Wednesday, December 31, 2008

To Springfield and back

There was a small attendance at church on Sunday morning. The minister spoke on Kwanzaa. He also played the saxophone which the congregation bought for him. Following the church service, I went to the Agora Coffee House for the December Tulsa Atheist Meetup. The attendance there was about twice what it was at Restoration.

I believe we had 18 in attendance. We talked for about two hours on topics related to atheism. After the meeting ended I went to Monterrey's for a burrito.

Monday was a day of much piano playing. First, Gail came over to practice duets with me. Then in the evening Nick came over and he and I played piano duets for about an hour.

On Tuesday, we went to Springfield. On the way there, we stopped at Sandstone Gardens, just over the state line in Missouri. The place is essentially one huge room with interior decor items for sale: paintings, candles, furniture, etc. Once we got to Springfield,we checked in to the motel where we usually stay. For dinner we went to Ryan's.

The next morning we got up and headed back toward Sand Springs. We went straight to Keystone State Park, where I am the volunteer coordinator for the year-round walk. I got the book set up for the new year.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Humanist Food & Fellowship

Yesterday, Jan and I went to see a movie, Jim Carrey’s, Yes Man. It was good for a few chuckles. This morning I got up early: 6:30. That’s early for someone who is retired. I read for about an hour and a half and then went back to bed. I went back to sleep and then we stirred around 11:00 am. We rushed to get ready for the Food & Fellowship being held in Tulsa. When we walked in everyone else was already seated. We were about 5 or 10 minutes late.

There were nine of us there. I figure that is a pretty good turnout for the weekend after Christmas.

This afternoon I went by the library, returned some materials and picked up other materials. I will never get all these books read, but I can look them over and decide which books I do want to read and which I will just skim.

We went by Sonic and picked up some food and brought it home to eat.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

New music

Tonight I attended the Christmas Eve service at Sand Springs United Methodist Church. It was filled with music, a short talk by the minister, and a communion service. I might have been the only person to sit out the communion. I don’t know; I didn’t want to rubberneck to see what the others in attendance were doing (or not doing).

After the service was over, we went to Nick’s house and opened presents. Nick gave me several piano duet sheet music selections:

(1) Weekley & Arganbright’s Primo Progresses, which includes pieces by Kohler, Diabelli, Reinecke, Gurlitt, and Fuchs.
(2) Themes from Carmen by Georges Bizet
(3) Spotlight on Duets arranged by Bober, Brown, And Olson
(4) Three Sonatinas by Johann Baptist Vanhal
(5) Erik Satie: Pieces a quatre mains
(6) Tchaikovsky: 50 Russian Folk Songs

I am getting so much duet music that it is starting to get hard locating a particular piece when needed. I will probably set up a database with numbers to help me find music that I need. I already have a six-foot high shelf into which I have placed my sheet music by category.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Joplin waltzs and drumming

Today I went to my dentist, Dr. Fooshee. The hygienist cleaned my teeth. All was okay. I don’t go back again for six months.

Luke and Ayla spent most of the day here at our house today. I returned some books to the library. One book I renewed is The World in Six Songs.

In the evening, I went to Joe’s house for drumming. I took my keyboard with me and played a few songs for the group. Attending tonight were Joe and Lou, Marva, Joel, and myself.

Gail and I have a gig coming up on January 6 at Green Tree Assisted Living Center. We plan on playing a book of four Scott Joplin waltzs plus a few other pieces. I have ordered two books of ragtime music for duet piano which should be arriving soon.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday Party Draws Record Crowd

Last Wednesday, I canceled the Tulsa Atheist Meetup originally scheduled at the Rib Crib on Sheridan for 7 pm. Several churches were canceling services for the evening, and hearing reports of snow in Broken Arrow, I thought the best course of action was to cancel and try again on another night.

On Friday I went to my optometrist whose offices are in north Sand Springs to pick up my glasses. My annual eye exam had been on Tuesday, Dec. 16. I had experienced flashes of light in my left peripheral vision. Checking the Internet, I read that could be a sign of a detached retina. I told my optometrist about the sensation of light. She dilated my pupils and a few minutes later looked into my eyes. She said my retinas looked fine, but if I noticed any change to come back for another exam. My prescription had changed very little from the last time I had my eyes checked.

I the past I had always got the no-line bifocals. This time I decided to go with the lined bifocals, just to see what they are like. I also asked for a copy of my prescription so that if I were away from home and needed a pair of glasses, I would have the prescription to have another pair made.

After leaving the eye doctor, we went to Saied’s Music Co. where a book of piano duets I had ordered had come in.

Late Wednesday evening, Jan was sick. I think she had a 24-hour virus. She spent most of Wednesday in bed. Friday night I came down with the same thing. I spent most of Saturday in bed.

Gail and I had missed our practice on Monday due to the icy conditions and had rescheduled for Wednesday. I called Gail Wednesday morning and told her Jan was sick and that we would have to cancel practice for that week. We had a performance coming up on Sunday. Then I came down with the same symptoms on Saturday. I spent all day Saturday either in bed or throwing up into a trash can. I did not know if I would be able to make it to the holiday party at the Bradleys on Sunday. But by the next day, I was feeling much better, although I felt tired.

Attendance was very good at the holiday party. At total of 24 showed up. There were a couple of people there I had not seen before. First we had the meal: turkey tetrazzini. Next Gail and I played three duets at the piano. Then The Secular Singers performed a half dozen selections, finishing with “To Celebrate HumanLight,” a piece based upon the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” In this song, instead of material objects being recited, the names of various heroes of humanists are substituted: Charles Darwin, Pablo Picasso, Watson and Crick, and so on.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Today's adventures

It was another cold day today -- another day to be thankful to be retired. We ventured out just once today. First we went to Bank First and paid our property taxes for 2008. Then we went by the library and turned in two books, one of which was Bart Ehrman's God's Problem. There were two book waiting there for me to pick up: Letter to my Daughter by Maya Angelou and Time Traveler by Daren Simkin. The Simkin book was very short. I read it in one sitting. The Angelou book is actually a book on CDs.

Next we went to the bank where I cashed a few checks. From there we went by the bread store where we bought a loaf of bread. From there we went back home.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cold weather moves in

Today we had our first real blast of cold weather. Both Tulsa and Sand Springs closed public schools. Many other small communities in the area did likewise. I had an appointment with my optometrist today, but the receptionist phoned me this morning and said Dr. Riggins would not be in. Gail and I canceled our piano duet practice for today. I was glad I was retired and did not have to get out into the cold.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Church services

Today I attended the service at Church of the Restoration. The minister, Gerald Davis, spoke. Attendance was around 16, I would guess. I didn’t actually count heads. The minister, his wife, and two children made up a quarter of the attendance.

The disaffected members who are still holding out were still holding out. Soon I expect we will find out what is to happen to the church. I would guess it might change to “fellowship” status. A fellowship is a UU church without a minister. The disaffected members account for the bulk of the income for the church.

This evening I went with Jan to the service held at the Methodist Church. It was an all music service. The Dobbs (Jennifer’s family) played in a brass quartet. They were the best act to perform. The bell choir was quite good, also. We noticed as we drove home that it was starting to sleet. I’m glad I am retired and do not have to get out and drive in such weather.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Herb's Funeral

Friday afternoon, we went to Herb’s funeral. It was held at Allen Freewill Baptist Church between here (Prattville) and Sapulpa. Herb was a deacon there and was quite active in the church. His pastor preached for about thirty minutes. A three-woman vocal ensemble sang two songs. We expect Mrs. Foust will sell the house and move into a retirement community. The pastor at the church was very upbeat in his message.

The next day, Saturday, I got a haircut at Rorie’s. I had left early to go by Wal-Mart and buy a fill valve for the hall bathroom toilet. Since I had only one item, I got in line for those purchasing ten items or less. Being around Christmas, there were plenty of shoppers there. I got in line. There were three people ahead of me. The man in front of me had his quota of ten items. Unfortunately, one item, a set of wrenches, would not scan. The clerk, obviously a new employee, called for a price check. After a wait of two minutes, I realized I would be late to get my haircut if I stayed around any longer. I placed the fill valve on top of a cooler filled with soft drinks by the checkout stand and made a beeline for my car. I made it to Rorie’s right at 4:00 pm.

After I got my haircut, I went back to Wal-Mart and the item I was going to purchase was still on top of the cooler. I picked it up and went to the back of the line. The store was so crowded that I had to park in the front parking lot near Warehouse Market.

I am presently reading God’s Problem by Bart Ehrman. In his discussion of the book of Ecclesiastes, Ehrman quotes two passages from the book and then comments on the advice:

This is what I have seen to be good: it is fitting to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of life God gives us; for this is our lot. (Eccles. 5:18-19)

So I commend enjoyment, for there is nothing better for people under the sun than to eat, and drink, and enjoy themselves, for this will go with them in their toil through the days of life that God gives them under the sun. (Eccles. 8:15)

This strikes me as some of the best advice to be found in any ancient writing. Even though there are people (lots of people!) who claim to know what happens to us when we die, the truth is that none of us knows, and none of us will “know” until it’s too late for our knowledge to do us any good. My own suspicion is that the Teacher was right, that there is no afterlife, that this life is all there is. That should not drive us to despair of life, however. It should drive us to enjoy life to the uppermost for as long as we can and in every way we can, cherishing especially the precious parts of life that can give us innocent pleasure: intimate relationships, loving families, good friendships, good food and drink, throwing ourselves into our work and our play, doing what we enjoy.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I forgot to mention the fortune in my fortune cookie from our visit to China Star last night. It reads, “An interesting musical opportunity is in your near future.” I certainly hope the fortune is right.

Tonight I want to say a few words about a web site I discovered recently when Larry Hochhaus contacted me through the site. The name of the site is Do you ever wonder what books your friends are currently reading? What books do your friends plan to read in the future? You can sign up at and record your reading experiences. You can also rate the books you read. There are many aspects to the site, which you can discover on your own. One interesting thing is you can record how much of the book you have read and see a bar graph showing you your progress in the book.

I want to encourage all my friends to take a look at Good Reads.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Herb passes

Today we had Luke for most of the day. Luke is the kind of child that requires a lot of attention.

In the afternoon, soon after Luke went down for a nap, the doorbell rang. It was Darlene from across the street. She informed us that Herb Foust, our next door neighbor, had died on Monday. He was 89 years old. He has been our next door neighbor ever since we moved here in 1986. He was a retired housing contractor. In fact, he built our house as well as the one he lived in.

His first wife, Louise, died in 2000. A while later he married Ruth. We went by the funeral home following my walk to view the body. Then we went to China Star for dinner.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Greentree and Walgreen's

This morning I went to Greentree Assisted Living Center and spoke with Kathy about Gail and myself playing duets there for the residents. I was thinking we might play a Christmas program for the folks living there, but Kathy said their activities calendar was filled up for the reminder of the year. She suggested we make it sometime in January. So we settled on Tuesday, January 6 at noon. If the experience proves beneficial, we might make our visits there a regular occasion.

I was hoping they had a grand piano as they do at a similar facility (The Parkmoor) in Springfield, Missouri. Instead they have a Roland digital piano. The advantage of the Roland is that it never needs tuning, which can save a lot of money over the years.

I assume we will be playing while the residents dine. This should provide a bit more of a relaxed atmosphere for our performance. The focus of the diners will not be on us but on dining and conversation with their neighbors. Gail and I will provide the background ambience, you could say.

This afternoon we went shopping. First we ate lunch at a new place in Sand Springs called Crusin’ Burger. The building used to be a Captain D’s. I liked the place better as a Captain D’s than what it is now. Then we went to Walgreen’s and shopped for Christmas. We bought a “guitar” for Luke. It is a toy shaped like a guitar with buttons you push to get various sounds (produced electronically). For Ayla we bought a toy cash register.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Duets performed

Last evening I did a 5K volkswalk in Jenks. The walk went east on Main Street and then through and around the recently built shopping center on the river. The path crossed under the bridge and went past the aquarium. Then it followed the Creek Turnpike until we reached the railroad tracks. From here we went north until we reached Main Street. I stopped here and took some pictures. (See yesterday’s entry.) In the background you can see the sign for Tedford Insurance Agency. Jan worked here for a few years. As I reached into my jacket pocket to get my camera, I noticed that one of my gloves was missing. I knew I had two gloves when I started. Somehow one came out on the walk. I figured I would never see it again.

After taking a few pictures, we continued on back to the building where the start point was. Inside were all kinds of treats. Meats and crackers and fruit and cakes and cookies, etc. Furthermore, there was a table laden with gifts. Dorothy Brown had purchased several items from the dollar store to give away. Dorothy has a heart of gold.

I was enjoying my plate of food when another walker entered the building. He held in his hand my missing glove. He said the police officer along the route had found it and figured it must belong to one of the walkers. What a stroke of luck!

This morning Jan went with me to Church of the Restoration on North Greenwood Ave. The service was led by Rosemary Powell. Her topic was “’The Spirituals Project’ – History, Value, and Purpose.” I learned that the NAACP has an official anthem which is “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” I don’t recall having heard it before. I think I will introduce it to The Secular Singers next time we meet. Gail and I played two duets, “Sedona Sun” and “Majestic Grand Canyon.” We did well, I thought.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Volkswalking in Jenks

This picture was taken on MainStreet in Jenks this evening. Next to me is my five-year old granddaughter, Ayla (who has a fascination with flashlights).

Friday, December 05, 2008

Some thoughts on the destruction of Jericho

I had heard the story of the “walls come tumbling down” many times in Sunday School or Vacation Bible School. Like in so many other stories in the Bible which I heard growing up, I identified with Joshua. I could see myself as Joshua or one of his army. It was not until later that I was able to identify with the people of Jericho.

We talk about this incident as if it were an actual occurrence. It may or may not have happened as the Bible tells the story. Jacob Bronowski in his book The Ascent of Man writes, “But did the walls come tumbling down? We do not know. There is no archaeological evidence on this site that suggest that a set of walls one fine day really fell flat. But many sets of walls did fall, at different times. There is a Bronze Age period here where a set of walls was rebuilt at least sixteen times. Because this is earthquake country.”

What is important is not whether the walls fell down when Joshua sounded his horn. What is important about this story is the injustice dealt to the people of Jericho. Does the Old Testament character by the name of God actually think he did the right thing by having the army of Joshua pillage and lay ruin the city of Jericho? What did the citizens of Jericho do to deserve being slaughtered? Yes, even the infants were killed. Is that right? What about the commandment that says “Thou shall not kill?” Does might make right? What would you do if you were convinced that God wanted you to harm another person?

This is just one incident where God dispossesses people from their land. The Old Testament is filled with similar injustices. The Israelis were convinced that they were the “chosen people of God.” The very idea that a God would choose one people over another gives the lie to the idea of God being a “just” God. Would a just God play favorites? Would there be winners and losers? Think of how much death God is responsible for in the Old Testament.

Whenever I hear the story of Noah and the Ark, I no longer imagine myself being inside the Ark but outside with the 99% plus who perish. My empathy is with those who perish for being essentially in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Recent happenings

I had a visit to my doctor last Tuesday. I have had a rash under both arms for three months, at least. The doctor said I have contact dermatitis. (Jan said he was wrong. She thinks the rash is caused by a virus.) He suspected it might have been caused by the underarm deodorant I have been using. He suggested I stop using deodorant for one week and see what happens. So as of last Tuesday, I have forgone using deodorant. A nurse also give me an injection in my left hip.

That evening I went to Joe’s for drumming. Lou was not feeling well and did not participate. Also not feeling well was Marva, who was also absent. Eric did not show up. So the group consisted of Joe, Joel, and myself.

Next day, I went to the credit union and withdrew enough money to cover our property taxes for the year. I then drove to the bank and deposited the check in our checking account. On the way back home, I stopped at Papa Pat’s truck parked on the parking lot of the old Wal-Mart. Papa Pat sells smoked meats out of his custom built truck (looks like an RV). I took the sandwich home and ate it.

In the afternoon, I drove to nearby Sapulpa and went to the Dollar Tree store there. My cousin Vicki, who lives in Houston, started a Christmas tradition a few years back. We each go to a dollar store and buy ten items for each other as Christmas gifts and put them in a stocking. We have been doing this for ten years now.

The next day, Wednesday, I walked a couple of miles at TCC and came home and got ready for Gail who came over around 3:30 to practice once again. (We had previously practiced on Monday.) We have a performance at Restoration this coming Sunday. We will be playing “Sedona Sun” and “Majestic Grand Canyon.” Both pieces were written by Melody Bober.

Gail and I have talked about playing for the residents at Greentree Assisted Living Center, which is located about a mile from my house. I phoned the Center today and spoke with a lady whose title was something like “Life Enrichment Specialist” (not the exact title, but close) and told her that Gail and I would be interested in playing duets for the residents there. I told her I would come in tomorrow and look the place over.

I walked three miles at the Fitness Center this afternoon while listening to a CD of music by Tchaikovsky, Borodin, and Rimsky-Korsakov.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

December calendar

December 2008
Activities of Interest to Freethinkers

Sat., Dec. 6, 7:00pm
Movie Night at the Bradleys, 6705 E. 54th St.
Movie selection: TBA

Wed., Dec. 17, 7:00 pm
Atheists Meetup Mid-Month Social Gathering. Venue: Rib Crib, 5025 S. Sheridan Rd.

Sun., Dec. 21, 6:00pm
HumanLight Celebration at home of Randy and Dawn Bradley, 6705 E. 54th St.

Sat., Dec. 27, 11:30am
Food & Fellowship at Te-Kei’s Asian Restaurant, 1616 S. Utica.

Sun., Dec. 28, 1:00pm
Atheists Meetup at Agora Coffee House, Fontana Center.

Questions? Call Randy at 622-6975 or Dan at 798-3629.

Secular Singers, Humanist Study Group, and Liberal Action Network will not meet in December.
The HumanLight Celebration takes the place of the monthly third Sunday meeting.

Book quote

I am presently reading a book by Bart Ehrman titled God’s Problem. From the book jacket we read, “For renowned Bible scholar Bart Ehrman, the question of why there is so much suffering in the world is more than a haunting thought. Ehrman’s inability to reconcile the claims of faith with the facts of real life led the former pastor of the Princeton Baptist Church to reject Christianity. In God’s Problem, Ehrman discusses his personal anguish upon discovering the Bible’s contradictory explanations for suffering and invites all people of faith—or no faith—to confront their deepest questions about how God engages the world and each of us.” The following quote is about the destruction of Jericho.

How are the Israelites to conquer such a well-fortified city? Simply by following God’s instructions. Joshua is ordered to have the warriors of Israel march around the city’s walls once a day for six days. On the seventh day they are to march around seven times, and then have the trumpets blown, and “the walls’ll come a’-tumblin’ down.” They do so and it works. The walls fall, the warriors enter the city—and they murder every man, woman, child, and animal in the city (with the exception of the prostitute Rahab and her family). A complete and resounding victory (Josh. 6).

Anyone interested in the problem of suffering might wonder, of course, about the inhabitants of Jericho. For the God of Israel, these were foreigners who worshiped foreign gods, and so were fit for nothing but destruction. But one might want to think about all the innocents who were murdered. Is this really what God is like, one who orders the slaughter of those who are outside his people? It is not as if the people of Jericho were given the chance to think things over or turn to him. They were all slaughtered, even the infants, in a divinely appointed bloodbath.