Thursday, July 24, 2008

75 Things

Below is an article that struck me, not just as trendy journalism or a cool list (I'm a big fan of lists), but as something that rings true in so many ways. Not to let this guy speak for every man, but I think, in general, he's got the right idea--one that's so right most men can relate. It isn't very often that a man's caveman side is brought out in any way other than to make fun of it, but here Mr. Chiarella shows some of the more elegant aspects of our primordial past, and blends it with other, not-so-well-known subtleties and charms that are important in being a Man. Not all items will fit every man, but the effort is well made.

This article was reprinted with permission from Esquire by MSN (here; other cool lists there as well), and then by me...ahem...without permission. [I live in fear of link-rot. I consider it a testament to the things I choose to provide links to that I wish, should they ever disappear from their original locations, to have them remain in some place, even if that place is solely to provide that link in a personal context.] For what it's worth, I tallied these things into three categories: Yes, Probably, and No Way. Without telling you which items went where, I was 51-11-13. Not too shabby.

As a side note (or maybe the main note?), Tom Chiarella is worth looking up, and probably giving some of your money to via the local bookstore (or, if you must). Here's a good start: Google results.

* * * * *

The 75 Skills Every Man Should Master

A man can be expert in nothing, but he must be practiced in many things. Skills. You don't have to master them all at once. You simply have to collect and develop a certain number of skills as the years tick by. People count on you to come through. That's why you need these, to start.

By Tom Chiarella

A Man Should Be Able To:

1. Give advice that matters in one sentence. I got run out of a job I liked once, and while it was happening, a guy stopped me in the hall. Smart guy, but prone to saying too much. I braced myself. I didn't want to hear it. I needed a white knight, and I knew it wasn't him. He just sighed and said: When nobody has your back, you gotta move your back. Then he walked away. Best advice I ever got. One sentence.

2. Tell if someone is lying. Everyone has his theory. Pick one, test it. Choose the tells that work for you. I like these: Liars change the subject quickly. Liars look up and to their right when they speak. Liars use fewer contractions. Liars will sometimes stare straight at you and employ a dead face. Liars never touch their chest or heart except self-consciously. Liars place objects between themselves and you during a conversation.

3. Take a photo. Fill the frame.

4. Score a baseball game. Scoring a game is an exercise in ciphering, creating a shorthand of your very own. In this way, it's a private language as much as a record of the game. The only given is the numbering of the positions and the use of the diamond to express each batter's progress around the bases. I black out the diamond when a run scores. I mark an RBI with a tally mark in the upper-right-hand corner. Each time you score a game, you pick up on new elements to track: pitch count, balls and strikes, foul balls. It doesn't matter that this information is available on the Internet in real time. Scoring a game is about bearing witness, expanding your own ability to observe.

5. Name a book that matters. The Catcher in the Rye does not matter. Not really. You gotta read.

6. Know at least one musical group as well as is possible. One guy at your table knows where Cobain was born and who his high school English teacher was. Another guy can argue the elegant extended trope of Liquid Swords with GZA himself. This is how it should be. Music does not demand agreement. Rilo Kiley. Nina Simone. Whitesnake. Fugazi. Otis Redding. Whatever. Choose. Nobody likes a know-it-all, because 1) you can't know it all and 2) music offers distinct and private lessons. So pick one. Except Rilo Kiley. I heard they broke up.

7. Cook meat somewhere other than the grill. Buy The Way to Cook, by Julia Child. Try roasting. Braising. Broiling. Slow-cooking. Pan searing. Think ragouts, fricassees, stews. All of this will force you to understand the functionality of different cuts. In the end, grilling will be a choice rather than a chore, and your Weber will become a tool rather than a piece of weekend entertainment.

8. Not monopolize the conversation.

9. Write a letter. So easy. So easily forgotten. A five-paragraph structure works pretty well: Tell why you're writing. Offer details. Ask questions. Give news. Add a specific memory or two. If your handwriting is terrible, type. Always close formally.

10. Buy a suit. Avoid bargains. Know your likes, your dislikes, and what you need it for (work, funerals, court). Squeeze the fabric — if it bounces back with little or no sign of wrinkling, that means it's good, sturdy material. And tug the buttons gently. If they feel loose or wobbly, that means they're probably coming off sooner rather than later. The jacket's shoulder pads are supposed to square with your shoulders; if they droop off or leave dents in the cloth, the jacket's too big. The jacket sleeves should never meet the wrist any lower than the base of the thumb — if they do, ask to go down a size. Always get fitted.

11. Swim three different strokes. Doggie paddle doesn't count.

12. Show respect without being a suck-up. Respect the following, in this order: age, experience, record, reputation. Don't mention any of it.

13. Throw a punch. Close enough, but not too close. Swing with your shoulders, not your arm. Long punches rarely land squarely. So forget the roundhouse. You don't have a haymaker. Follow through; don't pop and pull back. The length you give the punch should come in the form of extension after the point of contact. Just remember, the bones in your hand are small and easy to break. You're better off striking hard with the heel of your palm. Or you could buy the guy a beer and talk it out.

14. Chop down a tree. Know your escape path. When the tree starts to fall, use it.

15. Calculate square footage. Width times length.

16. Tie a bow tie.

17. Make one drink, in large batches, very well. When I interviewed for my first job, one of the senior guys had me to his house for a reception. He offered me a cigarette and pointed me to a bowl of whiskey sours, like I was Darrin Stephens and he was Larry Tate. I can still remember that first tight little swallow and my gratitude that I could go back for a refill without looking like a drunk. I came to admire the host over the next decade, but he never gave me the recipe. So I use this:
• For every 750-ml bottle of whiskey (use a decent bourbon or rye), add:
• 6 oz fresh-squeezed, strained lemon juice
• 6 oz simple syrup(mix superfine sugar and water in equal quantities)

To serve: Shake 3 oz per person with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glasses. Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice or, if you're really slick, a float of red wine. (Pour about ½ oz slowly into each glass over the back of a spoon; this is called a New York sour, and it's great.)

18. Speak a foreign language. Pas beaucoup. Mais faites un effort.

19. Approach a woman out of his league. Ever have a shoeshine from a guy you really admire? He works hard enough that he doesn't have to tell stupid jokes; he doesn't stare at your legs; he knows things you don't, but he doesn't talk about them every minute; he doesn't scrape or apologize for his status or his job or the way he is dressed; he does his job confidently and with a quiet relish. That stuff is wildly inviting. Act like that guy.

20. Sew a button.

21. Argue with a European without getting xenophobic or insulting soccer. Once, in our lifetime, much of Europe was approaching cultural and political irrelevance. Then they made like us and banded together into a union of confederated states. So you can always assume that they were simply copying the United States as they now push us to the verge of cultural and political irrelevance.

22. Give a woman an orgasm so that he doesn't have to ask after it. Otherwise, ask after it.

23. Be loyal. You will fail at it. You have already. A man who does not know loyalty, from both ends, does not know men. Loyalty is not a matter of give-and-take: He did me a favor, therefore I owe him one. No. No. No. It is the recognition of a bond, the honoring of a shared history, the reemergence of the vows we make in the tight times. It doesn't mean complete agreement or invisible blood ties. It is a currency of selflessness, given without expectation and capable of the most stellar return.

24. Know his poison, without standing there, pondering like a dope. Brand, amount, style, fast, like so: Booker's, double, neat.

25. Drive an eightpenny nail into a treated two-by-four without thinking about it. Use a contractor's hammer. Swing hard and loose, like a tennis serve.

26. Cast a fishing rod without shrieking or sighing or otherwise admitting defeat.

27. Play gin with an old guy. Old men will try to crush you. They'll drown you in meaningless chatter, tell stories about when they were kids this or in Korea that. Or they'll retreat into a taciturn posture designed to get you to do the talking. They'll note your strategies without mentioning them, keep the stakes at a level they can control, and change up their pace of play just to get you stumbling. You have to do this — play their game, be it dominoes or cribbage or chess. They may have been playing for decades. You take a beating as a means of absorbing the lessons they've learned without taking a lesson. But don't be afraid to take them down. They can handle it.

28. Play go fish with a kid. You don't crush kids. You talk their ear off, make an event out of it, tell them stories about when you were a kid this or in Vegas that. You have to play their game, too, even though they may have been playing only for weeks. Observe. Teach them without once offering a lesson. And don't be afraid to win. They can handle it.

29. Understand quantum physics well enough that he can accept that a quarter might, at some point, pass straight through the table when dropped. Sometimes the laws of physics aren't laws at all. Read The Quantum World: Quantum Physics for Everyone, by Kenneth W. Ford.

30. Feign interest. Good place to start: quantum physics.

31. Make a bed.

32. Describe a glass of wine in one sentence without using the terms nutty, fruity, oaky, finish, or kick. I once stood in a wine store in West Hollywood where the owner described a pinot noir he favored as "a night walk through a wet garden." I bought it. I went to my hotel and drank it by myself, looking at the flickering city with my feet on the windowsill. I don't know which was more right, the wine or the vision that he placed in my head. Point is, it was right.

33. Hit a jump shot in pool. It's not something you use a lot, but when you hit a jump shot, it marks you as a player and briefly impresses women. Make the angle of your cue steeper, aim for the bottommost fraction of the ball, and drive the cue smoothly six inches past the contact point, making steady, downward contact with the felt.

34. Dress a wound. First, stop the bleeding. Apply pressure using a gauze pad. Stay with the pressure. If you can't stop the bleeding, forget the next step, just get to a hospital. Once the bleeding stops, clean the wound. Use water or saline solution; a little soap is good, too. If you can't get the wound clean, then forget the next step, just get to a hospital. Finally, dress the wound. For a laceration, push the edges together and apply a butterfly bandage. For avulsions, where the skin is punctured and pulled back like a trapdoor, push the skin back and use a butterfly. Slather the area in antibacterial ointment. Cover the wound with a gauze pad taped into place. Change that dressing every 12 hours, checking carefully for signs of infection. Better yet, get to a hospital.

35. Jump-start a car (without any drama). Change a flat tire (safely). Change the oil (once).

36. Make three different bets at a craps table. Play the smallest and most poorly labeled areas, the bets where it's visually evident the casino doesn't want you to go. Simply play the pass line; once the point is set, play full odds (this is the only really good bet on the table); and when you want a little more action, tell the crew you want to lay the 4 and the 10 for the minimum bet.

37. Shuffle a deck of cards. I play cards with guys who can't shuffle, and they lose. Always.

38. Tell a joke. Here's one:

Two guys are walking down a dark alley when a mugger approaches them and demands their money. They both grudgingly pull out their wallets and begin taking out their cash. Just then, one guy turns to the other, hands him a bill, and says, "Hey, here's that $20 I owe you."

39. Know when to split his cards in blackjack. Aces. Eights. Always.

40. Speak to an eight-year-old so he will hear. Use his first name. Don't use baby talk. Don't crank up your energy to match his. Ask questions and wait for answers. Follow up. Don't pretend to be interested in Webkinz or Power Rangers or whatever. He's as bored with that sh** as you are. Concentrate instead on seeing the child as a person of his own.

41. Speak to a waiter so he will hear. You don't own the restaurant, so don't act like it. You own the transaction. So don't speak into the menu. Lift your chin. Make eye contact. All restaurants have secrets — let it be known that you expect to see some of them.

42. Talk to a dog so it will hear. Go ahead, use baby talk.

43. Install: a disposal, an electronic thermostat, or a lighting fixture without asking for help. Just turn off the damned main.

44. Ask for help. Guys who refuse to ask for help are the most cursed men of all. The stubborn, the self-possessed, and the distant. The hell with them.

45. Break another man's grip on his wrist. Rotate your arm rapidly in the grip, toward the other guy's thumb.

46. Tell a woman's dress size.

47. Recite one poem from memory. Here you go:


When you are old and gray and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

—William Butler Yeats

48. Remove a stain. Blot. Always blot.

49. Say no.

50. Fry an egg sunny-side up. Cook until the white appears solid . . . and no longer.

51. Build a campfire.
There are three components:

* The tinder — bone-dry, snappable twigs, about as long as your hand. You need two complete handfuls. Try birch bark; it burns long and hot.
* The kindling — thick as your thumb, long as your forearm, breakable with two hands. You need two armfuls.
* Fuel wood — anything thick and long enough that it can't be broken by hand. It's okay if it's slightly damp. You need a knee-high stack.

Step 1:Light the tinder, turning the pile gently to get air underneath it.

Step 2: Feed the kindling into the emergent fire with some pace.

Step 3: Lay on the fuel wood. Pyramid, the log cabin, what-ever — the idea is to create some kind of structure so that plenty of air gets to the fire.

52. Step into a job no one wants to do. When I was 13, my dad called me into his office at the large urban mall he ran. He was on the phone. What followed was a fairly banal 15-minute conversation, which involved the collection of rent from a store. On and on, droning about store hours and lighting problems. I kept raising my eyebrows, pretending to stand up, and my dad kept waving me down. I could hear only his end, garrulous and unrelenting. He rolled his eyes as the excuses kept coming. His assertions were simple and to the point, like a drumbeat. He wanted the rent. He wanted the store to stay open when the mall was open. Then suddenly, having given the job the time it deserved, he put it to an end. "So if I see your gate down next Sunday afternoon, I'm going to get a drill and stick a goddamn bolt in it and lock you down for the next week, right?" When he hung up, rent collected, he took a deep breath. "I've been dreading that call," he said. "Once a week you gotta try something you never would do if you had the choice. Otherwise, why are you here?" So he gave me that. And this . . .

53. Sometimes, kick some ass.

54. Break up a fight. Work in pairs if possible. Don't get between people initially. Use the back of the collar, pull and urge the person downward. If you can't get him down, work for distance.

55. Point to the north at any time. If you have a watch, you can point the hour hand at the sun. Then find the point directly between the hour hand and the 12. That's south. The opposite direction is, of course, north.

56. Create a play-list in which ten seemingly random songs provide a secret message to one person.

57. Explain what a light-year is. It's the measure of the distance that light travels over 365.25 days.

58. Avoid boredom. You have enough to eat. You can move. This must be acknowledged as a kind of freedom. You don't always have to buy things, put things in your mouth, or be delighted.

59. Write a thank-you note. Make a habit of it. Follow a simple formula like this one: First line is a thesis statement. The second line is evidentiary. The third is a kind of assertion. Close on an uptick.

Thanks for having me over to watch game six. Even though they won, it's clear the Red Sox are a soulless, overmarketed contrivance of Fox TV. Still, I'm awfully happy you have that huge high-def television. Next time, I really will bring beer. Yours,

60. Be brand loyal to at least one product. It tells a lot about who you are and where you came from. Me? I like Hellman's mayonnaise and Genesee beer, which makes me the fleshy, stubbornly upstate ne'er-do-well that I will always be.

61. Cook bacon. Lay out the bacon on a rack on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

62. Hold a baby. Newborns should be wrapped tightly and held against the chest. They like tight spaces (consider their previous circumstances) and rhythmic movements, so hold them snug, tuck them in the crook of your elbow or against the skin of your neck. Rock your hips like you're bored, barely listening to the music at the edge of a wedding reception. No one has to notice except the baby. Don't breathe all over them.

63. Deliver a eulogy. Take the job seriously. It matters. Speak first to the family, then to the outside world. Write it down. Avoid similes. Don't read poetry. Be funny.

64. Know that Christopher Columbus was a son of a bitch. When I was a kid, because I'm Italian and because the Irish guys in my neighborhood were relentless with the beatings on St. Patrick's Day, I loved the very idea of Christopher Columbus. I loved the fact that Irish kids worshipped some gnome who drove all the rats out of Ireland or whatever, whereas my hero was an explorer. Man, I drank the Kool-Aid on that guy. Of course, I later learned that he was a hand-chopping, land-stealing egotist who sold out an entire hemisphere to European avarice. So I left Columbus behind. Your understanding of your heroes must evolve. See Roger Clemens. See Bill Belichick.

65-67. Throw a baseball over-hand with some snap. Throw a football with a tight spiral. Shoot a 12-foot jump shot reliably. If you can't, play more ball.

68. Find his way out of the woods if lost. Note your landmarks — mountains, power lines, the sound of a highway. Look for the sun: It sits in the south; it moves west. Gauge your direction every few minutes. If you're completely stuck, look for a small creek and follow it downstream. Water flows toward larger bodies of water, where people live.

69. Tie a knot. Square knot: left rope over right rope, turn under. Then right rope over left rope. Tuck under. Pull. Or as my pack leader, Dave Kenyon, told me in a Boy Scouts meeting: "Left over right, right over left. What's so f***ing hard about that?"

70. Shake hands. Steady, firm, pump, let go. Use the time to make eye contact, since that's where the social contract begins.

71. Iron a shirt. My uncle Tony the tailor once told me of ironing: Start rough, end gently.

72. Stock an emergency bag for the car. Blanket. Heavy flashlight. Hand warmers. Six bottles of water. Six packs of beef jerky. Atlas. Reflectors. Gloves. Socks. Bandages. Neosporin. Inhaler. Benadryl. Motrin. Hard candy. Telescoping magnet. Screwdriver. Channel-locks. Crescent wrench. Ski hat. Bandanna.

73. Caress a woman's neck. Back of your fingers, in a slow fan.

74. Know some birds. If you can't pay attention to a bird, then you can't learn from detail, you aren't likely to appreciate the beauty of evolution, and you don't have a clue how birdlike your own habits may be. You've been looking at them blindly for years now. Get a guide.

75. Negotiate a better price. Be informed. Know the price of competitors. In a big store, look for a manager. Don't be an a-hole. Use one phrase as your mantra, like "I need a little help with this one." Repeat it, as an invitation to him. Don't beg. Ever. Offer something: your loyalty, your next purchase, even your friendship, and, with the deal done, your gratitude.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Nature vs. Nature
Last week or so I've been sick. Not coughy, sneezy sick, but sick just the same. I can feel it in all the important places. The barometer is down, nearly bottomed out. My energy is affected, and my mood, and the way I'm able (or unable) to interact with others, especially my children, has become a problem. I don't think it has anything to do with the root canal of six days ago, or the apparently terrible infection that lived in there for God knows how long before it became painful, but it could be a factor. I have more than enough painkillers and antibiotics, however, to eliminate that as a real cause of the short-term, daily issues, so for now I'm taking it out of the equation.

Speaking of root canal, last week was real eye-opening in a particular way. In my brain the last few months has lingered thoughts from a TAL episode called Testosterone, which put into serious jeopardy the idea that I am who I am for inalienable reasons. I learned that this one little chemical, C19H28O2, is an huge player in the everyday game of how I live my life. I asked, as did one man featured in a segment in the episode, how I can really define who I am when so much of the answer depends on the tiny amount of testosterone that is secreted into my blood on a daily basis.

Testosterone is known to control such human impulses as ambition, mental and physical energy, memory, spatial ability, aggression, and (you were waiting for it) libido. So in some respects, a person becomes a different person without it, or with larger or smaller doses of it than one has been accustomed to being. Personalities develop, and the ever-human quest of discovering oneself takes place, in an arena governed in part by our body's chemicals, and big T is a major player in that arena.

A similar epiphany came last week, as a result of the pain I felt pre-root canal, and the sudden relief under the glorious needle of my endodontist. Obviously, a person in pain is much different to interact with than a person who is not. Obviously. Why do we say that? Because we fully understand this, and the reason for it. A pain stimulus is easy to detect: you know when you're in pain (and where, and how much, and sometimes even why). The effect of the stimulus is clear on a person's mood, and therefore his ability to socialize, reason, and react.

So in some respects, a person becomes a different person when they're in pain. Right? Logic shows that, even though this is a much better understood line of reasoning, the effect of pain is much like the effect of testosterone on a person. Right?

So here's my question: who the hell am I? Am I just a biological being, governed by compounds and stimuli and environment? Or am I something more? I believe the answer to be the latter, but in a pure sense. I believe that who I am, the real me, is defined SOLELY by the Divine thing that was installed into this body roughly 36 years ago. However, my access to that thing has mostly eluded me. I haven't yet figured out how to interface with that larger, largest, part of my being that operates this big bulky thing I carry around with me. Is what I believe true, if I cannot even explore this, and therefore not even say who I am in the Divine context? Is the me I show to the world, the person I strive to understand and earn a place among others with, really something more, despite the daily lottery of things that can go wrong inside?

It is at times like this that I must remember what one energy healer once told me: your body is not who you are, it's just a vehicle. And like any vehicle, no matter how noble the trip or how important the driver, sometimes things go wrong. I suppose, in a case like mine, in a week like this, I have to maybe start paying attention to the oil pressure and or something. Otherwise, I'm headed for a wreck only a minor overhaul will fix.

*Disclaimer: I'm neither a biologist nor a psychologist, and I have only a layman's education in theology, and this will not be the last post written in such a confused, inordinate manner. Suck it up, people.

Friday, July 11, 2008

True Tangents

1. So, I've joined Facebook (groan), much to the glee of my wife and friends. Despite my original disdain for such trendy web foofaraw, I am really quite glad I did now, what with all the people I've been able to connect with, and surprisingly, that have opted to connect with me. One feature of Facebook is the groups you can join, and I've found one called "I judge you when you use bad grammar." Browsing the group's photos, I found this lovely thing.

2. I've noticed in my email this past week that there have been a disproportionate amount of excellent words of the day. I mean it: aside from 'meticulous' and 'troglodyte,' the words of the past several days have really been keepers. Check out this list:

condign \kuhn-DINE; KON-dine\, adjective: Suitable to the fault or crime; deserved; adequate.

dapple \DAP-uhl\, noun: 1. A small contrasting spot or blotch. 2. A mottled appearance, especially of the coat of an animal (as a horse). 3. To mark with patches of a color or shade; to spot. 4. To become dappled. 5. Marked with contrasting patches or spots; dappled.

palaver \puh-LAV-uhr; puh-LAH-vur\, noun: 1. Idle talk 2. Talk intended to beguile or deceive. 3. A parley usually between persons of different backgrounds or cultures or levels of sophistication; a talk; hence, a public conference and deliberation. 4. To talk idly. 5. To flatter; to cajole.

emolument \ih-MOL-yuh-muhnt\, noun: The wages or perquisites arising from office, employment, or labor; gain; compensation. (Try throwing that one at your boss at review time!)

contemn \kuhn-TEM\, transitive verb: To regard or treat with disdain or contempt; to scorn; to despise. (I wonder if contemntuous is a proper form; I'll throw it out there and see if people correct me.)

3. Summer is here: the air is hot and so are the beaches. Thank you, Mr. Reard!

4. A company called Valcent Products, Inc. has developed an experimental method of raising algaes that will produce, when harvested, specific grades of oil at amounts 10,000 times greater per acre than corn. Have a look at this video. The last statement will blow you out of the water.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Flag Etiquette

As a service to my readers (particularly some who might live in my neighborhood, ahem), and a continuation of my America theme of the week, I present the following content, used with implied permission from the Independence Hall Association. The full page is here.

* * * * *

How to Fold the Flag

Folding the flag

Fold the flag in half width-wise twice. If done by two, then the blue field should be facing the bottom on the first fold. Fold up a triangle, starting at the striped end ... and repeat ... until only the end of the union is exposed. Then fold down the square into a triangle and tuck inside the folds.
Step-by-step instructions for cadets, boy scouts, etc.
• This animation frame by frame

How to Display the Flag

flag hanging over street1. When the flag is displayed over the middle of the street, it should be suspended vertically with the union to the north in an east and west street or to the east in a north and south street.

crossed staffs2. The flag of the United States of America, when it is displayed with another flag against a wall from crossed staffs, should be on the right, the flag's own right [that means the viewer's left --Webmaster], and its staff should be in front of the staff of the other flag.

flag at half mast3. 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. By "half-staff" is meant lowering the flag to one-half the distance between the top and bottom of the staff. Crepe streamers may be affixed to spear heads or flagstaffs in a parade only by order of the President of the United States.

sharing staff with other flags4. When flags of States, cities, or localities, or pennants of societies are flown on the same halyard with the flag of the United States, the latter should always be at the peak. When the flags are flown from adjacent staffs, the flag of the United States should be hoisted first and lowered last. No such flag or pennant may be placed above the flag of the United States or to the right of the flag of the United States (the viewer's left). When the flag is half-masted, both flags are half-masted, with the US flag at the mid-point and the other flag below.

flag suspended over sidewalk 5. When the flag is suspended over a sidewalk from a rope extending from a house to a pole at the edge of the sidewalk, the flag should be hoisted out, union first, from the building.

flag on staff6. When the flag of the United States is displayed from a staff projecting horizontally or at an angle from the window sill, balcony, or front of a building, the union of the flag should be placed at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half-staff.

flag draping casket7. When the flag is used to cover a casket, it should be so placed that the union is at the head and over the left shoulder. The flag should not be lowered into the grave or allowed to touch the ground.

flag other than being flown from staff8. When the flag is displayed in a manner other than by being flown from a staff, it should be displayed flat, whether indoors or out. When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the flag's own right, that is, to the observer's left. When displayed in a window it should be displayed in the same way, that is with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street. When festoons, rosettes or drapings are desired, bunting of blue, white and red should be used, but never the flag.

flag carried in a procession9. That the flag, when carried in a procession with another flag, or flags, should be either on the marching right; that is, the flag's own right, or, if there is a line of other flags, in front of the center of that line.

flags in a group of flags10. The flag of the United States of America should be at the center and at the highest point of the group when a number of flags of States or localities or pennants of societies are grouped and displayed from staffs.

US flag with foreign flags11. When flags of two or more nations are displayed, they are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height. The flags should be of approximately equal size. International usage forbids the display of the flag of one nation above that of another nation in time of peace. The order of precedence for flags generally is National flags (US first, then others in alphabetical order in English), State (host state first, then others in the order of admission) and territories (Washington DC, Puerto Rico, etc.), Military (in order of establishment: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard), then other.

flag in church or auditorium12. When displayed from a staff in a church or public auditorium on or off a podium, the flag of the United States of America should hold the position of superior prominence, in advance of the audience, and in the position of honor at the clergyman's or speaker's right as he faces the audience. Any other flag so displayed should be placed on the left of the clergyman or speaker (to the right of the audience). Please note that the old guidelines differed from this updated and simplified one.

flag on car13. When the flag is displayed on a car, the staff shall be fixed firmly to the chassis or clamped to the right fender.

flag hanging from window14. When hung in a window, place the blue union in the upper left, as viewed from the street.

Commentary on America

As a follow up to my 4th of July post, I'd also like to share a little tidbit I ran across that might fit into the 'my favorite spam' category. As detailed by, the businessman/ author/ commentator Craig R. Smith wrote an article on Thanksgiving 2006 in response to some of the more common whining found in America. Not that I've ever complained about something people in other countries might kill for (or be killed for), but I digress.

The original piece is found here, but for the sake of simplicity, and also the fact that it's reproduced in countless other places on the web, I'm putting the entire article below. (Reproduced without permission. Mr. Craig, please contact me and I'll remove it if you ask.)

On a side note, however, I'd like to point out to Mr. Craig, as well as anyone who takes this whole article at face value, that legitimate woe still exists in America, all her benefits aside, and that much of it is related to poverty and lack of means. Grocery stores full of abundance are amazing on the world level, but when you only have enough food stamps for twenty days worth of food, and you don't get another allotment until next month, something is wrong with the system. (We can argue about the opportunities available in America later.) That said, read on.

* * * * *

Made in the USA: Spoiled brats
Posted: November 20, 2006
1:00 am Eastern

By Craig R. Smith
© 2008

The other day I was reading Newsweek magazine and came across some poll data I found rather hard to believe. It must be true given the source, right? The same magazine that employs Michael (Qurans in the toilets at Gitmo) Isikoff. Here I promised myself this week I would be nice and I start off in this way. Oh what a mean man I am.

The Newsweek poll alleges that 67 percent of Americans are unhappy with the direction the country is headed and 69 percent of the country is unhappy with the performance of the president. In essence 2/3's of the citizenry just ain't happy and want a change.

So being the knuckle dragger I am, I starting thinking, "What we are so unhappy about?"

Is it that we have electricity and running water 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? Is our unhappiness the result of having air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter? Could it be that 95.4 percent of these unhappy folks have a job? Maybe it is the ability to walk into a grocery store at any time and see more food in moments than Darfur has seen in the last year?

Maybe it is the ability to drive from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean without having to present identification papers as we move through each state? Or possibly the hundreds of clean and safe motels we would find along the way that can provide temporary shelter? I guess having thousands of restaurants with varying cuisine from around the world is just not good enough. Or could it be that when we wreck our car, emergency workers show up and provide services to help all involved. Whether you are rich or poor they treat your wounds and even, if necessary, send a helicopter to take you to the hospital.

Perhaps you are one of the 70 percent of Americans who own a home, you may be upset with knowing that in the unfortunate case of having a fire, a group of trained firefighters will appear in moments and use top notch equipment to extinguish the flames thus saving you, your family and your belongings. Or if, while at home watching one of your many flat screen TVs, a burglar or prowler intrudes; an officer equipped with a gun and a bullet-proof vest will come to defend you and your family against attack or loss. This all in the backdrop of a neighborhood free of bombs or militias raping and pillaging the residents. Neighborhoods where 90 percent of teenagers own cell phones and computers.

How about the complete religious, social and political freedoms we enjoy that are the envy of everyone in the world? Maybe that is what has 67 percent of you folks unhappy.

Fact is, we are the largest group of ungrateful, spoiled brats the world has ever seen. No wonder the world loves the U.S. yet has a great disdain for its citizens. They see us for what we are. The most blessed people in the world who do nothing but complain about what we don't have and what we hate about the country instead of thanking the good Lord we live here.

I know, I know. What about the president who took us into war and has no plan to get us out? The president who has a measly 31 percent approval rating? Is this the same president who guided the nation in the dark days after 9/11? The president that cut taxes to bring an economy out of recession? Could this be the same guy who has been called every name in the book for succeeding in keeping all the spoiled brats safe from terrorist attacks? The commander in chief of an all-volunteer army that is out there defending you and me?

Make no mistake about it. The troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have volunteered to serve, and in many cases have died for your freedom. There is currently no draft in this country. They didn't have to go. They are able to refuse to go and end up with either a "general" discharge, an "other than honorable" discharge or, worst case scenario, a "dishonorable" discharge after a few days in the brig.

So why then the flat out discontentment in the minds of 69 percent of Americans? Say what you want but I blame it on the media. If it bleeds it leads and they specialize in bad news. Everybody will watch a car crash with blood and guts. How many will watch kids selling lemonade at the corner? The media knows this and media outlets are for-profit corporations. They offer what sells. Just ask why they are going to allow a murderer like O.J. Simpson to write a book and do a TV special about how he didn't kill his wife but if he did … insane!

Stop buying the negative venom you are fed everyday by the media. Shut off the TV, burn Newsweek, and use the New York Times for the bottom of your bird cage. Then start being grateful for all we have as a country. There is exponentially more good than bad.

I close with one of my favorite quotes from B.C. Forbes in 1953:

    "What have Americans to be thankful for? More than any other people on the earth, we enjoy complete religious freedom, political freedom, social freedom. Our liberties are sacredly safeguarded by the Constitution of the United States, 'the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man.' Yes, we Americans of today have been bequeathed a noble heritage. Let us pray that we may hand it down unsullied to our children and theirs."

I suggest this Thanksgiving we sit back and count our blessings for all we have. If we don't, what we have will be taken away. Then we will have to explain to future generations why we squandered such blessing and abundance. If we are not careful this generation will be known as the "greediest and most ungrateful generation." A far cry from the proud Americans of the "greatest generation" who left us an untarnished legacy.

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Big '232'

Happy birthday, America.

Alright, snicker away. It was cheesy when I saw it on the bowling alley sign, and it's cheesy now. I've been teased for much cheesier things. Ang guess what? I don't really care.

Being an American is something I'm quietly but solidly proud of. I realize I take a lot for granted as an American. I didn't choose this citizenship, I was born here. I've never lived outside the country; I don't even have a passport (and being a resident of Michigan, having been to Canada doesn't count as leaving the US). I don't have a degree in political science; I barely even watch CNN. I'm very willing to admit that I'm pretty ignorant of the advantages being an American has afforded me. And 'cause I'm a nice guy, just this once, I'll open up the comments for y'all to tell me just how lucky I am, because, well...I believe you. Just call me Forrest Gump.

I am proud of the ideals on which this country was built, and continues (most of the time) to be run. I'm proud of our rugged heritage, our multiculturalism, and our historical take-no-crap attitude. I'm proud that the United States has helped keep the world free from tyranny, in whatever person or form it may manifest itself. I'm proud that I can go anywhere in this country and enjoy the same freedoms, and I'm proud that I can choose another state to live in if I don't like Michigan's laws on guns, gambling, smoking, taxes, capital punishment, or even divorce. I'm proud that I can express my dissatisfaction when and how I want to. I'm proud that through our government system, I have an equal voice in deciding what laws are passed or struck down, and in who will represent me and my personal beliefs all the way to the three main branches of government. And I'm proud that I have that voice regardless of who my parents are, how much property I own, where I was raised, what my gender and race are, what language I speak, who I consort with, how much education I have, and whether I've served in the military.

We can take turns bashing America over lots of different things, and lots of people do every day. America has lots of faults, past and present. The place isn't perfect, our laws aren't perfect, and our presidents aren't perfect (some are more imperfect than others). But today let's focus not on what we don't have, but celebrate what we do, and be thankful for it.