Dispatches from Maine

Just another person of little note writing about ordinary things. That I reside in Maine is icing on the cake.

25 May 2007

Saving a Masonic Temple

I was elected last night as a member of the Board of Trustees responsible for the Masonic Temple in Portland. We are in a similar situation to many Grand Lodges with old Masonic buildings in the city core: high expenses (heat, electricity, parking, etc), plenty of internal and external maintenance to be done, and restricted income (primarily rent). I would love to hear suggestions for how other such groups have recovered from a similar situation? I would hate to see the work of great men like Augustus Schlotterbeck lost as office space or condos. What we have in Portland is a real turn of the century jewel and it is our task to ensure this jewel is available for future generations of Freemasons.

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Lodge of Perfection

Last night I attended the annual meeting of the Scottish Rite Valley of Portland. The meeting itself was an experience: one meeting chaired by the heads of the four bodies. Jeff Simonton, Sovereign Prince of the Portland Council Princes of Jerusalem, did a nice job running the meeting, but things were periodically...entertaining. The funniest moment had to be the report of the Secretary for Maine Consistory.

In the membership changes list their was a notation "Undone Deaths 2". Huh. Weird. I proceeded to ask if resurrections were a feature of membership. There was a lot of head scratching until everyone found the line I was talking about. The Secretary explained that Lexington, location of the Supreme Council for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, provides these occasionally. Being unable to help myself, I asked, "If Lexington hands out two resurrections a year to each Consistory, why isn't this in our membership brochure?" Can you imagine? "Join the Maine Consistory, and if you die you are automatically entered into our lottery for the two annual resurrections." Of course, in the end it was just a matter of a misreported death being corrected. When I explained this to my wife she called them "zombies." I like my idea better.

The meeting concluded with the election of officers. Chris DiSotto was elected a member of the Finance Committee and appointed as Captain of the Guard for the Lodge of Perfection. I was elected as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Masonic Temple in Portland and appointed as Orator for the Lodge of Perfection. This is going to be a busy year.

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22 May 2007

The Providence Journal: Temple digs

A non-Mason relation sent along this great story on the rebirth of the long abandoned Providence Masonic Temple. I never even realized there was such a thing, otherwise I would have gone to see it when I was in Providence last year. Rest assured that I will make three stops during my trip to Providence in the summer: Masonic Temple (see also Art in Ruins), PawSox, and Atwell's Ave. Here is to hoping that we Freemasons in Maine are able to maintain the investment our Brothers made in 1910, when they constructed the Masonic Temple in Portland. We are working hard to develop a plan to restore the exterior and to assure the funds are available to maintain it.

Read the article: Temple digs | Rhode Island news | The Providence Journal

20 May 2007

Teaching the Ritual

Bro. Tom Accuosti, of the Tao of Masonry, posted the following comments regarding my being appointed the District Ritual Instructor here in the 17th:

Yes! Another ritual dude on the blogscape! That's excellent news, Bro. Chris, and personally, I'm very happy for you.
In Conn we already have "plain English" books - the task for me is getting some members to actually open them up and look at the words.

I understand precisely what he is talking about. The 17th, and I believe Maine Masonry in general, has been struggling to develop its new generation of ritualists. Some of our programs have been successful while others have been significantly less so. The Schools of Instruction moved during the last several years from a recitation of the ritual words where the intent was to cover as much material as possible in the shortest amount of time, to a deeper exploration of the ritual and its meaning. This shift from a quantitative to a more qualitative experience was good for those Brethren who were already attending and it helped birth some of our new ritualists. I fully intend to continue that transition by emphasizing that both the words and their meaning are key when I am called on to assist lodges.

With all of the wonderful changes to the Schools of Instruction, the one missing ingredient is the attendance of more lodge officers. In talking with R.W. Bro. Steven Nichols, Grand Lecturer, and reading through the history of the Grand Lecturer in the archives of the Grand Lodge, I have come to the realization that the Schools were established to reduce the load on the Grand Lecturer and his assistants. Now that each District has a District Ritual Instructor, a return to an older style of education might be a good idea. The traditional mechanism was for the Grand Lecturers to go visit the lodges and spend evenings going over the ritual with them. I hope to reawaken this practice by visiting lodges on their Stated Communication nights. After the lodge is closed, I will sit down with any interested officers and brethren to review whatever part of the ritual they desire. I was pleased to have Hiram Lodge in South Portland invite me to review the Middle Chamber lecture before my appointment as District Ritual Instructor. Hopefully, this will be the first of many such tutorials.

One program which has met with less success has been the Certified Ritual Instructor program. In my personal opinion, a major reason for this has been the principle of Brotherly Love. This is an idea which is close to the heart of every good Freemason, and none of us wants to hurt someone's feelings. Unfortunately, too much love can dilute the value of the thing being sought. In more blunt language, people who should have never earned the Certified Ritual Instructor card did and their lack of true knowledge and skill made the certification of less value. Lest anyone feel like I am talking about them, I am not. I am speaking of myself. The first time I took the test I should have been failed on the Entered Apprentice Lesson II, since I missed two more words than I am allowed. The kindly District Ritual Instructor and District Deputy Grand Master, two men whom I hold in the highest regard, felt that I should pass regardless likely due to the Brotherly Love they bore for me.

With the post of District Ritual Instructor it now falls to me to certify ritualists. I plan, at the Inspections and Schools this year, to tell the Brethren of my District that I will hold us all to very high standards, so that when a Brother says, "I am a CRI for the 17th District" everyone will know there is a truly skilled ritualist. I also plan to certify in one degree at a time, based on something I saw and was very impressed with in Florida. At the Schools I will introduce the Certified Ritual Instructors and try to have them added to the suite at Inspections. The idea here is not just to add yet another honor, but instead it is twofold. First, I do want people to feel like they are really earning both the certification and applause of their Brethren by virtue of genuinely hard work. Second, to circulate the identities of these men, so that the budding ritualists in the District will know who to go to for help with their ritual.

Like all ideas, these may well fail, but they may also help to produce the next generation of ritualists in the 17th District.

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19 May 2007

The Constant Gardener

The famous father-in-law has come into the blogosphere with his new work blog "The Constant Gardener" at the Portland Press Herald. His post on "Fighting the woodchuck" is pretty much the essence of the man. There are baseball references and the use of refuse to a good end, though the kitty litter idea is a bit odd. I do remember him being irritated with the woodchuck last year, so I hope the battle goes well.


Presiding Masters Degree

Triangle Lodge No. 1 of Portland, Maine is hosting a very special degree on Wednesday, May 30th. We are going to be working a Master Mason Degree with only Presiding Masters in the chairs.

Christian Ratliff Triangle
Sr. Warden
Tom Heath Union
Jr. Warden
Joseph Shaw Harmony
Sr. Deacon
David Vaillancourt Tranquil
Jr. Deacon
David Frost Hiram
Sr. Steward
Robert Verge Gov. William King
Jr. Steward
Robert Hazelton Casco
Chaplain Walter Lamb Presumpscot

1st Gate Mark Carter Acacia
2nd Gate Mike Henderson Saccarappa
3rd Gate Seth Dube Ocean
Speaking FC Gerald Leighton Grand Lodge
Wayfaring Man Quinones Rembert Deering
Lecture Carl Trynor Cornerstone
Charge Kevin Campbell Dresden

18 May 2007

Visions of the Future

We were fortunate to receive two visits from Damon Poole, founder of AccuRev, to discuss the use of AccuRev at DeLorme. I remembered speaking with Damon several years ago at SD East, and it was that conversation which made me interested in what AccuRev had to offer. This meeting was no less impressive.

We discussed our experience moving from Visual SourceSafe. The SCM part of our transition was minor, but our move from a 1980s era massive build system to continuous integration was huge. We changed nearly everything about how we manage the code for projects, largely due to our greater flexibility with AccuRev. Since making large changes is so simple with AccuRev, we opted to address items which had been on the todo list for years. Damon asked a lot of good questions and clearly saw this painful transition as something AccuRev could help other companies with. Be that as it may, I would not trade my experience from November to March for all the tea in China.

Damon then took some time, in both meetings, to break out what he terms "concept cars." These are very much like real concept cars in that they indicate, in a general way, where a company is going but the concept vehicle and the final production vehicle are usually different. He walked us through three PowerPoint presentations which outlined several important future areas of development for AccuRev. Though we were hardly sworn to secrecy, I feel the need to be a little vague here. The research tool, which we saw first, looks extremely powerful with features I know will be useful during the bug hunt, but more especially for release engineering.

The dashboard tools he showed, however, got the biggest reaction from me since it appealed to me both as a developer and as a tech lead. During the demonstration there was a point when I just blurted out, "Once this tool comes out, you can pretty much just start printing your own money." Trust me, if you are an AccuRev customer you will be buying this add-on. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is going to be beating a path to their door. Suffice it to say, that at the end of the meeting our super smart, hard dealing Department Head said, "How much?" and "When can I cut a PO?" Unfortunately, this software is not yet in the can, but perhaps we can jump into the beta program for it. In any case, the vision of the future looks great for AccuRev, since they are not a company who is going to rest on their laurels.

That reminds me...I should make a t-shirt on the front: "AccuRev Old School", on the back a picture of the dashboard concept design and: "I used AccuRev before they went double platinum".

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17 May 2007

District Ritual Instructor

Well, the day has finally arrived when someone at Grand Lodge has finally slipped up and given me a real job to do. At the Masonic Lodge Association meeting tonight the District Deputy Grand Master, R.W. Bro. Kenneth A. Caldwell, announced my appointment as the District Ritual Instructor. If that sounds like a lot of blah-blah-blah, then let me translate it to English. I have been honored with the responsibility for carrying around one of the twenty-nine copies of the Maine Masonic Ritual rendered in plain text, rather than in the customary code. It is my task to help my Brothers in the 17th District to both memorize and understand the Maine Ritual. I am looking forward to this challenge and while some may think my ideas are new "young guy" ideas, really they are nothing more than reading history and repeating things that worked a long, long time ago. As far as blogger's go I am nowhere near as "on the dark side" as V.W. Bro. Tom Ascouti of Tao of Masonry fame, but it is still a very big honor.

As a side-note, just this week one of my Masonic blogposts was noticed by Bro. Chris Hodapp, author of Freemasons for Dummies.

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