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

Sunday, July 26, 2015

NASA’s Kepler Mission Discovers Bigger, Older Cousin to Earth

Here it is, Kepler 452b, our larger, older cousin, 60% larger than ours, with double our gravity, and estimated to be 6 million years old. This planet would show a lot about our own world as it continues to evolve. Settled well in its habitable zone, this planet (believed to be rocky in composition) is a great candidate for life. Having had more time for evolution to work, this planet's life could be quite complex. This is very exciting news and NASA now believes the number of potential earth-like planets in our own galaxy is huge.

Fire up the warp drive, jump to hyperspace, we've got places to explore, to boldly go, seeking out new life and new civilizations.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Another Earth? Suspense Over Noon NASA News Conference

The first extra-solar planet was discovered in 1995. It is hard to remember when we did not know if there were other planets in the galaxy, but I grew up in that time. The pessimists felt our solar system was unique. Today, we know that is patently untrue. However, there is a holy grail of planet hunting: finding another earth. Today's announcement at noon EDT ... well, this may be a huge moment in history. We shall see.

For the announcement from NASA of upcoming coverage, see:

I'll be listening. How about you?

For the announcement that came (in part), see:

Monday, July 20, 2015

Arguments I Won't Read

Looking through my various news feeds, I have come to a decision. I will no longer waste time reading articles that begin with personal attacks on other people and groups. Name calling will be an immediate red flag for me that an article is not worth my time. As a reporter added a while back, anyone who brings the Nazis into an argument (accusing someone of acting like one) has lost the battle too.

The name calling tactic, which has become increasingly popular in adult circles (although it should have been abandoned when we left the elementary school playground behind), is used to both distract from facts (which may be few and far between) and to bludgeon a civilized opponent into shocked silence. This is nothing new. Socrates wrote long ago: "When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser." These days, however, many don't wait until they have lost and jump straight into slander as an opening gambit.

This tactic also flies in the face of several of the finer points of conducting a solid, civil argument in which either side might learn something new and see something from a different perspective. The most basic is that this tactic frequently hides the fact that the person launching this aggressive "offensive" is short on, well, facts. Also, in a civil argument, each side comes into the encounter admitting that there is a possibility they could be wrong on the matter and might have their minds changed. Additionally, in a good argument each party attempt to befriend the other so no harm is done. Finally, each side dedicates him or herself to listening to the other actively, taking in what that person has to say, and then responding with reason, fact by fact, perhaps even with questions. The idea is not to belittle the other person, slander them into silence, or anger them into violence, but to engage in an active discussion, fact for fact, detail for detail, and see if someone's mind is change and common ground is established.

I think I'll apply the same rule to any article that begins with gross generalizations tarring whole groups with undeserved accusations that do not fit the people/group as a whole. Most of all, I'll try to apply this standard to my own writing. We'll see where that goes.

Here's to a revival of civil argument leading to deep thinking and perhaps changed minds ... and new friendships. All of that has to beat the present alternative, I would imagine

For an article on arguments, see:

The Prophet Ezekiel Spoke to a Leadership Problem Relevant Today

During research for a recent sermon, I came across the prophet Ezekiel speaking out against the leadership of Israel. It speaks of God's complaint against those who were supposed to be taking care of their people, but were instead feathering their own nests. It reads, in Ezekiel 34:1-6: 

The word of the Lord came to me: 2Mortal, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel: prophesy, and say to them—to the shepherds: Thus says the Lord God: Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. 4You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them. 5So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and scattered, they became food for all the wild animals. 6My sheep were scattered, they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill; my sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with no one to search or seek for them.

This was written around the early 570s B.C., but speaks to the problems we are having with leaders equally well in the twenty-first century. In fact, I would suggest we have here a standard to hold our leaders to as we head into the next presidential election season. We can ask ourselves which leaders are meeting the high standards of strengthening the weak, healing the sick, binding up the injured, bringing back the strays, seeking the lost, and foregoing the uses of harshness and force to get their way. Who among our future leaders are more concerned with drawing us together as a united people oriented toward love, hope, peace, and justice? Who would divide us that we might fall prey to the many voracious predators out there waiting for us? 

It seems like a valuable standard for comparison to me.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Jurassic Park Artifact From Winning Cereal Box

I came across this artifact of an earlier age ... an artifact of the last millennium, when dinosaurs returned to the earth for the first time in the 1990s with Jurassic Park. The movie was out, our son was much younger than today. It was early in the morning. We were both having cereal for breakfast. I opened the box of his cereal, bleary-eyed as usual ... and the box roared at me. It was a T-Rex roar, not yet familiar to me from the movie, but very familiar to this little boy. The box roared again ... and again ... and our son went nuts. "We won!" he yelled. "We won!!!"

All I could think of at that early hour was how to make the blasted box shut up. It was too early for this nonsense. And won what?! I slapped the box lid shut and the roaring ceased, for which I was grateful. Our son did not stop jumping around excitedly however. Now, for the first time, I really looked at that box. Sure enough, on the cereal box it said, if it roared, we had won prizes. And we did. A Jurassic Park drink cup with a T-Rex head on top, walkie-talkies, a backpack, I believe a flashlight with the movie logo on it, and who knows what else.

We'd won. The stuff came. All of it is gone now, I believe, except this weird little souvenir pulled out of that cereal box. If you lower the paper away from the light sensor that thing still has enough charge to roar faintly, which surprised me no end when it resurfaced from a end table drawer.

Thanks for the memories, little roaring box. No shut up and go back to sleep. This was a strange thing to find so soon after seeing the most recent iteration of Jurassic Park at the movies.

Here's to the memories. I hope you stumble across some fossil of an earlier age soon and it brings back sweet memories for you too.

Animated Flyover of Pluto’s Icy Mountain and Plains

With the New Horizons successful Pluto flyby, NASA has
completed a goal established in the 1960s: to visit all of the
worlds in our solar system. Kudos NASA. Image Courtesy of NASA
Early returned images from NASA show close ups of Pluto's ice mountains standing 11,000 feet high and the icy plains in the "heart of Pluto." This is early imagery. There is a great deal more to come well into 2016 as New Horizons slowly transmits back all the data it collected in its 36,000+ mph flyby of this tiny world and its moons. Rumor has it New Horizons will now head on to two additional Kuiper Belt objects before she is through.

For the previous closest image of Pluto (note a marked difference), see:

Batman 75th Anniversary Stamps Even Better: Kudos USPS!

For some reason, while admiring the USPS 75th anniversary Batman stamps I received as a Father's Day gift, I never turned the stamp sheet over to the back. On the reverse side is a wonderful, succinct history of the origins of the Batman, along with a description of which stamps come from which age (Modern, Bronze, Silver, and Gold).

Kudos once again to the USPS. What a wonderful set! Enjoy ...

For the previous post, see:

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Why Do We Fall Silent in the Face of Angry Rhetoric?

I am going to be exploring this issue for a while. I was bothered yesterday while on Facebook. A friend posted a very angry message filled with rhetoric ... and on reflection, many false comparisons so far off base it wasn't even apples and oranges but apples and maybe potatoes. Instead of responding in some way, I quietly clicked on "I don't want to see this" and moved on, whistling past that particular graveyard.

My response bothered me. Why is it that angry rhetoric and name calling tends to drive many people of good will and good intentions into a defensive silence when a rational response would seem to be a healthier response for all involved?

I ran across an article that helped with the whole issue of what is anger. Anger is often a handy substitute for actual pain being felt. Rather than feeling hurt and vulnerable, a person can switch to anger and hide behind a self-righteous demand for justice against the one who caused the pain. From this, I gather many on social media are hurting ... badly. (Of course, others are just trolling anonymously for the cheap thrill of it, I get that.) One response could be to begin with, I'm sorry you are feeling so badly hurt. Would you like to talk about it? See the article at:

For an explanation of angry rhetoric, see this Psychology Today article: It begins to look like calming fears and seeking underlying hurts may be the positive response we can offer instead of shy silence. It's worth consideration.

A call against silence by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is motivational:

From Psychology Today, the other side of the story with 8 times when keeping silent is beneficial (and in some cases would eliminate the angry rhetoric):

For a little exploration of rhetoric itself and how non-angry rhetoric might be used, see:

Obviously, there is a lot more ground to cover. I'll return to this later.

Wishing you all peace. Hoping you are not hurting or fearful.

Getting Rid of Pop Up Window Blocking Use of iPad's Safari Search Engine

I was conducting a little research yesterday on my iPad's Safari search engine. Suddenly up comes a pop up screen, graying out all else on Safari and refusing to go away. It was from "" and wanted me to click Ok (the only button that appeared as if it would work on Safari at that moment) to collect my "prize" (a brand new iPad ... for free ... lucky me ... HA!). 

So, I went to my computer and conducted some hasty research there on how to make this evil phishing expedition go away and return my iPad to me (no turning off the iPad makes no difference). 

Here is what you do: 

  1. Don't panic!
  2. Get out of Safari
  3. Go to Settings
  4. Select Safari 
  5. Select Clear History (affirm you want to do this if asked)
  6. Select Clear Cookies and Data (ditto)
Congratulations, you iPad's Safari is yours again. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Darned Creepy Balloon!

Bil Lepp at the Jonesborough, TN,
storytelling festival
Storyteller Bil Lepp (and five time winner of the West Virginia State Liar's Contest) tells of being scared witless forgetting a child's balloon(s) left in the back of his car. That night, unsuspecting, he would get back in the car to head off for the store and jump when there was "someone" else in the car with him when he looked in the rear mirror. Darned creepy balloon!

In the education wing of our church, the day after our End of the School Year Bash, at which we had numerous balloons, I got a start when rounding the corner. There was a grinning yellow smiley face at eye level "standing" before me. The balloon in question had lost some of its helium and had lowered to head height. It appeared to be "standing" on its string, with the bottom end of that string curled on the ground like some single foot. Darned creepy balloon!

Do you have a story of a darned creepy balloon to share? Let me know.

In the meantime, here's one I found on reddit from a couple years ago:

I say it again ... darned creepy balloon!!!