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

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Concerned Over Stories Out of Context

We have a problem in social media of information out of context. Often, this takes the form of news stories told more to excite passion than to inform. A dramatic bit of footage is pulled and part of a tale is told. It is something simple, easily told. It is something that makes you angry or excited or whatever else the author intended. It is a detail adrift, without the complexities of "the rest of the story" as Paul Harvey used to say.

This has the potential to be extremely dangerous. Out of context, information can become a tool for violence. Compelling images and a short, angry story can incite riots. It is the equivalent (yes, one time worn cliche here) of shouting fire in the theater and watching the ensuing havoc. The problem is, of course, people can be injured or killed when this is done, especially if it is done well. This is definitely true in an age when we rip and read our news from media tailored to our personal biases, media that panders to our personal prejudices and does not try to truly educate us (much harder and less profitable, thank you very much).

Next time you see an inflammatory story, before hitting "share" and passing it along, use that computer for research and find out if there is more to the story than you imagine. That might take us all to some surprising places. Of course, if it's the next cute kitty video ... well, that's different. Please don't send that. I've got plenty.

Have a beautiful and informed day.

Sloggin' Thru Blogging: Useful to Blogger

Hey new bloggers, here's a use for that blog you might not expect. I record a lot of different material here. This is a reflection of my life in some ways. The other day, I needed a reference to wabi-sabi, the idea from Japan that things less than perfect in condition are to be honored rather than trashed. I was delighted to find I had recorded the name and position of the speaker who introduced me to this idea. That information added richness to my public presentation and a connection with two listeners who knew the man personally. It was wonderful to have that recorded.

You never know when the material you put forward might be of use ... even to yourself, friend blogger. Keep writing.

For the Earth. The Five Minute Response

Jane Goodall, primate researcher, asks why we, perhaps the smartest creatures to ever walk the earth, creatures who have trod on the moon and sent robots to every planet and a few planetoids in our solar system, who have one robot outside of that system, can be dumb enough to be destroying earth's habitability for us? It is a wonderful, timely question. Right now we are pumping untold tons of drilling waste into waste water wells. We expect that stuff to stay where we put it. However, our certainty is shaken by earthquakes that have increased markedly from this process. Industry leaders say "we don't have enough data yet to say conclusively that there is a connection." We never will.

When has our garbage ever stayed where we put it in the long run. Time is the most destructive force in the universe. Ninety percent of everything humanity has created in the past 300 years has been destroyed over the passage of time. Lunatic groups with radical ideologies are increasing the rate of destruction for time. But, I digress. We used to think we could simply dump our junk in rivers and oceans ... until it started rolling back on the shores with dead wildlife tangled in the mire. We have a great garbage collection floating in the sea for additional proof of how wrong we were. We hope our landfills will contain and constrain our trash ... but as civilization shifts and moves on, as these burial mounds to consumption are left untended, in time they will deteriorate and future generations will be cursing us as they contend with our mess. The same will certainly happen with fracking's toxic waste water at some point. These dirty lubricants will cause the wrong plate to shift, creating a big enough earthquake to free this junk, and an aquifer will be polluted or worse. We have to do better. We have to use our brains, work together, and actually work to keep our home livable for all life as we know it. Otherwise we will have been the stupidest species ever to walk planet Earth. I would hate to think our obsession with that artificial construct of ours, money, would lead us down that dark path to mass extinction on asteroidal scales ... but it might.

Let's do better.

And that's the five minute response.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Carving Out Time. The Five Minute Response

Go for a walk ...
In this high tech world of ours, it is easy to get swept up in being busy. It is simplicity itself to fill up every waking moment, and many when we should be sleeping, with one task or another, one game of Free Cell (or a million), or one more comment on social media (there, that told 'em). The problem is, that is feeding the old ego and nothing else. It's a diet that never nourishes. It leads to sickness, physical and mental.

We really do need to take some time to unplug, to sit back, to take a deep breath and restore ourselves. Whether it is hobbies, faith, or a walk in the woods or along the shore ... or that most strange of all rituals ... the face to face conversation, we NEED to carve out a short time in each day to rest and recover.

Also, there are times when we need to put a foot down when things are moving too fast. I had first hand experience with this just the other day. When things feel like they are flying out of control, moving forward in an avalanche that is about to consume us (and it is within our power ... unlike the approaching tax deadline), we need to speak up and slow the process down to a manageable, human pace. Listen to those internal alarm bells. It is amazing how fast they quiet when you gain just a little control over the process.

And that's the five minute response.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Remembering Leonard Nimoy: The Five Minute Response

Then there was that time you showed up in
Sheldon's dreams as one of these on Big Bang Theory. Priceless!
Thank you Leonard Nimoy for making my teen years easier. Your portrayal of Mr. Spock, the eternal outsider who never quite fit in but always managed to do so with dignity and wry wit, helped me navigate those awkward years where many of us feel like aliens ourselves. I never tried to be emotionless as your character showed me that just wasn't possible, even for a half Vulcan. 

With the 50th anniversary of Star Trek approaching and so many original cast members now gone, it is wonderful to have you all captured on that originally short-lived TV series ... and all that followed. Much appreciated, Leonard! 

LLAP all you Trekkers out there. 

And that's the five minute response.

No Place for Bigotry: The Five Minute Response

Let's start with a definition from Merriam-Webster. A bigot is: a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance

There are many events in the news that lead to bigoted responses. The tarring of an entire people for the misbehavior of a few is wrong. It is a bigoted response. The people of Indiana were tarred, as were religious people, for their government's misbegotten "religious freedom" act. The act was wrong. The statements about all the people of Indiana and all religious people were also wrong. 

Bigoted language leads to bigoted behavior, which quickly devolves into violence. This language, behavior, and violence have no place in the modern world. When you encounter such bigotry, don't let it slide. Correct it, but civilly, without public shaming. 

That's the five minute response.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Applauding the Indianapolis Star for Their Coverage of Indiana's Discriminatory "Religious Freedom" Law

As a one time Hoosier myself, with family and friends I love living in Indiana, I was particularly disgusted by Indiana's passage of a twisted version of the RFRA that has been around since the early 1990s. I want to take a moment to congratulate the Indianapolis Star for their coverage of this legislative failure. Keep up the good work and keep things hot for Governor Pence. He and his cronies deserve it.

For a history of the RFRA and what it became for Indiana (and what it might become for other states), see: http://www.indystar.com/story/news/politics/2015/03/30/look-history-religious-freedom-laws/70648294/

Here's an article on Indiana's five Republicans who voted against this wretched bill: http://www.indystar.com/story/news/2015/03/30/meet-indiana-republicans-voted-rfra/70568776/

For more, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2015/03/there-is-no-religious-freedom-in.html and http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/08/stereotyping-and-dehumanizing-run-wild.html

There Is No "Religious Freedom" In Discrimination

To all the legislatures who feel they can make an end run around equality for various groups, organizations, religions, etc. that they do not care for, dragging us back to the bad old days of segregated bathrooms, "No Irish Need Apply" signs, and all the rest of the evil that we have tried to leave behind in the march of "civilization," STOP IT NOW!!! You are not being clever. You are not hiding your irrational hatred behind a smokescreen of legalities. It is perfectly obvious that you are not operating out of concern for anyone's religious freedom. You are being bigots and promoting hatred.

The day the foul version of the religious freedom law (please note, good intentions are easily perverted by hatred ... early versions of this law were to protect the rights of Native Americans to pursue their traditions and faith, to keep the Amish safe to follow their beliefs, etc.) was passed in Indiana, after the sun went down, in one community folks with marriage equality bumper stickers on their cars had them vandalized. This "law" empowered angry bigots to lash out in hate. That is no law anyone should defend. That is spreading evil.

Speak out against the vile wave of bigoted legislation rising up like backed up sewer water around the nation. Tell them this is no way for a civilized people to behave. Tell them pandering to simple-minded hatred is wrong. Apparently, our civil servants have forgotten this basic idea and need reminded. Let's all remind them.

If this evil spreads, I highly recommend entering each and every business with which you do business with the following question, "Do you discriminate based on your religious beliefs?" or "Do you turn away customers based on your beliefs?" If the answer is yes or is a refusal to answer directly, take your business elsewhere.  It may be the best means average citizens have to end this vile practice back by wicked laws of twisted intent.

While on the topic of bigotry, defining all members of a faith ... or lack thereof ... by the behaviors of a few is also bigotry and must stop.

For more, concerning stereotyping (bigotry) run amuck, see:http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/08/stereotyping-and-dehumanizing-run-wild.html

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Spend More Time Befriending ...

Unlikely friends ...
For living in the great Information Age, we sure aren't treating each other in a very informed manner. It seems we've allowed all of our freedom of choice to splinter us into a huge number of insular special interest groups driven by memes and sound bite reactionary responses rather than informed and considered thought. As such, we are spending far too much time screaming and creating enemies lists and far too little time befriending and listening.

Here's a modest proposal: the next time you're ready to launch into an entrenched defense of your point of view using some well worn verbal cliche from your favorite talking head, stop. Clamp that mouth shut, reign in those anger-fueled emotions, and listen. Truly hear what the other person has to say. Ask questions that tease out (without creating a defense for you, you clever soul) how the individual really feels and prunes away the verbal clutter of their favorite cliched talking points. Perhaps suggest you get a cup of coffee or tea and every time you feel like jumping in with an angry retort, you take a sip instead. When it is your turn to speak, reasoned, friendly responses about how you see the issue and feel about it (no accusations or demands or belittling language here) is in order.

The idea is to listen more than speak and actually try to create friendships. Friends have far better influence on each other than enemies do. I know many stories of unlikely friendships that have changed entrenched points of view. It is certainly better than throwing verbal bombs and perhaps literal fists at each other (or worse when the blood really boils). What do you say? 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Best Audio Book Fiction: Top Ten Lists of Books

I have a long commute. I have found that audio books rented from the local library at just over two dollars for three weeks each have been life savers (almost literally during miserable, traffic chocked commutes). They keep the mind sharp and the nerves from fraying. They allow me to catch up on books I otherwise would not have the time to persue. I arrive at work or home far more relaxed than I would otherwise, making me an easier person to deal with at either end of the trip. I highly recommend such audio books to you. I first started listening to them on tape when making long trips for work.

Without further introduction, ten lists of top audio books in fiction for your consideration:

New York Times recommendations (many titles): http://www.audible.com/nytbs

Audio Editions counters with: http://www.audioeditions.com/top-audio-books-cd-tape.aspx

About.com recommends: http://walking.about.com/od/music/tp/audiofiction.htm

Goodreads.com has 83 suggestions: http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/6320.Best_Science_Fiction_Audiobooks

Random House Audio has been at this game a long time and has a few suggestions: http://www.randomhouse.com/audio/

If crime fiction is your favorite, try: http://www.booklistonline.com/ProductInfo.aspx?pid=5424557&AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1

For science fiction fans (myself included): http://www.audiotexttapes.net/ivx.htm

Okay, my blog, my bias, sticking with sci-fi, Recorded Books suggests: http://www.recordedbooks.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=rb.show_imprint&show_by=imprint&imprint=sci-fi

For 500 of the best audio books ever, see Goodreads.com again: https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/130.Best_Audiobooks_Ever

or you can try Oprah's list instead: http://www.oprah.com/oprahdotcom/Best-Audiobooks--Popular-Fiction

That should be enough to get you started. Happy listening. Enjoy broadening your literature and popular fiction horizons!