Archive for April, 2010

Aussies, Kiwis and Armenians in the “cruel month” of April

Sunday, April 25th, 2010
Flag of Australia

Flag of Australia

ANZAC Day is not widely commemorated here in the US. Pity, that. In Australia and New Zealand it’s one of the most widely celebrated days of the year. It’s a rare thing indeed that two sovereign nations share the same rememberance day; perhaps rarer is the fact that the name of both countries are represented in the acronym:  ANZAC stands for “Australian and New Zealand Army Corps”.

Flag of New Zealand

Flag of New Zealand

There’s a fine article regarding ANZAC Day on Wikipedia of course so I won’t try to re-hash all that here for you, but encourage you to read that for yourselves, Dear Readers. Find out about the Dawn Service and other interesting facts surrounding this event.

Here, I’d simply like to point out just a couple of things.

Anzac Cove

A view of Anzac Cove, Çanakkale, Gallipoli, Turkey

In Gallipoli, Turkey, where ANZAC personnel were deployed, stands a monument. Again, Wikipedia treats this in much more detail, but I was struck by the words inscribed on that monument and at a similar monument in Canberra, Australia. It reads:

Those heroes that shed their blood And lost their lives. You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side Here in this country of ours. You, the mothers, Who sent their sons from far away countries Wipe away your tears, Your sons are now lying in our bosom And are in peace After having lost their lives on this land they have Become our sons as well.

Pretty touching, eh? That really gets me.

So here’s what’s puzzling: you may know that smALL FLAGs now ships to over 40 foreign countries. Mostly all that shipping is sent via the United States Postal Service® (USPS). USPS logoWhen we use their website to print the postage labels, it lists restrictions or prohibitions for the specific country to which we are shipping. For Australia it lists:

Coins; bank notes; currency notes (paper money); securities of any kind payable to bearer; traveler’s checks; platinum, gold, and silver (manufactured or not); precious stones; jewelry; and other valuable articles are prohibited.
Fruit cartons (used or new).
Goods bearing the name “Anzac.”

It’s that last one of course that I just don’t understand. Shipments to New Zealand have no such prohibition.

Flag of Armenia

Flag of Armenia

And here’s an interesting tie-in: today was ANZAC Day, but yesterday, April 24th, was the 95th commemoration of the Armenian genocide. The total number of resulting Armenian deaths is generally held to have been between one and one and a half million.

I phoned my Armenian buddy, Artur, yesterday to express my condolences. He touchingly told me that during those hard times he lost half of all his relatives.


Armenian civilians are marched to a nearby prison in Mezireh by armed Turkish soldiers. Kharpert, Ottoman Empire, April 1915.

When will we ever learn to get along?

The Observer’s Book of Flags

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

A moth-eaten rag on a worm-eaten pole –

It does not seem likely to stir a man’s soul.

‘Tis the deeds that were done ‘neath that moth-eaten rag

When the pole was a staff and the rag was a flag.

This quote from Sir Edward Hamley’s the Old Colours of the Forty-third begins the introduction of “The Observer’s Book of Flags”.  Published by Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd, London, England, 1959, this gem is chocked full of curiosities.

What vexillologist could resist (that almost rhymes) such a quaint oddity? As could be expected, as it was published over half a century ago, some of the information is dated. For example, regarding the US (they dedicated pp 72-99 out of 204 pages to the US), the author, one “I. O. Evans, F.R.G.S.” (Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society – I Googled it), quotes the “Pledge to the Flags” without the words “under God”.

The Observer's Book of FlagsAlso regarding the flag of the United States, it reads, “… at the time of going to press it has been announced that the arrangement [of the stars] will be altered to seven rows of seven, following the admission of Alaska as the forty-ninth state.” Gee, if they’d only waited another year for Hawaii, …

Of course there are lots of outdated flags, but the symbolism of even those old flags remains inspiring. and of course the rules of “Heraldry – or, more properly, Armory” (hmm, wonder why they don’t spell it “Armoury” – those Brits!), anyway, the rules of Heraldry haven’t changed. These paragraphs particularly tickled me:

The hues employed in an heraldic device are called tinctures. They include two heraldic metals, or and argent (gold and silver); several furs or conventional mottled patterns of which one, white with black mottlings, is called ermine ; and colours British heraldry recognises five colours only: gules (red, perhaps from the Arabic word for ” rose “), azure (from the Arabic name of an ornamental stone), vert (green, from the French), sable (black), and purpure (purple); Continental heraldry also recognises tenné (orange or ” tawny “). An emblem depicted in its natural colours is said to be proper.

It is a strict rule of heraldry that colours and metals must alternate: colour must not touch colour; nor metal, metal. If necessary they must be separated by a fimbriation (from the Latin fimbria, a fringe) a narrow border of metal or colour, as in the British Union Flag.

Whew! That’s a lot of italics! We’ll make no guarantees about some of that etymology or the punctuation (shown above as written – honest!), but the information does seem solid for an introduction to the subject. (I did have to slap the old spell checker around a bit blogging this: but what the heck.) And, speaking of fimbriation, didn’t we cover that in our Newsletter Volume 8 Number 2? Of course we did.

And just how ever did we get a copy of this little [5 3/4 x 3 3/4″ (14.5×9.5cm)] book, Dear Reader? Our good friends Bob (not the Robert mentioned in our post of April 2nd) and his wife Pat found it and thought we’d enjoy it. Of course! We’re flag lovers! Thanks, Bob and Pat!

Flutterings flutterings?

Sunday, April 11th, 2010
Waving US flag

"Fluttering" vis-à-vis "waving".

Why do flags flutter? Believe it or not, we wondered about this.

Come to find out, some engineering-type geeks got to puzzling this same issue a couple of years ago. Seems it comes down to something to do with “velocity differentials” or something like that. Amazing amount of chatter from these fellows about something that seems so simple. Guess it’s not. I always thought flags waved just to say, “Hi!”

The cool image above is courtesy of 3D Flags. They asked us to say that.

The geeks’ flutter chatter can be found at Eng-Tips forum. I’m not sure if they care if we credit them: it just seems like a nice thing to do.

Olden Flags

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010
Mini Patch of the saltire, the St Andrew's flag of Scotland

Mini Patch of the Saltire, the St Andrew's flag of Scotland.

Mini Patch of the Dannebrog (the flag of Denmark)

Mini Patch of the Dannebrog (the flag of Denmark)

So we’ve been busy adding new designs of our popular Mini Patches; putting up images of some that we hadn’t scanned yet; updating others, as we’ve greatly improved the quality of some. Of the five new images we put up today, (also, Italy, Mexico and the Netherlands), these two have some things in common that gave me pause to consider.

The Saltire, Scotland’s national flag – not to be confused with the Lion Rampant, but more about that some other day – is considered one of the oldest flags in the world. Long story about why it’s called the Cross of St Andrew. Another long story about a vision of this cross in the sky (not Skye) and how it turned the tide for a battle against whom, Dear Reader? Why the Vikings of course. Which is a nice segue to our next patch, that of the Dannebrog – the national flag of Denmark. That’s of course where a lot of those pesky (depending on your persuasion) Vikings originated.

Of course those lusty fellows weren’t flying this flag – more about their Raven flag some other day – but that’s the one that most Danes fly today – most of the time. Not much talk today about the story behind the cross on this one, like other Scandinavian (and one some consider almost Scandinavian) flags; or of the rather different shaped flags those northern folk sometimes fly. The point we’re trying hard to get to today is that Denmark is probably the oldest continuing reigning monarchy in the world, going all the way back to good old king Canute or Knut or Cnut Sweynsson.

Think Canute ever crossed paths with the Saltire? Probably not, but it’s fun to speculate. Ah, vexillology! Ya gotta love it. Well, we do.

One more thing …

Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

Perhaps the previous post was a little too early: you know things seem to always come in threes.Musical notations So after yesterday’s two coincidences, this one was bound to have occurred soon enough.

My oldest son, David, dropped by today to take the old man for an “outing”. But first he first had to look at our new blogsite. He read aloud the title of our first blog, back on March 30th, but missed the point. “That’s to be sung to the tune of Hello, Young Lovers,” I explained. Ha Ha.

A bit later, as we hopped in his car, he turned on the radio. And what song do you think was playing? Of course.

Now. Maybe that’ll be the end of this foolishness. For a while.


Friday, April 2nd, 2010
Broken measuring cup

Broken measuring cup

It’s very unusual for me to drop and break something, so it surprised me when around noon today, just before a typically late breakfast, I knocked over a Pyrex measuring cup and watched it smash on the kitchen floor. Laughing (what else), I cleaned it up and had just finished eating when the phone rang. It was Robert, a friend of mine who lives only two miles from here. He was phoning from the emergency room at the local hospital, needing a ride home. While his wife was out with their car, apparently he had dropped a ceramic breakfast bowl – around noontime – and it had smashed, sending one shard seriously cutting his wrist. He had taken an ambulance to the hospital: turns out he needed a couple of stitches to put his wrist back together. Then he called me.

Now how strange is that? Maybe not so much. Maybe a little strange. Robert said he seldom broke things as well. So we both broke something sharp by dropping it – on the same day – at about the same time.

It felt like a little trip through the Twilight Zone, but things happen. It’s been jokingly said that that’s why God invented Time – to prevent everything from happening at once.

So I shook it off.

Creative sculpture-doodles

Creative sculpture-doodles

But then after dinner the wife and I were sitting around, enjoying a little conversation. We hadn’t cleared the table yet and there were a few condiments on the table. I found myself diddling around with a knife and a clothes pin I’d found on the table. For no particular reason – doodling requires no logic – I found that I could clip the clothes pin to the knife blade so they both could stand up. Not that unusual – except when I got up to leave the table and noticed what my wife had done at her place. She’d been diddling around with a pen and a hair clip she’d just taken out of her hair. Of course I figured that she had copied my sculpture-doodle, but in fact she hadn’t seen mine. The condiment bottles had blocked her view of my hands as they had blocked my view of hers. We both had simply created something similar out of somewhat similarly shaped objects.

Now how strange is that? Maybe not so much. Maybe a little strange. Maybe a little stranger in that it happened on the same day that Robert and I had mirrored events.

What does all this have to do with smALL FLAGs? Maybe nothing. Some blogging coach had recently written that bloggers shouldn’t write like robots – should express their human side and all that. Well, I’ll bet that very few robots have coincidental experiences like these with other robots! So there.