Archive

Archive for the ‘masonry’ Category

Grand Lodge of Connecticut Goes Virtual

April 1, 2013 Leave a comment

Like a lot of my fellow Masons, there are times when I get really busy with work, family stuff, work, personal health care, work, projects around the house, and work. In the last few years, I have often missed lodge meetings because I’m working until 7 or 8 pm, or because I’ve needed to do something with the kids, or because some other matter has cropped up that I can’t take care of at any other time. I’m sure that this happens to other brothers, too.

That’s why I’m thrilled by Maso-Net, the new program that will be introduced by RW Simon LaPlace, the incoming Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut, that will allow busy Masons to attend their lodge meetings virtually, at their own convenience.  I don’t want to spoil the surprise, which he is expected to announce at his installation as Grand Master during next week’s Grand Lodge Annual Communication, so I’ll just mention some of the highlights of the program.

While there have been online Masonic communities of Masons since the before the internet was available to the general public, they have generally taken the form of text-based message boards. Maso-Net will be completely different in that it will allow lodge members to actually see, and in some cases, attend a lodge meeting in real time.  To accomplish this, Mason-Net will have several components. One will be a Skype-like interface that will connect members directly to a lodge. Participating lodges will be outfitted with a large screen TV on the North wall of the lodge room, with a corresponding webcam positioned in the Northwest and Southwest corners. Maso-Net Members will sign in and be presented with a view of the lodge room that includes the Master’s chair, and the screen will allow the other members to see who has signed in. Maso-Net members, though their own webcams hooked up to their computers, be able to attend the meeting and follow along with the proceedings without missing any of the details. Amplified speakers near the TV screen will allow them to speak during meetings as if they were in attendance.

RW LaPlace initially conceived of this as a way to reach out to older brothers who were unable to attend because of health reasons, but the idea quickly gained ground among the Grand Lodge technorati who, accustomed to live webcam meetings, saw this as a way to keep existing brothers involved. As a Maso-Net member, a brother could work late, and take a dinner break to attend lodge. Users with smartphones (apps for iPhones and Android phones running ICS or better are already being developed) will even be able to attend while on the road, although they will probably need at least a good 3G data connection.

A real advantage to Maso-Net meetings is that a WM will no longer have to worry about a last-minute cancellation on a degree night. A brother assigned to a particular lecture will no longer have to cancel if he’s away on business; the Master of a lodge would even be able to open if he’s out of town. Imagine an older brother delivering the working tools lecture to his grandson from the comfort of his own home — in Florida! Or imagine a District Deputy being able to attend a different lodge meeting every night of the week, and not spending a fortune on gas and car expenses.  This aspect of the program is certainly a way that the Craft can take advantage of new technologies.

Another interesting component to Maso-Net that RW LaPlace is expected to announce will be the ability to sit in on lodge meetings at any time of the day or night by the use of streaming technologies. Participating lodges will begin recording their meetings and using broadband connections, begin uploading those meetings to the cloud. Maso-Net members will then be able to find a lodge meeting and replay it. Members will be able to pause the recorded meeting for a break, or even better, skip through the boring parts.

Still unannounced is just where the video recordings will be stored. The Grand Lodge of Connecticut has its own servers, but as more lodges join the network the data storage itself  would become unmanageable, to say nothing of the capacity for streaming a number of different meetings back to the members. Early reports have suggested Youtube, perhaps a dedicated channel as the perfect storage & replay solution. Obviously, the concern was raised that anybody could view a lodge meeting on Youtube, however, the counterpoint was raised that any non-Mason who viewed one lodge meeting was unlikely to make it a habit of viewing many more. I suspect that talks are underway with Google about the possibility of a private Youtube channel. Another advantage of this would be the ability to upload sections of various degree ceremonies in order for lodges to watch them for the purposes if ritual instruction.

There are other aspects of Maso-Net that will be made public after RW LaPlace takes office. About a dozen lodges will be part of the initial phase, and RW LaPlace will probably announce which ones have been selected after his installation, with more participating every month. Brothers interested in signing up to be a Maso-Net member are encouraged to talk to their District Deputy, who should have the contact information.

As a busy Mason who has been having a hard time getting to lodge meetings lately, I’m happy to see that Connecticut is on the forefront of bringing Freemasonry into the 21st century. Kudos to soon-to-be MW Simon LaPlace, and best wishes for an exciting year in office.

Advertisements

Grand Master & Suite visits Friendship Lodge

April 6, 2012 Leave a comment

Friendship Lodge No. 33 was proud to host a visit from MWGM Gary Arseneau, newly installed Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Southern New England on Monday. This was the Grand Master’s “Homecoming” visit, and naturally he was accorded the highest honors and a warm welcome. MW Gary was accompanied by several other new officers of the GL-SNE, several of whom who were invited to help judge a chili cookoff dinner before lodge opened.

The Grand Master’s schedule is pretty full, so we were fortunate to get him to stop by so soon after his installation. To mark the happy occasion, the officers of the lodge presented the new Grand Master with a bottle of single malt for him to enjoy during the very few quiet moments that he will have during the rest of the year.

The evening was not all pomp and introductions, though. WM Ryan Carlson presented the lodge with a recitation of the infrequently heard third section lectures; otherwise known as the  “Beehive” lectures. WM Ryan recited the entire section from memory for the benefit of five of our newest Master Masons.

The highlight of the evening was the presentation to MW Gary of a bottle of a very old single malt Scotch, presumably for medicinal purposes, as Grand Masters are notoriously prone to headaches.

 

From MWHMGary

The very full lodge was closed, and the Craft gathered downstairs for refreshment and several hours of friendly discussion. It’s unfortunate that RW Gary probably won’t get many opportunities this year to attend lodge at Friendship, but I’m sure how knows that our best regards attend him no matter where he might be.

 

 

The Font of All Wisdom

January 16, 2011 1 comment

We Masons love the idea of learning our ritual and ceremonies in a word-perfect fashion. Well, Past Masters love that idea, especially if it means that some newbie officer should be doing the learning while the Past Master does the  complaining coaching from the sidelines. 

Some jurisdictions in the US have a “mouth to ear” tradition, in which the ritual is taught by a proven instructor to one person, or a small group. Other states have printed copies of the rituals and ceremonies that are passed out to (or sometimes, purchased by)  a member. Some states have such monitors written in plain English, while others might use a shorthand or some other kind of code in order to disguise the words – as if you couldn’t already get them from some website, or purchased in book form.

Connecticut is one of those states that has a ritual monitor in plain English; that is, if you can call the sometimes tortured grammatical constructions and archaic words and phrases “plain.” They have had this plain English version for at least ten years before I became a Masons, which was almost another ten years ago. The English version grew out of an older version that used two books: one being encoded (really, just using abbreviations), and the other a key; that version had been used for quite some time.

Recently, some people have been suggesting that we might want to go back to using the abbreviated word code. I have found that the people suggesting this are either old-timers who learned that way in the first place, or young, new guys who are geeky about Masonry. The old-timers claim that people will learn ritual better, since they will have to work harder, and the young-timers are usually the kind of geeks who would, given the opportunity, have been taking a Klingon class.

I used to pooh-pooh the idea because I learned ritual using the plain English books, and I think I have done rather well, at least, if you don’t count the fact that I often find myself substituting some of the archaic words with synonyms that roll more readily off the tongue. But the way that I learn these passages isn’t necessarily the best way for everybody, so I concede that the coded books might have some merit.

That’s why I found it interesting to see an article on Lifehacker this past week, which revisited a study in which  schoolchildren were given copies of material to learn; some were given good copies, while others were given copies in hard-to-read fonts. Researchers discovered that the children who had to work harder to read the material had the best retention.

From the BBC News Article:

Researchers found that, on average, those given the harder-to-read fonts actually recalled 14% more.

They believe that presenting information in a way that is hard to digest means a person has to concentrate more, and this leads to “deeper processing” and then “better retrieval” afterwards.

It is an example of the positive effects of what scientists call “disfluency”.

“Disfluency is just a subjective feeling of difficulty associated with any mental task,” explained psychology Prof Daniel Oppenheimer, one of the co-authors of the study.

“So if something is hard to see or hear, it feels disfluent… We’d found that disfluency led people to think harder about things.

[…]

Students given the harder-to-read materials scored higher in their classroom assessments than those in the control group. This was the case across a range of subjects – from English, to Physics to History.

The lead author of the study Connor Diemand-Yauman told the BBC that psychology is revealing all sorts of “counter-intuitive” results in the field of education.

“Everyday psychologists are showing that seemingly insignificant factors can have big effects on how we process and retain information.”

[…]

It’s an interesting idea, and while I’ll concede that there may be some benefit to the idea that learning ritual in code is inherently better, I think that there are too many variables for this to be definitive.  Again, from the article:

“What really matters most when reading is mindfulness… it’s not printing things badly that’s needed, but more thoughtful reading”.

[…]

“Obviously, if you can’t read it at all, you can’t learn it. At some point you may get so annoyed that you give up without trying! Different people probably have different thresholds.

And in my opinion, that is what holds so many members back; they simply get annoyed at trying to read something that they just don’t understand. Will presenting it in code make the archaic usages any more attractive?

Apple Harvest 2010

October 1, 2010 Leave a comment

image

image

image

image

Yes, Friendship Lodge is back for another two weekends at the Southington Apple Harvest Festival. Once again we are featuring our fried apple wedges, and despite the damp weather, the crowds are lining up for a taste.

Masons reveal Zombie Preparedness Plan

April 1, 2010 4 comments

Okay, the post title is a bit sensationalized, but we finally have proof of our theory that high-ranking Masons really have codified the methods that they have used since the Middle Ages  for killing revenants (i.e., zombies and vampires) in their secret rituals. What we have discovered is not so much a preparedness plan as a procedure manual that describes the methodology.

I’d like to say that I hacked the secret files to the Grand Lodge of Connecticut, because it sounds so dramatic, but the truth is more mundane. When I was down at the offices recently, one of the admins had left his PC on, and I noticed the passwords on a sticky note at the top of his monitor. When he stepped out for coffee, I just copied them down. Yeah, so not Kim Possible, but it worked. When I got home, I fired up my laptop and started browsing the folders. I skipped over the usual stuff on the Kennedys, the NASA/Zeta-Reticuli connection, public water flouridation, and found it hiding at the very end under Zombies.

Here is a link to a PDF file right on the Grand Lodge site that describes the ancient Masonic zombie-killing techniques.
EDIT: The higher-ups at the Grand Lodge have taken down the link, but I saved a copy which I’ve uploaded to my Google Docs. You can see or download it here: Zombie Expulsion.

Followup:

The secret lesson of Hiram and the Ruffians

Freemasons & Zombies: The Conspiracy

Freemasons reveal zombie preparedness plan

For those of you who are reading this on your phones and can’t open the PDF file, I’m reprinting the text below.

Read more…

Freemasons & Zombies: The Conspiracy

March 24, 2010 6 comments

A funny, yet eerie thing happens when you wander into the world of secret conspiracies; like  wandering the Cretan Labyrinth, it’s easy to lose sight of both your original starting point and your ultimate goal.

Our theory that early operative Freemasons became familiar with “revenants” (creatures that in folklore later became zombies and vampires), and codified the means of how to destroy them in certain ceremonies has been met with the expected amount of derision and skepticism. I think that many people simply fail to understand that Freemasons, being employed by the Catholic Church to work on their buildings, had a need to keep their activities on the downlow so as not to be accused of trafficking with the demonic by the less educated and more superstitious population.

We expected this when I volunteered to be the one to publish the ideas.

None of us believe that the revenants are supernatural creatures; those ideas didn’t come about until the Gothic period, when — ironically enough  — people began to be frightened by the idea of technology. No, we think that the historic records of the time will show that people were falling to an as-yet unnamed disease that caused the appearance of death, after which the victims became mindless eating machines (insert jokes about teen-aged boys here). Poor knowledge of medicine and other social factors contributed to the occasional outbreaks in the rural and wooded districts. Unfortunately, when people started moving to the cities in the early 1700s,  so did the outbreaks.

Initially, we theorized that high-level Masons were (although in league with the national and state governments) still keeping this quiet, so as not to alarm the general public, who have shown themselves to be more educated, but not really much less superstitious than they were in the Middle Ages. Naturally, this has met with a lot of skepticism from both Masons and non-Masons alike.

We expected this, too.

But what we did not expect was to be presented with an alternate theory: That the high-level Freemasons have been trying to educate the public by allowing them access to these rituals and ceremonies. Indeed, for the last several years, virtually every newspaper article, news show, or cable TV special has begun with “The once secretive Freemasons have begun to open their doors,” or “The secret mysteries of the Freemasons are being unveiled,” or “Freemasons, that once-secret society, have now begun to…”

The alternate theory, which we have found to be very compelling,  is that various Grand Lodges have been pressured by these higher-level Masons to show off a little, and to encourage non-Masons to look at our secret ceremonies, ostensibly to show that they are simply arcane rituals, but actually, so that the viewing public will understand what to do should there be a wide-spread outbreak of this unknown disease. Indeed, just the fact that we have come so far into the public eye in only a few short years suggests that the higher-level Masons may even expect that a wide-spread infection is about to happen.  Our rituals have been discussed in print by hundreds of authors, and in the last few years have been featured on the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, and several other cable TV specials. A generation ago — even ten years ago — this would have been unthinkable. Now we’re practically giddy when we think about it.

Ultimately, I expect that we’ll discover that our original conception was closer to the mark. But the idea remains: is it possible that an unknown disease — perhaps a new “superflu” is about to bring us culturally back to the Middle Ages?

Followup:

The secret lesson of Hiram and the Ruffians

Freemasons & Zombies: The Conspiracy

Freemasons reveal zombie preparedness plan

being brought to li…

December 16, 2009 1 comment

I’d heard about it over the years but never gave it much thought. Unlike some people who had friends or relatives already into it, I got into it after picking up a little bit here and there, and finally developing enough interest to really look into it.

There were a ton of books on it, and I picked up a few at the library, then perused bookstores for more current information. Eventually I turned to the internet, where I found a wealth of information. My problem then became more one of how to figure out which websites were going to be useful.

After many long hours at various websites – both pro and con – I began to get a better idea. My next step was to haunt the web forums and bulletin boards where I could see discussions, and ask questions. I had a lot of questions, but I discovered that sometimes it was difficult to get answers; at least, answers that satisfied my curiousity. It didn’t dawn on me until later that this was probably because I was still looking in from the outside; some questions can only be answered from experience.

But I did discover some things. There’s an entire culture built around it, and it seems that almost everybody else who was in it had a different idea of what it was, or what it should be. I continued to study, though, and eventually decided to get into it myself. I hadn’t planned any huge commitment, at least, not at first. But I finally figured that I simply wasn’t going to understand it any better until I gave it a shot.

The online communities were a big help, although I did discover that just like any other interest group, there were some “old timers” who had been into it from “back in the old days” and always maintained some attitude about how things were better, and how much harder they had to work, and how the new guys have it is easy, and how they had to walk to school in their bare feet in a blizzard, etc., etc. I guess their underlying message was “we were here first, and that makes us better than you.” I saw how this put off some others, but I persevered.

Interestingly, I discovered that there were many schisms and splits over the years, and even though they seem to share the same general philosophy, the various groups seem to snipe at each other, and spare no words in describing how their version is better. Even though it was obvious which group was bigger and more wide-spread, I still fail to see why there is so much animosity.

But once I made my decision, I discovered that there were many, many more people online who were only too happy to help, to give me some ideas and pointers, and to take the time to direct me toward even more information. And the neat thing is that I continue to ask questions, because once I think I’ve figured out one area, I realize how much more of it there is to understand. I have no idea how some people can take in all there is to it.

And here’s the weird thing: once I decided to get into it, I began to notice more instances of it in my daily life. Being more attuned, I discovered people who were into it, and I saw signs and expressions all over the place. I had no idea that it was so widely known, and it has turned into a game for me, seeing how many signs I can spot in unexpected areas.

I also noticed that there are peculiar signs and tokens, not to mention a huge syntax – a vocabulary that is used by those who are into it. The words are either unfamiliar, or familiar, but made strange because of the context. Figuring that out became another fun game, but worthwhile, too, as it helped me to figure out how things are put together. And of course, there are purists who insist that the usages have to be exactly a certain way, or it’s not right.

And as I use the various tools that I’ve learned about, I become more aware of the philosophy behind them, and how all of these things fit together to help me be more productive in my craft.

Yes, it took a while, but I’m into it, now. I’ve even made a point of being more open about it, both at home and at work. People ask me questions, and I try to answer them without sounding too pushy. A few of them are thinking about getting into it, themselves.

Yes, I’m very happy that I finally got into it. In fact, now I wonder what took me so long to finally get around to using Linux.

What’s that?

Linux. It’s an Open Source operating system for PCs. I installed Linux on my home PC and now I’m running it at work, too.

Yes, this is about my computer.

Why, what did you think I was writing about?

%d bloggers like this: