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