Monday, December 30, 2013

A four-day trip to Springfield

We made a four-day trip to Springfield last week. Mother was in the hospital but was released on Saturday. Dad is quite weak now, but they refuse to hire help. They really need to hire someone to live with them, if they are not going to move to assisted living.

My cousin Vicki in Houston is expecting to have surgery soon.

We are doing well thus far.

While we were in Springfield, Nick and his family were there too. You could say we had a family reunion of sorts. We ate at Red Robin one evening. I had a whiskey-flavored hamburger with a chocolate shake. Braum's has a much better chocolate shake.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Day 2013

Last Sunday, I substituted for Edna, the church pianist. Gail and I played two Christmas selections: "Jingle Bells," and "We Wish You a Jazzy Christmas." The message was delivered by our two ministers: Gerald and Debra. The day was cold. I had to defrost the car, which took about 20 minutes. It was the first time I needed to go anywhere since the ice storm hit us. As I drove to church I noticed several tree branches had broken off and were lying on the ground.

The next day Gail came over and we practiced duets on the piano for two hours. Next Humanist Sunday (January 5) I plan to speak on the American Civil War. We will be playing "The Battle Cry of Freedom" as the special selection. The duet sheet music for it is found in a collection titled "The Blue and the Gray: Favorite Songs of the Civil War," edited by Winifred Hyson.

I have been volunteering at Mark Twain Elementary School in the "Reading Partners" program. This is a national program which is in a dozen cities now. Volunteers are matched with students who lag behind in reading skills to work on reading. Last Thursday there was a reading recital program in which the almost two dozen students in Reading Partners at Mark Twain read selections to the audience made up of tutors and parents. RP is out for the remainder of the year (winter break) but resumes next month. I volunteer one day a week.

Last night we went to the Christmas Eve service at Sand Springs United Methodist Church. There were about a hundred people in attendance.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Ice storm, December 21, 2013

Here are some photos I took today. This ice storm was not as bad as the one we went thru in 2007.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Vacation pictures

Finally I have posted pictures from a vacation we took back in November. It appeared that it might rain on us the whole time we were away, but we only saw rain the first day, and then only for a little while.

Photos 1 of 6

Sequoyah's Cabin is located just outside of Sallisaw, OK. Sequoyah is the Cherokee Indian who invented the written language of the Cherokees. His cabin is surrounded by a larger building which was built around it.

Below is the interpretive center/gift shop for the complex.

Photos 2 of 6

The trees were just beginning to turn, as you can tell from the photo above.

Photos 3 of 6

Outside of Sallisaw is a small community called Akin. There is a good-sized cemetery here. The photo shows the gravestone of Charley Arthur Floyd, better known in his day as "Pretty Boy" Floyd.

We ate at a fish restaurant south of Sallisaw. The prices are posted only on the wall.

The picture above shows a combination McDonald's/package liquor store. Note the ads on the door.

The Choctaw Natiohnal Cemetery is located in Skullyville, south of Sallisaw.

Photos 4 of 6

Across the street from our motel in Heavener sat this diner -- a converted rail passenger coach.

Here is an interior view of the coach.

Here we are on the path to the runestone.

Photos 5 of 6

Above is a view of Heavener from the area of the runestone.

Photos 6 of 6

This photo was taken on the Talimena Scenic Byway.

Above I am seated inside Pete's Place, an Italian restaurant in Krebs.

Each table is in its own room.

This is Pete's Place, home of Choc Beer.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Preparing for Sunday

Tomorrow is Humanist Sunday at Church of the Restoration. Instead of delivering the talk, I will be reading "A Child's Christmas in Wales" by Dylan Thomas. Gail and I are playing an extended set of duet pieces on the piano. We rehearsed twice this week. We also have a potluck meal which follows the service.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

We attend Skepticon 6 in Springfield

We spent a few days in Missouri last week. On Thursday, we drove to Mt. Vernon, MO and spent the night at the Super 8 motel. There is a restaurant in Mt. Vernon which we really like. It is called the Red Barn. They have generous portions of food. We had supper there on Thursday.
We got up next morning and drove to the Springfield Expo Center where Skepticon 6 was being held. We attended a couple of sessions that morning. The most memorable one was about Freethought Exchange. The organizer of Freethought Exchange, Jason Testerman, grew up as the son of a Christian minister. What he does is contact churches and arrange to come talk to congregations about his worldview. What transpires is an exchange of ideas. Jason is not the only one doing this. He has a few others in different cities doing the same thing. Jason lives somewhere in Colorado. He has a website in which he explains what he is doing. We spent Friday and Saturday nights in The Arbor near where my parents live. The Arbor is just north of The Abbey. While in Springfield, we ate at Ryan's. I should say that the various talks given at Skepticon 6 can be viewed on YouTube. Some of the speakers this year were David Fitzgerald, Seth Andrews, P. Z. Myers, Greta Christina, Rebecca Watson, and Amanda Marcotte. We returned to Sand Springs having heard a lot of speeches, some music, and quite tired.

Monday, November 11, 2013

What will I miss if I skip Skepticon 6?

Friday November 15th

10:00 am • Atheist Film Festival hosted by David Fitzgerald Main Hall

10:00 am • How to Swear Secularly with Monette Richards Room B

10:00 am • How to Cartoon and Launch Your Own Webcomic with Dale Debakcsy Room A

10:00 am • Creating the Record: Going Toe-to-Toe with Hostile Administrators and Officials with Neil Wehneman Room C

11:00 am • How to Tell Your Friends Jesus was a Dick with Ben Schuldt Room A

11:00 am • Secular Safe Zone Ally Training with Andy Cheadle-Ford Room B

11:00 am • Atheists Speaking in Churches with Jason Testerman Room C

12:00 pm • Is There a 'Right Way' to Talk to Religious people? With Mark MacLean Room A

12:00 pm • Resume Writing with Amanda Knief Room C

12:00 pm • How to Manage Grief with Rebecca Hensler Room B

1:00 pm • TBD - Someone Amazing Room C

1:00 pm • Public Health: Obamacare and Grassroots Action with Planned Parenthood and Lauren Dow Room B

1:00 pm • Handling Public Criticism - Stephanie Zvan Room A

2:00 pm • So You Wanna Become a Professional Atheist? with Dave Muscato Room C

2:00 pm • Seth Andrews hosting the Thinking Atheist Radio Podcast Main Hall

2:00 pm • Nutrition and Training with Mike Lane Room B

2:00 pm • Helping Kids Out of Religion with P.Ferguson Room A

3:00 pm • Live Podcast hosted by Dogma Debate Main Hall

3:00 pm • What is your SocioSexual Orientation? (SSO) with Darrel Ray Room C

3:00 pm • How to Talk/Write about Skepticism for a Non-Skeptical Audience with Amanda Marcotte Room B

3:00 pm • Atheist Music with Ashley Miller, Dave Muscato, Jt Eberhard, and Shelley Segal Room A

4:00 pm • Islam and Modernity with Faisal Saeed Al-Mutar Room C

4:00 pm • How to Read Media Critically (plus ukulele) with Ashley F. Miller Room B

4:00 pm • Getting It On at the Con: How to Get Lucky Consensually with Miri Mogilevsky Room A

5:00 pm • Dinnertimes!

6:00 pm • PZ Myers: "The Cambrian Explosion" Main Hall

7:00 pm • Rebecca Watson Main Hall

8:00 pm • David Fitzgerald: Sexy Violence! Violent Sex! The Weird-Ass Morality of the Bible Main Hall

9:00 pm • Shelly Segal Performs 'An Atheist Album' Main Hall

10:00 pm • Godless Perverts hosted by Greta Christina Main Hall

10:00 pm • Bar Night at the Convention Center Lower Level Hall

Saturday November 16th

9:00 am • Seth Andrews Main Hall

10:00 am • Aron Ra: Pterosaurs are Terrible Lizards Main Hall

11:00 am • Monica Miller Main Hall

12:00 pm • Lunchtimes!

2:00 pm • David Tamayo Main Hall

3:00 pm • Amanda Knief: Great Godless Lobbying: Why Heathens Need to Be Better Citizen Lobbyists Main Hall

4:00 pm • Richard Carrier: Is Philosophy Stupid? Main Hall

5:00 pm • Dinnertimes!

7:00 pm • Amanda Marcotte: How The Religious Right Is Cranking Up The War On Women Main Hall

8:00 pm • Greta Christina: Activist Burnout--Prevention and Treatment Main Hall

9:00 pm • Keith Lowell-Jensen Main Hall

10:00 pm • Bar Night on the Town in Springfield Springfield, MO

Sunday November 17th

9:00 am • Hemant Mehta: Don't Post First and Ask Questions Later Main Hall

10:00 am • Debbie Goddard Main Hall

11:00 am • Rebecca Hensler: Creating and Defending Secular Space Main Hall

12:00 pm • Lunchtimes!

2:00 pm • John Corvino: Gay Sex in a Disenchanted Universe Main Hall

3:00 pm • JT Eberhard Main Hall

Once again this year, attendance at the above listed events is free of charge.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Saturday night roundup

Last Friday we went to Tulsa Town Hall. The speaker was Dan Rather, former CBS news anchor, now with AXS News Cable. For an 82-year-old guy, Rather looked good. He spoke about concerns he has for the future, one of which is global warming. The disappearance of the arctic ice is quite dramatic, as satellite images show.

Afterwards, we ate at Ollie's Station, a railroad-themed cafe in the Redfork area of Tulsa. Model trains circulate overhead as you eat below.

Friday evening I went to the meeting of the poetry group. There were five of us there. We talked about chapter 4 of How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch. Next month we will discuss chapter 5. We meet at the coffee shop in Barnes & Noble bookstore on 41st Street.

Ayla stayed overnight with us last night. This morning we took her to eat at the Crescent Cafe and then took her home.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Chamber music in Tulsa

Yesterday as I was driving to the Case center to walk, I passed by St. Andrew Lutheran church. I read the message which announced a blood drive from 3 to 8 that day. It was just a little after 3 pm so I decided to change plans and give a unit of blood instead. Sometimes giving a unit of blood can take some time, but the Red Cross was not busy. I got in and out in about an hour.

Later, we met Bill and Jackie Dusenberry at White River Fish Market. Marilyn Clarke was there, too. The five of us had fish dinners. I had the broiled seafood combo, which consisted of scallops, shrimp, and sea bass. Along with that I had potato salad and a green salad.

After we finished eating, we drove over to the Lorton Center for a concert by a string trio. On the program was Piano Trio in D major by Beethoven, Schumann's Phantasiestucke, Op. 88. After the intermission we heard Piano Trio in B major by Brahms. The trio consisted of a piano, a cello, and a violin.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Back from another short vacation

We got back home yesterday from a short vacation. I took a lot of pictures and will post some later.

We left on Wednesday morning and drove to Sallisaw. It rained on us most of the way there. As usual, we did some geocaching. The first cache we found was in Akins, OK. It was a virtual cache, meaning there is nothing physical you have to do. Instead of signing a log sheet, as is the usual practice, you observe the scene and then e-mail the cache owner the answers to some questions found on the cache site.

The GPS took us to the grave of Charley Arthur Floyd, better known as Pretty Boy Floyd. Floyd was a notorious outlaw who met his demise at the age of 30. There are plenty of other Floyds buried in this cemetery. I'm guessing he came from a large family. I am wanting to know more about him now that I have seen his grave.

We ate dinner that evening at Shad's Catfish Restaurant south of Sallisaw. The menu is on the wall, literally. The food was pretty good. I had the all-you-can-eat catfish. We spent the night in a motel in Roland, not far from Ft. Smith, AR.

By the next morning the rain had stopped and we went looking for caches as we headed for Spiro. Spiro was the location of the Caddo Indians who formed a government about a thousand years ago. They built mounds of dirt in the area known as the Spiro Mounds. We watched a short film and then took a self-guided tour around the mounds.

From Spiro we went south through Poteau and on to Heavener. We checked into our motel and had dinner at the Southern Belle, a railroad coach converted to a diner. The next morning we visited the Heavener Runestone, a short distance away as the crow flies, but there is a railroad year between the runestone and our motel. We had to drive around the rail yard.

The runestone is fairly large -- something like 14 feet high and 12 feet wide. It is encased in glass now, but in years past it was exposed to the elements.

After seeing the runestone, we drove over to the Talimena Drive and viewed the fall foliage. We drove west toward Talihina and found one cache along the way. We stopped for dinner at Pete's Place in Krebs. Their specialty is Italian food. I had the shrimp alfredo. The unique thing about this restaurant is that each table is in a separate room with a door to a hall. This restaurant is famous for Choc Beer. We left, driving through McAlester over to the Indian Nations Turnpike. We drove north and got home before it got dark.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The scarriest picture of all

Recent pictures

Recent pictures

I guess you could call this a toilet toss. The idea is to toss a roll of toilet paper into the ring.

Recent pictures

The top picture shows a ninja warrior about to select a duckie from a pond. The bottom picture shows the crowd at the event. In the background is the former Page Library. It now houses the Sand Springs Museum. It rained briefly at the start of the event.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Volkswalking in Skiatook

Today was the date of the Tulsa Walking Club's October walk. It was held in Skiatook. The path was a rail-to-trail conversion of the Osage Railroad. I was told it runs all the way from Tulsa to Bartlesville. October is National Volkssport Month. To commemorate the event, the AVA provides a patch which can be obtained for $3 from local clubs. I bought a patch, which is orange in color and depicts pumpkins, a basket of apples, eggplants, etc. It is 3 X 4.5 inches in size.

The walk started in Skiatook and went south on the trail for half the distance. There we met the checkpoint person who punched our start cards. Then we walked back to the start point. The total distance walked was five kilometers. Along the way we met some friends we had not seen in a while.

At 2 pm, we were at the S-B Library for the HAT meeting. There were only five of us there today. When we got back home, I fixed a pot of chili. We watched Moyers while we ate dinner. As soon as I finish this blog, we will watch the NBC Nightly News on the Internet.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Zimmerman concert

Tonight J and I went by the Storey residence in Tulsa and picked up Glenn and Gail. The four of us attended a Roy Zimmerman concert at Hope Unitarian Church. Zimmerman is a singer and songwriter who is constantly on tour going from city to city across the nation. He has written literally thousands of songs. You can hear him sing at his website:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Disappointing turnout at protest

First I made my sign at home.

Here I am at the east side of the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

I went to a protest today in downtown Tulsa. The site of the protest was the Hyatt Regency Hotel across the street from the Bank of Oklahoma tower on second street.

I first made a sign on poster board. See picture above of me adding crosshatching to the large letters. I got a from blocks from the house and realized I did not have my cell phone or camera with me. I went back and got those two items. (My cell phone has a camera on it, but I prefer using my Fujifilm camera.)

I parked at the Home Depot parking lot about a half mile away from the hotel. I was a couple of blocks away when I realized I had left my sign in my car. So I trotted back and got my sign. I arrived at the protest site right at 4:30 pm, the appointed time. But alas, I saw no one there I recognized. Then I spotted Ali Canada in front of the BoK tower. I went down to the crosswalk (cops were everywhere) and crossed over to the north side of the street. Ali was carrying a "We Are One" sign from a rally from a few months back. Ginny had asked us be there early to stake out a good site. Ginny, by the way, was suffering from an injury she had sustained from a auto accident a few months back and was unable to come.

While I was chatting with Ali, Faye joined us. As they say, two is company but three is a crowd. A patrolman with the Tulsa Police who was across the street came over to talk with us. The reason for the heavy police presence was a visit by former president G. W. Bush. In addition were several senators and Governor Fallin. It was a big Republican gathering.

The patrolman said that we could not stand on the sidewalk in front of the BoK tower, that an area for protests had been designated on the east side of the Hyatt. We had no choice but to move to the east side of the building. When we got there we met four others who were there for the protest. They soon left to get something to eat, saying they would return. However, they never came back. I asked Ali to snap a picture of me holding my sign. That is the other picture shown in this posting.

Before long two women showed up. Now we were five. About six o'clock, the time for Bush to speak, we decided to walk with our signs. We circled the block three times with our signs. My sign was probably the most lame of the signs. Some of the edgier signs called Bush a war criminal. (The ex-president is limited in the countries he can travel to since some countries have a warrant our for his arrest should he ever cross the border into those countries.)

We dispersed around 7:00 pm. I got a ride with Faye back to my car parked at Home Depot.

Why did not more people take part in the protest? 31 had signed up online to be there. Part of the answer lies in the fact the Oklahoma is the reddest of the red states. Every county in Oklahoma voted for Bush in the last presidential election. I have concluded that many liberals are intimidated when it comes to showing up for protests.

I am heartened by this affirmation by Edward Everett Hale found in the Unitarian hymnal:

I am only one

But still I am one.

I cannot do everything,

But still I can do something.

And because I cannot do everything

I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Methodist Book Club

This past Monday the Methodist Book Club met. We had read Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker. That was to be the book we discussed in September, but the September meeting was canceled with the book being carried over to October. Our memories of the book had grown a bit dim with us having read other things in the intervening month. Also, Amy (the group leader) forgot to bring the discussion questions, so the discussion was rather free-ranging.

For next month we will be reading Slavery By Another Name by Douglas Blalckmon. That was a book which I had recommended. We are also going to read Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.

Tonight was all you can eat rib night at Rib Crib. We ate there and I had my fill of ribs. When we were in Springfield last week (Wed. - Fri.), we ate at Ryan's Steak House one evening. They had ribs, of which I ate quite a few, but they were not as good as Rib Crib ribs.

Yesterday I finished reading The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois. I first read this book about 55 years ago as a student in elementary school. It is the only book I have a memory of having read in elementary school, though I know there were others. The author was also the illustrator. The book is the story of a retired school teacher who sets out from San Francisco in a balloon. A bird lands on top of the balloon and punctures the fabric of the balloon, which causes the balloon to crash on the island of Krakatoa, which is between Java and Sumatra. As it would happen, the residents of the island have constructed a platform which they keep at the ready for swift evacuation. Attached to the platform are twenty balloons. A large volcano is on the island which rumbles constantly. One day it erupts forcing the families on the island to mount the platform and evacuate.

That's the story in a nutshell. The story appealed to me for I could see myself drifting along in a balloon.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Looking back on the week just ended

Once again, it is Sunday. Looking back to Monday, Sept. 30, Gail come over for duet practice. We had our final practice of "Summer Samba" by Melody Bober, which we played today, Oct. 6, at church. On Wednesday, we went to Tai-Chi Chuan class, which are helds at a Baptist church on 129th St., about a mile from my house. On Thursday, I cooked chili. I had hamburger in mine, but J eats hers without meat. On Friday, we attended Tulsa Town Hall in the Performing Arts Center. The speaker was Kahled Hosseini. He is the author of The Kite Runner, a novel set in Afghanistan.

On Saturday, we had the grandchildren. They are now ages 8 and 10. We went to McDonald's in Sapulpa on Saturday. After spending the night with Nanna and Papa Dan, the grandkids and we got up next morning and went to a model train show in Bixby. (It was more of a swap meet than a show.) We went via Sapulpa, bypassing Tulsa. At Kiefer we got delayed by a train for about 10 minutes. We paid our $3 each for admittance. (The kids were free.) Inside the building, we saw five different layouts of model trains. Everything from N gauge up to O gauge. I think HO gauge is ideal for model trains. A couple of the layouts were fairly large. There happened to be a geocache hidden behind the building which I found.

Today was Humanist Sunday at church. The message was delivered by Larry Roth. Gail and I played "Summer Samba." We imposed upon Joni LeViness to accompany us using shakers. We had 14 people this morning.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The week in review

Last Sunday things went about like they do every Sunday. Religious education hour, church service, home for a nap, news, take the trash to the curb for Monday pickup, etc.

On Monday, since Gail was still on vacation, we walked in the morning. This week I walked 11 miles.

On Tuesday, we ran an errand in Tulsa. I would say more, but I can't. Also, we attended Tai Chi Chuan class. That evening we went to a seminar on estate planning. They had food there, making it worthwhile.

One day this past week, I photocopied the newsletters for HAT. We are resuming the newsletter hoping it might generate more interest in the organization. We ceased publishing the newsletter when e-mail came along about ten years ago.

On Thursday evening we went to the Brookside Library for a meeting. No one showed up. I am thinking of canceling the group. It is the Oklahoma Observer Discussion Group.

Today, we went to the Schusterman-Benson Library for the HAT meeting, but our regular attendees were at the talk given by Mikey Weinstein. I would have been there myself, except the AHA had notified its members in northeast Oklahoma of the HAT meeting. I felt someone needed to be at the Library in case anyone receiving the notice showed up.

In between all these activities, I have been reading my tablet. I have downloaded about 150 books in the last few years. The books which were on my Kindle (now defunct), I transferred to my Samsung Galaxy Tab 2. Today I downloaded Wuthering Heights,. I read it several years ago, but as it was a free download, I went ahead and added it to my library.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Tai Chi class started

Today I started in a Tai Chi class. There are about twenty others in the class besides myself. The first session lasted about an hour and a quarter. I am the only man in the class. All of us are up in years. J is in the class, and I think she may be the youngest one there. The class is being held in a Baptist church next door to the facility where we walk. The class is to last six weeks and meets once a week.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Finished another book

Tonight I finished reading another book, Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini. It is an historical novel based on a true story. I read it for the Methodist Book Club, which would normally meet tomorrow evening, except tomorrow's meeting has been called off. The next meeting will be in another month. We saw a movie recently. It is The Butler. I highly recommend it. You will relive many key events in your life, if you are my age. Gail is about to leave on a vacation. We will resume practice on the 23rd of this month. Attendance was very low at church this morning. Many people were away on travels. The sermon today was on Jewish celebrations. We are now in the period of the high holy days of the Jewish calendar. I am enjoying my new Samsung tablet. There is a lot to learn about it. I also recently got a new LG phone. There is much to learn about it also.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

A new update

Here it is Sunday evening once again. Today I delivered the message at Church of the Restoration. The talk I gave was "Black Life After Slavery." This was the second part of a two-part talk on this subject. The talks were based upon the book Slavery by Another Name written by Douglas Blackmon. In a nutshell what Blackmon describes in the book is the system devised by whites to keep blacks in a state of slavery, although slavery was abolished by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. The 13th Amendment says that holding someone in slavery is illegal, but it contains an exception, a loophole, if you will. The loophole has to do with being in debt to others. Indebtedness was used as a means to keep black Americans in a form of slavery.

It worked like this. A black person is accused of an infraction of the law (either real or imagined). In some states not having a job was against the law. Vagrancy was a crime in many states. You could not take employment unless you had a statement from your previous employer saying you were free to go.

Lets say you were picked up on a vagrancy charge. You go before a magistrate and are found guilty. You can be both sentenced to jail and fined. In most cases those accused had no money. Your fine was converted into additional jail time. Counties would then lease prisoners to plantation owners, railroads, mines, anybody needing cheap labor. Those who leased the prisoners were responsible for their incarceration. Mortality rates among leased convicts was high, from 25 to 45 percent per year. Prisoner abuse was rampant. Many prisoners were guilty of no crime. All it would take is an accusation against a black and they were swept up in the system.

Blacks were treated in this manner in the South from roughly 1877, when federal troops were withdrawn from the South with the end of Reconstruction until approximately 1942 and the U.S. entry into World War II.

Back to church this morning, Gail and I played the "special music" as it is called. We played "Paso Doble Noble" by Catherine Rollins. It is a Spanish piece which reminds the hearer of bull fights.

Tonight I started reading Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker. This is the book we will be discussing at the next meeting of the Methodist Book Club.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Testing this blog once again

Is there something wrong with Blogger? Yesterday I tried to post an update to my blog, but I could not get anything to work. Maybe it has been fixed since then. So far, it seems to be working OK.

Since I last posted here, I have bought a Sumsung Tablet. The reason for the purchase was because my Kindle bit the dust. It went to sleep and never woke up. The good thing about the Kindle was it had 3G capability, meaning I could download a book from anywhere. With my new Samsung tablet, I have to be within a WiFi zone to download.

I recently finished reading a novel (for the Methodist book club) titled Defending Jacob. It was a long novel, and by the time I got to the end I wished I had used the reading time on another book. I am in the midst of reading several other books at this time. One book is 50 Simple Questions for Every Christian by Guy P. Harrison. This is a collection of 50 essays each dealing with a question pertaining to religion. Three of the questions are: What Are Miracles?, Why Isn't Everyone a Christian?, Will the End Times Ever End? How would you answer some of the questions posed here? Check it out from your library and see for yourself.

Another book I have just started is The Cure for Fundamentalism: Why the Bible Cannot Be the "Word of God."

I found one geocache yesterday. It is close to an area in which I have been walking lately. That was the first time I went geocaching in several weeks. Now I need to check to see if this blog will save.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book arrives in mail

Today a book arrived in the mail.  I could not tell who sent the book to me.  It bore an Edmond, OK postmark.  The return address was phony.  It showed coming from "Paradise, Galaxy."  I'm guessing someone wants me to read the book.  The book is The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel.  There was no other text with the mailing.

Should I read the book?  If I knew who sent it, I might be inclined to read it.  But since the sender is anonymous, I will perhaps read just the first few pages and leave it at that.

Speaking of books, tonight my Kindle froze up.  I will contact customer service in the morning to see what can be done.

Gail came over this afternoon, and we practiced some duets at the piano.  We were in Springfield last Monday.  We will be playing again at Church of the Restoration in about a week and a half.

That was a mightly wind that moved through Tulsa yesterday.  At one point 100,000 people were without electrical power.  Still at this hour some 40 to 50 thousand people are without electricity.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Storm damages neighbor's tree

This is what remained of a tree in our neighbor's front yard following a storm which moved through the area in the early morning hours.  Thousands of people in Tulsa were without electricity today.  Our pine tree weathered the storm OK.  The neighbor's tree fell partially in our driveway.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Back from Springfield

We arrived back in Sand Springs from a trip to Springfield this afternoon.  Dad is back to driving.  That's pretty good for a 90-year-old.

The link below is a trailer for a new TV series coming next year.  It stars Neil deGrasse Tyson.  It is an update to Carl Sagan's Cosmos which first showed around 1980.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A free online course in jazz improvisation

I signed up for a free online course in jazz improvisation which runs for 5 weeks.  The course is provided by  The course starts tomorrow.  I think the course has the potential to be beneficial to my piano playing.

Strange Bible Prohibitions

Today while surfing the web, I came across the following item.  I thought it would be good for you to know this also.

Yesterday, I found myself in a discussion about the anti-abortion people. The reason: It's just incomprehensible to us that people get so zealous about that issue that they'll go as far as to murder doctors who perform abortions and bomb abortion clinics.

The conversation then took its natural turn to selective, self-serving interpretations of the Bible... finding a few verses that you can use to justify a position that lets you impose your morality on someone, and riding those verses hard and fast for the rest of your life.

So I thought it'd be a good time to find a bunch of stuff that the Bible bans... stuff that's a lot LESS convenient. Don't worry, though... just because I'm pointing it out, that doesn't mean you now have to follow it. It's a lot easier to keep discriminating against gay people for no particular reason than to stop eating bacon, after all.

Here are 11 things that are technically banned by the Bible. (All quotes are translations from the New American Standard Bible, but, because I'm actually trying to maintain serious journalistic integrity here, I cross-referenced several other translations to make sure I wasn't missing the point.)

  1. This butt cut is a guaranteed one-way ticket to sin.
    Round haircuts. See you in Hell, Beatles... and/or kids with bowl cuts, surfer cuts or (my favorite) butt cuts. Leviticus 19:27 reads "You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard."
  2. Football. At least, the pure version of football, where you play with a pigskin. The modern synthetic footballs are ugly and slippery anyways. Leviticus 11:8, which is discussing pigs, reads "You shall not eat of their flesh nor touch their carcasses; they are unclean to you."

    And you're doubly breaking that if you wake up, eat some sausage then go throw around the football. Or go to the county fair and enter a greased pig catching contest.
  3. Fortune telling. Before you call a 900 number (do people still call 900 numbers, by the way?), read your horoscope or crack open a fortune cookie, realize you're in huge trouble if you do.

    Leviticus 19:31 reads "Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God." The penalty for that? Check Leviticus 20:6: "As for the person who turns to mediums and to spiritists, to play the harlot after them, I will also set My face against that person and will cut him off from among his people."

    Seems like a lifetime of exile is a pretty harsh penalty for talking to Zoltar.
  4. Pulling out. The Bible doesn't get too much into birth control... it's clearly pro-populating but, back when it was written, no one really anticipated the condom or the sponge, so those don't get specific bans.

    But... pulling out does. One of the most famous sexual-oriented Bible verses... the one that's used as anti-masturbation rhetoric... is actually anti-pulling out.

    It's Genesis 38:9-10: "Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother's wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother. But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord; so He took his life also."

    Yep -- pull out and get smote. That's harsh.

  5. Banned.
    Tattoos. No tattoos. Leviticus 19:28 reads, "You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the Lord."

    Not even a little butterfly on your ankle. Or Thug Life across your abdomen. Or even, fittingly enough, a cross.
  6. Polyester, or any other fabric blends. The Bible doesn't want you to wear polyester. Not just because it looks cheap. It's sinfully unnatural.

    Leviticus 19:19 reads, "You are to keep My statutes. You shall not breed together two kinds of your cattle; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together."

    Check the tag on your shirt right now. Didn't realize you were mid-sin at this exact second, did you? (Unless you checked the tag by rolling off your neighbor's wife while you two were having anal sex in the middle of robbing a blind guy. Then your Lycra-spandex blend is really the least of your problems.)
  7. Divorce. The Bible is very clear on this one: No divorcing. You can't do it. Because when you marry someone, according to Mark 10:8, you "are no longer two, but one flesh." And, Mark 10:9 reads, "What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate."

    Mark gets even more hardcore about it a few verses later, in Mark 10:11-12, "And He said to them, 'Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.'"
  8. Letting people without testicles into church. Whether you've been castrated or lost one or two balls to cancer isn't important. The Bible doesn't get that specific. It just says you can't pray.

    Deuteronomy 23:1 reads (this is the God's Word translation, which spells it out better), "A man whose testicles are crushed or whose penis is cut off may never join the assembly of the Lord."

    Oh, and the next verse says that if you're a bastard, the child of a bastard... or even have a great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchild of a bastard, you can't come to church or synagogue either. Deuteronomy 23:2 reads, "No one of illegitimate birth shall enter the assembly of the Lord; none of his descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall enter the assembly of the Lord."
  9. Wearing gold. 1 Timothy 2:9 doesn't like your gold necklace at all. Or your pearl necklace. Or any clothes you're wearing that you didn't get from Forever 21, Old Navy or H&M.

    "Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments."

  10. Lobster, shrimp and clam chowder: All banned.
    Shellfish. Leviticus 11:10 reads, "But whatever is in the seas and in the rivers that does not have fins and scales among all the teeming life of the water, and among all the living creatures that are in the water, they are detestable things to you." And shellfish is right in that wheelhouse.

    Leviticus 11 bans a TON of animals from being eaten (it's THE basis for Kosher law); beyond shellfish and pig, it also says you can't eat camel, rock badger, rabbit, eagle, vulture, buzzard, falcon, raven, crow, ostrich, owl, seagull, hawk, pelican, stork, heron, bat, winged insects that walk on four legs unless they have joints to jump with like grasshoppers (?), bear, mole, mouse, lizard, gecko, crocodile, chameleon and snail.

    Sorry if that totally ruins your plans to go to a rock badger eat-off this weekend.
  11. Your wife defending your life in a fight by grabbing your attacker's genitals. No joke. Deuteronomy actually devotes two verses to this exact scenario: Deuteronomy 25:11-12.

    "If two men, a man and his countryman, are struggling together, and the wife of one comes near to deliver her husband from the hand of the one who is striking him, and puts out her hand and seizes his genitals, then you shall cut off her hand; you shall not show pity."

    That's impossible to misinterpret. Ladies, if your husband is getting mugged, make sure to kick the mugger in the pills. Do not do the grip and squeeze (no matter what "Miss Congeniality" might advise). Or your hand needs to be cut off.
As a final note, I know that nine of these 11 cite the Old Testament, which Christianity doesn't necessarily adhere to as law.

To which I say: If you're going to ignore the section of Leviticus that bans about tattoos, pork, shellfish, round haircuts, polyester and football, how can you possibly turn around and quote Leviticus 18:22 ("You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.") as irrefutable law?

But that's me trying to introduce logic to religious fanaticism (or, at least, trying to counter some mix of ignorance, bigotry and narcissism with logic). And I should probably know better.


The above article was written by Sam Greenspan.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Blogging again

I tried to post something to my blog yesterday, but I could not get the cursor to show up in the proper field.  Today things seem to be back to normal.

Yesterday, I went to Church of the Restoration.  I substituted for Edna on the piano.  She was away on a trip.  The speaker was Rev. Debra Garfinkle.  We had planned to have a session of the Restoration Percussion Group, but I was the only there for that.  So that got nixed.

This morning Gail came over for our weekly practice session.  For our next performance at Restoration, we plan to play a piece by Robert Vandall titled "Amen! and Kum Ba Ya."

We got some rain today, and the weather is cooler than normal today.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Latest happenings

Here it is Saturday evening.  First, I should say my computer is pretty goofy.  There are a lot of strange things happening with it.  I think next week I will need to get it checked out.

Looking back on this week, I would say the highlight was on Thursday evening when I appeared before the Tulsa City Council and gave the secular invocation.  On the downside, not a single person was there in support of my presentation.  Likewise, this evening at the Arts program at Church of the Restoration, Gail came to play piano duets with me, and J was the sole person in the audience.  We had to call if off.  Where were all the freethinkers?  Why is it so difficult to get support?

Edna should be back tomorrow to play piano.  I will still do my ten-minute pre-service atmospherics at the piano.  Is atmospherics the right word?  Maybe mood meditations might be a better term.

Well, I'm kinda bummed out right now.  But there was one thing that went well.  This morning, J and I went to Clarehouse.  Clarehouse is where people go to die.  It is on Mingo in east Tulsa, not far from TCC southeast campus.  Rev. Debra Garfinkle invited the church to walk a labyrinth there.  I have been a labyrinth walker from a long time back; so I had to go.  There were eight people there, or about half the church.  We talked about labyrinths and then walked the 11-circuit Chartre-style labyrinth on the grounds.  Afterwards, we ate at a Charley's Chicken in Tulsa.

I have been trying to avoid eating wheat for a couple of weeks now.  I will write more about this later.  Avoiding wheat is difficult since wheat is used in so many food products.  But we have found a few dishes where wheat is not used.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Visiting the Bothwell Estate

While we were in Sedalia for the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival, we stayed in a motel in Sweet Springs.  Traveling between the two towns, we noticed a large building above the road perched on a bluff.  On Saturday, we drove up there.  The structure is now owned by the state of Missouri.  Guided tours are offered.  We took the tour.

Below are some of the pictures I took while on the tour.

The Bothwell Estate

This is a safe hidden by a painting (not shown).

A secret compartment in the library

The original structure is visible on the right (just barely).  Bothwell built the castlelike structure on the left as a residence so that his guests could be near but not disturb him.  Later the two structures were joined by the center section.

Here I am standing near the front entryway

This is a view of the highway north of Sedalia.