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

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Doctors and Nurses: Thanks

Hey, doctors and nurses, can I have a minute or two from your busy day?

I want to stop and say thank you.

My recent emergency eye surgery got me thinking of all the times you all have made a difference in my life and in the lives of family and friends I love.

The very best among you have always been really decent with me, even when I'm not at my best ... and when do you guys get to see any of us at our best? During the prep for the first eye surgery, the nurse was so upbeat she gave me courage before receiving two needles to my left eye. The surgeon himself explained what would happen and then had the wisdom to reassure me that it had taken longer to explain the procedure than the 20 seconds it would take to get the first of those two jobs done. I was reassured and went into that procedure with a calm I had not expected.

It's been that way with all my best encounters over the years with people in your most demanding professions The dentist who told me  he got into the field in part because he was an artist who likes to work with his hands. Talk about a point of view that reoriented my thinking on dentistry! He also said the hours were better than those of a surgeon, which made me laugh.

The nurse who responded when I observed it must to tough to work with people who all want to leave the hospital and them. She responded, "Oh no, you've got it wrong. We're glad for everyone who wants to leave. It means they're getting better. It's the people who don't care that scare us. They aren't recovering the way they should."

To the surgeons who worked on me in outpatient operations who said, "you tolerated that procedure well." That simple phase felt like I'd earned a medal, coming from you.

You guys work on the edge, the front line of mortality in some cases. You use all the training, all the new knowledge and equipment, or work near miracles with old equipment. You add skill, insight, years of experience, and sometimes daring to get the job done. You are there to offer congratulations or condolences afterwards.

We are all trained by our society that we ought to fix things. Yet, we all know we are mortal. We all know there will come a day when none of your skill, experience, amazing techniques or technologies will be able to defeat death one more time. I know there is a day coming when this is likely to happen to me (unless I'm killed in some disaster or pass away in my sleep) or a loved one. When it does, I want to say, I know you did your best and I know this was bound to happen. We are mortal. We die. It is our condition. I know you face this far more often than I do as a minister, and it is a regular part of my life. But let me say, don't beat yourself up. You work long hours, and sometimes you work against very long odds. When you lose that last battle and have to tell me or my loved ones of the loss, know that my faith and that of my family will see us through. You did all you could. My belief in God, my Christian hope in life eternal, that will carry me and mine on beyond what you are able to do.

Thank you for all you do for everyone you meet. Thank you for all the kindness, care, and concern shown along with the awesome skill sets. I hope you'll all take some time to take care of yourselves, especially on those miserable weeks when death wins time and time again. You've earned a little time to decompress and deal with the losses, to grieve when needed, to blow off steam when it's not.

Thanks again. I see more clearly now, following your most recent work on my eye ... and yeah, I mean that in more ways than one.

For the experience that led to this post, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/05/my-retinal-tear-what-you-should-know.html

Monday, May 16, 2016

Stories of Old Egypt, Dolch Folklore of the World

I stumbled across an old childhood nemesis of mine. The book Stories of Old Egypt from the Dolch Folklore of the World series, printed in 1964 by Garrard Publishing Company. I didn't read this book as a child because the image on the cover and to the story "The Sailor's Story" freaked me out. Remember, this was back in the 1960s when an articulated skeleton on a TV show or in a movie was scary business indeed, especially for an impressionable kid. The snake people with the human heads were nightmare fuel as far as I was concerned.

So, I've read some of the stories now, decades later. I'm sorry I didn't get past those images way back when. The stories, written for a grade 3 reading level but of interest for grades 2-8 according to the paper insert on this complimentary copy from the publisher, are pretty good. The first one, "Lady Doris," surprised me as it was a variant on the Cinderella story (well, at least the slipper, the beauty, and the prince). An eagle plays match maker, dropping off the lady's slipper, which remarkably will only fit one woman in all of Egypt--and that the most beautiful single woman of them all. "The Sailor's Story" is also a good tale in which the sailor washed up after a storm on the magical island of the Snake People is saved and sent home because of his storytelling abilities.

I highly recommend the two part story that is "The Prince" and "A Snake, a Crocodile, and a Dog." In this tale mortality is grappled with, along with how to live life well in spite of a dire circumstance in your life. It is an excellent morality tale.
Did not like the snake people as a kid!

Thanks to authors Edward W. & Marguerite P. Dolch for the compilation. Artist Gordon Laite provided all the imagery, including the scary snake people that kept me away for so long. 

Stop Empowering Stupidity, PLEASE

I never had that feeling that I had to carry the weight of somebody's ignorance around with me. And that was true for racists who wanted to use the 'n' word when talking about me or about my people, or the stupidity of people who really wanted to belittle other folks because they weren't pretty or they weren't rich or they weren't clever. ~ Maya Angelou*

The stories come fast and furious. Empowering stupid people seems to be the name of the game these. days. I mean those headstrong, stubborn folks who refuse to take in any new information that goes against some ingrained bias or prejudice they hold near and dear. The proudly hateful folks who divide the world into a very small tribe of "us" and a huge, never-to-be-trusted tribe of "them." Need examples? How about empowering the stupid person who suspected an economist of being a terrorist on an airline because this individual sitting next to him did not recognize mathematical notation for what it was and perhaps thought it was the plotting of a terror mastermind. This economist was taken off the plane and interviewed to determine he was not an inept terrorist. Couldn't someone on the plane have recognized mathematical formulas for what they were and quelled this troubled, ignorant person's fear? Couldn't someone have brought up how inept a terrorist this would be to be formulating some act of terrorism while on the airplane he wished to perform the terrorist act against? Please don't empower stupid people, giving in to their ignorance and enabling them to perform acts of stupidity yet again. This act of stupidity caused embarrassment (it could have been worse) for the economist and delayed the flight an hour and a half. For more on this story, see: http://viewfromthewing.boardingarea.com/2016/05/07/economist-removed-american-airlines-flight-math/

Media outlets: please stop giving Donald Trump tons of free airtime at virtually the top of every news half hour. No other candidate has ever had so much coverage, nor been allowed to hold telephone interviews with your outlets back to back on the various networks. No candidate has been able to lie so blatantly and not been challenged on the lie. Please stop empowering stupidity on this highly dangerous level. Please stop allowing this individual to take advantage freely of the simmering frustrations of a group of people who have been left in many ways powerless. This has long been a favorite tactic of the elite when seeking the ensure the downtrodden didn't rise up against them. It worked for a Southern general of the Civil War who needed to make sure the poor who resented the fact that they could have had the jobs on plantations and fed their families had not slavery been in place would not rise up against the plantation owners and their government. Please guys, give us a week where the Donald isn't your lead story for some "trumped" up reason or other. For more, see: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/16/upshot/measuring-donald-trumps-mammoth-advantage-in-free-media.html?_r=0

I could go on to legislators pandering to base, stupid, bigoted ideas as an act of cultural warfare, but I've reached my limit for dealing with foolishness for one day.

Please, just stop empowering stupid people and stupid ideas. Let's empower learning, curiosity, social discourse, rational discourse, and other society building endeavors instead.

“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.” 
― George Carlin*
See Brainy Quotes for more.

My Retinal Tear: What You Should Know

I won't be flying for a month
and need to wear this until the bubble in my eye disappears.
Disclaimer: This is a personal experience post peppered with information I learned from my ophthalmologists (eye doctors or surgeon from here on out because those words are easier to spell). For medical facts, talk to the experts (the real live ones preferably).

Know this for starters: I am currently recovering from two emergency eye surgeries. Here's how it happened. I get aura migraines, which means I see the equivalent of sun glare in my eyes before the pain starts. When the glare disappears (you know, like the glare you get when the sun shines brightly off water or snow and dazzles your eyes), the pain begins. In my case, the glare didn't go away.

Ten years ago, my brother had a retinal tear and I learned the signs from him. So, I headed off to the eye doctors for a special visit. No tear was found but I was cautioned that didn't mean there would not be one. He was right ... although I'd wished he'd done one further test that happened later ... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The glare persisted, eyes open and eyes closed, located in the lower left of my left eye. When my eyes were closed the glare would slowly fade away. Then over a short time, things changed. The glare became a watery spot, a blurred place in my vision. This alternated back and forth between watery and fuzzy gray. When the fuzzy gray hit, I could see nothing but gray light in that area. Hold up my fingers in front of that area and only the tips outside the gray haze were visible.

I went back to the eye doctor's office quickly and had a full check up. At first it was thought to be a large floater (with age you get all sorts of company, floaters in your eyes included) I could see. Then the doctor decided on one further text, and I'm glad she did. It involved a very bright headlamp and a large handheld magnifier (ask for these if you suspect you have a tear). Sure enough, minutes later I had an appointment with a specialist for later that day.

Here's what were talking about when it comes to a retinal tear. It happens if you are nearsighted (especially really nearsighted) and have been on this earth for let's say five decades (or four in my brothers case). For the nearsighted, the eyeball isn't a ball, but an oblong shape. That makes it harder for the aging retina (attached to the back of your eye) to hang on, staying where it should and sending imagery from the outside world inside to your brain. As it ages, it can tear. Of course, if you play hard contact sports, you don't have to wait for fifty years to tear or fully detach a retina and can have this fun much earlier in life.

Okay, so it's off to the specialist. Now, let me say this, the procedures for a retinal tear or detachment can be scary, but don't put this off. Discomfort and being creeped out are nothing compared to permanent blindness in one eye. You'll get through this. If I can, you can, really! I want to commend the nursing staff. They were wonderful. The nurse who prepped me for surgery was upbeat and confident. Her mood was infectious and she made the procedure much easier to handle and me much more relaxed in dealing with it. The first day, my eye was photoed with equipment I've never seen before. It was like having your eye scanned. I saw the pictures later and they were fascinating. My eyes were dilated so a good look could be had by all, except me, eyes dilated and all. Then came six or so applications of a numbing agent (I was reassured when the nurse admitted to the same uncertainty I always have when asked if I think I'm numb yet ... how exactly do you know???). The surgeon came in and sketched out what he'd do for me. It was not my happiest moment as it involved two needles (very thin ones I was assured although I never saw them). In essence, I would receive a bubble in my left eye that would push the torn retina back into place. A second needle would then extract some excess fluid to keep the eye's pressure right. The best thing I was told was that the whole procedure would be completed in less time than it had taken to describe it and that proved correct. The surgeon was also correct in saying there would be pressure but no pain.

With the bubble in place, I was sent home. It's amazing what can be done to you and then you are sent off into the world like nothing happened.

I was lucky, the tear was in the upper left side of my eye (because the eye sends info into the brain in one orientation and the brain reverses it to see things right side up from the outside world, the apparent location of both the gray area and the bubble is reversed. That's why the trouble appeared to be in the bottom. That meant sleeping in a recliner with my head up and keeping my head up in a "neutral" position (shoe tying is interesting but really a person could do that with eyes closed so not as big a deal as one might think). That kept the bubble floating against the tear. That afternoon my eye was irritated for several hours (they gave me drops, used abundantly) by the sterilizing fluid they'd used to clean the area for surgery.

The next day was more interesting and intense. A surgical laser was used to, as the surgeon put it, "spot weld" the tear. This was more challenging as it took a lot longer to get the job done (and by that I mean somewhere between ten and twenty minutes ... or so I think as I was too distracted to look at my watch and time things). There was more pressure with this procedure and at times twinges that were uncomfortable but not exactly painful. It really was a weird feeling unlike any I've had before. The worst though was the disorientation. The light shining brightly from both the surgical headlamp and the laser was so bright after a few seconds I could no longer tell if my eye remained in the desired position required by the surgeon. I had to assume it was as I heard no different from him. The light was also so penetrating and distracting that if any imagery was coming in from my right eye, my brain was not processing that data at the level of my focused attention.

Still, after this procedure I was able to go home again. Unlike the first day, the muscles around my eye and on top of my head were offended by what had happened but some aspirin took care of that. This story is already longer than intended. Waiting for the follow up visit to receive the welcomed declaration that all had gone well and the retina was solidly restored to its original position was almost as challenging as anything else.

Long story short, if you get a bright lightning bolt across your vision, an aura that won't go away, or an area of your field of vision you can't see through well or at all, get yourself immediately to an eye doctor to have it checked out. This is nothing to mess around with and nothing to let fear get in the way of treatment. The surgeries are unlike anything else you've done, true. But they won't scar you for life and the experts treating you will handle you with all appropriate care. Best of all, corrected vision will return.  

Friday, May 13, 2016

NOSTALGIA Rode By: Classic Pedal Day San Francisco Schwinn Stingray Krate huffy murray

I was headed to work yesterday when a man rode by on something resembling a 1970s Schwinn Stingray. But it wasn't complete. Still, I was taken back to the day when that Schwinn was THE bike to have. I had a look-alike bike, but not the real thing. This guy had the low front tire, the big back, the high handlebars, the frame. But, after a moment, my reaction shocked me. I wanted to yell out, "Hey, get a banana seat and sissy bar on that thing!" If you lived that time, you'll get it. Nostalgia, it is strong with this one. Enjoy the video and have a great day.



For nostalgia from a decade earlier, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2010/09/gi-joe-commercial-1960s-hasbro.html and http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/04/captain-action-toy-commercial-from.html

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Potential for Habitable Worlds Just Improved

Trappist 1, a red dwarf star barely larger than Jupiter, apparently has three planets circling in close. That's good in this case. Small, dim, cool, Trappist 1 has a habitable zone snugged right up close to the star. There is a possibility for a habitable zone on one world at least, scientists suspect.

If this all proves out, then potential earths might be even more common, with many circling stars doing a very slow burn. Red dwarf stars burn low and slow, lasting far longer than our sun. Imagine a world with life around such a star. There'd be all sorts of time for intelligent life to develop there, perhaps several times as the eons drift by.

Keep your eyes on the skies. And for those dour party poopers who declare it is unlikely that two intelligent races will occupy anything like stars nearby during their lifetimes as time is long, space is vast, and extinction can come on suddenly ... well, guys, you've got a lot of work to do to prove that negative position. I'll take a more hopeful stance and wait for further news.

For the full story from NASA, see: http://www.nasa.gov/feature/promising-worlds-found-around-nearby-ultra-cool-dwarf-star

Science and Religion: Two Tools Quote


Here's a terrific quote from The Luminous Web about the compatibility of science and religion:
No scientific theory, including evolution, can pose any threat to religion--for these two great tools of human understanding operate in complementary (not contradictory) fashion in their totally separate realms: science as an inquiry about the factual state of the natural world, religion as a search for spiritual meaning and ethical values. ~Stephen Jay Gould
So relax and enjoy the awe and enlightenment each companionable realm of human understanding can provide.

For more on this book, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/05/science-and-religion-together.html

Kick Starting the Writing Habit Again

For a couple decades I wrote and edited books. I also wrote quite a few articles. However, since transitioning into my new field as a minister, I haven't had much time to write professionally. I was searching for a means to do so when a contest appeared in a Christian magazine I receive. It was a first person narrative piece focusing on a particular topic. Well, I've been in ministry long enough now to have a few stories and experiences relevant to the topic under my belt. I took on the project and found myself enjoying the process immensely. Now, truly, I don't care if I'm one of the published winners of this contest or not. I appreciated the opportunity to see if I could kick start the writing habit once again in a new field of endeavor.

Now, time to check out the possibilities and keep my creative juices flowing. I've taken my own advice. If you want to stick your toe into the waters of publication, new writers or returning writers, a contest is a great place to start. Having received an email acknowledging that my submission had arrived, I felt all the better about the process. Now, the old familiar waiting begins. 

Meaning Behind Inky the Octopus's Escape

Nope, not Inky
Back on April 13, 2016, the New York Times caught my attention with an article about a daring nighttime escape planned and executed flawlessly. It was the work of Inky, an octopus the National Aquarium of New Zealand just could not hold. One night, Inky took advantage of a small gap in his aquarium lid, dropped to the floor, crossed the room to a drain pipe, and made his way through 164 feet of narrow drainpipe to the sea.

I was astonished to find out that the only real limit an octopus has to the size of a hole or gap it can fit into is its one solid bit, the beak. If the beak fits, so follows the octopus (it's not a cat, so it doesn't sit if it fits). Inky made good his escape, Shawshank Redemption style. Inky's aquarium mate was not so freedom minded and remained behind in the tank.

We are not the only intelligent species on this planet of ours. Inky's successful exit more than proves that. I've read other stories of octopus antics that further drive this point home. But what really caught my notice was an opinion piece by a commentator on NPR. He noted that Inky was willing to give up the security of the tank, predator free as it was, along with free and regular meals, for the uncertainty of freedom in the sea, a sea filled with predators hungry for Inky's flesh and where food would only be obtained by the crafty octopus on the hunt. Inky chose freedom over security, life in the natural world over a lifetime (probably a longer lifetime) coddled by humanity.

Way to go, Inky!

Looks like we need to spend some more time with the intelligent others right here on planet earth before looking out to the stars. When we've wrapped our minds around all the other forms of intelligence right here, and found ways to make peace with them, and reconcile our place among them as part of this unique creation, then and only then will we be fit to encounter intelligence elsewhere.

For the New York Times article, see: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/14/world/asia/inky-octopus-new-zealand-aquarium.html?_r=0

For a companion post, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/05/religion-and-intelligent-aliens-survey.html

Religion and Intelligent Aliens? Survey Reaction

Yesterday on Facebook, one of those surveys that shows up with regularity appeared asking if religious faith would survive the discovery of intelligent life out in the universe. The assumption was that this would knock the whole idea of the special nature of humanity down, making us no longer the center of the universe, and that would lead many to a collapse of faith.

I find the question silly. The assumption that my faith makes me feel I'm at the center of creation is an antique assumption. For years I've reveled in any discovery that shows how much we have in common with the rest of creation. After watching one of those videos where people are their own worst enemies and do many stupid things on video, I believe the whole big brain and opposable thumb thing is highly overrated.

Looking at the comments (never a good idea or safe for your view of humanity), I found all sorts of folks who were of the "my way or the highway" persuasion, stating that whatever their point of view was all who disagreed with them are stupid and devolved.

I believe the question and premise are wrong (or at least long outdated). I believe the real question should be, Is your worldview inclusive enough to accept the idea of intelligent life elsewhere? From what I saw in the comments, there were plenty of folks of many different persuasions who simply couldn't handle another perspective on the universe. I believe if you can't handle all the different worldview prevalent on this one little planet, this tiny mote in the vastness of creation, you are not ready to handle life elsewhere.

It is long past time we spent our time and energy finding new ways to divide ourselves into ever smaller and more factious groups. We had better spend a lot more time and energy discovering what we have in common, making friends right here on planet earth with each other and all of creation, and then, perhaps, one day we'll be fit enough to face the reality of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.

Here's a book seeking unity rather than division: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/05/science-and-religion-together.html