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

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Movie Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox ... One Click Away

Fantastic Mr. Fox, the animated movie created with the time honored and labor intensive stop motion photography technique in which a single syllable takes four frames to shoot and then the sophisticated puppets have to be moved to the next syllable, is well worth your time to watch if you didn't catch it in the theaters. If you have grown up only on digital animation, you are in for a treat. Stop motion animation has a very different look, feel, and sensibility. In Fantastic Mr. Fox they use it beautifully to convey Roald Dahl's anarchic sort of world. I seem to be fixated today on setting up links, so here goes ... click over to my review following this link for my complete review:

One thing I didn't mention in the review but you should know, this film also has a great soundtrack. The opening song will surprise you ... and may send you looking for an old coon skin cap. Take a look!

Oscar Winning Animated Short

I highly recommend following this link to YouTube and watching this year's Oscar winner for animated short films, "The Lady and the Reaper." It takes a humorous, satirical approach to a very serious issue, a matter of life and death actually, and manages to make you laugh and think all at the same time. It deserved the honor. 

Let me know what you think of it.

Oh yes, one more thing ... as amusing as it is, parents, I wouldn't recommend this one for your small children ... not unless you're prepared to answer some hard questions somewhere down the line in the not too distant future. Better to watch this after they are in bed for the night.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Progress In Manned Space Flight

It is easy to become frustrated with NASA's progress in manned space flight since our space program is tied to the whims and wisdom of Congress to provide the funding to advance the science. Now, we wait for April 15 to find out what President Obama has in mind for the future of manned space flight ... without the Constellation program apparently (although members of Congress may feel differently). Still, while rummaging through my famous closet, from which I pulled the Electronic Football Set and the Apollo 11 Press Kit, I ran across the 1973 Skylab News Reference, describing the about-to-be-launced station. It was then that my eyes were opened to the progress that has been made across the decades. We may not have 2001 A Space Odyessy's whirling circular space station or Pan Am shuttles, but the advances we've made are impressive.

In 1973, Skylab, our first orbiting space station, was created from a section of a rocket, an S-IVB to be precise, converted into an "Orbital Workshop" with living and working quarters, to use NASA's description. The stats were as follows: "The Saturn Workshop (SWS) consists of the Orbital Workshop (OWS), Airlock Module (AM), Multiple Docking Adapter (MDA), Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM) and related support structures and thermal and meteroid shielding." Skylab measured 118.5 feet long, weighed in at 199,750 pounds, and the entire work space of all the sections was 12,398 cubic feet. She flew at 235 nautical miles above the Earth. Skylab housed a crew of three. Aluminum open-grid floors and ceilings were installed in the tank to divide it into a two-story "space cabin." (Sounds homey, no?) An aluminum foil, fire-retardant liner was placed on the inside of the tank surfaces and a meterioroid shield on the exterior. Two solar arrays were mounted outside. Crew quarters were at the aft end of the tank and the labs at the forward end. In the wardroom was a double paned, heated window facing the lit side of the Earth. If I recall correctly, Skylab was never manned continuously.

Today (well, as of November 27, 2009 by NASA), the International Space Station, built by many nations instead of one, includes: 21 separate units built between 1998 and 2009, which are: Zarya; Unity; Zvezda; Z1 Truss; P6 Integrated; Truss; Destiny; Canadarm2; Joint Airlock; Pirs; SD Truss; S1 Truss; P1 Truss; P3/P4 Truss; P5 Truss; Harmony; Columus; Kibo (ELM-PS); S6 Truss; Poisk (the named units are all habitation modules and connecting nodes). The ISS weighs in at 344,378 pounds and is the largest manmade object to fly in space and the first to be assembled in space. It has a robot that runs along the outside and can replace batteries while guided by astronauts remaining in the shirt sleeve environment of the station. From the ISS, as of the aforementioned date, 108 spacewalks had been made, along with 28 others from the Space Shuttle, for a total of 849 hours of spacewalking experience. The ISS houses a crew of six and is manned continuously. ISS support on the ground keeps 100,000 people employed and also includes 500 contractor facilities in 37 states and 16 countries. The ISS hosts a number of firsts, the most recent is the very Sci-Fi looking Cupola, a beautiful multipaned window that provides both an exquisite view of Earth and a first, a view down the length of the ISS in either direction. I'm hoping to see pictures from the cupola along the ISS length soon.

However, nothing I tell you will drive home how impressive the ISS really is and how proud humanity should be of this joint effort the way a tour of the station can. Go to an take the tour yourself. It's as close as you'll get to being there and well worth the trip.

Keep the dream alive. Let your Congressmen and Congresswomen and Senators know you want manned space flight to remain a priority for the United States. After all, what we spend in space improves the economy here on Earth, provides spinoff technology that helps us all, and is money that is not spent on destructive technologies that could bring us all to an end.

Enjoy the tour.

UPDATE 3/26/12: Since the last writing, the ISS has gained a couple of robot assistants. Within the ISS is Robonaut 2, the first humanoid robot in space. As of this writing some initial testing with "R2" has been successfully completed. In time, R2 will be tested with a variety of systems to see what jobs this robot might perform while the astronauts and cosmonauts are busy with other things and/or how R2 can help the humans as they perform their tasks. In time, R2 may receive a lower body and EVA components, giving it the ability to move around the station and be sent out on servicing space walks. Only time will tell. Outside the ISS, the DEXTRE robot has been added. DEXTRE is designed to be affixed to the Canadarm 2 (which has enough lifting capacity to move a space shuttle ... and should have no trouble with the SpaceX Dragon capsule if SpaceX is successful getting their cargo/human space capsule working properly) and use a variety of tools to refuel satellites in space, satellites that no one ever thought could be refueled when they were originally lofted into space. If DEXTRE is successful, and initial testing indicates all is going well, then the ISS lifespan could be significantly extended as it performs this useful function, saving nations around the world billions in satellite replacement costs.

UPDATE 5/25/12: Back in the 1970s when Skylab flew, laptop computers, cell phones, iPads and other tablets were all science fiction. Today, these devices broadcast live images of the very first private commercial spacecraft docking with Skylab's much bigger descendant, the International Space Station. Today the SpaceX Dragon capsule was captured by the Canadarm 2 and drawn in to the docking port successfully, beginning a new age of private spacecraft serving the public good. Many say SpaceX's founder, Elon Musk, exaggerates what he will be able to do with his rockets. But, it isn't exaggeration if it works. The United State's future in spaceflight just got a little brighter. Future Dragon capsules will be able to take up to 7 people to the space station and beyond. To see this historic docking, follow this link: Enjoy the history and welcome to the future!

UPDATE 8/3/12: NASA makes a new move in the history of manned spaceflight. The space agency is investing in three commercial companies "fully integrated crew transportation system designs" as part of President Barack Obama's initiative to provide new transportation into space for astronauts. The three companies who will receive funding for their crew capable vehicle concepts are:
Sierra Nevada Corp for their Dream Chaser (looks like a small space shuttle); Boeing's CST-100 (looks like a big Apollo capsule); and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) for their Dragon capsule (the cargo only version has already made history by being the first commercially designed and built space vehicle to arrive at the International Space Station. NASA itself if developing the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle spacecraft, which includes a crew capsule and heavy lift rocket that will take astronauts beyond low earth orbit. For more information, see:

Update: 5/6/13: Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield explains how to steer the International Space Station:
All information and images courtesy of NASA

Update: 7/11/13: For an update on NASA's plans for the future of human crewed spaceflight, see my post:

Update: 6/1/14: NASA continues to work on their Orion spacecraft, the manned module that will take humans out beyond the moon. The first unmanned test flight of the Orion will occur late in 2014 or early in 2015. Progress is being made on the massive rocket required to lift it. As always, progress is hampered by Congress's less than visionary hold on the purse strings ... along with their poor understanding of science in general. On the commercial site, Boeing is moving forward with their CST-100 (very Apollo-like ... as is the Orion) crew taxi to the space station (looking for first flight in 2017), Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser mini-space-shuttle designed space station taxi coming together and aiming for a 2016, 2017 first test flight, and finally Elon Musk's unveiling of the Dragon V.2 crew module, which SpaceX hopes to begin initial tests on later in 2014. See the unveiling of that new and updated Dragon at:

To see Nichelle Nichols, of Star Trek fame, promote the new NASA Orion space capsule, just as she did the space shuttle program back in the day, see:

Keep checking back. I'll continue updating this post over time as more news develops.

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: 

Parents: Affirmation

From the 2009 Church Signs daily calender:

A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on.

Remember that at the 2 a.m. feeding and the sleep deprived day the follows.

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at:

Parents: Slow Down and See the World Differently

New parents, know this, you have a new and special window on the world. You get to see the world through fresh eyes. And when you do, it is magical. To read more, go to my Hubpages articles at:

Once you've read it, take some time out from all your schedules, take your child by the hand, and adventure out into the world together. Enjoy the wonder of it all.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Calm Down: You Are Loved

With all the fuss and fury over providing health care for many suffering fellow Americans, and the NPR interview with a center tracking the rise of hate groups in America, I felt it was time for some words of love and assurance. Henri J.M. Nouwen was one of the premier theologians of the late twentieth century. He wrote the following in his book Life of the Beloved for each and every one of us. He is trying to tell us how much each of us is loved by God. He writes, "Still, I do believe deeply that, in order to live a spiritual life, we have to claim for ourselves that we are ... "chosen." Let me try to expand a bit on these words. When I know that I am chosen, I know that I have been seen as a special person. Someone has noticed me in my uniqueness and has expressed a desire to know me, to come closer to me, to love me. When I write to you that, as the Beloved, we are God's chosen ones, I mean that we have been seen by God from all eternity and seen as unique, special, precious beings. It is very hard for me to express well the depth of meaning the word "chosen" has for me, but I hope you are willing to listen to me from within. From all eternity, long before you were born and became a part of history, you existed in God's heart. Long before your parents admired you or your friends acknowledged your gifts or your teachers, colleagues, and employers encouraged you, you were already "chosen." The eyes of love had seen you as precious, as of infinite beauty, as of eternal value. When love chooses, it chooses with a perfect sensitivity for the unique beauty of the chosen one, and it chooses without making anyone else feel excluded."

Today, it seems we also lack altruism. "I've got mine" is the rule of the day. Henri Nouwen speaks to this as well. He writes, "It is sad to see that, in our highly competitive and greedy world, we have lost touch with the joy of giving. We often live as if our own happiness depended on having. But I don't know anyone who is really happy because of what he or she has. True joy, happiness, and inner peace come from the giving of ourselves to others. A happy life is a life for others."

Know you are loved by God. You have always been loved by God and always will be. Accept this in your heart. Live with the joy this knowledge brings. Give to others out of that joy. Love God. Love others. Help end this spiraling violence and hatred in America and around the globe today.

God bless you.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Wolves and Dogs

This week I woke up to a BBC broadcast about the domestication of wolves. They've been partnered with humanity for about the past 15,000 years. This friendship began somewhere in eastern Asia according to the most recent research. Now wolves can range from 40 to 175 pounds and range from 4'6" to 6'6" in length. They have packs ranging from 2 to 30 members. In the wild they live 6 to 8 years. Their hunting ranges are impressive, varying from 300 to 1000 miles.

How exactly this long friendship began is hard to say. What conditions sent wild wolves to the fireside of humans? What led them to give up the wolf pack for the human pack?

Don't get me wrong. I'm grateful. Dogs, the wolf descendants, are loyal, unswervingly loving, and noble in their desire to protect their human pack. However, I have to wonder, when I think what wolves look like (pretty fierce) and what some dogs look like (pretty goofy), whether the association has really been in the dog's favor.

Parents: Best Toys for Preschoolers: the Top 10

To find out what, through personal experience with two children, I consider the top ten toys for the preschool set, follow the hyperlink to my Hubpages article at:

I have taken an approach I believe no other has taken before. My choices are based on utility to parents as much as enjoyment by children (oh, don't get me wrong, these toys are great fun for kids) in two crucial categories. I am not afraid to tell basic truths other authors shy away from. What are those truths? Click the hyperlink and find out. Knowledge is power, especially for adults dealing with preschoolers overflowing with energy!

Sloggin' Thru Blogging: Twitter

Here's a trick for you new bloggers. Set yourself up with a Twitter account first. Next, add the gadget to your blog site that allows you to send an article to Twitter or Facebook. Click on a blog post's title to isolate that blog only on the page. Hit the Twitter link on the gadget, follow the prompts, and post a "check this out" comment on Twitter. It will include the hyperlink to the blog article that will take curious Twitter readers straight to your blog site. The virtue of this is two-fold. 1. It brings more readers to your blog. 2. It grows the number of followers (and therefore potential readers) you have on your Twitter account. Consider Twitter a net to help draw readers to you blog.

Good luck.

Friday, March 19, 2010

I Know How the Neanderthals Felt

Our son is 20. He is an engineering major. He knows about high tech stuff and is learning to build it. He's a real toolmaker.

When he and his friends gather together, they are tall, thin, using tools I am only slightly familiar with, and discussing things I don't have a clue about.

Neanderthals were short, heavily built, and well adapted for cold northern climes. Their tool kit was limited, but with what they had and a skeletal structure that a linebacker would envy, they ruled their roost ... until the Homo Sapiens Sapiens showed up. That's us by the way. The HSS's were tall, thin, and carried newer, stranger tools. They moved in on the Neanderthals and methodically pushed them out of the way. Euphamistically, they sent them off to the old species home.

When I stand among the towering children of ours and our friends, I now know just how the Neanderthals felt. Confused, short, outmaneuvered technologically, and humbled.

Amazing what you can learn from parenting.

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ah Spring

Yesterday the sun dazzled off the water, the green grass fairly shone in that gentle sunlight, blue skies dappled with fluffy white clouds slowly idling along crowned the heavens, and crocuses and snowdrops bravely started to bloom. The promise of Spring kissed the day. It was warm. It was sweet. Ah, Spring.

C.S. Lewis Explains Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

For those who have studied the Bible or grown up in a church, you know the two greatest commandments, and I paraphrase, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself." Most of us believers have no trouble with the first one, but ... love that neighbor. That's where the trouble begins. Love the erasable character who shoos kids off the lawn and never has a good thing to say about anyone? Love the neighbor who developed an irrational prejudice against you years ago and won't even speak with you? Love the neighbor who gets drunk on a Friday night and ends up in a midnight screaming matching with the spouse. Love that neighbor?! How???

C.S. Lewis, one time atheist and then great writer on issues Christian, helped us out of this little conundrum in his insightful book, Mere Christianity. He framed it like this: There are days when each of us does not like ourselves. However, we still love ourselves and that means we always wish ourselves well, no matter how much we dislike the discombobulated grouch who rolled out of bed on the wrong side this morning. Lewis suggests we apply that standard to others. Wish all your neighbors well (in your heart, you don't have to speak with them and shouldn't if they are a physical or psychological danger to you). Love them in that sense. Don't work against them (and calling the police to break up a drunken domestic dispute isn't working against them, but ignoring the violence that could lead to serious injury would be), don't return unreasoning hate with hate. Pray for them and live the kind of life that expresses your faith to the world. Let them choose what to do with that. After all, everyone has free will. Wish them well and move on. You've got bigger fish to fry today.

Have a blessed day and read Mere Christianity when you get a chance. Watch out though, the first few chapters where he lays out the careful foundation of his arguments are tough going.

For a different look at the issue, see:

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: 

Monday, March 15, 2010

In Memory of Peter Graves

I heard on NPR this morning while making lunches for the day that Peter Graves died in front of his house yesterday, struck down by a heart attack. As a fan of his work, particularly on the TV show "Mission Impossible" and his spoofs of himself in the Airplane movies, I want to take a moment to remember a life.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

YOW: Daylight Savings Time!

For the first time since I can't remember when, we forgot to set the clocks forward last night. Bleery-eyed at breakfast, reading the Sunday funnies, Dennis the Menance saved us from a day of missed appointments. Margaret announced in the first panel: "Daylight Savings Time!" Thanks Hank Ketcham for getting us in gear this morning. The dog tried, but she can't speak.

Here's hoping the rest of you are running on time. If not, check the funny pages. I've always said, comics are an important part of a morning routine.

Also, remember, today is the last day of Old Line Publishing's 40% discount on their wonderful books (celebrating the time change), including ... wait for it ... Michael and the New Baby

Now excuse me, I gotta run!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Joy in Helping Others

I have discovered a real, deep satisfaction in helping others. As a parent, it is easy to discover that joy when you are able to help your children, first as they learn to navigate in the world, and later with their homework. I loved helping my children with their English assignments. When our son was in third grade, his teacher let me help him in a most improbable way. He'd come home with words to be used in sentences. However, the teacher had provided no instruction as to whether more than one vocabulary word could be used in a single sentence and so together my son and I created some really wild, yet always grammatically correct sentences. Our son reported that his teacher was taking some of our better efforts home to share with her family. Later, our daughter's teacher was less broadminded and every word could only be used in one sentence. Still, being a storyteller with an ornery streak, we were still able to have fun with the project. Both of our children now have a knack for writing.

My wife is a gifted actress and costume designer. Her talents gave each child unique Halloween costumes and her acting instructions have served our daughter well as she has confidently performed  in both school and community theater performances.

In seminary, my talent for note taking (some would say court stenography) became a God-send for a foreign student from Chile for whom English was a second language. For several years when we attended classes together, I would email her my notes. She stated that she could listen and translate English but not listen, translate, and take notes all at the same time. I was happy to pass the notes along. It took mere seconds via email and only made use of material I had already created. Later she told me that my notes, as they were written in virtually complete English sentences, allowed her to learn the language better and gain deeper insights into the ins and outs of English sentence construction that worked for her in all her other classes. As she told me, God had put me in her path to help her along the way. It's nice when your God given talents, talents you just about take for granted, one day become a real blessing to others.

I guess where I'm going with this, if there has to be a point, is that we should not be afraid to share our talents with each other. We never know who we will be able to help when we do. And we never know who we will run into that God has sent along our path to give us a hand as well. Don't be afraid to be generous and don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. It feels wonderful when what you do naturally is so helpful to others. It also feels pretty good when someone comes along who can give you a helping hand when you most need it.

You can experience that joy right now by helping me: If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at:

SALE: Buy Michael and the New Baby @ 40% Discount This Weekend!!!

Old Line Publishing, the geniuses who published Michael and the New Baby, are offering this essential children's book for 40% off the regular price this weekend only. It's their time change discount sale, sure to become a classic, just like Michael and the New Baby. This is a steal. Get a copy for your kids, for somebody else's kid, squirrel it away as a future birthday or Christmas gift ... the options are endless.

AND, as a one time only offer, the first book buyer who writes me here at J.S. Brooks Presents... and can successfully list all the childhood fears related to the arrival of a new baby that appear in the book and are successfully and happily dealt with before the end will receive ... a personally signed copy of Michael and the New Baby AND a glowing mention on this blog for being so very perceptive AND such an astute shopper.

Of course, that person cannot be personally related to the author. Fair is fair after all.

Click on the image of the book on the right hand side of this blog to go straight to the publisher and order your copy now. Hurry, time is slipping by oh so fast on this offer! That's only $7.75 for a book! AND you could win that signed copy, which comes to you absolutely FREE!!!

NASA: Looking Back to When We Boldly Went

In April, President Obama and NASA will be meeting to discuss the president's new innitiative for manned space flight. Unfortunately, the president's ideas include scrapping the Constellation program, which was designed to return human beings to the moon, allowing the command module to orbit independently while the entire crew conducted research on the lunar surface for significant periods (up to a month I believe) and could have brought crew members to and from the International Space Station in style with a six crew member holding capacity. The design is created, the Ares heavy lift rocket has been successfully tested for first stage flight ... but, it's time to start over says the commander in chief. Scrap the millions spent, the materials developed, and the people employed (thousands of jobs to be lost in a recession), and go back to the drawing board for a "bolder" and deferred initiative to ... somewhere, perhaps an asteroid or Martian moon. We shall see. The problem of course is that this further delays the manned space program, allowing us to drift ever further behind nations that choose to progress into manned space flight and gain the benefits of new generations of engineers, scientists, spin off technologies, astronauts, accomplishments, losing ground and generations of talent.

So, until such time as we decide to boldly go again, here's some Apollo imagery from an original Press Kit used by a reporter who covered the halceon days of manned space flight, when humanity actually reached for and embraced the moon, adventure, and exploration. May we see those days again. (Sorry about the quality of the imagery from the press kit, but as a historian and archaeologist, I am not about to take apart an original document to secure a prettier picture.)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Welcome ECBC Church Council Members

If you read my proposal and stopped by to see what a blog is like, Church Council member, welcome! Recent faith-based articles to view include: Our Plaster Saints; and one of the more important articles: Helping a Child Deal with Grief and Loss (it has been visited many times by a variety of readers and provides advice from the Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling, a reference book for pastors providing care.) If you click on the addresses in blue (only one at a time please), you will be taken directly to that article. If you want to browse around instead, you'll find the aforementioned faith-based articles, articles for writers, articles for parents, and my soapbox opinion pieces. This is a blog to support my children's book so the articles are varied. The church's blog would be far more focused.

To give you some figures:

In the 11 months I have been blogging and figuring out how to reach people while blogging, this blog has received 1469 visits and 3213 page views of the articles have been made. That averages to a little more than 2 views per visitor. That could be a lot of attention for our church with our own blog and a Facebook site to help draw additional visitors to the blog and link the blog to NetworkedBlogs through Facebook, which attracts a lot of readers. That is a lot of potential outreach into our community and beyond.

An article will be presented Wednesday from the Philadelphia Inquirer stating that rapidly growing churches are using these forms of social media for effective outreach and evangelism. Further, Sunday's Parade Magazine in the Inquirer stated that "Young, Engaged Problem Solvers (Yeppies)" use these social media sources to connect with opportunities for social activism. I know I'd like to reach them.

Just so you know, this quick welcoming note was created in less than 20 minutes.

Take a minute to leave me a comment if you like, to let me know you stopped by.


Celebrating Michael and the New Baby in the Library!

J.S. Brooks Presents celebrates the arrival at the Carrol County Public Library, New Windsor, Maryland, of a copy of Michael and the New Baby! Hopefully it will get checked out a lot and help many children who are about to become older brothers or sisters. Moving forward in small steps...

If you live near the New Windsor, Maryland, library, check out the book, and provide me with proof you've done so, you will win a coveted digital  NO award. To date only one of these elusive awards have been given!

Writers: When Entering Contests, Be Brief

For those who follow the writer's advice, you'll recall that I suggested joining contests to hone writing skills in genres you've always wanted to try but just never got around to? Okay, here's a trick. Be brief. Short and concise writing is a real challenge. Polishing your writing until each of the few words and precious turns of phrases glitters and sparks with life. From a contest I entered at the Fiji Island Mermaid Press, of my two entries, the short one won. The long entry received an honorable mention. See for yourself, at:

Good luck. The blog The Colors Magazine is currently running their second blog contest for creative content. Take a look, but know this, the competition is steep and the creativity is high.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Parents: There Are Days Like These...

Years ago, when my son was just a little tyke, around 3 or 4 years old I think, it was a beautiful day and a friend of mine whose son was my son's best friend and I decided to take the kids and go for a leisurely stroll down a local nature trail. People walk, jog, and bike on with wide path through the woods and suburbia. As parents of young, active kids, we were always on the lookout for something that could wear out the kids without making them hyper (like some not to be named restaurant for kids with fast food, loud music and arcade games does ... you know who you are). We adults were walking a few paces behind our darling children. They were marching ahead of us loudly chanting nonsense rhyming syllables ending in "y." It was all good innocent fun and the chanting was of course helping to burn off a little more energy and prolonging the walk. It was all good. Until ...

... the young woman came jogging down the trail in the other directions. As she came near our boys, the loud chanting became "BOOBY,  BOOBY, BOOBY". In cowardly fashion we drifted back from our sons a few paces, trying hard not to make eye contact with the jogging woman. We hoped her walkman had muffled our sons’ raucous chants and that she didn't think we had set our kids up for this.

Yes, some days, parenting just goes like that. Sigh!

P.S. It was FIMP's miniature book DIRTY WORDS that sparked this memory and article. See

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Parents: Alice In Wonderland Worth a Look!

If you have older children, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland is well worth seeing. Small children may find the movie a little too intense. It's a Disney film, but with a Tim Burton twist. Alice is 20, does not remember her previous adventure in Wonderland ... or Underland as she soon discovers ... except in the realm of dreams. Her return is anticipated by all except her ... and prepares her to face certain dicey situations in the "Overland" in time. The characters are terrific and the cast has many well known names. There is a very important message about being true to yourself under pressure that will be valuable to any child. If you have daughters, the Alice character exhibits some traits well worth emulating. Enjoy.

Unsettling Aspect to Long Writing Career

One of the great pleasures of writing is creating dedications. Family members, friends, mentors, it's a very pleasant thing to be able to dedicate books to those you love. However, it has a dark side. I've been writing for nearly 20 years. Looking back on it, there are an unsettling number of "In Memory Of ..." dedications. It does make you try harder to appreciate all those who make life's journey a pleasure ... and not to put off until tomorrow what you should do today.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Call For Help From Chile

This is from a personal friend of mine, a graduate of Palmer Theological Seminary, which I attend. I had the priviledge of knowing her there for several years. She and her family live in Chile. Her church is trying to organize relief for rural Chileans who aren't getting much needed supplies. If you think you can help, or have an organization that can help, I'll ask you for proof. If I can verify your information, I'll send you some contact information. Please pray for the Chilean people living though the aftermath of the devastating earthquake.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Mathew 25:35-36.

March 4th, Santiago, Chile 2010.

Dear friends
As many of you know, last Friday at 3:34am Chile experienced an earthquake that measured 8.5 on the Richter scale. It was 901 times stronger than Haiti’s. Although we do have better constructions than in Haiti, 2 million people have lost their homes and also they lack basic needs like water, food and electricity. The government’s aid has been aimed mainly to the major cities and the smaller towns around those cities have been completely neglected.
Many Christian organizations in Chile, and some international ones, are helping in transporting basic need elements, but the TV and newspapers show how thousands of people in the countryside areas are in urgent need of water and food especially for the children and older people. Due to that, my church, Iglesia Comunidad Bautista de Ñuñoa, already sent 5 cars full of provisions to those places far away from the major cities. But it still isn’t enough. The reconstruction of the country, and the mitigation of the pain for those people, will probably take much more than any physical reconstruction, so we know we have to continue helping those who are still in need.
Because of all of this, we have gotten hold of a small plane that will help us transport more of these supplies for the people who are trapped in the south of Chile, but for this we need money and not just to buy food but also to buy gas for the airplane.
Many of you have asked me how to help in these hard times. So if your Church could help us with some offerings to undertake this challenge we would really appreciate it.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Top Ten List: Best Story Books for Preschoolers!

Top Ten List of terrific story books for your preschoolers!!!

I've surveyed the literature, surveyed my family, and wracked my memory. After minutes of deep reflection, J.S. Brooks now recommends:

1. Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd

2. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crokett Johnson (I was glad to see this classic on two other lists)

3. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

4. Oobleck by Dr. Seuss (Or any other Dr. Seuss book that questions'd be surprised how many there are.)

5. Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel (Heck, any of the Frog and Toad books!)

6. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff

7. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (A Caldecott Medal Winner with great artwork!)

8. The Mitten: A Ukrainian Folktale by Jan Brett

9. Timothy Goes To School by Rosemary Wells (Or any of the other Rosemary Wells books)

10. Caps For Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business by Esphyr Slobodkina (This is a classic if the reader acts out the parts! Not to mention, there are few better subtitles out there to be found!)

What say you, reader? Do you think there’s any truth to this list or am I out of my mind? What children’s books would you include on the list?

I will hold in highest regard, and make the biggest fuss over, anyone who includes Michael and the New Baby on their top ten list!

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at:

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sloggin' Thru Blogging: Contest Winners!

Well, fellow bloggers, remember I suggested joining a contest online to get a little exposure. Well, never say J.S. Brooks doesn't take J.S.'s own advice. I joined The Colors Magazine's first "Show Your Best" contest for blogs written in January. Here are the results. Drum roll please! The two winners are:

Rajlakshmi with the post The Saviour Angel and Rachana Shakyawar with the post Oh what an F-word.

Congrats to the winners and to The Colors Magazine for creating this contest!

The runners up were:

Dare I Help Someone out of a Pit by Jinnia Low
Strawberry-licious by Riddhisharma
Finding Frozenland by Nishant

I say less: I mean more by Adesi

Helping Child Deal with Grief and Loss by J.S. Brooks

The Deterioration by Maddy

Yes! Made it into the honorable mentions.

To see the whole blog listing and to have links to each excellent article, go to this The Colors Magazine address:

There's a lot of good reading there! Lena runs a good blog! Hey, and she's got a new contest coming up. Join in!