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, February 1, 2016

Snow Removal 2016

When you have a whole season's worth of snow in one blizzard, it takes some heavy duty equipment to removed the piles left behind by the snow plows that did the original heavy lifting. So, they brought in a dump truck and a really serious piece of heavy lifting equipment. Thanks to all the dedicated men and women who worked so hard at the post blizzard recovery process. Your help is well and truly appreciated.

For more on the blizzard, see:, and

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Rebuilding the Starship Enterprise

The Smithsonian Institution is busy refurbishing the USS Enterprise from the original TV series. For years NCC 1701 hung proudly in the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum in a main floor display back in the museum's earlier years. Later, she warped down to the gift shop.

Now, the Enterprise finds herself in dry dock, being rebuilt by the able restoration crew of the Smithsonian, soon to fly proudly once again among the main floor displays. I took this picture of her as she once hung decades ago, back in the last millennium, when the show was in endless reruns on Channel 20 and quite possibly before the first Star Trek movie hit the big screens. I look forward to seeing her in her restored form.

For more, see: and

Why Kids Don't Shovel Walks: A Modest Proposal

After the big storm last Saturday, friends on Facebook were complaining that kids didn't come to their door seeking to shovel the walk and drive for cash. The conclusion was kids these days sure our lazy.

Well, I had to think about that. I don't believe that's true, surely not in most cases. I would say, kids these days are fearful, and they learned that from their families and society. From their youngest days, kids are taught not to speak with strangers. We adults are so busy these days, we don't know most of our neighbors. Even the people down the street are potentially scary strangers.

We don't want children playing together in the street, in the vacant lot, on the playground, in the woods, by the stream, all by themselves. We prefer they stay in organized sports or at home with the Xbox or Playstation or Wii, where they can be overseen by anxious adults. They have learned fear from us, and learned it well.

So, no, they won't go out looking for jobs in the neighborhood, among the strangers, away from home unsupervised. We've spent the rest of the year teaching them that's wrong. We are to blame.

In some cases, in some neighborhoods, such fear is warranted. That's the sad truth of the matter. The sadder truth is that in most cases, it is not. But we haven't taught them that. Our kids don't see the world that way.

Besides, whenever somebody remembers doing the shoveling when they were kids (back in the last millennium) they talk about earning $5 to $10 a job. That's not nearly enough to clear 2 feet of snow from a drive and a walk in the twenty-first century. Our kids are too SMART for that! 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Christianity and Science: William Bragg's Observation

Courtesy of NASA
Anyone who has read my blog before knows I believe science and my Christian faith go hand in hand. I have little patience for the fundamentalists of all stripes who say it must be belief all in one or the other, science or faith. Nonsense, I say. I agree with Sir William Bragg who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915. He stated:
Christianity and science are opposed but only in the same sense as that which my thumb and forefinger are opposed -- and between them, I can grasp everything.
Just make absolutely certain you've done your research when you attempt to use the wisdom from either sphere. Using the accumulated wisdom from science or Christianity without understanding will always lead to disaster.  

Question About Walls Arose During Blizzard

After blizzard Jonas swept through on Friday and Saturday, January 22-23, and we were digging out on Sunday, January 24th, I looked around and say walls of snow piled up in front of every house on the street. I asked myself "Why do politicians brag about how well they can build walls? Walls are easy. Bridges are hard." It's true. I'd like to see a lot more bridge building and outreach to our neighbors (in the religious sense, which means everyone) and a whole lot less fearful talk about needing walls to keep people out. Let's concentrate on fearless bridges and helping others instead of scaring ourselves into expensive walls on guns on every hip. 

Second version. Which do you like better?

Living with January 2016 Blizzard "Jonas"

Snow Falling
Driving home Friday evening, arriving 15 minutes before the snow started to fall, it was apparent this was going to be serious. A little after six in the evening it was as dark as midnight out there. Arriving safely, snugging my Yaris up against our van nose to nose (I highly recommend this approach as it both takes up a bunch of driveway you don't have to shovel but more to the point it puts the cars in the right position to jump a dead battery if that happens--when you own aging cars, you think of such things), we battened down the hatches, wondering if the storm was going to be as advertised.

One dark day full of snow
By 8 in the evening the snow was falling steadily. In the morning, yeah, it was obvious the weather folks had nailed this one. Where I live we got over 2 feet of the white stuff. Several times I went out there to shove snow off the old overhang over the back door so it wouldn't snap off. I have to say, I'm grateful our old house is well built. It weathered the storm beautifully. 

Saturday morning at 7:30 a.m. was one gray morning. The day remained gray and forbidding. My wife and I were happy to stay inside watching hapless news people stand out in rising snow and water (inland or shore) with yardsticks and wind burn. At the height of ridiculousness, the news team in the studio asked the reporter and his driver to try to interview people walking in the street afterwards to burn up extra time. Several times the reporter tried to end the interview and several times he was asked again to interview someone who just wanted to get about his or her business. 

Sharing our gratitude "God bless the kind
soul(s) who shoveled so much of this walk!" 
Sunday I was quite grateful to find a neighbor had shoveled a lot of my walk. By Monday a neighbor with a snow blower (a really big one) had come through and widened the trenches into actual sidewalks (thanks again). Showed my appreciation by mocking up a quick sign on an old, brittle piece of Plexiglas (that stuff really cuts into a pile of snow, let me tell you)! Being able to express gratitude to others (rather than whining about children not being out shoveling for you on Facebook) was a real uplifting experience. I hope those who helped got the message. 

We were far luckier than some. There were deaths in this blizzard up and down the East Coast. We had none. There was lots of property damage. We were spared. The city workers have been keeping the plows out day and night. They did a great job on our street yesterday, even clearing snow out in front of the driveway, something I expected to have to do today. I'm grateful. 

Snow trenches for sidewalks
All in all, Jonas left us with a full season's worth of snow, canceled church, closed businesses and schools, but left us individually largely unscathed. We pray for all those who were not so lucky. 

With the sun shining and blue skies out today, one thing to remember when the crises hit is that they do pass. There is calm after the storm, sun after the snow, neighbors helping each other cope, and much more socializing than usual as we all get out to look around after it's done. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

J.S. Brooks Top 10 Posts of December 2015

Here are the most popular posts of the last month, that rang out the old year.

From least to most popular (follow the links right to the articles:

1. Do NOT Let Work Rob You of Your Joy in 2016
2. Power of Diversity:
3. Technology Changing Our Surroundings (or What I Discovered at the Airport):
4. Filet of Soul in Downingtown, PA -- A Treasure (It really is, stop in if you are anywhere in the area!):
5. Resetting the Clock on Your Toyota Yaris (Ever practical):
6. Top 12 Blog Sites of 2014:
7. Turning Off the 2009 Toyota Yaris Maintenance Required Light (a hugely popular article among Toyota Yaris owners):
8. Skewering Pomp and Title (From the novel Master and Commander):
9. 10 Steps to Stress Reduction (Ever practical and needed):

And ... drum roll please ... the most popular post of December 2015 was ...

10. Toyota Yaris: Finding Your Jack and Tire Pressure Information:

Now, on with 2016!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Refusing to Remain Silent in Face of Politics of Hate

The world is currently awash in the politics of racial stereotypes, race hatred and fear. I refuse to sit idly by while minority groups of all sorts are tarred for the political advantage of one bigoted candidate or another. I refuse to remain silent and civil while media outlets better described as propaganda machines spew this hatred and these lies for no better reason than to gain a ratings advantage and a bigger share of the blood money pie. This tactic has long been with us. Sadly, this is so because it is so effective among the most fearful people.

I despise watching a political rally descend into a hate-fest that turns violent when anyone has the "temerity" to have a different point of view. I am appalled at the fact that in some cases physical abuse has been heaped upon such demonstrators standing up for their minority group against the lying racial stereotypes presented against them. I'm sick of the results in which bigots feel empowered to spread their hatred as a result.

I will never vote for any candidate who would stoop so low. They have taken an evil path and we must not follow them down that road. To do so leads to ever increasing violence ... and eventually to dirty bloody hands yourself, eventually wondering how you ever reached such a low point or did such an awful thing.

Looking back on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Letter From a Birmingham Jail, in which he rakes moderate pastors over the coals for not standing up against violence against African-Americans, what he says applies to all of us today. Two examples of Rev. Dr. King, Jr.'s complaints are powerful and relevant today:
You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative. 
You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.
I highly recommend you read the entire letter here:

Do not sit idly by, trying to be civil, while hateful lies are spread, while bigotry runs rampant in the US and around the globe. Let's stop the next round of bloody, bigoted hatred in its tracks now! Do not be silenced by the loud, strident, attacking voices will rise against you. Stand up for those under attack and demand this evil come to a halt.

Another site you might visit is Journal for Preachers and see that over 2400 Christian theologians and pastors are calling for this kind of hate speech, followed by violence, to stop. See:

Thursday, January 7, 2016

What Gains Respect?

Let's look at a standard definition: respect: a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.

Respect is something that is earned. You cannot simply apply something, strap an object to your hip, or buy something and have respect garnered for you by others. If you want respect in your community, find ways to work with others. Find ways to reach out a helping hand. Go the extra mile for a suffering individual or group in your community. Stand up publicly for people who are being downtrodden or who society at large has written off. Assist the poor, befriend the outcast, work with the sick, the weak, with those who cannot defend themselves. Work with your family and friends to create civil society, which begins at home. All of these things, plus a generous spirit, a strong sense of humor, and great hope will, in time, allow you to earn the respect of others.

I was surprised the other day to hear an open carry enthusiast state that a gun on the hip would gain him the respect of his community. I'm sorry, that is not so. Carrying around a means of self defense that may cause great harm to you or others, when others do not know you, your training, or your intent ... and definitely not your mood or sanity on any given day ... is far more likely to garner you suspicion or fear or resentment ... or have you facing the gun of a criminal who appreciates the gun you are carrying and wants it for himself (this happened the other day). Again, respect must be earned. Respect comes through service, where one shows one's qualities and abilities. People will appreciate the achievements you gain on their behalf. That's real respect.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Blog Style Influenced by Hee Haw! Who Knew? The Five Minute Response

I had the privilege of hearing an NPR interview with Roy Clarke, one of the a pickin' and a grinnin' stars of the long-lived Hee Haw TV show. He admitted he never expected the country humor filled variety show to last. Further, he stated that if you didn't like what you were seeing, just wait a minute and you'd see something completely different.

This blog reflects both that feeling and that philosophy. Thanks Hee Haw for the improbable template. This thing is nowhere near as popular, but I'm having fun, so that works. Congrats on all those years of countrified goofiness.

And that's the five minute response.