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, December 29, 2011

The Saga Of Biorn

Here's a short film to give you a chuckle at year's end. I have to say, we Christians have to do a better job expressing our faith. You'll see what I mean. We need to convey joy, not boredom!

Wishing you all an exciting, action packed new year!

Friday, December 23, 2011

So, Smarty Pants, You Say There's No Santa, Eh?!

It's Christmas time again. The lights are up, the presents purchased or actively being sought at the last minute, the trees rising and filled with lights and festive ornaments, kitchens filled with wonderful smells, and small children's eyes sparkling in anticipation of Christmas morn.

But, it is also time for a Grinch, a very particular, nerdy, science Grinch (now don't get me wrong, I like scientists, I was a social scientist for a while, but I don't like THIS scientist). It's that smarmy guy who always has to prove how smart he is by debunking Santa Claus and the impossibility of Santa getting the job done all in one night across the entire globe. Tedious isn't it? It's also worrisome to parents of young children who want to keep the magic of Santa alive for the season.* But parents, here's a story you can tell those kids that even Mr. Smarty Pants Science Grinch can't poke holes in. Here's how the story goes.

Santa is one bright guy. He's been around a long, long time and been watching the world's population grow as the centuries rolled past. He realized that there would come a day when even he and the flying reindeer couldn't get all the gifts delivered in a single night, short of calling in help from a Time Lord (and those guys are notoriously hard to work with). So, Santa came up with a plan.

From personal observation, Santa knew that as children grow into adulthood they had trouble retaining their sense of wide-eyed wonder with the world and began setting aside magical things in favor of the "practical." So, Santa decided it was time to tell one big lie that played into this habit of adults. Santa started the rumor that Santa definitely does not exist. However, parents, hearing this lie and believing it instantly, and yet still wanting their kids to have the same wonderful experience with Santa that they'd had in childhood, scrambled off to shops or to the workshop to create hand-built toys for their children and put the Santa label on them. You see, with the spread of this single, artful lie, Santa was able to franchise his enterprise on a global basis. Now, every parent in the world who is able to is doing the heavy lifting for the right jolly old elf and making sure the gifts are under the tree Christmas morning. These days, Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the elves are in charge of managing the Santa image. They work hard all year long to keep the Santa name clean and the Santa deception in place. And that, dear parents, is how to explain in modern terms how Santa gets all the presents delivered in one night.

This story blows a huge hole in the Grinchy Santa poo pooing. AND it has the added benefit of working with the slightly older children who are beginning to wonder why corporate names are appearing on gifts from Santa.

So, have yourselves a very merry and very magical Christmas!

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog: You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: 

*Okay, defensive "Keep Christ in Christmas" folks, relax, this is a Santa post. I'm a Christian too and celebrate the birth of the most important person ever to enter this world, but right now I'm telling a Santa story, so relax ... or go elsewhere, with my most blessings. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Scientists Discover Two Earth-Sized Planets

Merry Christmas astronomy fans, seekers of life elsewhere in the universe, and sci-fi fans. Kepler has gifted us with two earth-sized planets now! This is good news. I can't wait to see the telescope that orbits that will be able to determine atmospheric content to see if life is there. Things just keep getting more interesting.

As the Wall Street Journal reporter remarks at the end of this snippet, it is frustrating that we're beginning to find these promising places and don't have the technology to get there. So, engineers get busy and enthusiasts badger your elected officials for more funds for space exploration, preferably funds siphoned away from arbitrary warfare.

If you love what you read here, you can support this blog: You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

FEATURED VIDEO: RAD measures radiation en route to Mars

The RAD radiation detector is already working, checking for the first time how much and what sort of radiation gets into the spacecraft itself. This will provide valuable data necessary to keep astronauts safe on interplanetary trips. What a great way to make the most of your rover, even before it arrives at its destination!

If you love what you read here, you can support this blog: You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

When Did Fortune Cookies Start Aiming for Profundity?!

Our daughter opened one fortune cookie ... it made no sense (it would if you changed "sincere" to "willful". She opened a second fortune cookie, it made even less sense ... or was extremely profound ... we can't tell which. When did fortune cookies start getting all cryptic and mystical ... reality is a shadow of things unseen. What?! Sounds like the beginnings of a Stephen King novel! Our brains are baked like a fortune cookie. On to last minute Christmas shopping. Wishing you a profound Christmas, Hanukkah, or whatever you celebrate or don't this time of year and a New Year filled with tiny mysteries and puzzlements to keep things interesting!

If you love what you read here, you can support this blog: You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: 

No Running

Drama and a moral, what more could you want?!

If you love what you read here, you can support this blog: You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: 

Singing Christmas Hedgehogs

More Christmas merriment. You get a prize IF you hear the hedgehog sing!!!

If you love what you read here, you can support this blog: You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Perfect Christmas Gift for 2011 Receives Endorsement

Our son's girlfriend has read Michael and the New Baby and given it her approval. She declared it to be "cute." I declare that a ringing endorsement. For $12.95 you can determine for yourself, is the story cute or something else. Me, I call it useful, uplifting, and encouraging. But of course I'm biased!

Still, writers, celebrate the small stuff. It will keep you going.

This was an interesting experience, as I was in the room when she read the book. Stephen King said of his wife reading one of his manuscripts with him in the room (and I paraphrase ... apologies to Mr. King), "There is no creature as insecure as an author."

The last time I felt that level of insecurity, our daughter had dropped off the book for her English teacher to read. I felt like I'd dropped back into school and was waiting for the teacher's grade. The English teacher loved it, much to my relief.

To order this often endorsed book for yourself: You can order your copy directly from Old Line Publishing at: 


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Zombie University

In this age when zombies are all the rage, here puppets instruct you on how to survive the zombie apocalypse! This is all you need to know to escape the zombie horde. For everything else, you're on your own ...

For extra credit at Zombie University, identify all the references to various films and games with zombie focus.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Habitable Exoplanet Catalog

When I was growing up, habitable planets outside our solar system were only the stuff of science fiction. Now, with the number of recently discovered planets growing regularly and further growth expected with new telescopes and different viewing methods, that number is expected to explode. You can keep up with the changes at The Habitable Exoplanets Catalog. Right now the numbers of planets expected to be habitable are low, but that's expected to change. If you're a Star Wars fan, there are a few potentially habitable moons listed too.

See it all for yourself at:

Thanks to my friends at Universe Today for letting me in on this sci-fi sounding catalog:

Now come on scientists, neutrinos seem to be going faster than light, get busy on those warp or hyperspace drives! Let's see these worlds up close and personal!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Leaders: Perfect Gift for Fearful Followers Facing Sibling Situation ...

Leaders, purchase a few copies of Michael and the New Baby to keep on hand. Give a copy to a child who is about to become an older sibling. This story will help to calm their fears about being the older brother or sister. They will be assured that love grows and there will always be enough to go around. They will not be excluded from the family simply because a new child has arrived. These older sibs to be will learn the virtues of sharing. They will come to see that not all the messages they receive on TV (cartoons so often portray the older sibling as either a villain or a dolt) are true. They will also discover the uplifting messages that there is always more than one way to return home and that they are equipped with the knowledge they need to succeed in difficult situations. All of this, and more, they will discover in an engaging, fictional adventure story richly illustrated with cartoon graphics. This is an easy way to help your youngest followers and support their parents and relatives in what is often a stressful and harried time.

Religious leaders: like the Song of Songs, Michael and the New Baby does not speak of God directly, but as the author of the Song of Songs believed that love comes from the author of all love, God, so this author believes in God and uplifts virtues in the story always considered valuable to the faith traditions. You too can give copies to your young congregants to reassure them. You can also use Michael and the New Baby as a teaching tool, making the links to your faith tradition in the various story elements.

I can tell all of you leaders that this children's book was field tested before it was published. This story truly calmed our son's fears of becoming the older brother around the time our daughter was born. It was written for this occasion and it worked. It will work for you too. Keep a few copies handy in your office and pass them out when needed. At $12.95 a copy, this useful book will not break your bank either. But for heaven's sake, give this gift to the worried child with the parents present and in public. I don't want you all getting in trouble now! Good luck to you in all your endeavors as leaders!

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, December 12, 2011

Radio Worth Listening To, Stress Reducing, Fascinating

If you know where to look, computer users can listen to some very entertaining radio of today and yesteryear. These shows will reduce stress in these difficult, hectic times by fascinating you with terrific listening entertainment. When you have a chance, follow these links, open your ears, and expand your mind. All of the shows I mention allow you to listen to the entire archived broadcast.

Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me (weekly news roundup with a laugh):

Interfaith Voices (a show designed to promote religious harmony ... a rarity today):

Radio Lab (these guys have too much fun! But, be warned, their shows require a lot of work and hour long episodes only appear a few times each year, but there are many shows archived, so have fun!):

Snap Judgment (1 hour of "storytelling with a beat"):
The Big Broadcast (4 hours of radio from the golden age of radio):

Those are my favorites, all well worth listening to. Only The Big Broadcast doesn't archive their shows, so you have to tune in each week to see what treats were played last Sunday.  What are your favorites that you feel others should hear. As you can see, great radio is not dead, at least not on NPR! Where do you find yours?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Sloggin' Thru Blogging: Links

This may seem fairly obvious, but so do many of the things we learn. If you want to send readers to a site to follow up on a story you've told ... or to purchase your book (as I do), you need to add a live link to the site within the blog post itself. It's not enough to say you have links off to one side on your blog where they can go see and purchase your book or product, etc., you also need to include the link. To do so, go to the site you intend readers to jump to and copy the link from the address screen at the top of your search engine page. Place it in the body of your blog, highlight the intended link, and click on Link in the tool bar for your blog post. You'll be asked to enter the intended address again in the Link pop up screen. Once you've done so and clicked OK, your link will change color in the body of the blog. Now, readers can click on that link and go to the intended location. Simple to do and necessary. If it isn't in the body of the blog text, readers will not take the time to search out said link and use it. Blog reading is a different thing and creates different behaviors in readers. Learn how to use this to your advantage.

Here's my favorite active link: 

Happy blogging.

Kepler, Exoplanets and SETI - Geoff Marcy (SETI Talks)

I never knew the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute gave these talks. Here we see the SETI folks responding to the Kepler telescope planetary finds. If you have the time, there's a lot to learn here. SETI has recently been able to gain funds for their radio telescope array and will be turning their instruments toward Kepler 22b to see if anyone is talking there. Stay tuned for further developments.

What do you think of SETI's chances for success?

Teens and Rats Maligned by Popular Opinion

Two news stories caught my attention this week. In the first, it has been discovered that the issue of teen "sexting" is far overblown. The actual number of teens involved in this unwise behavior is less than one tenth of one percent. Most teens can feel vindicated by this. Sure we all know a few who drive us nuts, like the neighbor kid who gets into an F-you match with a "friend" at midnight outside his house, but by and large teens are good people. Remember, behavior that makes the news is news because it is uncommon!

Rats apparently have gotten an unfair reputation as well. The reporter began the story by stating that when we call someone a "rat," we mean someone who would abandon all others to save their own skin. Lab experiments have now discovered this supposed truth to be absolutely false. Seems a rat will help a friend in distress every single time. In an experiment, one rat is removed from a cage, leaving his cage-mate behind. A few minutes later, the cage-mate is placed in another cage to discover his companion trapped in a plastic tube (yes, it has air holes--this isn't a Star Trek Khan moment) and clearly unhappy. The free cage-mate will do everything in his power to free his buddy, working until finally triggering a button that frees his unhappy fellow rat. Apparently, the free rat will even do this when a favorite treat is "trapped" in another tube (the treat is chocolate chips ... looks like we have something else in common with rats), often before liberating the treat and therefore needing to share said treat with his buddy.

So, it looks like our view of teens and rats needs adjusted. I wonder where this will lead?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Scientists Confirm Existence of Earth-Like Planet Kepler-22b

Kepler 22b is 2.4 times larger than earth but in the right orbit to have a warm surface of around 72 degrees F. If it has a rocky surface, it may have water and life. We are closing in on finding other earths out there in the galaxy and eventually life. Kepler has found well over 1,000 planets so far. How many of you remember when nobody knew IF there were planets outside our solar system. If you are hard core, you can go to YouTube and find the NASA news briefing on this find, which takes over an hour to watch. This is also a Kepler milestone, 1,000 days in operation for Kepler. Congrats Kepler crew.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Christmas Book for the Reading Challenged Child

As a young child, I had a problem with the muscles controlling my eyes. They did not cooperate with each other. Fortunately I lived in Chicago at the time, where a talented ophthalmologist had developed new methods for getting those muscles to work together and in time I got over the problem. But for years reading was a challenged. I'd get to the end of one line of text, my eyes would cease cooperating and I'd lose my place. I'd have to find the line I'd read, find the next line, and move forward. It was an excruciating process and really lowered my self-esteem. I thought about this when I wrote Michael and the New Baby and did something different to encourage the reading challenged.

This 36 page book is broken up into 19 individual chapters of no more than a couple of pages. If you have a reading challenged child, here is a way to elevate her or his self-esteem. Your child can proudly tell others, "I have finished a chapter book and I read it all by myself!" It may not sound like much to you, who are reading proficient, but to the child struggling, this is a shining moment to be treasured. This is an accomplishment that will encourage further reading.

And, parents of a struggling child, take heart. With the love and encouragement of my parents and specialists, I overcame my disability and am an avid book reader (and writer) today. The difficulties will pass for your child as well! Hang in there. Give Michael and the New Baby a try with your reading challenged child and see if it doesn't help.

You can order your copy directly from Old Line Publishing at:
With Michael and the New Baby, soon your child will be sailing through a chapter book too!

A Different and Vibrant Way to View the Bible

Here is a view of the Bible you might find challenging, but is well worth consideration, and quite different from what you hear about from the noisy ends of the Christian perspective. If you take this view seriously, you'll want to spend more time with the scriptures and in discussion of the scriptures with your friends. The emphasis added to the text below is mine.

Through Scripture, the Spirit continues to bear witness to the truth of God in the person of Jesus the Christ and to bring us into personal relationship with God. The type of knowing that we may expect to experience through the Bible is relational; it is in community that we learn the truth about God. I believe God's intention for the Bible is to testify to and to anchor the continuing dialogue between God our Creator and humanity. Just as God shepherded the Bible's formation, the Holy Spirit stirs our interpretation of it, as we seek God's guidance in faith.

Donald J. Brash. The Indispensable Guide to God's Word. Cleveland, Ohio: The Pilgrim Press, 2010. p. 109

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

[Advent Conspiracy] Enter the Story 2011

We Christians have entered the season of advent, a very meaningful time for us. Here's a little message on making it MORE meaningful. For the spiritual but not religious, please note what the combined communities of the faithful (religious and spiritual) otherwise known as churches are doing.

Wishing everyone everywhere a meaningful advent season.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

On History Rewritten and Perspectives Spun

We're living in a dizzying world. Events are spun at every turn to suit one perspective or another. History is being bent and twisted as if seen through fun house mirrors by those who wish to make one case or another for their point of view. History no longer belongs to the victor, it belongs to the special interests.

What are you talking about you ask? Or maybe not. Still, take a look back to the 1960s. The war protesters, the anti-establishment people striking out against a society they saw as corrupt and hell bent on sending them into an ill-considered, ill-conceived war via the draft are now seen as drug addled hippies who were morally bankrupt and absolutely clueless. T'ain't funny McGee as Molly McGee used to say.

Today, the protesters are up in arms (rightfully so) against corrupt banking interests that put this economy and world economies through hell in recent years and their attendant cronies. These are the Occupy Wall Street protesters. Some see them as the American equivalent of the Arab Spring protesters without the threat of imminent death. Violence yes, death no. Others see them as modern, drug-addled 1960s hippies out to rape and pillage society. Cities that started out supporting this movement are now beginning to tire of the exercise and the spin has begun. Seen as exercising their civil rights at first, now they are being recast as criminals, outcast, homeless, and slacker college kids. It's amazing and depressing to watch the spin spun by interest groups looking to recast modern history for their own self-serving narrative.

The most pernicious recasting deals with our economy. Ayn Rand is being touted as the great prophet of this age by some who agree with her division of society into Makers, Takers, and Looters (takers being the average people, looters the government who impose regulations, and the makers are the heroes of this narrative, the captains of industry). This is divisive nonsense. It is downright schizophrenic when in the same breath, the same folks state that all of us average "takers" need to get out there and buy stuff to support the economy and the makers. On one hand we're the villains, on the other the necessary cogs to keep the machinery of the economy running. Really? Come on folks, you can't have it both ways.

Life is hard right now. Situations are dire. We need to work together for intelligent, well reasoned solutions to our problems. Dividing ourselves into nonsensical groups and recasting history for each sides' arguments won't fix anything. Keep it up and we might end a great civilization, but we won't save one. Time to stop spinning and start uniting. Work together for a brighter tomorrow for all of us.

Wishing you a wonderful, cooperative holiday season.

[MSL] Launch of Mars Rover, Curiosity on Atlas V Rocket

This was a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend gift from the folks at NASA. This is a beautiful launch of the Curiosity Mars rover heading on its way to Mars, arrival date in August 2012. That will be worth looking forward to. The Atlas/Centaur rockets are fun to watch and the camera on the Centaur rocket provided a wonderful view of the Curiosity module's departure for Mars. If you want to watch such events personally, look up NASA TV on your computer and watch the launch in HDTV. Oh, by the way, for TV producers and grand poobahs who decide what viewers are interested in watching, who always ignore these monuments to human creativity and curiosity, at the time I was viewing, over one million four hundred thousand others were watching as well.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving movie reviews

Wishing everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving. I have too much to do getting ready to come up with anything profound ... or even anything less so. I need a break really. A good movie would do. So, here are three movies you could see this holiday weekend as you try to recover from all the turkey eaten. For international readers, eh, well, these are still good movies to catch when you can.

Wishing everyone everywhere a safe, happy, joyful long weekend.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Beautiful Technology for Aging Ears

As the decades roll by, our bodies pay the price. Me, I've lost some hearing. Never mind the details, they aren't important. As a result, in recent years I've had to have the volume on the ol' TV cranked higher to hear all the dialogue. This is problematic when watching movies where the dialogue is hushed and the music is most definitely NOT. You know the type. Action/adventure films are full of it ... music louder than the explosions.

To get to the point, if you are in the same boat, try wireless headphones. They come with a jack that will plug into the back of one of your units, TV, sound system, or cable box. If you live in a small house, you can probably get the signal wherever you go when you're wearing them (convenient for refrigerator raids). They allow you to get the volume where you need it without damaging the hearing of your loved ones in the process. Mine are made by Sony and they're wonderful. Oh yeah, one more thing. If you're old enough to have used large headphones as a kid instead of ear buds, these are just like those ... except without the cord. Very retro, very comfortable, very useful. Give them a try.

Monday, November 21, 2011

NASA Curiosity Launch - 2011

NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover is encapsulated in its upper stage and is ready for launch on November 26 if all goes according to plan. This is the biggest robot yet sent to another world to explore, standing 6' high. The landing will be ambitious and much has to go right for this rover to reach its destination intact. Looking forward to spectacular science in 2012, something good to look forward to in an otherwise strained, highly partisan, election year.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Perfect Christmas Gift for 2011: Michael and the New Baby

Christmas is fast approaching once again. I'm going to simplify your gift giving conundrum parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, friends and neighbors. Have you seen the price for new hard back books today? $35 for a New York Times Bestseller. Phew! Well, Michael and the New Baby is only $12.95 and is available through Old Line Publishing, Amazon, or Barnes and Nobles online service. That's a steal.

Here's what you get. An adventure story, cartoon illustrations, and very strong, positive, family messages you will be happy to read to your children over and over again. Children who are about to become (or have just become) big brothers or sisters have many concerns over this BIG change in their family life. You can help answer those concerns, those often unstated fears with this little book. Your children will discover that there will always be enough love to go around. They will find out for themselves that what they see on TV isn't always right (have you noticed that older brothers and sisters in kids' cartoons are often portrayed either as bullies or idiots--if you haven't I can assure you your kids have and it worries them). They'll learn the important truth that there is always more than one way to get home. They'll find that sharing beats stubborn hoarding every time and orneriness can have unseen and surprising consequences. Thrown in for fun are a pirate ship, far off island, volcano, castle, and much more to keep the story rolling.

Finally, readers, just between you and me ... there are SOME children's stories out there that portray one parent or the other as dim bulbs or evil. You won't find that here. There are SOME children's stories that bore you to tears in the first reading and leave you dreading each reading to follow. I've been there. I've felt your pain ... or ennui. I've written Michael and the New Baby in such a way as to include a little something for the adult reader as well to keep you smiling to the finish along with your child.

Convinced? I hope so. If so, just click on any of the illustrations from the book (yes that's what those are) off to the right hand side of the blog and you'll be taken to Old Line Publishing's secure web site where you can place an order now.

There, see? You're one gift closer to that blessed Silent Night, and you didn't even have to leave your computer.

You can order your copy directly from Old Line Publishing at:

Friday, November 18, 2011

EUROPA LAKE: Nasa 'discovers' liquid water on Jupiter moon: Another Step Toward Finding LIFE

Very exciting discovery. Liquid water has long been the benchmark required on a world that has life. Here's the water ... where's the probe to search for life?

Words of Inspiration on Being Proactive, Envy, and Activity

I won't be around much for the next three weeks, with the holidays and the end of the seminary semester. So, I'm leaving you with words of wisdom in turbulent times from Dr.'s Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Wishing you the best for Thanksgiving. May you and yours have a wonderful holiday. Reach out to those who struggle in this season. It'll make your holiday (and theirs) sweeter.

Proactive...Proactive people do not demand rights, they live them. Power is not something you demand or deserve, it is something you express. The ultimate expression of power is love; it is the ability not to express power, but to restrain it.
Envy:  Envy defines "good" as "what I do not possess," and hates the good that it has. ... We all have envious parts to our personalities. But what is so destructive about this particular sin is that it guarantees that we will not get what we want and keeps us perpetually insatiable and dissatisfied.
Activity:  Human beings are responders and initiators ... God will match our effort, but he will never do our work for us. ... He wants us to be assertive and active, seeking and knocking on the door of life. ... The sin God rebukes is not trying and failing, but failing to try. Trying, failing, and trying again is called learning. Failing to try will have no good result; evil will triumph.

Good words to live by as we head into the multi-holiday season. 

Henry Cloud and John Townsend, Boundaries, pp. 100-102

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day 2011 Remembrance

We pause in our busy days to remember the service that the fighting men and women of this country have rendered to the nation. You have been and remain our strong front line against tyrany and injustice. You have suffered much and in many cases given all to keep peace on the homefront and retain democracy for the United States. We owe you a huge debt of gratitude. To all the men and women who have ever served honorably in the United States Armed Forces, my thoughts and prayers go out to you and your families today.

I pray this day our nation's leaders will consider long and hard the sacrifices made at their command ...

Here are the conflicts the United States has been involved in since its inception:

American Revolutionary War (1775 to 1783): U.S. Casualties: 4435 deaths, 6188 wounded 
First Barbary War (1801 to 1805): U.S. Casualties:  2 deaths, 3 wounded in action
War of 1812 (1812 to 1815): U.S. Casualties:  20,000 deaths, 4505 wounded in action
Mexican- American War (1846 to 1848): U.S. Casualties:  13,271 deaths, 4152 wounded in action
 American Civil War (April 12, 1861 to  April 9, 1865): Casualties:  (Union) 110,000 deaths, 275,200 wounded in action; (Confederacy) 93,000 death, 137,000+ wounded in action
Spanish-American War (April 25–August 12, 1898): U.S. Casualties:  332 combat deaths 
World War  I (August 1914 to November 11, 1918): U.S. Casualties:  53,402 deaths, 204,002 wounded in action  
World War II (December 8, 1941 to  August 14, 1945): U.S. Casualties:  407,300 deaths, 670,846 wounded in action 
Korean War (June 25, 1950 to July 27, 1953): U.S. Casualties:  54,246 deaths, 8142 missing in action 
Vietnam War (1959 to April 30, 1975): U.S. Casualties: 58,193 deaths, 153,303 wounded in action, 1948 missing in action
Gulf War (August 2, 1990 to February 28, 1991): U.S. Casualties:  378 deaths, less than 1000 wounded in action 
Iraq War  (March 20, 2003 to  present): U.S. Casualties: 4,404 deaths; 31,827 wounded in action
Afghanistan War (October 7, 2001 to present): U.S. Casualties: 1098 deaths, 2379 wounded in action 

That's 821,061 dead in this nation's conflicts, which is the smaller of the two numbers. Freedom isn't free. It comes at great sacrifice.  That is well worth remembering today.

Silence please. 


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Becoming Transhuman - Part One: Affirming

Any program that starts with the music from the old sci-fi show "Space 1999" has my attention. Here's an unusual subject just right for the 21st century. There are people who want to rapidly evolve humanity using technology to make us better, stronger, faster ... or something like that. They want to download our brains, fuse our bodies with machines (see the mechanical artificial limbs of today, and then some. This seems way too much like the "Popular Mechanics" future of nuclear cars and housemaid robots. I'm not sure I want to entrust the well being of my mortal and stubborn body to Microsoft uploads and improvements, even if it offers a longer life ... although I imagine power failures could be truly traumatic.

For more, much more, on transhumanism you can watch the rest of these episodes or link to the Studio 360 episode on this far out, high tech future at:

My humble suggestion is that rather than trying to go high tech tinkering with what we are that we dedicate ourselves to being the best humans we can be. Be kind to others, work for peace, work to end hunger, work to end war, work to end pandemics, work to reach out to others and move forward together into a better future. Be proactive with each other, social in the best sense with each other. Of course, that might seem even more of a science fiction idea than adding machines to our bodies or replacing bodies with machines. But, that's my view of the future, a hopeful future of peace, mercy, and justice for everyone where the talents of all are fully developed and all are able to contribute to a thriving, vibrant society that spans the planet and heads out into the stars.

By the way, the last line of this little film ... terrifying! You'll see. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Best Toys and Gadgets Ever ... Birthday Gifts Remembered

I had a birthday yesterday. It was wonderful. Saw our daughter in her high school play, got calls from loved ones, and many well wishes on Facebook (I have to say the birthday calendar is the thing I like best about FB), and received some thoughtful, entertaining gifts (yeah, I still like toys after a fashion ... come on admit it, you do too, deep down, where you don't let people in very often). I got to thinking about great toys and gadgets of decades gone by and thought I post my list of the best, in my ever so humble opinion.

  • Let's get sentimental first ... and get that out of the way. The Teddy Bear, that favorite from the early twentieth century, is still going strong in more forms than I'm sure the creator ever imagined. Who doesn't have stuffed animals everywhere when they have little kids? Where do all those things come from?! Really!
  • Building blocks: Those simple painted wooden shapes that kids made so many things out of and enjoyed knocking over repeatedly. In this category, I also add Bill Dings (I'm not sure of that spelling), the wooden blocks shaped like people who could be stacked by heads or shoulders. Not as cool as blocks, but still entertaining ... and no batteries or recharging required, a plus for adults.
  • Legos have to go with the building blocks. Of course, I have Lego envy over the sets kids have today, which far outstrip any Legos I ever played with. Still, cool, creative, and no batteries required.  I mean, today, you can build a Lego robot, amazing!
  • I suppose you have to include Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets, and Kinex in this building category. More sturdy, cool toys for tomorrow's engineers. 
  • Moving out of building, to moving, let's start with Tonka toys. The big dump trucks were crazy strong. I know kids who rode them down steep hills and driveways (when parents weren't looking). And there was that fire truck ... a sort of holy grail of Tonka-dom that few ever received. 
  • For short term entertainment in motion, gliders and rubber band powered balsa wood planes were great ... while they lasted or until they got stuck up a tree or on a roof. For the older set (yes, adults, I'm including you), the gas powered, radio controlled aircraft are the natural extension of the early childhood planes. Yeah, adults, everybody's on to you. It's okay. Play with your toys!
  • Bikes, trikes and Big Wheels continue the run through transportation. And again, there are lots of impressive bikes for adults these days with more gears than any car will ever have. 
  • Lionel train sets ... there's no need to add to this. Classic!
  • Pedal cars ... I remember my fire chiefs metal pedal car fondly. Kids today have the most popular push car variation of the pedal car, with the single most sold car shape in the world in the Little Tykes Cozy Coupe. There is no more stable, durable car for kids anywhere (sorry Tonka). 
  • Moving on from transportation to action, we have action figures, beginning with the classic 12" high hero G.I. Joe (a personal favorite) and all the men, women, and aliens of action that followed, yes, including those robot/car hybrids the Transformers. Endless hours of imaginary adventures and crazy numbers of accessories and vehicles await the youngsters who venture down this road. 
  • You can't head into the world of action figures without mentioning dolls, including the Queen of the doll world since the 1950s, Barbie and her endless accessories, including the most little used accessory in Barbie's set, Ken! A recent big hitter in this class is the American Girl doll.
  • Sticking in the realm of figures just a moment longer, who can forget that tuberous man and woman about town, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head. Weird and constant since the 1950s. 
  • The Potato Heads shift us into a cooking theme, and there you have to mention the Easy Bake Oven, I believe. It now has a new incarnation that cooks without a light bulb (although that seems as heretical as Neco Wafers updating their flavors [which didn't work well]). 
  • Okay, this is running long and my time is short this morning: let's add from the art world the Etch a Sketch, Lite Brite, Spirograph, and the felt board people and their vinyl counterparts featuring characters from many children's movies. 
  • I'm leaving many, many out, including Army Men, ant farms, Silly Putty, Playdough, Slinky, yo yos (Duncan were the best when I was a kid), and more to leap ahead to the final listing for me: video games. My younger brother had the first video game console in our house (Pong, followed by an Atari system). Who knew where these things would go? I received Goldeneye Reloaded yesterday and the graphics are amazing, especially when compared with the original Goldeneye game for the Nintendo. 
There it is. It's a fun list but it leaves a lot out. What are your favorites. Chime in and add to the fun.

For other lists,  you can see: and and and many others. Just google it!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Friday, November 4, 2011

Proud Parent's Record: Color Guard

Our daughter is in the color guard for a large high school marching band. It is one of her many talents we enjoy.

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: 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Injustice: Stories From One Large City

A lot of good and a lot of evil can occur anywhere humans gather in large groups. That's a given. That's also why I'm not naming names and saying which city these injustices took place in. This city, like all cities, is a mixed bag of the just and the unjust. There is no need to single it out. Besides, I'm a blogger, not a reporter.

There has been a lot of loose talk about immigration and who should stay and go. How soon we forget that we are all immigrants to this continent, beginning with those who came undocumented across the Bering Straits back in the cold days of the last ice age. There has been far too much ratcheting up of anger and blind hatred over this issue. The tangible results are dangerous and devastating for those upon whom this anger is turned. I have a friend who works with immigrants and tries to protect them in this hostile environment. The stories this friend tells are dismaying.

Every day, immigrant workers gather outside of stores in particular places in town to be picked up for work. One location is outside of a convenience store operated by a particularly hard hearted fellow. These workers come into his store, purchase coffee and breakfast, and then return to the curb to await work. Once this store owner has gotten all the money he can from these workers (who send the bulk of what they earn back to families in other countries), he calls the police and has them removed from in front of his parking lot, claiming they are a nuisance and disturbing the peace. They miss work.

One pay day, one of the immigrant workers had just cashed his check (losing money to the check cashing fee) and was attacked when he walked from the store. He was badly beaten and his money taken. The police were called. They told the beaten, bleeding man, "We are not paid to protect you." No justice for this worker. The dangerous thieves were left to perform this evil again with impunity, provided they prey only on those who fall outside of police protection.

I can't help but think of Alabama's new, extremely strong immigration laws and one official's response, "But who will cut our lawns, care for our kids, and build our cities?" It reminds me of the Egyptian response in The Ten Commandments to letting the Hebrews go. 

In a different topic, two suburban young adults come into the same city to visit a skate park. There are 20 children and teens, ranging in ages from 11 to 18 there playing basketball on the courts beside the park. In the past, these kids would watch the skate park activities and all was well. Today the suburban teens were there alone and things went differently. The kids came over, knocked the teens down, and beat on them until they managed to escape, battered, shaken, and concussed. The police report that in all likelihood nothing can be done.

In the same city, the 99% are currently gathered to protest the inequity of wealth distribution in this nation. Fortunately, they are protected and all is going well for them. I wish them luck in their efforts. These are difficult times and people are angry.

I think we need to remember Paul's definition of love, implement it, and try to turn this thing around.

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast,* but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends.1 Corinthians 13:1-8

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

First Movement of Robonaut 2 on ISS

Aboard the International Space Station, Robonaut 2 makes its first moves in 0 gravity. A big day for the first humanoid robot's development team. Congrats all. We look forward to big things from R2 in the future. How about getting some legs up there for the guy.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Celebrating Another Milestone at J.S. Brooks Presents

In October 2011, for this blog's first time ever, page views exceeded the 1,000 mark (by 2) for the month and the number of visits was at an all time high of 593. The previous high was in the low 700s for page views and the low 400s for visits. It feels like a sudden rise in visits and views, but that "sudden" rise was 2 1/2 years in the making. Looking forward to what 2012 will bring.

Another milestone was reached as well. This is my 600th blog post since J.S. Brooks Presents began. 

Thank you to all the readers who have stopped by to peruse the site. A special thank you to those among you who have clicked on through to the publishing house and purchased a copy of Michael and the New Baby!

Monday, October 31, 2011

More Radio Chills for Late Halloween Night ... or Any Dark and Stormy Night

The talented team at Snap Judgment have done it again. Just in time for Halloween night, once all the little spooks have had their sugar fix and gone to bed, here are more stories to tingle the spine! Turn down the lights, lock the doors, grab your favorite ghoul or ghoulette, and listen carefully.

If that is not enough for you, head on over to the NPR station WAMU in Washington D.C. and look up their program The Big Broadcast for October 30, 2011. Hurry now, it'll be gone with the week as there is a new broadcast every Sunday and they do not archive the shows. The Big Broadcast is old time radio and the shows are well worth a late night listen.

I became hooked on this sort of thing years ago as a teen when a local radio station in Washington, D.C., WMAL, broadcast a Halloween night show called Washington Revisited, in which host, narrator, and journalist John Alexander took you on a haunting tour of the various and sundry ghosts inhabiting the nation's capital. Complete with sound effects, this was a wonderful, spooky hour of radio that filled the mind with all sorts of interesting images in the dead of night. 

Happy Halloween. BWA HA HA!!!

Welcome Baby 7 Billion: 7 Billion People: Everybody Relax!

Today, Halloween, October 31, 2011, you're going to hear a lot about baby 7 billion. It will get scary. The Population Research Institute says, "Relax!" Here's why.

For me, I say, welcome aboard baby 7 billion, whoever and wherever you are. I hope your life has plenty of laughter, love, and joy, in spite of all the challenges and difficulties that will face you, both natural and human made. Welcome to life. Welcome to love. Welcome to joy, family, community, and faith. Welcome.

We're glad you're here.

Say, somebody should get you a copy of Michael and the New Baby as an arrival gift! Just sayin'.

Sorry, couldn't resist!

The perfect gift for baby 7 billion ... or ANY baby!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Afraid of Heights: Stairway to Heaven

Here some repairmen show you how a day's work is done. This is far more harrowing than anything we average mortals will do. Free climbing to over 1700 feet; it gives one pause, particularly if you are afraid of heights. This reminds me of all the sci-fi and fantasy movies I've seen and wondered, as the hero/heroine crosses some crazy spindly bridge with no railings, where is OSHA in all this? Are there no safety regs? And yet, OSHA clears this climb.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Continuing the Spooky: Aliens and Otherworldly Experiences

With Halloween hot on our heels, here is another Snap Judgment spooky episode, this time of an alien nature. Strange, extraterrestrial, and disturbing stories from the Twilight Zone side of our planet, brought to you by host Glynn Washington. Turn down the lights, lock the doors, put on your tin foil hats and listen in:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Radio Stories for Halloween

I have always enjoyed Halloween. I have never had real misgivings about the holiday (aside from such nonsense as TPing people's homes, throwing eggs, or smashing people's jack o' lanterns in the streets). Then again, I've drawn a line at my children dressing up as death or the shambling undead and going up to elderly peoples' homes trick or treating. Now, that's just not right. But all the rest I love. The jack o' lanterns (although now with a son in college and daughter in mid-teens I no longer feel the urge to carve them), the costumes, the kids hopefully coming to the door, their parents hovering close by, and the sharp, crispness of the evening air.

So, to give the holiday a little extra added spookiness, I direct you to the radio show called Snap Judgment and the episode entitled Spooked. Here are plenty of scary tales to make the night even spookier! Enjoy!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Where Anxiety Takes Us

Author Peter L. Steinke has the following to say about anxiety:

When anxiety is high, resilience is low. Behaviors are extreme and rigid; thoughts are unclear and disjointed. Anxious people speak harsh words or cut themselves off from others through silence. To manage their threatening situation, people hurry to localize their anxiety. They blame and criticize. Yet it is one thing for a system [this can be any functioning group in which you are a part from family to nation] to be shattered by shocking events and another to be shackled by its own reactive tremors. Once a system fortifies its stability by its reactivity, it cannot get what it needs most: time and distance, calm and objectivity, clarity and imagination.

This description of anxiety and its impact upon systems (i.e. groups) sent tremors of recognition through me. Since 9/11 we in the US have lived with high anxiety and reinforced it in oh so many ways, beginning with color coded threat alerts and spiraling into the longest running war we have ever been involved with. Take a look at the talking heads on the talk shows and commentaries and see it the above description does not fit their behavior to a tea. Take a look at the newest Congress members and see if their beliefs do not fit this pattern. We need to work on lowering our national anxiety levels so that we as a nation may once again have calm and objectivity, clarity and imagination. Our anxiety has pulled us far, far off center and in so many ways we are not behaving like ourselves. If this continues, I hate to think where we are heading. Steinke adds, "...a system that maintains its stability by reactivity alone will not be stable in the long run." He concludes that any system that continues down this high anxiety path will in time no longer be able to repair itself, plan for the future, and find new directions. Take a look at the dysfunctional Congress today and tell me Steinke does not have it right!

Peter L. Steinke. How Your Church Family Works. Page 47

Parents: You Too Can Be A Hero ... Even a Techno-Hero

Okay, first, if you have a child who will soon be the older sibling or is just now grappling with the job and is 3 years old or older, buying a copy of Michael and the New Baby will make YOU dear parents, grandparents, or guardians, a HERO. Your child's fears will be calmed and you both will have a story to enjoy over and over again. Not bad for a low, low price!

But, if you have older children, you know how hard it is to impress them, particularly in the realm of technology, which is their native world ... while for many of us it is an alien planet for of potential hostiles. Still, you can do it. I'll tell you how.

The stars aligned just so for me the other night. Our trusty old (and for computers it is ancient) tower in the family room has started to give up the ghost. Our daughter needed to print out a homework assignment, but the printer was attached to the tower. Never fear, I said (not knowing what was in store for me). I'll plug the printer into my laptop and the problem will be solved. UNFORTUNATELY, the printer's drivers (the programming on the disc that came with the computer) didn't include the Windows 7 operating system. It seemed my printer was now out of date. Well, I hate giving up on a functioning machine before its time. I wasn't raised that way (see how alien the world of modern technology is to me). So, here at long last is the secret, I went online and googled the following question, "Where can I find drivers online for an ________ (insert model here) printer?" The answer was in the first response. The company puts up updates online for just such occasions. I downloaded the drivers, loaded them up, and printed our daughter's homework. She was impressed. I was a techno-hero for the moment. It is amazing. You can type in fully formed, full sentence questions now and come up with cogent answers out of search engines. That's all you need to know. Good luck out there ... hero!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Book Review: The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore

This book is entirely appropriate for harried adults in this confused season (but NOT your children, NEVER your children). Right now in the stores you will find Halloween candy, costumes, and plastic skeletons snuggled up right against festive, artificial Christmas trees, ornaments, and Christmas wrap. What could be better under these circumstances than to curl up with a book subtitled "A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror."

I have heard the author speak. He describes himself as an author of "comic horror." Moore explains. He tried to write horror, took the results to a horror writer's convention, read before a crowd and they all laughed hysterically. That is when he realized he was a comic horror writer, and a darned good one too.

But enough of this, The Stupidest Angel takes place in the small town of Pine Cove, California. Townsfolk are running around readying themselves for the big day, full of holiday spirit ... or just spirits depending on the character. All except for young Joshua Barker. Little Josh has seen Santa killed with a shovel and buried in the woods. Josh wants Santa back from the dead. In comes the Archangel Raziel on a mission. He is to grant one child a holiday wish. He runs into Josh, Josh want dead Santa to rise again, and Raziel grants a general wish in the direction of the moldering Kris Kringle. Not the brightest, Raziel proclaims, (I paraphrase perhaps as I can't locate the passage at this moment and my time grows short) "Arise and feast" waving a hand in the general direction where Josh feels Santa is taking his dirt nap. It is also in the general direction of a small cemetery and the picturesque church, which is the site of the annual Lonely Hearts Club Christmas Bash. The dead obey. Chaos follows. It is a small book, 6" x 9" and 276 pages long, costing $14.95 in hard cover. You'll get through it quickly. If you are like me, you'll go eagerly looking for Moore's other books as well.

Christopher Moore's Author's Warning sets the tone for the whole story: "If you're buying this book as a gift for your grandma or a kid, you should be aware that it contains cusswords as well as tasteful depictions of cannibalism and people in their forties having sex. Don't blame me. I told you."

He's not lying! 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Prescription Laughter 8, or 9, or Who Cares: Buster Keaton "Don't Bring Me Down"

The great Buster Keaton and ELO come together as never before ... and never again. If you really want some laughs that have withstood the test of time, find some old Buster Keaton movies and prepare to laugh. They are silent films, so subtitles will have to be read, but no matter. The movies are great, the stunts are wonderful, and Buster Keaton is amazingly funny! He won't bring you down. Enjoy!

Star Trek 45th Anniversary 2: Flotsam and Jetsam from the ST Universe

The original Star Trek series only lasted 3 years as a broadcast series on TV, from 1966 to 1969. Then, the series called by Gene Roddenberry (its creator) the "Wagon Train to the stars," guaranteed to be created on a shoe string budget, was gone. Sort of. Star Trek sailed off into the universe of syndication, which is where I caught up with it on a little black and white Sony TV (the only one in the house that could pick up the exotic UHF channels) and was hooked in my early teens. Of course, Star Trek went on to do far more than that, with spin off series and movies galore. Here are a few souvenirs from the Star Trek Universe.

Original series Enterprise hanging in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., c. 1980.
A friend handed me the manuscripts you see here. Star Trek II, dated 1977, caught my eye. I'd never heard of this, but it was a proposed second TV series with the original crew, except for Mr. Spock and Leonard Nimoy was busy trying to separate himself from his emotionless, logical character from the series. The writers described the series as follows:

"Our new episodes portray the second five-year mission of the U.S.S. Enterprise. following its first mission, the starship had returned and entered orbital drydocks in the naval yards high over San Francisco, where the vessel has been completely refit. Its basic countours, both interior and exterior, remain generally the same. The vessel functions in basically the same way. However, the details of the vessel such as instrumentation, read-out systems, and controls are vastly more sophisticated than in the original Enterprise.
To command this second five-year mission, Captain James T. Kirk has refused an Admiral's star and has managed to recruit many of the original crew. An exception to this is Mr. Spock, who has returned in high honor to Vulcan to head the Science Academy there. In fact, all of our original crew have found themselves to be very nearly legends in their own time. Few starships have every completed a five-year mission [phew, mortality rates are higher than I imagined. I thought it was only the red-shirted security guards who had such short life expectancies ... not whole starships and their crews!], and none but the U.S.S. Enterprise has returned with its original crew virtually intact. Perhaps the explanation for so many of the crew volunteering for a second five years was their seeking the relative anonymity of space. Or perhaps these men and women cannot find satisfaction in an ordinary life after so many years of the highest adventure experienced by humans."

The writers go on to state that courtesy of "M*A*S*H," more realistic language was now possible, censor's restrictions were relaxed, and better camera work and special effects were available to make the series outshine the original show. However, this series was not to be. Instead, it was revamped into Star Trek: The Motion Picture ... and you can see that when you watch it.

The much longer running first follow up to Star Trek.

The rest of the ST flotsam and jetsam is self-explanatory. Quite intriguing is the Star Trek Timeline. Here's what was to have happened in the early 2000s.
  • 2001--New millennium is heralded by formation of United Earth (governed by a revised and strengthened United Nations) and UESPA (United Earth Space Probe Agency). 
  • 2002--Nomad probe launched into deep space. 
  • 2002--Terra's United Nations Scientific Council released a 15-year project estimating offworld and space-oriented industry to grow at an exponential rate. 
  • 2003--The United Space Initiative is signed in New York, on Terra. This landmark agreement will focus and accelerate Human exploration of the Sol System for the benefit of all Humanity. 
  • 2003--Using solar sails, Alpha Centaurians begin a concerted effort to explore their stellar system. 
  • 2004--Farside Moonbase begins operations on Luna. 
Page one from the ST Universe's history...
And on it goes. Sigh! By 2012, we were to be on Mars and by 2014 exploring the asteroid belt. If only!

Well, hope you enjoy exploring these artifacts of Star Trek. Happy 45th everyone. Live long and prosper!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser NASA CCDev Accomplishments Video

A teeny-tiny space shuttle crew delivery vehicle looks like it may be in the works from the Sierra Nevada group. It seems we now have a race between this organization and Space X. The Space X Dragon ship is more ambitious than the SN Dream Chaser, with ambitions to extend their flight far beyond low earth orbit. Who will be first? Will either private company succeed? Only time will tell.

For more information on the Dream Chaser, see the Universe Today article,

For a little history about where the Dream Chaser design came from, see this short NASA video: It seems some old ideas from NASA are getting new life via these private firms. Bigelo is using an old NASA idea for inflatable space stations to create their inflatable space hotel. Do you suppose the Dream Chaser will ferry hotel guests up to their inflated suites in space?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Quiet Reflections for a Quiet Evening: A Small Miracle Revealed

The house is still. The moon strolls through the cloudy sky, tracing each with silver. The family sleeps, all except me. Even our rambunctious beagle has gone to bed. The TV is off. All is still. It gives me a chance to reflect. And to write to you, reader, whoever and wherever you are. I hope you have peace tonight.

I am in my last year in seminary, about to sign up for my final class. There is a strange symmetry here. When I began, it was 20 years since my first Master's degree. I decided to take it slow. One class that semester only. Now, I'm ending this journey through seminary with one class for my last semester.

In that first class, Spiritual Formation, the very first day a revelatory event occurred. It started off simple enough. Each person in class was asked to tell a little something of their history. We were to disclose a little of what brought us to seminary. How did we come to this place? What was that journey? And the stories began to unfold. Each and every one was a story of struggle and pain, in some part of life. Tears were shed by some, voices cracked for others. The professor had framed the moment in such a way we came to trust one another enough to share our pain. And when we did ... there was a small miracle in the moment for me.

A dark pearl of self-judgmental guilt began to loosen in my heart. With each story, I became more aware of how alike we all were. I came to understand all those little things I was blaming myself for were simply part of being a normal, flawed human being. I discovered in the testimony that I was not doing as God wants us all to do. As we discussed this week in Boundaries class, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. To love those neighbors we must first love ourselves. To love ourselves we have to cut ourselves slack as we would others. We have to rid ourselves of that hectoring voice within that drives us mercilessly. We have to silence that slave driver who forces us to work longer and harder than we should. We have to be able to tell ourselves to relax and rest just as we would tell an overworked and exhausted friend to come and rest for a while in the cool of the evening.

On that day, I did those things. I became my own friend. When I did, that dark pearl of accumulated guilt over transgressions ridiculously small except in the eyes of my inner judge evaporated and the judge fell silent. I was free. Human witnesses shared in trust had set me free. I learned then and know very well now that God intends us all for community. When we share together we are at our best. If you carry your own dark pearl of the heart, find others you can trust. Share your experiences with each other in honesty and love. See how much you have in common. Seek freedom and learn to love yourself and others.

It's been a wonderful journey, this trip through seminary. My faith has blossomed and my spirit grown. It's worth reflecting on.

It's a dark night. A train cries out lonely in the dark. The house is silent, the family sleeping. But now, reflecting on this miracle, it's a night filled with light. God is close. Peace is here in this moment now.

Thank you reader for stopping by. I wish you peace and freedom; I wish you community and love; I wish you the blessings God has for you tonight.

A Modest Proposal for Congress: Make Unproductive Quibbling Expensive

Do you get paid to do nothing? Does sitting on your hands while major projects remain undone get you a fat paycheck at the end of the week? I didn't think so. Me neither. But apparently our Congress people and Senators do. So, I have a modest proposal to "encourage" these civil servants, whose salaries we pay, to get back to work. But first a few figures:

Congress persons and senators receive $174,000 a year, whether they do their jobs or not, whether they declare their primary job to be trying to make the current president a one term president or they roll up their sleeves and are about the people's business. Without calculating in the higher pay of leadership, that means you and I are paying $93,090,000 a year to these folks. I'm sure to the many multimillionaires on Capitol Hill this seems like a pittance and a sacrifice, but for the rest of us that's a darned fat paycheck!

This would be all well and good if said national politicians were working for us and getting their jobs done. But, they aren't. Now, I propose that until this situation is corrected we return to the pay rate offered these civil servants from 1789 to 1815, a $6 per diem. Along with this, we strip these hardly working folks of their parking privileges on Capitol Hill and at the local airports. When the job is being done to the majority of Americans' satisfaction, their current pay rate could be returned, but only then.

Now, I'm sure there will be all sorts of quibbling over how these people are actually paid and who is doing the paying, but there has to be SOME way to get their collective attentions and end these futile rounds of bickering at our expense. Right now over 9% of the American population is unemployed, and that is only those individuals who remain on the unemployment roles. Those who use up their unemployment benefits are dropped from the roles, so the number is actually higher. College students with new degrees go wanting. Business groups insult the unemployed by suggesting they don't work because they receive fat unemployment checks. REALLY folks? That is incredibly insulting. Shut your mouths! We are in a 10 year seemingly endless war losing the lives of dedicated young Americans every week. Protest movements are growing throughout the nation, trying to get the attentions of these supposed civil servants and make them do what is right. And yet, these politicians intend to do nothing about these dire situations for over a year, riding things out until the next election. This is, in my humble opinion, obscene and we the people should put an end to it. Hence, my modest proposal.

Now, anyone have any real ideas on how to end this insane circular firing squad and put these overpaid, under-performing employees back to work? I'd really like to know!

Follow up from October 14, 2011: Listening to NPR out of WAMU discussing politics and a caller made the following comment, which I was ready to dismiss as conspiracy material: "The Republicans made such a mess of the country from 2000-2008 that they will not now let the Democrats fix things and make them look worse." I waited for the commentators, political reporters and that lot, to refute this comment as partisan bias. THEY DID NOT! If this is correct, Republican politicians need to get their heads on straight, work for the nation they are supposed to protect, and stop this nonsense. Personally, I prefer (as you can see above) to be more democratic in assigning blame. It takes two to refuse to tango.