Everything I know about cutting grass I learned from my father. He had three rules and one quasi-rule. The three rules undoubtedly reflected his occupation as a systems analyst. Rule 1: To maximize efficiency and, thus, save energy, plot the yard into squares and mow inward from the outer edge. Rule 2: To prevent the engine from overworking and, thus, save gas, always position the discharge chute away from the square. Rule 3: To extend the life of the mower and, thus, save money, always service the machine according to the manufacturer’s specifications. The quasi-rule, however, was prompted not by occupational mindset but, rather, to reward himself for performing the tiresome chore he found cutting grass to be: Have a cold beer afterward.  I follow these rules today, though I confess I do occasionally fail to observe the letter of the quasi-rule by having more than the one cold beer… More…

 

It’s not easy to get to the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., without driving. But if you were determined to do so, you’d take the Metro from downtown, then transfer to the B2 bus. There’s no stop at the Arboretum itself, but if you ask the driver whether that bus goes by the institution, as I did, he might pull over anyway and yell back that this is where you have to get off. Either way, you still have to walk about a quarter of a mile down a quiet residential street before you come to the low stone pillars that mark the entrance to the living museum.

If you were determined to make such a trek now, your fuel-saving efforts would be rewarded with Power Plants — a new temporary exhibit that explores flora’s potential to revolutionize… More…