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, April 25, 2010

Parents: Early Heads Up for Christmas

Hey, I know it's late April and Christmas is way off over the horizon just yet, but you parents of young children need to be prepared. There are all sorts of Scrooge types out there (the unrepentant, unreformed Scrooge that is) who are just dying to shatter your child's belief in Santa Claus. It's mean, it's cruel, it's unjustified ... and you need a good explanation about how the jolly old elf gets things done, despite the size of the world and growing number of children. Besides, as long as your child believes in St. Nick, you get to practice altruism, allowing the jolly old elf to take all the credit for your kid's best gifts. It's character building and good for your ego to. So, without further ado, here are the facts, just the facts, ma'am.

You see, Santa, the immortal elf (we know elves are immortal thanks to J.R.R. Tolkein) long ago saw this day coming (the day when the kid population would far exceed his capacity to deliver gifts directly, not the day nerds would try to disprove his gift giving prowess) and developed an ingenious plan. Knowing humans were prone to gossip and real suckers for their children, all he had to do was reveal one fact and plant one ingenious lie. The fact was his Christmas night journey event (hard to believe but this was not always common knowledge ... many strange myths sprouted early on before Santa revealed the fact of his Christmas eve escapades). The lie planted was that Santa himself was a myth, a mere pleasant fabrication to get kids to bed early on Christmas eve.

This was genius at work. Once everyone was aware of Santa's journey, his mission, and the naughty and nice parameters, well, every kid worth his or her salt started expecting Santa to show up (kids know a good thing when they hear it). And, of course, all adults believed the lie that Santa was mere fabrication and took up his job, providing all the gifts Santa once delivered himself to avoid disappointing their children. Soon Santa was completely free of his duties and set his elves to maintaining his image across the ages and keeping this information from becoming general knowledge.

So, through the powers of gossip and misdirection, Santa neatly averted this particular crisis. Of course, Santa fully supports all unhappy and misguided calculations about the impossibility of Santa delivering all those goodies to all those locations all in one night as all such disinformation maintains his secret and his much loved leisurely lifestyle.

Friday, April 16, 2010

NASA and the Obama Plan

Well, there's good and bad in this. Good to know we have a plan for a heavy lift rocket and general ideas of a trip to the asteroids and to Mars someday, before I die with any luck. Bad to know that this plan leaves us in a very long stretch without much real manned exploration. Yes, if the plan succeeds, low Earth orbit will be visited regularly aboard commercial spacecraft ... and that's good, provided these rockets are run better than the current aviation industry. However, without a viable rocket to replace the shuttle and keep Americans flying on American ships, we are heading for the doldrums, just like we did when we entered the no fly zone after Apollo and before the shuttle. As Neil deGrasse Tyson states, we have lost our vision, our imagination, our ability to look toward a bright and adventurous future ... and we'll lose out on generations of astronauts, engineers, and scientists. Other nations with more forward looking space programs will reap that harvest. Europe, China, Japan, Russia, the moon is yours for the taking. We've decided to look elsewhere.

To those who would whine that we are wasting money on spaceflight, think where that money would go if it did not go to NASA. You're thinking to helping the poor aren't you. Think again. That money would be funneled straight into the military industrial complex most likely ... or find its way into strictly political arenas with no social benefits. So find another tune to play folks. That one doesn't work.

Here, watch what Neil deGrasse Tyson has to say. He puts it far better than I can.

Image of Earth courtesy of NASA (whose programs only cost us 1/2 penny on the dollar, thanks Neil for that statistic)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Michael and the New Baby Going E-book

Alright all you electronic book readers, the moment you have been waiting for is about to arrive. Michael and the New Baby will, according to Old Line Publishing, soon be offered as an E-book for a ridiculously low price ... not so good for me, but great for you. Stick it to the man (me) and buy a dozen copies for you and your friends! The book looks fantastic in print and I'm sure it will sparkle on whatever reader you use! Help you child get over the fears of imminent siblinghood and learn a new electronic platform all at once. Entertaining and educational ... you see what I, the caring author, am doing for you here?! Click on any of the images from Michael and the New Baby running down the right hand sidebar of this blog, go to Old Line Publishing, and see just what a deal you will soon be able to make. And, hey, buy yourself a paper copy while you're there. That could soon be a collectors item worth ... who knows what ... should the whole book industry go digital!

Writing a Children's Story Part 5: Assembly of Michael and the New Baby

A children's book can be a surprisingly long process. Michael and the New Baby was originally written to fill a specific need. My son was anxious about becoming an older brother and was expressing a variety of fears. Each of these fears was addressed through this fanciful adventure story and was tailored to his adventurous nature. Once the text was written, I sent the book off to my illustrator, who read the copy through and then created wonderful illustrations of the highpoints of the story. It is a fascinating process to see your words given expression in illustrations. I highly recommend, writers, that you find yourself a talented illustrator and then give her or him free reign to create for you. The results are surprising and wonderful.

After the book was written and illustrated, I took a sheet of glass, taped off the edges, added graph paper to the top surface to create a grid and then began the laborious process of placing blocks of text and illustrations as artfully on the page as I was capable of creating. The idea here is to have the blocks of text and illustrations balance each other on the page, creating a complete design that is appealing to the eye and fun to view. Once the master copy was made, I had a color copy of the text made and bound for my son.

Once the book was complete, I read it to him and was rewarded by both his enjoyment of the story and the easing of his fears. As far as I was concerned, the book was a complete success and the project was finished.

Years later, Old Line Publishing started up operations. On a whim, I offered the owner (a business colleague and friend) the opportunity to add Michael and the New Baby to his earliest offerings. To my pleasant surprise, he agreed and then asked me to add more color to the images. At first I was baffled. The illustrator was done with the project. After some thinking, and my wife's recovery of the master pages (God bless her for her organizational skills), I turned to my scanner and Photoshop. The trick to coloring line drawings in Photoshop is to make sure the lines surrounding a particular space are completely filled. To do this, you expand the drawing to a large scale and study the lines enclosing a particular open space. Finish any unconnected areas with small lines and then use color fills to fill in the spaces. Take a look at the Dr. Seuss books to establish a limited but engaging color palette that will meet a publisher's needs. Make sure you keep notes of what colors certain objects are that recur throughout the book so the colors remain consistent and get busy.

Together the publisher and I edited the text for public consumption and this once private children's story now became a public offering. My hope is that it will help other soon to be siblings in the years to come.

Good luck, writers!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Prayer for a Missionary Family

My prayers go out to missionary Tim Schwartz, his wife Jenn, and their families. Tim and Jenn moved to Galveston, Texas, to help with hurricane recovery projects and spread the good news. Tim was recently discovered to have brain cancer. Yesterday he had surgery to remove the tumor. Half was removed surgically and the other half will be eliminated with radiation. Surgery went well and the doctor was pleased, praise God for that! May God grant Tim a full recovery. Throughout the day, I prayed that the surgeons would have steady hands, strength, and wisdom and that Tim’s wife and family would be given peace and courage from God as they endured this procedure, waiting for good news from the doctor, and look forward to speaking with Tim at the end of the day. I am happy to say my prayers were answered.

God bless you all and grant you peace and strength.

J.S. Brooks Presents Celebrates First Year In Blogosphere

I've been blogging for one year this month. I've learned a lot in the past year in the "blogosphere." Have you noticed you don't hear that term all that much anymore? Lessons on how to connect with others. Discovering the alure of keeping what boils down to an online journal. I've discovered, through this site and my Hubpages site, that there is some merit to what boils down to electronic evangelism (evangelism in a broad and inclusive sense of the word) and I have enjoyed touching others lives with meaningful text (the most significant to me have been the two articles dealing with grief in children). It has been a good year, although there have been defeats as well as victories. I have proved to be a poor salesman in the last year, and I'll leave it at that. There have also been lessons on what it takes to draw in larger numbers of readers (write well, write often). Finally, in Galveston missionary Tim Schwartz's blog I've seen just how powerful a daily witness in a time of trial can be (see the link off to the side: Me and My Brain Tumor).

I want to thank everyone who has come by in the past year from all over the world and I hope to see you back in year two. I'll try to have something interesting to write about.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Brunch at FIRECREEK in Downingtown, PA

If you live anywhere near Downingtown, Pennsylvania, consider yourself among the lucky. The recent arrival of FIRECREEK restaurant in D'town has brought a spectacular brunch to the area. The one-time factory site, an old stone building, has now been repurposed beautifully as a smart restaurant with an impressive glassed wall at one end with outdoor dining along the water and strategically placed heat lamps to ward off the chill. But that's not the point. Brunch is the point. FIRECREEK recently started offering this Sunday temptation from 10:30 a.m. until 2:00 in the afternoon. The buffet opened to you is generous for the $20.95 per adult (less for children, but since my kids are teens and it doesn't matter to me, I can't remember how much less but it was a welcome value). Watch the chef assemble your omlette while you wait or explore all the other temptations available while the chef creates yours. If you are with a group, each order a different omlette and taste each other's combinations. There are so many to choose from (meats, vegetables, and cheeses) that you'll have to come back frequently to do it justice. 

There are a wide variety of brunch temptations to add to your plate from main dishes and sides to desserts that you'll be challenged to make your choices. The smoked salmon is terrific (note to the uncouth like me, the meat of the salmon is cut through but the skin holding it together is not ... just remember, lift and separate, lift and separate).

The staff is polite and quick in service and always has the answers to your questions. The surroundings are engaging and the atmosphere is pleasant and upbeat. It makes for a terrific start to a Sunday afternoon.

You will find FIRECREEK at 20 East Lancaster Avenue in Downingtown. You can call for more information (and to confirm the ending time for brunch) at 610-269-6000 or visit their website at

I highly recommend the food, the ambiance, the experience. Enjoy!

7/19/13 Update: FIRECREEK has closed and been replaced by another restaurant. I'm sure they do a wonderful job, but I haven't had Sunday brunch there so have no idea what to tell you.

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: 

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Finally, A "Different" Flower Name

I've always loved the flower with the face. It reminds me of the old 1920s and 1930s animated films where everything had a face and was bopping along to the catchy toons playing in the background. But ... the name ... that's always been problematic for me. "Pansy" is just not a name a guy warms up to, ya know?

Well, no more. Now there's a Pansy with a name a Sci-Fi fan can warm up to. Meet Matrix Morpheous!

Now, if I could only remember whether I want the red pill or the blue one. Don't look at me that way Morpheous!

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:

Friday, April 2, 2010

ISS Crew Discovery Shocks NASA and World!

In a startling transmission yesterday, the International Space Station crew left NASA experts shocked and dismayed when they proved space to be a shirt-sleeves working environment after all. Top NASA life sciences experts lament, "Oh, all the wasted years working on space suit development and environmental sciences life support equipment. Now that we see this, we're kicking ourselves for not making the Cupola with windows that open."

The truth is out there and it is shocking.

At least on April 1.

Imagery courtesy of NASA's ISS crew and Photoshop. Alert to the story courtesy of my friends at Universe Today, a great source for real space news and the occasional April Fool's Day joke. You have to admit, it is a great view of the interior of the Cupola, mankind's first bay window on space.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Signs of the Times

Yesterday, driving toward home, a local mechanic's shop bore the sign "Going out of business: Everything for Sale," a cherry red 1950s classic Corvette sat in a lawn with a for sale sign on the dashboard, and a stalled development has only one completed home, surrounded by empty lots, and that home remains empty and unsold.

This morning, at 5:50 a.m., the sky was a deep, deep blue, the stars having taken their leave, the nearly full moon glowed brightly, whitely in the West, and in the East, the predawn light kissed the sky in a slowly brightening arc. The grass was dew covered and springy under foot, the air cool, crisp, and clean, and birds had begun their morning songs, greeting the coming dawn with music.