your e-mail inbox, you don't need to enter a password. It's all there. Seamless.

Here's how it works: Editors at LM update articles on our Web page every day. Most of the time here, it's our trusty Associate Editor and Web Guru Mike Seuffert who toils online.

You set up an RSS link once that links our articles to your personal Web page on Google or Yahoo (more on this in a second). Then, every time you jump on the Internet and this page opens, the latest, greatest LM headlines are right there. You didn't have to open an e-mail, you didn't have to lift a finger or even hit "refresh." Genius.

To get started: Go to Yahoo or Google and follow links from their home pages to create a personalized page. Block out about 20 minutes to get this done. When you're finished, set this new My Yahoo! or personalized Google page as your home page. That way it'll be right there every time you log on.

The browser will direct you through the process of creating your page. You'll get to pick from some basic news sources that all work on the RSS feed method, like CNN, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, Reuters Business, you name it. When you're done you will have a personal Web page that automatically gives you the latest headlines from whatever news sources you picked (you can fit as many as you want on there), plus any other custom element you might like, such as a weather report, blogs or daily comics.

Then come on back to and click that RSS link. It'll walk you through adding our headlines to your new, personalized Web page. Do this for any other news source you want that supports the RSS technology. The result: All the news headlines on the topics you want from the sources you like are in one place.
— Stephanie Ricca

Monday, August 28, 2006

ServiceMaster hdqtrs relocating to Memphis?

Could ServiceMaster (NYSE-SVM) be moving its headquarters from its longtime location in Downers Grove, IL, to this vibrant mid-South city? That's more than a possibility, reports the Memphis Commercial Appea, quoting a city councilman there.

ServiceMaster is the parent company of TruGreen ChemLawn, TruGreen Landcare, Terminix, American Home Shield among others. It employs 170 in its Chicago-area headquarters, while its Memphis location already numbers more than 2,000 employs.

ServiceMaster is staying mum on the matter.

Click the headline to be directed to reporter Amos MakiĆ­s article in the Commercial Appeal. — Ron Hall

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Hazardous-duty pay warranted

The biggest hazard to a landscape worker on the job?

1. Big machinery with whirring blades?
2. Relentless exposure to the sun and heat?
3. Robbers, lunatics and morons?

If you answered #3 you're right.

This past week alone landscape worker Tereso Vasquex Gonzalez was shot in the back and killed as he tried to walk away from a robbery attempt near Charleston, SC, Juan Patino was mowing a property in Richardson, TX, when somebody stopped their SUV and fired a shot that struck him in the arm and then sped off, and (this guy definitely needs some serious anger management or jail time, preferably the later) a 26-year-old man attacked Eric Torres, 23, with a baseball bat because he didn't like the way Torres was cutting the grass on a Jacksonville, FL, property. He hit the landscaper several times in the back, the head and the arm with the bat before another landscape worker, hammer in hand, intervened. — Ron Hall

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Would you turn these morons in?

A good friend, the owner of a nice lawn care company in Texas, called me the other day with a lot of bad news. In addition to telling me about a mutual friend being diagnosed with a serious ailment, he said one of his techs was treating a lawn and looked over to an adjacent property and saw a black lab that had apparently died of the heat and lack of water. The unfortunate animal had wrapped it's chain around a pole where it expired.

In a separate incident recently a Philadelphia landscaper made a surprising discovery, a row of flower pots on Germantown Avenue, each containing a nice healthy marijuana plant.

In both instances authorities were notified? Would you have reacted similarly? — Ron Hall

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The real champion please speak up

The 2-year extension of the H2B seasonal immigrant guest worker program expires Sept. 30. And everybody - I mean everybody - is strangely quiet about getting a new extension signed into law.

Ok, so I'll give it a shot. I'm saying 50-50 that a new 2- or 3-year extension of the so-called Save Our Small and Seasonal Business Act will be passed. If so, it will almost certainly ride on the back of an appropriations bill. . .

The Act widens the pool of seasonal immigrant workers for U.S. employers by allowing workers who have received H2B visas any of the previous three years to get them again, which is a good thing for the landscape industry, which employs lots of cheap labor.

This past spring it seemed that anybody with a connection to the Act that Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D - MD) brought before Congress was chirping like crazy, either seeking industry support for the measure or, more accurately, positioning themselves (or their organization) as the Act's true champions.

Three groups are working for passage of the Act, but how cooperatively is anybody's guess in light of the ongoing silence - the Washington D.C.-area-based Don Mooers/Hank Lavery faction, the Federation of Employers and Workers of America (a non-profit that has as its president one of the biggest and most assuredly for-profit H2B labor processors in the business) and the Professional Landcare Network.

Assuming the Act finally passes, who will send out the news release claiming to be the industry's champion in assuring a continuing stream of guest workers? — Ron Hall

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Lawn care's founder a woman?

Elizabeth Senske, 87, died last week. Who's Elizabeth Senske you ask? She, along with Bill her husband of 65 years, founded what may have been the first professional lawn spray company in the United States. In 1947, shortly afer moving to Spokane, WA, the couple began Senske Lawn & Tree Company.

In the 1950s she and Bill took the state pesticide licensing test and she became the first woman in the state to become a licensed applicator although, as it turned out, she never had the pleasure of treating a property. Bill handled those chores while she handled the shop — keeping the books, answering customers questions and staying in touch with Washington State University on technical matters and updates.

Several decades ago the couple sold the business to Chris, one of their five children. Chris Senske was an active board member of Professional Lawn Care Association of America (PLCAA) in the 1990s.

Hopefully the link for the informative article about Elizabeth Senske that appeared in the Spokane Review newspaper is still alive. Click on the headline for the article. — Ron Hall

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

It's time to cut the crap

Dog poop. I hate dog poop. I hate walking a dog - in this case my son's 14-year-old beagle, Sparky - and having to pick up its poop. My son Jason, who wouldn't part with Sparky for a new GMC pickup, is living in an apartrment while he works in our area this sxummer. The landlord doesn't allow pets in his apartment, so we agreed to board the dog until Jason and Sparky return to their Florida home in October.
Hurray up October!
It's not that the wife, Vicky, and I don't like Sparky, we do. He's a good dog, although outrageously lazy, sometimes grumpy and, given the opportunity, will do those gross things that dogs do. But we dread the walks with Sparky who, instead of doing his business, in an alley or at a vacant lot, can always be counted on to squat on a pristine lawn, either on a busy street corner or, worse yet, while the homeowners are dining or relaxing on their front porch.
Then it's time to whip out the BP, the term the wife now uses, thinking it sounds a lot nicer than poopy bag.
After much experimentation with different pickup techniques, I realized that simple is best when performing this task. So I use Kroger shopping bags for PBs, the plastic variety of course. They're small enough to stick in your pocket when you leave the house, and you can easily tie a knot in them once you've picked up the prize.
Well, not only do I hate picking the stuff up, I hate it when other people don't, which leads me the American Pet Products Association's claim that 40% of all dog owners do not pick up after them. And since there are 74 million dogs in the United States, that's a lot of crap, which is kind of scary. For example, the City of Austin Watershed Protection and Development Review says that about 1,327 lbs. of dog waste end up in its Town Lake watershed area every day.
OK, so where am I going with all of this?
Now, you can fight back and have some fun too. Check out the Web site by clicking on the headline of this article and you'll see something that might make a great giveaway to those special customers whose properties get bombarded (you know what I mean) from time to time.