Monday, June 30, 2008

A Night To Honor Israel

In 1978 then 38 year old Pastor John Hagee made his first trip to Israel. He was praying at the Western Wall and observing an orthodox Jewish man who was also praying nearby. He realized that this man distrusted him and felt impressed by God to do something to try to heal the rift between Christians and Jews. That began what is now the organization known as Christians United For Israel.

It has not been all that easy according to Hagee and has included many death threats and a good deal of danger. Before the first event he approached the San Antonio Jewish community to see if they would be honored. The idea was received with considerable reluctance. Eventually it was agreed and an evening was scheduled and announced. Immediately death threats poured into Hagee's Cornerstone Church.

He says he called the FBI and asked them what to do and was told he probably should take a different route to work every day. He said he did and it was pretty airy because all the windows had been shot out of his car.

I know this because I heard Pastor Hagee speak in Oklahoma City recently at our own "Night To Honor Israel" event. It was in recognition of Israel's 60th year as a nation restored to her land. My beautiful and talented wife played her saxophone in the orchestra for the event. That alone required uncounted hours of rehearsal and practice. Just on the day of the event she spent more than 7 hours on stage and that was after morning worship.

Rabbi David Packman was one of the speakers. I was particularly interested in his remarks because I know something about him and because he told something I had never before heard.

The image is of this large menorah that sits in a little area across from the Israeli Knesset. There are various scenes from different Jewish traditions in relief on the menorah. One such scene is the martyrdom of Rabbi Hanina ben Teradion depicted on the 6th branch. But I don't know if you count them from left to right or right to left. I did wonder but haven't found the answer.

He was killed in Hadrian's rule which ended in 138 ad. His crime was teaching the Torah which had been forbidden. He taught it anyway. The method of his execution was being wrapped in his own large Torah scroll and then being burned to death in it. Packman said that as the scroll burned Rabbi Hanina ben Teradion said the letters on the scroll were returning to God.

I found this story particularly moving.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


I found this arrogant.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Something very prominent in the book I'm reading (Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin) is ambition on the part of the characters. Abraham Lincoln is especially ambitious but all the "rivals" are as well.

I was thinking about ambition this morning during my workout while I was watching CNBC. There was a segment on that had live interviews from the floor of the Chicago commodities trading floor. Those guys are ambitious for sure.

Lincoln's great ambition was to be recognized I think. He is quoted in the book describing Stephen Douglas's great achievements and how well known and admired he was. Lincoln says he would rather have that recognition than be a king. He was also ambitious to succeed in his law career as well as everything else he tried. Once he is hired to represent a client and then subsequently the client hires someone else. But Lincoln gets to see his replacement in action in court. He immediately goes home to really study the law and prepare himself. I thought that was interesting. He was astute and humble enough to learn and then to prepare himself so he was better. He had a lot of failures but he never gave up.

Then on CNBC they interviewed the President of McDonalds USA. I bet he was ambitious or he would have never made President.

His name is Don Thompson. He is responsible for nearly 14,000 restaurants. He started out working for McDonalds as an electrical engineer.

This made me think about some comments I've read before on various forums about people who work at McDonalds. Mostly the comments are disparaging of the jobs and usually the people.

I've wondered about those people that make such comments. What I've wondered is whether or not they think that the people who are working at McDonalds are all going to stay in those jobs forever? Do they have no ambition themselves? Do they believe that you start out at the top job in a company or even stay at whatever initial job you get?

Seems strange to me is all. There's nothing wrong with staying in a job you like. In fact that's a good thing. But most people I've known take an entry level position and hope to move up in the company or at least to better and improve themselves. What's so strange about that?

Mr. Thompson didn't start out as President of McDonalds USA. I bet it is not accidental he made President either. I bet he was willing to exercise the discipline and effort necessary to make it happen.

Dad and Mom always said to me that I should do my best at any job I was given. They both respected work and held no job to be beneath them. And if they did it then it was done right, too.

That's ambition - ambition to do your best. Some people have the ambition to serve. Others have the ambition to do this or that.

Ambition can be negative of course. Like Hitler wanting to rule the world and impose his own sense of order on everyone else.

But I think for the most part ambition is a good thing.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln - Part III

In the book I now am in Chapter 7 (of 26) entitled "Countdown to the Nomination" which begins in 1860.

The period I have just finished reading about is from the 1840's through the 1850's.

It is all very interesting to me and not only describes the politics and the people but I think gives an wonderful perspective about the culture of the country and the era. I found several things that I thought worth mentioning.

The Mexican-American war began in 1846. Lincoln's Whigs were nearly unanimous in opposition and there were many passionate speeches made against the Democrat President, James K. Polk. I was very surprised to read some of this history. If I heard some of the same speeches without knowing the details I could easily assume the speaker was talking about President Bush and Iraq. I suppose I must have studied this once but I surely did not remember the details. Apparently there really is nothing new under the Sun.

Slavery is just a huge issue and I knew that already. But I think I am getting a better sense of just how significant it really was and how nothing else was left untouched by it.

The courage of the abolitionists and just ordinary people who were anti-slavery is amazing. One of the main characters stands against a mob by physically planting himself inside a doorway and defying the entire group. So many other stories. I found these stories to be exceptionally moving.

I am not going to again complain about how uncivil our politicians are to one another after reading this book. Good grief!! One guy beats another with his cane and the victim has permanent damage. Another guy pulls a pistol. Yeah, these are congressmen.

Another thing I thought was interesting is the change in the political parties. The two main parties at the time were the Democrats and the Whigs. The Democrats were pro-slavery. But the Whigs were pretty much anti-Democrat except on slavery where the party itself was divided. The issue of slavery became so important though that people began leaving the Whigs to join the Republican party which was entirely anti-slavery. Specifically the Republican Party was created in 1854 in opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska act which extended slavery into those territories. The Democratic Party dates from Jefferson and Madison and other anti-federalists.

What interested me most was that the Republican Party came about because the Whig Party was unable to come to grips with slavery. Mainly Whigs were against too much power concentrated in the executive branch. I just found it ironic that Lincoln was a Whig but became a Republican because of his anti-slavery views. Then he becomes the first Republican president and has to wield tremendous power as President to preserve the union.

It made me think of the case where Obama wins the presidency and then has to wage war to preserve the country when he has been so anti-war. Lincoln was one of the most vocal opponents of Polk because of the Mexican-American war.

I found a couple of quotes by Lincoln that Goodwin includes and that I really like. The first is where Lincoln describes to someone how his mind works:

Lincoln told Joshua Speed, "I am slow to learn and slow to forget that which I have learned. My mind is like a piece of steel, very hard to scratch anything on it and almost impossible after you get there to rub it out."
I think that's great. I guess I'd have to characterize my mind to work the opposite way: fast and like a white board followed by an eraser.

Another that I found particularly interesting and rather sad has to do with Lincoln's observation of Stephen Douglas's accomplishments and his own failures:
"Twenty-two years ago Judge Douglas and I first became acquainted," he confided in a private fragment later discovered in his papers. "We were both young then; he a trifle younger than I. Even then, we were both ambitious; I, perhaps, quite as much so as he. With me the race of ambition has been a failure -- a flat failure; with him it has been one of splendid success. His name fills the nation; and is not unknown, even, in foreign lands. I affect no contempt for the high eminence he has reached. So reached, that the oppressed of my species, might have shared with me in the elevation, I would rather stand on that eminence, than wear the richest crown that ever pressed a monarch's brow."

Thursday, June 26, 2008


There are a lot of factors involved in development.

For one, there are many parties to be satisfied by the developer including various public bodies, possible lenders, potential investors, and last but certainly not least, potential tenants. The latter are often represented by an assortment of other agents, bankers, marketing specialists, insurance providers, and other practitioners of little known but important specialties. Every single one of them has his own ideas about what is wrong, or more rarely right, with the project in question. Just imagine this forum trying to build a project except worse.

At the same time the legal negotiations are underway with the developer on one side with her attorneys (one for each required specialty). Across the table, or more accurately the Internet now, the other constituencies gather also armed with attorneys. One important constituent is the land owner. In that group may also be pipe line and other strange easement holders and (or) specific restrictions represented by document that originated with the run. And then there are new proposed restrictions sought by each of the new tenants as well as more imaginative proposals submitted by the land owner family.

If the project survives sufficiently to move into the serious (as in making plans that a contractor can use to bid and build) civil engineering stage, then it turns out that the site is either too flat or too hilly. The engineer might say something like "you can't defy the laws of physics regardless of who you are" to the developer.

At each stage those cherished plans and elevations and scribbled renderings undergo vicious modifications, each one an emotional blow to the poet heart of the developer. And, it must be remembered, that with each tedious step the developer's wallet loses a little cash.

Finally, say a couple of years or maybe longer from first thought, the project is far enough along to submit to "pandz" (the way it is said). There are opponents who demand this or that. So begins another chapter.

Assuming that one concludes and another begins - not necessarily a good assumption either - then there are likely a few more public appearances necessary before zoning and platting can be finalized.

Then there is the final title work perhaps and the final investor and lending efforts. The latter may well have been disrupted by the price of oil, the collapse of Bear Stearns, or an overly cloudy day. The former is just disruptive period.

Now it is time to solicit bids and find out that the budget figure for the cost of the project (the same budget that was supposed to be overly conservative) is about 1/2 what is actually needed.

At the same time one (or several) of the future tenants withdraws his letter of intent because of the immigration bill, the cost of corn syrup, his chapter 11 filing, or, perhaps, he got a better deal across the street.

I've omitted the more complex and nefariously detailed steps in the interest of brevity and sanity.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Servant of the Public

Our courthouse in Oklahoma City.

He who has most zeal and ability to promote public felicity, let him be the servant of the public.

Samuel Adams

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Online Alert

My bank sent me an email that I received at 10:30 p.m. on Saturday.

The message was " You have 1 message(s) waiting." There was a lot of other stuff in the email about how it was confidential and and private and not to respond to it and so on. But that one little line was the message.

Sometime Sunday morning I got around to reading the message. I understood it. There was a message for me on the bank's website under my account login.

I don't get many messages from my bank so I was pretty interested in this one. So I surfed over to the site. But the login page had a message that the site was down for maintenance. I wondered if that was the message.

I tried again a few times on Sunday but the maintenance notice was present.

Finally on Monday I was able to log on and checked my message first thing.

Sure enough it was that the site was going to be undergoing maintenance on Sunday.

You just have to love the new Internet age.

Monday, June 23, 2008


We could have flown non-stop direct on Northwest but it would have cost more than twice as much as flying American. So American it was. But as with all compromises there were disadvantages. The American flight left at 6 and that meant a pretty early start.

So we decided to spend the night at the farm. The house is being organized and packed by my darling daughter. Every time she cleans something out she puts a little yellow sticky on the door that says "empty." My old room is pretty much as a I left it except that we've put a lot of stuff in there that will eventually go to my house.

The extra room is livable though and my daughter washed the sheets and made a clean bed. She said there were bug remains in the sheets. It's been a while since anyone slept there.

I decided I wanted to exercise so I wanted to get up at 3. We, my son and I, each set our phone alarms just in case. But I didn't really need mine. After my workout I showered and then it was time for Jason to get up and get ready.

We were out the door by 4:45 and at the airport by about 5:15 or so. We left the car at one of the off airport places and they took us over. We had our boarding passes and headed for security. Took my shoes off and my belt and everything out of my pockets. Had to pull my driver's license out of the wallet and show it along with boarding pass first. Then the plastic box and my carry on bag were started into the scanner and I stepped between the uprights of the people checker. Apparently I passed and proceeded to redress.

Then it was on to the gate and a short wait and we were on the plane. Jason sat in the middle seat and he gave me the aisle. Planes have not become more comfortable in 10 years. There were no empty seats.

The flight to Dallas was uneventful and short. We found our next gate and headed to it along with about a million other people. Others of our group were already there and we visited awhile.

Then we boarded that plane and I took the center seat this time. I can't cross my legs in the center or window seat. I can in the aisle seat.

About 2.5 hours later we landed in Minneapolis. I read a lot during the trip. I slept a few minutes but not enough to count for anything. When we left the plane we figured out that 6 of us were at the Westin and the others were at another place.
The Westin is a beautifully restored old bank with a grand banking hall. It reminds me of a much older bank in Oklahoma City that I hope is someday restored in some similar way.

I also like the name tags the Westin employees wear. Underneath the name is a a little message that reads "My passion is " along with some subject like travel or a sport or something. The fellow that checked us in had "volleyball" written on his and we talked about that while he got our room key. Our room was great, too.

We had enough time to put our meager belongings in our room and get back downstairs to meet our associates. Then we all walked over to this place called "The News Room" for lunch.

On the way over I was really interested in the number of people out on the street. The weather was fantastic.

Since we were eventually heading to Target I took this image of their downtown retail store. You can see some of the people on the street and believe me there were many more than this.

Many were gathered at little outside restaurants enjoying lunch outside in the beautiful weather. I was told that this is very unusual for Minneapolis and so when the weather is good people really like to enjoy it.

We had to walk a couple of blocks further I think to get to our "Newsroom" place. It appears also to be an older building that has been restored. As you might imagine it has a "newspaper" theme. It was packed, too. I had the Cobb Salad and it was really good. My impression is that it was a little more expensive than Oklahoma City but maybe not. They have a web site.

After lunch we walked across to the Target building and our contact came and collected us and helped us get through security. Then we were taken way up (maybe 20+ floors) to a conference room.

We're getting a Target store on our farm and this meeting was all about the project. It is unusual for someone like us to be invited to such a meeting but we were invited as a special guest of our developer and the Target manager. So we were both in awe of what was happening about us.

Also I was so impressed with the Target people. Very young and very professional and very well prepared and just makes me proud of these younger people that are coming up now. People that are so pessimistic about our country and its opportunities and our younger generations just need to see some of these folks in action.

There were more women than men I think and there were lots of "P.E.'s" and other initials behind their names.

The meeting explored in great detail all of the aspects of our project. On one wall were all of the civil engineering plans and on another were the architectural elevations. Different members of the team stood and discussed various aspects of the project from drainage to government permits and electrical utility options and a myriad of other details. Our manager led the group and did an incredibly efficient job of it. Everyone was especially well prepared.

It made us feel that we are in especially good hands to trust the transformation of our farm from agricultural land to retail space. Everyone near the farm will be so excited to have this opportunity to shop at a Target.

After the meeting we all met again for dinner at this place in St. Paul called Plazzaluna. It was great and we were exceptionally well fed and watered. I had the Pomodoro & Basilico Gnocchi. These are little potato dumplings but rather small. We were a very large group so we kind of became better acquainted with our immediate fellow diners. We did some sharing. It was quite interesting and the food was exceptional.

Then it was back to the Westin for a very short sleep and a 4:00 a.m. wakeup and a quick ride to the airport. But Dallas was socked in with lightening and rain and storms and so we were delayed. We did a little sliding on the runway but not bad. Then we found out that our flight to Oklahoma City was CANCELED.

So we rented a car and drove back to Oklahoma City.

I found out that I am much too old to be doing this kind of stuff.

It's Friday as I write this and I am one grouchy bear and so tired I hardly know what to do. But it was a great trip.

This is "Bullseye" the Target dog from the commercials. Our contact gave me one to take to Judy.

Pretty cool of her and pretty cool trip.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Energy Policy

There are two candidates and they are opposites on so many levels.

Energy is no exception.

Mr. Obama's primary solution is conservation and secondarily emphasizing the development of alternative energy sources. Obama's perspective does not view the increasing cost of gasoline as necessarily a bad thing since higher prices should propel the search for alternatives.

Mr. McCain's primary solution is production including existing fuels as well as the development of alternatives. Foremost in McCain's plan is the construction of 45 nuclear reactors by 2030. We have 104 now which produce some 19% of our electricity.

Pretty simple dichotomy.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln - Part II

I began reading this book way back in March and blogged about it on the 23rd.

This book is pretty long. The chapters are long, too. (Note to self: I prefer short chapters in case I ever return to writing.) It has taken me a while to become involved with the book. Some readers have posted less than flattering comments about Goodwin's writing. I can understand that but now I am at the point where I am very much enjoying both her style and her story. The book is in two parts and about 26 chapters.

I have not made it to the 1860 Presidential race yet. The first part of the book is about the lives of the five men (Stanton, Chase, Lincoln, Seward, and Bates) preceding that event. It is a giant undertaking because to discuss the rivalry you have to know about each of the five men - almost like a bio of each before the subject even gets started.

There are several things that I have found particularly interesting. These things don't really have to do directly with the subject of the book. That surprises me some since it was the subject of the book that originally interested me.

But books are like that sometimes.

And that's one thing I've noticed in the book very quickly is how important are books to all of these men. It simply cannot be overstated.

I suppose the next thing that impresses me is just how difficult life was in the United States during that period. It was hard in many ways, too. Earning a living - and by living I mean the most basic food, shelter, and clothing - was excruciatingly hard and tenuous at best. Gaining an education was up to the individual and pretty much required determination and ambition beyond anything imaginable by our present standards. Books and paper were not only scarce but nearly nonexistent. Medicine was amazingly crude and bleeding was commonly employed and once in this portion of the book is probably responsible for a death.

Death is the other hard part of life then. Lots and lots of death. Mothers frequently, and I mean frequently, died giving birth. Children died from illness and injury. Everyone died from disease. Animals, too. When the mothers died the children usually got a step-mother and often that wasn't such a good experience. When the fathers died the children were often farmed out to other family members. Often that wasn't a very good experience either.

So the harshness and hardness of life was a significant part of the development of the character of each of these five rivals. And of the five none had more hardship than Lincoln himself.

Another thing I found so interesting was the idea that someone could make his life better. This was still a stunningly new concept. In the old world it simply was not possible to improve one's life. The very fact that the possibility of a better life might be achieved was such an amazing thing. The means of improvement was books and self-education and unimaginable effort and enough ambition to start and stay.

The culture and fact of slavery has to be listed as something that looms over everything else. I wrote prejudice and bigotry first because it isn't only slavery I notice. Women are nearly slaves and children maybe a little worse. But really those aren't the correct words. I don't know the right words. I don't really know the right concepts even. If things were hard for white men they were in many ways somewhere next to intolerable for white women and children. For black men and women things were considerably worse than intolerable.

I know I am making broad generalizations and certainly there were many individuals whose quality of life was better or worse than others. People adapt and you see that but compared to our world today things were so different.

There is a place in the book where Goodwin recounts a story where one of the rivals takes his family on a vacation into the south. During the trip the family, riding in their carriage or wagon, pass a group of black boys. The boys are young, none over 11 or 12. There are a dozen of them. They are naked. They are in pairs and the pair is tied at wrists. There is a rope around each neck that ties them all together much like a team. Behind them is a tall white man with a whip who mercilessly strikes them in order to drive them on. Earlier that day they have been torn from their own families and sold at auction. Their new owner drives them to a horse water trough where they drink. Then they are allowed to rest where the children collapse in spasms of fear and tears. The wife is sickened and tells her husband she cannot and will not continue the vacation and begs to leave the south as soon as possible. The husband concurs and they turn around and flee the horror they've witnessed.

I thought that in a way that group of 12 black children could represent the entire population and the master with the whip could represent the times they lived in. Someone might say that I am overreaching the plight of women and children if not the blacks. But women worked so hard and were so often pregnant and had so many fewer ways to find individual freedom and expression. Children were nearly chattel it seems to me. I'm not saying they weren't loved. I'm not saying any of this was totally unnecessary either. It was so hard to survive and the need to survive and live imposed its own constraints.

One of the most interesting thing to me was the difference in the nature of the relationships between men during this time. Or at least some of the relationships experienced by these men and described in this book are surprising to me. They are emotional relationships - romantic relationships but they are non sexual. They have all the markings of romantic relationships though including jealousy and infatuation. I did not realize this at all.

I'll write more as I read more.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Preparing for Travel

I flew last in December, 1998, nearly 3 years before 9/11/2001.

Things have changed quite a bit.

I am only going for one night though. And I actually flew frequently until my caregiving career began. Mostly my trips were short business trips and I became a bit obsessive about traveling light.

In fact I still have my little carry-on bag that I used all those years. It is a little Delsey soft-side. It has a little tear in it but I hunted and couldn't find anything I liked better. And I really didn't want to spend the money for a new one. The one I have opens flat on the bed. Let's me pack stuff more easily. I prefer soft sided bags for carry on and I don't like the ones with wheels because they weigh too much. I take the shoulder strap off my Delsey too when I'm not carrying anything else.

I checked the TSA web site for advice on what to bring and what to expect. I've been carrying toiletries in baggies for a long time. Learned that once when something I had leaked all over everything. I also put my change in a bag, too. I thought I might need to buy some stuff but they let you carry 3 oz sizes and that's pretty much what I have.

I used to have the cleaners fold my shirts so I asked my new cleaners to fold me a couple for this trip. I like to take an extra shirt so I'll take two with me.

No need for me to take my laptop on this trip but I will take my Kindle and read on the flight or at least I think I will.

Lots of work to do before I can leave though so have a busy Monday and Tuesday.

I think I'll pack my digital camera, too.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day Reunions

Father's Day has been officially celebrated on the third Sunday of June since after the first one was held in 1908. That first one was either in West Virginia or Washington or maybe both. That same year was the first Mother's Day.

As far back as I can remember we went to a family reunion on my Dad's side. It was always held at Redbud Park in Marlow, Oklahoma.

Marlow is where our family settled, more or less, when they arrived in Oklahoma in the 1890's or so. There were several families and they all had farms of 160 acres or so in the vicinity of this little one room school house. I'm not very clear why they chose Marlow. Several of the family are buried there in the Marlow Cemetery, too.

You may know something about Marlow although you probably are not aware of it. There was a 1965 movie starring John Wayne and Dean Martin called The Sons of Katie Elder that's based on the 5 Marlow brothers after whom the town of Marlow is named.

Redbud Park is on the banks of Wild Horse Creek in Marlow. I've always thought it was a very pretty little park and the creek is pretty deep, too. The creek was a good place for young cousins to swing out over and on occasion fall into.

There was a nice swimming pool there and when I was little I really looked forward to using it, too. It was much better than our old stock tank. There was this little train that made a trip around the park every so often. There were swings and other playground toys.

We, or rather someone of our family, reserved the shelter. And that's where we all began to gather about 11 or so. Some had been there much earlier of course and several had come in from far away and spent the night with other relatives.

There were quite a few of us young ones. Mostly I couldn't remember their names from one year to the next but we'd usually reacquaint soon after some initial discomfort. I definitely had favorites. One such favorite was a female 2nd cousin a couple of years my senior. I had a major crush on her when I was a teenager. I took every opportunity to sit with her and walk around with her.

Actually I loved her entire family and held them in such respect. Those sentiments were also shared by my family as well. My dad loved to tell about her mother, who was his first cousin, sharing a seat with him in the one room school. That was quite embarrassing for a first or second grader I guess. Dad said she was always looking after him as a child and she continued the tradition at the family reunions by insisting on fixing him a plate of food and sitting right beside him. Dad and Mom were very close to this family always.

During the polio scare years the pool closed at the park. Later on when I was older I just didn't want to mess with changing clothes and so on.

When we younger cousins got old enough we all pretty much stopped attending the reunions. But the older cousins kept the tradition alive. I took Mom and Dad to a few of them myself even before I came to live with them. After mom was sick though we never went to another reunion.

There were always a few "visitors" to our family reunions. Dad would always say that the family claimed these folks as part of us and I guess they must have felt the same way.

As the years passed so did the older ones. And a time or two some of the younger ones died, too. The attendance dropped nearly every year I guess. People became older. Eventually it was Dad's generation's time to be the old folks.

I think there are still some of our folks who gather for Father's Day but only those who live nearby and they moved it from Marlow to Duncan. So it isn't the same at all.

When we buried dad nearly all my first cousins attended. We thought we might hold a reunion for our group. My brother and I talked about it the other day. Maybe we will this summer.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Local Stores

I was thinking about how things have changed here since I was a child growing up on the farm.

There was a time when we were so far out in the country that if we wanted anything we had to go a ways to get it. If we wanted something fixed then we had to do it ourselves or take the "fixee" to the "fixor" (I love legal terms).

Bailing wire was probably the most important part of our fix-it-yourself toolkit. Aside from imagination and stubbornness anyway.

We did have a veterinarian who would come out though and that was certainly a good thing.

Now within a mile of my house there are so many stores it is unbelievable. There will soon be more, too. Now some of them aren't exactly "walkable" because there is an Interstate Highway between us. Those things are like the rivers of the old frontier except you darn sure can't drink from them. Still, trying to cross one on foot is about like jumping into the wild Colorado with no life vest.

One interesting store to me is this place called "Learn To Brew." It is exactly what it sounds like. They have everything you need including lessons and books to brew your own wine and beer.

The image I "borrowed" from their web site via print screen. It lists interesting facts:

  • Before prohibition over 4500 independent brewers produced beer for their local markets.
  • Germany had a prohibition law that limited a drinker to no more than seven beers in one session and no more than two sessions a day.
In a way that's kind of funny because in the prohibition days there were plenty of folks around here that could run a "still" and they didn't stop at wine or beer.

Now you can go over to this place and buy kits and books and sit in on actual lessons with demonstrations.

My dad told about one time when he was a kid that he and his brother (probably more his brother - you know how they are) decided to make some wine from grape juice. They put the jars in the cellar. Something must have been a little off because the jars exploded. They had a pretty good mess and an upset mother. But they definitely had some fermenting going on.

A coworker once made home brew beer. He had to go to the library and read and buy a bunch of stuff from here and there. He made beer though. I don't remember tasting it so I don't know what it was like.

A lady of Polish descent lived in a house near our business and she made her version of "white lightening" every year. I did taste it and it was awful and strong. But every year the guys that worked there would all go down to try it out.

We have liquor stores here. They are also called package stores. Not sure why that is. The one over west of us has these free tasting events every month. It is kind of interesting and a lot of people show up. There will be several tables and distributor representatives will be standing behind each one with a few bottles of their products. They have these little bitty plastic cups - maybe an ounce or two - and if you see something you think you might want to try then you ask for a taste and the person pours you a little in the plastic cup - nowhere near full either. Good thing, too, because some of it is really stout. Or maybe that's because I don't drink and am unaccustomed to it.

Some people stand around and talk about how this one is smoky tasting or that one has a hint of spring or something. I never really can tell any of that but I usually stand there and shake my head up and down like I am not a complete hick.

Anyway we're definitely not in the country anymore.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Oil Futures

There is quite a bit of sentiment to regulate the oil futures markets.

Basically oil futures trade in 1,000 barrel lots as I understand it. You can buy for future delivery or you can sell. At say $130 per barrel a minimum contract would be $130,000 but you buy or sell it on margin. The margin is usually between 5% and 7% so for less than $10,000 you can be trading in oil.

If you think the future price of oil is going up then you buy a contract which you can sell before the time of delivery and thereby your profit is the difference. So you buy a contract for August oil at $130 as an example. The "spot" price or the price someone actually will pay in August ends up being $135 and you sell your contract at that price thereby making $5 per barrel or $5,000. But you only invested $10,000 because of the margin so you made 50% on your investment. Pretty good.

It can be done the other way, too. You really aren't trading oil but contracts or paper.

So the current popular idea is that this speculation is causing the price of oil to climb more than it reasonably should.

That may be true. But it may not be true either.

There are several valid reasons for commodities futures trading. But generally such markets benefit both producers and consumers by spreading risk, helping to stabilize prices, and making demand less turbulent.

But there are famous examples of markets being manipulated and causing terrible consequences for all sorts of people.

The idea is to increase the margin requirement from the current low rate to a higher rate. One such rate that has been discussed is 50% which would mean it would take 7 to 10 times the amount of money to buy a contract. That would undoubtedly reduce the number of traders.

It is nearly impossible to predict what will happen though.

I worry about unintended consequences.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Cliff Swallows of San Juan Capistrano

I posted Purple Martins in May with some images of nests and birds that I thought were Purple Martins but was confused because of the mud and stick nests. A few days later I saw a bird I identified as a Barn Swallow and posted Photos on a Sunday Morning.

The mystery is solved now. But the solution is very sad.

Tuesday this week (June 10, 2008) a man at a local lake became upset over some bird nests just like the two I have here. I am not sure why he was upset but I think it may have had something to do with his boat. He took a pole and destroyed every one of the 30 or so nests. The nests contained 186 baby birds. All but one died.

The angry man apparently called the marina demanding that someone clean up the mess from the destroyed nests and the dead birds. That's how it is that his identity is known although it has not been made public.

Both the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service began an investigation.

The birds are Mud Swallows, also known as Cliff Swallows.

They are migratory birds and protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Act. The man can be fined up to $500 per bird. That's $93,000. No charges have been filed. A lot of people are pretty upset.

Cliff Swallows are rather famous. These are the same birds known as the The Swallows of San Juan Capistrano! They spend the winter down in Argentina. Then they fly north about 6,000 miles to get here about mid March.

It is rather a big deal in San Juan every year. Visitors come from all over the world to watch the birds arrive. They usually arrive all together on about March 19th.

Now get this:

There is a legend that an innkeeper in San Juan became irate because of the mess the birds made and destroyed their muddy nests. So, with their nests destroyed, the birds found refuge inside the old mission building.

The city of San Juan has an ordinance against destroying their nests. Scout birds precede the main group.

Anyway I am about as certain as I can be that my birds are Cliff Swallows.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sleeping Arrangements

The other night I awoke to my lovely snuggled up against me and I similarly snuggled up close to her.

I thought how pleasant it was to share that intimacy of sleep and touch with someone I love. Really it is a great blessing. It is one of those "ordinary miracles" I think. It is ordinary because it is common and frequent. It is a miracle because it is wondrous and beautiful and joyful.

Well, to be fair, it may not always be joyful.

I thought of how I started out sleeping. I don't recall it actually but I know about it because I was told for one thing. And for another when I remember the earliest time then I can guess what came previously. That first arrangement for me in a baby bed that was inside my parents' bedroom. The house only had 3 rooms really: bedroom, bathroom, and combination living-dining-kitchen. So there wasn't much else. I'm quite certain I slept alone for the most part, too. Because there wasn't much room for anyone else. I am certain I slept sometimes in the bed with my parents but that's not a memory.

I was 5 when my brother came along. Before his arrival my dad had enclosed a front porch. He moved the front door around to the south side of the newly built room. Mom found this trundle bed for us.

It didn't look like the one in the image but it's as close as I could find. Ours was this height or maybe taller and had no drawers in between. The head and foot were open more and were the same height. It was kind of that color though.

He didn't sleep there at first though. He took over the baby bed for a while. He was a disappointment at first, too. I had big plans for a playmate and was surprised to learn that baby brothers don't come ready-made-to-play.

I slept on the top bed and I managed to fall off once or twice. It was a pretty good drop. We both manged to jump off a few times. So our bed set lengthwise across the room just in front of the door.

On the other side of our bed we had a play area with shelves that contained our toys and a few books. There was a desk there eventually that my uncle made me for some birthday. It was a very fine desk, too. I don't know what happened to it. I cut a hold in the back once trying to make a secret hiding place in that space between the back of the drawers and the back of the desk. It wasn't a very good hiding place.

Later on, when dad built the "new" house, I had my own bedroom and a full size bed. I was very proud to have my own room. Dad and mom were proud they were able to provide such a luxury.

I married when I was 20. We had a full size bed at first. I remember it was difficult for me to adjust to living in town with neighbors and funny tasting city water. It was more difficult adjusting to having a bed partner. I really did not like that snuggling thing at all. I wasn't old enough then to appreciate humans much or that's what I think now.

Eventually we became more prosperous and moved to a bigger place ourselves and had kids and got a king size bed. I remember that being pretty nice.

Then we divorced and I slept alone again. It was as hard becoming accustomed to sleeping alone as it was becoming accustomed to sleeping with someone. Although I do recall thinking there were definite benefits to sleeping alone.

Then I moved a few times and hauled the king size bed around with me. They are a PITA to move around.

Eventually I returned to mom's and dad's house and back to my old room. It already had a matching bedroom set of furniture. So the king size bed stayed in the garage and I slept on a regular size again.

Dad and mom had been sleeping together for 51 years when I came to live with them. They had moved up to a queen size bed but they liked to sleep close together. Mom loved to be in her bed in her room when she was ill and she loved having dad there beside her.

Before she died her leg had been broken in a fall on one of the stairs. I had gotten her a hospital bed and set it up in the family room. I had rented three roll away beds for aides and me and dad. We had pushed dad's bed up close to mom's hospital bed the evening she died. They both went to sleep that evening holding hands through the rails of her bed. He was right there by her when she died.

Dad could barely stand it when she died. I recall so clearly after she died that dad would sit on the side of their bed before retiring. He would just sit there and he was so lonely looking and so sad. He would sit there a good while before finally lying down. I had a bit of knowledge about the feeling I think because I felt alone and lost when I divorced and I could still remember that first time I slept alone. I had only been married 25 years.

It was just a few months before he died that I got the hospital bed for him. I took down the queen size bed and put it in the basement storage room. I didn't cry out loud but I was crying inside. The hospital bed was an air mattress one and it made a lot of noise and I'm not sure it was very comfortable. Dad didn't like it and he missed his other bed. I felt so bad. But the hospital bed was so much easier and it had become so hard by that time to take care of him and his needs. I wish I had been able somehow to keep him in his bed. I wish he could have died in his bed instead of that hospital bed.

But at least he was able to die there in his own bedroom. That's something.

I married 3 years before dad died and 3 years after mom's death. I love snuggling with her in our bed.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Blogger (and life) Updates

Blog List element.

I like it better than my old list because I can see when my friend's blogs have been updated and then click the link to read. Pretty handy.

Scheduled Posting.
It is now possible to set a future date for a post and Blogger posts the entry at the appointed date and time. Very cool.

Of course I see that some of my blogger friends are way ahead of me as usual.

One thing I notice because of this new feature is the increasingly infrequent posts of some of my blog friends. Those who are no longer caregiving are often not posting now for days sometimes. I think that is good. I think it means we are returning to the world. It sounds Tolkienesque. We have all been in search of the ring and have found it and the world has been saved after the great battle. Maybe the world wasn't saved but I think it must have been because I am still alive and here and writing. We are all hobbits I suppose although whether Sam or Merry or Pippin or Frodo I know not. There is no Sam or Merry or Pippin jumping on my bed. Two blogs are gone entirely now from my original collection. A few more are inactive. They must have returned to the shire I think.

Those who are caregiving vary in their posting frequency. The ones that post infrequently I worry about because I do not know what is happening to them. I can guess because I've glimpsed the future. For the same reason I worry about the ones who do post.

I have an upcoming airplane trip soon. I'm nervous about it actually but just a little. I have not flown since the end of December 1998. It is only a one day trip and I will post about it afterwards. I am excited about the trip. It is something that few get to do. I recognize how blessed I am and I am so very thankful.

Speaking of which, blessings that is, I have to file the estate tax return in 11 days. I have yet to decide whether I will write about it. Even writing that I have to do it reveals a lot and maybe too much. It seems too personal right now. I will say that it is a terribly painful experience. I am again in the vice. Maybe later, maybe not.

Weather. Wind and tornadoes and storms. We had the worst wind storm the other day. We have a lot of wind but this was significant even by our standards. Extreme weather of any kind always reminds me of Michener's Texas. I read all of Michener's works. I loved the detail and how he traced the history of a place and its people. I might read him again. In Texas though there is a place where someone settles near a little creek. They build a cabin and the spot was chosen so they could have close access to water. Later on the rainy season comes one particular year and the creek rises well above the cabin location. Afterwards the person looks around and realizes when he chose the spot that the signs were easily apparent that floods had been as high and higher than his cabin spot. He just didn't have the perspective and he was too interested in being near the water.

You look around the earth anywhere. You see the results of these giant forces. My brother and I were talking about a place the other day where you can see sedimentary rocks that have been turned vertical and then covered with more sedimentary layers. You can only gasp at the power that did that. Or all that oil and coal that we extract from the ground. That stuff came from living organisms. They aren't living now and to get turned into oil and coal in the quantities we see is beyond anything I can comprehend.

At the office yesterday we were talking about the big star, Betelgeuse. I posted about this star once before along with an image. It's not the biggest at all. We probably don't even know the biggest. Probably can't imagine it.

Back to bed before I have to get up.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Me, a politician, Ha!

The other day at lunch my son mentioned that his friend had filed to run for a state legislator office.

I said that I could not think of a worse job. I believe I would hate it and that I would not be good at it either and I allowed as much.

Two lunch companions both said they thought I'd be great at it. My son agreed with me. (Thanks son!). Later I told Judy and she said that she thought I would do a good job except for my moodiness. She said that would make me appear inconsistent and that would hurt my effectiveness.

It is always interesting to learn how other people really think of you. I have on several occasions noticed that my own self-image is considerably at odds with that of my friends.

I am moody, too. Judy says it has to do with my astrological sign. I am a cancer and my sign is the crab. She always tells me when I've withdrawn. She'll say "you're in your shell again."

You read the descriptions for cancer and they all talk about moodiness and changeability and sensitivity and shells.

What was I writing about?

Oh yeah, being a politician. I hate to argue with people now. It wears me out. I also don't like to be in crowds of people. I have no interest in giving up any of my privacy. Sitting in a big student council deal just sounds awful to me. And I don't care if anyone agrees with me or not nor do I care if I agree with anyone else or not.

I've become a curmudgeon.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Sharpay or Shar Pei

Shar pei:


High School Musical 3 is supposed to be out in October, 2008.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Vice President Predictions

I know it isn't quite official but it certainly appears that we now know the candidates for President of the United States.

But who will be the Vice-President candidates?

I think there is a good chance that Bill Richardson will be the Democrat candidate.

For one thing he ran for President so he is arguably qualified to be President and he should be vetted to some extent at least. In addition he is Governor of New Mexico and has extensive foreign relation as well as other government experience. He is Hispanic and maybe can help pull some of that demographic. He's 60 (my age) so that makes him a little older than Obama but still relatively young. (Biden for instance is 5 years older.)
Republican - going way out on a limb here - Joe Lieberman.
I know it is a little nutty. But the thing is that if McCain has a chance of winning at all, given the unpopularity of Republicans; then, he must pull votes out of the middle of both parties and the non-affiliated. For that group I think Lieberman is a very good choice. Also, Lieberman was Al Gore's running mate so he should also be qualified and vetted. He and McCain are allies and friends and get along well. He is imminently qualified.

Yes, the R's are going to go nuts. But Lieberman is already invited to the convention and I think is going to speak. He is an Independent now.
So there it is for everyone to read and remember and a short few weeks from now we can all come back here and say "No prophet here!"

However, I do want to point out that back on February 7, 2008 I guessed McCain. In that same post I wrote '... doesn't "feel" like there will be another Clinton presidency.' So far I haven't embarrassed myself too much.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


I didn't know we (us USAns that is) had an Energy Information Administration (EIA for short). But we do. I found the graphic on the site.

I thought the graphic was interesting and there wasn't anything more recent than the $2.80 average graphic that I found at least.

Gasoline here in Oklahoma as of the time I am writing is about $4 per gallon depending upon grade and where I buy it and when.

That's still about 1/2 what I'm paying for coffee. My Venti black coffee from Starbucks is about $2 plus which works out to nearly $13 per gallon.

Most of the cost of gasoline though is in the cost of the crude oil. That hardly seems surprising to me but is apparently to a lot of people.

Something that does surprise me is that when gasoline prices follow the upward price increase of crude oil that so many people become experts in the field. I think a part of this is attributable to the fact that so many of us are users of gasoline and also that we pump it ourselves. So the kind of "hands on" part of it gives us a distorted view of our own understanding.

I find it interesting that the cost of distribution, refining, marketing, and profit has stayed pretty constant as a percentage. I don't find it surprising really but interesting. It is, after all, a relatively mature industry so the channels for distribution and processing are all pretty much finished.

Oil and natural gas are important here in Oklahoma. They aren't as important as they used to be but they're still pretty important. A lot of us have royalties of one kind or another and/or we have friends and relatives who work in the industry. My brother is a geologist as was my uncle.

Nearly every part of the oil business is really, really hard. And very dangerous, too. You can easily lose your shirt and your life in the oil business.

One of the amazing things about the oil business is how cyclical it is. Right now we are in a high part of the cycle. We've never been this high before but we've several times been in high cycles. They are always followed by huge downturns.

I don't know what will cause it to happen this time. Probably it will be the dampening of the world economy. I don't know when that will occur or even if it will but something will happen I suspect.

I wonder what the price will drop to. The last big oil bust we had there were more than 1 million jobs lost inside the industry. Thousands of businesses were wiped out. It startles me sometimes to think about what we as a nation lost in terms of knowledge and ability. It would be like losing the automobile industry several times over.

But for right now things in the industry are pretty good except for the bad press and bad publicity.

Some of that is funny, too. I watched a congresswoman the other day when oil executives were called to testify. She was threatening nationalization of the oil industry. The government does such a good job at stuff I am sure they would do an equally spectacular job in getting oil out of the ground. She couldn't get the word "nationalize" though and was tongue tied for a second.

In my experience oil has been cyclical and I suspect that will continue. I don't know why. There are those who disagree. No less than T Boone Pickens is one and his knowledge, experience, and instinct has to be given considerable weight. Still I think something will happen and the price will drop again.

Just one possibility is the Bakken Formation that lies beneath Montana and North Dakota. It is estimated that there is 3 to 4 Billion barrels of oil technically recoverable from the formation. That's at current prices and current technologies. But there may be as much as 400 Billion barrels there that's not yet technically recoverable. Well, people are recovering reserves now that no one believed possible a few years ago.

That's significant because the total production from Saudi Arabia's reserve is estimated at about 265 Billion barrels.

Seemed a good idea to write something about gasoline prices now.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

More Reading

Dark of the Moon by John Sandford

According to the Acknowledgment Sandford (whose real name is John Roswell Camp) wrote this book with his friend, Larry Millett.

It takes off on a character from the Lucas Davenport "Prey" stories. The character is a another cop whose name is Virgil Flowers. He is often referred to as "that f***n Flowers" and that fact becomes a kind of inside joke.

I enjoyed the story. I liked the characters.

I suppose I like characters the most in fiction. Maybe that's true in non-fiction as well, come to think on it. There has to be some kind of quirky and interesting and likable character for me or I don't keep reading.

But I need an interesting story and the plot needs to move along, too. Otherwise I get antsy and start skipping pages.

But this was a good story. I'd read more.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Tepees to Towers: The Story of Building the Sooner State

Tepees to Towers: The Story of Building the Sooner State
by Walter Nashert

In the piles of books that my daughter has created as she cleans out dad's house I noticed this title the other morning.

I noticed for a few reasons. One is that my daughter had put a little sticky slip on it that noted the book had been given to my old friend and not my father. That interested me right away. For another I have been reading a lot lately and the title captured my attention immediately. And for another I knew the author and that increased my interest. And I vaguely recalled this book.

Mr. Nashert was probably older than I am now when I first met him. I would have been in my early 20's or maybe late teens. The book was self-published by Mr. Nashert I think in about 1970 so I was only 22 that year.

He was the founder and then head of a successful general contracting firm in Oklahoma City and my dad's company did a lot of work for his. We were a roofing sub-contractor. Back then we usually had certain general contractors we preferred and Nashert was one. It is just kind of human nature I suppose that certain people and certain groups of people just kind of naturally mesh better and when that happens then things work better including projects. And when projects run better then everyone makes money. Part of it is that you do more jobs for a certain contractor and that increases the level of communication. Even then we had to be cautious of the relationship though because familiarity can be a problem. One could never take it for granted because there were other competitors waiting for an opportunity for themselves.

Mr. Nashert's book is one that he published as well as authored. I don't know how many books were printed or if the book might be available today. I do know that at the time it was a very significant endeavor to author such a book and then to publish it. No internet back then for certain.

There are 27 chapters beyond a preface. It is hard bound in a blue cover with a clear dust cover. There is an engraving on the front that depicts a wilderness explorer on one side and a more modern construction man on the other. Behind the explorer is a tepee and behind the modern man is a downtown skyline. The book covers the period from 1889 to 1968 more or less. The first chapter especially includes time prior to 1889 which was the time of the Oklahoma land run and the founding of the city of Oklahoma City.

My dad's name appears in the book along with those of his partners. The chapter deals with which roofing company might be the oldest in Oklahoma as of the the date of the book. There were three legitimate contenders including our old company. That company still is going strong today, too, by the way.

It is cool (as in rewarding and exhilarating) to stumble across your father's name in such a book. Even cooler is reading a history like this and thinking about the changes that have occurred. It is a little sobering to realize that another 38 years have passed since this book was written. Arguably the changes in the construction industry in the last 38 rival the changes in the preceding 80.

I knew a good many of those mentioned in Mr. Nashert's book. Mostly they are all gone now as is Mr. Nashert himself. I believe he died just a year or two before I came to live with mom and dad.

The thing that I enjoyed about this book is all the characters that are presented by the author. They are presented in such a way that the reader easily understands that Mr. Nashert knew most of them. History is sometimes thought of as a series of events. Really though it is about the people who lived during the time covered.

I am reminded of that time in Wilder's Our Town when Emily Webb has died and she wants to go back and relive a day. Mrs. Gibbs tells her to pick something unimportant and insignificant or it will be too painful. There's another time in Our Town when someone says "Wasn't life awful - and wonderful."

That reminds me of Walter Nashert's book. He describes 80 years of construction in Oklahoma by describing a lot of the people and some of the events.

One story that struck me was about Solomon Layton, the architect of the Oklahoma State Capitol building. Layton interviewed for an assignment to expand Georgetown University in 1894. He was awarded the commission largely because of a shared interest in the poet, John Ruskin. Layton had adopted for his own creed an excerpt from Ruskin's work, "Lamp of Memory." I was struck by the excerpt which follows:

Therefore, when we build, let us think that we build forever.
Let it not be for present delight, nor for present use alone:
Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for,
and let them think, as we lay stone on stone,
that a time is to come when these stones will be held sacred
because our hands have touched them,
and that men will say as they look upon the labor and wrought substance of them, "See! This our fathers did for us."

I love the sentiment and it reminds me of dad telling me that a "job worth doing is one worth doing right." But you know so much of what we do does not result in anything material like a building or a monument. Still the sentiment is valid I think for all of us whether builders or not. We should indeed look farther into the future than we do when be begin some work.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Ten Commandments

After my Grass is Greener post I thought it a good idea to review the Ten Commandments.

Exodus 20 (New International Version)

1 And God spoke all these words:

2 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

3 "You shall have no other gods before me.

4 "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,

6 but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments.

7 "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

8 "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.

9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,

10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.

11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

12 "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

13 "You shall not murder.

14 "You shall not commit adultery.

15 "You shall not steal.

16 "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

17 "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."
This next part is intriguing to me.
18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance

19 and said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die."

20 Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning."

21 The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.

22 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Tell the Israelites this: 'You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven:

23 Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold.

24 " 'Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you.

25 If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it.

26 And do not go up to my altar on steps, lest your nakedness be exposed on it.'
That part was intriguing because just a few chapters later the people who have just heard this and who have been so afraid of God that they didn't even want to hear His voice directly have built a golden calf to worship.

The first four commandments are about the people's relationship to God. Really the first four are pretty simple: no other gods, no idols, don't misuse God's name, and keep the sabbath day.

It is these first four that apparently offend so many people who don't want the Ten Commandments displayed. Displayed or not it seems to me that people pretty much ignore these today.

The next 6 are pretty simple: honor your parents, no murder, no adultery, no stealing, no false witnessing, and no coveting.

It is interesting that number five, honor your parents, is the single one of the then that is all affirmative with no "shall not" attached to it. The sabbath day one is close but it has a "shall not work" phrase.

There are plenty of folks who take issue with the honor your parents commandment and they have pretty good reasons. Then again there are quite a number who don't honor and have no reason at all.

I think there is pretty strong objection to the prohibition on adultery.

Surely there aren't too many people in favor of murder, theft, and giving false testimony.

Coveting is pretty widespread in my experience although I suspect a lot of folks would deny doing it.

About one thousand four hundred years later someone asked Jesus a question about the law and His response is in Matthew 22:
36 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"

37 Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'

38 This is the first and greatest commandment.

39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'

40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."