Wednesday, December 28, 2011

back in the USA

I am at a training conference. I will be in the USA for a couple of weeks, and then back to Afghanistan. It is good to be back in the USA, but I am getting tired of fast food already. I had Burger King for Lunch, and Taco Bell for dinner. I do enjoy watching TV, I have the cable TV on as long as I can. I also enjoy the films. Yesterday, I saw "War Horse". I am anxious to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie ,and "Tinker Tailor Soldier, Spy". I went almost 18 months without seeing a film in a movie theater.

I enjoy hearing from my fans, if any of your blog readers are interested, please feel free to write. You can write my email address, or if you wish, leave a comment here, I publish all comments, that meet the requirements (no pornography or racist comments. )

Monday, November 28, 2011

Been here a month

Greetings all! I apologize that I have not written more until now. I have had an interesting ride. I got a call on 20 Oct, and the man asked me, if I wanted to return to Afghanistan. I said yes, working in Afg. is better than being unemployed in the USA, even the USA food is better. (We have cheese in aerosol cans). I did the interview, and it was pretty much toast. They asked me questions about European software, and I bombed. No harm done. I will NOT lie on an interview, not only is it a question of personal integrity, it is embarrassing to get a job, and then not be able to do it!

Anyway, I told the firm, that I did not have the qualifications. I got a call on 22 Oct, and the firm said to pack my bags, I was heading to Afghanistan. I flew to Dubai, and checked into the hotel. (very nice- BTW).

The firm presented me to the client, again, and they still did not want me. So I was told to prepare to fly back to the USA. Then the firm asked me if I was interested in a different job. So I said OK. The firm showed my impeccable qualifications to the client, and the client agreed to hire me.

I then flew from Dubai to Bagram air base. About a three hour flight, not bad. Then I had to grab my bags, and get a 20 minute hop to the Kabul Air Base. I arrived there, and I was met by a man from my new firm. I was taken to the barracks(nice), and checked in.

I am now working 10 hours a day, 7 days a week, as a communications consultant. The work is nice, and the people I work with are terrific. Only problem is, all of them are "short timers", and will be leaving for other duties in a couple of weeks. If the new crew is half as good, I will have an excellent time. I am continually impressed by the excellence of our people here.

About my life and work:

I live in a concrete barracks. I am in a room with an Army sergeant. He is a fine man, and a good soldier. My only nitpick, is he calls me "sir" and "Mr. Martin". I wish he would drop the sir, and use "yeah", and call me "charles". I guess all of the courtesy is a habit of military service.

The barracks is QUIET! I am not next to a roaring generator. The water in the shower is HOT, but the water is salty. You scrub and scrub and scrub, and you cannot get any lather. Then you rinse off, and try to get all the soap scum off. The shower stall is tiny, and I can barely turn around. Last week, I bumped into the wall, and said "I hate this place", and someone in the next stall said "I hope you are having a good time down there".

The food in the military chow hall is ordinary. I have had better, I have had worse. It is better than the slop they served at Kandahar. That food was so gross, that I was living on Ramen noodles and cookies. I could not even bear to walk into the chow hall.

I get a small breakfast. two boiled eggs, bread, some fruit, milk, and juice. Then I will get some corn flakes and milk. Sometimes there is a newspaper I can read.

I catch the carpool at 0730am, and ride to the office. I must wear my helmet and flak-vest when I am in the vehicle. I must have my helmet/flak not more than 5 minutes away from me.

I get a ride back to the chow hall at 1130, and I must meet the carpool at 1220. Then I go back to the office. I get off about 600pm, and ride back to the barracks. I almost never get the supper. Two days ago, I got a Pizza, and it was good.

The television in the barracks is a wide screen, but the cable has been down for a couple of days, all you can see is the TV guide channel.

Around 900pm, I crawl into the rack, and try to sleep. Last week I went to bed at 900pm, and I slept all night, without having to get up and go to the men's room. I consider this a major accomplishment.

Then at 0600am the alarm rings, and I am back to it again. I started work on 31 oct. I am on a one year project, but I would like to stay longer.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

arrived at Kabul



I spent a week in Dubai. I arrived at Kabul Air base on Oct 30. It is a typical NATO base, people from many countries are stationed here. Even Outer Mongolia.



Sunday, October 30, 2011

Final morning in Dubai

I must go to the airport at 0700am. I will fly on to Afghanistan this morning. It has been a very pleasant week in Dubai.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sunday 30 Oct

Well, my last night in the Trader's Hotel in Dubai. I will by flying on to Afghanistan on Monday. I am always apprehensive about a new job, but maybe this one will work out. I sure do meet the qualifications.

I hope that I can participate in Freemasonry there. If there is no lodge, I want to set up an informal "Square and Compasses" club. As long as we are recognized by the base commander, there will be no objections from anyone.

I have a terrible case of jet-lag. As I get older, I guess my physiology is taking longer to make the adjustments. Your entire physiology takes a whacking when you fly to the other side of the world. Your sleep habits are upside down, and your eating and digestive tract are also working on a different schedule.

I have been hanging out at the hotel, I dislike wandering about the dirty hot streets of Dubai. I may take the metro-train to the mall, and do a little shopping.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

In Dubai

I am sitting in the hotel in Dubai. Waiting for an Afghan Visa. I like this hotel, it is nice.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Back to Afghanistan

I completed the work with the old firm, at Camp Leatherneck. I am now working for a new firm. I will be posted to the "Green Village" in Kabul, the capital.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Two weeks here

 

Life at Camp Leatherneck is about what I expected. I work 9am to 7pm 6 days a week. I will get Wednesdays off. At my last base I worked 7pm to 7am 7 days a week, with no days off! The food here is light-years ahead of the slop they served up at Kandahar. Here is a USA food service provider, and they have Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream 7 days a week, lunch and dinner (Hoo-Ray).

 

I live in a trailer, but I do not spend much time there, except to sleep. I get up at 0700am, and walk to the shower house. The shower house is VERY clean, spotless, and modern. The water is VERY hot, so I can get a hot shower every day. Then I walk back to the trailer, and get dressed. There is a dress code here, the Marines could care less what I wear, but the firm requires long pants, and the shirt must have a collar. I catch the bus from the trailer camp, and ride to the chow hall. After a breakfast, I walk to the office. I prefer not to get lunch, and supper is served at 5pm. Then I walk back to the office, and I am off at 7pm. Then I ride back to the trailer camp, and go to the trailer, and peel off my clothes, and crawl into the rack. There is some background noise, due to the generators, and the air conditioners. The porta-john is about 50 yards from the door. I go to sleep, and then get up at 0700am the next morning. Same every day, like the film “Ground Hog Day”.

 

 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Camp Leatherneck one week

Well here we are. My duty station is Camp Leatherneck, located in southern Kandahar province, Afghanistan. It is a desert environment, and it is HOT HOT HOT. 43 degrees Celsius, 130 degrees Fahrenheit. DUSTY, you ain't seen such dust. At least the place is quiet, there is virtually no combat here, and no hostile attacks on the camp.

The base is laid out in a grid pattern, and the streets are numbered 1,2,3, etc. and the cross streets are lettered A,B,C etc. My first day here, one of my porcelain crowns snapped off,and I went to the dentist, and he refused to re-cement the crown back on, there was not enough tooth, to anchor it properly. So I will have to get bay with one missing crown until I can relocate back to the USA.

I have been assigned to a CHU (containerized housing unit), which is a trailer. Just four walls and a roof, no bathroom, There is a porta-john about 25 yards out the door. And the shower house is 100 yards down range. My mattress is a train wreck, wires pressing in my back all night. The food here is excellent, much better than the European fare at Kandahar (my last duty station).

There is one Prince Hall lodge here, and I cannot meet with them. I hate the fact that the Grand Lodge of Kentucky has not yet recognized Prince Hall Masonry. I know they will some day, but I will be out of Afghanistan by then. I am considering starting a "Square and Compasses" club, so that we can have informal Masonic fellowship. That will probably piss some people off as well.

I work as a computer help-desk technician. I assist people in getting their internet accounts, and when they are locked off, I get them back on again. The office is small, and there is not enough room for all of us. Fortunately, I get one day off a week, it is Wednesday. I have been working 7 days a week, for most of my time in Afghanistan.

I spent four months between my last position and this one. I do not enjoy unemployment, but I did enjoy the break. I like normal living, eating when I choose, and cooking my own meals. I enjoy setting my own hours too. But, I also enjoy working, and when there is work overseas, I am there.

I am feeling the effects of age. I have been working in Afghanistan and Iraq for 7 1/2 years, and I am 57. Face it, I am just not as young as I used to be. But I am in reasonably good health, and I am cancer-free. I had a prostate needle biopsy in June, and it was 100% free of any abnormalities. Just that the test is rough. Not as rough as the needle biopsy I had two years ago. At least this time, the doctor used an anesthetic, and the needle sticks up my bung-hole were not as painful.

I am doing work, that I have never done before. Such is war, men are pushed into careers, where they had no training or background in the past. This is a great opportunity to expand my knowledge and skills. The men and women at the help desk all appear to be fine, so far. Young marines, just out of high school, then pressed into the Afghan desert, before their pimples cleared up.

This is the worst case of jet-lag I have ever had. I am woozy at work, and then when I am off, I go to the chow hall, and eat the food. Then I ride the bus back to the trailer, and then peel off my clothes, and crawl right into the rack. I pass out, and then I wake up at midnight, unable to get back to sleep. I try to sleep, but then I wake up at 0700, and then go to the shower house. Then I ride the bus to the chow hall, and the office is right next door. Then I go to work, and I am woozy again. You normally need about one day per time zone, to get over the jet-lag.

The summer is passing, and the cool weather will be here soon, and I say not soon enough. I cannot understand what this country is worth, and why our combat forces are here, but I am just an electronics man, and I do not make foreign policy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Saturday, August 20, 2011

On Leatherneck for a week

I had an interesting last two weeks. I drove to Columbus Georgia, and took the CRC school, which is required for all deployees for the sixth (6th) time. I drove back to Atlanta, and then flew up to WashDC to catch the flight to Kuwait. I got on the airplane at Dulles field, and fortunately, there was no surcharge for my luggage. The flight took off at 6pm, and we flew up the East Coast. They served one of those low-grade meals, three beef nuggets the size of your thumb, in curry sauce, and a serving of rice. I wanted to watch a movie, but I was fast asleep, before we left the Canadian coast. I woke up just as they were serving the sandwiches, prior to landing. We arrived at Kuwait, and it was 120 degrees. I cleared customs, and got my entry visa for Kuwait. I then went into the main airport area. It is Ramadan, when all muslims must fast during the day. So all of the restaurants were closed in the airport. I then caught a bus to Ali Al Saleem airport, which takes one hour from the airport to the base.
 
I got my luggage, and then I turned in my passport for the Kuwait exit visa. I got to a tent, and crawled right into the rack.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

in Kuwait

I am in Kuwait. It is 115 degrees Fahrenheit. It is RAMADAN so it is forbidden to drink water (where a Muslim can see you). This is a HOT country.
 

Saturday, August 06, 2011

WORKING!!!!

I accepted a job offer, from a major defense contractor. I have been on the payroll for some weeks. I don't like to announce jobs, until I am actually getting on the plane.

I am being posted to Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan. I will fly out of Washington DC airport, on Sunday.

I am grateful that so many people enjoy my blog. I enjoy keeping it. I am looking forward to another excellent adventure. I have been working in SouthWest Asia for 7 (seven) years. Tally Ho.

Monday, July 18, 2011

New Masonic websites

Please visit:

http://www.trestleboard.us

  • Trestleboard


  • and check in, and make some posts.

    ALSO-

    visit:

    http://www.burningtaper.org

  • Burning Taper


  • and check in, and make some posts!

    Friday, July 15, 2011

    Freemasonry in Georgia

    Been visiting some lodges around Atlanta. Enjoying the fellowship immensely.

    Friday, July 01, 2011

    A Masonic Manifesto

    THE MASONIC MANIFESTO
    Freemasonry
    by Tim Bryce MPS

    INTRODUCTION
    For a moment, imagine what it would be like to live in a utopian world of Freemasonry: Our ranks would swell with quality men, Lodges would proliferate, and peace and harmony would reign throughout the world. But, as we all know, the state of Freemasonry is far from this; our numbers have diminished, we are struggling financially, members are apathetic, and our image with the public is tarnished and lacks credibility. Why? Because we have failed miserably to adapt to changing times. How can we expect the world to take Freemasonry seriously if we do not take ourselves seriously? If we truly want to make the world a better place, we must first get our own house in order.

    Whenever I consider the state of Freemasonry I am reminded of the movie "No Time for Sergeants" (1958, starring Andy Griffith) where Will Stockdale (Griffith) confounds Sergeant King (Myron McCormick), a "lifer" pleased with the ease and repetition of his path, who inevitably counters with the line, "Don't Make Waves." Frankly, the Sgt. Kings of the fraternity have lulled us to sleep and seem to be more concerned with chasing their next apron as opposed to solving the problems of Freemasonry.

    Back in the 1970's, Bro. Gerald Ford was the last U.S. President who had the courage to go before the nation in his state of the Union address and say in effect, "My fellow Americans, I am afraid to tell you the State of the Union is not very good." It was honest, it was candid. But it ultimately cost him his re-election.

    The lesson here is that people do not want to hear the truth. They do not want to face reality. They cannot deal with it. However, as Masons I would like to believe we are strong enough to accept the truth. And the truth is, the state of the fraternity is not very good. If we can accept this, we can then seek remedies to correct it. After all, you cannot treat a patient if he doesn't know he is sick. Attacking symptoms with band-aid solutions is simply not going to hack it anymore. I am afraid we need to perform some surgery.
    I chose the name "Masonic Manifesto" carefully, because it grabs our attention, and accurately reflects what I propose to describe. A "Manifesto" is simply a public declaration of intention or of principles; things that should be accomplished if we want to move forward. I am not one to criticize for the sake of criticism. In fact, one of the things I preach in my consulting practice is not to criticize unless you can offer some sort of alternative. In other words, "Put up or shut up." I don't believe in destructive criticism;
    I believe in constructive criticism. As Brother Winston Churchill once said, "Any idiot can see what's wrong with something; but can you see what's right?"

    For example, I do not believe you have the right to criticize your country if you do not exercise your basic right to vote. If you are not willing to go down to the polling station and cast your vote, don't come whining to me about this country.

    The Masonic Manifesto is simply a list of ideas for how to improve the fraternity in no particular order. Some items you might like, some you will probably hate. This is based on my observations as a Mason (with all of the other jurisdictions I am in touch with). It is also based on my experiences as a management consultant, and as someone who has participated on over 30 Board of Directors for various non-profit organizations. None of the items are designed to violate the basic tenets of Freemasonry. In anything, they would enhance our purpose if implemented.

    1. THINK OF FREEMASONRY ON A GLOBAL BASIS
    Masons have been meeting upon the level and parting on the square well before the formation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717. The invention of the Grand Lodge system was inevitable as it afforded Masons a means to administer Freemasonry on a consistent basis to suit local geographical and cultural requirements. Establishing Grand jurisdictions to conform with political boundaries makes sense in that it allows Masons to legally operate under the particular laws of the state they are living. But where do we ultimately owe our allegiance; to the Grand Lodge where we took our obligation or to the Brotherhood overall? Although there are probably as many interpretations of Masonic ritual as there are jurisdictions, all support the basic tenets of Freemasonry: Friendship, Morality and Brotherly Love. It is this basic underlying philosophy that is too often forgotten. Instead, we have become too territorial in nature and have trouble thinking of Freemasonry for what it truly is, a universal Brotherhood.
    I am baffled by those Brothers who cannot think of Freemasonry beyond the four walls of their Lodge room, or beyond a district or Grand jurisdiction. Are we too old or set in our ways that we cannot learn a thing or two from our neighbors, or Freemasonry they from us? Is there some Masonic law prohibiting cooperation towards a common endeavor? I think not.

    Freemasonry is a special society separated by jurisdictional walls which we have built ourselves. Now is the time for us to find ways to work together in a concerted effort as opposed to autonomous units. Our strength lies in our unity, not our division.

    Devices such as "traveling gavels" are nice for promoting visitations and understanding between jurisdictions, but we need to think bigger, much bigger. We should aspire to lead the world towards peace and prosperity, but this can only happen if we think globally as opposed to locally.

    2. CREATE A WORLD CONGRESS OF FREEMASONRY
    In today's global society, where communications and transportation are no longer obstacles as they were for our forefathers, the concept of establishing a forum for grand jurisdictions to meet and work together is the next logical step towards unifying the fraternity.

    A "World Congress of Freemasonry" should be organized along the lines of the League of Nations or the United Nations. True, there are elements of this present, such as the upcoming World Conference of Masonic Grand Lodges to be held in November in Sydney, but I am talking about establishing a more formal organization that meets more frequently and routinely.

    Such a Congress would have no direct authority over a jurisdiction or Grand Master. In fact, the Grand Master of the Jurisdiction would appoint a formal representative to serve in this Congress, a body that would do such things as:

    1. Establish standards for such things as maintaining Masonic records, the preparation of financial reports, and degree work.
    2. Establish the criteria for Grand Lodge recognition. Further, any Grand Lodge participating in this forum would have to recognize all member Grand Lodges.
    3. Help reconcile disputes between Grand Lodges.
    4. Design an overall framework to promote charity and world peace, not world domination. Each Grand Lodge has its own local charities, but, instead, a global and centralized relief effort would be able to more effectively support relief efforts such as the tsunami disaster of last year. This would be akin to something like the Masonic Service Association of North America, but on a global scale.

    Bottom-line, the intent here is to establish a voting body to help formulate global policy and support member Grand Lodges.

    3. DEVELOP A GLOBAL INFORMATION SYSTEM FOR FREEMASONRY
    As a systems consultant, I am appalled at what I see in the administration of Grand Lodges and Blue Lodges. Not only are our information systems horribly antiquated, they lack consistency from Blue Lodge-to-Blue Lodge, Blue Lodge-to- Grand Lodge, and Grand Lodge-to-Grand Lodge. Instead of devising a standard and consistent system that can be universally applied, Grand Lodges keep reinventing the wheel at incredible costs. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the administration of our Lodges, Grand or Blue; we need to know about:

    * Grand Lodges - jurisdiction, contact and address data, legal governmental definition, officers, areas/zones/districts, local Masonic laws, history.
    * Grand Lodge administration - payroll, accounts receivable, accounts payable, inventory, membership, banking/investments, budgeting, charities, home/hospital administration, etc.
    * Blue Lodges - jurisdiction, contact and address data, officers, legal governmental definition, bylaws, history, dues, inventory, banking/investments, budgeting.
    * Members - status, contact and address data, events (e.g., degrees, offices held, awards, etc.), skills inventory. * Miscellaneous - news, schedules, projects, charities, job portal.

    Not only would such a system reduce our administrative burdens, it would be viewed as a vital communications link between Grand Lodges, Blue Lodges, members, and the outside world. Of course, security/privacy precautions would have to be implemented to safeguard unauthorized access to data, but this is simple to do. Even the Shrine has a central location for such processing.

    Imagine: the ability to verify a member's status regardless of the jurisdiction; to communicate between jurisdictions; to report sickness and distress wherever it occurs; to have a common and consistent approach shared by all; quite simply, it Freemasonry would be mind-boggling. It would greatly reduce the financial burden for administering records at both the Grand Lodge and Blue Lodge level, yet bring a level of consistency never dreamt possible.

    It is certainly feasible to do all of this. Establishing universal system architecture shouldn't be too hard to figure out. There is also some slick technology now available to make all of this happen. What makes this viable though is for us, as Freemasons, to implement it on a global basis. Allowing our lodges to work more productively can have a dramatic effect on our ability to act as Freemasons.

    4. IMPROVE COMMUNICATIONS WITH THE WORLD
    To improve publicity and public relations we have to move from a reactive position of communicating to a pro-active approach. Only in this way, can we begin to overcome the misconceptions of the fraternity, enlighten the public, and attract new members. Although there are instances where it is necessary to protect the anonymity of our membership, a lot of our work is certainly newsworthy. And we cannot be leaders if the world doesn't know anything about us. To this end, I propose a centralized Masonic news agency who can plug into the world news outlets and spread our word. I am not talking about a global newspaper/magazine, although I am sure this wouldn't hurt, but rather a news organization that gathers and distributes news and announcements in the same manner as the Associated Press or United Press International (which we should join as well). A standard and consistent approach for distributing news could greatly dispel the myths surrounding us, and provide the press with a single outlet to obtain news on the fraternity.

    5. IMPROVE IMAGE WITH THE PUBLIC
    The distribution of Masonic news can certainly help in public relations, but a more personal touch is needed for people to see Freemasons up close and personal and to dispel any misconceptions about our intentions. To this end, I propose that every Blue Lodge ally itself with at least one non-profit organization and take an "active" role in that organization, be it a school, or civic/volunteer organization (such as a local chamber of commerce, Little League, library, scouting, meals on wheels, etc.). I am not suggesting engaging in local government or politics, but rather to select a high profile cause that would give us visibility. This would demonstrate our leadership abilities and help spread the word of Masons.

    I also have no problem with performing joint ventures with like-minded organizations, such as the Oddfellows, Knights of Columbus, Rotary, Lions, Elks, Jaycees, etc. Again, this would help dispel misconceptions about Freemasonry while performing some much needed work.

    6. IMPROVE FINANCIAL REPORTING
    Grand Lodge officers have a fiduciary responsibility to its membership to accurately report all income and expenses in a consistent and timely manner. Such reporting must come with the approval of an audit committee, either in-house or independent. This is no different than how a corporation has to report to its shareholders. Failure to do so, only casts suspicions on our Grand Lodge officers.

    7. EMPOWER THE BLUE LODGE
    I am a firm believer that the Blue Lodge should be allowed to make more decisions at the local level. For example, although I am not necessarily a fan of it, I believe the decision for holding a one-day class is the responsibility of the Blue Lodge, not the Grand Lodge. As long as the Blue Lodge doesn't violate any governmental laws, rules or regulations, I have no problem with the Blue Lodge soliciting funds from the public or serving alcohol on its premises.

    Many Lodges feel paralyzed because they live in fear of the Grand Lodge. Such gridlock frustrates and inhibits Freemasons and is the root cause for creating apathy. Instead, the emphasis should be on simplifying Blue Lodge life as opposed to creating overhead or other burdens. In other words, I believe it is time we got the Grand Lodge off the back of the Blue Lodges (Gee, I guess I sound a little like Ronald Reagan here). We need fewer bureaucratic rules and more Freemasonry. I do not suggest the Grand Lodge's role is insignificant, far from it. It is important but I believe we have gone overboard. I see the Grand Lodge's role as one of providing administrative support; as well as guidance and leadership. To illustrate, I believe the lion's share of proposed legislation should come from those who are more intimate with such things as charity, finances, membership, etc. If our Grand Lodge officers are only going to administer what we currently have and lack the foresight of where we should be going, then we have some serious leadership problems.

    8. PROMOTE BROTHERHOOD OR "HELP A BROTHER"
    A couple of years ago, there was a fine article written in the "Empire State Mason" by the Grand Secretary describing Freemasonry how we, as Masons, have to learn to take care of ourselves; that charity begins at home. Good point. Such initiatives as the Freemasons Job and Service Portal is a small step in the right direction. The more we can help our Brothers succeed in life, the more they will be able to help the fraternity in return. But let's take it another step forward; how about establishing a general fund to help Brothers in distress? Further, if we organized ourselves properly, we could also establish insurance plans for our members and a credit union. Again, our strength is in our numbers and such devices can only be created if we pool our resources on a global basis.

    9. REVAMP OUR ELECTORAL PROCESS
    Anyone who believes there are no politics in Freemasonry is taking it in the arm. In fact, we have the worst kind of politics: gossip, rumor mills, and good old fashioned arm twisting. So much so, I believe our approach to electing officers is detrimental to the fraternity. It should come as no surprise that many Grand jurisdictions now suffer from political machines where the cream doesn't necessarily rise to the top. Consequently, the talented men we desperately need to lead us are going elsewhere. I am not a believer of the concept of "progressing through the chairs." Only the most qualified should progress. Our electoral process doesn't have to be this way. Some simple, common-sense solutions are available to change this and help put the right men in the right chairs. For example, nominations, position papers, debates, questions and answers, proficiency tests, etc. should be included in our electoral process at both the Blue Lodge and Grand Lodge levels. Without such processes, we are left with political machines, certainly not an intelligent way for electing officers. One area I would have a problem with though is expending money on campaign advertising (e.g., published ads, buttons, pins, etc.); frankly, I think we can make better use of our money helping the needy, than spending it on campaign advertising.

    10. LODGE MERGERS/CONSOLIDATIONS
    If your Lodge has less than 300 members AND if your average attendance is less than 10% of your membership, then your Lodge is probably recycling Past Masters, your membership is declining, and your meetings are about as interesting as watching grass grow. If this scenario is true, some serious thought should be given to either merging your Lodge with another or consolidating into another Lodge (sharing quarters). Your only other alternative is electroshock therapy to wake people up which, in all likelihood, is beyond rejuvenation.

    Many Masons resist the concept of mergers simply due to the longevity and heritage of their Lodge. But as one Brother pointed out to me, "What is more important, our allegiance to the fraternity or to our Lodge?" Good point. Sure we don't like to lose our charters, but if our Lodge is in decline, it would make more sense to merge with another than to painfully watch it die a slow death. As any businessman will tell you, if a franchise is suffering, you cut your losses and merge it with another.

    11. MAKE THE BLUE LODGE FUN AND INTERESTING
    Blue Lodges too often fall prey to the tedium of repetition. If a Blue Lodge does nothing more than open, read the minutes and bills, and little else, it should come as no surprise to see our sidelines empty. After all, most people have an aversion to watching reruns. Are we too steeped in tradition or too rigid to try something new? In order to make Lodge meetings meaningful, they have to be fun and interesting. True, the business of the Lodge has to be discussed, but this should be done as expeditiously as possible and give way to other programs, such as a guest speaker, a presentation, or Masonic Education. Masonic speakers are interesting as are outsiders who might describe some local program or activity of interest to the Lodge. Even a simple change in clothing can make a difference. Instead of tuxedoes, I know of a Georgia Lodge that has a night where members are encouraged to wear the jersey of their favorite team to mark the start of the football season.
    As we have mentioned in past issues, music can play a significant role in the liveliness of a Lodge meeting. Instead of an organist or piano player, why not try someone who plays another instrument, such as a guitar or something else? Don't have a musician? Try a CD player, tape recorder, iPod, or computer. I am a big believer in promoting Masonic Education, either through presentations or written exams. This helps raise the consciousness of the Craft as well as providing for a stimulating meeting. We should always aspire to learn and improve ourselves, our communities, and our world.
    Want to bolster attendance at degrees? Try a different venue, such as an outdoor degree or at another Lodge (a joint degree). Themes are also useful, such as a "Black-Light" degree where the ritual is performed under black-lights. Amelia Lodge No. 47 F.& A.M. in Fernandina Beach Florida holds an annual "Fort Clinch" degree in a Civil War fort that is always well attended. The degree team is dressed in both Union and Confederate clothing.

    Also key to attendance is refreshment. You might be pleasantly surprised to see what effect a good sit-down meal, either before or after a meeting, has on attendance. Sutherland Lodge No. 174 F.& A.M. in Palm Harbor, Florida has an annual "Spam Fest" cooking competition that has generated considerable interest.

    Perhaps the best piece of advice that can be offered to anyone aspiring to be Worshipful Master is the old adage, "If you tried to do something and failed, you are vastly better off than if you tried to do nothing and succeeded." A Lodge should not discourage new ideas and innovation but, rather, embrace them. Creating the proper culture to adopt new ideas is essential to a Lodge's survival.

    But above all else, create a hospitable environment where every member and visitor is warmly welcomed and made to feel at home. A firm handshake and some simple conversation can go a long way to improving attendance.
    Bottom-line, you want to make the Lodge a place where Brothers WANT to come to, not avoid. If Lodges are boring and repetitious, this simply will not happen.

    12. INTRODUCE A RECERTIFICATION PROGRAM
    Periodically, professionals such as doctors, lawyers and contractors must attend special programs to bring them up to date on the latest developments and renew their certification. This keeps them abreast of developments and renews their commitment to their profession. I do not see why Freemasonry should be any different.

    We have too many card-carrying members who do nothing more than pay their annual dues and little else. Freemasonry is not your typical "club" or civic organization. If we truly believe in the purpose of the fraternity and are interested in perpetuating it, it might not be a bad idea to establish a similar program to recertify our members, thereby recommitting themselves to its ideals. I am therefore proposing an international program to be held in a variety of venues where Masons are brought up-to-date of the state on the fraternity, and Masonic Education is taught (not Masonic catechisms).
    Attendance at such a recertification program should be considered a requirement for being a Mason and be periodically renewed, such as every three years. Re-certification would stimulate the Craft, overcome apathy, and renew their commitment to the fraternity.

    13. RUN FREEMASONRY LIKE A BUSINESS
    People cringe whenever I mention this; not just Masons but other non-profit organizations as well. However, the fact remains that Lodges are legal entities recognized by the State and must conform to its laws, rules and regulations. Further, consider the sizeable sums of monies managed by the Grand Lodges. Consequently, we should organize ourselves and behave like the major corporations that we are. Obviously, we do not want to lose our Brotherly touch for humanity, but it is time we acted more professionally in our business affairs. It is the only logical way to survive in the years ahead.

    CONCLUSION
    Behind all of this is a deep-seated belief that Freemasonry was once a noble society who helped forge countries and nourished the needy. But our image has tarnished and our effectiveness weakened with the passing of time. Do we believe more in the strength of the universality of the fraternity or the rules and regulations of a particular jurisdiction?
    In order for us to return to glory we need to get out of the apathetic rut we are in. It is time for a fresh perspective. What worked for our forefathers years ago doesn't necessarily work in today's world. I am certainly not suggesting we abandon our past; far from it. But I am contesting our organization and effectiveness in today's world. Do we want to be viewed as "custodian's of the past" or as a vibrant organization who plays a vital role on the world's stage? I know our younger Brothers and potential candidates are interested in the latter. Bottom-line, the Masonic Manifesto is saying "Shapeth up and geteth thine act together" for we will inevitably perish if we do not. Frankly, I do not believe we are up to the task of implementing a fraction of what I have proposed herein. But I do know this: we are beyond the point of making superficial changes; radical decisions and changes in policy are inevitable if we are going to survive. As any surgeon will tell you, do not try to apply a band-aid when a tourniquet is required to stop the bleeding. Let's move away from a reactive mode of operating to a pro-active philosophy with visionaries who want to see the fraternity evolve into a higher level of effectiveness. Let me leave you with one of my favorite quotes; something I have framed and hangs in my office. It is from President Calvin Coolidge who said:

    "Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."

    EPILOGUE
    Freemasonry
    If this paper did nothing more than act as a catalyst to stimulate thinking and engage discussion in the welfare of the fraternity, then it has served its purpose, "But he doesn't have anything on!" said a small child. "Good Lord, let us hear the voice of an innocent child!" said the father, and whispered to another what the child had said. Finally everyone was saying, "He doesn't have anything on!" The emperor shuddered, for he knew that they were right, but he thought, "The procession must go on!" He carried himself even more proudly, and the chamberlains walked along behind carrying the train that wasn't there.

    Original Article on Masons of Texas Website below:
    masonsoftexas.com/showthread.php?8753-Masonic-Manifesto

  • Masonic Manifesto
  • Thursday, June 16, 2011

    Still looking for work

    16 June 2001. The Ides of June plus one. No work.

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    King Solomon's Lodge

    I have requested inclusion on King Solomon's Lodge. Blog code KSL074991933

    There is a listing of many Masonic blogs on this website. I encourage all of my readers to check out:

  • King Solomon's Lodge and Masonic Blogs
  • Monday, June 13, 2011

    Still looking for work

    It is June 13, and I still have no job. Fortunately, the interviews and job leads, keep coming in. I had two phone interviews, and one personal interview last week. This economy is bad, with 9%+ unemployment. There are many applicants for every job. You must keep pressing on. When you interview for a job, and the answer is "NO", you must turn that "NO" around, and go ON!

    I have been keeping myself occupied. We own a condo/town home, in Lorton, about 6 miles south of our primary home. We rented the place to a low-income person, and the rent was paid by Section 8, a welfare plan. Unhappily, the renter just tore the place up, door kicked in, dishwasher melted, rugs filthy. We kept her security deposit, but it will cost about 3x the deposit, to get the place liveable again.

    Fortunately, we found a nice couple to move in. They decided to paint the entire interior. I replaced all of the electrical sockets, they were deteriorated. I also replaced wall switches, they were all disentigrated and filthy.

    The June heat is here in WashDC. Hot and humid. Most people do not realize, that for the first 150 years, that WashDC was the capital of the USA, foreign diplomats posted here, got a hardship bonus, for the climate and living conditions. The summers are unbearable, and the winters are cold and snowy. Washington DC is an 'artificial' city, created just to be the capital of the USA.

    It was located at the junction of the Anacostia and Potomac rivers, because it was a day's carriage ride, from George Washington's home (Mount Vernon). The traffic is getting so bad, that soon it will take a day to drive from Mt. Vernon to DC.

    Sunday, June 12, 2011

    A new Masonic Discussion Forum.

    There is a new Masonic discussion forum. Please check in and participate. Please tell your Masonic friends, and encourage them to participate. Thanks.

  • Masonic Talk Forum
  • 10 June. RIchard Dreyfuss made a Mason, and I saw it!

    I was in Washington DC on 10 June, and Mr. Richard Dreyfuss, the academy-award winning actor, was made a Master Mason, in due and ancient form. Then he was made a 32d degree Scottish Rite Mason.

    How fabulous, to see this man join our Craft. He spoke briefly about his new project, The Dreyfuss Initiative, which will endeavour to promulgate the teaching of Civics in American Public Schools.

    See
  • The Dreyfuss Initiative


  • I cannot imagine my life without Masonry!

    Friday, June 03, 2011

    New Masonic magazine (digital)

    See

  • Living Stones Magazine


  • There is supposed to be an article about the Canadian lodge in Afghanistan, but I have not yet found it.

    Friday, April 22, 2011

    22 April. Still no job

    Well, I have been back in the USA for six weeks. Sadly, no job. However, I do keep applying. I applied for a job with a major firm, in Afghanistan. I was instructed to call a 1-800 number on Thursday Morning. I assumed the number was here in the USA. The phone rang, and it was the project manager in Afghanistan. We had a very good conversation, and he indicated that I would be getting an additional interview (hoo-ray). If I can clear this next interview, I should get an offer, and I can go back to Afghanistan.

    Here in the USA, it is strange how little has changed. I keep seeing people with I-phones, and I am amazed at how many there are. I have not even turned my ordinary cell phone back on. Don't see the need for one, just now. I stay home most days, sitting on the computer, looking for work.

    I would like to have more activities, when I am home. I am aghast at $3.97 a gallon for gasoline. In the District (of Columbia), gas is way over $4 per gallon. I prefer to eat my meals at home, and I do not go out for food, even fast food. I did get some Chinese at the greasy-chopsticks across the street. They have excellent egg rolls.

    Been doing some projects around the house. We got a deck, and Larisa decided to paint it. (BIG mistake). Gray and white, and it looks awful. Not much point in arguing. She got a privacy screen, and when I get some decent weather, I will mount it.

    Boy is it great to watch TV. I never get tired of it. Yesterday, there was a "Law and Order SVU" marathon. Great show. This morning, I saw "Mackennas Gold" a western from 1969. Love those old films.

    Larisa has been screaming a lot. I have to wear foam rubber ear plugs at the breakfast table. Sux.

    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    Back home in the USA. And without a job

    I was told that I was returning to the USA, for additional training, and to work in the lab in Lorton VA. The firm was not truthful to me. When I arrived at the office, on Tuesday, I was informed that my services were no longer needed. I am therefore, without a job. It makes me very sad, that the firm has no more integrity than that.

    I am now seeking work, and I hope to find something soon. I would like to return to Iraq or Afghanistan. If anyone knows of any work in the NorthernVA Area (Telecommunications, Computer Systems,etc). Please email me.

    Saturday, February 19, 2011

    Leaving early

    I was able to get an earlier flight. Terrific. I can't wait to get back home. I am going to over-dose on Big Macs, and Baskin-Robbins. Maybe I can get a couple of days off, to chill out. I work 7am to 7pm 7 days a week. That is a lot of work. I wish the firm could spread out the work, and let us have some time off.

    A big wind, blew down the tree in neighbor's yard (at my home in Alexandria VA). The fence is blown down, and I must get another one.

    I am tired of so much work, and I need this time off. Thanks for this job, but there is a limit.

    I am going to celebrate the Kentucky Derby, May 7.

    Thursday, February 17, 2011

    Friday morning

    Well, the days are passing, until I can fly back home. I finally got my ticketing straightened out. I have a flight from Kandahar to Dubai, and then I will stay in Dubai for about a day, then get a direct flight to Washington DC. I will get into Dulles early in the morning, and get a shuttle out to my house, then climb in the rack. Glad to be rid of Afghanistan.

    I went to the Canadian Lodge tonight. It is a regular lodge, recognized by the GL of Kentucky, and I will not get suspended for attending the meeting. I wish that I could attend other lodges, but I can't.

    I got back to the office, after the chow hall closed. So I went to TGI Fridays, and I got a chicken caesar salad, and chicken primavera with pasta. I ate the whole meal up, nothing left but grease on the plate. When I get back to the USA, I am going to over-dose on Big Macs, and home made biscuits. My cholesterol is going to shoot up 90points. I can't wait to feast on barbecue, and pasta, and chili, and omelettes. I am going to use the slow cooker and eat fast. Also Wendy',s and I will eat Chinese food, until I pass out. I am so sick of this chow hall food.

    It has been fairly dry the last couple of days. I opened the door at the lab, and the wind caught it, and BANG, the door was torn off. There it is, sitting on the floor. I just picked it up, and leaned it against the wall. My co-worker will call in a work order tomorrow, and get it fixed I hope. It has gotten cool, and it just started to rain. What a hassle. I am so glad to be going home.

    It is now 5:38. If it was not raining, I would mosey over to the chow hall, and attempt to eat some cold cereal with milk. But I just don't feel like making the trip.

    Friday, February 11, 2011

    Saturday morning. Ready to go home

    The last two days, have been pretty awful. The rains have come, and they have come hard. It has been raining, almost constantly for the last two days. This is a desert, and there is not adequate drainage for the rains. Consequently, there are pools and lakes every where. This is Afghanistan, either a pile of dust, or a lake of mud. I hate this place.

    There is a huge lake, in front of the tent. I have to go in/out through the back door. At least the tent is still dry, inside. I hope that the rains will cease, and there will not be a flood in my tent.

    The chow hall served some decent food tonight. Boneless chicken in a tomato sauce, and rice. Every day there is rice. The desert was a fruit compote. Still no coca-cola, only sprite and orange pop.

    The shower trailer had no hot water, so I went to three other shower trailers, and finally found one with hot water. I got an excellent shower. I have not been to the laundry for a week, and there are two bundles of clean laundry to pick up.

    At least the internet is fairly serviceable. I can listen to some streaming audio, and I like the BBC. I have a short-wave radio, but it is almost useless. There are not many English language programs, beamed into this part of the world, on shortwave.

    I have been going round and round, with the travel agency, and I finally got a ticket to travel home. I will be leaving around the end of the month. I will fly to Dubai, and then get a direct non-stop flight from Dubai, straight to Dulles field. I am so glad to be going home.

    I keep fantasizing about the food I am going to eat. I love Huevos Rancheros! You fry some corn tortillas, and then put them on a plate. Then you fry a couple of eggs. You put some mild salsa on the tortillas, and then you put the eggs on the salsa. Then you put some shredded cheese on the eggs, then you put them under the broiler, until the cheese melts. Delicious.

    I may overdose on Mexican food, when I get home. I am going to eat a lot of ice cream as well. The biggest thing I am going to do is SLEEP! I will be in a real bed, that does not jam wires into my back. And there will be no aircraft noise.

    Sunday, February 06, 2011

    Sunday night

    The lodge had a coffee break at the coffee shop. I ate donuts and drank some coffee with the Masons. How terrific it is , to have a lodge here. Fortunately the lodge is Canadian, and it is recognized by the Grand Lodges, which I am member of.

    I am ready to go home. I am ready to sleep in a bed, and get a hot bath in a tub. I am ready to cook my own meals. I am getting tired of this chow hall food. Some nights they have spaghetti and burgers. Some nights they have burgers and spaghetti. Two nights ago, they had some decent boneless chicken. They only have that soft-serve machine ice cream. I miss Baskin-Robbins, when I get home, I will probably over-dose on Baskin-Robbins.

    I will not go home to rest. I am going to be cleaning and doing yard work, and all kinds of chores. I do not mind, I like to have a clean house. And cleaning the house, is the price of having a clean house.

    Tuesday, February 01, 2011

    Going home

    My official orders expire at the end of this month. I will be heading back to the USA around 1 March. I am glad to be going home. I am looking forward to the USA food, and getting a bath (in a tub).

    There is a lot of work here in Afghanistan, the work is not over yet. This war is going to go on for a long time. The date of 2014, is tossed around, but that is only an estimate.

    I am still on night duty, which I prefer. I have really enjoyed meeting the other Masons here. I enjoy our coffee breaks the best. There are Masons here from Canada, the USA, England, even South Africa.

    When I get back to the USA, Larisa is keen to go to Miami. I want to go to Orlando. We will probably do both. Frankly, there is not much in Miami, that I am interested in. I went to Walt Disney World, in 1980. I would like to see it again.

    Monday, January 24, 2011

    A typical day

    What is it like here at Kandahar, Afghanistan? Most people have no idea. Here is what I do 7 days a week.

    I get up at 5:30pm. I crawl out of bed, and put on my walking shorts, and shower shoes. I go to the shower house, and take a shower. Fortunately, the water is very hot, and the pressure is high. I need that shower. I dry off, and walk back to the tent. I grab a khaki uniform (not a US army uniform, just a khaki suit). I get my ID card, and cell phone, and go to the front of the tent.

    The carpool arrives about 6:30, and I ride to the office. The day crew is finishing up, and I get a briefing on what is going down on the night shift. I check to see if anything is urgent, and if not, I walk to the chow hall.

    The food is institutional, steam table food. Rice every day. Pork steaks, fish, broiled chicken, vegetables, salad, dessert. The bread is very good here.

    I walk back to the office, and get on the cases. I analyze the cases, and write them up. I stop at 9:00pm, and go watch "Jeapordy" on the TV. I am pretty good at it.

    I go back to the office, and continue to do the cases. I usually finish about 0100am.

    Then I can read, or study some other cases. I am working on a Civil War book now.

    I drink some coffee, and sometimes I will make a bowl of dehydrated noodles.

    I finish at 0615. I go downstairs ,and meet the carpool. I ride back to the tent, take off my clothes, and crawl into the bed.

    And that is what I do, seven days a week, from 7 am to 7pm . I will be finished with this portion of the work, in April. I may go back earlier, I may leave later.

    I would love to hear from my readers. Feel free to email me at cemab4y@hotmail.com

    Saturday, January 22, 2011

    Two months in Afghanistan

    I have been in Afghanistan for two months.

    Two months in Afghanistan

    I have been in Afghanistan for two months.