I've been Busy

If you have been wondering why I have been silent, I've been busy.

Last night, my lodge had what is called an "Official Visit." This is an annual inspection to see how well we perform the ritual, and to test brothers for certification cards. There are three of these cards, which build on each other.

The Lecturers Card certifies you to teach the work that a brother must memorize before he advances to the next degree. The work is a question-and-answer session where the brother explains what happened to him during his degree. This has always been a "mouth-to-ear" type of session, it has never been written down. You have to know the questions to ask and be able to catch the brother if he misses or adds a word.

The Proficiency Card is everything the Lecturers Card is, plus you must be able to perform any part in the first section of the three degrees. Lodge officers from the Senior Deacon and up must have this card, or it counts against the Lodge during the Official Visit.

The Pin of Excellence is a rare thing. This means you can perform any part, any section, any degree. There are couple hundred Masons in my District. About 20 Masons have this pin, and twelve of those are in my Lodge. I think only about a hundred Masons in the entire state has this pin.

For the past 4 months, I have been studying for my Pin of Excellence. This has meant long hours, my nose buried in my ritual book and talking to myself. Last night, I went up for it.

In the immortal words of Agent 86,

missed it

The good news is I can keep trying, this is not a once-a-year or less type of test. The Grand Lecturer said I literally just missed it because I didn't use the proper words in a couple of instances. For example, one part the proper word is "contained" and I used "enclosed." You may not think that's a big deal, however it really is. I have said it for years, words mean things. Our ritual is very particular and exact in the words it uses. To change a word like that here and there could, by cumulative effect, change the message and the lesson you are trying to impart.

I am happy and proud that I was held to that standard. This will only inspire me to try harder and try again.

I am in awe

I like to think I have a fairly sufficient grasp of the English language. I like to boast that I can insult your four preceeding generations using words that are acceptable at a ladies tea cotillion.

I am blown away by this review.

Seriously, this reviewer of the movie Pixels is a linguistic master. I have never heard or conceived of some of the phrases he coined, like "Skidmark Sumo Thong" or "Advanced Scrotal Cancer" he used to describe this movie.

This review is 104% for certain NSFW. You have been warned.

I Raised My Hand

I was a little busy yesterday, so I didn't get to post this in timely manner.

36 years ago yesterday I started my time in the Navy. It was actually the third time I raised my hand and swore to protect the Constitution. The first time was in January when I entered the DEP (Delayed Entry Program). The second time was the real one, and took place earlier in the week. Saturday July 21st, 1979 was when my clock started.

I was one of 80 young men, members of the "Cleveland Indians Naval Recruit Company." All of us were from Northern Ohio. My parents took me up to the Stadium and we were marched out onto the field during the 7th inning stretch and we were given a "sounds good" oath. We were then loaded onto two buses and made our way to Great Lakes Recruit Training Center.

Dad and I 2

This was me and all I had when I left home. The clothes on my back, a small gym bag with extra stuff that wouldn't fit wrapped in a paper grocery sack, taped to the bottom of the bag. That's my Dad next to me. My Mom took the picture, and she never was very good with cameras, she almost always was off in one direction or another.

And I still have that belt buckle.

I wish I could do this

I have a wireless weather station outside (duh!) and the remote here next to my system. Right now, it says the heat index is 115 degrees. I'm not from around here, I don't take too well to super hot weather like this. I just wish I could be like Jean Claude Van-Damme:


I might get comfortable doing this...

University vs. Trade School

Some time ago, a friend on Facebook proclaimed his frustration about his Job status and prospective employment chances. I say “some time ago” because I have been doing some research in my copious free time.

He is currently making in the $8/hour range as an unarmed security guard. He is frustrated because he can barely survive on that, and saving for college is a dream at that income.

This got me to thinking about how our work habits and expectations have been distorted. The big push from our local school system in recent years have been for "Every Child. Every Day. College Bound." I really don’t see how they can achieve this goal with a 30+% dropout rate.

I have also read story after story about the crushing amount of student loan debt people going for higher education take on.

I do not agree that you need a college education to “get ahead.” There is an alternative distained by Liberals that is very viable. That alternative is trade school, where you learn to be a plumber, electrician, welder, carpenter and so on. Now, trade schools are looked at with contempt by “intellectuals” because you don’t sit all day, thinking and doing paperwork. Having such a trade means you’re usually grimy and dirty at the end of the day, but you can look back and say, “I helped create that.”

Just because you haven’t done a dissertation comparing the prose styles of Shakespeare vs. Keats does not mean you are “uneducated” or “dumb.” It takes a lot of mental as well as physical effort to build things, a concept that seems to constantly escape Liberals.

So, I decided to wash a few numbers through a spreadsheet and see what came out. Here are my sources, US Inflation Calculator, to obtain snapshots of the rate of inflation and this graphic, derived from the information contained in U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, higher education general information survey, Aug 2009.

DISCLAIMER: These numbers are averages, and thus exactly inaccurate. These numbers also under the premise of a 4 year degree, where in real life it could take an extra year or two, due to switching majors, retaking a few courses and the like. The premise is also there that all costs are drawn on Student Loan funds and not being employed to offset some/all of these funds. As far as income, they are again averages. Yes, they start low and end high.

What I see is that from 1978-2008, inflation rose a total of 230.2%. What cost $1.00 in 1978 cost $3.30 in 2008.

I am going on the assertion that the costs in the table are per year, so in 1978, a 4 year degree cost $11,672. In 2008, that 4 year degree, indexed for inflation, would have cost $38,544. In real life, it costs $81,744. In raw dollars (not taking into account inflation), since 1978, the price of college has gone up 700%. If we were to factor in the rate of inflation, this tops out at a staggering (approximate) 1,600% growth rate!

Having worked in the mental health field, I know of two degrees that a lot of my (former) co-workers had, a BSW (Bachelors of Social Work) and an MSW (Masters of Social Work). A BSW degree takes about 4 years and $81,744. The Masters takes 6 years and $122,616. The average annual income for a BSW is $50k and an MSW can average $58.7k annually. That is a national average and a lifetime average. Most of the MSW’s I knew were making less than $35k a year, with the same level of student loan debt.

A trade school (electrician) costs about $33,000 to complete. An average of an average between Electrician I and Electrician II is 44.7k annually.

Now, all of those “debt experts” say that your consumer debt (non-house debt) should not exceed 20% of your take-home pay, otherwise known as net income. Using a 4% interest rate on student loans, these are what each of these would pay for 10, 15 and 20 years:

Position Payment % of Take Home Total Paid
10 years
BSW $546.72 19% $65,606
MSW 901.08 26% 108,129
Electrician 334.11 13% 40,093
15 years
BSW $399.43 14% $71,897
MSW 658.32 19% 118,498
Electrician 244.10 9% 43,937
20 years
BSW $327.23 11% $78,535
MSW 539.32 16% 129,437
Electrician 199.97 8% 47,993

As you can see, the debt load is a lot easier on the Electrician than the BSW or MSW, because the Electricians pay is almost the same but a lot less starting debt. The MSW’s debt load is almost unmanageable at 10 years, barely manageable at 15 years and okay manageable at 20 years. The Electrician can get rid of his debt easier and in half the time.

I personally don’t have a college degree. I learned my basics in the Navy working on radios, radars and other communications equipment. My computer skills (programming, networking and so on) are all self-taught. I also have a voracious appetite for knowledge. Most people never pick up a non-fiction book after they leave High School/College. The bottom line is, consider a trade school to learn a skill.


We should all be like this

This was brought to my attention today. I normally not supportive of posts from the Huffington Post, however in this case I will be glad to make an exception. Granted, the post was made in 2012, but The 9 Nanas are still going.

The original article, It Ain't Over: The Business 9 Women Kept A Secret For Three Decades, is about a group of ladies who helped others. They did it just because they wanted to help others. They were not in it for their own glory, recognition or anything like that. They would still be unknown today if they hadn't been "outed."

Just imagine what our world would be like if we helped those around us without waiting for government to do it. You don't have to do it all, do what you can. Do it to help others and that happiness will come back to you multiplied by a thousand.

Perceptions vs. Reality

I hate double standards. Hate, despise, loathe and some other adjectives.

Which brings me to this poster:

IMG 0219

The automatic assumption that Jake was the aggressor and Josie the victim is disgusting. Let's turn things around.

Jake was drunk. Josie was drunk. Jake could not give consent. The next day JOSIE was charged with RAPE. A man who is intoxicated cannot give his legal consent for sex, so proceeding under these circumstances is a crime.

If you cannot concieve that Josie could be the aggressor, you are an idiot. It can and does happen. And he does not have to be "in the mood." Look up "Pegging."


Our Government At Work

I found this the other day: Obamacare Travesty: IRS Fines Employers For Reimbursing Workers.

Let me put this bluntly. The plans offered by the "Affordable Care Act" suck. Very, very badly. The least offensive plan I was looking at cost $61 a month. That's just the premium. Then there is the $5,000 deductible before the plan pays anything. When the plan does start paying, it only pays 50%. Put simply, I have to spend $5,700+ during the year, about $477 a month before the plan pays a penny.

I don't have $477 to spend a month. After the "survival bills" (house note, utilities, food, transportation) I have less than $400 a month for things like clothes, gas for the car and such.

Now, let's say the company I work for wants to "help me out" so they reimburse some of my health care costs. B-I-G mistake. Under new regulations set forth by the IRS (Not Congress), employers can be fined $100 a day, per employee if they reimburse their employees to help them with their health care costs. That adds up to the princely sum of $36,500 a year, per employee. Now, if a company over 50 employees doesn't offer any health care plan, it's only $2,000 a year per employee. That $36,500 penalty doesn't care if you have one or one thousand employees. Of course, that is more than most of those being helped make. Even one such fine could crush a small business, driving them out of business and making all of the employees unemployed.

I have to ask you, what kind of people feel the need to crush a business if they do not obey a regulation with no legislative oversight? This is not part of the law known as the "Affordable Care Act." This is a regulation devised, written and enforced by the IRS. Congress, the Supreme Court or another agency didn't tell them to write and enforce this regulation. I have no evidence the President told them to do this either. They just thought it would be a great idea to drive companies who want to help take care of their employees out of business.

This is no longer a government "of the People, by the People and for the People." This is now officially a government of "f*ck the People."


We All Need to Go Back To Kindergarten

I was involved with something this past weekend. Part of it involved etiquette. The person talking about said, "Remember what you were taught in Kindergarten." This struck a deep chord within me, because no matter where I look or go in this world, either in-person or on-line, I meet too many people who's first response to most situations is to be mean and hurtful. Frankly, any number above zero is too many.

The types of meaness are almost too many to count. Being mean to to others because they don't measure to "your" standards, anger at others who had nothing to do about why you are angry and can do nothing to solve the reason why you're angry. Maybe they don't have the same opinion/belief on a particular subject.

I feel pity for those people whos sole life purpose is to be offended about something. Or those who for some reason cannot stand another person having a different opinion or outlook on anything.

I have a single memory of Kindergarten. Mrs. Bowers was my teacher, a heavyset older lady, she retired not too long after I left her class. All I rember of her is her, with her back to me, playing a three note chord on the piano to signify the end of playtime. I did remember what she taught us about life.

  • Be nice to each other. You don't have to like others, however you should always be polite.
  • Share what's important. Make sure others have what they need.
  • Life is not fair. Help others when you can.
  • Play fair. It doesn't matter if you win or lose, the experience of playing with others is what you should aim for. A poor player quickly runs out of others to play with.
  • Clean up after yourself. Leave where you've been a little nicer than how you found it.
  • Apologize when you hurt others. Remember how you felt when you were hurt.
  • Don't take things that don't belong to you.
  • We are all different and the same. We each have different abilities, desires and interests. But we are all people.
  • Never lose your sense of wonder.

There are many others, but if all of us could at least try and start to do these nine things consistently, imagine how wonderful our communities would be.