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

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Strange Signs Along the Highway

In my travels, I've run across a few strange signs lately ... signs that made me think, ponder, and imagine.

Along the side of the road outside of a store selling wood pellet burning stoves were large wrapped blocks stacked up in two layers, one on top of the other. Each block (containing one ton of pellets) had one letter or more written in red on a plastic strip surrounding the block. Originally, the top row had spelled WOOD and the bottom read PELLETS and a price per ton. However, the D has rotated sideways so the sign now reads WOO PELLETS and a price per ton. Now, just imagine what YOU could do with a ton of Woo Pellets ... How much would YOU pay for those?! Woo Hoo!

The second sign appears at either end of a small church cemetery in western Maryland. It reads:

"No Unauthorized Digging or Planting."

It makes you think, that sign does!

So do the road signs YIELD A HEAD and END CONSTRUCTION. The first is awfully grisly and the second seems downright militant. And then there are the neighborhoods that have to put up the SLOW CHILDREN signs. I feel for them and their mentally challenged progeny. Then again, I suppose their kids may just be ungainly and awkward.

Of course, all of this probably just indicates that I have too much time to think while I'm driving.

Victorian vs. Camel: 19th Century Reality Writing

Yes, it's time to continue our adventure series, returning to the amazing Explorations and Adventures of Henry M. Stanley.

In today's offering, Sir Samuel and Lady Baker give us the inside scoop on the joys and sorrows of riding the "ships of the desert" from the perspective of Victorian English folk.

Sir and Lady Baker report (p. 443): "When a sharp cut from the stick of the guide induces the camel to break into a trot, the torture of the rack is a pleasant tickling compared to the sensation of having your spine driven by a sledge-hammer from below, half a foot deeper into the skull. The human frame may be inured to almost anything; thus the Arabs, who have always been accustomed to this kind of exercise, hardly feel the motion, and the portion of the body most subject to pain in riding a rough camel upon two bare piees of wood for a saddle, becomes naturally adapted for such rough service, as monkeys become hardened from constantly sitting upon rough surfaces.
     The children commence almost as soon as they are born, as they must accompany their mothers in their annual migrations; and no sooner can the young Arab sit astride and hold on, than he is placed behind his father's saddle, to which he clings, while he bumps upon the bare back of the jolting camel. Nature quickly arranges a horny projection to the nerves by the thickening of the skin; therefore an Arab's opinion of the action of a riding camel should never be accepted without a personal trial. What appears delightful to him may be torture to you, as a strong breeze and a rough sea may be charming to a sailor, but worse than death to a landsman."

The Lord and Lady have MUCH more to say about the "joys" of camel riding ... however, not one mention of strange security procedures or pat downs. That's a plus.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Wishes and Quotes

Whomever you are, wherever you go, may you find yourself in good company, with good food, love, joy, and peace this Thanksgiving.

For Americans: may your football team not embarrass you too much if they are playing Thanksgiving day ... or over the weekend.

For everyone again: may you discover the quiet joy that comes from living in the moment, forgiving those who have done you wrong in the past (which is an act of personal will done for the benefit and healing of yourself), remembering but giving no weight to your past, fretting not at all about the future, remembering all the blessing that have been bestowed upon you (and if you are upright and taking nourishment there are blessings to be counted, whether large or small), and enjoying the moment in love.

Food for Thought:

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

What we're really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets. I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving? ~Erma Bombeck, "No One Diets on Thanksgiving," 26 November 1981

For each new morning with its light,

For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

God has two dwellings; one in heaven, and the other in a meek and thankful heart. ~Izaak Walton

To TSA agents: Thanksgiving, man. Not a good day to be my pants. ~Kevin James

For everyone everywhere, whether you celebrate a thanksgiving day or not: Small cheer and great welcome makes a merry feast. ~William Shakespeare

Now that we have the warm fuzzies, here's a reality check from 19th century America's conscience, the inimitable Samuel Clemens: Thanksgiving Day, a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for - annually, not oftener - if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors, the Indians. Thanksgiving Day became a habit, for the reason that in the course of time, as the years drifted on, it was perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all on the white man's side, consequently on the Lord's side; hence it was proper to thank the Lord for it and extend the usual annual compliments. ~Mark Twain

Thanks to for the quotes. Many more there to explore.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Atlantis' Acrobats: One backflip and a dock to ISS

One stately maneuver for our continuing tribute to the soon to be discontinued Space Shuttle program. If you ever wanted a good look at the shuttle in space, here it is.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Life ... Out of Context 3

It is just too easy to switch that little camera to movie mode! Random scenes litter my computer like autumn leaves.

But enough of that. Time to move on!

Life on the Highway

I've got to start carrying a carmera with me more often. Not long ago I ran across a sign reading "Ancient Auto Repair" and was sorry I didn't have a camera.

Every now and then even life on the highway gets pretty.

Life ... Out of Context 2

It was in 2005 that I first noticed life out of context gets weird. What is being laughed at? Why are these little people numbered? Where are they going?

Life ... Out of Context

With digital cameras combining movie features, it's easy to create accidental slices of life. You know, life looks odd when it's out of context ... just like text. In the end, I discover I'm not taking a still picture ... and respond.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Space Shuttle Cockpit View of Landing

Continuing our Space Shuttle tribute as the end of the program nears, here's a shuttle landing as seen from the cockpit. The commentary is terrific, as is the final approach. Be patient to about 3:15. Enjoy.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dog Declares Man Either Idiot or Zombie!

Dog manipulates man to her advantage...
I'm not sure how to take this. However, I have the sneaking suspicion that after years of careful observation our beagle Daisy (hey, that's the name she came with when we adopted her from the ASPCA) has concluded that I am either a complete idiot or an easily manipulated zombie.

Here's what happens. In the evening, I let Daisy out one last time into our fenced backyard to take care of any calls waiting from nature. Then, she gets a Milk Bone and goes off to bed. However, over the past few months, Daisy has thrown a twist into the proceedings. About half an hour after her last nighttime commune with nature, Daisy asks to go out again (I'm still up doing something). Then she comes in and begins the cookie dance (if you have a beagle you know the one), like I've completely forgotten we did all this no more than thirty minutes ago.

So, seeing Daisy's behavior and giving this careful thought, I've concluded that she believes I am either a complete idiot or a zombie as stated above. The complete idiot suspicion comes from her actions. Apparently, Daisy believes I cannot retain short term memory beyond 30 minutes. I begin to worry about this. What behavior has she seen that I'm unaware of? What habits have I developed the she has interpreted this way? Hmmmm.

The other hypothesis is that Daisy, after watching me spend hours motionless in front of one glowing screen or another ... most often in front of one where my only movements are the constant, spastic twitches of my fingers and less often in front of the larger screen before which my face goes slack and eventually I fall asleep after many hours in front of the finger-twitching glowing screen. Observing these actions, it is quite possible Daisy has drawn the conclusion that these devices have left me a mindless tele-zombie. She has concluded that if those glowing screens can keep me under their sway for hours at a time, why shouldn't she be able to bend me to her will as well?

The dog/human relationship can give you pause sometimes. What if Daisy is right?!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Parents: Stress Relief

Okay, here's my remedy for a long and stressful day. It's geeky, but it works.

1. Get one XBox 360 ... if you're on a tight budget, a refurbished model will do.

2. Buy Halo Reach ... buy it used if you need to.

3. Set the game on the Easy mode, where villains are dumb and YOU ARE THE HERO ... YOU ARE THE MAN OR THE WOMAN ... AND NOTHING, NO NOTHING, WILL STAND IN YOUR WAY!!!

4. Play, play hard. Blow away your troubles along with the baddies!!!

Note to the Bungie programmers who bring us the Halo games: I would pay good money to play a version of this game where, all the game through, you drive the tank and blast away everything that gets in your way. After years stuck in traffic, that would be truly cathartic!!!

UPDATE: Halo4 will get you there too ...

For Parents Everywhere

Parenting is "tuff!" This is for loving parents, everywhere. A small gift of laughter.

Thanks, son, for sending this one along.



Friday, November 12, 2010

You Know Your Getting Older (not old mind you) When ...

You know you're getting older when,

  1. You discover a YouTube video featuring a "bike restorer" talking about a bike similar to one you owned who states, "There are fewer and fewer of us who have the expertise and tools to restore these bikes." Your knee jerk reaction is, "Oh come on, it was only 1969 when I got that ..." and then it hits you ... that was 41 years ago!
  2. You talk about the original Star Wars trilogy with a collector and say, "I was 18 when that first movie came out and getting ready to go to college" AND the collector says, "I was 2."
  3. When you are on assignment to photograph a young collector's Transformers action figures and you have to tell said collector to set them up EXACTLY as he wants them photographed because you have no freakin' idea what you are seeing when you look at them!
  4. When the decades you grew up in appear in your kid's history books.
  5. When your kid has to walk you through the steps needed to use some new piece of technology.
  6. When your kids look at you like you're from Mars when you tell them to "Go warm up the TV."
  7. When you start to get really interested in the idea of Rapture, considering the alternative.
  8. When you open any conversation with a health issue.
  9. When you have "good old days."
  10. When you begin any social critique with "Kids today ..."
  11. When you can't remember the next #@!!^* thing you were going to add to this list!!!

Veteran's Day, 2010

While this is a day late, it is still heart-felt.

To the dedicated men and women who have served their country honorably throughout time, we salute you.

For standing as our strong front line against adversaries, we remember you.

For those of you who paid the ultimate price in the service of your country, we memorialize you.

To all the fighting men and women who are currently in harms way serving our nation in all our armed forces, we pray for you. Be well. Be safe. Come home soon. God be with you.

Doubt ... No Doubt About It, It's Fantastic

This is a limited time only blog post ... and a scrap book memory for me (blogs have so many uses). If you live anywhere near Forge Theater (yes, this is another of the "virtues of community theater series"), you are fortunate indeed. See Doubt. The play runs for one and an half hours. It will be one of the most riveting hour and a halfs (is that a proper turn of phrase?) that you have experienced recently. It is deep, tense, beautifully performed, and will leave you with a great deal to think about. I have no doubt about that. The images provided here give you all the details you need.

I can give you one guarantee. Doubt will be better than anything you would watch on TV in the same amount of time. This is time much better spent! Go!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

1968 Raleigh Superbe Three Speed Bicycle at 2001 All British Cycling Event

Okay, when I was a kid, I had a 1969 Raleigh Hercules 3 speed painted gold. The shifter was housed in the right hand grip. It looked something like the model discussed here in detail by a restorer of these bikes! Who knew the bike I rode from grade school through college would be popular today?! Not me. I rode it everywhere, including through the middle of creeks. You could not beat it to death. Anyway, that bike lingered with me until recently, when my son (in college now) gave it to a friend to use in college. So, that old Hercules has a new lease on life now with another college student. Quite a few of the niceties wore out over the years. My favorite was the headlamp with the generator that leaned against the rear wheel. The faster you peddled, the brigher the headlamp.

To see what my old Hercules looked like back in the day, take a look at this site:

I was reminded of those early days riding the Hercules--which was big enough when I first got it (age 10) that I had to get on the bike at a road curb so I was tall enough to get on it--when I read Stephen King's It. The main character rides a bike that sounds an awful lot like mine and that character got the same magic out of it I remember.
You never know what will be popular decades later. You just never know.

Open Letter to Politicians

Warning: if you aren't in the mood for a cranky rant about the current state of politics, please move on. Glad you came, you are welcome here whoever you are, but try another post. If you like cranky rants ... or are a politician ... please read on!

Dear Politicians:

What I am about to say, I say with due respect for all our American governing institutions. That said, okay, you've had your little midterm election and it's time to move on. First things first, you did not win your seats because voters like you. We don't. We don't like the childish behavior, we don't like the mindless name calling, we hate the fact you guys and gals won't work with each other like civil adults are supposed to, and the middle class and poor in this nation resent the fact that you have so much money and so many perks you just can't fathom what the rest of us go through on a daily basis. So, I'll say this as politely as I can. SHUT UP and get to work. It is long past time you worked together and legislated. Sitting on your hands is not governance. Waiting for the next election cycle is not doing the nation's business. Remember, you are civil servants. You work for us and we pay your salaries ... so get down to business and get things done! No, no, that doesn't mean dismantle government or push your party's or your personal ideologies. Getting things done means righting a broken economy (now, shut up, don't start in on who broke it and who should clean up the mess because none of you ... except the newbies who are just getting into the game ... have clean hands on this). The economists are wrong. The economy is not in recovery as far as the general public is concerned until everyone who wants a job has one ... and read that as a GOOD job, one that pays enough to live on.

Hey, and while you're at it, could you please legislate away the ability for private groups to anonymously fund attack ads. That was a lousy decision from the courts and needs to be blocked politically. Do that and perhaps the populace will take you guys and gals a little more seriously. Frankly, we hate those ads ... and we aren't all that fond of the people who create them and promote them ... so get rid of them. Not in your best interests, true, but then again who do you work for and what are you supposed to be doing?

If you really want to get in touch with the populace, buy private health insurance and give up all your other perks for a year and see how we live. Then you'll have a better idea of what needs to be done.

And no, none of you have a mandate. Truly, we don't like you. You misbehave in ways we would not tolerate from our children. To quote a former campaign, "It's the economy stupid." So get down to it. Address the issues of the day. Do not work to make sure the president doesn't get a second term. That a stupid goal, folks. Do not make threats against each other. Work together like grown ups. Work for the money you are making off of us, which need I remind you is more than the majority of your voters make. GET TO WORK ON BEHALF OF THE PEOPLE.

Finally, to the voters, let me just say this. Before the next election, educate yourselves on the issues, get off your couches, and actually VOTE. It is a right that was earned for you through blood, sweat, and tears and defended for you with lives of patriots. They deserve our best efforts and their memories honored by all of us actually voting. This last election was a very grey election, with oldsters doing most of the voting. That should not happen (not that I have anything against people with gray in their hair, I'm getting more of that every day). Everyone eligible to vote should vote. So, next election, let's all get to it.

Sincerely, respectfully, and angrily yours,

J.S. Brooks

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

ISS View From Cupola

That last launch took "Node 1" into space. Here's the view from the European Space Ageny's "bay window on the universe" in Node 3. This is the first really large window in space. The cupola not only provides a beautiful view of Earth, but also provides an amazing view along the length of the ISS itself. It has useful functions as well ... but for all us civilians ... just enjoy the view. You won't see another like it anytime soon.

STS-88 First Shuttle to the International Space Station

Continuing my tribute to the Space Shuttle fleet as we approach their final mission, here is the first visit of the Space Shuttle to the International Space Station, carrying the first piece of what would eventually become a station with living/working space as long as 3 747's linked together. That's a big station taken up largely by the Shuttles, one payload bay sized piece at a time. An amazing effort and credit to human ingenuity. There is now consideration of using the ISS after 2020 as a tranfer vehicle for lunar expeditions. Let your representatives know if you think this is a good idea.