Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Iraq war as a metaphor for adjusting lawn sprinklers

Today, the Mandarin took advantage of a warm sunny day in Southern California to adjust his lawn sprinklers. His neighbors recently built a "small" retaining wall that - besides encroaching about 18" into the Mandarin's yard - left a strip of bare dirt along the foot of the wall where a swath of Mrs. Mandarin's carefully tended ground-cover (Lampranthus productus a/k/a "Purple Ice-plant") had been trampled to death by the neighbor's crew. So, after she replanted the affected area this morning, it was the Mandarin's job to adjust the sprinklers in that part of the yard so the tender new plants would get enough water to prevent transplant shock.

In the process of experimenting with different spray heads and aiming patterns, the Mandarin realized his struggle was a metaphor for Shrub's war in Iraq. Or more accurately, the struggle of Shrub's handlers to manage the war in Iraq by manipulating the contents of Shrub's head. Since the neocons are out and President Bush (#41) has mobilized his alumni network to attempt resuscitating Shrub's presidency, their first task - actually going on this week - is to empty out the bad old Iraq ideas in Shrub's head and replace them with new ones they hope will finally do the trick.

The little hollow tube gizmo in the picture is called a Shrub Head (made by "Lawn Genie").

The way a shrub head works (the kind in the picture anyway), is that you attach it to the sprinkler pipe, and then any one of a number of different inserts can be screwed into the empty space in the middle: 1/4 circles, 1/2 circles, full circles, adjustable inserts,... you name it, they make it.

So, if you screw a 1/4-circle insert into Shrub's head (sorry, the Mandarin can't help mixing metaphors here), then the fully-assembled shrub head will do one thing and one thing only, come hell or high water, till the sun cools and the stars go dark, and that is spray water in a 1/4-circle pattern wherever you have aimed it. Nowhere else.

Well, after two trips to the local hardware store and several mini-soakings, the Mandarin finally found the combination of shrub head inserts to do the trick. As an old Army Stability Operations geek, it gradually dawned on the him that getting good coverage with lawn sprinklers is a lot like stability operations. The trick is making sure the plan makes sense, the correct resources are available, and the implementation is effective.

And to do that, sometimes you have to empty out the old contents of your shrub head, flush it out with clean water, then screw in something new, turn it on, cross your fingers, and stand back. Way back.

Photo courtesy of Home Depot.

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