Half Staff vs Half Mast

Half Staff Old Glory September 21, 2020 Honoring RBG

Been seeing Old Glory flying in this position more frequently than I can ever remember during the last year. Curiosity not only about why, what people or events will prompt it, and for how long the flag will be flown this way was piqued.

When the flag is in this position I refer to The Google and type the following search question. “Why is the USA flag at half mast today?” The Google always offers the correct answer.

Upon further research into the subject for this post, my question has not been correct. The correct question is; “Why is the USA flag and half STAFF today?”

Today flags are at half staff to mourn the violent deaths in Washington DC last week. Flags in the USA will be at half staff in memory of Capitol Hill Police officer William Evans through Tuesday April 6, 2021.

Half staff duration is determined by who is being mourned:

  • 30 days from the death of the President or a former President
  • 10 days from the day of death for: Vice President; Chief Justice of the US or a retired Chief Justice of the US; Speaker of the House of Representatives
  • Day of death until interment for: Associate Justice of the Supreme Court; Secretary of an executive or military department; Former Vice President; Governor of a State, territory, or possession
  • Day of death and the following day for: Member of Congress

It is probably a quibble to discuss the difference between half mast and half staff. However, there is a positional difference between the two.

Half mast is a flag that is placed somewhere between the top of the pole and the bottom of the pole. It will be close to the mid point, but not necessarily directly in the middle of the pole.

Half staff means the position of the flag is one-half the distance between the top and bottom of the staff.

Half staff is an exacting location, while half mast is a less disciplined positioning of the flag on the pole.

There is a procedure or, ritual if you will, for how to perform this duty as well:

The flag, when flown at half-staff, should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. The flag should be again raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day.

On Memorial Day the flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon only, then raised to the top of the staff.

I’m a little ashamed that it took nearly 60 years to learn these facts. It is also sad that the unfortunate frequency of half staff flags recently prompted my query. But…I’m glad that I did take the time to look into it.

Nobody’s Fool

Photo by Harry Cunningham @harry.digital on Pexels.com

I’ve never been a fan of the practical joke. Needless to say, I’m also not a fan of an entire day set aside for them. There is nothing funny about practical jokes in R Dub’s opinion.

Probably the best known practical joke in recent history was Orson Welles’ live radio broadcast of an adaptation of H G Wells’ 1889 novel “War of the Worlds” on Halloween night in 1938. Well, recent if you are a member of the Greatest Generation anyway.

The broadcast was scripted as normal programing interrupted with frequent breaking news coverage of alien war ships attacking the United States. A New Jersey location was hit with heat rays and New York City was being attacked with poisoned smoke. People were dropping like flies and there was nothing that the armed forces could do to stop it.

There was a disclaimer at the beginning of the broadcast indicating that the show was fiction. However, many who tuned in after the intro were fooled into thinking that Mars was indeed attacking earth and went into wild panic mode.

The origins of April Fools Day dates back to April 1, 1582 when the world switched from the Julian calendar to our present day Gregorian calendar. The new year was changed from April 1st to January 1st.

The news of the calendar switch took some time to reach all citizens. People who mistakenly celebrated the new year on April 1st were said to be “April Fools.” An early form of calendar shaming I guess…

Modern pranksters can’t seem to let go of the tradition, so here we are today.

…and that’s no joke.

A Place For Our Stuff

The fruits of our labor from the pottery wheels at Art On The Town WI

“Beautiful in form and feature, lovely as the day, can there be so fair a creature formed of common clay?” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Longfellow was probably referring to the creature that God formed from clay…us. You know, human beings. Until hardened by the kiln or the environment clay can be formed to most anything that you want it to be. A statue or bust, a pot, a trap shooting target.

Humans are as malleable too. With luck, the form will be a good one before life hardens us.

At the invitation of the mayor, Beth and I met with some friends last Sunday for a one hour clay spinning class at Art On The Town Wisconsin in downtown Beaver Dam.

For a nominal hourly fee, we received hands on instruction from owner Kris Schumacher, two one pound slabs of clay and the use of a pottery spinner. The photo above pictures the fruits of our labor. We will return to choose a glaze before they are fire hardened in the kiln.

Mayor Becky has more pictures and I will add them to this post after I ask her to forward them to me.

Pottery is one of the oldest human inventions dating back 25,000 years BC. The pottery wheel dates back to 4,500 years BC.

Humanity has always needed a place for their stuff and clay pots are still a decorative means to that end. Pottery was an answer to that need as far back as 27,000 to 30,000 years ago.

I’d hazard a guess that there are few, if any other functional and recreational activities that we share with those distant ancestors from the Neolithic period.

If you are interested and live in the BD area; Art On The Town Wisconsin can be found on FaceBook and on their website. https://artonthetownwi.com/

Granted our masterpieces will not hold much stuff, but I’m hoping to use mine as planters!

Beth and R Dub showing off our masterpieces!
Tracy G molding her clay on the turntable.

Green Thumb Sequel: Moving On Up!

Our sprouts have advanced to the next size up planter!

It’s like being a new parent. We plant the seeds and watch with baited breath for days and weeks waiting for the first sprout. When the first sprout emerges there is great celebration! When every planter has at least one sprout there is great satisfaction that we have a chance to grow our own fresh produce. Well…satisfaction and a great deal of relief too.

Then…the sprouts begin to outgrow their planter. Now what?! Back to The YouTube!

Four mistakes that can make your seedlings die:

  1. Not fertilizing. They need to be treated with a half strength fertilizer.
  2. Do no let the plants get too big prior to transplanting. Waiting too long stunts root growth. When my seedlings grew to the top of the dome I transferred them to a bigger planter.
  3. Not hardening them off. What is hardening off?! It means to ease them into the great outdoors before planting them in the garden. Begin to introduce your indoor plants to the outdoors 7 to 10 days before final transfer. Start with one or two hours and slowly increase the time as your planting day nears.
  4. Wait until after the traditional last frost day to plant outside. Newbies like us tend to want to jump the gun on final transfer. We just get so darned excited and impatient to for ‘real’ gardening. For us Mother’s Day is the traditional time frame for safe outdoor planting.

This flat of planters represents our peppers: tobasco (thanks Chuck Swain!), pepperoncini, jalapeno, sweet bell. Plus cabbage and cauliflower. Yet to sprout: tomatoes and rosemary herb.

Next gardening subject? Our raised garden beds are almost ready. Soon we will talk setting up, irrigating and soil for the beds. I can barely wait!

Enter The King

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Sunday March 28 marked the beginning of Holy Week. The holiest of all weeks in the Christian faith.

It is tradition on Easter Sunday for Christians to greet each other with the words; “He is risen!” The appropriate response is; “He is risen indeed!” Which comes from Luke 24:34; “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”

However, this week was much more than Palm Sunday, The Last Supper, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Here is a review of Jesus’ last 8 days from different biblical sources.

Palm Sunday was the day that many in Jerusalem rejoiced Christ’s entry into town for the Passover celebration as their savior over Roman occupation.

The citizens of Jerusalem laid down their coats and palm tree fronds across the path in front of Christ while shouting hosanna. The word hosanna means ‘save now,’ proclaiming him as the savior.

Most know that the local Jewish citizens will turn on Jesus as the week wears on. Why? They were looking for a political or military leader to save them from the Romans. Jesus’ intention to be a spiritual savior was not accepted well by the rank and file and more importantly not by Judas Iscariot who was furious with Jesus for not taking to arms in leading the people of Israel into freedom.

In his rage and disappointment Judas offered to give Jesus up to the chief priests for 30 silver pieces who would then turn Jesus over to the mob and Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilot. As the story goes, Jesus would be identified by the kiss of Judas. Thus the saying; “Betrayed by a kiss.”

The Monday after Palm Sunday is the day that Jesus angrily entered the temple knocking over tables where people were buying and selling goods. He proclaimed; “My house will be called a house of prayer, not a den of robbers!”

The Tuesday before Easter was the day that the disciples tested his authority by setting four hypothetical traps for him. This day brought us three parables: The Parable of the Two Sons, The Parable of the Tenants, and The Parable of the Wedding Banquet.

Wednesday prior to Easter is the day the Judas scolded Jesus for allowing a woman to anoint his feet with perfume. Judas argued that proceeds from the perfume could’ve fed many poor people. Judas handled money for Jesus and the disciples. It is believed that his motivation was pure greed, he had the reputation of frequently stealing from the group’s money bag which he carried.

Maundy Thursday, April 1st is the day that is more widely known as The Last Supper. In that famous upper room, Jesus assembles his disciples to, among other things, observe the Passover feast, announce his knowledge that one of the disciples will betray him, and conduct the first communion feast of the Christian era.

The word maundy means to command. In John 13:34 Jesus said; “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” Jesus proved his love to them by washing each of their feet in an act of humility. He also commanded them to wash each others feet as an act of love.

In John 13:22 Jesus is quoted saying; “Truly, truly, I say to you,one of you will betray me.” Upon saying this all disciples ask; “Is it me Lord? Surly it is not me.” In some retelling of the story, Christ points out Judas as the betrayer.

On Good Friday, while in the garden of Gethsemane Judas will betray Jesus who is praying to God to be spared from his eventual torture and death at the hands of the Romans. It is in the Garden that the infamous kiss occurs.

From there the Passion of Christ begins with Jesus being drug through the streets after a Kangaroo Court, was forced to carry his own cross to the hill where he will eventually be crucified. (Where another saying “Carrying your own cross” is born.)

While the term Good Friday seems like a misnomer, the day is important and ‘good’ because this is the day that Jesus died for the sins of man.

Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is the day that Jesus’ body was placed in the tomb. Joseph wrapped Jesus’ body in linen then rolled a rock against the tomb to keep robbers out. Mary Magdalene and the mother Mary were witness to this event.

Easter Sunday is the day that Mary Magdalene and other women went to the tomb early, before sun rise, to find that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb. They were greeted by angels who told them that Jesus had risen from the grave just as he foretold.

Mary ran from the tomb to tell Peter and John the news. At this time, Jesus appeared before the women who were trailing Mary. Eventually, Jesus will appear to all of the disciples except Judas who so guilt ridden that he took his own life.

This was Jesus way of proving to his disciples that he had risen, he had risen indeed!

Wondering What

Randy and R Dub Circa 1965

The boy on the left with the huge smile was my big brother Randy. Today would’ve been his 64th birthday. Specific days on the calendar remind us of those that died before us. Birthdays, holidays, siblings day, the day of the year that they died on, and etc.

The past year for us has seen an abundance of death in our inner circles.

In the age of COVID19, ironically, none of the people close to us who passed were due to the pandemic. Perhaps we are just at that age when the people around us are more likely to be at the end of their life cycle.

We have mourned greatly the past year, I still have a hard time believing that my dad is gone. But, for Beth and I the deaths that hit us the hardest and have been the most difficult to put behind us are the decades old deaths of our brothers. For me it was my older brother when he was 22 and I was 18. For Beth it was her youngest brother Jimmy, who also died in his early 20s. Both lost their lives in tragic automobile accidents.

We learned the lesson early on that life is fragile and can be gone in the blink of an eye.

So…I sit here a little after midnight on Randy’s birthday wondering what he would’ve been like if he were still alive. He was never married. Wondering if he would have? He had no children. Wondering if I would have been an uncle? Wondering if he would still be working or would he be collecting a pension and Social Security checks?

He was a lot like our father. Hard working and loyal to his job. I wonder if he would’ve had a nice pension and retired in his mid 50s like dad did. If so, would he taunt me as he collected money for nothing, living a life of leisure, while I plan to work well into my 60s or even up to age 70.

He loved to buy the newest gadgets. He had a movie projector with sound…unheard of in the mid 70s. He was the first person I knew who owned a VHS video tape recorder. He bought a console stereo TV that also had a telephone built into it. Now we have telephones that double as TVs. He would’ve loved that.

Recently Beth wondered aloud if Randy would’ve liked her. That I do not wonder about, he would have.

Beth is one of six siblings. My mom is one of eight siblings. They all have each other’s backs. I am in awe and a little envious of the way they love each other and are always there for each other. Randy was my only sibling and I’ve essentially been an only child since 1979. I wonder if Randy and I would’ve had the same type of relationship.

Happy birthday big brother. I wonder if you are looking down on us, knowing how we are.

R Dub and Randy 1979. This picture was taken shortly before his fatal accident.

Sprouting A Green Thumb

Cabbage and Cauliflower Sprouts Under A Grow Lamp 18 hours on and 6 hours off per day, First To Appear 4 Days After Starting Seeds

As a result of limited essential supplies and escalating grocery prices the last year, Beth and I are attempting to be more self sufficient. Starting a garden is one of those attempts.

Many of the foods that we purchase and consume bear the organic label. But I’m always skeptical that the foods in the package are actually organic. Growing your own under conditions that you want is one way to assure that no unwanted ingredients are in the foods you eat.

Neither of us claim to have a green thumb. Admittedly we’ve killed off more plants than we’ve managed to sustain. But heck, if someone on YouTube can do it, why can’t we?

Actually, there are many people on YouTube that make it look pretty darned easy. After watching several different gardening experts and many episodes of said experts we chose the plants we wanted to grow and the methods that we wish to grow them.

We have chosen to start as many foods as possible from seeds.

Side note for my gardening friends: Advice please. I want to grow potatoes, but need to research how that is done. Potato seeds are not a thing. My dad used to grow potatoes, and he started with an actual potato that he cut up into sections and planted in hills.

Here is the plan from 100 feet. Grow as much as possible inside from seed in planter trays and transplant outside into raised garden beds after the last frost is predicted around Mother’s Day.

We’ve already started several varieties of pepper, plus cauliflower, cabbage and rosemary herb inside. The sprouts pictured are cauliflower and cabbage which sprouted in about 4 days. The peppers should sprout in 7 to 21 days, Sweet peppers first, then hot peppers late.

This weekend we will start tomatoes in planters from seed. All other seeds will be planted directly into the raised garden after Mother’s Day.

This blog post will focus on the method that we used to start from seed indoors.

Every YouTube expert warned that starting from seeds is not easy, but we are not letting fear of failure stop us from trying. After watching several different experts the following method seemed to make the most sense. We think this method will give beginners like us the best chance to be successful.

The kit pictured below comes with a bottom tray for water, a platform to prop up the trays, a capillary pad for indirect and continual watering, a flat of planting trays, and a dome.

Bottom water tray.
Prop to hold planter trays above the water below.
Capillary pad to wick water from the lower tray to the holes in the bottom of the seed trays.
Seed trays and dome. In these trays are several varieties of pepper that have yet to sprout.

There should be about 1/2″ of water in the bottom tray at all times, the platform is placed spike side down, the capillary pad is folded, with the edges in the water (this allows the water to leach up from the base and water the plants from the bottom up which encourages the roots to extend down and become very healthy.) The seed planting tray is set on top of the capillary pad and the dome is placed on top of everything keeping a nice humid environment for our sprouts to grow in.

The seed starter kit fully assembled with a variety of pepper seeds.

The cover picture shows a grow light. This light should be placed as close to the tray as possible and be lit for 18 hours and off for 6 hours per day. Plants need that much sunlight to be healthy. Regular household lighting is not bright enough and sunlight through a window is not sufficient either. Invest in a good grow light.

False Sense of Security

Some grim news came out of the small town of Anamosa, Iowa on Tuesday. This community is home to a century old state run penitentiary. While being treated in the infirmary, an inmate attacked multiple staff members and inmates. The inmate was eventually controlled, but not until injuring many and killing two, a nurse and a guard.

This incident hits close to home. During a former life, I worked at this prison in 1999 while employed by the 3M Company. This is a working prison. The inmates have an opportunity to make some income by working up to four hours per day at an on site factory.

Stereo-typically, license plates are manufactured here as well as office furniture and soap. Some of the processes exposed the inmate workers to an unsafe amount of airborne contaminates. As a respiratory protection expert at the time the prison Safety Officer invited me in to make recommendations that would protect workers health.

An armed guard was assigned for my protection who escorted me to the three separate manufacturing areas to audit their practices and interview some of the affected inmates.

There were two conversations with Corrections staff that stayed in my memory and that I have shared with some people occasionally the last 20 plus years.

After interviewing the first inmate my guard asked me what I thought of that prisoner. The welder/inmate was a young man, no older than 30 in my estimation. He was polite and offered a complete assessment of what he does and what the environment was like in his welding booth. I told the officer that I was surprised at how politely I was treated by the inmate.

Here is memorable conversation number one that I remember like it happened yesterday. The guard’s response was this. “He would most likely try to kill you if I were not here protecting you.”

Until Tuesday’s news out of Iowa, I thought he was just trying to frighten me. Which of course, he did. Anyway… the potential harm that I volunteered for is now cemented in my mind.

This prison houses roughly 1,000 inmates. About 700 of them were convicted of violent crimes…

Memorable conversation number two was with the warden. After sharing my recommendations for each work center with the site safety officer it was determined that the warden would need to hear them and the warden would give the final approval.

The problem with respiratory protection for an inmate was unique to any other facility that I’d ever been to. The levels of contaminate at each work center were relatively low, barely over Permissible Exposure Limits. Half mask and full face respirators with the correct filter should have sufficed.

Unfortunately, many inmates wore facial hair. Facial hair breaks the seal of the mask and renders them useless in the eyes of OSHA. (Take note COVID19 mask users.) Worse yet, corrections could not legally require inmates to shave. As the Safety Officer stated: “At most factories, few workers have a lawyer. At a prison factory, every worker has a lawyer. We must find a form of protection that works regardless of facial hair.”

My answer to the problem was a fresh air system that uses filtered compressed continuous flow air delivered to a helmet or hood. Relatively expensive, but very protective.

By now you may be wondering what the warden said that stayed with me. Here it is.

The warden asked me: “If a riot breaks out, could the inmates use these respirators to protect themselves from tear gas?” Wow! The question hit me like a ton of bricks.

The answer…yes, if a riot broke out inmates could wear the respirators to protect themselves from tear gas.

The next question was from me and the answer to this question sealed the deal. “If a riot breaks out, is the standard operating procedure to shut down the compressors?” The answer again was yes, because tools that run off of compressed air can be used as weapons.

No compressor, no fresh air. Problem solved.

Life is so fragile, cherish the precious present. It is a gift that should never be taken for granted.

Acquiring A Broken Heart

Buddy Girl during a winter frisbee session. Her favorite game. (But aren’t they all!)
Resting easily on her favorite rug during the final hours at home.

It is said that when a person acquires a dog, or most any pet, that they are acquiring a broken heart. Most people will outlive many pets during their lifetime.

The dog above, was our most recent entry into that reality. Her name was Buddy Girl. She was not always our pet, we adopted her from a relative that couldn’t care for her about 5 years ago. She was in and out of my life for 5 years prior to that.

This is my first blog post since March 11.

Late on the evening of Friday March 12 her demeanor changed dramatically. A normally energetic, playful and friendly dog became lethargic and her eyes that normally are bright and constantly aware became dull and distant.

This had happened a few times in the past, usually in the evening. By morning, she would be back to her energetic and happy self…but not this time. On Saturday she was still lethargic and refused to eat.

We made the decision to take her into the vet. By this time, she was unable to get up on all four feet. Jeff, our neighbor across the street was kind enough to help me carry her to my car and off to the emergency animal clinic in Madison, WI we go.

She was able to sit up for much of the trip and we hope she was able to enjoy her final road trip during the 45 minute drive to Madison.

We pre-registered on the phone before getting there and were instructed to call when we arrived so a technician could come out to our car and get her. There were other pet owners ahead of us when we arrived. After about a 20 to 30 minute wait a young man came out to our car.

He asked a few history questions while checking her gums. Our answers were interrupted by the young man as Buddy’s gums were being checked. He politely excused himself to get a gurney for her and stated as he departed quickly that her gums are white, they should be pink. This was a very bad omen.

To make a long story short, the vet called us about an hour after taking her in stating that an ultra sound exam showed that Buddy had a mass that burst, probably cancerous but she could not be positive. There was massive internal bleeding. The blood had been drawn out of her, the heart was being monitored and the vet called us to ask how to proceed.

(Side note: The vet mentioned that she probably had a series of smaller bleeds that clotted up. That explains the short lived altered personality described earlier in the post.)

We could’ve approved an operation, but the vet estimated that at best we would buy Buddy Girl up to 2 months of life. We chose to not put the dog or us through this trauma and had Buddy Girl euthanized.

We were allowed to enter the clinic and spend some time with her before and during the procedure. When they wheeled her into the room she popped up with alertness. As soon as Buddy Girl was wheeled in front of Beth, the dog collapsed into Beth’s arms tail wagging.

When Beth’s arms tired I traded places with her. As Beth walked around to the other side of the gurney, Buddy girl sat up and followed her around. Beth gently lay the dog back into my arms and that is where she stayed until the procedure was mercifully over.

Can you tell that Beth is the caretaker in our household?

The procedure is quick and painless. After checking for a lack of heartbeat, Beth cried and I held her. Then some quiet time to reflect during the 45 minute drive back home.

This dog had a sweet demeanor and was easy to love. However, I didn’t choose her and I thrust her into Beth’s life. Every time we wanted to go somewhere, arrangements had to be made. Emergency trips were a huge issue and at times we were disgruntled with the family member that acquired her without the ability to care for her.

Buddy Girl was 85 pounds and nearly 6 feet long. If we hadn’t cared for her, she would most likely have been at the Humane Society until they put her down. I could be wrong, but I do not think so.

Did I mention that Buddy Girl was an absolute sweetheart? Well she was. Despite not wanting a dog, we really liked this dog.

Suddenly routine and responsibility due to dog ownership was at an end. We thought it would be a good thing…and for the most part it is. We are still collecting and organizing dog items like bowls, food, toys, grooming tools, and etc. Garage sale to follow. Wait for it.

However, there was routine that no longer occurs and it just feels odd. Feeding was 10:00 am and 10:00 pm. She would tell us when the time passed. There were morning and bed time constitutionals. Dog owners do not have to be told that dropping food on the floor suddenly means more clean up by the humans when there is no dog around.

I frequently write and say that Beth and I are empty nesters. That was not true until Saturday March 12, 2021. The term is now accurate.

We are free to move about the country without worrying about arranging boarding or a dog sitter. That will be nice…but there is something missing that we didn’t think we would miss…

There’s Meat and Then There’s Meat

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Lenten fasting and abstinence. Millions of people will abstain from meat during this the Holiest of seasons for the Christian faith.

My Catholic friends understand the rituals and their meanings better than most Protestants. I mean, really, why isn’t fish defined as meat? This is the question that I asked Beth. Well…maybe not in those exact words.

The answer goes back to 1966 when Pope Paul VI defined meat as “carnis” in regard to abstinence, a word that refers specifically to mammals and birds. So, technically and biologically fish is meat, but not in the way that Pope Paul the 6th defined it.

Beth didn’t use those exact words either. I used The Google for the previous paragraph. However, she described it accurately to the Pope’s definition.

The meat of mammals and fowl were once considered the food of grand celebrations while the eating of fish was associated with the diet of the poor. In the spirit of sacrifice and fasting, not all fish ‘should’ be consumed during lent.

While there is no prohibition to eating lobster or shrimp or any other higher end fish, it misses the point of recognizing Jesus’ suffering and sharing our blessings with the poor.

On a lighter note. The explanation of Lenten meat explains the propensity of some wait staff to recommend fish when a vegetarian or vegan makes their meatless or no animal requests. They are confusing true meatless with Lenten meatless.

Funny for carnivorous folks. For vegans and vegetarians…not so much.