A rude awakening

In more ways than one.  Last night our friends from NC arrived, parked their SUV in front of our house and came inside.  They’d had a long drive (10+ hours) and got settled, had some conversation, a few drinks and went up to bed.  As is my custom when I’m on vacation, I don’t always go to bed at a ‘normal’ time, it may be 3 or 4 am before I turn in.  I used to work 3rd shift for close to 20 years, so to me, night-time is just as good as day time to get things done on the computer, or in the house if I’m quiet enough.  No, mowing the lawn at 2 am isn’t one of those things.

Even after going to bed at 3:45 this morning, I only managed about 4 1/2 hours of sleep before getting up.  Seeing as I use a CPAP machine, I got some good REM zz’s and felt good enough to get up around 8:30.  Upon leaving the bedroom I could tell the guests were already up and about as the scent of bacon had wafted up the stairs and encountered my nostrils.  So they (as usual) were able to fend for themselves and were getting ready to start their day.  My wife and I headed downstairs, morning greetings were made and so on.  They headed outside to get to their car, and I settled down to accomplish some things for today and tomorrow.

Within a few minutes they were back in the house and calling for me and my wife.  Apparently upon opening their car door, they discovered someone had ‘broken into’ the unlocked car overnight and had rifled through their things.  Opened the glove compartment and had made it pretty clear they were searching for valuables.  The wife mentioned that the only things they discovered missing were a pint of strawberries intended for her sister-in-law, and a Garmin GPS unit.  After being rather saddened and shocked that they’d become the victims of thievery here, (in 18 years of visiting us, this is a first) I offered to call the local police, but she insisted that she wasn’t going to file a report, since she didn’t think her items were going to be recovered, and they were already late for going to where they needed to go.  So, waiting for the police to ‘do their thing’, wasn’t going to do much good.  (As it turned out later, the GPS unit was found in a side pocket of one of the seats, so really all the perps got away with was the strawberries)

All in all, it reminded myself and my wife that we’re not completely shielded from crime here.  Certainly I see in the police blotter at times about a home burglary here and there, or even a murder somewhere in the vicinity, but just over the weekend someone I knew in passing was killed crossing the street by a drunk driver.  Crime happens everywhere, that’s for certain.

We certainly (for the most part) take the time to lock our car doors when we park the car somewhere away from home, even at the local grocery or department store, but I don’t even think twice about locking the car when it’s sitting in our driveway.  Yes, the house is locked, but there have been times I’ve left the garage unlocked even when I made sure the small door next to it is locked, which seems rather stupid when you think about it.  There are pricey items in my garage that someone could easily wheel out of it overnight and I wouldn’t be the wiser until the morning, even then.  I don’t always make a survey of my garage when I’m leaving for work. If the car was missing, that’s one thing, but I could easily overlook the roto-tiller, or the lawn mower when I’m rushing out the door.  Not to mention some of the other items that are around my property.

In the last six months we’ve purchased security cameras, but I hadn’t had the time to put them up outside.  With the thing that happened this morning, that changed.  I’ve already put up three of them so that the main entries to the house are covered.  While we were out this afternoon doing some shopping and getting dinner, one of them got a hit when the UPS driver dropped off a package at the front door.  I’m still tweaking the system little by little, changing the angle of what’s being monitored and changing the sensitivity of how the cameras are triggered.  It’s a bit of a trial and error process, but within a few days it should be all set.  The system takes pretty good video, has infrared and night vision capability, although with the nightvision, things are a little more grainy, so it might be a bit of a chore to get someone’s features to make a positive ID if that became necessary.  “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Time for me to start curing the problem.  I have several more cameras that need to go up.

Invasive Species

We’ve lived in this neighborhood for the past 19 years.  When we first moved in, we’d not yet purchased the house, it was a ‘way-station’ (or so we thought) because our previous rental house had been sold out from under us.  Consequently we needed to find a new place to live fairly quickly, and pickings in our area were rather slim.  As it happened, we looked a bit on our own for an apartment, but quickly discovered that any apartment that we thought about renting was going to be too small for our needs.  Between my wife and myself we have a LOT of stuff, so it’s always been better to either rent or buy a house to live in (though for the early years of our marriage, we rented houses exclusively).

My wife hit on the idea of contacting real estate agencies and telling them that we weren’t looking to purchase a property, that we were looking for one to rent, or maybe even rent to own (rent the property for a time, allow it to be shown when needed, and maybe over time purchase it ourselves if it continued to appeal to us).  We found one nearby that was receptive to the idea (most weren’t) and had the agent looking locally for one that fit the bill.  We got a call from her about a week later, and she showed us a 2-story federal architecture house that was built in the late 1830s.  It had a very small piece of property (0.17 A/0.068 ha) but it was in a nice neighborhood.  After looking over the house from top to bottom (didn’t take long) we walked the grounds a bit and noticed an overgrowth in the backyard that was seriously almost taking over completely one corner of what might have been a flower bed at one point.  I asked the realtor if she knew the species, but she didn’t.  The homeowners didn’t live in the area, they were semi-retired and living in Tennessee in one of their other two homes.  I then asked the realtor if we rented the property, would the homeowners mind if we did some landscaping on our own, and she said that she would ask.  We didn’t make a decision at that point, but soon after we did, and ended up renting the property (the realtor had come back with an answer on landscaping, and the response was yes, provided we didn’t do anything major like cutting down trees)

We decided to rent it, since it was the best of the bunch of the rentals we’d either found ourselves or the agent had brought us to.  We moved in November of 2000 and in the spring set to work on getting some control of the land and the respective gardens.  The species that had concerned me the previous fall looked like bamboo, and after a little investigation, it turned out the owner of the property had planted something called ‘japanese knotweed’ and it’s considered an invasive species.  Over the last nearly 20 years, we’ve been trying to get rid of this menace.  The major problem is, while I’m seriously attempting to get rid of the knotweed on my side of the fence, of my two neighbors, one is doing nothing but letting it grow, (and renting the property to people who don’t do anything with it) and the other one is cultivating his, because it grows to 8-10 feet tall by late summer and makes a nice visual blocking agent between my property and his.  When he moved in, I called over the fence and mentioned to him about the stuff and what it was, that it wasn’t a good idea to let it grow unattended and I thought he listened to me, but apparently he didn’t care or figured it was ok to allow it to flourish.

Consequently, every spring I end up with shoots that are coming through the ground in the one corner of the property, and a forest of old growth on the property line nearby that I can’t do anything with.  So as not to kill everything in the former bed we’ve been using natural remedies rather than something like Roundup™,  which the jury is still out whether or not it’s a carcinogen.  Better safe than sorry in the long run, we’re thinking.

Even so, unless we can get the neighbors on board, it’s a losing battle.  If I eventually succeeded in getting rid of it on my side of the fence, the fact that it’s growing unabated on the other two sides, means that there’s still a root forest under the ground that’s waiting to come up on my side.  So, the battle continues.  I’m fairly convinced by the time we move on, it’ll still be here.

Baseball Salaries are getting ridiculous

I’ve been a Boston Red Sox fan for the past 40 years.  Since the mid 1970s.  Long before the turn of the century/millennium when in 2004 they ended the 86 year drought and won a ‘World’ Championship.  Then 3 more in ’07, ’13 and most recently last year.  So I’m very familiar with the phrase “wait til next year!” that was the mainstay of any Red Sox fan during the 70s, 80s and 90s.  Anyway, that’s not what this post is about.  It’s more about the paychecks that modern baseball players are getting, and have been receiving since the end of the reserve clause and the birth of free agency also in the 1970s.

But let me back up a bit here.  A little history is in order to understand how things got the way they are now.  Going back to the late 1800s, baseball was becoming a lucrative business to a certain extent, and the players were starting to make serious (at the time) money that far and away was more than your average worker would make in a year.  The baseball club owners decided that they needed a method to keep the players in check, so they wouldn’t be able to leave whenever they wanted to, to work/play for another team the next year.  So they came up with a clause in every player’s contract called the reserve, essentially binding the player to that team every year they played.  Every player signed a new contract every year.  The owners determined their value and if they didn’t wish to sign the contract, then they couldn’t play.  Players tried to unionize, but it didn’t work out for them since basically the Owners ignored the union and continued to do what they wished.  Some players sued the leagues on the grounds that the Owners were essentially creating a monopoly, but the players lost in the Supreme Court when the justices torpedoed that idea by labeling baseball not as a business, but as an ‘amusement’, making it immune to anti-trust laws.  Many feel this was a BS decision, the justices didn’t really believe in the ruling, but they feared giving the players the power to decide for themselves their worth would have ruined the game, so they gave the baseball owners a pass, hoping that things would work out for the best.  In essence, it was a Dred Scott type decision, since the players became indentured servants to a certain extent, beholden to their team until the team owner decided they no longer served a purpose or were valuable anymore and got rid of them.

By the late 1960s, baseball had become integrated and a player by the name of Curt Flood decided that he didn’t wish to accept a trade from his current team, the St. Louis Cardinals, to another team in the same league, the Philadelphia Phillies.  The owners of both ball clubs had created a trade, and Flood was one of the players being dealt.  Flood sued, stating that he wasn’t a commodity, that he didn’t have to go where the owners wished he would go, but should be permitted to negotiate with any of the other 23 baseball clubs to determine where he could play in the future.  This case too eventually went to the Supreme Court, where Flood lost and the reserve clause was again upheld, though the justices did make note that their earlier ruling about baseball being exempt from anti-trust laws was possibly in error.  This eventually paved the way to the next step, which was handled by Marvin Miller, who was the Executive Director of the Major League Players Union at the time.  Boiling down what was accomplished, Miller managed to finagle a way to do away with the reserve clause with a little sleight of hand.  Once the reserve clause was eliminated, the players could become ‘free agents’, meaning that they could then negotiate with any team at the conclusion of their current contracts.

However, Miller tried to institute a new system, so that every year every player wasn’t trying to switch teams, creating a new problem.  Players had to stay with a team for a certain amount of years, in order to be rewarded with the ability to be a free agent.  This made it more acceptable to the team owners, who would be able to ‘protect’ their more valuable players for a time, rather than lose them all enmasse year to year.  Free agents would be available to negotiate with any team, without restrictions and the market would determine the value of the players.  It worked, for the most part, for many years.

In the last 10 years however, it’s starting to break down again as salaries are starting to get ridiculous.  In the just recent 2018-2019 post-season, several players have signed mega-deals and extensions that have been worth $120-330 million USD, which translates to anywhere from $20 million to $33-$35 million per season.  A baseball season is 162 games.  It lasts from late April to late October (if one makes the post-season).  So that’s basically $20-$35 million for five months work.  Break it down further, if a player were to participate in every game in the season (not all do), that player would be making $123,456 – $216,000 per game.  $13,717 – $24,005 per inning.  Compare that to someone that’s making the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr.  And that person isn’t just working for five months.

The thing that got me started on this was an interview that was posted on Facebook over the weekend, where Xander Bogaerts stated that he ‘left money on the table’ when he signed his contract extension for $120 million over the next 6 years.  The reason, he stated, was because he wanted to remain with the Red Sox.  I’m certain if he wanted to remain with the team, he could have done it at a lot less than what he signed for.  He was already making $12 million a year.  Which is hardly chump change.  But anymore, it’s not team loyalty that drives these people.  It’s money.  ‘Money talks, BS walks’ is the old adage.  You’d be hard pressed to find any player that has the interest in spending their entire career with one team anymore.  They’re going to go where the dollar signs take them.  And that’s just another sad thing that’s happening in the national pastime.

My question of course is, where’s the upper limit?  How soon is it going to be where a player signs a contract for $1 billion over time?  How can someone who plays a child’s game be worth that much?  To my mind, they can’t.  Especially the way that the game is played anymore.  But that’s another blog post.