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 24, 2014

Georgia's New Gun Law ... Are We Truly Insane?


On April 23, 2014, Georgia's governor signed into law a bill allowing for guns to be carried in "some" school zones, churches, government buildings (watch the legislation you guys pass now), bars (there's a really good idea!),  and certain airports. Welcome to the new and ever increasing level of lunacy in these United States.

I will give you only one example of why this is wrong and ridiculous. In a friend's church, just the other day, during the funeral service for a 19 year old, gun shots rang out in the sanctuary. Several people were injured and everyone was traumatized during an already difficult situation. I suppose the thinking is that if everyone was armed to the teeth ... what, instant revenge and vigilante justice could be imposed within the walls of God's house? How many would be cut down in that crossfire? How obscene and stupid is this law? Very.

As to the argument, if more people were armed, fewer would die as gun violence would be deterred ... well, explain Fort Hood Military Base and it's two horrid shootings five years apart. You'd think a military base would be an extremely safe place, given this theory. Further, with all the guns on a battle field, by this way of thinking, no one should ever be injured.

Given the law passed in Georgia, I think I'll stay away from that state. I don't trust the leadership's ability to think straight and given this evidence of what passes for logic today, I really doubt any of us are safer. Sorry to piss you all off today but ... well, join the club.

At this point, I really do wonder about our sanity. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What Not to Do When Feeling Blue

When we are emotionally exhausted, physically weak, or just feeling a real case of the blues, that's no time to undo a decision made when in a better state. It is no time to act out, be reactionary, or follow our lesser natures with anger toward anything or anyone. Keep from burning bridges with others, walking away from an ongoing project or situation, or quitting until rested and more level headed.

Most of the time, when we are down, the responses we have will be sharply negative and colored with emotions so dark they are not to be trusted. Our fuzzy, hurting, perhaps weeping selves will be telling us tales of woe and viewing reality in a way so bent, we cannot put much stock into what we are receiving. In those times, wait it out. We also need to do for ourselves what we put off when we were feeling better. We need to rest, to stop pushing, to do something good for ourselves ... or something necessary if this state of mind and body goes on for too long. Get help if necessary. It is not a weak thing to do but a strong one, for it is hard to admit help is necessary, especially in a culture that has made an idol of self sufficiency and pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. Feeling this way, there is little strength for bootstrap pulling and we actually need the support of others to help ride this out and give us a little perspective our frazzled minds are incapable of producing.  

However, one thing we can do is file away the feelings and thoughts generated for review when feeling ourselves again. There may be some real issues in need of attention that came out during those dark hours or days. Thoughtful, well-planned action may be required ... in time.

Best of luck. Feel better soon.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Women as Ministers? Yes! Stop Making Case Specific Teachings Universal

I joined Linked In the other day at the request of some friends already involved there. There were several ministry-related sites there recommended and I joined three. I was quickly disappointed with one site where the first question I saw was whether women should be ministers according to biblical standards. Sadly, annoyingly, the consensus there was no room in the pulpit for women. The verses focused on were penned under Paul's name and the verse in particular spoke of ministers and their wives. How can you have a woman as a minister when ministers were to have wives? This is a very Pharisee way of parsing verses, sticking to the letter and not the spirit of the law, something Jesus railed against many times. This verse was written in a letter to a particular people, in a particular patriarchal culture, at a very specific point in time. Like other verses, one needs to determine what is a universal truth and what is a case specific issue being addressed. I am not going to get into specific verses here as this whole issue annoys me and I'm not interested in arguing letter.

To say because the verse reads minister and wife that no other possibility may occur is to negate the roles of any preacher or priest who is unmarried, divorced, widower ... In this logic such individuals, no matter how talented or called, must step aside. This is odd logic considering the author of the letter is considered to be an unmarried man.

As for women keeping silent, not teaching men, again an example easily explained as case specific to the churches involved. Women of the time, becoming very excited about the faith, but totally untrained, were causing disruption in services. Paul addressed this. Not a universal issue, especially since among Paul's retinue of fellow pastors were women, who were to be treated with respect when they arrived.

There are also a great many powerful women recorded in the Bible taking on leadership roles or acting as the first evangelists to their people after encountering Jesus ... and with great success I might add. I think that tells you more about the spirit of the law.

There are a great many case specific passages in both the Old and New Testaments. We no longer concern ourselves with what animal to sacrifice at the altar or how to build the temple itself in accordance with Old Testament instruction. All of this reminds me a great deal of the running argument between Paul and the budding Church in Jerusalem over what would be required of Gentiles joining the faith. We are all fortunate Paul won that argument.

One thing this group said that proves correct is that many churches still feel women should not be ministers. I disagree of course and have been ministered to by some wonderful women preachers among the American Baptists. My life and my understanding of the faith would be poorer without them.

Finally, if you seek to capture the younger more dynamic people in today's society, you might as well give up this letter of the law, Pharisee's approach. Give up on the "it's not what I say but what the Bible says" fall back. They have neither the time nor the patience for this sort of argument. They have in large part already figured where they stand on a great many issues ... and they have left a great many churches behind in the process. Am I advocating putting aside the letter to capture the culture ... or am I suggesting where the active, living God is calling us to be in the world today? Decide quickly. Time may be shorter than you think. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Welcome to the Choice of Palm Sunday

Today Christians celebrate Palm Sunday, the day Jesus rode into the capital city of Israel, where David had brought the Ark of the Covenant, the footstool of God, and Solomon had built the Temple for God, and shattered expectations. The Israelites had come to the city for Passover. Visions filled their minds of Moses and God extracting them from slavery in Egypt and brought them into the promised land. Now, the people of Israel were eager for a new conquering Messiah, a warrior King who could free them from the oppression of Rome ... and any other threat that might come to light.

Jesus begins his entry into the city in Bethphage, an outermost village of the city, the farthest city from which bread could be baked for use in the Temple, on a donkey, a nursing mother donkey trailing her

 colt behind her. He was given a king's triumphal procession by disciples and followers, who placed cloaks and palm leaves on the road before him. While they cried out Hosanna to the Son of David, or Save Us Son of David! they declared his royal lineage. In Jerusalem there was confusion. Who was this? Could a true Messiah come to town riding a symbol of peace rather than a war horse as they had hoped. Could a Messiah be a prince of peace arriving without legions of troops to depose Rome? Could a true Messiah overturn the market stalls in the Temple that kept Gentiles away from God? Could a real Messiah spend his time around a high holy holiday proclaiming all that was wrong with Jerusalem and her religious leadership?

The people of Jerusalem were tasked with seeing if they could adjust their expectations from those of a warrior Messiah to a King of Peace. It is the same task all believers face today. In a society that proclaims might makes right and cries out that individuals must arm themselves and take the law into their own hands in the face of evil while the state amasses the largest military of all time ... Jesus calls us to the life of peacemakers, breaking down barriers that divide people, reaching out a helping hand to strangers and enemies alike, working to end the injustices of our world just as he worked to end the injustices of his. What choice will you make?

Wishing you a blessed Palm Sunday, Easter, and life. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Pecan Pie Bars: MAKE THEM!!!

Do you love pecan pie? Are you sad when it is so quickly gone? Well, reader, now there is relief from the agony of the disappearing pie. Introducing the pecan pie bars, 36 little square wonders from a single recipe. They taste just like the pie ... but satisfy oh so many more people. According to the recipe, prep time is 20 minutes and cooking time 45. So in 1 hour and 5 minutes, you can be satisfying your desire for pecan pie, and making friends and family happy too.

Like everything else (almost), you can find the recipe online. Here's the address for the recipe we tried, my wife and I, last night: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/pecan-pie-bars-i-2/

Give it a try. Make yourself happy!

Friday, April 11, 2014

21st Century Church in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, Invites Community to Feast


The 126 year old Lansdowne Baptist Church, in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, hosts their annual "Feasting With Friends" dinner from 1 to 3 PM on Saturday April 12, 2014. Roughly 100 people, many suffering from food insecurity issues, will dine with church members tomorrow, sharing fellowship and coming to understand a little better the two greatest Christian commandments, love God and love neighbors. Local stores have contributed generously to this dinner, which we greatly appreciate. It is marvelous to see what we can accomplish when we work together.

This is part of what it means to be the church in the new century. The focus is on supporting the community, showing people who are struggling that Christianity has much to offer them. In the months and years ahead, this church will be supporting its community in a great many ways, becoming a true community church as God is calling us to be. It is an exciting adventure in which we are eager to participate, bringing light, love, and good news to our community with our sleeves rolled up, ready to work side by side with our neighbors to make life better.

I for one am excited to see what comes next ...

Examining Wasted Resources in Abandoned Structures for Earth Day

Take a quick tour of the Internet and you can find stories about abandoned structures everywhere, ranging from houses to factories, penal institutions to hospitals. Driving through a city a while back, I passed a row of mansions long abandoned to rot in a former wealthy neighborhood.

In my last career, I edited several books on exploring urban ruins. I have to say, in the institutional settings, I was shocked to see the massive equipment still in place within the rotting structures. Massive metal furnaces, boilers, heavy machinery, and in hospitals large pieces of medical equipment that ... had they been removed and refurbished at the time ... would have been welcomed in struggling countries, despite their age. It is incredibly wasteful and I doubt we can afford that anymore. If we are trying to get oily residues from sand and shale, we might want to rethink leaving behind steel, iron, wood and more to rot. We should strongly consider for Earth Day this year how these materials could be recaptured and repurposed or recycled. Back during World War II, a portion of the 25 acre Stetson factory complex was scrapped to create a more streamlined factory system in Kensington, in Philadelphia. The papers reported that the steel from the scrapped structures, which was sent to the war effort, was the equivalent of numerous tanks or a battleship. At that point, you can be sure that steel was reused to keep the world free from Nazi rule.

It is time to take back the abandoned factories, hospitals, shopping malls, offices, and homes and remove their usable materials or repurpose the structures if they are fit for reuse with the equipment present. There are just too many of us and our resources are too limited to act as if we can simply use and discard anything and everything in favor of the newest model. It is past time to get serious on this issue.

Take a look at this site on abandoned shopping malls to get a taste of what disturbs me in our wasteful society. There are far too many useful materials present in these structures to leave them moldering away: http://www.urbanghostsmedia.com/2010/09/dead-malls-9-abandoned-arcades-markets-and-shopping-centres/

On a brighter note, I have also edited several books on reusing industrial structures and barns as beautiful and unique homes. Some of this work is being done, but we have a long way to go.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

What Tragedy of Flight MH370 Says About Technology and Trash

Before I begin, first let me say how much my heart goes out to all those waiting to hear with finality about what became of their friends and loved ones aboard the ill-fated, mysterious flight of Malaysian Airlines MH370. I pray for you all.

That said, this disaster tells us much about the state of our technology and, even worse, about just how all-pervasive our trash has become. In the first instance, we had come pretty close to thinking that in the Western world our technology allowed us to track anyone or anything anywhere. Then MH370 stops broadcasting and takes a sudden turn from the expected course ... and a Boeing 777 is lost. That's not a small aircraft ... but the world is huge and our technology is not as all encompassing as we might imagine. For some, this realization will be a relief ... for others a nightmare.

In the trash department, how many obscure locations have been fruitlessly searched for aircraft debris when something was observed floating in one remote location or another. What we quickly discovered to our dismay is that we humans have left debris of our throw away cultures everywhere in the world, no matter how isolated ... and some of it of considerable size.

We are headed for Earth Day this month. I think we might want to resolve to work harder to eliminate debris from our world more aggressively after this experience. Trash is like roaches. What you see is only a small piece of the problem.

Here's hoping this experience is humbling enough to motivate us to make a difference.

For a related post, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-earth-is-large-and-our-control-is.html

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Saturn's Moon Enceladus May Be Best Candidate for Life Off Earth

Southern Polar Ocean of Enceladus as envisioned by NASA based on Cassini probe date.
Image courtesy of NASA
The Cassini space probe in orbit around Saturn, conducting multi-year studies of the complex system of rings and moon around the gas giant, plus the dynamic planet itself, through some fancy maneuvers has determined there is an ocean under the icy surface of the 300+ miles across moon. Having pondered the water geysering from the south pole, and what mechanism caused it, the tug on the passing spacecraft has led scientists to believe that there's an ocean under all that ice. There is a rocky core this ocean, all six miles deep of ocean, rubs up against with all sorts of potential for chemical reactions that could lead to life. With the plumes flying from the ocean, the right spacecraft with the proper sampling tools could perhaps determine if there was life in the ocean located 19 to 25 miles below the icy surface. It's worth a look if we ever get our national finances and politicians in order! Stay tuned.

For more, especially about critical elements found in the plumes that are essential for life, see the article from my friends at Universe Today: http://www.universetoday.com/110966/cassini-spacecraft-confirms-subsurface-ocean-on-enceladus/

For a nifty video about planets outside our solar system, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/02/sciencecasts-sudden-multiplication-of.html

Monday, March 31, 2014

Ridding Your Computer of the Unwanted Outfox TV Program

You were downloading some free program for your PC type computer. In my case it was a copy of Real Player. Read everything carefully when downloading such programs. Pause before checking any boxes that pop up during the installation process. One may be for a program called Outfox TV. You will feel outfoxed once it is settled into your computer. Don't feel too awful about it. In some cases, it enters unbidden, no boxes needing to be checked in the installation of the intended freeware.

Outfox TV puts up a tab on your search engines with various TV programs available and starts running immediately. It is truly annoying. Fortunately it is not actually a malicious virus (or unfortunately as your antivirus software protecting your computer might detect it otherwise and remove it). Unfortunately, it acts like one. It brings up an unwanted selection bar down one side of your screen as well. Worst of all, it cannot be easily removed. Every time I tried removing it with the standard uninstall program, it would get 3/4 of the way finished and stall out. It would say it was in the process of removing the program, but it would not actually remove the program.

So, checking online I discovered a number of solutions involving placing your computer in safe mode and rooting Outfox TV out, one system at a time. That was beyond any level of complexity I was comfortable working with on my computer. Ironically, another site told me of a free downloadable program ... a legit free program (I researched it), and my antivirus program assured me it was safe, called Revo Uninstaller. This program roots deep down into your computer and helps you remove all of this unwanted and annoying program. Be careful when you use Revo as later in the process you'll be asked to check (click) all the bolded items in the program tree, which are identified as Outfox TV, for removal. There is a select all button there that you do not want to use. Only check the bolded Outfox TV items. Otherwise, you could lose much more than you intended and have a brand new problem.

You can find both the free and professional version of Revo Uninstaller at http://www.revouninstaller.com/revo_uninstaller_free_download.html

Good luck freeing your computer!

Update, 4/5/14: To rid your Google Chrome browser of the Outfox TV tab, go to the far right of the opening screen. Click on the 3 bar icon in the far right corner. Select Settings. Scroll to the bottom and select Advanced Settings. Scroll down to the bottom of Advanced Settings and click on Reset Browser Settings. So long Outfox TV!