Friday, 23 June 2017

Real Estate :: Advantages and Disadvantages of Homeowners Association

Often set up by housing developers, homeowners associations (or HOA) are gradually becoming popular throughout the country. This growth could mean that a there is a growing number of people who are supporting this institution, yet some see this as a nuisance to the community - interfering with the freedoms and ignoring the individuality of each person.

Buying a home run by homeowners association can affect both your lifestyle and your investment. While there are th ose organizations that outstanding when it comes to community management, there just are those that are indescribably horrible. To help you decide on how to make the right choice, we list some advantages and disadvantages of such institution.


Increased value of homes. Because houses belonging to these organizations are subject to a set of rules, the value of your home goes higher. In homeowner associations, members must follow certain rules and standards which include maintenance of their fences and lawns, the types of fixtures that you can add to your home - all to keep your home looking presentable.

Less expensive facilities. Most homeowners associations builds residential and creational facilities like swimming pools, basketball and tennis courts and recreation for members to take advantage. Unlike building your own swimming pool or basketball court in your own Home Improvement in College Station own which ca n be very expensive to start with, HOA makes you enjoy those leisure without much expense.

Less Nuisance . With homeowners associations, disputes between neighbors are determined by an officer instead of exchanging nasty arguments on both sides. In addition, parking disputes and traffic accidents are less likely to happen because residents are prohibited from parking their cars on the side of the street as well as in their front yards.


You lose your individuality. Because homeowners associations have a set of rules to follow in aspects such as home design and landscapes, these organizations are known to be intruders of individual rights to design and renovate their homes based on their own preferences. And the worst things is, even the landscaping plans for each house are required to be submitted in HOA for approval.

Fees. Since homeowners fees are not part of the price of a house, this is an extra burden on the pocket s of residents. These fees are monthly or quarterly depending on their agreement. While home mortgages are eating up a big part the of income of residents, these monthly payments are just making the load worse.

To help you decide if you want to be part of the Owners Association in your community, you must first take into account your income, your preferences with regard to security and lifestyle, as well as the measure of how much he of your freedom to be overshadowed by the rules. Talk to representatives of these organizations and to listen carefully to their conditions. And for professional advice, ask for help from a realtor.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

How to Build a Japanese Garden

One doesn't need an introduction to a garden; nevertheless, I will begin with a quote by William Kent, "A garden is to be a world unto itself, it had better make room for the darker shades of feeling as well as the sunny ones." A garden, thus, understood is a place that distills harmony and comfort while adding to the aesthetic pleasure. Japanese gardens for that matter, are traditional gardens that create miniature landscapes and if you have been to a Japanese garden, then the first thing that you would notice is the simplicity of the layout. The entire area distills in you, a soothing peace, while the rocks and the flowing stream take away all negation and successfully purge your spirit.

Recreating a Japanese garden is an arduous yet satisfactory task. For those of you who have a sprawling backyard, transforming it into a majestic Japanese garden won't pose much of a problem; and for those of you facing a space crunch, you can go in for the indoor Japanese garden.

Building a Japanese Garden

"The life of man in every part has need of harmony and rhythm." - Plato

Japanese are known to appreciate the elements of nature, and their gardens respect the basic rule of nature, that is, of change. Japanese gardens are known to soothe the soul with their timeless beauty. Given below are simple knickknacks that will help you transform your backyard into a tranquil Japanese garden.

Elements and their Symbolism

A Japanese garden reflects the perfect balance found in nature. In order to recreate the natural surroundings, you would need rocks and stones to represent individual islands, hills and mountains. A few trees and shrubs will represent nature in abundance. A water feature will represent purity, serenity and flow that is a part of nature. A wooden or stone bridge will represent immortality, and an escape to paradise is an absol ute must for a Japanese garden. Pathways and stairs represent a journey of the soul, and lanterns or religious artifacts that represent the elements of Buddhist cosmology form the basic elements of a Zen garden.

Prior Planning

Owning a sprawling lawn will definitely benefit you, as it will offer you maximum space to experiment with the layout. However, if you have a relatively smaller backyard, you would have to meticulously plan the arrangement of the garden. Depending on the space available, you would have to decide on how formal you want your garden to be. You wouldn't want your garden to look too dressy, as the resultant garden should reflect the Japanese culture. Purchase the materials and decorations as per the garden size. Remember, minimalistic is the key word in a Japanese garden.

Lay the Stones

The first step to create a Japanese garden is to design the walkway or paths using the stepping stones. Ideally, the stones should be clubbed in groups o f odd digits (i.e., in groups of 3, 5, 7, 9, etc.). A safe bet is to make triangular arrangements of the rocks. Stepping stones add beauty to a walkway; moreover, large stones interspersed in the pathway is indicative of rest and stillness just so that you can take in the beauty of the garden. When creating the pathway, use at least two stones of the same shape and size. You can even create stone sculptures or simple mounds made of three stones with varying sizes.

Line with Foliage

Once you are done with the pathway, decorate the area around them with flowering plants, shrubs and trees. If you have a huge courtyard, plant trees like maple, coast redwoods, Japanese junipers, etc. The ideal setup would be to plant trees and select plants according to their colors and their seasons; however, plants in all hues are welcome. Flowering plants like that of chrysanthemums, lilies and daisies add to the visual appeal of the garden. You can even plant yew hedges to line your gar den fences. For the ground covering, use Japanese garden plants like baby's tears, spurge, ardisia and sweet flag.

Embed a Water Feature

Japan is an island and creating a water feature is an absolute must for a Japanese garden. If you have a sloping terrain, creating a waterfall with rocks is an easier option. You can even consider installing a Koi pond, if your backyard is really huge. If you do not own a sprawling area, then you can go in for a simple water pond, made with bamboo which can be operated using simple mechanics. For your benefit, given alongside is a diagram of a simple pond. Water features should fac e a seating area, as observing running water instills a sense of peace and tranquility.

Complete with Decorations

Light up the pathway with stone lanterns or throw in some authentic Japanese furniture. Invest in a few Japanese pagodas to breathe life into your gardenand make it look authentic. Remember to keep it minimalistic though, for you wouldn't want your garden to look like a museum of artifacts!

It is absolutely fine if you do not put in any decorations or leave a part of the garden empty, as empty portions in a garden are key elements of a Zen garden.

Interior Garden Layout

If you do not own a backyard and still want to implement the Japanese garden theme, you can create a garden on your terrace or better still, use up the space below your stairs to create a miniature garden. To create the garden, all you have to do is pattern the stones ar ound the stairs, and use a few bonsai and potted plants to create your very own Japanese garden at home. You can even put in a custom-built water fountain to add to the aesthetic beauty of your home.

I hope these ideas will help you redecorate your garden or home interiors. Besides, do not forget to add a garden fence to make your garden a private space, where you can meditate peacefully.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Why I Garden | HuffPost

I garden because it's play disguised as work, because, as an adult, I can think of no other way to justify spending so much time outdoors. Perhaps I could take a job as a fire warden, but I'd have to move out West, and I'm afraid of heights.

I garden because it gives me an excuse to spend a great deal of time alone.

And because gardening allows me to avoid the gym.

It's one of the few things one gets better at as one gets older. There are no child prodigies in gardening.

I garden because there is something so heart breaking, so beautiful and ultimately ineffable about the half-light of evening. And about those final moments when a long day dies and the night is born.

Gardening is about the play of things - of light and form and growth and decline.

Gardening is an art - an art you can walk through. I'm at once a sculptor, a painter, a conductor! My orchestra? Colors, textures, shapes, forms, tastes and scents. Or maybe I'm a choreographer, and my sunflowers, onions, kiwis, cucumbers and raspberries leap, twirl, twist, kick, embrace and swoon in the maddest tango.

Like any performance, one can never be sure of the outcome. Gardening is for gamblers, risk-takers and experimenters, and I am all of those.

I garden because it's the ultimate magic trick. From my box of seeds, I conjure a small universe and my audience comes to know the earth through its flowers and vegetables - pole beans from Taiwan, Italy and France, tomatoes from Russia and Poland, okra from Israel, Africa, India and Kentucky.

I garden because I prefer the conversations of birds to those of humans and the songs of the wind to those of my iPod.

Like friendships, gardens are easy to start, but require effort to maintain. Sowing, watering, weeding, staking, tying, pruning, fertilizing, harvesting - a never-ending series of tasks, a meditation that goes on for months and months - a way to induce city people to connect with the earth, if only for an afternoon.

I garden because you cannot buy (or marry) the title of "Gardener." You either know the Latin names of your flowers or you don't. You've either memorized the "days to maturity" of your vegetables or you haven't. You either have well-manicured nails and hands without calluses, or you don't. Your harvest table either makes the produce section at Dean & Deluca look like the corner deli, or it do esn't. Gardening is not for poseurs.

I garden because I'd rather be at the mercy of nature than at the mercy of nations. If I'm unable to eat what I want to, at least I know why.

Sometimes I think about living on the Upper East Side, having a box at the Met and a car and driver to take me there. Sometimes I dream of having a closet full of Prada dresses or of living on the French Riviera.

I wouldn't, however, trade any of those privileges for my garden. If I could, I would sleep in my garden - under a sunflower wrapped in the vines of my sweet potatoes.

I garden because I need to let go and nothing lasts in a garden.

To garden one must embrace the ephemeral. Everything in a garden is forever emerging, maturing, yielding, fading and dying. A garden is nothing if not evanescent.

I garden because I am impatient. Gardening helps me learn to I wait. I wait for the seeds to become seedlings, for the seedlings to grow into plants, for the plants to bear fruit, for the fruit to ripen, for the harvest to become food, for the food to give pleasure and nourishment to the people I love and to those whom I hope to convert to my way of living.

I garden because it gives an order to my life. I surrender to the rhythm of the seasons and during the growing season, to the rhythm of the day. But within that order there are constant surprises - the snake gourd's flower with its amazing tendrils or the tiny fawn asleep in the blueberry hedge.

And no two days are alike. Iris, peonies, chives and lettuce come and go in the blink of an eye. On Sunday, an emboldened doe appears at my doorstep. On Monday, the first melon appears. On Tuesday, the first dahlia blooms. All of a sudden, a battalion of daylilies commands attention in the garden's northeast corner - only to vanish just as quickly. And finally! Yes, fi nally! The tomatoes and peppers ripen into every color of the rainbow and beyond.

Week after week, month after month, season after season, the pageant continues. And in the midst of this endless procession of fleeting displays I carry on weeding, watering and harvesting until at last I have no choice but to sit down and rest!

And it's then and there, from the deep cool shade of my kiwi arbor that I glimpse something else in my garden, something more subtle but everlasting and reassuring. Something you just might call...


And that is really why I garden. .html

Saturday, 17 June 2017

California Residents Face Fines as Bone-Dry State Seeks to Reduce Water Use

Across the West, a historic drought - the worst in over a century - has sparked a water crisis that for the first time has forced California officials Sprinkler System Rockwall to impose mandatory statewide water restrictions.

"We need water," Gov. Gerry Brown said today. "We're gonna have to get water."

Watch: Extremely dry conditions fuel wildfires in at least five states.

There have no been no fewer than a dozen raging wildfires, from Idaho and Oregon to Arizona, Washington and Nevada.

The Bully Fire in Northern California chewed through 10-square miles and destroyed eight homes. The landscape has become a tinderbox and water reservoirs are now bone dry. About 2,200 firefighters have been working hard to keep the flames away.

Nevada's Lake Mead is now at its lowest point since the Hoover Dam was built, officials said.

In today's announcement, officials in California announced that it is illegal to let sprinkler systems flow into the street, hose down sidewalks and driveways or use an open hose to wash your car.

"I think my husband has been guilty of coming out late at night and doing a little secretive watering underneath the trees," resident Pam Ferko said.

Scofflaws faced fines of up to $500 a day.

Previously, residents had ignored the governor's pleas to cutback - statewide, water rs/b-1024014 usage actually went up - so Sprinkler System now Californians are being encouraged to rat out their neighbors.

"Our water complaint calls have gone up exponentially from the last two years," said Terrance Davis of the state's Department of Utilities.

Lawn sprinklers and car washes aren't the only culprits though.

Agriculture uses 80 percent of the state's water. The drought is projected to cost $2 billion in crop losses this year, which will mean higher food prices nationwide.

Home Improvement Archives -

Home Improvement

Should You Repair or Replace Your Driveway?

Mar 09, 2017

by ArticleCity Blog



A well-paved driveway is a safe driveway, but when htt ps:// is it time to replace rather than repair? If you're unsure, you'll find your answers here....

Read More

Friday, 16 June 2017

Electrocution causes star-shaped cataracts on man's eyes

Instead of seeing stars, an electrician who experienced a 14,000-volt electric shock

to the left shoulder came away with star-shaped cataracts stamped on both eyes, doctors

reported Jan. 23 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

A cataract is a clouding of the eye's lens, which is a structure that

helps focus light or an image. When the lens is clear, light passes through to

the eye's retina -- a tissue located at the back of the eye -- where the brain

processes the image. If the lens is cloudy due to cataracts, the result is

blurry vision.

Cataracts are commonly caused by aging, so common that more

than half of Americans have a cataract or undergo surgery to fix them by the

time they are 80 years old.

The male patient, 42, underwent cataract extraction surgery

four months after the electric shock, and also had an implant placed in to act

like a lens and focus light, what's called in intraocular lens. It improved his vision a bit, but he was still legally blind and could only count fingers out

of his left eye. He likely won't fully regain his sight because of damage to

the retina and optic nerve, the str ucture that transmits visual signals from

the retina to the brain.

New York City-based optometrist Dr. Justin Rapp, who had no

involvement in the man's case, explained to CBS News the electrical current may

have disrupted the chemical balance in the man's blood, which in turn decreased blood

flow to the optic nerves and parts of the retina, as evidenced by the whitish

cloud structures seen in the bottom half of the above photos.

This chemical disruption may also have impacted the fluid

around the lens, which contributed to the clouding effect, or cataract.

Often, cataracts have been known to form snowflake or

star-shaped patterns, Rapp pointed out, but he's never quite seen a case like this.

"This is a shockingly 'perfect' example of an stellate

(star-shaped) cataract," he said. "The fact that it goes NwtVKA completely 360 degrees

around the outer edge of the lens is definitely remarkable."

2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

7th house (house of marriage) in Woman's Horoscope

The 7th house in a Woman's Chart

The 7th house in any horoscope generally indicates wife or husband, their love life, extra-marital relations, servant and their loyalty or otherwise and other worldly pleasures in general.

Planets in the 7th house in Woman's Chart mentioned below:

1) Sun in the 7th house:The Sun in the 7th in a female horoscope is generally not desirably, as such a person will suffer from bodily ailment, is irreligious, and the marriage in such a case is always late. Now, late marriage in these days does not mean anything. Gir ls await marriage even when they are over 30. If the Sun is debilitated in the 7th house, libido will be absent and sterility also may result. Early death of partner or separation may also result.

2) Moon in the 7th house:Love looms large in such a horoscope. In many cases unconventional marriages occur. The person with the Moon in the 7th house is always moody but loves her husband and is prepared to sacrifice anything for love. They are tender - hearted but jealous. They suffer often from abdominal pains. The Moon in Taurus, Cancer or Pisces gives generally a good married life.

3) Mars in the 7th house:Though this is considered as Mangal - Dosha, it gives pep married life and with benefic aspect of Jupiter or Venus such marriages do succeed very well. Unless they are properly matched, they may stray and have extra - marital relations. Such persons sho uld have very understanding and loving husbands. They often suffer from leg and lumber pains.

4) Mercury Best Attorney in the 7th house:Marriage in such cases is always lucky. But the husband is lacking in libido. The husband will be rich and have all comforts and be considerate too in all other matters. Mercury in the 7th may cause frequent attacks of migraines.

5) Jupiter in the 7th house:Marriages generally occur between 22nd year and 25th year. The husband is noble but often fails to understand his wife. Life is generally smooth but if Jupiter happens to be in Saturn's house, there will be constant strife and even divorce may occur. The best position for Jupiter is Cancer or Taurus or Libra.

6) Venus in the 7th house:Such persons are romantic and always yearn for love. They want to marry for love but often fail. They end up in marriage on the spur or due to infatuation. Husband will be handsome but pr ofligate. They are also seen neglecting children. If Mars aspects such a Venus, they become immoral. Jupiter's aspect gives a healthy life. Mercury's aspect has a sobering effect. Women with such a combination are likely to suffer from pelvic pains and urinary diseases.

7) Saturn in the 7th house:Marriage is always late and often the partner is much older. This may deny marriage altogether in some cases. Women with Saturn in the 7th have set ideas and cannot adjust to any changes in their life. They are pessimistic. If Mars is aspecting such a Saturn, then bad results in all sub - areas of Married life. They may marry a person who is much below their rank.

8) Rahu in the 7th house:Rahu has much the same effect as Saturn but in addition early widowhood is always expected. They may marry out of caste and some may get into a scandalous position. If su ch a Rahu is aspected by Saturn or Mars, they marry a Lower and poor class person. People with Rahu in the 7th are extremely moody and difficult for friendship as they will be too selfish and greedy. There will be some psychological defect also. If Moon combines with such a Rahu, they become hysterical.

9) Ketu in the 7th house: This combination makes one peevish and sneaky. Connection with low - class people is noticed with such a combination. In general married life will be unhappy. It is said that this combinative gives marriage between the ages of 20 and 24 years and it is often unconventional. Some develop shocking Best Attorney in College Station habits and may resort to nudism. They may allow their partners to go with others with their consent and often for selfish gains. This is generally the case when Saturn aspects such a Ketu.

It is fascinating to note that in a female horoscope the first seven houses operate in their parent's houses and the rest in their partners places. From the 8th house onwards all other houses give results after marriage. Their mangalya, fortune or dharma, karma and labha and vyaya (expenditure) or moksha all depend upon the married life. In other words the female horoscope is completely dominated by the horoscope of the partner (husband). Except for longevity all other matters are certainly influenced by the horoscope of the husband. Of course this is a very general statement.

Rose Law Files Federal Lawsuit Against Aero Automatic Sprinkler Company

SAN JOSE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--In a federal class

action lawsuit filed last month, six professional fire sprinkler

fitters who worked for Aero Automatic Sprinkler Company, a subsidiary of

Kiewit Corporation, allege they were denied payment under the California

Labor Code of minimum prevailing wages, overtime wages, travel, daily

subsistence, health and welfare payments for work on at least five large

commercial construction projects. Rose Law also alleges the workers were

denied mandatory rest periods, and Aero failed to employ apprentice fire

sprinkler fitters on the public works projects, as required by

California law.

According to Rose Law, Aero Automatic Sprinkler Company has its

principal place of business in Phoenix, Arizona, maintains a branch

office California, and performs sprinkler work all over the United

States. Aero is wholly owned by Kiewit Corporation, an international

construction, engineering and mining company with North American

headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska. Kiewit is one of the largest

construction companies in the world. Aero has filed a Corporate

Disclosure Statement and Certificate of Interest in the federal lawsuit

on behalf of its parent Kiewit Corporation.

Rose Law alleges the workers installed fire sprinklers on private jobs,

including Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center in Thousand Oaks,

California and San Jose Regional Medical Center in San Jose, California,

and on public works projects including California Department of Veter ans

Affairs (CalVet) Home in Fresno, CA and California Polytechnic

University (CalPoly) Center for Science in San Luis Obispo, California.

Any current or Sprinkler System former employee of Aero may contact Rose Law for more


The lawsuit, brought under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, the

California Labor Code, and California's Unfair Business Practices Act,

seeks unspecified damages for the six named workers plus all other fire

sprinkler fitters Sprinkler System Installation employed by Aero during the last four years.

About Rose

Law -- Working Hard for Working People(TM)

The workers are represented by trial lawyers Joe

Rose and Lisa

Bradner of Rose Law, APC in Gold River, California. Rose and Bradner

help employees and unions in labor law matt ers involving unpaid wages

and overtime, illegal discrimination, retaliation and catastrophic

injury. Joe Rose, a former firefighter, was named a Northern California

Super Lawyers Rising Star again in 2014 and teaches employment law at

Lincoln Law School of Sacramento.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

New Arkansas Law Lets Men Block Wives' Abortions

WASHINGTON- A new law in Arkansas bans most second trimester abortions and allows a woman's husband to sue the doctor for civil damages or "injunctive relief," which would block the woman fromhaving the procedure.

The "Unborn Child Protection From Dismemberment Abortion Act," signed into law last week by Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), bans dilation and evacuation procedures, in which the physician removes the fetus from the womb with surgical tools. D&E procedures are the safest and most common way women can end their pregnancies after 14 weeks of gestation, acc ording to the American Medical Association.

A clause buried in the legislation states that the husband of a woman seeking an abortion, if he is the baby's father, can file a civil lawsuit against the physician for monetary damages or injunctive relief - a court order that would prevent the doctor from going ahead with the procedure. The woman's parents or legal guardians can also sue, if she is a minor.The law states that the husband cannot sue the doctor for money in cases of "criminal conduct" against his wife - namely, spousal rape - but he could still sue to block her from having the abortion.

State Rep. Andy Mayberry (R), who co-sponsored the bill, told The Daily Beast, "We've tried to account for all the worst case scenarios."

"They created a whole new right - the right of a husband or family member to sue a doctor on behalf of an adult patient," said Holly Dickson, legal direc tor for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas. "I cannot begin to tell you what the intent was, but we have raised concerns about that provision and the entire rest of the bill, which is unconstitutional."

The ACLU of Arkansas plans to challenge the abortion law in court before it goes into effect this summer. Six other states have passed nearly identical laws, and in all four states where the law was challenged - Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and West Virginia - it was struck down by the courts. The Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade protects a woman's right to have an abortion up until the fetus would be viable outside the womb, around 22 weeks of pregnancy. law_us_58939063e4b09bd304ba41ff

Gold is the new brown as drought-hit California drops lawn fines| Reuters

California residents who let their green lawns turn brown and brittle will no longer face the possibility of fines for an unkempt yard under a new law to encourage water conservation during the state's drought.

The measure, signed on Monday by California Governor Jerry Brown, prohibits a city or county from imposing a fine on Sprinkler System Installation Greenville a homeowner for the failure to water a lawn or for having a brown lawn during the drought emergency.

Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, who sponsored the measure, said she knew of a number of cities and towns that had been leveling fines on homeowners for allowing their grass to go brown even as state officials have asked the Sprinkler System Installation Greenville publi c to "severely limit" outdoor water use this summer.

Part of the state "Save Our Water" campaign urges Californians to let lawns "fade to gold for the summer."

California is in the fourth year of a catastrophic drought that has led the state to issue a series of steps to reduce water consumption, including the first-ever mandatory cutbacks in urban water use.

Starting this week, California parks will no longer offer showers for people to wash sand and salt from t heir bodies at the beach.

(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Paul Tait)

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Botticelli and the Search for the Divine: Florentine Painting between the Medici and the Bonfires of the Vanities To Open at the Muscarelle Museum of Art at William & Mary in February

WILLIAMSBURG, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--One of only two of Botticelli's paintings of an isolated Venus will be

on view for the first time in the United States, together with other

Botticelli mythologies and portraits in Botticelli and the Search

for the Divine: Florentine Painting Between the Medici and

the Bonfires of the Vanities, a major international loan

exhibition organized by the Muscarelle

Museum of Art in Williamsburg, Va., in partnership with Italy's

Associazione Culturale Metamorfosi.

Sandro Botticelli(Florence 1445-1510), was one of the most

original and creative painters of the Italian Renaissance. Together with

his deeply moving religious images, Botticelli is renowned as the

unchallenged master of classical mythologies. In his time, he also

replicated the central figure of his iconic Birth of Venus in the

Uffizi gallery in Florence in paintings with dark backgrounds stripped

bare of place and time, just displaying the solitary beautiful nude. One

of the only two such Venuses known today in the world, from the Galleria

Sabauda museum in Turin, will be on view for the first time in America,

together with many other works that have never previously traveled to

the United States.

The exhibition will travel to the Museum

of Fine Arts Boston as its only other venue. The exhibition will

open at the Muscarelle Museum on February 11, 2017 and run through April

6. The exhibition will open to the public in Boston on April 18 and will

close on July 9.

"We are extremely proud to be able to bring to this country a

groundbreaking exhibition of one of the world's greatest artists," said

Aaron De Groft, director of the Muscarelle Museum of Art. "The

Botticelli show continues a tradition of internationally important

exhibitions, following Michelangelo, Caravaggio, and Leonardo da Vinci

in recent years, in which exhibitions of great original works of art

provide the lens for us to explore the themes and ideas that inspired

their genius."

Renato Miracco, cultural attach for the Italian Embassy in Washington,

D.C. has stated that the upcoming Botticelli and the Search for the

Divine "will be the largest and most important exhibition of its

type ever organized in the United States."

The restless, prolific and original genius of Sandro Botticelli will be

explored in depth in this historic exhibition, which features sixteen of

his paintings, most with life-size figures, from major museums and

churches in six Italian cities, including Florence, Milan and Venice.

Every phase of the artist's long, tumultuous career is represented in

the selection, by far the largest Botticelli exhibition ever staged in

the United States.

Also featured are six rare paintings by Botticelli's great master

Filippo Lippi, the only pupil of Masaccio. The cultural milieu of

Renaissance Florence will be represented by several paintings by

Filippo's son, Filippino Lippi, Botticelli's most important student and

a leading master in his own right, a painting and a bronze statuette of

Hercules by Antonio Pollaiuolo, the death mask of Lorenzo the

Magnificent, and a portrait of Savonarola by Fra Bartolomeo.

The Muscarelle Museum of Art is located on the campus of William

& Mary at 603 Jamestown Rd in Williamsburg, Va. For more

information, call 757-221-2700 or visit

Admission is $15 during this exhibition.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Artificial Grass May Save Water, But Does It Endanger People?

When Michael and Barbara Fouch first considered replacing their grassy lawn with artificial turf, they researched the growing array of options for the green plastic blades and the infill that holds them in place. They wanted a product that looked nice, but they also wanted something that wouldn't make any people or pets sick.

"Everyone here is pretty concerned about curb appeal," said Michael Fouch, 62, of Laguna Niguel, California. "Last summer, with the dry and sunny weather, the grass was getting brown and diseased."

Two weeks ago, the Fouches s wapped out their water-guzzling grass for a plastic substitute designed to simulate water-quenched natural turf, saving about $1,000 in rebates in the process. They specifically chose an artificial lawn that had no infill made from crumb rubber, a controversial ingredient that may carry health risks.

Homeowners, schools and municipalities, especially in the often-parched Southwest, are increasingly removing natural grass from yards, sports fields and parks, with many opting to install synthetic grass instead. In California, where drought has led to a severe water shortage, the turf swappers are also motivated by generous city and county rebates.

But there is mounting concern over potential environmental and health hazards posed by the artificial alternative: from climate change impacts, to simple injuries like burns, to potential safety concerns about the chemicals, many of them carcinogens, found in infill. As this drought-resistant solution grows more popular, the debate has only intensified.

A Growing Trend

Landscape irrigation is estimated to account for nearly one-third of residential water use in the U.S., totaling nearly 9 billion gallons per day. In some regions, outdoor water use can account for up to 70 percent of a family's water consumption, according to Alice Webb-Cole, an expert with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California's turf removal program.

"We think that turf removal is the best thing people can be doing right now," said Webb-Cole. She noted that rebates for removing natural grass in Southern California range from $1 to $2 per square foot for residential, commercial and public properties.

Victor Lanfranco, co-owner of the Synthetic Grass Warehouse, has seen the shift in public preference. His company, the largest artificial grass provider in the U.S., currently has four months of back orders. The industry has grown by some 50 percent this year, he said, "catapulted by the drought. "

To reduce water usage, Webb-Cole's agency points Southern California residents toward options for drought-resistant plants to fill their yards. Still, many people prefer the look and feel of a grassy lawn, even if it's fake. Either route qualifies for rebates -- although the fake turf choice may come with consequences.

Toxic Turf?

In recent months, some U.S. school districts discontinued construction of new artificial fields due to public outcry. The laying of artificial fields even sparked protests last week in Edmonds, Washington. And legislation to place a moratorium on artificial turf with rubber infill and to launch a rigorous study of the safety of crumb rubber was pushed, and then voted down in May, in the California Senate.

Much of the rising public concern has been driven by the efforts of Amy Griffin, a college soccer coach in Seattle who spar ked a national conversation with her suspicions about the number of current and former soccer goalkeepers who had developed blood and other rare cancers. All the keepers had played on artificial turf infilled with recycled rubber tire crumbs. Rubber tires, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, can contain heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, carbon black and other known cancer-causing chemicals.

Griffin and other skeptics argue that not enough independent research has been done on the risks for those who make frequent contact with the turf, breathing in gases released from a hot field, ingesting the rubber particles and getting abrasions from the turf that can leave skin open to rubber particulate. They've expressed particular worry about children, who may not always adhere to stringent hygienic practices -- like not putting their hands, or even the black bits, in their mouths while on the turf and washing their hands after playing. Griffin keeps an inf ormal list of soccer players who played on artificial turf and later battled cancer. Several of them recalled to HuffPost how they would track the black bits home from practices and games, and sometimes find them in their mouths and eyes.

"My fear is that most cancers require years of exposure and time to develop," said Dr. Barry Boyd, a medical oncologist with Yale New Haven Health. "Whatever exposure we have now, the adverse effects may not be seen for 20 years."

Echoing this sentiment, Elliot Kaye, chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, said in May that a 2008 statement from the CPSC claiming that its staff had found "synthetic turf fields ok to install, ok to play on" was inaccurate.

"Safe to play on means something to parents that I don't think we intended to convey, and I don't think we should have conveyed," Kaye said at a May 19 congressional hearing, noting that a "political effort at the time" was behind that 2008 statement. The CPSC had based its assessment on samples from a small number of fields and only evaluated potential exposures to lead. Kaye further suggested that more thorough research needs to be done, especially on the potential hazards of crumb rubber.

The Fouches have a son, a former goalkeeper, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma at the age of 19 (he's now 27 and cancer-free). While no connection has yet to be proven between crumb rubber exposure and cancer -- chemical exposure is not on the list of risk factors for Hodgkin's lymphoma and the late teen years are a common age of onset for the disease -- his parents said they didn't want to take any chances.

The Synthetic Turf Council, an industry group, continues to insist on the product's safety. Artificial turf may even eliminate exposures to other harmful chemicals commonly applied to natural grass, according to Lanfranco, the artificial turf distributor.

It is true that some natural lawns receive 10 or more pesticide a pplications per season. Among the most commonly used pesticide products is Monsanto's Roundup, which is being scrutinized for potential toxicity. The World Health Organization determined in March that glyphosate, Roundup's key ingredient, has the potential to cause cancer.

Heating Up

The problems with artificial turf don't end with the type of infill used. Plastic grass heats up faster than its natural counterpart, causing heat-related injuries and worsening environmental concerns.

"Artificial turf acts and behaves like any other paved surface," explained Ronald Macfarlane, a public health manager for Toronto and lead author of an assessment of fake grass published by the city in April. "It gets very hot in the sun. People can get blisters and burns."

His team's report highlights extreme cases in which temperatures on the surface of artificial turf reached as much as 68 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) higher than those on natural turf. Temperatures of 150 degrees Fahrenheit (66 degrees Celsius) and higher have been measured. According to a 2008 report from the New York City health department, people can suffer skin burns at field temperatures above 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius).

Artificial turf temperatures at the start of this weekend's Women's World Cup opening game in Edmonton, Canada, surpassed 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius). The air temperature was only 73 degrees Fahrenheit (23 degrees Celsius).

Elevated temperatures can also increase the rate at which toxic chemicals, such as benzothiozole and toluene, are released from some artificial fields into the surrounding air.

The heat factor has led manufacturers t o recommend that customers water their artificial turf on sunny days to keep it cool -- thereby negating some of the water savings. (They also advise spraying with water to clean off dog poop and other materials that inevitably land on a lawn.)

But Macfarlane said the environmental risks don't end there: Just like the concrete of a city, artificial turf can raise local air temperatures by several degrees. In addition, while artificial turf is perforated, water typically doesn't penetrate as fast as it would through natural ground cover. The result, according to Macfarlane, could be less water absorbed into watersheds and more localized flooding.

"Widespread use of artificial turf would really have an impact on how well we would be able to respond to the more extreme heat we are expecting with climate change, as well as more extreme weather events," he said.

Wh at's more, said Macfarlane, additional installations of the stuff may even contribute incrementally to climate change. Plants, lawns and other natural landscapes take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. The plastic and other manmade components of fake grass don't provide the same greenhouse gas storage or air-purifying services.

The Plant Solution

Given all the knowns and unknowns, experts generally agree that use of artificial turf should be reserved for situations in which no other options are practical. On the one hand, Macfarlane said, "You have to weigh taking away opportunities for physical activity." On the other, he said, "Having an artificial turf to look like you have a green lawn is not necessarily the best. It has no health benefit."

"When there are natural ways of landscaping available, they should be looked at and preference given to those where they are viable," he added.

Don Shor, a retail nurseryman in Davis, California, sees any increa se in use of drought-resistant plants as one silver lining to his state's water shortage. "I'm really happy when I see people kill their lawn and put in low-water plants," he said. "They are turning their old boring green lawns into pretty gardens and reducing their long-term water use."

"There are lots and lots of plants to choose from," he added, recommending that people check with local arboretums for ideas of what might grow best in their region. "Many plants draw hummingbirds, dragonflies and bees. Many give food."

lawn garden

Rowan Webb, 5, picks flowers in his family's new garden. (Photo: Tamara Webb)

Last summer, as the California sun baked her front lawn a golden brown, Tamara Webb let it go without water. This spring, rather than nursing the grass back to green, she and her husband took the same step as the Fouches: They tore it out. But what they chose to put in its place differe d significantly. Five vegetable garden beds, a flower-filled rock garden and several rows of corn and sunflowers now color their yard.

"It's brought me and the kids outside," said Webb, 37, of Orangevale, California. "My 5-year-old now grazes in the garden. He picks borage flowers and gives them to people walking by."

Webb noted that the blue borage flowers shared by her son are not only beautiful but also edible. "They taste like cucumbers," she said.

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