Friday, December 26, 2008

At Forward Operating Base Tillman

Well, after almost a month at FOB Orgun-E, we finally got a chopper ride to FOB Tillman. I tell you, this place is bleak. The team leader got into a heated discussion with the base commander, and I wanted to fall into a hole! One thing I learned, since I have been working here in Afghanistan and Iraq, is you gotta "play nice" with the Army. Especially junior officers! Put a pair of captain's bars on a man, he thinks he is God almighty.

I got a shower, I was able to scrounge a bar of soap, from the Air Force. I am getting some scale and crud on my toes, so I scrubbed my feet until they were raw. I also got a close shave, with an old razor, and brushed my teeth vigorously. I want to keep my teeth for many years, I have spent a blue fortune on crowns and dental work, I try to keep my gums healthy, they are about the only part of my mouth that is natural!

The chow hall here is primitive, and all the cooks are Army, no foreign nationals or USA civilians. Tonight, they had polish sausages and sauerkraut. I got a huge portion, and ate it all up. (I did not get breakfast nor lunch today). They also had Dr. Pepper in the fridge, I have not had a Dr. Pepper in over a year. I will have to do without Baskin-Robbins for the time being.

My bed has a real mattress! After over a month of sleeping on a military cot, a real mattress, what luxury. It is strange what people find important at the roof of the world. Decent food, a decent bed, hot water in the shower, is about all takes to be happy here!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Stuck at ORGUN-E

Got up this morning at 0700am, to get a chopper ride. Waited for some hours, but found out the chopper ride was cancelled. So I went back to the barracks, and unpacked my stuff, and fell asleep on the cot. I will be stuck here through Christmas.

It is not so bad here. The Chow Hall is excellent. Tonight, I had excellent prime rib, with Bernaise Sauce, lobster tails, and fried scallops, and bread dressing. For dessert, I had a fruit smoothie. It is the only way I can get fruit, is if it is pureed.

It was beautiful today, sunshine, about 60. There is plenty of hot water in the shower, but I only shower every two days. I like being clean-shaven, but I do not like shaving.

I found a three-pound Claxton fruit cake, and ate it all up! I love fruitcake, people make jokes about fruitcake at Christmas, but I like it. I also found some chocolate, and Reeses peanut butter cups!

The Rec Hall computers are fine, very fast connection. I watch some TV, today I watched "It's a wonderful life" with Jimmy Stewart. Two days ago, I watched "White Christmas", with Bing Crosby. There will be holiday films on for the next couple of days.

I will just have to wait for a chopper!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ten reasons NOT to become a Freemason

The Top Ten Reasons *NOT* to become a Freemason.
(1) You have too many friends. Let’s face it, you have so many friends you can’t imagine trying to juggle any more. Half of the time these so called ‘friends’ are more trouble than they are worth; constantly inviting you to social events, inquiring about the health of your family and personal life, and offering their wisdom and guidance. Sometimes a man just needs to be alone.

(2) You like to lie, cheat, and steal. The reality of the situation is that you are good at what you do. You know how to tell people what they want to hear and have never found a situation where a lie, or half-truth, wouldn’t offer you some advantage. The thought of joining an institution that requires you to be ‘square’ and honest in all of your dealings with your fellow man is fundamentally contrary to your character.

(3) You are a nonconformist. You hate every fad, trend, or anything that anyone else is doing in the world. You are so much of a non-conformist that that your are literally a conformist to the non-conformist lifestyle. How could you be a ‘joiner’ of a club and follow their rules? Even if you consider that these are rules you completely agree with, you would still be ‘joining’ something and conforming to a particular code of ethics. This action would be so contrary to your personal identity that you could never join a group that limits its membership to men of good character and encourages them to live their lives by the highest standards of morality.

(4) You are a stingy bastard. The fact of the matter is that you worked hard for your money and see absolutely no reason to spend one penny of it to help anyone else. Senior Citizens, burn victims, children with birth defects, widows, orphans, youth, all deadbeats. Not only do they not deserve any support or help, there is nothing you would get out of either. In fact, even if all they want from you is some of your time, who has that any more either?

(5) You are a religious fundamentalist and believe the dogma of your faith is the only one true path to salvation. You believe that your only duty in this world is to convert other human beings to your faith, or **** them to hell if you fail. You have no room for 'so called' religious tolerance, and this idiotic ideal of ‘freedom of religion’ is a liberal commie plot by those pot-spoking hippies in the American Revolution.

(6) You are a material reductionist. You believe that there is no such thing as God. Not Spinoza’s God and not any one definition will suffice. You believe that anyone stupid enough to believe in a God is a damnable idiot. You believe that the Universe is a Netwonian tick-tock world of billiard ball atoms and molecules, that there was no big-bang, and that human consciousness is a random glitch in the random process of selfish-gene evolution. You believe that life itself is meaningless and serves no higher purpose beyond self-gratification.

(7) You hate the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. You think the American Revolution, and the Enlightment in general, was a scam. You believe the world ran better when men were uneducated, lived in fear of religious persecution, under Monarchies, dictatorships, and that free thought was a concept reserved for dreaming kittens, not the working class of a society. You do not believe all men are created equal, nor do they have the right to pursue happiness. You do not believe in justice, liberty, equality, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, or any form of representative government. Since these are all of the core tenets of Freemasonry, established by Freemasons in the American Revolution, there can be no doubt that this institution would disagee with you most heartedly.

(8) You are too busy. Once again, let’s face it. You have too much TV to watch. You have a two hour commute every day. You have soccer practice, swim-team, World of Warcraft, XBOX, Playstation, and many other critical demands on your time. In fact, it is completely outside of your power to change your schedule and priorties to engage in social interaction with your community. You don’t know who the people are in your community and have no reason to become involved. It is literally impossible for you to ‘make time’, ‘shift priorities’, or re-evaluate for yourself just what really is important in life. You have a job to go to, you have a video game to play, and Netflix and Tivo to get caught up on. How in the world could you attend five, six, ten meetings a year? How could you go to a charity fund raiser or support a youth group? This is all simply crazy talk at this point.

(9) You hate tradition and history. Tradition is stupid. History is stupid. We are in the modern world now. There is nothing worth preserving. Not buildings and, certainly not, oral traditions. Does it matter that a tradition has been around in human civilization for hundreds (if not thousands) of years? Not one bit! Let it die! Remember when people used to try to only speak Latin in the Latin quarter in Paris? What fools! Remember when your Grandfather, Uncles, and other relatives were involved in Masonry? What a bunch of old doddering fools. Why would you want to sustain and support an anachronistic, outdated, and pointless ritualistic ceremony that has long since outlived its purpose? In today’s society there is no point in carying on a tradition such as this, or any other.

(10) You have no intention of ‘improving’ yourself. You are perfect just the way you are, in every way possible. There is nothing you could do to improve your social skills in public speaking, mentoring youth, charitable service, making conversation, or keeping your mind sharp. Your character is impeccable and there is nothing you could do to make it any better than it is today. Were you to join Freemasonry you would merely have to teach others the great skills you already posses, thus making the entire exercise pointless.__________________

Friday, December 19, 2008

Fri afternoon

Still stuck at ORGUN-E. Cold, damp, muddy, lonely. I got an interesting e-mail, asking about life here. ORGUN-E is about average for a mid-size camp in Afghanistan.

There is a gym, about average.
The Chow Hall is KBR run, decent food. Every Friday there is grilled steak and crab legs/lobster tails.
There is satellite TV in the Recreation center. There are computers and phones in the Rec Center. I do not thnk there is any wireless internet on this post.

We got our first snowfall, just enough to make everything all muddy. It is about 200 yards to the shower, so I only shower every two days. Laundry is a two-day turn around.

I will just wait until I can get a chopper ride.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday afternoon

Sunday afternoon. COLD here in Orgun-E. The chow hall served polish sausage and potatos tonight. I walked out of the chow hall, and it was very dark. The moon is at its closest point to the earth in 21 years, and the full moon is now on. When the moon rises, it is spectacular.

I am waiting for a chopper flight, it may be another week here, before one can be had. What a hassle. In the meantime, it is just wait for the chopper.

I am reading James Michener's "Hawaii", and also "Space". I watch TV, I got a lot of football last week, all the football I can stand. I wish the military TV had more educational programs, and A&E, and history,etc.

I am glad that I brought enough clothes. Snow is expected soon. At least I have thick boots, and walking on the gravel does not hurt my feet so much.

I am still getting over a cold. I cough up a lot of mucus, and my chest is sore from all the coughing. I got some tablets from the Army doctor, and they help.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Interesting E-Mail

I get some interesting comments:

I have just red your blog and I can't wait to see that movie. I like the movies on that theme. I watched National treasure part I and II but I didn't like the idea that everything is in USA.
I'm strongly convinced that many masonic secrets i.e. "treasure" is hidden in all the members who are dispersed throughout whole the world and everyone carries a little piece of that "treasure" which for me is not a phisical one but spiritual.
I don't know how do you see this things.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Ill but recovering

This past week, I have been sicker than at any previous time overseas. I picked up some lung crud, and it has knocked me right down. I am at Forward Operating Base Orgun-E. I arrived here on Monday, (it is now Sunday night). I have been coughing and hacking, and delivering all kinds of mucus. I went to see the Army doctor, and he said, a lot of this is going around. When you live in a group living environment, you share all of your germs with everyone in your barracks.

I am sleeping on a cot, with a sleeping bag. The barracks is COLD, and this does not help my illness. The last two nights, I fell asleep on the sofa in the Recreation hall, at least it is warm here. I could not eat any solid food on Friday and Saturday. On Sunday afternoon, I went to the chow hall, and had some gumbo. I also drank a strawberry/banana smoothie. My diet here is a train wreck, and with the small amount of fruits and vegetables, my immune system has taken a nose dive.

I only take a shower every two days. It is so cold, you do not sweat. I was taking a shower, and I lost control of my bowels, fortunately I was able to clean it all up. If you are going to have an accident like that, the best place to be is in the shower.

All I can do is take the tablets, I got from the Army doctor, and rest up.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The decline in Membership in Masonry- and what we can do about it.

Here is the state-by-state breakdown as of the end of 2007:(This data is for the mainstream lodges, and does not include Prince Hall, or any other Masonic group, nor co-Masonry) is the last year, in which statistics are available. We can be assured that 2008, will be worse. Only Delaware and Massachusetts showed any increase. The numbers are B-A-D. Not shown here, is the average age of Masons, which is creeping upward every year. We can take some solace, is that some Grand Lodges are addressing the problem. The Masonic Renewal Task Force ( ) has been developing literature, programs, and plans to reverse the decline. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, won the Nobel Peace Prize. Her organization has a rule, it is forbidden to say the word "problem". You must say "gift", instead. I think that Masonry should take a lesson from this soon-to-be Saint. If we are serious about reversing the trend, and keeping Masonry (and the appendant bodies) healthy in the 21st century, we need to look on the trend as a gift and act accordingly. I am appalled that every lodge in the USA does not have a website. They can be had for FREE, so there is no excuse why every lodge does not have one. The quality of the Grand Lodge websites varies all over the map. Some are excellent, some are mediocre, some are an embarrassment to Masonry. Every grand Lodge website should be state-of-the-art, with precise instructions on how to petition Freemasonry, how to locate the nearest lodge to your residence, a sample petition, that can be downloaded, etc. We live in the internet age, and the first knock on our West Gate, is most often an electronic knock. Every Grand Lodge should have a toll-free number, for information, so that individuals who are interested in Masonry can call in! Every lodge should be having regular "open houses", where the lodge is open to the public. People can visit, get a cup of coffee, obtain literature on Masonry, and learn about the Craft. Massachusetts has two (2) statewide open houses every year. EVERY lodge in the entire state is open on a Saturday morning. The event is publicized on statewide media (The Boston TV stations and newspapers are state-wide). People visit the lodges, some lodges have Ben Franklin impersonators, and music. Massachusetts had an increase in membership in 2007. HELLO!We can do other things. We should strive to keep all of our current membership active and participating. One way is through "Rusty Nail" nights. Virtually every Mason has male relatives, we should be looking to them as our new membership base. We should reach out to Masonic widows- They have sons and grandsons, who are our future membership.We should be pushing hard to have Masonic youth groups, especially DeMolay, in our communities. Over 90% of DeMolay graduates go on into the Masonic lodge, when they reach the age of Majority. The working tools, to save this Craft are in our hands. It will take courage, and hard work, and sweat, to get our craft growing again. Masons will have to "think outside the box", and apply new techniques and methodology, to get Masonry relevant to the 21st Century. We will have to have the backbone, to apply ideas and techniques from other organizations, and not be afraid to experiment. "The dogmas of the quiet past, are not relevant to the stormy present" - Abraham Lincoln"If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got' - Cromwell"It does not take a Majority to effect change. But an irate and tireless Minority, to light brush fires in people's minds" - Samuel Adams"We live in a world, in which the only constant is Change" - Heraclitus, Greek philosopher 4th century BC. --------------------

Not all churches are seeing a decline in membership. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons) are seeing an explosion of membership. This church, which started 170 years ago, in a farmhouse in upstate New York, now has over 12 million members. The LDS church sends out over 50,000 missionaries per year. They have a huge media program, to get their presence out in front of people, worldwide. There are many reasons why the Mormons are exploding. They have an extensive person-to-person outreach program. "Every member a Missionary", is one of their fundamental beliefs. Their public relations program is modern and state-of-the-art. Each new member is meant to feel special and welcome. They have a program, where every church member is visited in their homes on a monthly basis. The church has vibrant youth and women's programs. I call this a combination of "high-tech", and "high-touch". The church operates on a "local" basis, where every member can participate, with as much involvement as their situation permits. This "tailors" the church experience to the individual. The LDS retention rate, is around 95%. There was an obscure religious sect called the "Shakers". Their rules forbade any missionary work, any discussion of the religion with outsiders, and required strict celibacy for all members, including married members. The Shakers died out.Who do you think we should imitate? The Mormons or the Shakers?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

New Film with Masonic theme

There is a new film soon to be released: "Brother's War". It is about two men, a British officer and a German Officer, who are Masons. Here is the link:

The director, Tino Struckmann, is a Mason. I wrote him a fan letter, and he is sending a Director's Cut of the film to me here in Afghanistan.

Here is the letter:

it will be in the mail my brotherhell Id bring it myself if the military would let me;-) be safe out there tino
From: cemab4y@hotmail.comTo: tinostruckmann@hotmail.comSubject: RE: Brothers WarDate: Wed, 3 Dec 2008 00:51:17 -0500

Brother Struckmann, I am way too old and too fat for military service. I am a video systems engineer, working on a military project. This is my fourth contract in Afghanistan. I was in the Air Force 1973-1978. I am certain that all of the brothers would be delighted to see the film. If you wish to send a DVD, we will be more than grateful. My address: Charles E. MartinBETTS-C ProjectFOB SALERNOAPO AE 09314 My blog about masonry in Afghanistan and Iraq I cannot think of anything else I need at the moment. But I will give it some thought, and get back to YOU!!
From: tinostruckmann@hotmail.comTo: cemab4y@hotmail.comSubject: RE: Brothers WarDate: Wed, 3 Dec 2008 02:11:24 +0000

My brother I take it that you are sitting there because you are in the military? I spent 10 years in the ARMY, but now Im just sitting back here feeling bad Im not there! you send me an address and Ill send you a private screener of the film, and if there is anything else you need out there you just say the word fraternallytino struckmannJD Sunset Lodge 369 Santa Monica
From: cemab4y@hotmail.comTo: tinostruckmann@hotmail.comSubject: Brothers WarDate: Tue, 2 Dec 2008 11:33:34 -0500

Your film looks fantastic. When can we expect a DVD release? I am on a mountaintop in Afghanistan, and I cannot get to a cinema, for some months!! I am a Freemason. I keep a blog about Freemasonry in Afghanistan and Iraq, we have lodges here at the "roof of the world." Keep in touch!!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Arrived at Orgun-E base

Got up at 0700am. Got to flight line at 0800am. waited until 12noon to fly out to Orgun-E. I arrived here, and I am in the transient barracks. Army cot, six men to a room. There is nothing to do , because there is no equipment here. We will wait until Friday, and then fly on to FOB Tillman.

Decent chow hall here. I ate roast beef and fried fish for lunch. The chow hall is run by civilian contractors from KBR (Houston Tex corporation). The Army is pretty much out of the food service business, no more "KP" for the soldiers. It costs a lot to bring US civilians here to do the cooking, but that is how it is.

There are many Afghans working on this base. I do not trust them. Anyone could be carrying a bomb, they could put ground glass in the food. They all report back to their friends where they are, and they could be providing information to the terrorists.

Sometimes, I tell myself, there has got to be a better way to make a living!

Additional policy on comments

I need to explain the policy on comments more fully. Here it is:

There will be NO criticism of Freemasonry, nor of the appendant and concordant bodies of Freemasonry on this board. This policy is absolute, and non-negotiable. Any individual who attempts to post any comments that are derogatory, will find those comments deleted.

I will be more than glad to discuss any aspect of Freemasonry, with any serious inquirer. The purpose of this blog, is to serve as a personal log, of my experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, both professionally, and with respect to Masonry.