Friday, March 31, 2006

Architecture Friday: Masonic Temple

Since I work in downtown Philadelphia and I like some of the buildings, I'd like to research them and write about them here on occasional Fridays.
The last AF visited the Arch Street Methodist Church and now we are working our way around Center Square next door to the Masonic Temple.

Architecture Friday: Masonic Temple
Location: 1 North Broad St Philadelphia, Pa
Architect: James Hamilton Windrim
Construction: 1868-1873
Style: Norman-Romanesque

While this looks like a place where sheep are sacrificed to unknown gods or a cathedral of some unknown sect or a pagan temple, this building is really just a meeting place for the Free and Accepted Masons which are closer to the Loyal Order of the Water Buffalo than to any animal sacrificing occult organization.

In 1867 a competition was held with four Architectural firms for the new Masonic Temple on the corner of Broad and Filbert Streets to replace a building on Chestnut between 7th and 8th streets. The four firms included the Architects John MacAuthur Jr, the architect of Philadelphia's City Hall and James H Windrim, a free mason.

The truly ironic fact is the Free Masons were a secret organization when this building was built and what better way to have secret organization that to have gigantic castle on one of the busiest corners in the City of Philadelphia.

The chosen Windrim design includes pinnacles on each corner of the building including two towers in the front elevation, five stories and seven stories respectively. The exterior is granite ashlar. The design includes buttressess and balconies around the windows and large stained glass window in the center hall of the building.

It is the interior where this building shines. Seven meeting halls each adorned in a specific ancient architectural style are on each of the three interior floors. The seven halls are Oriental, Gothic, Ionic, Egyptian Norman, Renaissance and Corithian.

Above is Renaissance Hall.

The arrangement of each hall is roughly the same. In the front on a raised platform there is a throne surrounded by smaller thrones on staired platforms. In the back, facing inward there is number of smaller, single seats and on the left and right side are benches or pews. In the center of each hall is a two man kneeler that face each other across a padded bench and there are three large candle sticks. The candlesticks are in a right triangle.

While is seems almost like a religious building, it is in fact a social hall. Free masons today are simply men in a club. Some of the orders of freemasonry are in fact Christiann such as the knights of the templar and theScottishh order, many are open to any male. They are really pissed about the DaVinci Code and our guide spoke of Dan Browns current troubles of plagiarism with glee.

As even weirder aside, apparently the French free masons are the wackiest of the bunch. They are very politically connected and motivated and are in fact atheists.

Look here to see the official page on the Pennsylvania Grand Lodge of the Free and Accepted Masons.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The most obscure patriot.

So now that they are in the NCAA Final Four, George Mason University is pushing George Mason, the man, into the spot light. Besides a disrupter of Office Pools, who was this guy anyway?

Is he the Ringo of US Patriots? I mean was he really in the same club with Franklin, Jefferson, Adams and Washington and the others or was he a hanger on? He didn't ride a horse to warn the colonist like Revere did, he didn't print revolutionary documents like Franklin and He wasn't even a beer brewer like Sam Adams.

He didn't even sign the Declaration of Independence! What kind of patriot didn't sign the Declaration of Independence? Even beermeister Sam Adams signed. Maybe he was sick that day.

Did the other patriots make him get their drinks and snacks?
Can't you just hear Ben Franklin calling for Mason to top off his beverage? If weren't all those layers of fluffy, frilly colonial clothing they'd have give him a wedgie too.

They wrote a song about him.

You know Washington, Adams and Re-vere
Hancock and Henry, Franklin and Paine
But do you recall
The most obscure patriot of all?

Georgie the unknown patriot,
Wrote the declaration of rights
And if you ever read it
You would even say it bites.
All of the other patriots
Used laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Georgie
Join in any patriot fun.

Then in summer of ‘87
Jefferson came to call
Georgie with your bill of rights
Won’t you ammend our manuscript?
Then all the patriots loved him
As the shouted out with glee,
Georgie the obscure patriot
You’ll become a university

You’ll become a university

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Hiking or Homeless?

I can't believe this was last weekend already. I meant to write about this right away but was so busy this week.

I exercise exactly twice every year and somehow I am surprised when I end up sore and blistered after hiking seven miles with 40 pounds on my back.

I went on the annual Troop 42 backpacking trip to Brendan T. Bryne State Forest over the weekend of 18/19 March. This state park is named for the NJ Governor from the 1970s who is best remembered for building the Meadowlands and sounding like Elmer Fudd.

"New Joisey an eww, purfuct togever" He used to say in commercials.

I've been on these things before and usually I know what I'm in for. A 40 pound pack with too much of everything including:
  • A sleeping bag that is way too heavy to be lugging around on back packing trip (but if I needed to, I could re-enter Earth's atmosphere in because of it's thermal properties)
  • A tent that was not chosen by weight
  • A tarp
  • A small stove and fuel
  • Food for 24 hours. 48 if need be.
  • Water for 24 hours.
  • Clothes for 20 degree nights.
  • Extra stuff for the scout that didn't follow the "Be Prepared" thing.

I usually bring stupid things too. The first year I went, we hiked 5 miles up and down hills and I had brought along my Palm pilot. What was I thinking? Was I going to schedule meetings for my week? cleanup my address book? Writing my memoirs in grafiti?

I nearly tossed the thing on the second day.

Once we arrived at our camp site I examined my screaming feet. Sure enough two giant blisters had formed on the balls of my feet.
I applied some moleskin (a not-so-stupid thing to bring) and settled in.

While we were all huddled out in the cold (it was about 28 overnight) making our freeze dried dinners, I realized that this wasn't really different from being homeless. Well, really it was closer to being like a hobo since, at least in my mind, a hobo implies movement and we did hike 7 miles. The homeless stay in one spot.

That is really the thing about scouts, it does prepare you for situations like this. When the rest of you are trying to figure out bag dinners in the coming nuclear winter or The Day After Tomorrow I'll be warm and full. I'll know that you need a ground mat when sleeping and to change your underwear before going to sleep. Ha.

Since fires were not permitted due to conditions, we all went to sleep early. I usually sleep great when it is cold like that and this night was no different. I did wake up in the middle of the night with my head stuck in my mummy bag. I had somehow gotten twisted up and my ear was sticking out of the air hole.

The next day me feet were killing me and rather than risk further pain I volunteered to be the shuttle vehicle driver for the morning hike out.

My feet thanked me on Monday.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Shower Head/Spaceship

So a couple of weeks ago I finally got around to changing out our shower head after months of "gentle nudging" from Mrs F. The old one worked fine but was covered in mineral deposits (yuchhh).

So off we went to the local Home Depot to pick out our shower head and like most things in the US these days, the choices were endless. Did we want a detachable? Massage? A narrow shower head with a wide spray? A wide spray?

A Home Depot "associate" wandered by and we asked him "What should we buy?"

He asked a few questions, suggested a few and then he added: "Well, he said, it won't matter because you are going to hate it because the of the flow"

What the?

We chose the Water Pik Cascadia Hand Held.

I liked it because it looked like a space ship from the old War of the Worlds movie (not the new one). I held it up and made a Vvvvvvvrrrrrrrrrt sound, attacking Mrs F with the imaginary death ray.

She liked it because she envisioned a downpour of hot water covering her whole body like a warm blanket. A luxuriously, steamy Hollywood shower.

I'm not the handiest guy but this was easy to install. Channel lock pliers and a twist and the old one was down and just that fast the new one was up. A quick test showed that it was leaking a bit but that was taken care of by tightening.

The very next morning I got up and tried the new shower. I turn it on hot and wait for it to warm up. I get in and I am half in the shower and half out of the shower. Parts of me are cold.

I feel like I am Jim Carrey in the The Truman Show. There is a scene in Truman on the beach at night where the director wants Truman to go home so he calls for "rain" to get Truman off the beach - except the "rain" only falls on Truman's head and not all around him.

And it is not very forceful either.

I check to make sure I have the Cascadia Hand-Held in "downpour" and not "power rinse" mode since it is a two speed.


This is the way it works apparently.

The old one was like a firehose. It would hurt you to turn that baby all the way up. It would push you into the corner like you were rioter in Watts in '68. It stung on full throttle.

Now I need to run around to get everything wet. Well, rock back and forth. Or dance

Then someone flushed.

Parts got burned that should not get burned.

This also never happened with the old one.

Luckily there was plenty of space to get out the way of the molten lava now dribbling out of the Cascadia Hand-Held. In fact, I could have sent out invitations for others to stand around steaming garden hose flow inside the shower with me. We could have had a party in my 3 x 3 shower. I danced as the scolding liquid touched my toes.

Little did I know that my government was resposible for burning my sensitive areas and leaving my butt out in the cold. I learned this from "Ask Ann!" on Water Pik's webpage. I asked Ann "What the heck is wrong with my water pressure" and Ann responded with this:

User: Showerhead Perfomance

Agent: Waterpik® showerheads have been designed in compliance with the Energy Bill passed by the Federal Government in October of 1992. This policy, which became effective January 1, 1994, set showerhead flow rates at 2.5 gallons per minute. Therefore, our current shower models are designed with a control device, which allows for optimum performance at the maximum flow rate of 2.5 gallons of water per minute.

2.5 Gallons per minute! I imagine a 1 gallon milk container filled with water over my head making that gluk-gluk-gluk sound - 2 and a half of them in a minute. That is not a lot of water.

So ....
  • This was all a large goverment plot
  • It had been a long, long time since I've bought a new shower head.
  • One should not buy things because they look like a spaceship.
  • Ann is a poor speller (perfomance).

I may have to buy a black market Shower head from the former Yugoslavia.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Chinese Food Cart

I am a creature of habit, especially when it comes to eating. Part of the reason for this is genetic (my grandparents ate the same meal each night of every weekday their entire adult lives), part is efficiency (I once read the Albert Einstein had 5 of the same sports jackets and slacks all hung in his closet for the week because it’s easier to choose) and part is because we all like structure.

Whatever the reason, I eat every Thursday at the Chinese Food cart on 17th and Market in Philly. I also have the same thing.
If you have never eaten from a food cart, it a different dining experience.

I recall a story by Joey Bishop (boy am I old) Joey and some other long-forgotten celebrity were in a Limo in New York and Joey saw that the Limo was going past his favorite corner hotdog cart so Joey had the Limo driver pull over. Joey rolls down the window and Joey tells the guy he’ll have two dogs.

The dog cart guy responds “Do you have a reservation?”

I ‘ve been eating at the Chinese cart for a couple of years now and I always have:

Shrimp Lo Mien $3.00
Egg Roll $1.00
20 oz Diet Pepsi $1.25
Total for lunch in the city: $5.25

I know what you are thinking..... Shrimp from a cart are you some kind of cart cuisine daredevil?

Nahh, these people are clean.

One day I invited my friend “Mash” from work to the cart. Mash is a little, ah, obsessive. Mash once ate so many carrots that he turned orange. Orange. Orange like a carrot, orange. Now he warns people of the dangers of over indulging on carrots: “Those will turn you Orange” he now tells people that might be snacking on carrots.

Thanks Mash.

So Mash starts going to the cart, my cart, every single day.

One Thursday I go with him to my cart and Mash is line ahead of me.

Mash says “I’ll have my usual”. I’m thinking “Your usual!” I’ve been coming here for like three years and you have a usual!

I have a usual, but they don’t know it!

Anyway, it got me friendly with the cart owners Ben and Nee and now they know I come on Thursdays and I have a usual.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Mulch Festival

Well we are coming up on spring in my town and that can only mean one thing: mulch.

Soon the snows of winter will recede and the air will be filled with the smell of bark, cocoa and licorice as local garden supply stores deliver the stuff in dump trucks one might normally see in strip mine. The men in the neighborhood will then circle the massive pile in the cul-de-sac with their wheel barrows and take their portion back to their cookie-cutter azalea gardens.

ItÂ’s the closest thing my suburban world has to a harvest.

Now most small villages have a celebration around the harvest and IÂ’m thinking we should do the same with mulch.

We should embrace it, celebrate it.

Celebrate it with a festival, a mulch festival.

There should be a parade. A mulch parade, with floats dedicated to the various kinds of mulch: the joys of Red Cedar mulch, a tribute to bark mulch and of course a paper Mache homage to our woodland friend the squirrel.

There could be teams oprecisionon wheel barrowers, each performing choreographed routines to the delight of the crowd with their garden carts filled with mulch and drill teams with 4 inch straight edge shovels, 6 inch spaded shovels and bow rakes. Rows and rows of long handled tools twirling in the air.

Of course their would be a mulch pageant held earlier in “mulch week” where a mulch queen would be selected and she would stand on a mulch festooned float and wave proudly to the crowd. What an honor, to have your daughter chosen as the mulch queen. Then the highlight of the day would be the arrival of father mulch the mythical deliverer of mulch. Dressed in brown from head to toe, father mulch would throw candies out to the kiddies and have samples of the finest mulches known to man.

Later we could all go get minivan tatoos.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Architecture Friday: Arch Street United Methodist Church

Since I work in downtown Philadelphia and I like some of the buildings, I’d like to research them and write about them here on occasional Fridays.

Architecture Friday: Arch Street United Methodist Church.
Location: 55 North Broad Street, Philadelphia PA
Architect: Addison Hutton
Construction: May 1864-Nov 1870 in two phases.
Style: Gothic Revival

This structure was the result of an argument over the “devil’s music”.

This church was built in the “western suburbs” of 19th century Philadelphia by an off-shoot of the Union Methodist Church on Fourth Street. The younger members of the Fourth street church believed that a violin was acceptable accompaniment to the choir and the older congregational members believed that only a tuning fork was to be used to get the choir on the right pitch.
The violin wild men, James R. White, Charles W. Higgins, and George Cookman, proposed a new church out in the western countryside of the city. This spot later became the bustling center of the city and this became the oldest standing building on center square.

After renting a hall across the street, the congregation first built a chapel. This chapel was constructed perpendicular to Broad Street in middle of the block between center square and Arch Street and is currently incorporated into the main structure of the church. This portion of the building houses a small prayer chapel and offices. Later the main section of the building was constructed. This section housed the main spire, main sanctuary, balconies and the choir and organ lofts. This section was constructed perpendicular to the first section and therefore parallel to Broad.

The building itself is perhaps the finest example of Gothic Revival architecture in Pennsylvania and is unusual in its asymmetrical single spire design. The main entrance is located beneath the spire in the northwest corner of the plan. Parishioners enter here and travel beneath the choir and organ loft into the main sanctuary. The main sanctuary is large open space free of any support buttresses and houses cantilevered balconies running on the left and right side.

The sanctuary is richly appointed in wood and dark colors.

The ceiling also hides a unique gravity feed cooling mechanism. There are operable openings to a void in between the exterior roof and the interior ceiling. Opening these allows for a natural cooling of the sanctuary. This mechanism has since been replaced by a modern HVAC system.

The organ loft houses a massive pipe organ that has 2300 pipes.

Today the church houses an active congregation and is very active in the community acting as the body of Christ.

As an aside, the massive open space inside is very impressive, even when empty. The floors are also wood and creak like an old house. It's quite an old building.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Sink The Bismarck

My family once owned a 1979 Ford Granada. If you can remember that far back, this was the car with the advertisement about how people often mistake this car for a Mercedes Benz.

Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles were the only ones confusing this car with a Benz.

Ford also advertised that German, presumably Mercedes, Engineers compared this fine piece of American Engineering against a 450 SL.

I'm guessing these weren't the cream of the German Engineering crop.

My parents had needed a new car and went out to the Ford dealer and bought a stripped down 1979 version like ones that the Nuns used to buy. Austere. My family hated it and returned it for another Granada. This one was loaded.

This period of time was a trough in American Automotive Engineering, and brought us such vehicles as the AMC Pacer. This car represented it's era well.


  1. The drivers seat was sort of permanently stuck in this pseudo reclining position. It came from the factory this way. All you needed was a big bag of chips and a football game and you could have been in your den.
  2. The fastest power windows known to man. They were like a door on star trek. voooup! in 3.2 milliseconds that window was closed.
  3. Those "new" rectangular headlamps.
  4. A broken front center arm rest that was broken in some mysterious unnamed romantic adventure.
  5. The suspension of a 20 year old couch.
  6. And finally, a near deadly combination of a sloppy steering mechanism and a bad radio. Reach up out of the laz-e-boy recliner of a seat to better tune a station and you could find yourself in oncoming traffic. Ahhhhhhhhhhh!

The power windows were fun. Since it was the 80's and everyone smoked with the window cracked a bit, it was a game of sorts to catch the cigarette in the window. My sister was usually the target of this game.Voooup. Crushed smoke.Eventually all us kids "owned" the Granada. We passed it from one sibling to another until we finally sold it.
Unbelievably, the Granada is still a well loved auto. These guys have dedicated a web page to the Granada.

Finally, my favorite Granada story is here. Apparently the Granada was almost named the Bismarck. I'll bet the Germans would have just loved that.

    Sunday, March 05, 2006

    Well, I'm Out.

    Originally I intended to post to this blog anonymously. I figure what the heck might as let the no one who reads know what I look like.

    2006 Flower Show

    DiNick's Roast Beef and Roast Pork.... $15

    Parking.... $23

    2 Tickets to the Flower Show ... $52

    A real date with my wife while the kids stay home and play D and D.... Priceless.

    Originally uploaded by me.

    Saturday, March 04, 2006

    Good Bye Mr Owens

    March 11th is now the date that the Philadelphia Eagles will shed themselves of their "sharpest weapon" and biggest pariah, Number 81 - Terrell Owens. That is the date that according to his 2004 contract he is due a 5 Million Dollar roster bonus and the Eagles are as likely to pay the bonus as President Bush is likely to rename the Washington Monument after Uday and Qusay Hussein.

    I say that they should pay it and get the other 31 NFL teams to chip in and bench him again all next year.

    The man is a team carcinogen. A time bomb. A virus. Any owner that allows this talented nut on their team deserves him.

    And some nut will let him on his team. Like my father says: "There is a dog house for every dog".

    I won't recount the whole two year ray-lewis-dancing, helicopter-circling, towel-dropping soap-opera for you here but I can confidently say that no other modern day sports star has gone from team savior to exile in less time than No. 81. Even Shoeless Joe Jackson took five years to rain on Chicago's parade. TO did it in 20 months.

    When TO came to Philadelphia in March of 2004, he was handed the keys to the city. The lights around the PECO building proclaimed "We Got TO". He was the missing piece that the Eagles had needed for the three previous years before his triumphant entrance into Philadelphia in March of 2004. He was the man that was going to get them over the hump. The only thing missing were a donkey and palms.

    By the end however, every one from Owens' local Moorsetown, NJ Pizza delivery guy to the Swanky Capital Grill were getting in line to dis' him. Even children hated him.

    Man, what a fall.

    What in the wide-world-of-sports happened between Super Bowl XXXIX where God healed his ankle and April when he hired the Enrico Fermi of Sports Agents, Drew Rosenhaus? (I love that commercial where they say "That Drew Rosenhaus is like money in the bank").

    TO, What were you thinking? Who was giving this guy advice, the OJ Simpson prosecution team?

    The outcome of his antics will be obvious to all.

    It obviously cost him in endorsements and as much as he hated Donovan McNabb, he'll never have the sponsorship of a Campbell's soup or a Lincoln Financial like the popular McNabb.

    He'll also certainly have to work like a mad man to get another multi-year multi-million dollar contract. I think anyone who gives him such a contract is just nuts.

    He may never be in a position to get to a Super Bowl ever again either.

    For all his talk about God he certainly wouldn't know wisdom even if it came up to him and bit him in the behind.

    And all this could have been avoided had he read Proverbs 16:18

    So goodbye for now Mr Owens and we'll see you then next time you are in town as a visiting member the Houston Texans.

    Friday, March 03, 2006

    Shunning the Schnauzers

    We have two “miniature” schnauzers named Shadow and Apollo but I call them Provo and Lone because if you are preparing any food in the kitchen both will quietly and magically appear right next to you.

    They could be upstairs asleep one minute and then “poof!” they are right beside you looking up longingly for a piece of their favorite cheese.

    It's like GE just developed a new kind of stealth schnauzer.

    The female “miniature”, Provo, has now gotten so big that she can no long jump up on our queen bed. But she has a "great personality".

    She comes right up beside you while you are lying in bed and gives a muted, hushed half-bark to let you know she wants in.

    Not a “hey it’s the Fed-ex Man” bark or a wild Mom’s home! Mom’s home! bark but a single syllable “woof”.

    It would be OK if she did the “woof” thing once but she just sits there giving a hushed “woof” every 15 seconds until you pick her up and put her on the bed.

    Of course this is all just a clever trick to take your warm spot in bed. She is smarter then she looks.

    They are also bit yappy.

    At first I thought it was just our schnauzers that are this yappy and then one night we were flipping through channels and one of these AKC shows like “best in show” came on. We were watching the all the well behaved dogs come on and prance about, nary a bark to be heard.

    Then the terriers came on and after several segments of different terriers the announcer said “next up, the miniature schnauzer”. After the commercial break the judges were examining some sort of wacky terrier with a nose like an anteater and in the background just behind the judge you could see the miniature schnauzer yapping like the mailman had just showed up with a chocolate covered pork chop.

    I thought to myself “Now these are the best behaved schnauzers on the planet and they can’t shut up, what are the chances my two are going to be quiet?”

    We are now in the process of re-training both to be quiet when we come in the house through what I call “shunning”.
    When we come in, we turn our backs on the dogs until they are quiet.

    Schnauzer people are also very proud of the fact that schnauzers do not shed hair and tell you that all the time. They point their fingers at the dogs and smugly say “they don’t shed”.

    My brother misunderstood this as “they don’t shit” and thought they had really done some amazing things with breeding. He wanted one.

    I'm hoping the shunning thing works, but even if it doesn't, at least they don't shit^H^H^ed.

    Thursday, March 02, 2006

    Office Interactions

    Maybe you know these people:

    Away Team Member: A guy wandering on your floor, blackberry out like a tricorder on Star Trek, searching for a meeting room. "I believe there are carbon units 30 meters this way, captain"

    Angry Town's People: When a crowd of people come to your office/cube looking for an answer. The only thing missing is the torches and pitchforks.

    More of these later.

    Wednesday, March 01, 2006

    Temporary Duty - Part 1

    Another Navy story.
    This was after I had been in the Navy for 4 plus years. I was assigned to shore duty back on NAS Whidbey Island working in the Intermediate level aircraft support. We repaired electronics components that went in the Aircraft.

    I was an talented, senior and seasoned electronics repair technician and the US Navy decided I should work for three months at the Golf Course.

    I reported to the Golf Course at 6 Am the next day and Oz, the greenskeeper decided that I should cut greens. He didn't know squat about me.

    He took me out to the nearest green and we took along the green cutting mower. I call it this because I don't remember what it was called. It was red.

    Oz explained that I should approach the green on the sit down mower straight on, press the pedal that lowered the reel blades at 7/64th of an inch, make a straight cut and when I get to the other side press the pedal again raising the reels.

    I nodded my head OK.

    I got on the mower and did just like he said. I came straight at the green, pressed the pedal lowering the reels at 7/64th of an inch and starting cutting the grass.
    I was thinking "that was easy".

    Then I heard the hydralic motors on the mower strain and stall.

    I had forgotten to press the pedal on the way out and the reel mower cut the grass on the apron leading to the green at 7/64th of an inch down to the dirt.

    Oz said we'd try again tomorrow.