Why I'm becoming an inactive Freemason

After leaving Speedway #729, now Speedway #500 when they opted to throw tradition out for vanity I moved to Logan Lodge #575. After Logan Lodge accepted me as a member I noticed that they were struggling to have a healthy active membership base. I then found that i was never sent a request for dues, a month passed, two months passed, I asked about it and nothing, three months passed, four, the fifth month I finally receive my dues card for last year with a handwritten note saying my dues have been overdue for nearly 4 months and I must promptly pay them... 

Combine these events with downright racist and anti-Islamic posts I've seen from more than one Brother on Facebook, the fact several Grand Lodges in the U.S. have taken horribly homophobic stances, that more and more Lodges that are actually active are starting to more resemble the Rotary Club and Toastmasters, that many Lodges are struggling to even open stated meetings regularly (Logan included), that every single Lodge I've visited the past year or so has spent a chunk of their stated meetings and degrees going on and on about appendant body golf outings and gun raffles instead of spending time on Masonic education... 

 

I'm done. You want me to cough up 350$ a year but all you offer in return is hateful memes about "them damn heathen Moslems", crockpot desiccated KFC sides and 30 minutes a month telling me that I should come get drunk with you at the Grotto or the VFW/Legion, oh hey can I put my political office sign in your yard Brother? 

 

No thank you. This is not the Freemasonry of my father, the Freemasonry of my godfather or the Freemasonry of my great-grandfather. I don't know what this is but I'm done. Freemasonry is dying, the Lodges I've sat in go through the minimum motions then move on to show boating and making names for themselves in their communities when not drinking to excess. 

 

Are there still good Lodges? Yes, but they are few and far between and even they often have a sense of elitism requiring tuxedos and going to 30$+ a plate dinners after Lodge to continue activities (including, often, their Masonic education). I'm sorry, I don't want to go to a fancy dress party and drop 50$ after drink and tip on dinner at 9pm on a weeknight. I want to pursue the mysteries of the Universe. I want to be a better man, I want to be open to ideas and concepts and customs that are not my own. 

Maybe some day I'll start my own philosophical group, but it would likely devolve into the same crap sooner or later. 

I'm not going to demit, it's a waste of my time. By my Lodge not sending me a dues notice, even when I asked why I hadn't received one, and now telling me I'm delinquent 4 months and have not said one word to me until a hand written note on the back of a piece of paper this past weekend when they sent me last year's dues cad 9 months after transferring my membership they've already written me off as NPD so fine. Let it remain that way. 

19 AD (After Dad), letter to my father 2017

(past year's letters can be found at https://www.ryanmercer.com/?category=dad )

Well dad... in just 8 days it'll have been 19 years since you passed. It seems like just yesterday I was writing last year's letter to you.

A girl I went out with a few times last summer, she was amazing...she made me smile and she just had this light in her eyes and was curious about some of the same peculiar things that I am... she shot and killed herself. That, that was something I wasn't really equipped to handle. We'd met through a mutual friend and I'd come home from work and watched some television then was getting up to head to my room to read a bit before bed when word came from the mutual friend that Stephie had shot and killed herself earlier that day. I sat down at my desk and effectively went catatonic for several hours. I didn't go to Lodge the next day because I was so tired and just generally out of it. For weeks I was a shell of a man trying to process it. I'd not spoken to the girl in a couple of months, she basically vanished after our three dates and to be honest I'd all but forgotten her and moved on. 5 months later and I still try and rationalize what she did even though I know there's no point. A week or two before we'd put down the dog we got after we had to put Mila down.

I've been on vacation this past week and honestly I didn't even realize it was so close to your anniversary. A young woman I am friends with on this thing called Facebook that is like a digital bulletin board recently lost her father and some hours ago I found myself poking through her posts to see if I could judge how well she's coping and then I went about my evening putting no more thought to it. Sitting here taking in some videos I thought I'd share with her that I write you letters every year and I looked at the date and realized wow, 8 more days until your anniversary.

I left Speedway Lodge last year after they voted to change their number from 729 to 500 after Oriental Evergreen merged with another Lodge and the Grand Master at the time offered it to them. I was against it, I was the only person against it, so I transferred my membership to another Lodge. Here it is March and that Lodge has yet to send me a dues request and I'm just done. I'm done with Freemasonry. They can't be bothered to send me a request for dues so I'm not going to go out of my way to pay them. If they mark me as NPD oh well. To be honest I only pursued Freemasonry because it was a way for me to connect with you and your grandfather, a way to have similar experiences as the two of you while death separated us. I suppose it gave me something in common with Joe too, I know he was alive for at least my EA although he was in no condition to come down for it... I don't recall if he was still alive when I was raised. It has always been my understanding he nudged you towards the Craft.

I don't know how Curt, Doug or Dick are doing. For that matter I don't even know if they are alive. I'm still painfully and chronically single. For all intents and purposes I am the last Mercer. I turn 32 in 20 days and have yet to have a meaningful relationship in my life so as things go I am most uncertain as to if the Mercer name will see another generation. I fund a college savings plan for a future child even though I have no one to even have a child with.

As the years pass I wonder more and more if I'll ever make any meaningful contribution to society, or even a single soul.

Memories are starting to flood back, like when we sat in the dark on your bed... that moment when with unspoken words we both told each other we knew you weren't long for this world. It was so long ago, I was 12. It was 19 years ago. I can close my eyes and be in that moment as if it was happening now though. I've long forgotten what your voice sounded like but everything else is crystal clear.

I miss you dad.

Mark Allen Mercer - Ryan Carl Mercer

Update March 24th: Curt has moved to Arizona with his daughter. Dick died more than a year ago and neither Rhonda or Brad bothered to tell us. My birthday was mostly uneventful. I worked and watched television. My co-worker bought me a really neat tin litho elephant that was made in West Berlin between 1945 and 1950, they key does not wind the action but if you push the scooter down a bit and move it forward it springs to life still. That was the only thing that remotely made yesterday feel like a birthday.

 

I miss the 20th century

I'm over it. I'm soooooo fucking over it. I want to travel back in time to the pre mid-90's and live there indefinitely.

I want to come home from work, talk to the neighbors for a half hour in the drive, sit down and have dinner with someone where phones and television are verboten, have a life largely free of the internet and television. As I don't have a family, do things with the neighbors to pass the time. Sit around on the porch on the weekend and talk about whatever. Work a large (3/4 acre plus) community garden with the neighborhood. Have neighborhood cook outs and other shindigs, actually know my neighbors and know what is going on in their lives. 

I've got 21st century burnout. I'm not alone, I know I'm not. I've got two friends that are of a similar mind. I want to live in a world where community is a thing, where life is simple, where the only real concerns are who's bringing what to the block party or what book I want to read next. 

I'm 32 next month, I have the misfortune of having lived the first 9 years and change of my life without the internet, the misfortune of living 15 years without broadband. I have the misfortune of being born into a world where as a child we'd roam the town on our bikes after school and all summer, the misfortune of being born in a world where things were mostly safe, the misfortune of having known my neighbors and even my mailman as a child. I have the misfortune of being thrust into a fast paced, high speed, dot-com life. In 1995 when I discovered the internet we got 60 hours a month, shortly after we got 120 hours a month. If the weather was nice you didn't give a shit about the internet, you were outside. If the weather was bad you'd connect to the internet, get lost in the text of a MUD. I remember the first time I saw an image on a website, the first time I saw video on a computer. 

The 20th century was my home, now we are nearly a fifth of the way through the 21st century. Every where you go, you are connected. The internet is a loud, screaming, flashy bombardment of video, images, narcissistic behavior. I'm stranded, I'm a castaway in a Kardashian, twitter, YouTube, fake news, throwback Thursday, hashtag, look at me, social justice warrior, 22 gender 13 sexual orientation, special fucking snowflake world. I want to go back. Dammit I didn't ask to be here. I want to go back! Take me back! 

The real shitty part is, I can't afford to live in the 20th century. I can't afford to buy a bunch of land and make my own neighborhood. I know I could find like-minded individuals to fill my not-yet-built streets. Hell I don't make enough money to strike out on my own and just have one small house where I live a simple 20th century life. I can't even strike out as a missionary to try and recruit strangers in the homes around me to my quaint 20th century way. To have a house as a single person you need to either get lucky, live in some urban wasteland, throw 8-12 years of your life chasing degrees and taking on mountains of debt so that you might (after another decade) have paid down that debt and bought a house so you can be at work 60-80 hours a week and come home and cry and want to die. 

Yes, I am a 20th century person. My curse is that of being born on the cusp of the digital revolution. My curse is that of wanting a simple life in a friendly world. My curse is that of being smart enough to know that this 21st century life isn't something good, it will never be for me. 

I am a 20th century person, and this is my manifesto. You may crush this individual with your 21st century ways, but you can't stop humanity's need for a simple life and community. After all... we're social creatures. 

An open letter to Elon Musk

Identify 3-10 individuals with diverse backgrounds and interests. Have these individuals on call 24/7 and provide them with modest housing (mostly sleeping/eating quarters) on/near the campus you are at the most. Provide a modest budget with a minimal approval process via someone Mr. Musk trusts and designates. The purpose of this team is to pursue fringe, bizarre, out of the box ideas and compile a brief 1-page daily list that could be read in a minute with more info about each topic available on demand.

This team could also be called on at any time to bounce ideas or problems off of to critique, offer encouragement, offer alternatives or to try and offer a thought-train that might result in a solution or a solution. All notes, all research, all ideas to be property of the company they report directly to which you/the company could license/bill to other companies you are behind. Basically a think-tank with general autonomy unless a specific issue is identified and needs to be worked on. 

A very modest salary of 30-40k would be more than adequate if modest housing and subsidized meals are provided. At least one artist and one engineering major should be part of the team.

A lifetime fan of both 'soft' and 'hard' science fiction and an interest in plethora of topics leaves me feeling humanity needs more groups like this. Armed with time, modest resources and a diverse team I think something like this could benefit humanity both on-world and off-world. I believe a worthwhile team could be started and begin the think tank experiment with: 

  • A conference room sized office with reading chairs, tables, enough workstations for every member of the team, some e-readers and a viewing room for 
  • A budget for reading material for exploring both works of fiction and non-fiction to further pursue ideas as well as seek inspiration
  • A modest budget for pursuing motion pictures and documentaries for inspiration and learning more about specific ideas
  • A small assortment of 'creative' modular toys for visually exploring ideas, e.g. LEGO elements
  • A digital collaboration and organization space not unlike Evernote for cataloging ideas and saving specific research material to for future reference
  • A quick process for requesting purchase approval to further explore an idea (ideally designate someone to approve or deny the request within 30 minutes of the team making a majority vote to pursue the idea)
  • A room with current generation VR gear (e.g. the Vive) and a small budget to buy titles to explore virtual environments for inspiration
  • Regular updates on any projects partner companies are pursuing, including any unsolved problems so any potential ideas can quickly be forwarded to the appropriate teams with any relevant research that has been cataloged to support the idea
  • A room isolated from the office where consumer products like Google Home, Amazon Echo, companion and social robots etc could be explored to possibly foster ideas for use in terrestrial vehicles, manned spacecraft and off-world habitats to improve customer/crew/settler experience and provide social stimulation.. 

I personally have all sorts of ideas and concepts worth exploring more but sorry Elon, you'll have to hire me for that. 

1% of your personal assumed net worth could fund a 10-person team for more than 2 centuries. Pursue this idea, gamble 0.01% on 2-3 years. Hell, want to be fun about it? Build your own self-contained faux spacecraft habitat in a warehouse using your thoughts for ITS and find a handful of volunteers to live in it for 6-8 months while doing the think-tank. 

Making char cloth

So I finally had some cooperative weather today and was able to get some dry wood so I could take a stab at making some char cloth from some cut up old jeans. I started by splitting some wood with my ESEE 5 and then used my Mora Companion to shave and also do a hasty and ugly feathering of one piece to get some kindling since everything is still sopping wet that I could use around the yard.

esee 5 baton
esee 5 batonning

While this isn't the best attempt at kindling for getting a fire started, I'm not trying to practice starting fires so I cheated with a little Vaseline and cotton to catch my spark.

lixada wood stove review

Alright so we have everything ready to get the fire going, Let's go ahead and move the Lixada stove over to a better place and get some fire going!

lixada stove review

I forgot to take photos of cutting the pant leg of an old pair of jeans up and placing it in the can but with a little imagination I think you can get the idea of taking scissors, and cutting jeans ha! While a lot of people prefer to use Altoid tins all I had handy was this can that a brush for my beard came in, since it does seal very well (I actually had a hell of a time getting it open after making the char cloth) I went ahead and punched a hole in the lid with a screw.

make char cloth
making char cloth

The can I was using was rather big and I put quite a bit of denim into it. This was my first time making char cloth and I did go a bit overboard, I had to feed wood into the Lixada for more than 45 minutes until smoke stopped coming out of the char cloth can. Next time I'll use a smaller can and do less material at once.

char cloth

As I said above I just used too large of a can and put too much material in, several pieces were still far from being done, especially where seams were stitched together down the side of the pant leg. Learned a few lessons and will apply them to my next attempt. I grabbed one of the pieces that felt the driest/most charred and put it in a little stainless steel sauce cup, the FIRST spark off of my ferrocerium rod got the char cloth going, VICTORY IS MINE! I'd ask you to forgive the poor photo as it's hard to hold a phone, shield the screen from direct sunlight, blow on the char cloth to keep it bright enough for the image sensor to see in the bright light, keep your long beard out of the way of everything and take the photo haha. As you can see, part of this piece still had denim that was far from being ready attached to it.

lit char cloth

Project Fi referral code ( EA33MY ) and my 14 months of experience

I have received my 10 referrals as has my friend, feel free to scroll down to the comments and use one of those codes from readers as well as add your own!!!

(For a 20$ credit that goes toward your bill use the referral code EA33MY )

project fi referral code EA33MY

I've been using Google's Project Fi for 14 months now. 

 

Project Fi is a wireless MVNO service from Google that currently uses 3 different cellular networks to provide 4G LTE service to its customers. Your phone will automatically connect to the network that offers the best signal in the area you are in. 

I've been using Project Fi for 14 months now and overall am very very happy with it, I left my AT&T grandfathered Unlimited plan after only a few weeks of testing Google's Project Fi. The catch with Fi is you pay for the data you use. You pay a flat 20$ for unlimited texting and calling in the U.S. and then you pay 1 penny per megabyte for the data you use. While it isn't great if you do a lot of streaming I found that I dropped from using 8-9gb a month to using 1.5-2gb a month in my first month of full-time usage which makes it considerably cheaper than my AT&T plan. 

I've had no major complaints in my 14 months of using Project Fi and am quite happy with the service. Fi will use WiFi to handle calls and texts when you are on WiFi so if you have a poor signal at your house you'll still get good calls and get texts if you have WiFI at your house. 

I'm very happy with having switched to Project Fi over a year ago! 

Overall it's a great service and I give it my two thumbs up!

If you are looking for a Project Fi referral code try my buddies (mine is all used up) code: EA33MY

The code will earn you a 20$ credit on your Project Fi bill if you remain a customer for the first month!

Testing the Lixada Stainless Steel Wood Stove

I saw the Lixada Portable Stainless Steel Lightweight Wood Stove recently and given the price (18.99$ at time of writing this) I decided to take a chance on it and picked one up

At a little less than 14 ounces this thing is fantastic for tossing in your pack, but does it work? Oh yes it does, it works quite well. First the stove comes apart and nests inside itself, it comes with a stowing bag to help keep everything together.

While the stove comes with no instructions I correctly assembled it within 10 seconds, it seemed pretty intuitive and the only thing that threw me off was the ash/ember catcher which I figured out easily enough. At first I had it sitting under the stove but looked at it and decided it probably inserted during one stage, it does.

So, we've had some terribly wet weather the past few weeks and any wood I had was absolutely water logged (pardon the pun) so I looked around for a bit and decided to just use one of my tomato stakes for testing the stove. Got out my handy dandy ESEE 5 knife and set to work batonning some the stake into smaller pieces.

After I got some, still quite wet, wood into small enough pieces I went Jenga on them inside the stove and stuffed a Vaseline cotton ball down the center. One quick spark and we were going!

lixada stainless steel wood stove 2

As the wood was still pretty wet I thought the fire was going to die as soon as the cotton ball had exhausted itself but I was pleasantly surprised. Eventually the wood got going and I knew the stove was working when I could HEAR the jets hissing. The jets did not photograph well but they were very much there and the stove was performing as it should.

lixada stainless steel wood stove 3

Sadly this was not a good wood for actual use and within 5 minutes it had exhausted itself. I plan to test the stove again with better wood soon when I use the stove to make some char cloth!

lixada stainless steel wood stove 4
The stove disassembled in its stow bag

The stove disassembled in its stow bag

I am very happy with this stove and look forward to using it when I don't want to cook on a camp fire. It will fit in one of the side pockets of my pack and adds negligible weight. With a decent fire starter I was even able to get quite wet wood to ignite and burn! This Lixada wood gas stove is definitely worth checking out!

Cabaret the Musical

Last night I had the occasion to catch Cabaret: The Musical on the wonderfully intimate Studio Theater stage at The Center for the Performing Arts. The musical is described as:

Welcome to the infamous Kit Kat Klub in 1929, where the Emcee, Sally Bowles, and a raucous ensemble take the stage nightly to tantalize the crowd—and to leave their troubles outside. But as life in pre-WWII Germany grows more and more uncertain, will the decadent allure of Berlin nightlife be enough to get them through their dangerous times? Featuring the well known hits, Willkommen, Cabaret, Mein Herr, Maybe This Time, The Money Song and Two Ladies.

While the above description is accurate, it is wholly lacking as to what this performance actually is. I'll admit, I knew nothing of the musical or its history and the only reason I went last night was the fact that local actor and playwright Ben Asaykwee (check out his Cabaret Poe next year or later this season Prozac the Sad Elf) was listed as the emcee and I absolutely loved the energy he brought to the stage in Cabaret Poe last month. Wow. Just wow. Cabaret: The Musical is a bloody riot!!! 

When Cabaret opens we find ourselves on a train bound for Germany with an American novelist and a German man presenting their documents to enter the country in pre-WWII Germany. The next two hours and change takes us through a riotous journey involving... quirky employees of a local night club, the beginnings of the rise of the Nazi party, the awkward reality of being a Jew in Nazi Germany, love, loss, and just downright hilarious debauchery. 

 

The wonderful cast of Cabaret: The Musical takes you from one emotion to another. One minute you are laughing hysterically, the scene ends and you find the audience so incredibly quiet a pin could be heard striking the floor and as you process the deep emotion the scene has introduced you to you find yourself positively enchanted by the siren song emanating from the depths of one of the players' souls as they pour so much passion into one song or another.

The Actors Theatre of Indiana delivers a wonderful performance with Cabaret: The Musical that is worth every cent of the ticket price. The show runs November 4 – 20, 2016, and tickets can be found at http://www.thecenterfortheperformingarts.org/tickets/production.aspx?PID=4893

If you aren't afraid of spoilers, and have never seen Cabaret before the wikipedia article is well written and gives you a crystal clear idea of what you are in for. While the musical certainly isn't for a younger audience it is well worth seeing and had I children, I would take a 15-16 year old to see the performance.

Stephie Nicholls

 A girl I went out with this summer took her life on Monday. She was an amazing person. 24 years old. 

Stephie Nicholls West of Rushville, passed away Oct. 3, 2016. She was 24 years old and had been living with her parents and siblings. Born in Anderson, IN June 13, 1992, she was adopted by Paul and Christin Odum Nicholls August 24, 2009. She attended and graduated from Rush Consolidated High School. She married Adam Joshua West in June 2011 who survives. Stephie was employed by Dungarven in Indianapolis where she was a program director helping individuals with disabilities. She was also enrolled and continuing online studies at Indiana Weslyan University. She loved being around family and especially loved shopping with her siblings and Oce’ane, her grandparent’s exchange student. She is survived by her parents, Paul & Christin Nicholls; siblings Tyce & Kalee Nicholls; grandparents, Al & Susie Odum and Paul & Sandy Nicholls. Several aunts, uncles & cousins also survive. A Celebration of Life for Stephie Nicholls West will be 4 PM Sunday Oct. 9, 2016 at Todd Funeral Centre & Crematory with Rev. Jeremy Gries officiating. Friends may call Sunday from 1 PM until the time of service. Cremation will follow services. Memorials may be made to Todd Funeral Centre & Crematory in her name.

Online condolences at http://www.toddfuneralhome.com/home/index.cfm/obituaries/view/fh_id/12002/id/3910702

Suicide is a terrible and unfortunate thing. If you ever feel that life is unbearable, or you even begin to think someone around you needs help. PLEASE REACH OUT FOR HELP OR REACH OUT TO HELP. Some resources: