Thursday, October 31, 2013

Beware of Gumby

I want food not my picture taken!

Moseying around the resort on our final morning in Arizona it was a day like any other for everyone there (except the retired gaggle of ladies who arrived early in the morning for what I assume was a means to escape the bother of youngsters). The sun was out, the birds were hopping from tree to tree, and the horses didn’t seem to care what was going on they just wanted to see if I had any food for them. It was just a regular day when I would be heading back home.

Halloween has never really been a big deal to me. I remember growing up and going trick or treating but over the years it has become less and less of an event and, in some instances, more of a nuisance than anything. This year was the first time that I had ever traveled on this particular day and it was quite interesting to see the characters wandering about the airport in Phoenix.

Driving from Wickenburg to Phoenix there was really no sign of the day being different from any other day of the week or year. But when we pulled up to return the car you knew exactly what day it was and that this travel experience was going to be one that would be both interesting and slightly disturbing. Put it this way, the young guy that checked the car had a Batman sweatshirt on…. He would have been a spinning image if Batman fought crime by playing video games all day and never exercising.

As we walked up to the shuttle service to sit down and take care of a few last minute calls before the flight I noticed out of the corned of my eye a giant green mass frightening small children at the Enterprise check in counter… it was a giant Gumby which made me wonder what these kids are thinking as that character hasn’t been relevant for a good twenty years. Regardless, I couldn’t help the thought from passing through my mind, “I’m Gumby, damn it!”

As we headed to the terminal to complete our check in and make our way to our gate the only people who seemed to put any effort into what they were wearing were the TSA officers at the security check in. By the way, can we please standardize the security process at airports in this country? While the broad strokes remain the same the details are what hold up the line (i.e. belt/no belt, watch/no watch/ wallet/no wallet, etc.). I guess this is why it is recommended that you should get to the airport two hours days ahead of time.

Anyway, walking to the gate there were people heading off to all different locations with various accents and outfits indicative of the day. Some make you just wonder what they’re thinking while others make you wonder what they’re parents would think. Thankfully, when we got on the plane everyone around us was in their usual daily attire and by the time we landed we could see the rain and knew that the eclectic residue of the day had quickly washed away before our plane touched down. I guess Philly isn’t a Halloween hot spot.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Last Full Day In The Desert

Today was one that was tremendously productive but also one that made me wish that there was another twelve hours to get a few more things done. I should have known that it was going to be one of those days when I couldn’t get out of bed despite my alarm going off a dozen times. But, as most days, you have to push through the desire for sleep and get out of bed and begin your day.

I was loaded down pretty heavy as I headed out the door with my computer bag bulging with my camera in the front pocket. While I didn’t take nearly as many pictures throughout the day I still managed to get a few shots of the scenery as the sun began to approach the horizon in the early morning hours.

Just a few steps out my cottage door the sun began to peek above the mountains and offer a glow to the desert greenery all around.

Turning the corner and walking slowly up the path it was absent of the morning bustle that I have become accustom to living so close to a city.

Around the corner I now had my back to the slow illumination and a coolness still enveloped the buildings in front of me and the extinguished lights seemed ready for the day to dominate.

The lobby has been part of my temporary routine from walking up to the front door…

…to saying hello to the front desk as I made my way through and into the dining room at the far end.

For the entire morning on through the early part of the afternoon was a series of transitions from table to table and from meeting to meeting. For hours it was a constant stream of information, perspectives, and experiences that filled my mind both with challenges and possibilities. Nearing a time of information overload I managed to step away for a few fleeting minutes both to address the pressing priority of talking with my wife for the day but also to see if there were a few shots that could be stolen in the middle of the day.

This time around there wasn’t anything that caught my attention and called for my focus so my day continued with a couple more brief meetings and some long overdue daily time in the classroom to try and cram in just a little bit more information into the bloated brain cells which by that time had begun whining for a little mercy. It couldn’t have been a better time as the information was a perfect complement to what I had learned the day before and so did more to organize the gray matter rather than beat it into submission. Time continues to rush past as it had this entire trip and soon I found myself walking back up to the main building looking around for a few last minute shots as the last rays of light began to dim and the lamps reasserted their presence.  

But the light faded too fast to capture much more so a simply turned around in one solitary spot on the asphalt trying to record the images of the landmarks I had passed countless times in a matter of a couple days. Looking up the only life in the dwindling light was the passing of a jet high in the sky…

…and looking back toward the direction of my temporary residence was the representative symbol of all present at this event and why we keep pushing forward. All that we have and are able to experience is because of what flies above us and all that we are able to do is because of those who have defended it. It is a single frame that closed this last full day in a perfect way.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

And Nicolas Cage Is Nowhere To Be Found

This morning I woke up in a state that I had never been in before last night. I arose from a bed absent of my wife, reached down, and shoot out my shoes just in case because you never know what may have crawled into the room during the night from the arid surroundings. Today I woke up in a small cabin/suite at Rancho de los Caballeros in Wickenburg, Arizona with a full day ahead of me to try and get up to speed with the details of one of the clients for which I work.

Having not been able to fall asleep until about one in the morning (local time) I was not too happy with the blaring iPhone alarm at 6 AM. After hitting the snooze button a few times I managed to get up and out the door not really knowing what direction I needed to walk to get to the dining room next to the lobby. Camera in hand I slowly retraced the path I think we drove the night before in the pitch black desert night.

It wasn’t long until I took my first pre dawn photo of the day.

Somehow I managed to find my way back and, looking off to the left, I caught a glimpse of the sun as it illuminated a tree at the far end of the small parking lot.

After a prolonged breakfast with my boss and our client we made our way to the first class of the day to absorb as much as we could during this short trip. A few hours later and with a much better understanding of both what the company does and how we can best serve them, it was time to head back to the dining room for lunch but not before I called my wife.

While I was on the phone wishing that she was here with me I took note of the small island in front of the main entrance where the flower bed was full of colors encompassing the entire spectrum.

Lunch went very quickly as I hopped from table to table trying to talk to as many people as I could and hear about all the perspectives and experiences from those in attendance. It seemed like in no time we were back in the classroom drilling down into the minutia. I’m just glad that I find it interesting or else my energy would have completely left me in a post travel daze. However, having spent much of the day planting in a conference room chair I took advantage of the thirty minutes between meetings to walk around the property and take a few more photos.

The first of which during my after class walk was when I finally took note of one of the large cacti against the blue sky (the first vibrant blue of an otherwise overcast day)…

…followed soon after by the sun radiating around a cactus on the other side of the narrow road.

I meandered between the buildings…

…and enjoyed the mountains in the distance…

…before heading into the last, but informal, meeting of the day.

With everything taken care of, the running around completed, and the list of task having grown to dominate multiple notepad pages, it was time to head out further into the desert for a cook out to close out the day. The manicured oasis provided a wonderfully relaxed means of getting to know participants and attendees just a little bit better without the primary topic of conversation being work related. After all, that is an inevitability when you have a campfire going.

With just a handful of us left creeping closer and closer to the burning embers during the brisk evening it was time to call it a night and head back to our rooms to rest, relax, and prepare for another busy day. It is also another day when I can attempt to not get lost on the way to and from my room but obviously I managed to get back tonight, and in the dark no less, so I guess I’m making progress. One more full day in Arizona but also another full day away from my wife.  

*Note: The title makes reference to the Cohen brother's movie "Raising Arizona" starring Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter. Sometimes I find I have to spell out my obscure references.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Long Way To Go For A Waffle House

Today was a day when I couldn’t seem to get caught up. Once one thing was taken care of three other things popped up. It’s bad enough when you are going through a normal day but today was anything but normal. Today was running from one thing to another, from one place to another, and when I finally had hours to sit and work I wasn’t able.

Today is the day that I previously alluded to when I had something coming up that I promised I would write about and I will do just that but only a little bit for now. Come on, I don’t have many interesting things come up in my life so I am going to take my time and get at least a couple days out of it. Let’s just say that I am not writing this post in one of my usual spots at home where much of my writing gets done.

So things were a little hectic at the office earlier today all leading up to the mid afternoon when I kept running around and jumping from one project to the next trying to tie up loose ends before departing at 2:30. Thinking back I am pretty sure that I got everything done or handed over but I am sure I will wake up in the morning with an “oh crap” moment as I inevitably realize what I forgot to do. But, until then, I am going to keep thinking that everything is good to go and try and relax and rest up for tomorrow.

Needless to say, my 2:30 departure from the office didn’t happen until 3:00 which pretty much messed up my schedule and my wife’s schedule as she left work as early as possible. Fortunately, I made good time getting to the apartment and we managed to get everything in the car and got on the road by 4:00. Destination, Philadelphia International Airport.

Check in was easy as I simply scanned my confirmation and retrieved my boarding pass from the automated kiosk. Security was a little bit of a hassle but it also went smoothly as they didn’t hesitate with my bearded photo ID and I didn’t have to remove my camera from the carry on (that saved a good 5-10 minutes in itself). So, despite my tardy departure from the office, I arrive just in time to meet my boss at the gate at 5:00, one hour before takeoff. Time to get comfortable in the emergency exit row, spread out into the empty seat beside me, and have a quick conversation before going to sleep. That’s right, I got on a plane for the first time in over a year and the first time ever on a business trip.

It was a pretty good flight with the only exception being my dislike of landings and soon after arrival we were on our way to the rental car and on the road. First stop, Waffle House! Hey, it doesn’t have to be fancy to be good. It didn’t take long before we had our dinner in hand and we set off for a road picnic. So, where am I? You will just to read about it tomorrow.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

I Would Like To Thank The Academy

Yesterday was not a day to sleep in. It was an early day that, despite the long hours, seemed to fly by leaving me wondering where the day had gone. Having staggered out of bed around 5:30 in the morning, it was inevitable to have the feelings of “what the heck am I doing up at this hour.” But once I got on the road, I began to get excited for what I was going to learn that day about the craft.

After picking up one of my fellow brothers in Bryn Mawr, we slowly made our way westbound on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and through the twisting and turning roads of Lancaster County. Driving up to the impressive gates of the Masonic Village in Elizabethtown, we couldn’t help but be impressed by its grandeur and expanse. Fortunately, even though there were a few wrong and missed turns along the way, we made it to the meeting just as registration was opening up.

It didn’t take long before we ran into a few brothers we recognized and a couple that we knew by name which filled the first hour of the event with catching up and talking about our future plans both at the lodge, in freemasonry, and with Scottish Rite (both of us are still within our first year). However, what dominated the conversation was our excitement about the speakers that we were about to hear. For many of us, this was our first experience with the Academy of Masonic Knowledge and so we didn’t know what exactly to expect but, for me, having been to numerous other presentations and readings in and out of the masonic world I knew what we were in for and I was looking forward to it.

In a bit of a switch in the schedule, Brother Arturo DeHoyos, PM, was up first. While his original topic was going to be on Masonic Ritual, he decided to take advantage of the time of year and speak about the images of mortality in Freemasonry. Keep in mind that Brother Arturo is someone that, given his background and experience, you give him your undivided attention regardless of the subject matter. Brother Arturo DeHoyos, PM, is currently the Grand Archivist and Grand Historian of the Supreme Council, 33°, Scottish Rite of Freemasonry for the Southern Jurisdiction of the U.S.A., a member of the Executive Staff of the House of the Temple, and the Grand Archivist of the Grand College of Rites of the U.S.A. He is America's foremost authority on the history and rituals of the Scottish Rite, an author, editor, and translator of many books and articles on Freemasonry.

Needless to say, we were all left thinking about what we had seen and attempting to remember and process all the information that was given to us in a matter of 45 minutes. Shortly after his talk, we spent some time in a Q&A session that was, for lack of a better term, astounding. The amount of knowledge (and I am talking about pinpointing exact dates, people, events, resources, etc.) is something that I don’t think I have ever seen before and will never see again.

Appropriately, following the lively discussion with audience members (I was too much in awe of this man’s intellect to think of a question) we were given some time to digest by adjourning for lunch. Masonic meals at larger events have always been a great way to meet other Masons from all parts of the commonwealth. Doing so allows for greater fellowship both during that particular event as well as future events when you may run into them again.

With our stomachs full and much left to process in our minds we were on our way back upstairs to hear the second speaker of the day, Brother John Belton, PM, who spoke on The English Masonic Union of 1813. This was a topic of great interest to all in the room as we are a unique group of masons that differs greatly in ritual as compared to all other parts of the United States and much of the world the only exception being that of the Grand Lodge of Ireland. Given my Irish ancestry, I was intrigued by what I might find out in this presentation.

To give you some background, Brother John Belton, PM has been a regular writer on topics of current interest relating to the role of Freemasonry in society. In 1998 he became the founding Senior Warden of Internet Lodge No. 9659 UGLE. His research has focused on the decline of Freemasonic membership across the English speaking world and has been published in AQC and Heredom. His most recent book, The English Masonic Union of 1813, was published in 2012.

It is a fascinating discussion and one that I look forward to exploring further as I read his book which I purchased at the meeting. I am also curious as to the relationship between Irish and English ritual since the union in 1813 and whether there are slight differences in the rituals of Northern Ireland given their ties both to Ireland and Great Britain. While we discussed the lack of a noticeable difference stemming from a question I posed in the second Q&A session it is still something that I believe is worth exploring further.

Both of the presenters left me with a great sense of uniqueness in the masonic world. Having heard my heritage spoken about (both the Irish and German sides were explored in vastly different ways) and the singular nature of Pennsylvania rituals in the United States, I could help but feel uniquely privileged for being a part of something that holds such a substantial role in the history of the brotherhood. It is this feeling that I look forward to sharing with my fellow brothers at my lodge and something that I look forward to exploring further both in my own reading and research as well as at addition meeting of the academy.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Two Sides Of The Sign

This week I finally got around to bringing some decorative items to the office. It’s always nice to personalize your space but not something that I have done for some time as nothing seemed to be permanent over the last couple of years. Up until now I have always used my laptop to add a little touch to my space in the form of the background that I selected.

So finally I brought in a few items. Nothing much, just a few things to put on my desk and a coffee mug which is essential now that we have a coffee maker in the kitchen (plus I am certain that no one is going to take my Remington mug). However, the one thing that I brought in to the office and put on my desk is more of a means of motivation rather than decoration.

President Truman was know to have a saying prominently displayed on his desk for all visitors to see. There was a simple slogan painted across the front saying “The buck stops here!” Yes, it has become clichéd since his time in office but it is still something that we should all remember, especially at work. You can give all the excuses you want but in reality the responsibility, the production, the decisions are up to you.

Even if you are not the boss, I’m certainly not, you still have to make the decisions on many things and you have to decide what you can’t make decisions on whether it is because of position, experience, or not having the authority. There is a decision to be made and you are the one that has to make it. Everything else you have to determine what to do, how to do it, or where to delegate it (if appropriate).

The sing serves as my motivation to do the best I can and push through any obstacle or, more importantly, and times of uncertainty or indecisiveness. But it is a sign that also reminds me of family and of a happy time just a few years ago when I purchased it at the Little White House in Key West, Florida. It was the first family vacation that my wife was included in and it was a time that we all enjoyed being down in the heat together for a sweltering week during the summer.

So, in the end, one simple sign can motivate in many ways. Not just to do the best you can at work but also to motivate to succeed at that job so that you can enjoy the times away from the office with family. There are always two sides to every sign.

Friday, October 25, 2013


Produced in 1934, the $10,000 bill was primarily used for bank transfers.

This week I marked a couple of rather satisfying milestones. One of them I had a finger, or ten, in achieving while the other I cannot take any credit for because you are the ones that pushed this blog to a mark that wasn’t even considered when I began this project back in May. Frankly, I am both surprise and not surprised by the fact that daily posts have appeared on this page for much of the year.

The first milestone is that of passing 150 posts. I am not surprised that I have been able to talk/write so much but I am a little surprised that I have been able to find at least some kernels of non bovine fertilizer during that time. While many of the topics make regular appearances (travel, freemasonry, rotary, genealogy, and work just to name a few) there have also been a number of one off rants (see my last post). Regardless of subject, it has been an interesting journey finding new things to write about and different ways to look at things, places, and subjects.

Based on the views I have received I am guessing it has piqued some interest among you at least from time to time. If it didn’t there would have been no way that I could have reached my other milestone this week of 10,000 views. That number may be large to some and small to others but for me it is a significant achievement both in just getting my opinions out there and knowing that I am, at least some of the time, on the right track in producing content.

What does all of this mean? For me it means that I owe a humbling thanks to everyone who has read a post (or scanned one, or read part of one). It also means that I can set a goal for myself moving forward. While I started with the simple idea of posting everyday it is time to take it a small step further. So, as of today, I am setting the goal of putting out a blog every day for a full year. Yes, it is a repetition of my previous motivator it also gives me a hard number to shoot for. The other goal, and here is where I am going to need your help, is to reach 25,000 views by that one year anniversary.

I will, of course, report back on the final figures at that time but, until then, I ask that you keep pushing me to post content that you want to read. So if there is something that you want to read about I encourage you to leave a comment below and I will do my best to accommodate all requests made. In the meantime, I have some interesting posts simmering in my mind that I am looking forward to writing in the near future. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Happy Unday!

For some, including many of my fellow Rotarians, today was one of celebration as most of the world celebrated United Nations Day. There were long speeches given and countless messages of peace and recollections of what the UN has done for the world. And I am one that whole heartedly agrees that the UN has done some phenomenal work to make this world a better place.

However, this international body is a shell of what it once was and the blind faith and loyalty that some have given to this misguided body is naïve at best. What was once a means to ensure the freedom of people around the world has veered so off course that now they are trying to strip United States citizens of their rights and their freedom like they have in so many countries in recent years. How sad it that?

What makes the situation even worse is the fact that this ‘impartial’ body of, let’s be honest, politicians refuses to enforce any real sanctions that would have a measurable impact on the nations of this world that have promoted and preached hate over the last several decades (and longer). Oh, that’s right, we can’t punish those who deserve it because they may not like us and that wouldn’t be nice. After all, if I make them mad they might break my rose tinted glasses.

However, what is downright shameful is the way that the UN has treated Israel while pandering to the Palestinian Authority. Almost every time, if not every time, Israel defends herself against countless attacks who is the one that gets blamed by the United Nations for the ‘hostilities’? That’s right; Israel is the one that is blamed because they gave a quick jab to the jaw of someone that was running at them throwing haymakers.

The UN has been diluted into a delusional CF comprised of castrated politicians that more closely resemble a fanny pack (those in Ireland will understand what is truly meant by the use of that expression) rather than a just delegation of international representatives. So, rather that celebrating UN Day, from now on I am simply going to consider it an unday. A day when we think about how far we have come and so far we have gone off track.

Hopefully, the United Nations can resurrect itself and realize that the utopia that rattles around in their heads is by no means reality and if you want the support of the people you must support and uphold the rights and freedoms of the people. The UN must be in opposition of those try and strip us of our rights. They must oppose those who serve as catalysts of conflict.

It is time to stop being pukes and start acting like a drill sergeant…