Wednesday, August 18, 2010

You Don't Need a Zero-Turn Mower.

Full disclosure, I used to work at Lowe's selling lawn mowers and tractors before I was married and started college. 

I loved it. 

I was good at it. 

If it paid five or ten times more, I'd do it for the rest of my life.

It was a whole lot of fun.

I was developoing my environmentalism back then.  During breaks, I would grab the latest issue of Mother Earth News and go out to the outdoor section where the outdoor furniture is and I'd take my red jersey uniform thing and hide it under a pillow and I'd sit on one of those cushy outdoor reclining deck chairs and I'd read for fifteen minutes.

I learned (as I still do quite regularly) what I wanted in a house, in a lawn mower, in a garden, in a car and in a whole bunch of other areas.

I also learned how to sell lawn mowers.

I learned to turn on a backwoods Arkansas accent and say "Yes ma'am!" when asked a question.  You see, you have to sell to the wife, you can sell the husband no problem, but if he tells you that he has to go ask his wife, you can just forget about it.  I only had one guy who did that actually come back and buy anything.

Anyway, zero-turn mowers.  So, I'm a huge believer in efficiency.  My family vehicles include nothing with more than four cylinders in its engine.  My primary vehicle for most of the year is a motorcycle that gets more than 40 miles per gallon.  My work truck is a 1985 Toyota Pickup that on many occassions gets overloaded and drags itself down the freeway at 50 miles an hour with a full bed and pulling a full trailer.  It's great.

I did sell my fair share of zero turn mowers, but the only time I ever saw that they were necessary was for commercial use.  I even worked for a company where one of my jobs was to mow the lawn of the office and the boss's house with a real legitimate commercial zero-turn mower, one that cost more than my truck and my motorcycle combined when I bought them.  And I did end up selling one of the Cub Cadet zero-turns to a commercial guy from Lowe's, and of course, that voids the warranty but he managed to break it before the thirty day return policy was up, so he got to return it anyway, but returns are a story for another day.

For homeowners, zero-turn mowers are completely unnecessary.  First, they cost a whole lot more than any lawn tractor, even those with much larger deck sizes.  They cost more because they have two hydrostatic transmissions where a lawn tractor would have only one and more transmissions means a larger engine is necessary to propel the machine.  That's a ding against the efficiency. 

At either Lowe's or Sears, you can get a 54 inch lawn tractor, capable of the same speed as a zero-turn, for more than thousand dollars less than a comparable consumer grade zero-turn.  But you'll be able to do stuff with the tractor that you can't do with the other like bag clippings, pull things, and get good fuel economy.

One of the big selling points is that zero-turn mowers can go around trees quicker.  This is pretty well bogus, since the mowers go the same speed, and if your trees are properly mulched with a three to five foot radius, any lawn tractor can mow around them with no problems at all.

Additionally, if you have that much lawn and you're just mowing it to make it look nice, you're wasting your time.  I have over an acre of lawn, but my primary use of the lawn is to collect grass clippings for mulch and compost.  If I didn't use so many clippings, I wouldn't have so much lawn. because there's no reason for it.  I would expand the garden, plant tons more fruit trees and grape vines (already in the works) and only use a push mower, probably electric.

Speaking of electric mowers, they are the best option if you can afford them, they produce no pollution at point of use, they cost far less to operate, and they are much quieter.

The only reason to buy a zero-turn mower is for commercial use where the mower needs to be maneuvered into strange spaces at high speeds, be loaded and unloaded from a trailer multiple times a day, and have no need for bagging.  A better option still is to have no unnecessary lawn, to have native plants that don't need to be watered or fertilized, or fruit trees with heavy mulch around them so that no grass grows but the soil still absorbs healthy amounts of rain water.

My prime goal in everything is utilitarianism, and my secondary goal is efficiency.  Utilitarian is a lawn tractor that can do all kinds of things and contributes to my other biological systems, and efficiency is doing that with the most fuel efficient, economic, and appropriate machine available.

Just some practical tips you can use, if you ever need to know what mower to buy, I'm always available, leave a comment.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Book Review: Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back by Frank Shaeffer

In the last few days, I've been reading this very interesting book.  I had seen Frank Shaeffer several times on shows like Rachel Maddow and on YouTube.  I was very interested in his points of view considering that he is a left leaning Christian, I guess you could say.

I was even more intrigued when I learned about his past, how he was the son of the late great evangelical theologian Francis Shaeffer, though after reading this book, he might just be late, but everyone has their flaws.  The subtitle really explains a lot.  Frank was the one or one of the main ones who brought the abortion issue into the mainstream conservative religious right playbook.

Frank grew up in Switzerland, the child of two evangelical royalty as he calls them.  Of the many things I learned from this book was a couple of ways how not to raise your children.  Frank was for most of his childhood given the run of the land and little education.  It also didn't help that he had dyslexia.

He doesn't hide much, talking about how controlling, hyperspiritualized, and condescending his mother was, and how abusive his father was toward his mother.  He also tells about his own inheritance of these traits, how mean he was to his wife and children.  He also tells how his parents were uncommonly kind and understanding to people commonly rejected outright by the contemporary American church.  There don't seem to be any subjects that Frank doesn't cover, including masturbation, spousal abuse, and a crush he had on a star of one of his movies.

He talks about his abandoned art career, his successful professional Christian career, his failed movie director career, and finally his success and contentment as an author and conversion to the Greek Orthodox church.

Most interesting was the inner workings for the christian right movement which has taken political power for the past few decades.  It was very interesting to learn the history, the behind the scenes wrangling, attitudes, and control.  

I would recommend this book to anyone.  It's the real life story of real life people whose fingerprints on society have shaped history for decades and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.  This book gets pretty real, there's swearing, there's sex, there's yelling, and there's the behind the scenes lives of revered people.  9/10.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Libertarians Abandon Free Market Democracy in Favor of Despotism and other stuff that is completely hypocritical.

I very recently had the following conversation on Facebook with a couple of people who are staunch libertarians.  For years, I have heard that true democracy is evil because the majority will do what ever makes sense for them at the peril of the minority.  But I want to know, when has this happened?  I know the rhetoric by heart, but where’s the evidence?

If you can answer the question, I really want to hear it, and I’m not just trying to prove a point, I really want to know!  I can’t find a single case.  Everything I find shows the most evil despotic regimes and rulers coming to power through some sort of uprising or coup.

I’ve replaced the names with descriptions if you couldn’t tell.

Host Republic vs. Democracy. I still want to know how laws are created in a Republic. Majority rule? Minority rule? Common sense? WHO gets to make the decision what laws are created? If it's rule by the people, it's Democracy. But Democracy turns into an evil force of plunder and oppression. What are your thoughts on this?

[YouTube video link which didn’t come through.]

Our system of government was never intended to be a democracy. Although many believe that we live in one, they have never been asked to vote on the decisions made by said government. Yet they believe that they are empowered just the same. We are not.

[At this point, there are a couple of posts that have been deleted.  I asked if someone (I knew there are always libertarians lurking around) could give me an example of a democracy that turned evil like they often talk about.  The Host made a sarcastic comment to the effect that the USA was such a country.]

Me I was looking for was an answer. Do you have one? Sarcasm about a country that is by your own account not a democracy does not count.

Host Ok, Rome fell when it morphed from a Republic to a Democracy.

Host And, you're missing the point of my post.

Me Rome fell when it went from a democracy to a monarchy. And you're not answering the question adequately.

Other Guy The point is that the will of the majority is not always just. There has to be a check against that power to protect the individual. IN our system, that is the constitution and the judiciary. No system is perfect however. Our constitution was as close as it comes in my opinion. Unfrotunately it's completely ignored most of the time.

Other Guy When the ballot box fails, there is always the bullet box.

[Notice here, the immediate abandonment of democracy and straight to bullying and violence when not in the position of power]

Other Guy Case in point, slavery (as pointed out by Host). The ballot box wasn't an option. The bullet box solved the problem.

[Actually, if you read history, the “bullet box” in this case was first checked by what we now understand (in many contexts) as the losing side.]

Me Show me the evil democracy you guys always tell me about.

Other Guy Do you read anything anyone writes?

Me The name of a country please.

Other Guy Naaaa, I'm not wasting my time. I was planning to get drug naked through a parking lot full of ground glass into a pond filled with alcohol. I wouldn't miss that just to argue with you.

[And that was the first inclination of when I knew I would never get an answer because the other side was in a losing argument and was not going down with any honor.]

Me I'm not arguing, I'm asking a question about a point I hear all the time and getting no answer.

Other Guy You've got plenty of answers, you just ignore them.

Host I want to know what's the difference between a Democracy and a Republic REALLY. A Republic is "rule by law"- but whose law? Who decides. I believe I said that in the original post. This is a "working out an internal conflict" post.

If you'd like to give me an answer to the question I actually asked, I'd be happy to consider it thoughtfully.

"But Democracy turns into an evil force of plunder and oppression." This was part of the post. I would just like to see a legitimate example of this statement.

Host In a 56 word post, you are obsessed with these 11. 9 sentences, 5 of which were questions. Thanks for reading the whole context and sticking with it.

Me I would be happy to consider your questions if I could just have a little clarification on your statement. The answer to my question will necessarily father the answer to your question.

Other Guy Clarification: democracy is mob rule. What do you not understand?

Host What if it was a repetition of what I hear others say in an attempt to challenge them to answer MY FRIGGIN' questions in their responses?

Other Guy Hey I will say something for WiredForStereo. AT least he hasn't called us racist yet.

[I’m not sure exactly to what this is referring.]

Me What I mean is, there are over 190 countries on earth. What I'm asking is, which one of these fits your definition of the evil of democracy? And if there is not one in existence now, which one in the past typifies your statement?

Host ‎23 comments. 23 comments and still no feedback on a deeply troubling question. If I'd asked for proof that Jesus was the son of God because I just don't get it, I probably would have been able to get THAT question answered.

Me I give you my word that I will comment on your question as soon as I get the clarification I'm looking for.

As for Jesus, what sort of proof would be acceptable to you?

[This is an important question.  What kind of proof would be accepted by people who won't even answer a question that exposes the fundamental absurdity of their position?]

Host What if it was a repetition of what I hear others say in an attempt to challenge them to answer MY FRIGGIN' questions in their responses? I swear I feel like I'm talking to a wall.

Me You do I. I would absolutely love to answer your question, and believe me, it's a subject I am dying to weigh in on as soon as some one will give me an example of the statement in the post.

Other Guy You are talking to a wall Host. It's cheap entertainment. Remember the eternal wisdom of Thomas Jefferson, "Ridicule is the only weapon that can be used against unintelligible propositions".

[An interesting point, but the unintelligible proposition is one that here cannot, no, will not be backed up by any sort of evidence.]

Me Show me some ridicule, some name calling, some sarcasm, anything. I'm asking a question and no one will answer it.

Second Guy Evil democracy - Haiti... Pre-WWI Germany... Pakistan... Iran... United Nations (quasi-democracy)... Lebanon... China. FUTURE evil democracies - Iraq... Afghanistan.

[Finally, after hours, someone actually tries to give some evidence.]

Host Let me get this straight. I ask 5 questions, and you ask 1 in response to my 5. Then, you refuse to answer any of my 5 until I answer your one. Your one question, which I've said, not once, but twice, was a half way sarcastic remark to get people to think before they answer my 5 questions and not necessarily a direct position statement.

Other Guy Don't get your hopes up Second Guy. Just sit back and enjoy the ride. LOL

I completely disagree Host. Every question I've asked has been completely serious.

Second Guy, excellent post, I'll get back to you, but off hand I know that Iraq, China, Iran, and Afghanistan are republics. The UN is not a country and as we all know is relatively impotent, but I will research and get back to you in a few minutes.

Host You really DO refuse to read anything I've written tonight, don't you? Where did I say what YOU'VE written wasn't serious?

Second Guy ‎"The People's Republic of China" is as much a republic as "The People's Republic of North Korea." You can call a turd a rose, but it's still a turd.

Me The Republic of Haiti, The Weimar Republic, The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Lebanon, all republics. You'll remember that Hitler was placed in power by the previous old guy and not voted in per se.

Second Guy As much as I would love to continue this banter.I have a long drive to our LPAR BBQ tomorrow at Mt. Nebo. See you there Host. Wish you were coming, Jason. If you change your mind, we will be there all day and night tomorrow, leaving out Sunday,

Me I define sarcasm as not being serious, at least in part. I've not been sarcastic.

Me I'm asking a question, and Second Guy was the only one who even bothered to try to answer it.

Host I see. You're superior to me. And your questions mean much more on this earth than mine do. That's rather misogynistic, don't you think?

[And now it’s personal.  This is the sum total of the devolution of discussion and debate.  The name calling begins, but I won’t have any of it.]

Me I don't have any idea what you’re talking about, and I'm not going to start tossing around five syllable insults. I told you Host, I'm not going to be doing that any more. If you don't want to answer, then don't. If you do, then do. Don't stoop to that level. I'm not going to be doing it either.

A TeaParty Person
Host. America is a "Democratic Republic". This means that we elect representatives (that's the domocratic part) who in turn represents us in running the government (Republic). The Founders set it up that way because at that time, they believed that few citizens truly understood how to run a government but felt strongly that "The People" had to be able to particpate in their government. America is NOT a democracy as it is classically defined. There has been no true democracy that survived throughout history and a total republic is very close to a socialistic society. By combining both types of government - something that had never been done before - the Founders basically invented a new type of government. Ultimately, this form of government became the greatest society the world has ever seen.

We must protect our government as defined in our Constitution. Allowing ANYONE to "fundamentally change America" is criminal and falls outside the US Constitution. We hope this helps.See More

A Girl
I agree that our founding fathers were inspired in creating the Constitution. I'm not sure what they set up is a simple republic. As I understand it the difference between a democracy and a republic is that the people select leaders to make the laws rather than make laws directly (well, referendums seem to circumvent this a bit).

And I think originally it was another degree separated (I'm not a political history buff). The people voted to select electors who then used their judgment to select the people they considered best suited. Public popularity votes were optional early on, though, I think they somehow crippled the electors so that they had to vote the way public vote at some point. Not sure if that's good or bad, but it does take a lot of power away from that level of decision making.

So, to get back to your original question... ...the laws are made not by 'the people' but by an ever changing group of people who 'the people' have vested their trust in.

So what does this do to the laws then? Well, this group of people is selected from the pool of 'the people' and have a lot of the various flaws and good points. So sort of the laws might be said to be 'of the people' though not quite of the majority nor really of any minority either. It's really 'of this group of individuals,' so it'd be a oligarchy if the group didn't change up. With a lot of leaders taking direction (as least that's what they claim) from what they feel the people who voted for them would choose, it shifts the decision process closer to a democracy. Theoretically the leaders of a republic should be using their best judgment to choose the best route (most moral, even handed, etc) whether the people who voted for them would agree or not.

The flaw of democracy is that it's unstable. Our self serving inclinations get out of hand and we start choosing only those things with personal short term benefits, despite the cost to the future or to non-majority groups. I think the republic set up is intended to put a bit of distance there so that the government would respond to the ideals of the time, hopefully to the best ideals, and yet exert enough 'self control' that, as a nation, we could make ourselves take the harder path with better long term outlook. To swallow the bitter medicine if the nation got sick. ...I wish I could be more certain that this is how the current administration functions...

Oh, and can't you delete notes from other people on your own page? I hope so. Deleting off topic comments is valid moderation technique. It's not like the comments can't be written on their own wall if they want to discuss something else.

*Which I agree with as well. I think it takes a fair bit of education and/or natural aptitude for that level of management and tracing side effects laws. I'm not sure that all of our current leaders are qualified. The 'lets vote yes on this so we can find out what's in it' comment boggles my mind. But I sure wouldn't want running the country put in my personal hands. Even if I could manage not to be the puppet of more experienced people, I'd still wreak havoc with inexperience.

[Now here’s something, but despite the continual tirade against democracy, there’s still no evidence offered as to an example of how democracy is evil.  We all know why, the reasons, the justifications, but where’s proof?]

A TeaParty Person Girl. You gave an excellent description. I guess the future generation of leaders is not yet a lost cause. Thanks.

A Girl Oh silly me. I deleted the sentence that needed the foot note. Oops. It was in reference to the comment on whether the founding fathers didn't trust just everyone to know how to run a country.

‎"The flaw of democracy is that it's unstable. Our self serving inclinations get out of hand and we start choosing only those things with personal short term benefits, despite the cost to the future or to non-majority groups."

I'd like to see an example of this.

 A Girl D.a., that does sound interesting. If I get enough mental space to give it some attention could I ask for a similar synopsis?

A Girl Oh, no worries and thanks Red. I'd assumed it would just be too long to fit in a comment. Which is also why I'll need to find a moment and block out some mental space to digest such a synopsis. Otherwise I'd just skim it and probably end up confused.

Host Thanks Girl, Red, and whichever fine lady from TeaParty helped shed some light on the original questions.

Me But my question remains in the dark.

[]And that was the end of it.  I realize not all of this is pertinent to the thesis, but I had to post all of the convo because in case someone finds this and identifies themselves (it happened with Laurie Masterson recently even though the internet visitor who claims to be Laurie was on a computer located in the wrong city).  I want there to be complete transparency, well except for the names.  I don’t want to take anyone out of context.  I don’t know who deleted the first couple of posts, but it wasn’t me.

The point here is that from what I’ve seen, democracy is getting further and further from a primary goal of our society as constructed by libertarians and republicans and conservatives, and it’s being done naturally by the people who would take control at gunpoint if they can’t figure out how to get a majority in an election.  They consistently talk about the tyranny of the majority while logically pushing a tyranny of a minority.  It just all depends on where you are and if your side has more votes.  Remember when Bush II got caught with his pants down in Iraq when there turned out to be no WMD’s and suddenly, our mission was to bring democracy to Iraq?  Yeah, that’s sick.

We can never allow a movement to take power that believes it should be in power even if most people won’t vote for it. 

The constitution is there to maintain the equitable distribution of protection to the minority, not give it power to rule.

Furthermore, because I need to interject Jesus into everything, I need to point out that Jesus never ever advocated taking power by force, no matter the circumstances, and given the chance to do just that at the highest point in his popularity, he refused.  I mention Jesus often in these types of posts because conservatives (not the libertarians in this post specifically) are most often Christians.  And yet, despite what the man they believe is their God said, they are the ones hinting at a second civil war.  They like to call it a second American Revolution, but anyone who has the ability to think about it will realize quite quickly that it’s a civil war. 

We really didn’t do well in the last civil war, we lost.