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, October 23, 2014

Writer's Corner: Coping with Critics

This post is particularly directed at new writers. You have worked long and hard to finish a work of some sort ... article, opinion piece, short story, novel, you name it. Your dream has come true and some newspaper, magazine, publisher has picked it up. Your work hits the presses. It is a very exciting time. You are walking on clouds and loving writing more than ever.

Then it happens. Your baby sent out for readers to enjoy meets the critic. Someone out there doesn't like some aspect of what you have done. They are letting you ... or the world ... know about it. Now, here's what to do. Sit down, take deep breaths, and try to relax. Try not to take it personally. Let the feelings of pain, panic, and grief wash over you and know, really know, that you are not alone. Everyone who has ever written, who has ever performed, who has ever done anything for the public has suffered as you are suffering. You are not alone. Do NOT hurt yourself over this. The pain will diminish in time and you will be stronger for it. Really. You will learn how to cope with this. I can tell you quite honestly, the first time my first book received a bad comment, it made me sick. I went home and to bed. But, I got over it.

Here's what you can do. Once the emotional pain has subsided, go back to the critic's message and try to examine it for what it is and who sent it. Is there anything there that is useful? Is the critic a knowledgable pro from whom you can really learn? Had you overlooked something in the writing, something missed by you, your editor (it happens, nobody can know everything and we're all human), anyone else involved in the process? If so, you can fix it later or file it for future use in other work. This will make your writing better and your skin thicker for future critics. If there is no merit to the complaint, forget about it. We live in an age of trolls, those strange creatures compelled to comment on things they no nothing about and who wish to do so with great emotion (weird). You may need to get a friend who knows your work to help you see if there is any merit to the critique the first time through.

In a number of cases, you may discover the critic is just plain wrong. Or you may find you are living in a period where critics are compelled to find something wrong with everything and make mention of it. You'll need to decide if the critique has merit and what you should do about it. Also, remember this. You are a person of worth and talent. You are worth more than whatever the price of that work you created cost the reader and that price does not give any reader, any critic unlimited access to you and your life. You don't come that cheap. Good luck with your future writing. You'll get through this. We all do.

Writer's Corner: You May Not End Up Where You Expected

Writing is at times a mysterious artform. You don't always end up where you expected when you started the process. Sitting down, you thought you knew where this story, article, or sermon would end up, what form it would take, what outline it would follow. The notes you took, the backstory you created, the strategies you employed all said you would be headed off down one particular path. And yet, somewhere along the line, your story, your article, your narrative, your sermon decided to misbehave and take you elsewhere. Now, you have choices to make. You can go where you are being led. You can force the misbehaving material back on track. Or you can abandon the project in anger, mutter imprecations, and go do whatever you do to soothe frazzled nerves.

Forcing things back on a particular track is not a good idea. Now, admittedly, you have to consider who you are writing for, the nature of the deviation, and the expectations of your client or audience before making a final decision. However, if the nature of the unexpected change of course is not catestrophic to your topic or your thesis, then forcing may be the wrong way to go.

Abandoning the project is not a helpful option ... unless you discover your research is dead wrong, your thesis is in error, or your storyline has holes in it big enough to fly a starship through. Then going for ice cream might be appropriate. Learning from that bitter exercise will come ... in time.

So, go with it. See where that unexpected change takes you. You are likely to make the happy discovery that your work is better for it. Bits and pieces have been coming together as you worked. Connections you didn't realize where there get made and the work improves. This is why you cannot work out any writing in your head alone. You can't map it all out before you sit down and start the work. Allow the happy discoveries and changes in course develop and see where you go. Good luck.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Slice O' Life: From Order to Use in Tiny Window . Hard to Believe It Worked!

I was hosting a meeting the other night. Powerpoint and a projector would make a useful combination to get things moving. I researched projectors, settled on the Epson EX5230 with 3500 lumens for the church environments where I will be using it. You can understand that as rooms with lots of windows and lights. But, this isn't about the projector (which for someone used to slide projectors of yore, works amazingly well), it's about the order.

I went to Staples, where these projectors resided ... or so I thought. That was a mistake. You could order the projectors in the brick and mortar building, receive an online discount, and have the item delivered for free. It was the day BEFORE the meeting. I was dismayed to make this discovery, asked if anyone else might have them in stock, the worker gave an uncertain, apologetic shrug, and I had a decision to make.

I asked how long it would take to deliver said projector. "We can have it to you tomorrow by 4 in the afternoon was the response." Now, I don' t usually gamble, but that day I did. I placed the order, received my receipt, and walked away feeling less than confident in the outcome. Still, I went home, created my Powerpoint presentation, and felt a little foolish. I pulled together physical props in case the projector never showed and made ready one way or the other.

The day of the presentation, I was tense. The hours crawled by slowly. Then, at 3:45 PM, the office doorbell rang and there was the delivery man, probably my age or a little older who refers to me as "young man" with an Epson box under his arm. I signed, rushed the projector into my office, and folloinw the easy setup instructions, had the device working in 15 minutes. I was ... and still am ... amazed it all worked out. The meeting went wonderfully. The projector worked perfectly. I intend to follow up with the online instruction manual to learn more about it now that there's time. It's an amazingly different world we live in today. I don't recommend my approach. It's bad on the nerves and requires serious backup planning ... but it worked.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Top 10 Most Annoying ...

I've been away a while now. My new career limits my time significantly. Sometimes, that's annoying. Speaking of annoying, here are links to a wide variety of the top ten most annoying things. What would you add to the list???

Top 10 Annoying Phrases:

Top 10 Annoying Facebook Tactics:

Top 10 Annoying Things About Plane Travel:

Top 10 Most Annoying Online Gamers:

Top 10 Annoying Homeschool Questions:

Most Annoying Academic CV Errors (only 7, what are you going to do???):

Most Annoying Travel-bragging Facebook Posts:

Top 100 Annoying Job Interview Questions:


Top Most Annoying Email Habits:

WOW! We have a whole lot to be annoyed about! This is just a sample! Some of the annoyances were way too specific and ... well, weird ... for inclusion here. Still, what is annoying YOU these days???

Bonus round: Most Annoying People on the Internet:

For me, personally, the most annoying of the annoying is the online troll who comments on posts and videos he/she has not read and/or does not have the education to understand. Without appropriate knowledge and lacking any sort of hubris or filter, he/she plunges ahead with canned challenges and questions that aren't truly questions but are designed solely to belittle and/or prove his/her superiority. Because of such folks, and my time restrictions, I have cancelled peoples' abilities to comment on my Google+ sites, particularly the one for my church blog. It's a shame, but necessary. Wow, how that annoys me!

Orion: I’m on Board – Nichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols, Lt. Uhura on Star Trek in the late 1960s, promotes NASA's newest spacecraft, Orion. As mentioned in the clip, she last did this for NASA decades ago when the organization was seeking astronauts for their space shuttle during its final stages of development. It is wonderful to see her spanning the decades of spaceflight like this.

For more Star Trek connections with the space shuttles, see: and

For more on the Orion space capsule, see:

For a post on the space capsule, see:

For advances in spaceflight, see:

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Meaning Is Tricky

We are an irritated people these days. We seem divided on EVERYTHING. Part of the problem may be that we just don't understand each other's meaning as clearly as we think we might.

For example, if you are of a certain age, TMI will never mean too much information, but will forever be Three Mile Island, the nuclear plant that gave us such a scare back in the day.

All those little magnetized ovals for cars featuring initials for various island beauty spots ... well, those are easily misidentified by those who never go to such islands. For me, when I see OBX, I do not see Outer Banks (especially since there is no X present) but OBNOXIOUS. Sorry, it is no statement on the island, those who live there, and those who love it for vacation ... it is just what comes first to mind ever since I didn't know what it stood for. My wife sees "OUT OF THE BOX" in the same OBX.

We've all seen the misunderstandings that take place (often generationally, yes) when commonly used acronyms online are not correctly understood, like the mother who informs family via email or phone that a favorite aunt has died and ends it with LOL, thinking it means lots of love.

We haven't even approached the misunderstandings that come from growing up in different regions, different cultures, different neighborhoods, different races, different genders, you name it. There are just so many ways and so many times when we are rubbing each other the wrong way, and we don't even mean to ... really. So, why don't we all walk a little more gently with each other. Community is a beautiful thing that we were meant for (now how are you going to interpret that from your background ... or belief system) and we should encourage it to grow. Let's not be instantly reactive with each other. Let's listen more, ask for more information when needed, and approach each other with the idea that we might actually learn something from the other person. Let's set aside the need to "win" every encounter, turning every conversation into a meaningless, mindless contest and every issue a black and white, win or lose only proposition. Most of all, let's be mindful that meaning is tricky. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Changing Names When "Heritage" or "Tradition" No Longer Fit

There comes a time when people need to revisit their "heritage" and take "tradition" down off the pedestal for a closer look. Such is the case for western Maryland's "Negro Mountain." See this link for all the details:

To make a long story short, in the 1750s, this mountain received its name ... and that name actually was "Negro Mountain" just as it appears today on the signs. It was named in tribute to a slave who, during the French and Indian Wars, sacrificed his own life to save a number of white settlers from a Native American attack. Now, our heroic slave could not have his name applied to the mountain in tribute because he was a slave, someone's property, and you just didn't name things for property in the 1750s. That was traditional, that was heritage and everybody followed it. In 2011, government decided perhaps it was time to revisit heritage and tradition. Perhaps centuries later we could honor the man for his deed by naming the mountain for him. His name was "Nemesis." How could anyone NOT want to have a Mount Nemesis in their state? Unfortunately, a tedious divide developed between urban folks and rural folks. Urban legislators saw the wisdom in the renaming. Rural legislators rattled the tired old bones of tradition and heritage. Leave our maintain alone. Worry about your city folk violence and drugs. It's a sad story, pathetic really in the 21st century.

In 1 Corinthians 13, in a remarkable examination of what love is and is not, the apostle Paul states:

8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror, dimly,* but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

I think it is time for us all to put an end to childish ways, to grow up a little, to let go of hurtful names and nicknames. As for me, I'm putting away the name of the football team I grew up with. I'm calling for Dan Snyder and his organization to put an end to the name "Redskins" for something more respectful to all, something that hurts no one. Tradition and heritage have their place ... just not when they inflict pain using cruel slurs or disrespect a man who sacrificed his life for others because in the 1750s the tradition was you couldn't use his name. We need to grow up. We need to be better than that.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Cover Art Sending Mixed Signals ... Revival or Zombies???

Every once in a while, you come across a cover that is striking ... but in a way unintended originally. This book speaks to church revival strategies in the 1960s. The illustration is intended to remind people of Ezekiel 37, the vision of God reviving the lost nation of Israel .., as lacking in vitality and strength as a valley of dry bones. It's a good idea, a strong image in words of revival ... but seen in light of today, the image comes across as odd, especially in an age when people are fascinated with zombies. I find the image very striking ... but not quite what I'd like to see happen in my church, thank you very much. This is no aspersion on the author or the author's work. It is amusing that the background color is purple (yes, a long standing royal color) as in one of his works of horror Stephen King tells us that purple is the color that sells more scary books than any other.

However, here's the original text from the book of Ezekiel in the Bible. It is striking imagery that has stuck with me since childhood. Again, I never imagined it looking quite like this book cover!

Ezekiel 37:1-14: The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.” So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,” says the Lord.

For another zombie related post, see:

For a fiction book where this cover art would be strangely, weirdly appropriate, see:

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Assisting in the Ebola Outbreak Crisis

A friend of mine in ministry, originally from Liberia who has family and friends in the "ebola" belt, has lost a good friend and doctor back home. He succumbed to this dread disease while trying to fight it.

This is an incredibly serious outbreak threatening to spread like wildfire. The projections for infection and death are terrifying. Here is what has been done in the US, according to the White House, if you wish to read it:

There are organizations we can get behind to help. UNICEF, Doctors without Boarders, Samaritan's Purse are all seeking donations in the fight against this dread disease. A quick Google search will bring you others. Be careful to choose well.

We can also push our politicians to do more, to be more proactive in this cause. It has been predicted that 1.4 million may be dead by winter. Join organizations that are pushing for more robust help from our governments. It certainly beats other expenditures I can think of! Add your name to their growing list of names to be delivered together. Hey, send your own letter and email as well.

I don't want my friend to lose more friends and family back home. In hundreds of years, I don't want children playing some rhyming game like ring around the rosy in memory of this ebola outbreak. Let's work to stop this now.

Ring Around the Rosy ... and Zombies

I was wondering, given the fascination with all things zombie today, if anyone has noticed a change in the behavior of young children? Now, we all know that the children's game "Ring around the rosy"  is purported to be a remnant of the Black Death. Far from pleasant, but kids enjoy the rhyme and the falling down, so the game lives on. But, since it apparently IS about death, and they do all fall down, do they now all get back up, stagger around groaning, and demanding BRAINS? That would seem to be the next logical step in the game, don't you think?