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, December 18, 2014

Resist the Voices That Lead to Darkness: Good News From Christianity

I highly recommend the book (if you are seeking a last minute Christmas gift ... as I always seem to be) Jesus: A Pilgrimage by Fr. James Martin, the author of Between Heaven and Mirth (also recommended). He has many moving observations worth exploring, including some thoughts about Jesus' time of testing and temptation in the wilderness. James Martin warns us about giving in to the darker voices that lead us away from God and down dark paths. We Christ followers are to imitate Jesus and resist these voices. Martin writes:

It's easy for us to listen to the voices that do not come from God; those voices can sound appealing. Likewise, sometimes it feels more natural to dwell in the darkness rather than turn toward the light. We hear voices that tell us we are unworthy of God's love, that nothing will change, that all is hopeless. We hear the voice of, as one of my spiritual directors called it, the Hinderer. We tend to turn more toward our inner "demons," who tell false stories about us and subvert our identities, rather than turning toward God, who knows our true story, our real identity. 
Jesus realizes the need to turn away from those dark voices, and he does so with the help of his Father. Jesus is driven into the desert, much as we are driven to reflect on our lives in times of testing and struggle. But he is not alone, and neither are we. The same power that helped Jesus in his desert helps us in ours.
During holiday seasons, it is easiest to fall prey to these dark voices when expectations run high, to do lists are long, and family histories come into play. Use the power Jesus used and resist!

God bless you all.

Do Not ...

 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

SpaceX to Try New Landing Trick

Perhaps as early as December 19th, SpaceX will launch its next Falcon 9 reusable rocket. This one will sport the landing legs and a steering improvement, hypersonic steering grids in an "X-wing" configuration. They will attempt to land the first stage sporting these improvements on an autonomous 300 x 100 foot floating platform at sea. This platform has extending wings of its own increasing its size from 100 to 170 feet. However, with landing legs requiring 70 feet, it's a small target area. The platform is held relatively stable by thrusters used to hold deep sea drilling platforms steady ... but without anchors the platform remains a bit of a moving target.

SpaceX rates its chances of success with this experiment at no greater than 50 percent. But ... if it succeeds, the future of reusable rockets takes another step forward. Officials will not allow SpaceX to try this landing on land until the concept is proven at sea. If it doesn't work the first time, no worries. SpaceX will try again next year.

This will be a steering challenge. In the past, a 10km accuracy range was the best a Falcon 9 could accomplish. It'll have to be a lot tighter for this landing to take place. This reminds me of those old cartoons where a character has climbed to the high dive platform in a circus and the water pool waiting below was a mere drinking glass ... and a small one at that.

Good luck, SpaceX team. Here's hoping you make sci-fi a reality with this landing.

For more, see: http://www.spacex.com/news/2014/12/16/x-marks-spot-falcon-9-attempts-ocean-platform-landing

Update: 12/19: Date reset until early January when orbital mechanics make for better flying and so a pesky reading can be tracked down.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What to Do When Your Dog Barks Constantly for Food

Meet my demands, NOW!

Is your best furry friend driving you crazy when it is time to eat? Does Max or Millie demand bark constantly until fed? Does scolding have no meaning?

There's bad news, good news/bad news coming my frustrated friend. That first bad news is that you have taught your dog this behavior by providing food for the bark. Your dog has made the connection. The good news/bad news is this behavior can be unlearned.

Check this link for the full story ... and good luck: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/pets/dog-behavior/how-to-stop-demand-barking

Monday, December 15, 2014

Orion is back on This Week @NASA



Orion is on her way back to the Kennedy Space Center to have her data evaluated following a picture perfect flight. Curiosity has learned more about water on Mars and how Mt. Sharp was created ... and more. It's been a busy week.

To relive the joy of the Orion test flight, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/12/orion-flight-test.html

Friday, December 12, 2014

T'is The Season To Be A Blessing ... Like Ebeneezer!

Be of good cheer Ebeneezer!
Remember the transformed Ebeneezer Scrooge, who kept Christmas in his heart all year round better than anyone? We need to be like him as the season fast approaches.

Consider me the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future all rolled into one package. Annoying? Maybe. Still, it's time to get our collective act together and treat each other well. When we're out shopping for that last gift, that one thing some family member (usually a child) NEEDS to have or all is lost, at like the reformed Scrooge with the personnel in the stores you use. Be a blessing to them. Give them a smile. Be polite. Lighten their load. It will help ease our stress when we do so, no matter how they respond ... which may be with a look of gobsmacked disbelief after all they've already been through. It's not exactly a season of joy when you work in retail. 

Give everyone you meet some slack on the roadways as well. If someone does something stupid in front of you on the highways and byways, instead of laying into the horn and cursing, imagine they are rushing to the hospital to be with a loved one, that they are in labor, OR that they really, really need to pee. Whatever raises your sympathy rather than your ire. 

Treat your coworkers with good cheer. Work often seems to try to kill us before we head off for the holidays. It is one of the fa la la la follies of the season. It's the same for everyone so be a spirit of goodwill to your overworked fellow sufferers instead of a pain in the butt. Send pleasant emails and ignore your caps key until next year, if not forever. 

Be generous with your family and friends. T'is the season for everyone to go a little nuts. T'is also the season of ridiculously high expectations and heavy emotional baggage picked up over many years of family history. Give everyone a pass this season, a hearty laugh, and a deaf ear to anything that sounds like picking a fight from stress. They'll appreciate it once the tinsel clears.

Once you've managed to be like old Ebeneezer Scrooge reformed for Christmas, work to maintain that Scrooge-like reformation good cheer all year long. You'll be a blessing and one day people will talk about you in the community where you live like they did about old Scrooge in his fictional England of yore. Once you've started, you may find it is habit forming.

God's blessings on us all, every one, this Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate in the chill month of December) and all year round. 

For a related, popular guest post, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2013/12/i-want-to-be-ebenezer-scrooge-guest.html

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Torture and the Death Penalty Erode Civilization

The Senate Intelligence Committee's "Torture Report" is out. In the fear-soaked period following the 9/11/2001 terror attacks, terror held sway and terrible responses followed. "Enhanced interrogation techniques" became acceptable under the thin excuse that the information extracted would prevent another attack. Never mind that information obtained under torture produces no valid results as those tortured will tell "interrogators" whatever they feel they want to hear to STOP the abuse. Since the 16th century, people have cried out against torture, particularly state sanctioned torture.

Every generation seeks a humane way to kill people society has deemed to dangerous to live. Every generation has found the new and improved method to extract the life from another to be less-than-humane in the end. Such is the case of our supposedly clinical and clean chemical death on a mockery of a surgeon's healing table. Worse, being human, we are prone to error, especially when emotions run high and crimes committed are particularly vile. One lawyer, a professional entrusted with seeking truth and justice, proclaimed of a suspect of one horrible crime that the facts of the matter did not matter. The crime was so vile the suspect MUST be punished. This proclamation was made before any trial and with evidence thin enough to leave the suspect's guilt seriously in doubt. DNA tests are proving time and again that we do convict innocent people. Better to have them alive in jail when we discover their innocence and can offer redress (however grudgingly) rather than offering a weak "Oops" after a wrongful execution takes place.

Torture and state sanctioned murder erode our civilization. They damage our collective psyche and make us increasingly coarse and violent people. You can see this any night on cable "news" channels where opinion makers who backpedal when proven wrong and say they are not journalists but entertainers (not what you'll regularly hear from them), where nothing is off limits, no matter how vile. Recently Eric Garner, an asthmatic murdered (the official conducting the autopsy used this word) with a choke hold had been alternately characterized as both a giant monster and an obese fragile individual (apparently implying if he'd been a better man he would not have died). These people spout lies with impunity and are never brought to task ... or very rarely ... and are well paid for their bad behavior. Escalation of violence on all sides and a militarization of the police force are results of this erosion of civilization. The fracturing of society along any number of lines, with opponents willing to say the most vile things about each other, is further evidence. The willingness to seek out a gun as a solution to any situation, leaving a staggeringly high number of dead annually behind us (many of whom should never have died ... and would not have died if our society were stable and fit and not fear-soaked and reactionary).

We need to correct all of this before it is too late. We need to change before we lose our civilization entirely and descend into madness from which there may be no return. We are sowing the seeds of violent death. The crop growing is terrible. The harvest will be death. Change NOW, while time remains and some sense of humanity remains.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

What The Bible Is NOT: Good News From Christianity

There is a lot of misinformation about the 66 books of the library that comprise the Bible. It comes from a variety of sources who will not be named here ... but really should know better, at least some of them. 

The Bible spans many centuries of writing from c. 1400 B.C. and the last roughly toward the end of the first century A.D. Those writers were inspired by God but wrote in the language of and with the understanding of their times to the people of their times. These writers cover individuals living in a range of situations from accounts of people largely tribal and most often on the move to settled in towns and cities. Needless to say, such differences in life experience lead to a variety of perspectives and understandings that evolve over time, as is clearly seen. 

It is the hubris of the modern age that looks back on these works, which include stories passed down through even earlier oral traditions, and brush them off as irrelevant artifacts of an earlier age. The most common complaint used against these authors, and there are many, is that there are "inconsistencies" between their accounts. Let's take a moment to ponder that. Google Abraham Lincoln biographies. How many have been written across how many years? Go ahead, I'll wait. Now discount the writings of rank amateurs ... I'll let you decide who is who. Now, among the rest, each writing from a different perspective, with different experience, different education, and different historical tools for analysis by decade, would you expect them to see everything the same way or to write from the same point of view? No, you would not. If they did, there would be no point in having all those books, would there? So, the "inconsistencies" most often referred to come from the different perspectives of the writers and the slant they choose to take to most effectively reach their own readership. 

Much misunderstanding comes from the quaint idea that the Bible is simple and easily understood by all. This is a pleasant and democratic idea, but not consistent to a library this vast covering so many peoples and so many centuries. Take a look at several works of Victorian fiction. How many references and passages are mysterious to you? That's relatively recent history. Now extend that back through all the centuries of the books of the Bible. Writers, inspired by God, still used the language, the slang, the shortcuts, and all the writing genres of their own day. They referred to texts we do not have access to and spoke of things which were common understanding back in the day but are lost to us now. This leads to some astounding misunderstandings. Approach these texts with care. 

As for the argument that the Bible uses other genres, other stories, from other cultures ... have you ever known any writer worth his or her salt who did not? No culture, no person within a culture, lives in a bubble, uninfluenced and having no influence on surrounding cultures.

I could go on, but you get the idea. The Bible is overall the story of God's love for humanity and of God's promises kept to humanity no matter how many times we have resisted or rebelled against the free gift of God's love for all. It is also the story of grace, mercy, and redemption for us. Further, it is the story of all we are responsible for toward each other. Those who ask "why would a loving God allow such-and-such to happen," the question most often should be "why did WE let that happen, given the scope of our responsibilities to creation and each other?" That's a hard and scary question, but one well worth asking in turbulent times like right now. 

Our understanding of the texts of the Bible continue to grow and to change, just as does the understanding of science. Scholars continue to study and to learn. So do we all, when we are not caught up in ridiculous arguments that so often boil down to how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. 

The books of the Bible are the study of many lifetimes ... and we have not come anywhere near a complete understanding yet. They should be treated with respect and approached with great care, humility, and boundless questions, not with foolish and often profoundly ignorant dismissals that would have astonished the original authors with the amazing lack of understanding they reflect.

Wishing you well this Christmas and always.

For information on resources you can use for further research into the Bible and various aspects of the Christian faith, see: http://lansdownebaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2014/11/recommended-reading-for-clarity.html

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Orion Flight Test



Here is a wonderful summation of the successful Orion capsule test flight from Friday, December 5, 2014. It is a beautiful thing to see. Glad to see the return of the capsule and big aspirations beyond low Earth orbit. It was fascinating to hear NASA's director discuss the possibility of allowing other nations to cooperate with us, with the US providing the Orion capsule and another nation providing the lander to return to the Moon. Not a bad idea, along with the trip to the asteroid and eventually on to Mars.

Friday, December 5, 2014

NASA Premieres ‘Trial By Fire’ video on Orion’s Flight Test




Everything expected of the Orion capsule during its first flight test in orbit. It is quite a challenge and will all take place in 5 hours or less from launch. At the time of this writing the 4:00 minute hold is in place on Friday, the second attempt to launch. We'll see how reality matches this video. Good luck NASA team!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Thursday, December 4, 2014, a Big Day for NASA and Orion

Art Courtesy of NASA

Tomorrow at roughly 7 AM EST, NASA test launches the future of human spaceflight with the Orion capsule. It will only be a 4.5 hour unmanned test, orbiting the earth twice, rising above the Van Allen Belt, and then returning to the atmosphere at a blistering 20,000 miles per hour. If all goes well, and the heavy lift rocket more powerful than the old Saturn V that took us to the moon is built (don't screw around now Congress), we will have the vehicle that takes us further out into space than ever before. 

A lot hinges on tomorrow ... so I'll be hoping for clear weather and a picture perfect flight.

For much more on Orion, see: http://blogs.nasa.gov/orion/