A Great Way to Celebrate Earth Day

What can we do? Quite a bit, actually.

Greetings, fellow earthlings! It’s time for our annual reminder that the Earth is our home and we need to take care of it. The fact that we had to designate this one day out of a whole year to do so says quite a bit about our lack of caring for this big blue marble of ours. If we don’t start prioritizing Earth on a daily basis, the day when it stops sustaining us altogether will rapidly approach. And before that, things will get rather horrific, because global climate change may be caused by us, but it impacts every single thing, and as we all compete for the ever-dwindling resources, such as drinking water, things are going to get ugly. The birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees never asked for any of this. Humans suck.

Are you sick of being lectured about this when you feel utterly helpless to turn things around? I’m right there with you. I’ve long since given up on the idea that the politicians that we have elected actually have any intentions of acting upon our collective desires. And it seems that the moment you become part of the one percent you check your integrity, your decency, your humanity, and your conscience at the door. I can’t imagine myself or any of my friends willfully and aggressively doing things to destroy the planet, all in the name of personal short-term gain, but those obscenely rich f*****s seem to live for it.

This rant will do absolutely no good whatsoever, unless it educates a person or two. I’m not holding my breath. It’s better to enjoy air while we still have it. (There may come a day when we wax nostalgic about breathing relatively clean air. What a concept.)

I know that many of us get irritated when people don’t recycle, but according to this article, 91% of all the plastics on earth do not get recycled, even if we do place them in recycle bins and berate those who don’t. That’s disheartening.

But it’s time to set aside our personal guilt and start focusing on forcing corporations to straighten up, because, according to this article, 100 companies are responsible for 71% of all global emissions. The bulk of them are in the fossil fuel industry. No big surprise there. If we could get them under control, much of our environmental problems would be solved. The 7.9 billion people on earth should be able to crush 100 companies. It’s just that we’re too busy infighting to get focused. We should be able to fix that, with a little education, no?

If we could just pick one problem at a time, and bend our collective will toward it, we could move mountains. It’s just hard to figure out where to begin. The more we discover about our planetary abuses, the more discouraged we become.

Here’s one problem I’d love to focus on. I just read an article that taught me quite a bit that I never could have otherwise imagined. Chile’s Atacama Desert: Where Fast Fashion Goes to Die is a story that’s so tightly packed with scary information that I’ll give you just some of the most salient points here:

Each year, 59,000 tons of clothes that can’t be sold in the US, Europe, and Asia wind up in Chile, supposedly for resale throughout Latin America. 39,000 of those tons actually wind up abandoned in huge piles in the Atacama Desert. These clothing dunes could take hundreds of years to biodegrade. Most landfills won’t accept them, because they contain chemical products.

I hopped over to google maps to see if these mounds could be seen from outer space. Not quite. But I did zoom in on this one dump, which is more than a mile long, and it looks like a scar on the desert. Its remote location means that most of us don’t have to think about it.

For some more horrific imagery of these clothing dunes, check out this YouTube video.

To create this fast fashion that goes out of style almost instantly, a huge amount of water is wasted. It takes 7,500 liters of water to make one pair of jeans. That’s the amount one person drinks in 7 years. The fashion industry is believed to be the second most polluting industry in the world, second only to the fossil fuel industry. A half million tons of microfibers from fast fashion wind up in our oceans each year, via our washing machines. The fashion industry accounts for 10% of the carbon emissions on our planet, which is more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. This industry is also notorious for dumping chemicals into waterways.

What can we do?

Quite a bit, actually. We have been conditioned into this habit of consumerism by the  fashion industry. There is absolutely no reason why clothing styles need to change every season, other than the fact that this industry wants your money. They have taught us that we need to be on trend. It’s the only way to be accepted. Because of this, annual clothing production has doubled between 2004 and 2019. I am willing to bet it has taken off even more during this pandemic. I know I’ve bought a lot of crap clothing online that I wouldn’t have normally, simply out of sheer boredom.

Back in 2012, when I was in my late 40’s, I went back to college. Many of the students in class were in their late teens. One girl would come in wearing a different outfit every single day. When I asked her how many shirts she had, she said around 400. This nauseated me. What a waste. So much stuff that in 10 years she won’t fit into or even want. All of that used to be water and money. She and the planet could be so much further ahead in life than they are. It broke my heart.

It’s official. I’m going to get back into the habit of buying used clothing at thrift stores rather than going retail. I’m not going to buy trendy clothes (not that I’ve ever been a fashion plate). And I’ll only buy things when I have worn out the things I already own. I’ll buy basic things that remain in style, take care of them, mend them as needed, and wear them for decades. I will avoid synthetic material so I don’t have to contribute to the microfiber problem. It’s the very least I can do.

And if you can, support the work of EcoFibra Chile. This company makes insulation panels out of the clothing dunes. These panels create jobs, clean up landfills, and can reduce the need for electricity for heat and cooling by as much as 35 percent.

Now, if we could only figure out a way to make building blocks out of these clothes, it would help with the worldwide sand shortage which makes it harder and harder to find concrete (which is a story for another day). It would also help with the affordable housing crisis. And I bet the blocks would be colorful. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

I’m glad there are people out there who are willing to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. It can be done. Let’s see more of this.

Happy Earth Day.

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Is Environmental Regulation Good?

A statistical paradox both fascinating and heartbreaking.

How you answer that question most likely has a lot to do with whether you live in a red state or a blue state in America. Conservatives, in general, feel that governmental regulations are bad, and that industries should be allowed to self-regulate. They feel that federal regulations impede industry’s ability to be profitable, and therefore they have a negative impact on jobs and the economy.

This is one of the many ways that conservatives and I part company. I have never seen industries act in the best interest of the common man, so I feel they need to be watched over very closely. But everyone is entitled to their opinion, and subsequently their vote. That’s how democracy works.

I only hope that when people vote, they cast educated votes. I certainly try to. In an attempt to educate myself about the vast gulf in my opinions as compared to the average conservative, I decided to read a fascinating book entitled Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild. I highly recommend that you read this well thought out book, regardless of your location on the political spectrum. The author is a sociologist who spends a year in conservative Louisiana to get to know the people, and learn how they have drawn the conclusions that they have on a variety of subjects, including the environment.

Louisiana has been ground zero for an unbelievable number of environmental disasters. (See also, my post entitled, “A Forgotten Catastrophe.”) According to page 79 of this book, “residents of red states suffer higher rates of industrial pollution than do residents of blue states. Voters in the twenty-two states that voted Republican in the five presidential elections between 1992 and 2008—and who generally call for less government regulation in business—lived in more polluted environments.”

But she also discovered that it isn’t just a state by state issue. She looked at data on the EPA website, which breaks down risk of exposure to pollution into counties, and she compared that to people’s answers on the General Social Survey, that linked what people believed about the environment and politics county by county.

What she found was very interesting. “If, in 2010, you lived in a county with a higher exposure to toxic pollution, we discovered, you are more likely to believe that Americans ‘worry too much’ about the environment and to believe that the United States is doing ‘more than enough’ about it. You are also more likely to describe yourself as a strong Republican.”

I find this paradox both fascinating and heartbreaking. Just because I disagree with you politically does not mean I want you to suffer. And, of course, I feel that your children should suffer even less. Unfortunately, your stance on the environment effects the planet as a whole, as well.

You don’t have to agree with me. But can you at least understand why I would find this contradiction in thinking confusing? Therein lies the crux of our extreme divide. By voting the way that they do on environmental issues, conservatives are hurting themselves and the rest of us. And that hurts to watch.

Like this Escher box below, I struggle to understand this logic.

Paradox

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Glue. Who Knew?

It’s a sticky subject that might surprise you.

The other day I walked into the garage, only to find dear husband smooshing a pair of boots in a clamp. What on earth? It turns out that he was re-gluing the soles. I’ve tried to do that once or twice myself, with no luck at all.

It turns out that I was using the wrong glue. The stuff he swears by is called Shoe Goo. The adhesives I tried in the past were not flexible enough after drying, which caused them to crack, and/or they didn’t properly adhere to the rubber. It seems as though there’s a glue for just about everything these days. The trick is finding the right one for the task at hand.

If you’re like me, you’ve never really given glue much thought. But that’s what I’m here for—to blog about stuff you don’t normally think about. So after several hours minutes of sticky research, here’s some interesting tidbits about glue.

First of all, glue is a 50 billion dollar industry. I never thought of it as an industry, period. So that’s cool. There are people out there whose entire careers revolve around the stuff. That must make for some tedious dinner party talk. “I’m in glue.”

But I shouldn’t joke about it. These people are proud of their products. Here’s a Youtube video from the Adhesive Sealant Council to prove it. And for a fun read over your corn flakes, check out the adhesives.org website. They even have a free lesson plan for elementary schools called The World of Glue. I kid you not.

It turns out, though, that on average, every single American uses 40 pounds of glue per year. Let that sink in for a moment. Unless you are a kindergarten teacher or a scrap booker, that 40 pounds of glue is probably passing through your life virtually unnoticed.

You come in close contact with glue every day. It’s in the bindings of books, the pipes that provide you with water, the shoes on your feet, and a scary amount of the car that you drive. It’s in the furniture you’re touching right now, the packaging of every product you open up, and the very crowns in your mouth.

And glue has been made from some interesting substances over the years. Tree sap. Animal blood. Bones, skin, and connective tissue. Beeswax. Egg whites. Fish. Plants. Milk. Scientists are even studying the sticky hairs on the feet of geckos to see what they can learn. But these days most glues are made out of synthetic materials.

It’s been around a long time, too. Neandertals mixed it with the paint that they used on the caves of Lascaux so their art would still be around for us to appreciate. Ancient Egyptians used it to make papyrus and wood furniture. The Romans used it for their mosaics. Archeologists have found that glue was used to adhere blades to spears and points to arrows.

Here’s something obvious that never crossed my mind: Tape is glue on a strip. Duct tape would be nothing without glue, and duct tape is the cure for all problems, as far as I’m concerned. And I can barely make it through a day without a post it note. So, yay for glue!

And did you know that Super Glue was invented by accident? Twice? By the same guy? Thank you, Dr. Harry Coover, for finally turning your irritating mistake into one extremely handy substance!

Glue can be a life saver, too. More and more, it’s used to bind wounds. It’s also been used on cracks in penguin eggs to allow the babies to grow sufficiently before hatching.

Years ago, a coworker showed me a really cool glue that you could put between two substances, and they could be as much as an inch apart, and as the glue dried it would slowly draw those things together until they had a close, tight seal. I wish I could remember what kind of glue that was, because it’s not only fun to watch, but it’s also pretty darned useful.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of this sticky subject. I hope it makes you see the world around you in a slightly different way, if only for a few moments. I also hope that you’ll stick with this blog (Sorry. Had to.) because I publish a new post every day.

Sources:

Encyclopedia.com

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Adhesives

Adhesives.org

Glue

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Why are Haters Targeting Tilapia?

I’ve been seeing this meme floating around social media quite a bit in the last few weeks. I could tell it was false within seconds. I can’t believe people can be so gullible.

Tilapia False Meme

First red flag: Boneless and Skinless? The picture itself shows the skin and scales. And have you ever filleted a tilapia? It has bones, trust me.

Then there’s the grammatical errors in the meme. That’s ALWAYS a reason to do some further digging. If the creator can’t even be bothered to properly articulate his or her message, then why do we not question the intelligence thereof?

And come on, don’t you wonder about the source of the information? They sure aren’t sharing it with us. So I went to Snopes.com, and sure enough, the meme is totally bogus. There’s also a lot of stuff going around about bacon being better for you than tilapia, or claiming tilapia causes Alzheimer’s disease or cancer . Also Bulls**t, as this article from Factcheck.org proves.

The reason this fake meme irritates me more than the average fake meme is that it is directing people to avoid healthier food. If you’re not a vegetarian, you should at least reduce the amount of red meat you consume, not just for yourself, but for the planet. Fish is a much healthier protein, and tilapia is one of the more affordable choices out there.

If a meme seems sketchy to you, check the facts. Also, ask yourself who benefits from such a claim, should it turn out to be false. (In this case, the meat industry and probably half the fast food restaurants you drive past, hopefully without stopping, on a daily basis.)

Here’s a great article that cites 6 reliable websites that will help you get to the truth of most matters. Please, please use them. There are enough lies being spread these days without our unwitting help.

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Having Your Heart Broken by a Career Choice

I was the morning of the third day of my dream job, and I was so excited. My life was changing for the better, It’s a rare gift when you can have a job that you love.

I fell in love with Dental Laboratory Technology as a student. I sold my house, left a 16 year relationship, and even commuted 3 ½ hours each way for a semester and a half until the house was sold and I could relocate, just so I could achieve the degree. I then moved down to a town where I knew no one to complete my studies, and I graduated with honors.

After three long years of study, applying for work at 198 other orthodontic labs, and having doors slammed in my face on a regular basis, I had finally got my big toe, at least, in the door of a lab. And I loved it. Every single second of it.

I’d been a nervous wreck at first because as I had explained to them, I hadn’t been in a lab in a year and a half, so I felt as wobbly as a newborn deer. But I showed them the work I’d done in school, So they knew what they were getting, but they also knew my potential.

My boyfriend, who has hired many an employee, gave me a pep talk before I started the job. He told me that I had the qualities that every employer wants but rarely sees. Enthusiasm. The desire to do well. The willingness to learn and work hard. He said you are lucky to find that in one out of every hundred employees, so I’d be an asset from the moment I walked in the door.

I had already learned so much in my first two days, and I was anxious to learn more. I’d spent long hours reviewing all my notes from school, at least getting back up to speed on my book knowledge, and as soon as I had decent tools to work with I planned to practice wire bending every waking moment, because I am enthralled by everything about orthodontic appliances. I love the variety. I love solving problems with the positions of teeth. I feel like a dental Sherlock Holmes.

I found myself humming as I got ready. I could see my future rolling out ahead of me, and it was so bright and shiny and full of happiness. I drove the 15 miles through rush hour, anticipating the day ahead, thinking of ways I could increase my productivity and efficiency and help them make money. It felt like being madly in love. I couldn’t wait to get there.

I walked in, smiled, said an enthusiastic good morning, and was about to jump into my newly established routine when I was greeted with, “Barb, we need to talk.” Suddenly I felt sick to my stomach. I stood there and let their words wash over me. “You’re just not good enough.” My ears started ringing.

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition. We are taught in America that if you work hard and apply yourself, your dreams will come true. But statistically speaking, sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel really is going to be an oncoming train. Statistics have no empathy or compassion. They just are. Lightning doesn’t care where it strikes. It just strikes. And here I was, apparently standing under a tall tree in an open field.

Could this really be happening? Was I being fired for the first time at age 48? Indeed I was. Tools. Must gather all my lab tools. There’s food in the fridge. Get that too. What are they saying? My ears are ringing. Humiliation. Must get out of here. Don’t say anything. There’s nothing to say. They’ve already made up their minds. Just leave. Leave with what little dignity you have left.

They’re handing me a check. Explaining it’s a dollar less per hour since they haven’t processed my paperwork and are paying me under the table. There’s something wrong with that. There’s something wrong with all of this. Just leave.

“Good luck,” they say.

Just not good enough. I wailed, I howled all the way home. My dream was dying right in front of me and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I don’t even remember the drive. I just remember my chest heaving and my boyfriend telling me over the phone to pull over and try to calm down, and me saying no, I want to go home. I just want to go home…

It brings back the horrible experience of driving 600 miles to Raleigh to interview for a job at another lab only to be told that he was afraid I’d just learn from him and leave and become his competition, and later discovering that that was the very thing he had done to his former employer 25 years previously. So, to get that job, I’d have had to appear incompetent and unambitious. If only I had been told in advance.

This, coupled with 198 other rejections…maybe I should get the message. This industry hates me.

An even crueler cut because I have made friends along the way who have successful labs and have shown me what my life could be, could have been, like. It’s like seeing a happy marriage but being deprived of one yourself. It’s painful.

I’m still in shock as I write this, but I’m no longer sad. I’m just monumentally pissed off. First of all, they told me that I was the only one who applied for the job with any experience at all. I cannot believe that my work sucked so badly that they’d prefer to hire someone who does not know what they’re doing. There’s more to this story. There has to be. Which means they lied. They lied, and I’ll never know the truth.

All I get is two days? Why? Why? Something about me slowing them down. I told them that I was rusty. Two days? That’s all I get? Two days? And half of those two days I spent making deliveries. I didn’t wreck their car. I didn’t set fire to the lab. I didn’t do anything other than try to cut my thumb off by accident. I bled for you people!

And then the pay thing. Not only is it illegal, but it sucks. They weren’t doing me any favors. They were saving themselves money. Profiting off my mortification. Much classier to say we promised you this amount per hour. We’re paying you under the table, but here’s the amount we promised. At least you’ll be getting a little more in exchange for the fact that we just shoved a wooden stake through your heart and made you question your abilities for the rest of your life.

And then today I woke up out of a sound sleep KNOWING what happened. I mentioned another job in town that I applied for. A lab that makes you do assembly line work, just one tiny task all day long, so you don’t get the experience to become competition, and on top of that they only pay 7 dollars per hour. I’m an idiot. I’m sure the next morning they waited in that lab’s parking lot, and hired someone for 9 dollars an hour, less than they were paying me, and with more lab experience. It’s the only thing that makes sense.

One mistake I make over and over again in life is assuming people will behave decently. I actually thought that once they hired me I’d be given a chance. So I’m not incompetent after all! I’m stupid! Yay me.

Quite the reflection on their integrity. They also showed an appalling lack of concern about Hepatitis B and Silicosis, two things that you have to watch out for in a lab, and two things they could easily prevent but choose not to. I’m probably better off.

Not only have they shown themselves to be unethical and short sighted, but they have taught me an excellent lesson on how I will not behave if I’m ever in the position to hire someone.

First of all, I’ll give someone more than 2 days to settle in, for the love of God. Second, before I even consider hiring someone, I’ll realize that their livelihood and their hopes and dreams and aspirations are riding upon the choices I make, so I’ll take it very seriously. And third, before firing someone I’ll make them aware of the red flags I’m seeing and give them the opportunity to rectify them. And finally, if I feel the need to fire someone, I won’t make them get up, drive all the way across town in rush hour traffic just so they can stand there and be mortified.

Another thing I’ve learned is that this is a cruel and unforgiving and impatient industry, and if by some miracle I manage to achieve my dream, I’m clearly not going to get help from anyone other than myself.

That spells a bleak future for an industry whose schools are disappearing right, left, and center and whose industry projections show 40 percent of their current people retiring in the next decade. If no one is given a chance for on-the-job training and if there are no people willing to hire out of the rapidly disappearing schools, then there will be a whole lot of teenagers out there with no retainers in the near future.

Would I recommend this field to anyone else? Good God, no. I’ve yet to see even an ounce of humanity in it. I just wish I had realized what a cruel mistress it was before I fell in love with it.

Wounded Heart w inscription

One of my fractals. Wounded Heart.

The Art of Job Hunting

After getting a degree in Dental Laboratory Technology and Management and applying to 198 Orthodontic Laboratories throughout the country, I give you this graphically symbolic depiction of my hunt for employment:

Rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, I’d love to hire you but I’m going out of business, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection,  rejection, you have an inadequate skill set, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, I’m not going to train you just so you’ll run off and become my competition, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, you are overqualified, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, I can’t be bothered to even respond to your application, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, I know I asked you to drive 500 miles for this interview but your enthusiasm makes me nervous, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, you graduated summa cum laude so you probably think you know everything, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, sure I’ll hire you if you pay for your own relocation and take $7.00 an hour, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, I was expecting someone younger, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, how do I know you really want a career in this industry, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, come back when you have more experience, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, I need someone who can hit the ground running, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, I’m such a rude jackass that you’ll be glad I don’t hire you, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, I don’t really think this is the job for you, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, You seem to lack confidence,rejection, rejection,  rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, sorry but I hired someone more qualified but I wish you luck, rejection, rejection.

facepalm

Sigh.

Tragedy Between the Lines

When you work on a drawbridge, you’re sometimes a silent witness to some really tragic events. No one tells you that when you take the job.

On the bigger bridges you’ll get jumpers. Occasionally one will survive and 100 percent of those will say they regretted their action the second they jumped, which says a lot about how good an idea it was. Not. And the rest? Many are talked out of taking the leap, fortunately. The ones who actually jump and don’t survive often hit the wooden fender system before they hit the water, and the sound of their breaking bones can be heard in the tender house, as can their screams on the way down. It’s a sound you won’t ever forget. Then the rescue effort becomes one of body recovery. Here in Jacksonville, if the tide is coming in, they’re usually found tangled in the next bridge. If it’s going out, they’re found amongst the rocks at the jetties. Am I getting too graphic? Good. Because I want to impress upon everyone that jumping off a bridge is a bad, bad, BAD idea.

And then there’s the fact that we monitor radio channel 16, which is sort of the marine equivalent of listening to a police scanner. One day I heard a hysterical boater saying “My dog fell off the boat! Does anyone see a Golden Retriever in the water?” Being a dog owner myself, that sent me into a state of helpless anxiety. Fortunately, that story had a happy ending. The dog was recovered.

Another time we bore witness to the unfolding events when a city diver surfaced, only to have his face removed by a passing speedboat. Amazingly he survived, and spent months in the hospital, but I’m sure his life will never be the same.

Why am I in such a morbid mood? Because since Thursday night, the Coast Guard has been making this announcement about once an hour:

“Pan-pan, pan-pan, pan-pan, all stations, all stations, all stations. This is United States Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville Florida, United States Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville Florida. Break. At time 2210 Coordinated Universal Time the Coast Guard received a report of a 55 year old man with no life jacket in the water 360 nautical miles off the coast of St. Augustine, Florida. All vessels are requested to keep a sharp lookout, assist if possible, and report all sightings to the Coast Guard. Signed Commander, United States Coast Guard, Jacksonville Florida. This is United States Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville, Florida out.”

The first time we heard the announcement, we all sat up a little straighter and thought, “Oh my God…” But unfortunately, we usually never hear the end of the story unless it’s on the news. From the Coast Guard website I learned that this guy was a commercial fisherman, out fishing for swordfish on 7 to 9 foot seas. I’m speaking in the past tense, because even though they’re still looking for him, once we all heard the announcement again an hour later, and then throughout the night, and for a couple of days now, we lost hope for him. No life jacket, rough seas, cold and wet. He’s gone, surely. I’m glad the Coast Guard is still looking, though. They do amazing work.

It brings tears to my eyes, because he was just trying to make a living in a very harsh industry, and I’m sure he has people who love him who are suffering greatly right now. His name was Peter Steewell. Please remember him. If what I fear is really true, may he rest in peace.

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