Dispatches from Maine

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

06 December 2008

Christmas Season

Today we bought our Christmas tree from the South Portland Rotary. Normally, Tandy and the girls pick out the tree and my function is little more than holder, turner and lifter. I heard this described in Oklahoma once as, "A strong back and a weak mind." This year, however, it was I who found the perfect tree. The family was in agreement and now it sits warming in its stand in the living room. While I have never been a big Christmas guy, I do love how the tree makes the house smell.

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03 April 2008

ACCU, Day Two

The intellectual feast begins today! The keynote, by Tom Gilb, earned a pretty ruthless reception by the audience, particularly when he referred to there being no resources for guiding large projects with Agile. He indicated a book would be forthcoming, meanwhile the woman two rows in front of me rose to say the book had already been out for four years. She wrote it! The general level of hostility rose over time to be sure.

After the keynote I went to the session "Santa Claus and other methodologies" by Gail Ollis. The focus here was to explain how to evaluate and select methodologies. There was a particular focus on detecting flaws and salesmanship in methodology training. I wonder if part of the problem of software development is that we are still having trouble refining working processes, rather we always tear down the temple and rebuild it anew. I am guilt of that myself, but as we focus more on refactoring and less on rewriting from scratch shouldn't we apply those principles to our methodology development? The session was rock solid and worth attending.

Having being lakosed the night before I went back to my room for a nap, but wound up talking to the family instead. iChat, with its built in video conferencing is just wonderful! Better rested, though hungry from having skipped lunch, I returned to the conference for the remaining two sessions.

"Snowflakes and Architecture" by Steve Love was quite interesting on two levels. First, I realized that we are not as well educated in the language and practices of modern software design as we ought to be. There is still a lot of resistance to interface based programming, a style which results from the dependency inversion principle, except as it applies directly to COM. I have often wondered if the aversion to interface-based programming is a classic baby-and-the-bath-water reaction. Since COM was both inflexible and slow it may well have ultimately bred resistance the very core of its programming model. The wrap-up of the presentation was a description of the "hexagonal architecture", now commonly called the ports and adapters design. All in all a very engaging and interesting presentation.

The final session paid for the entire trip, insomuch as I am concerned, it was "Error Handling and Diagnosability" by Tony Barrett-Powell. He is a maintenance developer with Oracle responsible for a particularly gnarly multi-threaded service. Handling, reporting and analyzing errors is, as he says, "Really, really important to me" or "I am really serious about this." The Play State object is particularly interesting for for tracing the progress of database transactions and then reporting detailed diagnostic information, when used in conjunction with dynamic logging levels, the value to *******, where I work, is particularly valuable. Since we sell a very database-intensive application which works with user data, the part we rarely have access to, the information provided to tech support and/or development would be invaluable. He also made reference to "Patterns for Generation, Handling and Management of Errors" (PDF and More ... PDF) which I fully intend to search out and read.

As Steve and I were both exhausted from our lakosing the previous day, we snuck off to The Plough, a pub around the corner from the hotel, for a quiet dinner.

(Pictures soon on Flickr)

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ACCU, Day One

Finally the conference was due to begin! Steve and I were conducted to the Oxford Paramount in time for registration and our first sessions. I had signed up for Tom Gilb’s “Evo” seminar. We, at *******, used Evo several years ago for a number of projects. While it did a good job managing the detail level, it generally fell down for long term project management. For instance, with Evo we were never able to answer: How is the project against its total schedule? There were also defects in the small software application used to store the task, or time box, level estimations. There were a number of great ideas we took from Evo, however, including choosing a lower available effort level for a developer. Our Evo tutor, Niels Malotaux, encouraged us to limit “effort hours” available per week to twenty six.

While this seminar did provide some very useful insights, Gilb was too self-aggrandizing and too negative about other methodologies. I did like his shift away from the old Evo time boxes, six hours per task as we were taught, and toward “front room” and “back room” development. More than that the idea of establishing measurable, stakeholder-focused benchmarks in conjunction with requirements development. In our case, at *******, we could apply this concept to record the time of several common GIS edit operations and then set a goal for improvement by the next release of the software. A particularly time consuming task in **** is copy-and-paste from one layer to another. We are able to measure the time it takes to transfer a collection of objects from layer A to layer B for our internal customer, then set a goal for improvement. This type of operation is extremely frequent and would have immediate value for both internal and external customers.

After the seminar I changed into my suit and made for The Alfred Lodge on Banbury Road. The Oxford Masonic Centre is a very large facility with multiple lodge rooms along with conference rooms and dining halls. The large hall was quite beautiful with several pieces of 19th century furniture including the painted stands used by the Master and Wardens (pictures soon to be on Flickr). The Junior Warden, assisted by another Brother, examined me that I might proved myself as a Freemason. Afterward we made for the in house pub where I had a soda, since I wanted to pay attention to every detail of the ritual, and was treated as a long lost Brother. The ritual that evening was a double Entered Apprentice Degree which was sufficiently distinct from the American version as to be only mildly recognizable. The concepts are still almost the same, but the language is completely distinct. Unfortunately, there was not enough time for the lecture expanding on the symbolism of the tracing board.

Following the degree work we adjourned to the dining hall for the Festive Board. I have enjoyed this dinner, similar in Maine to our Table Lodge. The most moving and engaging part of the Festive Board was the chain and Entered Apprentice’s song. The song itself can be found in Anderson’s Constitutions of 1723, but the ritual really added a great deal to the moment. I reminded the new initiates, as well as all of the brethren, of our obligation to reach out and assist our brothers. I was allowed the honor of giving the response from the visitors.

My experience at The Alfred Lodge reminds me of the simple power and beauty of the Craft. No matter where you go in the world, you are not without friends. I hope to be able to share the chain ritual and song with my own Grand Lodge, perhaps encouraging them to renew this ancient practice.

After lodge I went back to the hotel and shared a birthday pint with Steve. Unfortunately, it was not “soon to bed” as I was soon lakosed.

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30 March 2008

England, Day Four

Yesterday we left behind London and made our way to Witney to stay with Steve's family. As always the company and the food is delightful. For a late dinner yesterday we had a kind of shepherd's pie with spinach and seafood as a filling along with a delicious white Bordeaux. I ordinarily do not like white wine, but this was quite dry and very good.

In the morning I was on my own, so I made immediately for Oxford. There are no words to adequately describe Oxford. As an American I recognize that even our oldest history is quite young, barely four hundred years at the maximum. In Oxford there are pubs that old and all but a few of the college buildings are far older still. I went first to Blackwells bookshop, spending more than two hours purusing their second hand books collection. Last year I had the good fortune to find a copy of "Emulation: A Ritual to Remember" by Colin Dyer. This time, however, though there was only one Masonic title, there were several excellent Russian and Soviet history books. A bonanza for Tandy as it were.

I went right next door to the White Horse and had a ploughman's platter for lunch. Is there any better feeling than sitting in a small English pub reading a book by Dyer, his biography of William Preston? I doubt it. After a delicious lunch, and pint of bitter, I toured the Ashmolean Museum of Science and the Bodleian Library's Milton exhibit. The Milton exhibit rekindled my interest in his and Blake's work. The artistic elements, drawings, woodcuts and typefaces, were all out of the Art Deco and Arts and Crafts period. Very beautiful.

Having spent six hours touring museums and exhibits, Steve was due to meet me in town. I went over to the Kings Arms, very near the Bodlean, and had a pint of fine Cornish Bitter while waiting for him to arrive. Soon enough a huge table of American students appeared and it was momentarily hard to determine which country I was in. I read a bit more of the wonderful Dyer book on Preston, what an interesting man Preston was. I had long held the impression that Preston's dispute regarding the powers of immemorial lodges was based on some important, concrete topic (see Wikipedia), but it turned out to be a somewhat more personal dispute where, perhaps, he made the wrong decision and refused to own up to it. He took the 'passage to Ethiopia' as it were in Masonic terms.

Steve arrived in the midst of my reading about this controversy. Hungry as I could be we went to The Bear for fish and chips, delicious, and then to a few more pubs. We wound up at a pub called "The Cricketer's Arms" in Oxford. A large gray cat wandered in and went up to the patrons looking for a scratch behind the ear. We enjoyed out hand-drawn Old Speckled Hen and relaxed for the remainder of the evening. Then in the words of Pepys: so to bed.

(pictures are at Flickr)

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England, Day Six

Steve's parents were eager to show me a quaint English country village, which is how Witney appears to my eyes, so first thing today we were off to Burford. The village was truly beautiful as we sat around having tea at beside the stream running through the village.


Nick-nacks museum

lunch of roast beef and yorkshire pudding

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England, Day Five

The goal for today was to spend a few hours at the Ashmolean Museum. When I came to England last year the entire museum was closed for repairs and upgrading, so I never had the chance to tour the collection. I rose fairly early, just after seven thirty in the morning, and was due at Steve's parents for breakfast. Suddenly my problems resolved and I had access to work email. After more than an hour reading and responding to email, I suddenly realized it was Saturday. No one would care what I had to say about for several days! I packed up and headed off to meet Steve.

The bus ride was notable for the picture I took of the only toll along the road from Witney to Oxford. The pictures are on Flickr and show the toll being 1p ($0.02 US) per axel. The bridge is only thirty feet long, but that is a pretty inexpensive toll. Once in Oxford, Steve and I spent several hours touring the museum. My favorite household item is a set of six dinner plates with an almost Burma Shave expression on them:

What is A Merry Man

Set him do what he Can

To Entertain his Guests

With wine & Merry Jests

But if his Wife do frown

All merriment Goes Down.

The plates are dated 1738 and are obviously quite humorous. There was also a collection of Beadle's staves or rods. In old Lodge records from the founding in 1717 to the start of the nineteenth century the Tyler was also referred to, occasionally, as the Beadle. Americans best understand this position was the old colonial town crier. The beadle's staff was an important defensive item when walking through the town at all hours. These staves are far more beautiful than the normal painted wood version, and are likely to have been of a more ceremonial nature within Oxford.

For the second day a museum made me late for lunch and it was 2:00pm before we made our way to a pub. FIrst we tried Jude the Obscure in Jericho, but it had stopped serving a few minutes before we arrived. We turned toward St. Giles road and found ourselves at the door of The Royal Oak. It was the penultimate quiet English pub with comfortable chairs and great ale. I had a delicious hand drawn stout, making up or the complete lack of stout, other than Guinness "extra cold," thus far on my trip. Steve and I shared a ploughman's and fisherman' platter and resolved to return soon on Monday for lunch again.

From there we stopped in at the Lamb and Flag then returned to Jude the Obscure. We were both fairly tired, so we were soon back to Witney and to bed.

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England, Day Three

Having spent most of the previous day geocaching for work, we elected to get right out and find the spots requested by the family. We were charged to take a photograph of the Peter Pan Statue in Hyde Park and another at Platform 9 3/4 within King's Cross Station. We rose before 7:00am for another delicious breakfast and headed for the local Tube station.

The morning was crisp and sunny as we walked through Hyde Park for the first photograph. The statue was very near to the Tube station we emerged room, so finding it was a breeze. We wanted to wander the park, but there was more to be done. Back into the Tube and we were soon at King's Cross Station. The platform was easily found and quite accessible. Having captured both of us on film, much to Steve's consternation, we wondered what to do next. Steve convinced me to go the United Grand Lodge of England Library on Great Queen St, Holborn.

It had long been my plan to spend at least a day at the Grand Lodge Library, but the jet lag/late arrival on the first day ruled out Tuesday. Then Wednesday was first recovering and then geocaching. I had all but lost hope of even seeing the Grand Lodge. We skipped right over lunch and went directly to the Holborn Tube station.

We had hoped to tour the facility, but there was some activity going on which prevented their normal tours. We were shown to the library and museum. Impressive does not do it justice. The collection within the museum is quite diverse, but my favorite objects remain the early operative 'tracing boards'. While Steve wandered through the museum I got right down to business, registering as a reader and requesting texts. One of the books I wanted to see had gone missing from the collection, something the library is likely to encounter often as they finish computerizing their entire catalog. This setback and the inapplicability of the first few texts was starting to dim my hopes of finding the ritual text I was seeking. Then I selected one of the titles I had noted down a few months ago, while using the UGLE Library online catalog. The text must have been fairly rare as my request had to be authorized by the Librarian, which it was, and shortly I was reading my eureka text. I will write more about this item later.

Poor Steve wandered around the museum for several hours while I did more research. At 2:00pm we rushed back to the hotel for our luggage, and my Past Master's Jewel, which was stored in the hotel safe. Back to the Tube, off at Victoria Station and the coach to Oxford. The English hierarchy of bus and coach I am finally beginning to understand!

(pictures are at Flickr)

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27 March 2008

England, Day Two

Probably owing to our commitment not to sleep before 9pm, we actually managed to get a solid twelve hours of sleep. Both Steve and I feel like we are on local time already. We dragged out of bed to what has to be the finest hotel breakfast which could possibly meet our eyes. There were three buffets with cereal and fruit, eggs and accoutrements, and a selection of smoked fish. It was delightful and really filled us up. Furthermore, the Hilton staff were just wonderful keeping the buffet going even though we arrived three minutes before closing. I would certainly stay there again.

Today we spent a lot of time taking the Tube from place to place. Our mission today, from *******, was to drop off a geotag in a cache somewhere in London. We selected the Winchester Geese Cache primarily due to its proximity to a Tube stop and its fascinating history. The site was all it was billed to be. There were ribbons and poems hung on the gate by the hundreds, perhaps more numerous than that. We registered in the cache log and headed back into London to find a nice pub.

The Cloud...How I hate that company. Their web site offered a wonderful deal £9.99 per month with access from cafes and pubs all over England. Their coverage map looked great, so I signed up excitedly before leaving the US. The reality turned out to be quite different. Their coverage map is terribly out of date and once connected the network is dreadfully slow. I had made an appointment to video conference with my wife and daughters at 4:30pm, after their half-day at school. Steve and I wound up twice ordering pints while I settled in to make a connection. Then finding the coverage to be absent or too slow to use, we left our pints hardly half consumed as we headed for another location. I am particular irritated that I had to leave behind one of my favorite English ales: Bishop's Finger.

After finding a coffee shop with the Cloud operating, I had my text chat with the family as the connection was far too slow for video. We returned to our hotel to drop off our bags and seek dinner. After some discussion we elected to have dinner at a little Persian restaurant two blocks west from our hotel. The food was simple, but wonderful. We particularly enjoyed the viciously hot tea and nearly too sweet baklava.

Following dinner we quested for a fine pub to relax in for a few pints. Though we walked all over Kensington nothing suited our fancy until we returned to The Warwick Arms. The comfortable leather chairs and quiet conversation epitomizes the English pub and made our evening complete. It also might have been the hand drawn Fuller's ESB followed by a Bells, but who can tell!

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24 March 2008

My 50% Camera

While performing my final packing for my two week trip to England for the ACCU Conference next week, I realized my older daughter wandered off with my camera. It is a bulky, unwieldy beast, a Canon A560 or some such, and I had been planning to retire it before heading of to paradise at the end of April. Borrowing my wife's fancy 8mp camera seemed like no big deal to me, but before I knew it we were standing at Office Depot looking at a new model.

200803241225.jpgI was puzzled by this turn of events because Tandy is our head of finance here at the Ratliff Household and is tight with a buck. Not penurious the way my friend Amos is, but careful nonetheless. I picked out a new Casio Exilim 7.2mp, which I had been eying for at least six months, and walked out of the store with a new camera.

With new toy in hand I had to ask why. The answer was something else. Apparently, Tandy thinks about numbers when she is doing her crazy-early Master's swim program. Recently she realized that we two have been together for more than 50% of my lifetime. No, not 50% of my adult lifespan, the whole shebang! She wanted to buy something special for me to commemorate the event, but as I thought about the kind of forbearance it takes to spend almost nineteen years with me I wondered if I ought to be buying her something! I understand my turn comes around during this summer.

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22 August 2007

Reconstruction Hornet Battle

No home project is complete without a war against nature and new tools. I love carpet. I love living room carpet most of all. Tandy...not so much with the living room carpet. She is from the hardwood with a throw rug culture. Ultimately, she had the more formidable arsenal: the girls. They ground things into that poor carpet until even I could bear it no longer. Finally, we agreed to rip it out and remodel the living room. Unlike the previously projects this was not scheduled as a "gut and rebuild" operation. There were only three items on the agenda:
  1. Continue the hardwood flooring into the 1960s extension to the living room (only sub-floor back there).
  2. Remove the drop ceiling and either repair or sheetrock over the damaged ceiling.
  3. Replace the lighting over the fireplace and in the ceiling.

The day we removed the drop ceiling we found about a half-dozen "bees" flying around the room. After no small amount of exploration those "bees" were found to be yellow jackets and the half-dozen turned into two nests. We searched for days for the nest finally exposing it, including a creepy "listen to the wall buzz" moment. I am not a huge fan of bees or "bees," but this was just too much. Fortunately, I have braver friends including Adrian the Amateur General Contractor and Steve the English Hornet Handler. They scared me, they amazed me, they made me slightly ill. At one point Steve was pulling out handfuls of the nest with little more than his gloves on. Yikes!

An individual, who shall remain nameless, did me the favor of cutting through a wire in the first floor knob and tube circuit. I have a very, very healthy fear of knob and tube. Left alone it will continue safely for generations, but once you touch it by splicing into it or cutting away sections, all bets are off. My avowed strategy is to gradually remove items from the circuit, capping off that end point in the box until the whole circuit is empty. Then the dead circuit is removed from the panel, ending it for all times. Fortunately, I always take the precaution of shutting off "at risk" circuits in the panel when doing a project. The nameless individual was not showered with sparks as he cut through the wire.

Faced with the need to replace a whole mess of wiring, now that the knob and tube was tampered with, a new tool was clearly required. To fill the need I purchased a 72" drill bit with a 3/4" bit head. This bit is specially designed for running wire and is used by sliding the bit up (to reach the ceiling) or down (to reach the basement) in an outlet box hole in the wall, then drilling through to reach the desired location. There is a tiny hole bored through the bit face, allowing you to slide a piece of the wire through to pull it down to the outlet box hole. We used this tool more often than you can imagine, particularly when we had to run a new line into the hallway for the stairwell light fixture (rendered inoperative by the loss of the knob and tube circuit). In total we used the bit about nine times to help run wire where there we no existing holes. At almost $40, it hurt light mad to pay for it, but the bit came in incredibly handy.

All in all, the project is going very well. We still have sheetrock to hang, walls to scrape and paint and floors to install and refinish. We are, however, making good time with the help of good friends and the promise of good beer after each day's work!

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20 July 2007

201st Post and a Meme

I was tagged by Bro. Tom Accuosti at The Tao of Masonry with the "Five Favorite Posts" meme. For the first time in months I looked at my list of blogposts and realized "My Wife the Drummer" was #200. The five posts which I feel most express my blog would be:

  1. Fear and Loathing in the Craft
    This post is my assessment of the hysteria associated with One Day Classes, particularly here in Maine where the issue has been so divisive and has divided our Grand Lodge into two secret political parties.
  2. PDC05: Day Two (The Blackout)
    Living in Maine made the experience of being in the midst of a national news story very exciting. I even received calls on my cell from family asking if everything was alright, woohoo!
  3. Freemasonry and the Catholic Church
    This is a frequently referenced posting. I really need to post a follow-up since events have rendered its content dated. The latest word from Rome is even more stern than before. Though I still have yet to find Freemasonry either a "naturalistic religion" or "plotting against the Church" I continue reading and my heart remains open, as suggested by Karl Rahner.
  4. On Hook
    Fishing with my youngest is among my favorite ways to spend a morning and of those, this was the finest.
  5. Feast of Tishri
    There are few times in my life where someone has actually asked for a copy of my work, be it a paper or a talk. I had many requests for this item.

Once again, I tag "Aude, Vide, Tace", "Tales from the Testosterone Zone", Bro. Hodapp from "Freemasons for Dummies", Bro. Stewart from "Masonic Traveler" and Mike Wilber from ";;;;;; --///.. ll./.---. ..ll ll;;--".

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17 July 2007

My Wife the Drummer

I may not have mentioned this, but several weeks ago I broke down and bought a Wii. Tandy wanted to buy it for the girls for Christmas, but...I could not wait and wanted it for myself!! BWAHAHA! It did not take long to realize that buying games without playing them first is a bad idea. At fifty dollars a pop you stand to waste a lot of money. We have rented some real stinkers: Call of Duty 3, Shrek the Third, Rataouille, and so on. Today we rented our favorite game so far: Rayman Raving Rabbids!

It is a real blast to play, but the best part of all is my wife playing the rhythm game. The game depicts a dance floor with rabbits moving in on the outside, the object of the game is to strike down with the remotes just as a rabbit, or rabbits, is arriving under the lights. The game is virtually designed for drummers. The girls and I could not make heads or tails of this crazy game, but Tandy played like a champ. All of those years drumming in high school really payed off.

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04 July 2007

World of Wii

Having left behind video games in 1995, when I last played a game called HeXen, my family seems like an unlikely target for conversion to Wii-dom.

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24 June 2007

Bravo Bennigan's!

It is just a fact of life that chain restaurants are never going to have that level of service you associate with a local place. The staff is simply not all that invested in the establishment, but while returning from Pittsburgh the Bennigan's off of I-81 in Wilkes-Barre revealed a new low.

Now I believe, with all sincerity, that you need to treat wait staff right. My wife has even more strict rules than I do because she worked as at Friendly's when we were in college. With all that in mind, a big pet peeve of mine is when you ask "What kind of beer do you have?" or "What's on draft?" of your waiter and receive "Everything!" as a reply. Even the famed Bukowski's in Boston does not have everything! With proportionality in mind, I have started to reply with some extremely rare beer, say Thomas Hardy Ale or Otter Creek Hickory Switch Smoked Amber Ale. Honestly, "everything" normally translates into three kinds each of Miller and Bud, which leaves me ordering iced tea. The scene is now set for...Bennigan's.

We had just finished the drive from Pittsburgh to Wilkes-Barre and stopped in for a rather late lunch. Since my big drive was over, I decided to opt for a beer with lunch. This was, with all seriousness, the dialog which resulted...

Me: "What do you have on draft."
Waitress: "We have, like, twenty kinds of beer on draft. What do you want?"
Me: "Um."
(I paused with the hope that she might have a list.)
"How about any wheat beers?"
Waitress: "We have Sunset Wheat and Yuengling."
(Sunset Wheat stinks and Yeungling is not a wheat beer)
Me: "How about anything German?"
Waitress: "Yeah. Uh. We have, like, Killians and Guinness."
(Wow. Keep in mind here that "Bennigan's" is a faux-Irish chain. IRISH! For God's sake the name of the first beer is Killian's IRISH Red.)
Me: "I guess I will have the Sunset Wheat."

What followed was, without debate, the third worst dining experience ever. Poor woman, I hope there is a better life ahead for her than being a miserable, grouchy waitress. In any case, steer clear of Bennigan's in Wilkes-Barre.

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08 June 2007

Unfamiliar Books Meme

I was tagged by Tom Accuosti at The Tao of Masonry with the unfamiliar books meme. He selected some excellent works, and I imagine it is up to me to return in kind. As difficult as it might be to select only three unusual books to recommend, since as a student of Masonry my library is filled with unusual works, I have opted to go for three unusual books on different topics:

  • Freemasonry - "Sephir H'Debarim" or "The Book of the Words" by Albert Pike
    I have never before read a work by the esteemed Bro. Albert Pike. The magnum opus "Morals and Dogma" feels like learning to run a marathon by going directly to the Olympic trials. This text explores in great detail the history, origins and esoteric meaning behind words used in Masonic ritual, both Craft Lodge and Scottish Rite. As such it is an incredibly deep, difficult work which sends me scurrying off for Wikipedia or Merriam-Webster quite often. It has been deepening my understanding of the rituals I already know and interesting me in those which I have yet to personally study. I would recommend this to any serious student of Masonic ritual.

  • History - "In the Wake of Madness" by Joan Druett.
    This is a wonderful pop history book about a murder on board the whaling ship Sharon. I have written about it in a past blogpost, and already passed it around to my friends. My own brief review in that post was...
    While sailing the whaling grounds of the south Pacific the captain of the Sharon was murdered by a few mutinous crewman. The single handed recapture of the ship by the Mainer Benjamin Clough was so well known it was reproduced in a stage play. The book is extremely well written and leaves the reader with a sense of the vagaries of whaling in the mid nineteenth century. The best line of the book: "Whaling captains were men who left their souls at home."

  • Catholicism - "The Mass of the Early Christians" by Mike Aquilina.
    I have always had an intense personal interest in the early Christian Church, particularly the patristics. Yet it is fair to say that most of the works from this period would be considered "dense." As the material related to the liturgy current at the time is normally scattered in small snippets among many texts, the author does us all a favor by accumulating those snippets into a single book. I learned many new things while reading this work, but the most interesting item must be "the discipline of the secret." In the early Church the nature and language of the Mass was a carefully guarded secret, so that there are almost no clear liturgical texts, as the GIRM (General Instruction of the Roman Missal) does today. The author clarifies the nature of the early liturgy by threading together the material from The New Testament, the Didache, pagan historical texts, and sixteen Fathers of the Church.
I tag "Aude, Vide, Tace", "Tales from the Testosterone Zone", Bro. Hodapp from "Freemasons for Dummies", Bro. Stewart from "Masonic Traveler" and Mike Wilber from ";;;;;; --///.. ll./.---. ..ll ll;;--".

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30 April 2007

RAV4 Trip Report

First of all, I purchased my 2007 RAV4 4x4 V6 Limited for one major reason: fishing trips. I have to drive this car to work every day, so I could not afford (fuel) to go for a heavy 4x4 vehicle like the FJ Cruiser or some Jeep (see also, reliability). I wanted this car to be able to go up into the woods on camp roads and logging roads, to ford small (4" or so) water flows and generally handle well both on and off road. There is a fairly strong tradition in Maine toward beating your car to death (a.k.a "pushing vehicles to their limit") and so nearly as many family sedans are seen up in the woods as larger trucks. Adhering to this tradition I had a Mazda 626 LX before and stuck it in the mud on camp and logging roads a few times. After the last trip hurt my poor Mazda, I had enough...

The guys and I had a trip to the woods all scheduled for last weekend (Thursday to Sunday). Part of the trip was to get camp ready for the summer, part of it was to do some too early fishing and part of it was to test out my RAV4. It rained and it rained and it rained in the week or so before the trip, ensuring the unpaved camp road would be a mess. Then it rained a few more days right before the trip to be sure. We threw a comealong, towstrap and lots of stout rope in the trucklet along with fishing gear and other essentials.

The camp road was a terrible nasty mire complete with rocks and ruts and mud galore. All of the normal cars were left at the end of the camp road and yours truly in his sweet little RAV4 drove back and forth on the camp road ferrying people and baggage to the little camp in the woods. After several days of proof positive that my little RAV4 was a stout hearted thing, we went full bore. We attached the eye-bolt to the front of the car, hooked rope to it and pulled down a tree we were cutting up for firewood. Can you say, woohoo!

Now I know this isn't a real off-roading vehicle, nor do I have any plans to go rock climbing in the desert or seriously mudding or fording rushing rivers. It does appear to do an ample job of handling "light" off-road situations where a normal car simply cannot handle the conditions. I know for certain that my Mazda would have been stuck last weekend because someone else got stuck on the camp road and we drove up in the RAV4 to pry them loose.

If you have any plans for the same kind of activities in a 2006-2007 RAV4, I must strongly recommend you purchase one of those canister shields. I was power washing the car this morning to get the wheels back in balance and the dried on mud removed, when I remembered the canister shield. It was absolutely caked with mud and had a number of nasty scratches on it. The canister is clean and unharmed and all of the cables are undamaged and fully attached. Whatever that shield is protecting would probably be laying on the camp road without the shield, so my money was well spent. Nice work, mcvitie!

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02 January 2007

25 Most Played

As usual, I am following the Wilberian lead with this list of my top twenty-five iTuns tracks during the past year. In my defence, I do have two young girls, so that explains Jack Johnson and Hampton Hampster!

Song TitleArtistAlbumCount
RestlessJana HunterBlank Unstaring Heirs of Doom59
Girl from the North CountryBob Dylan & Johnny CashNashville Skyline (remastered)56
cowboy songSocalledGhettoblaster55
Trapped Under Ice Flows+/-Holding Patterns50
Upside DownJack Johnson...Curious George50
Diary of the Mass TrappistThe Jai Alai SavantSXSW 200549
Hell YesBeckGuero47
Pipebomb on Landsdown (Dance Remix)Dropkick MurphysThe Singles Collection, Vol. 247
Hiding Behind the MoonJeff HansonSXSW 200543
Que' Onda GueroBackGuero40
Betcha NeverCherieCherie40
Rainbow FlowsHusky RescueCountry Falls39
The Littlest BirdsThe Be Good TanyasSXSW 200535
BreakthroughHope 7Breakthrough - EP35
L-L-LoveAstaireDon't Whisper Lies - EP34
California Uber AllesDead KennedysMutiny on the Bay34
Orange Blossom SpecialJohnny CashAt Folsom Prison34
Like a SoldierJohnny Cash & Willie NelsonUnearthed34
She FloatsA-LyriczLow Tops and Polos33
Sab Kahete Hain (remix)Anuradha PaudwalSab Kahete Hain (remix)33
Guns Don't Kill People Rappers DoGoldie Lookin ChainSXSW 200533
Wanted ManJohnny CashAt San Quentin33
The HampsterDance SongHampton the HampsterHampsterdance Hist - EP31
The Sweet Sunny SouthJerry Garcia & David GrismanShady Grove31
Banghra Fever (Heavy Nitro Mix)MIDIval PunditZSix Degrees Remixed31

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03 May 2005

Creative Destruction: bedroom edition

For the last four weeks I have been hard at work on my younger daughter's room. We own a small home with two large bedrooms and one tiny bedroom with a super small closet. Since she is the younger girl, she is stuck with the smaller room. We looked around until she found a loft bed she fell in love with at Bob's Discount Furniture. Starting at the beginning of April we gutted her room, removing the lathe and plaster walls and sucking out the 1996 insulation. It was blown in when the house was finally resided after seventy years. We removed the closet, which was not wide enough to hold full size hangers anyhow, and expanded to the room to about 9' x 10'. While I had the walls open I replaced the single outlet with five outlets and fancy lighting. There are two lights: one overhead panda light and a blue art glass wall sconce by Hampton Bay (this shape, but this color). As with everything in her room, she selected the light fixture. The key feature of the bedroom's wiring is the dual three-way switches. As you enter the room there are two switches: one for the overhead light and one for the sconce. Then up, in a spot convenient to the loft bed, there is another pair of switches. If she climbs into bed forgetting to turn out the light there will be switches handy for her.

As a result, demolition, cleanup, hanging sheetrock, and mudding have been keeping me quite busy for the past three or so weeks. So busy I have been unable to keep up with my minor lodge paperwork. The mudding should be done in another five days or so, and then we can apply the magic primer. My wife found it while I was remodeling our library. I was never quite happy with the imperfections in the mudding job, so she bought a tinted primer which is essentially a super-thin joint compound mixed with paint. It did a great job masking the errors in the mudding. Even today people still do not realize I mudded the library, of course, what guest is going to say, "Man, that looks like sh*t. What monkey did the sheetrock?"

I look forward longingly to the complete bedroom and another year of rest until we tackle another project.

This post is brought to you by the music of Relient K. Their album "mmhmm" is great. If you are into a single track try Be My Escape [iTunes] or My Girls Ex-Boyfriend [iTunes].

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22 March 2005

Ski Beer echoes

Last night a group from work went up to Shawnee Peak for the last Monday night ski of the season. The weather was so perfectly temperate while crisp and clear, a sullen reminder of winter yet with the promise of spring. Riding the chairlift up the side of Pleasant Mountain gave a view to the northwest of regal Mt. Washington backlit by a stunning sunset. As darkness fell the house lights in Bridgton sparkled, but since this section of Maine is so sparsely populated the stars were not obstructed by light polution. The skiing was nice though a little icy in spots. I did manage to ski my first black diamond, though by all accounts it was an easy one. We skied without interruption from 4:00pm until the lifts shut down at 9:00pm. Then made for supper at Bray's Brewpub.

Bray's has a great reputation for unusual, delicious beer. We arrived desparate for food and beverages only to find the kitchen closed. The staff made chili and chowder available to us, which we were every so glad to eat. I tried their imperial stout and oatmeal pale ale. The stout was sweet and rich, hiding away the texture of the chocolate malt. I enjoyed it perhaps too quickly, but it had been a long night of skiing. The oatmeal pale I ordered only because I had never heard of such a thing. It had the requisite hoppy aroma but there was just something about the oatmeal-induced sweetness that was a wee bit odd. My father-in-law and I have to find an excuse to go up there and try the imperial before it passes out of the seasonal selection. I finally returned home shortly before midnight and fell dead asleep immediately.

I was possibly less productive on Tuesday, but the endless meetings may have had something to do with it. After dinner with the ladies I went down to Hiram Lodge No. 180 in South Portland to watch a degree team of state legistlators work the Master Mason degree. Things got off to a late start, further delayed by introductions, so by 9:00pm the second section had not even begun. I was tired from the previous day, so I made my apologies and walked back home to get some sleep.

In the words of my favorite diarist: and so to bed...

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