Lodge Work - C2A Class July 26, 2008

OK, this isn't the post I've been working on. I just spent all day up at Polar Star Rose Hill Lodge #79 helping to put on a C2A class. We do these classes periodically throughout the year. This helps the brothers that don't have enough time to get the degrees done in lodge to at least be able to get up to the Master Mason level (3rd degree). We started the day off with a breakfast that several of our members helped to prepare, including Past Grand Master of Missouri Bob Berger.

People started showing up around 7:30 to grab a bite to eat before we started lodge. We provided eggs, bacon, ham, fruit, doughnuts, bagels, coffee and soda.

Then it was time to get people registered and start the day!

At the end of the day the new Master Masons were congratulated and I took a couple of class pictures.

Here is the class photo

Congratulations to all the new Master Masons in the St. Louis area and to everybody that helped put on the class.


It's been a long week

It has been a very long week and between the two jobs I have not had enough time to think. I started writing a post on Monday morning and I still haven't completed it. I just got home from working the part-time job and I'm heading off to bed now. 4Am just comes around way too early for me sometimes. I'm going to attempt to get the post completed in the morning before I head off to work. Thanks for sticking with me.


Weekend is almost here

Time for a quick post, because I wanted to mention a few things going on.

They are having a launch party tonight at Main Street Books down in old town for Wilfred Bereswill's first novel, A REASON FOR DYING. John Lutz is Wilfred's guest of honor. His website is at http://www.wbereswill.com

There is a concert at Blanchette Park tomorrow night at 7pm. The band is Black Dog and the Rainmakers with special guest Mid-Life Crisis.

Out in New Town, tonight is Movie Night. The free movie being shown in the Amphitheatre is "The Sting". There is also live music at Ruskin O'Briens, but I don't know who is playing. And tomorrow night at 7pm, Pole Position is playing at the Amphitheatre.

Next Saturday (the 26th), is Hot Summer Nights down on Main Street from 6pm-midnight. The live band is Arbogast and they will be playing form 7pm-11pm. Food and drinks are available.

Finally, anyone who's ever watch Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Serenity, or just wished they could be Joss Whedon, please check out http://www.drhorrible.com/ It's hillarious, musical, and only showing for a limited time...

Have a great one out there, see you later, bye!


Taking the plunge

I am either about to do something that is going to work out well for me or it is something that I'm going to look back, hit myself in the head, and say "What was I thinking?" I have decided, after talking with several friends, sought the advice of financial professionals, and talked to my boss that I am switching from a contractor-employee to a 1099-subcontractor. Whooo. My head is hurting. Anyway, the jury is definitely out on how well this is going to work out. I'm hoping to take on a couple of other clients in addition to my full-time gig. I would really like to be able to save up enough money that we don't have to worry about our plans for adoption. That's whole other story.

Working from home tomorrow because AT&T is coming over to set up a new phone line for me. Gotta love the customer service, they could only promise that the tech would be here sometime between 8am and 8pm. Wow. I'm so totally underwhelmed.

I've got to finish cleaning the basement where the tech is going to have to go and I've got documentation to finish before a teleconference tomorrow morning. Probably not going to get a whole lot of sleep tonight. It just has not been a wonderful couple of weeks, these last couple of weeks. Stress on the job is going to kill me.

One of the things that happened today, which the stress probably didn't help with my reaction, was that I received a bunch of emails from various friends that either loudly proclaim what an evil person Obama is or what an evil person McCain is. I love going to snopes.com to find out the back story. And as with most of the emails of this ilk, whether it is disparaging Obama or McCain (since that seems to be where most of these are aiming now days), most of the claims are spurious at best and racist or religion baiting at worst.

I was just talking with my cousin this morning about this. I feel so very disappointed that here, in the 21st freaking century, that there are people out there putting out *stuff* like this, rather than debating policy, ideas, records, and plans. We should be better than this by now. If nothing else, should we not be the ones to bring a little bit more light to the discussion? In the end, we are all immigrants here, strangers in a strange land of our own making.

Now, if you want a make a joke at the expense of a politician... I'm all for that. ;)

Anyway, it is great that everybody that I work with is cool, my supervisor is cool, and everybody up the ladder is very cool. I have made a lot of friends here and out in D.C. (where the HQ is). If I can just make it through tomorrow, I will be feeling a lot better and hopefully the stress will be greatly reduced. Then of course, it is back to the studying for my part in the third degree we're doing on Tuesday night. And I'm helping with a C2A class at my lodge next Saturday. I'm also waiting to see if I'll be able to help at the Fall Reunion at the Scottish Rite this fall. I'll be going regardless of whether I'm helping to present a degree or if I'm just going to be one of the guys that fills in where necessary. It's all good. I like to help.

And just to let you know, I'm very disappointed I wasn't able to get up to the Domain Street Wine Bar in New Town tonight, because Erin Bode and her band were playing. I helped get some of the chairs out there this afternoon. I was picking up the mail and they looked like they could use an extra hand. Dang, I wish I could have been up there. Oh well, my allergies wouldn't have made it very enjoyable for long.

Maybe I'll have a beer before I head back to the basement. Take it easy out there.


Catching up

Just a quick moment while I've got a program copying up to a virtual machine. Wanted to let you know about an event this weekend, which is not in St. Charles, but over on The Loop.

The Eighth Annual St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase (SLFS) will be held July 19-24, 2008. This event focuses exclusively on the work of local directors and filmmakers, as well as expatriates with strong local connections who have gone on to use their creative talents in other cities. Submissions will be accepted March 1 - May 31, 2008. Please click (here) for basic event and ticket information. Click (here) for full schedule of seminars, films, and film descriptions.

One of the directors (Wyatt Weeds) is a friend from back in the day. His film is Shadowland and will be shown on Sunday at 7pm. The website for the movie is http://www.shadowlandthemovie.com.

Last night, the St. Charles city council approved a blueprint for funding and operating a proposed community recreation center with the nonprofit ShowMe Aquatics and Fitness organization. City voters will get to vote on a bond issue of up to $30 Million on August 5th. If approved, the initial contract will run for 35 years. Among the features would be an indoor water park, an indoor track, four pools, three gyms, a fitness center, water exercise areas and activity centers for teens and older residents. It would also provide a way for Show Me Aquatics to fulfill their mission of providing barrier free access to for disabled people to swimming and other exercise.

Personally, I think it is a great idea. The city has needed a centralized community center and this will provide one with lots of features. It is a bond issue, which means no tax increase. Revenue generated from the center will be used to retire the bonds. The city tried to get a vote on community center last year and it failed because they didn't have a plan. Now they at least have a plan and a lot of specifics spelled out.

Some other good news came yesterday, when oil prices dropped by just over $6 a barrel. Current trading has oil at just under $137 a barrel. Which is still scary for long term prospects. And the financial markets were very jittery yesterday after the IndyMac collapse over the weekend and the Federal Government saying they were going to make sure Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac didn't have any problems. The share prices kept driving downward for them pretty much all day yesterday. This morning there was a report on the news that the stocks for these two companies may have been influenced by illegal stock manipulation in an effort to drive the price down so somebody could buy it at a bargain price. SEC and FBI are looking into it and apparently have a specific company in mind.

At lodge last night, we had our rehearsal for the second part of the third degree. Most all of the members that will be putting on the third degrees in the next couple of weeks have not had parts before. It was a good walk through. We have 2 of them at our next stated communication on Tuesday. If you are a Master Mason and want to stop by and help, the lodge website is at http://www.psrh79.com. The address and directions are there. Or you can drop me a line and I can try to help you find your best route in.


Energy Crunch

Once again oil has settled in at over $145 a barrel. I would expect to see gas prices in the St. Louis metro area pop over the $4 per gallon mark this week around Wednesday. Why Wednesday? I don’t know, it just seems as though most of the recent price jumps occur on Wednesday afternoons.

Anyway, what are we going to do about it? I mean, what is there really to do? There are lots of people calling for opening ANWR and the off-costal waters to drilling. The President responded yesterday to those calls by rescinding an executive order that kept them from drilling in those areas for the last 20 years or so. But it is going to be 2-5 years for the geological surveys to be completed and drilling to start and another 10-15 years before the wells are able to be delivering oil at capacity.

This is just me talking and I don’t represent anybody. And I’m also tired from having to work two jobs just to keep ahead. My wife works too. We’re doing ok, but the fuel costs are driving us crazy. It cost me almost $70 to fill up my wife’s minivan. That’s one reason I gotten a small car for my primary vehicle. But not everybody has the luxury of going out and buying a more fuel efficient vehicle. Well, I was wanting to buy one anyway before the other car up and died on me, but that’s another story.

Fuel & grocery costs are consuming a much larger portion of everybody's income. One way we can help is getting real mass transit going in the city of St. Charles and in St. Charles county. It is beyond stupid that we don't have a decent, cost-efficient public transportation grid. Some of the people in power have playing politics & power games with our economic stability. There are quite a few spots just within the city of St. Charles that employ over a 1000 people from the local area. With a good public transportation system, we could move these folks between home and work AND home and shopping. More money in their pocketbook means that they would have more disposable income. And if we make it more economical to stay local, shop local, and buy local those tax dollars come back into the city's coffers. And that doesn't even cover what it can do to help make it easier to keep those tourist dollars here.

Switching gears a little, there was a good interview on Channel 2 last night talking about urban sprawl. This is Tim Busse of New Town at St. Charles

And on a personal note, at the lodge I belong to, we're going to be putting on a couple of third degrees. We're actually rehearsing tonight. I'm pretty nervous because I have volunteered to do a part I haven't done before. Straying out of the comfort zone, as it were. That's one good thing about being with a group of friends is that even if I mess up we'll laugh about it and they'll help me get it right the next time.

Looks to be another great day in metro area. Take it easy out there, remember we're all pulling for you. (quote from "The New Red Green Show")


What happened?

The economic blows to the St. Louis metro area keep on coming. Ford, Macy's, Chysler, The Sporting News, and now Anheuser-Busch. According to an article in the NY Times this morning [http://is.gd/QW8], A-B is back to the table with InBev to hand over the company. Based on the past performance of the folks that are running InBev, I fully expect to see a lot of layoffs from A-B, especially among the white-collar workers. Depending on how things go, I could also see them shutting down the brewery in St. Louis as well, since it is one of the least efficient operations, mainly due to the age. I would also anticipate that a lot of the local charity work may go by the wayside as it doesn't increase the bottom line. St. Louis is already in the double digits for unemployment. This isn't going to help the average person. It will help large stock owners.

What happened? St. Louis city went from the 4th largest city in 1896, to 48 in 2003, and I think it is down to mid-50's now. The metro area has gone from having over a dozen Fortune 500 companies and a few Fortune 100 companies, down to... well if the InBev deal is done not a whole heck of a lot. Where the heck is the leadership from city/county government? Where is the RCGA? What the heck happened?

There are a few things that happened that hastened the doughnut effect and the collapse of the inner city. Basically, bringing home the effect of poor policy decisions without regard to what will happen in the future.

1) City-County Split - Who knew that back when the city government and business owners decided they didn't want to associate with the hicks and poor people in the country (west of Kingshighway at the time) in 1877 that it was going to really come back and bite us?

2) Railroad - When the decision was made not to build more bridges across the Mississippi into downtown St. Louis, the railroads decided to move the center of the country to Chicago. I believe there are more rail lines going from Chicago to Kansas City than between Chicago and St. Louis.

3) Streetcars - With the destruction of the streetcar system, we not only got rid of a very efficient method of transportation we also encouraged people to get cars and drive them everywhere. Which worked for a time and opened up the areas that people and would travel. The downside is that people stopped investing in the local businesses and establishments. Instead we now have big box stores where you have to have a golf cart to travel the whole store and there are either not enough salespeople or they just don't want to help.

4) Interstates everywhere - When we allowed the interstates to plow through the middle of the city, we cut it up like a pizza pie and destroyed neighborhoods. It encouraged the westward expansion of the suburbs and exurbs. Also encouraged the development of strip malls in the middle of nowhere. Bleh.

But there are a few positive signs. People are moving back into the city, although the rate has substantially decreased because of the credit crisis. There are a few businesses re-locating to downtown St. Louis. Lofts are still being sold and the downtown nightlife is still going, although it isn't near what the potential is.

There are a few things that we can do to help turn it around, but it isn't going to easy or popular. Especially with the large number of NIMBYs we apparently have in the area.

1) Think regionally, not parochially. It isn't politically correct, especially here, but there it is. Louisville was in a similar state to St. Louis, losing population & businesses. They took the step to re-integrate the city of Louisville with the surrounding cities in the county. This successfully raised the city from the mid-60's to the lower teens. This also helped to make more federal funds available to them and they have been successful in getting more businesses to relocate there. St. Louis is also going to just have to deal with connecting into St. Charles, Franklin, and Jefferson counties. There are many people that live in these counties and work in St. Louis.

2) Extend mass transit. We're going to have to do it. Gas prices are only going to keep on going up and salaries have been fairly stagnant for the last 7-9 years. Oil actually went up $5 a gallon overnight to hit $146 for the first time. The middle class and lower wage earners are paying a much larger percentage of their income on fuel costs. Encouraging the use of mass transit reduces expenses for the average person and helps cut pollution. With appropriate planning, fixed rail streetcars can help local businesses that are situated near trolley stops. Get the transit out into St. Charles, Franklin, and Jefferson counties. Granted there are some trade offs since the populations of those counties is somewhat spread out. But for example, transit could be extended into downtown St. Charles and then St. Charles county could have transit from outlying areas converge onto that point. Lets make it easier for people to use it and they probably will.

3) Long-term planning for housing. We have to work smarter to get the housing needs of the area taken care of. The credit crisis isn't going to be over for at least another year or two. We probably have not even hit the bottom yet. By planning, I mean that cities have to look and work more closely with home builders. We can't afford closed off subdivisions any more. If we're building in an undeveloped area, we need to make sure that it can accommodate connection to transit. We need to build in a way that encourages and makes it easier to take alternative modes of transit, whether that means bicycles, walking, or something else.

OK, enough of my rant. I'll get off the soapbox now. At least it is Friday and I'm definitely ready for the weekend. I think it is time to brew up a new batch of beer. I've got the ingredients for a honey cream ale, so I'll probably be doing that this weekend sometime. Woot!


4th of July Parade in New Town

The parade at New Town at St. Charles was at 10am on July 4th, 2008. It was actually very cool and we all enjoyed it. We've been to a number of July 4th parades over the years, and we have enjoyed the New Town parade the most. My wife thinks this is a lot closer to the way July 4th parades were when we were kids. Most, if not all, people in the parade live and/or work in New Town or the surrounding area. We considered going down to the Main Street parade in Old Town (the historic district in St. Charles, MO), but we just didn't have time to do both and still be ready for the whole family coming over for BBQ and fireworks.


Heading back down the road

Sometimes my life sucks and then sometimes it is so good. The last few months have been a torture in themselves. It has been up and down healthwise. Then the rains and the floods came. Fortunately, most all the floodwaters broke levees to the north of St. Charles. The Elm Point levee finally gave way and flooded a soccer field and farmers' fields. They did have to shut down Truman Road because the waters covered the road at one point. They also shut down Elm Industrial Drive just past the Deerfield Mobile Home Park. But all in all, the waters stayed away from the more populous areas in St. Charles.

July 4th was an awesome holiday this year. I had a chance to see the parade in New Town at St. Charles again this year and it was great. Although, I thought it would have been better with a band or two. Otherwise, all the participants were people that lived in New Town. We didn't have time to go down to Main Street to see the city of St. Charles parade, but I heard that it was great! Everybody that came out to our house managed to have a good time with the BBQ, food, and fireworks display that we could see from the backyard.

On the downside, we received a call the other day from a friend that was being discharged from the hospital. We didn't even know he was in the hospital. Unfortunately, he had reached a feeling that he was trapped in his life, couldn't go anywhere, and didn't feel like he had anywhere to turn. Fortunately, he got help just in time and spent the previous week in the hospital getting things turned around. We picked him up and drove him home. He said he is feeling better than he has in years. He is in line to get into a 30 day treatment center to continue his progress. Since he is planning on moving and getting out of the situation that he is currently in, I think is going to help in the long run. As long as he continues to surround himself with people that care about him and he is in better mental health, we should be able to keep him around for years to come. Life is too short as it is.