The Thirty Minute Blogger

Exploring Books and the Writer's Life, Faith and Works, Culture and Pop Culture, Space Science and Science Fiction, Technology and Nostalgia, Parenting and Childhood, Health: Physical and Emotional ... All Under the Iron Hands of the Clock and That 30 Minute Deadline

Monday, June 29, 2015

Best Pop Culture Stamps EVER! Thanks USPS


They came out last year ... but they only came to my attention this year as a Father's Day gift. On October 9, 2014, the United States Postal Service unveiled their 75th Anniversary Batman stamps. These stamps capture the Caped Crusader's evolving visage from Bronze, Silver, and Golden ages to the Modern age. Four variants on the Bat Symbol are displayed as well. Each one is its own Forever Stamp. Where did Batman leap out of the shadows from to protect letters and parcels everywhere? Why from New York City, of course, Gotham itself. The Batman has been called to action once again.

Now, you might ask, dear reader, will I ever use these stamps myself? My unequivocal answer is Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, NA! Sorry, couldn't help myself. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Join a Cause, Make a Difference

Since the horrific murders of Emanuel AME Church members in Charleston, South Carolina, by a racist filled to overflowing with hateful rhetoric and ideals, I have seen over and over again two trains of thought running head on along the same track as if Gomez Addams were running both engines. The one train is calling for social action and social justice of long term and abominable evils like racism and gun violence in this country. The other engine (overheated and hurtling at insane speed) is called distracting hot button issues express that bear little relevance on the issues at hand.

If you would rather do something positive than sit around and shriek over the train wreck, here are some sites with organizations you can check out and through which you can get involved.

1. http://www.socialbrite.org/cause-organizations/
2. http://people.uncw.edu/pricej/teaching/socialchange/social_action_organizations.htm
3. http://www.startguide.org/orgs/orgs06.html
4. https://www.dosomething.org/
5. http://library.columbia.edu/locations/global/virtual-libraries/sarai/groups.html
6. http://freechild.org/SJforALL.htm
7. http://www.thelovealliance.net/links/
8. http://billmoyers.com/2014/01/22/10-groups-that-are-building-a-movement-for-economic-justice-from-the-grassroots-up/
9. http://www.serve.gov/?q=site-page/mlkday
10. http://www.globalstewards.org/organizations.htm

This is just the tip of the iceberg. If we all selected an organization suited to our passions and got busy, we could make an amazing difference. We won't get it done by sharing articles and likes on Facebook or other social media. We won't get it done by trolling those who annoy us. We will definitely not get anything positive done if we allow the loud and bigoted voices to distract us from the real issues at hand.

Let's all get busy. And, each and every day, ask yourself what you can do in any small way to make life better for someone in that moment. You have no idea how powerful a small gesture might be. People who watch the Golden Gate Bridge for attempted suicides say many notes have been left behind by successful suicide victims that said if anyone smiles at me or treats me nicely before I get to the bridge, I will not jump. A very small action could make a huge difference for someone who is hurting.

For a sermon that inspires us to do the same, see: http://lansdownebaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2015/06/why-are-you-afraid.html  ... there's a whole worldview involved.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Sixth Mass Extinction On Us. The Five Minute Response

If you are a young earth creationist, look away please. This response is not for you.

For details of the event in progress, see: http://www.livescience.com/51281-sixth-mass-extinction-is-here.htmlz or any number of other sources.

One of the most disturbing bits from this article was right up front:
Over the last century, species of vertebrates are dying out up to 114 times faster than they would have without human activity, said the researchers, who used the most conservative estimates to assess extinction rates. That means the number of species that went extinct in the past 100 years would have taken 11,400 years to go extinct under natural extinction rates, the researchers said.
Let me get right to the point. The last extinction event, 65 million years ago, has been attributed to an asteroid. The results were catastrophic for life on earth. But I want to point out that the asteroid itself did not survive the event. This time, WE are the asteroid. Connect the dots.

That's the five minute response.

For more on this subject, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2015/04/for-earth-five-minute-response.html

Prayers and Calls for Action Following the Emanuel AME Church Murders

In the wake of the horrendous murders committed in Charleston, South Carolina's famous Emanuel AME Church, I stand with those who mourn and pray for all who have been impacted by the twisted, hateful actions taken by the perpetrator.

No, from what the terrorist involved said, this was not a crime against Christianity. This was not a drug crime. This was not the fault of the victims. It was none of those ridiculous things. This was another hate crime against African Americans perpetrated by one who has been twisted by the hateful rhetoric far too freely offered up by unscrupulous politicians, pundits, preachers, and trolls.

It is far past the time when something should be done. We can no longer tolerate and turn a blind eye to hatred, violence, and ignoring treatment for those who are mentally ill. We can no longer sit by silently while others spew hatred and vicious lies. We must speak out and we must act.

For the response of the American Baptist Churches, USA's Ministers Council, including their call to action, see: http://www.abc-usa.org/2015/06/18/the-ministers-council-abcusa-offers-hopes-and-prayers-following-emanuel-ame-church-killings/

To feel empowered to act yourself, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/02/there-are-no-insignificant-people.html

For the view of a world where more people DO act for the good of others, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2015/06/lets-have-more-heroes-and-heroines.html 

A short article about helping curb the spread of bigotry and violence: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2015/03/no-place-for-bigotry-five-minute.html

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Let's Have More Heroes and Heroines

Lately on social media, folks with an ax to grind have been grumbling, fussing, fuming in classic "Hey, kid, get off my lawn" fashion over someone who some have called a hero or heroine compared to this individual's idea of a "real" hero or heroine (usually a service person or firefighter). I have to say, I did not realize that the nouns "hero" and "heroine" were in such short supply they needed to be rationed. Then came the balm of Fred Rogers (of PBS's Mr. Rogers fame) definition. Mr. Rogers defined real heroes as, “Anyone who does anything to help a child in his life is a hero to me. ”
Fred Rogers (follow the link for more)

I propose that we broaden the definitions of hero and heroine rather than attempting to restrict them based on some political or moral ideology. Let's instead broaden the definition to include all sorts of people of good will who make life better in some way. Let's include all those who give others courage to stand up or speak out or do good in this world of ours. Let's applaud all who extend love, hope, compassion, assistance, etc. in this life.

I would love to see a world in which there are millions, no, billions, of heroes and heroines inspiring billions of others. What a wonderful world it would be if this planet were filled to overflowing with heroes and heroines, seven billion strong, all working together, shouldering our collective burden and making daily life for all that much better. In such a heroic place, evil would find no quarter. It would shrivel and die in the face of such overwhelming courage and daring. It is a dream I have. No doubt the surly skeptics--who are trying to truncate "hero" and "heroine," limiting those nouns to a few appointed only by themselves--will be searching for images and pithy phrases to attempt to shatter this dream, but I stand against their skepticism. I stand today for courage and daring. I stand today for achievement and love and broadened horizons.

Come fellow heroes and heroines, you are being called by a hurting world. Stand tall, make a difference, change a life in some small way, and inspire some witness you may never know was watching. Up, up, and away!!!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Racial Divide on Public Display in US YET AGAIN

Disclaimer: I am not a news reporter and this is not the news. However, I am reacting to two news stories I saw back to back just yesterday.

Two stories caught my attention. In the first story, Mr. Jim Cooley walks his daughter through the Atlanta International Airport carrying an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle slung over his shoulder. He is not arrested. He is not detained. He is following Georgia law. He declares he is protecting his wife and daughter from danger, specifically the danger of an out of control police forces under the thrall of the federal government. While questioned twice by police and having a picture of his car license taken, Mr. Cooley came and went largely undeterred from his open carry mission and the disruptions it caused when people called him in and went to and from flights rattled by the appearance of an assault rife carrying stranger in their midst.

In the second story, out of McKinney, Texas, white neighbors at a pool party began taunting African American teens. As the situation heats up, the police are called. As a result, African American teens are detained, arrested, and one enthusiastic officer drags a bikini clad 14-year-old African American girl weeping and crying out for her mother to the ground, bangs her head into the grass, yanks her hair and sits on her while others protest. No officer treats any of the male detainees nearly this badly, until the same officer leaps up, gun drawn, to give chase to two African American male teens who protest this treatment.

Do you see the difference? While neither party committed a crime by state law (as far as anyone can tell at this point), the white man was allowed to carry out an incredibly stupid act in an age of heightened fear of terrorism while complaining the police could be after him. Meanwhile, African American teens whose only crime (apparently) was being black at a public pool party were arrested, mistreated, and verbally assaulted by white male police officers.

Had our open carry advocate been an African American, it seems likely to me he would have been arrested in Atlanta at the very least. We should have left this horrid, racist divide behind long ago, but  obviously it is still alive and well in the US.

Shame on US!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Perfectionism--Nuisance and Obstacle. The Five Minute Response

If you want a scientific discussion, there are plenty to be had. This is all personal experience, and sometimes painful, about the insidious nature of perfectionism.

Now, true, we should all strive to do our best and have a result that was worth the effort, whatever the task, project, goal, etc. However, perfectionism in my experience is guaranteed to keep that from happening. No human being in the world today is perfect. We all have various gifts and talents, but being perfect is not among them.

Perfectionism throttles the attempt at any new thing before it has begun. It tells you it is impossible for you to complete a project successfully because you just aren't good enough. There are a bevy of excuses that will arise in your mind if you let perfectionism take hold and you will soon surrender to them. Stop it. Get on with it, whatever that project is.

For years I wrote books ... and may yet again. Perfectionism would have killed those projects as they never would have been complete enough, never covered enough territory, never contained perfectly turned phrases. I tossed aside my perfectionism and was published many times in 20 years (all niche market books by the way so don't look for me on the NY Times Bestsellers List).

I have been watching with dismay as one organization is being held back from doing many things by a few people who have this disease. Doing anything new, exploring different ways of conduct, well, they laugh them off and stick with things (often complex and costly) that they have brought as close to their estimation of perfection as they can. It may kill the organization entirely.

In short: perfectionism = BAD.

And that's the five minute response.

Raised Bed Gardening

You don't need a whole lot of space to create your own raised bed in the yard. We created an 8' x 4' bed with three boards (one cut in half), a few screws, some mesh at the base to allow water out of the bed but keep weeds from getting in, compost from our backyard composter for the dirt, and seeds from the store. The board height with a single plank gets you six inches of soil depth, which we have just discovered is indeed deep enough to grow decent heirloom radishes. Of course, you can use corner supports, driving the screws into them, double the number of boards, and double the depth of your bed if you like. You can use rot resistant lumber as we did (I got all the materials as a Mother's Day gift for my wife ... she's the hands on type who asks for gifts that would get most husbands thrown in the dog house for sure ... I am lucky and I know it) or you can get some really cheap, rough wood planks if you don't care about appearance and intend to replace them regularly. It is entirely up to you.

When you have your materials ready, use a flat shovel to remove the sod from your intended site and level the soil so your bed rests on level ground. Then you are ready to work. A drill driver makes the work go much faster as you drive the wood screws home. You may want to get some mesh and some stakes to hold it to keep the wildlife looking for salad greens out of your beds. If you wish to get fancy, you can mix your compost with good, black topsoil from the garden store half and half. You can add other ingredients to lighten the soil too, but we didn't bother and it is working out fine.

A word to the wise, toss aside your need for perfection in this experiment. Perfection and backyard gardening are not going to mix well. No matter how hard you try, you can't manage how those seeds are going to sprout and grow. Just enjoy the results with satisfaction.

Hey, and if you want to grow potatoes, take an old, plastic garbage can, fill it to an appropriate depth, after drilling some drain holes in the base, with soil, and plant. What could be simpler.

Today, on our 31st wedding anniversary, my wife and I harvested our first heirloom radishes. It was nice.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Taking Back My Faith from the Angry and Fearful

Beginning in the last quarter of the twentieth century, people of faith (okay, Christians like me to narrow the focus a bit) of moderate to progressive leaning (except for the extremely progressive) have been reluctant to speak up in the face of very angry voices coming from the extreme ends of the faith, both very conservative and very liberal. As a result, Christianity has been painted as an extreme faith filled with angry voices fearfully reacting to the world around them. They have lashed out against those who believe differently than they do. They have attempted to get everyone to bow to their belief system, at least to the extent that propositions and/or theories are not raised in their presence that would challenge even some tiny corner of what they believe. The rest of us have recoiled from the onslaught, shaking our hands and heads, quietly saying they don't speak for us, but doing very little about it. As a result, the faith of love, hope, and truth that I believe in has not been represented. The faith that bridges gaps between others rather than erecting firewalls, the faith that believes God loves everyone and wishes to know them all (to love them all ... let's be specific here ... and see the parable of the Prodigal Son for details about what that means), and the faith that firmly believes we have to work hard to help others and protect the world we were given as stewards, needs representation. The faith that has no problem with scientific advance, by the way, needs representation. More to the point, this faith needs action. 

The silence of the vast majority has also led to a reactionary, angry, fearful atheism spawned right out of the most right wing elements of the faith. This has led to another nattering class slinging epiphets and stooping to the most childish taunts. All the adherents of both these faiths (yes, both are faith systems) are now far too willing to stoop to rank bigotry and that must stop. Fair warning, I will call out bigots on all sides of this fracas when I hear or see them. It has to stop.

There are many wonderful examples of faithful people helping others. For the past few years, I have been providing my alternate point of view via this blog and several church blogs. I'll be stepping up my campaign in a wide variety of ways in the years ahead. I hope like minded people of faith will join me. We have too much to do and too man skewed perspectives to correct to remain silent any longer. If you want to see what my demonmination does regularly to help others, look up the history of American Baptist Churches, USA ... and the Northern Baptists (our predecessor organization). We have a long history of standing up for the civil and human rights of others. It is a history I support and look to extend into the future.

God bless you all. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Christian Churches Can Stop Hurting Themselves and Move Forward OR ...

Here is an insightful article from Sojourner's Magazine about how Christian churches can move forward creatively as God calls them to do ... or die. God's love and message will continue.

Read: http://sojo.net/blogs/2015/05/19/5-ways-churches-inflicted-pain-themselves

What do you think?