Progression in the chairs

I saw a wonderful discussion on this on Facebook and wanted to expound on this to the point it wouldn’t fit in a comment. So here we go.

To my Brothers, I explain the stations and places first because more then Masons read this. I want all to have a context on how a harmonious Lodge is run.

I am currently Master of my Lodge, so I am writing from that perspective. There are eleven officers that run a lodge. They are the Master, Senior/Junior Wardens, Treasurer, Secretary, Senior/Junior Deacons, Senior/Junior Stewards, Chaplain and Tyler.Only the Master, Wardens, Treasurer and Secretary are elected by the Lodge. Deacons, Stewards, Chaplain and Tyler are appointed by the incoming Master. When I talk about “the line,” this is a progression from Junior to Senior for each of the Stewards, Deacons and Wardens before a man can become the Master of a Lodge. The Treasurer, Secretary, Chaplain and Tyler I will discuss  after these places.

Each of these positions have different duties and responsibilities. Let me explain:

Starting from the bottom up, we have the Stewards. These Brothers work for the Junior Warden. For 1 to 2 years, their job is service. They assist the JW in the preparation, production, delivery and cleanup of meals in the Lodge. These places in the line teach humility, service and obedience. Because of the physical demands of these places, this is where 90% of those who drop “out of line” occur.

If a Brother makes it through his time in the kitchen, he is made a Deacon. The Deacons are responsible for the setup of the Lodge for meetings and making sure Brothers visiting from other Lodges are verified to be able to enter the Lodge. In my Lodge, we have a clear policy that a man may not progress past Senior Deacon if he has not obtained his proficiency card during his year as SD. The proficiency card testifies that a Brother can perform any part in the first section of the three degrees of the Blue Lodge.

If a man makes it to Junior Warden, he is elected by the members of the Lodge to a serious leadership position. This position teaches the man about being a leader of the Stewards and a good fiscal manager of the monies placed in his keeping. The JW is given a fund of money for him to purchase food for meals and the drinks available for consumption at the lodge. Brothers are expected to pay what they can for their meals. The JW must balance providing a menu of healthy and tasty meals without “breaking the budget.” It is made clear to the JW that if necessary he can ask the lodge for more money if the donations are down. If he runs a surplus at the end of his term, that is generally donated to the Lodge Charity fund.

The Senior Warden is kept very busy. He spends his year getting ready for his year as Master, interviewing petitioners who want to enter Masonry and assigns “the work,” or who performs what parts for the degrees held at the lodge. A good SW makes sure a Brother can perform the parts they are assigned proficiently. Some Lodges allow reading of the Work out of the ritual book, my lodge does not. Until you can perform it in school to the senior instructor, you don’t get to do it in an actual degree.

The Master is not in charge of anything, although he is responsible for everything in and about the Lodge. The SW is in charge of “the Craft” while they are at labor, the JW is in charge while the Craft is at refreshment. The Master’s job is to make sure everything is working as it should.

Once a Brother has served his time as Master, he then becomes a Past Master. Generally, the positions of Treasurer, Secretary, Chaplain and Tyler are Past Masters. Once into one of these positions, the Brother usually stays for several to many years. The Treasurer and Secretary especially are the foundation of the Lodge. They provide the stability and continuity necessary for the Lodge to run smoothly. All of the Past Masters in my lodge are more than willing to share their knowledge and experience with me to make sure I make the best decision.

Now the discussion which started this was about “election or progression?” Progression meaning once a Brother starts as Junior Steward, he advances every year and (hopefully) after advancing every year, in his 7th year he becomes Master. Granted, the Wardens and Master are elected and any Brother could be nominated for any elected office without serving a day in the line. the chances of being elected are usually pretty close to zero, but it could happen. Each Lodge is different and the politics of the Brethren have an effect on the outcome. For example, a Brother stepped out of line in my Lodge (I was ready to appoint him as my Junior Deacon) to be elected Junior Warden in another Lodge where he is a plural member. The other lodge needed someone who held a proficiency card (he does) in the JW position.

We also use the positions of Stewards and Deacons to “shake out” those who might not be suitable for the position of Master. A Brother might look good and have the enthusiasm to get put in line, however he doesn’t advance or drops out because he doesn’t have the right mindset or temperament to possibly lead the Lodge.

No Brother “deserves” the next higher place or station. He must earn it by superior performance, a willingness to serve and a true sense of humility. Through my progression of the line, all the way up until now, I have sought to nurture and inspire all of my Brothers.

In my lodge, we do not teach rote memorization of the words of the ritual. We teach these Brothers to understand what the words mean to them and to impart that knowledge by how they deliver it to the candidates of the degrees. I learned so much about Masonry just by learning the EA Screen and the FC Stair lectures.

 

How to select a candidate

I was just reminded the other day about my High School Geometry and Trigonometry teacher, Mrs. Corsale. It got me thinking about using her method for selecting a primary candidate since the political season is approaching quickly.

She told me about how she picked her husband. She was in college and had three suitors vying for her hand. She couldn’t make up her mind as to which one she would choose, so she applied math.

Mrs. Corsale wrote two lists, the first was positive aspects she wanted in a husband, the second list was the negative aspects she didn’t want her future husband to have. She then gave each suitor a point per item on the positive list, then deducted a point for every item on the negative list. She married they guy with the highest total. She had been married for over 15 years at the time she related this to me and had several children by him, so it must have been successful.

I bring this up, because the Republicans have presented Presidential candidates that have somewhat approached lackluster for several cycles, simply because the final candidate was the least offensive. I see a lot of “single hot button” voters that will reject an otherwise outstanding candidate, simply because of their stance on a single issue. They might agree with that candidate on 37 other subjects, but those don’t matter if the candidate doesn’t agree with them on that hot button issue.

No candidate will ever agree with you 100%, unless you are the candidate. So, look at a candidates total spectrum before you decide to support or reject the candidate based on one choice or decision.

Net Neutrality

I have been reading through the FCC’s “Net Neutrality” ruling, released March 12, 2015. The following are my thoughts and impressions. I have a copy here.

First of all, I do not condone any agency making rules and regulations that have the same effect of law as a bill passed by Congress and signed by the President. The concept of administrators who can make what are effectively laws and do not answer to the People are an anathema to me. The concept that these administrators have no agenda is ludicrous on its face. I guess the closest comparison would be the term “Philosopher-Kings.”

Case in point: BATF and APCP. In the 80’s, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (Explosives were added later) issued a regulation that declared Ammonium Perchlorate Composite Propellant (APCP) as an explosive and thus under their authority to regulate the possession and use of said “explosive.” They never followed their own procedures to test and determine if a material is explosive or not, they just issued a regulation declaring, “We’re regulating this now. Tough shit.”

Because most people have no idea what APCP is, it is rocket fuel. It is the only solid rocket fuel deemed safe enough to be “man-rated,” meaning we launch people into space using it. This was the fuel in the Shuttle’s Solid Rocket Boosters.

When people who engaged in high power rocketry in the 80’s starting using APCP, they had to apply for a “Low Explosives Users Permit” or LEUP which was excruciatingly detailed as to the purchase, storage, transportation and use of APCP. You were also subject to inspection at any time to make sure you were obeying their regulations.

It took years of court battles and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees by the National Association of Rocketry and the Tripoli Rocketry Association to get that regulation overturned.

Back to the FCC: Looking through this “Rule,” I find some interesting things. This is a sampling, not a point-by-point list of that I disagree with through 319 pages:

Page 8, “No Unreasonable Interference or Unreasonable Disadvantage to Consumers or Edge Providers.” The key word here is “unreasonable.” Who decides what is unreasonable? Why the government, of course! Those “uninterested” administrators.

Page 12, part 37, reads, “Today, our forbearance approach results in over 700 codified rules being inapplicable…” This hits at something that you don’t directly see in any one spot. You have to read the FCC’s website and throughout this document. It means, “We don’t feel like applying these regulations right now.” So they are selectively applying their own rules. Sure, they aren’t enforcing that rule today, no guarantee on tomorrow.

Page 14, part 43, “Exercising our delegated authority to interpret ambiguous terms in the Communications Act, as confirmed by the Supreme Court…” Again, the administrators have the power to interpret the law passed by Congress however they want to. And what the administrators say it meant yesterday, does not mean it will mean the same thing tomorrow.

Page 16, part 51, “In finding that broadband Internet access service is subject to Title II, we simultaneously exercise the Commission’s forbearance authority to forbear from 30 statutory provisions and render over 700 codified rules inapplicable…” Again, the administrators are deciding today that these parts are inapplicable. They can always change their minds.

The first 282 pages of this 400 page document is only justification on why and how they will or will not enforce the laws and regulations already in place along with 1,777 footnotes. The actual rules, “Appendix A” starts at page 283 and runs for just 7 pages. However, considering that there are passages like: “AUTHORITY: 47 U.S.C. §§ 151, 152, 153, 154, 201, 202, 208, 218, 230, 251, 254, 256, 257, 301, 303, 304, 307, 309, 316, 332, 403, 503, 522, 536, 548, 1302.” Your reading will be a lot longer.

Appendix B, the “Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis,” runs another 22 pages and 173 more footnotes.

The last 86 pages are supporting or dissenting opinions of the members of the FCC Commission. The FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler and the other approving members, Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel gushed the “party line” for a whole six pages collectively. Commissioner Ajit Pai dissents for 63 pages and 487 footnotes. Commissioner Michael O’Rielly also dissents for the last 15 pages and 76 footnotes. Both Commissioners Pai and O’Rielly systematically detail and pick apart everything that is bad about this new rule and how it will hurt the American People and the Internet.

I highly suggest you read it with an open mind.

 

An Explanation about the Police

Warning: occasional profanity.

The Internet is wonderful and terrible at the same time. Right now, we can in our Facebook feed, or checking some news aggregators, or even just YouTube, see dozens of “police abuse” videos. Most people, from those reports, will make the inference that “there is an awful lot of police brutality” going on.

I am not saying there isn’t any “police brutality” going on. There obviously are instances of such activity. However, when there are hundreds of thousands of police encounters every day, even a hundred is a very small amount. For example, 100,000 police encounters nationwide every day (a very low estimate) and if 100 of those encounters that fall into the “Police brutality” category (a very high estimate) yields according to my calculator a 0.001% of police encounters meeting the brutality category. Honestly, you have a better chance at getting run over by an 18-wheeler.

Let’s take an objective look at a police officer, their mindset, their job and everything else.

First, a police officer is a human being. They have the same fears, thoughts, hope, dreams and feelings like everybody else. They worry about their spouse and kids when the family is sick, financial troubles because the bills outweigh the income, all that stuff you worry about when you’re at work as well. If their spouse was yelling at them the night before or this morning over something, or their boss is yelling at them, they are going to carry that frustration and anger into their encounters during the day… Just like you would.

Police officers are people who are trained to be observant, assertive, aggressive when necessary, what laws they are charged to enforce and the constraints and procedures they are to use while carrying out their duties. They have to demonstrate a certain level of physical strength, endurance and firearms proficiency.

A police officer is trained to assert and assume control over any encounter they have. That is their self-defense mechanism, because if they aren’t in control, they will likely end up dead. They never know if they are stopping a harmless little old lady or a gangbanger who just murdered someone when they pull a vehicle over for a broken tail light. If they are personally emotionally upset coming into that encounter, there exists the possibility that they will be more aggressive than needed.

The officer has the authority, both for personal protection and as an agent of the state, for him and fifteen of his buddies to beat the living shit out of you if you do not instantly obey everything he tells you to do. The police must win every encounter, especially when violence is involved. If you fight with them, they will use fists, feet, batons, Tasers, firearms and anything else they can get their hands on to make you comply. The only thing that fighting with the officer will get you is hurt or dead. If you are being detained or arrested, any type of resistance at that point will hurt you physically and hurt your case when it comes to the courtroom.

Second, there is some misdirection going on. All of these news stories and YouTube videos do not tell you the whole story. You almost never find out the details as to why the encounter happened in the first place. Most likely, the person broke a law or regulation in view of the officer. Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City Bomber, was pulled over for an expired license plate on his car. Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO was jaywalking. The duty of a police officer is to detain and/or arrest people he believes have broken a law he is charged to enforce. The police do not write the laws, nor can they choose which laws to enforce or not enforce. If you have a problem with being arrested for a particular law, take it up with your legislators about removing or altering the law.

Third, if you get into an encounter with the police, there are some things you need to consider and carry out. First of all, know the laws of the state where you are. Know your rights. You don’t have to recite court cases or anything like that. Know when you have to show your identification and when you do not have to show it and things like that. In my state, if I am pulled over for a traffic violation, I have to show my driver’s license. If I am walking along the street and I am detained, I do not have to show any identification. You also have the right to remain silent. That means, don’t talk. Let me emphasize that point. Under no circumstances are you to open your fucking piehole. That means don’t talk, shrug your shoulders, move your hands/arms, change expression on your face, nothing except, “I do not consent to any searches of my person or property. Am I being detained or am I free to go?” Everything that you say or communicate by bodily movements, etc., can and will be used against you to convict you with whatever you will be charged with. Anything exculpatory (that means proves your innocence) will not be used to help you. A police officer can testify that you confessed to whatever you’re charged with, however if you say something that shows your innocence, the same officer cannot testify about it, as exculpatory statements are considered “hearsay” and thus inadmissible in court.

If you are being detained, an officer has the authority to feel on the outside of your clothing to see if you are carrying any weapons on your person. If you resist this pat down, you will be given a vigorous and enthusiastic (on the officer’s part, not necessarily yours) beat down until you stop resisting. A simple, clear and polite, “Officer, I do not consent to any searches of my person or possessions” limits them. If the police perform an improper search after you tell them you do not consent, that evidence can be disregarded by the court. There are a lot of particulars that I am unable to go into, as I am not a lawyer, and anyways what can happen in Cleveland, Ohio may not fly in Cleveland, Tennessee.

I am happy to see videos like this:

This young man was polite and respectful to the officer and the same courtesy was given to him in return. This young man was given a warning instead of a citation and he went on his way. What he didn’t try to do is try and intimidate the officer by showing what a “bad ass” he is. He also didn’t run, swear or be confrontational.

The next time you have a “police encounter,” I hope you remember who you’re dealing with. As a person and a position.

 

Witty Twitter Banter

I’m starting to pay attention to some Twitter comments, as that will be part of my job in the week ahead.

This one popped up, Pat Sajak (the host of Wheel of Fortune) Tweeted the following:

When I had minimum wage jobs, my goal was to better myself, not to better the minimum wage.

It’s stuff like this that warms my heart. Because, in the minimum wage world, there are two groups of people: people who have mental/physical disabilities and everyone else.

The first group, people who have disabilities generally have some kind of public assistance supporting them. They work because they want to work. I commend them for that. To push or expand beyond their disabilities makes me very proud of them. If I was hiring, I would take someone with disabilities who push themselves 104% versus a non-disabled person who does the minimum to get by.

“Everyone else” actually have a couple of sub-groups. You have these broad categories:

  • Teenagers in their first job
  • Adults 30+ who have been laid off and are working to get a better job
  • Seniors who are supplementing their retirement
  • People who have worked minimum wage for 5+ years

The teenagers group get minimum wage jobs because they are still living at home. All they need is “gas and date” money, as probably their parents are paying for everything else. They have zero job experience and are looking to start their job history.

The 30 and older adults, they have experienced a setback by being unexpectedly laid off or whatever. They are doing whatever it takes to support their family, even if it means being a line worker in a fast food restaurant. Today, it is easier to get a job if you already have a job. It is assumed that if you have been unemployed for an extended period you are either A) a slacker or B) you are being too picky about a job. I experienced that during my nine months of unemployment last year.

Seniors, our third sub-group are looking to supplement their Social Security and stay active. Due to age discrimination, they can’t stay in whatever field they worked in during their younger years.

The last group are generally the ones who want the “living wage.” If you have worked in a minimum wage environment for 5+ years and are not disabled, let me put it to you bluntly: YOU ARE A SLACKER. Because this means you have not received a useful college degree or have not graduated from a trade school, thus upgraded your skills and become a more valuable worker because you have a knowledge and skill set that is in demand.

For several years back in the 90’s, I had a job installing point-of-sale computers in fast food restaurants. Because of the “back office stuff” I had to be knowledgeable about the industry. Here is what I found:

A $2.00 hamburger has the (roughly) following costs:

  • 50 cents: Materials (bread, meat, cheese, etc.)
  • 80 cents: Labor (workers, management, maintenance, etc.)
  • 46 cents: Overhead (Main office workers, rent/mortgage, utilities, etc.)
  • 14 cents: Franchise fees (the store owner paying the brand name)
  • 10 cents: Net profit (what the franchisee receives)
  • 200 cents: Total

Now, jumping the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15, that’s doubling it and then some. It would not be out of bounds to think that keeping the same amount of staffing at the higher rate would jump the labor costs probably about 48 to 50 cents. The result would be this:

 

  • 50 cents: Materials (bread, meat, cheese, etc.)
  • 128 cents: Labor (workers, management, maintenance, etc.)
  • 46 cents: Overhead (Main office workers, rent/mortgage, utilities, etc.)
  • 18 cents: Franchise fees (goes up because of the price increase)
  • 10 cents: Net profit (what the franchisee receives)
  • 252 cents: Total

So, because the labor costs almost doubled, the total price of the item jumped about 25%. It is math, and no matter how much you whine about it, that won’t change the numbers. This business will sell less of that $2.00 item because it will be “too expensive” for some people and they will probably choose another place, because all of the prices there will jump up a similar amount.

So, in order to reduce the labor costs back to the original 80 cents, a combination of two things is necessary:

  • Reduce staffing levels (less jobs)
  • Increase automation.

So, the result of increasing the minimum wage will result in either higher prices or less people working and more automation like this:

Fast Food Worker at $15That is the result of artificially inflating wages. Any questions?

 

It’s Official

As of yesterday afternoon, all the paperwork has been signed and everything is ready to go. Next Thursday I will be Assistant Director – Communications for Alpha Omega Veterans Services.

I get to do many things, including run the social media aspect for this wonderful organization. I am honored that I will be helping my battle brothers and sisters through their struggles.

I can’t tell you how much this means to me. I have been through so much in the past years of my life. If you read my archives, you can see some of it. I would not have made it without the help of my support network, especially my beautiful blushing bride of 26 years. It is now my turn to help others who also struggle with just making it to the end of the day.

Freedom… or Persecution?

Okay folks, pull your head out of your politics.

People, by and large have little, if any, grasp or concept of laws in this country. They think the First Amendment applies to everybody, government, businesses and individuals, when it in reality only applies to the government. Only the federal government is prohibited by the Constitution from restricting your speech. If you say something stupid and it costs you your job or whatever, that is NOT a First Amendment matter.

If course, a law entitled “The Puppies and Kittens Act of 2015″ everyone would support it based on its title alone. After it becomes law, then we find out that it that lets the feds to “detain” anybody they want, for any reason and for as long as they want.

Before you go and get upset over a law or act, Read. The. Effen. Bill.

Now, the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act prohibits the Indiana State government and its “political subdivisions (counties, cities and towns, etc.) from discriminating against a person or business based on the religious beliefs of a person, no matter if it be an individual or business owner.

That’s it.

And before you get all up in arms about this, let’s look at the States that have already passed similar laws:

Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Indiana is the twentieth state to pass this type of law.

To top that off, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington State, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin, that’s eleven more states, by the way, have had state courts set down rulings that are similar to RFRA laws.

Thirty States had this in place before Indiana. Where is the hue and cry over these laws and rulings?????

Now for the flip side of things:

In Washington State, one of those “protected” by court rulings rather than law, a lady who owns a florist shop stands to lose her business and all of her assets because the government is persecuting her on her religious beliefs. Here is the story.

The events, in a nutshell, are this: Two gay men wanted to get married, one of them went to this florist to purchase flowers for their ceremony. The business owner, who has religious beliefs against such things, declined their business and suggested they patronize several other florists willing to accept their business.

The business owner, a lady who has had this shop for 30 years, has to pay Washington State a fine basically for standing up for her religious beliefs. This judgement has also opened her up to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and could destroy her business and her finances.

So, who is the injured party here? If this gay couple were denied services by all of the florists in the area, that would be one thing. One business declined their business and suggested other places to go. If that happened to me, I’d walk out with my money and not bother with that business any more. To demand a business offer their services violates the freedom of the business owner.

Now, if Gen Con, et. al., wants to move out of Indiana because of this, that’s perfectly acceptable because it is the choice of the Board of Directors of Gen Con to do so, for whatever reason the BoD sees fit.

I will however call them idiots if they land in a state with similar laws.

 

Can’t… or Won’t?

There is a difference between can’t and won’t.

Before the next time you say you “can’t” do something, consider this:

Dashrath Manjhi lived in a poor village in India. His village was less than a mile from a neighboring village that had a lot better services (schools, doctors, etc.) The problem was… that “mile” took you over a mountain. so, the people of Dashrath’s village could either climb over the mountain (very dangerous), or walk 45 miles around the mountain. When his wife was injured trying to go over the mountain, Dashrath decided he had to do something about it.

So, he picked up a hammer and chisel and took after the mountain.

Every morning, he started pounding away at the mountain at 4 AM, until 8 AM, whereupon he went and worked in the fields to support his family.

For twenty-two years. Over eight thousand days.

And he succeeded.

MountainManRoadIf a single man can carve his way through a mountain with hand tools, I don’t want to hear you “can’t” do something.

 

Ringtone Update

I’ve added some additional ringtones and I’ve added a column that shows when I’ve released the ringtone. I have also updated the zip files for both the mp3’s and the m4r’s.

Enjoy!

TOBAL

When I was growing up in the 70’s, my local newspaper had a one panel comic in the opinion section called, “There Oughta Be A Law,” or TOBAL for short.

I was picking up *two* items at the local store tonight, and I was standing in the “10 items or less” line. One of the shoppers ahead of me had about 30 items in their basket. When I got up to the cashier, she asked me, “Does that sign say 10 or 20 items?”

So while watching this other customer who either didn’t care and/or was illiterate, I came up with my own TOBAL:

If you have more than the proscribed number of items, you will be charged a progressive $1 fee per item. So, if the limit is 10 items and you have 15, you are charged an additional $15 ($1+2+3+4+5=15). Instead of the company getting that money however, that “inconvenience fee” is applied like a gift card to the customers behind you who have 10 items or less.

Just a thought….