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

Monday, January 31, 2011

J.S. Brooks Presents Celebrates a Milestone

A while back I wrote counseling writers to celebrate the small victories whenever they come. I'm taking my own advice ... once again. One year ago this month, this blog accumulated its highest visit and page view totals (according to SiteMeter) at 283 visits and 700 page views. Over the year, the number of visits have grown (especially since August) and exceeded that number, however the total number of page views remained stubbornly below the 700 mark. This January, one year later, the total number of visitors is (as of this morning's writing) 417 and (drum roll please) the total number of page views sits at 709! Victory at last. Now these numbers are small potatoes compared to long established blogs, but this blog is only about 1 1/2 years old. So, celebrating another small victory. Tomorrow morning I'll put up January's final tally. Thanks to all the readers who have stopped by from all over the planet and read or watched videos on all those pages. I am glad you came.

Okay, the final tally for the January 2011, as dawn seeps over the horizon, is 428 visits and 731 page views for the month. These numbers are the new benchmark for J.S. Brooks Presents to beat. I wonder if it will take until January of 2012 to do so?

According to the stats available from Blogger (a newer feature I really like), readers from the US are my most frequent visitors (which surprises me not at all as this blog is based in the US). My second most frequent visitors are from South Korea, a stat I find truly fascinating. Welcome everyone, wherever you are from. I'm looking forward to another year of blogging with you all.

Courtesy of NASA

Now, onward ... it's time to see if we can beat this new benchmark together!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Freeman's Mind: Episode 31 (Half-Life Machinima)



Freeman's Mind is back! I thought this series was finished, but I guess I was mistaken. What was I thinking? This is humor for gamers who are older. Like the game, this is rated Mature. Fun for dad, maybe mom, but not the kids.

Prescription Laughter 4: Hamster on a Piano (Eating Popcorn)



More modern silliness to make you laugh. That is one fixated rodent.

ISS Cupola: Sunrise from the cupola looks so lovely ...



Continuing the space shuttle fleet tribute, enjoy the view from the world's first cupola in space. See sunrise on the station, a tour around the windows of all the views, and a look at a docked space shuttle. You won't see those from the ISS cupola windows much longer.

Enjoy the view.

Japanese Cargo Craft Arrives at ISS: Robots Everywhere



The Japanese HTV robot resupply vessel is captured by the ISS robot arm. Spectacular views of earth in the background. An example of human/robot cooperation rather than sci-fi robo-Armageddon.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Thundersnow 2: Mid-Atlantic Snowfall 2 1-26-11.mov



The situation out back. The pergola, dogwood, and bird feeder show just how much snow had fallen at that point. Again, the silence is surprising.

Thundersnow the Video: Mid-Atlantic Snowstorm 1 1-26-11.mov



At 10 pm on Wednesday, January 26, 2011, snow fell at the rate of 1" or more an hour. It fell so fast and thick in tiny flakes it made you wonder how you could breath in the stuff. At 7 pm there was a single bright flash that lit up everything like a camera flash going off in all directions. This was a single bolt of lightning reflecting off all that snow.

Prescription Laughter 3: Baby Monkey (Going Backwards On A Pig) - Parry Gripp



So useful to have kids who can clue you in on modern silly stuff for a laugh.

NASA Full Launch - Space Shuttle Discovery [Cockpit View]


Continuing our space shuttle tribute as the program draws to a close, here's a launch as viewed from the shuttle cockpit. For something that looks like such a wild ride on the outside, everything appears cool, calm, and collected in the cockpit.

After the 25th anniversary of the Challenger disaster it is nice to see this flight pass the 73 second mark.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Challenger: 25 Years Ago Today

Challenger Crew 1986. Courtesy of NASA: http://nix.larc.nasa.gov/search;jsessionid=1swxgk3d2uxf5
The question posed in the news today (January 28, 2011) is, "Where were you 25 years ago when the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff?" It gives me a shudder to think back to that awful day. I find it difficult to believe it has been 25 years since that tragic event. Still, here's the story:

I was in an archaeological lab in Atlanta, Georgia, when the site director burst into the lab and declared, "The space shuttle blew up!" Time stood still. Silence descended. We were all shocked by the tragic news and very little work was done for the rest of the day. Having grown up a huge fan of the space program, I was deeply struck by the loss. I remember thinking, now I know how people felt when JFK was assassinated. I was too young to remember that, was old enough to have vague memories of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King's assassinations, but this was the tragic event that struck home hard for me.

As I remember it, Congress had been pushing hard for NASA to declare the space shuttle flights routine rather than experimental, insisting the shuttle flights occur at regular and regulated intervals. This was one of the factors that led to the disaster. Never again would the shuttle fleet be viewed in that light. Spaceflight was, is, and always will be risky business. Those who willingly undertake the risks are to be admired for their resolve.

For a more detailed article on the happenings that day, see: http://blog.nasm.si.edu/2011/01/28/remembering-challenger-25-years-later/

A moment of silence please as we remember the crew who gave their lives in the pursuit of knowledge and adventure on the high frontier. The crew that awful day was:

Dick Scobee
Mike Smith
Ellison Onizuka
Judy Resnik
Ron McNair
Christa McAuliffe
Greg Jarvis

R.I.P.

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It THUNDERSNOW

14" of snow on the ground ... 12" of the measuring stick buried.
On Wednesday night, January 26, 2011, the Mid-Atlantic region was treated to thundersnow. A flash of lightning at 7 p.m. and tiny little flakes filling the air so completely you wondered how you could breath in the stuff told us this was going to be a serious snow. It was not the piddly 1-3" snows we'd been having. Those were just the warm up (chill down?) acts for the Wednesday night snow-tacular. The pictures tell some of the story. Upcoming video will tell the rest ... except for all the monotonous shoveling that happened Thursday morning. No need for weightlifting that day!

On a normal day, that little globe would be around head height. Lots of snow and bowed branches! No snapped limbs or downed power lines ... thank God!

The pergola built over the back porch is structurally sound! That's a lot of snow over each slat.



Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Jack Lalanne - Stop Being So Tired: OR Exercise Today



In honor of Jack Lalanne, who has just passed away, I have a modest recommendation. Find an exercise routine that works for you, start down the fitness track, and see how far you get. For me, "a program that works for you" means a workout routine that you enjoy. There are so many options today, ranging from the Wii Fit and aerobics to running and weight training. But to begin with, get yourself an exercise book. I prefer a comprehensive workout guide produced by Men's Health. There are an equal number (I imagine, I haven't done a survey) of guides for women and men. However, choose carefully. Choose a guide that is practical, that provides workout routines that may be performed without any expensive equipment (showing options for using filled milk jugs as well as hand weights and your home staircase as well as a StairMaster). Further, the guide you choose should advise you to exercise for your health and not for a sculpted body. Let's face it, if you're no longer in your teens or twenties, your chance to look like an Olympic athlete has passed you by. Further, if you don't have all day, every day to work out, you'll never attain that form. The Men's Health guide gives a more practical spin. They state, if you want to be able to carry your grandchildren up the stairs to bed with the same ease you carried your own children, work out for your health. Now, that's practical advice. Make sure to get two copies of this book if you have an active teen or two at home ... you're going to lose the first copy to a younger, avid exercise fan.

My personal choice is weightlifting. The equipment is always ready and requires no electricity. I choose to exercise with a simple weight set and bench in my own home. Why? Because I'm not tempted to do something stupid when working out alone. I keep the weights light to protect myself from injury and increase repetitions regularly to make up the difference. There is no sense in heaving the heaviest weight you can only to blow out a muscle mass and lose weeks or months hobbling around before you can exercise again. Further, especially if you are out of your teen years, never, never, ever try to lift the heaviest weight you can in one try. This is great for the ego and terrible for the body. You stop breathing on such a lift and your blood pressure skyrockets. You are risking a massive stroke every time you try this. It is not worth the risk.

Oh yes, one piece of advice. If you find there is one particular exercise that you HATE (not because it hurts you--stop that one--but because it pushes your muscles hard) ... keep it up. I have found you hate it because you need it most.

So, take Jack's advice, exercise, and feel better. It'll reduce the number of aspirin you take, reduce aches and pains (if done properly), and give you more energy. Most of all, once begun, if done regularly, your body will soon ask for more. Hard to believe now, but it's true.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sloggin' Thru Blogging: Updating Abject Failure, All Is Not Lost

After one year I wrote that the original intent of the blog had failed. This blog site had not promoted my children's book Michael and the New Baby at all in any way that I could measure. At that point I gave up the attempt and resolved simply to blog about the things that interest and entertain me.

Now the update: Little did I know at that time that this was exactly the approach to take. I discovered the hard way (as most great discoveries are made) that this is precisely what is necessary to promote the book. Since making that decision, readers have clicked through to the publisher's site from the blog (through links attached to the book art found along the right side of the blog) a modest number of times, a vast improvement. Over the next year, as I continue down this path, I'm hopeful for growing readership (slow but steady rise in total numbers of visitors) and further success finding readers for Michael and the New Baby as well.

It seems like a backwards approach, new bloggers, but it works.
I wrote my blog's obituary far too soon,
I'm happy to report.

Update 2: Below is another innovation that has met with some success. I now advertise the book at the end of each new blog post. This has also given modest increase to the numbers of people who click through to the publisher's website (although the jury is very much out on whether this will net new sales). 

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: http://www.oldlinepublishingllc.com/index_files/OldLinePublishingChildrensMichaelandtheNewBabybyJSBrooks.htm 




Book Review: The Philip K. Dick Reader

As the blurb on the back states, many readers consider Philip K. Dick the most influential science fiction writer ever. I grew up on Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke and somehow missed Dick's work. My brother recently introduced me to the early work of P.K. and I am impressed. This is the author's early, cold warrior work and it really reflects the fears of the times. Fears of overbearing government (some fears never change in some quarters), fears of total annihilation in warfare, fears of corporate takeovers (sci-fi does come true from time to time), and much more. Do not overlook the technology that is outdated. I used to disdain such references as a kid, but now, that mechanical, oil, hot tube filled, personal rocket world has great atmosphere. If you love tales with a twist, that grand old technique, you'll love Dick's stories as well.

It's a shame P.K. died in 1982. I'd love to see what he would have said about today.

Several of these short stories led to some terrific sci-fi movies over the years. I'll let the book tell you which ones. My favorite story is the last, "Second Variety." Great story of robo-Armageddon. However, the story before that, "Paycheck" has both a wonderful time traveling premise and my favorite lines in the entire book, "As far as I'm concerned I'm an individual caught between two ruthless forces. Government and business. The Government has men and wealth. Rethrick Construction [Business...duh] has its technocracy."

I was given this Reader in paperback form. That took me back as well, considering I read almost all of my original sci-fi stories in paperback. I highly recommend this book. It's a great escape with terrific vision. However, I have to warn you. This book is also the fiction equivalent of a "gateway drug." Once you've read it, you'll be looking for more of Philip K. Dick's work.


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: http://www.oldlinepublishingllc.com/index_files/OldLinePublishingChildrensMichaelandtheNewBabybyJSBrooks.htm 




Citadel Press Copyright 1987 $15.95

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Pause to Reflect

In the midst of yet another East Coast snow, it's time to pause and reflect on beauty (but not my snapshot photography), soak in some of nature's summertime wonder, and sigh. Then ... on with the shoveling and the day. Hope yours is wonderful.


Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye. --Miss Piggy

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Best of Groucho: Prescription -- Laughter


Author and former oncology nurse Diane Byrnes, in her article "RX: Laughter," states unequivocally that laughter indeed helps the healing process. She recounts the experience of Norman Cousins, from his book Anatomy of an Illness, who was gravely ill with ankylosing spondylitis (it even sounds grave) and decided that humor would help with healing. He watched old Marx Brothers movies (hence the clips above) and Candid Camera films. He was delighted to discover that his laughter actually helped alleviate pain. He tested his blood just before and several hours after his "humor therapy" and discovered the elements in his blood that indicated inflammation slowly dropped to normal after each session.

I leave you with this quote from the article, "A sense of humor is more a sense of joy in being alive. Humor, like poetry, has the ability to reach into the deepest level of the psyche in a comparatively painless and yet profound manner."

So, if you are in pain today, under stress, angry, hate filled, fearful, remorseful, etc., go grab a few DVDs of comedies, search the Internet for happy little clips like this one, or start swapping jokes with family and friends with abandon. With luck, you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll kiss your pain goodbye. It couldn't hoit!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What Will You Be Today?

“Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”
~Groucho Marx




I stumbled across this at www.goodmorningandgoodnight.com/ while using Stumble Upon.

Flow Blue: A Collector's Guide to Patterns, History, and Values Book Review

The book blurb begins: "Now in its fifth edition, this popular volume combines recent and classic research with hundreds of all-color photographs to survey Flow Blue ceramics, the much sought after and highly prized table and kitchenware items that graced so many Victorian tables." That is a nice summation of this volume, but is far from complete. Included in this book is a history of transfer printed designs (the first mass production technique for tableware, which allowed homeowners to own an entire set of tableware featuring the same pattern--revolutionary in its day), the durable ironstone ceramic body upon which Flow Blue patterns appear--the culmination of the search for a very white and durable ceramic that could rival the whiteness of porcelain from China without the expense and survive long, hard sea journeys to the new world, and a discussion of the development and popularity of the fuzzy, soft, flowing patterns that were disdained in Britain and adored in the Untied States. Patterns from three periods of production are explored (1825-1860; 1860-1880; and 1880-early 20th century).

This book was the author's very first. As such, there are a few mistakes present. However, that is to be expected from a fledgling author. It is unique in that it provides an archaeologist's perspective on Flow Blue ceramics. Further, it also features a unique Index to Patterns across what would become all five of Jeffrey B. Snyder's Flow Blue volumes. If you are interested in Flow Blue but know little about the topic, this is a terrific introductory guide for you. If you are curious about the book that launched a writing career in antiques, collectibles, and art, this is it. Jeffrey B. Snyder now appears in the Library of Congress listings well over 70 times in almost 20 years as the author and coauthor of volumes in all three of the aforementioned fields of study.

This book is currently available through the publisher, Schiffer Publishing, http://www.schifferbooks.com/ or 610-593-1777, on Amazon, or through your local bookstore upon request. Take a look. I think you'll like what you find. If you do, there are four other volumes on the subject by this dedicated author, featuring some of the most impressive collections to be found in the late 20th century and early 21st.

If you are a collector looking for a challenge ... try to find all five volumes, each with its own unique cover. Good luck!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Important Message on Civility

Along with being a writer, editor, and former historical archaeologist, the man behind the curtain of J.S. Brooks Presents is also a licensed American Baptist pastor working through seminary part time to receive a M.Div. and move on to ordination. Yesterday, I was on Google Images looking for the image of an American Baptist Pastor. Much to my horror and then fury, the first image to come up was a lunatic carrying inflamatory placards who was listed as an American Baptist. American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) has put out a strong disclaimer against this individual, stating in no uncertain terms that he is not and never has been an American Baptist Minister. Those images should be pulled down from Google Images for the damage they do to decent ABC pastors everywhere.

This is a sideways approach to the topic of civility. Last year, well before the horrors in Tuscon, ABCUSA put out a call for civil speech during the furor over healthcare reform. That call for civil speech is just as important now (sadly) as it was during the pitched battles and heated hyperbole of last year. Please follow this address and consider carefully what is said: http://www.abc-usa.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=zvOrTAeS9jo%3d&tabid=461

Have a peace-filled, civil day. And if you want biblical support for this stance, follow THIS address and read the Scripture verses there: http://extoncommunitybaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2011/01/weekly-bible-verse-matthew-1510-20-what.html

Saturday, January 15, 2011

George of the Jungle - uploaded from RealVideo file


Wait a minute. Cruising YouTube I ran across this old George of the Jungle cartoon and was shocked, shocked I say. It looks to me like I have found the inspiration for the 2009 3-D blockbuster movie Avatar. There is even a mineral with an absurd name under the land that is the bone of contention. Amazing what you can find on YouTube.

Fractured Fairy Tales - Leaping Beauty


A short series of cartoons dealing with invention. Favorites from my childhood. First Fractured Fairy Tales from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Wabi-Sabi World ... Embrace It

This ceramic creche from Mexico came to us in a wabi-sabi state with pieces broken.
They are mended but cracks remain.
A couple weeks ago I had the privilege to hear Japanese American missionary Nelson Hayashida speak of his faith and experiences in Zambia where he and his wife Sandra are developing the Zambia International Theological College. He talked about a lot of things in life being worn and out of true, skewed in one way or another ... or cracked in such a way that light was let through, as when a pot is cracked. He spoke of mini buses in Zambia with frames twisted that drove past you down the road a little crooked. He spoke of tin roofs with tiny holes worn in them that let the sunlight in.
Now, in the United States, these are things we would throw away and replace with a new and whole item. Yet, Nelson told us, the Japanese see these things differently. They call them "wabi-sabi" and such items are respected. They are appreciated.

Then Nelson did a tricky thing that drove his point deeply home. He said all of us are wabi-sabi too. He spoke of Mother Teresa with her bent back and deeply wrinkled face. She was wabi-sabi ... and when her journal came out many were shocked to find out how wabi-sabi she was. I imagine the Japanese only appreciated her more with these revelations of her nature and her struggles. I know I do.

We are cracked vessels. That is a good thing because through the cracks we let in the light of God's love for all of us. We are cracked vessels that are deeply, truly loved by the creator of all wabi-sabi things. If you look to the Bible, you'll find all of God's prophets and Jesus' disciples were wabi-sabi folk. That gives us permission to be wabi-sabi ourselves and to appreciate the wabi-sabi nature in others. When we do so, we just might be able to relax a little more around each other (stop struggling for a vision of perfection we create for ourselves and can never reach ... just take a look at ancient Greek and Roman statues of the human form if you don't believe we do this) and appreciate the wabi-sabi nature we all share and that God loves so much.

With that message I began to see the aging and worn items I own differently and more importantly I began to see myself and others differently.

Have a wabi-sabi day ... and enjoy it.
Here you can see some of the cracks that let the light in. We love our wabi-sabi little creche, even more now that we've heard and appreciated Nelson's message.

NASA - The Frontier Is Everywhere


Fantastic, awe inspiring video looking to our common future. The text is from Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot. The narrator ... well, that's obvious to billions and billions of listeners.

Take a moment to sit back, take a deep breath, and be inspired. Work toward a common future for all of us working and living together. Strive for unity and exploration, reaching out a helping hand to everyone around you that all may take part in and enjoy that future. Everyone is needed to make it so. Every perspective, every inspiration, every life experience of every soul on this pale blue dot is needed to strive for something better for all of us. Watch this short video ... and then start the adventure today.

Thanks to my friends at Universe Today for cluing me into this video. The article was written by Ken Kremer. Thanks Ken!

1960 Metropolitan drive by


Look how small the Metropolitan is compared to the modern cars around it. It truly was the Smart Car of yesteryear.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ford Thunderbird, 1963


Then again, while the Metropolitan was cute, the 1961-1963 T-bird was sweet!

'56 Nash Metropolitan


I remember riding with my grandmom in her Metropolitan. Looking out over the hood and the bug-eyed lights of that little Nash was when I first fell in love with small cars. Now I own a car of about that size and gas milage myself. Life comes full circle once again.

See: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2013/04/toyota-yaris-enduring-value.html for my modern version of the Metropolitan. 

My Story to Tell


This is an experiment in communications. Fair warning: this is a faith-based story ... a personal story of a singular event that changed my life and strengthened my faith. It is told with humor and intended simply to share a moment ... a moment when I had an encounter I shall never, ever forget.

The Christmas tree in the background and the Grinch tie also serve a purpose, but you have to wait until the end to find out what those items are all about.

HUBBLE ZOOMS IN ON A SPACE ODDITY -- GIANT TELESCOPE OBSERVES GIANT GREEN BLOB ... INTERGALACTIC OOBLECK?!

Deploying the Hubble Space Telescope. Courtesy of NASA
A strange, glowing green cloud of gas that has mystified astronomers since its discovery in 2007 has been studied by Hubble. The cloud of gas is lit up by the bright light of a nearby quasar, and shows signs of ongoing star formation.

One of the strangest space objects ever seen is being scrutinized by the penetrating vision of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. A mysterious, glowing green blob of gas is floating in space near a spiral galaxy. Hubble uncovered delicate filaments of gas and a pocket of young star clusters in the giant object, which is the size of the Milky Way.

The Hubble revelations are the latest finds in an ongoing probe of Hanny’s Voorwerp (Hanny’s Object in Dutch). It is named after Hanny van Arkel, the Dutch schoolteacher who discovered the ghostly structure in 2007 while participating in the online Galaxy Zoo project. Galaxy Zoo enlists the public to help classify more than a million galaxies catalogued in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. The project has expanded to include Galaxy Zoo: Hubble, in which the public is asked to assess tens of thousands of galaxies in deep imagery from the Hubble Space Telescope.

In the sharpest view yet of Hanny’s Voorwerp, Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys have uncovered star birth in a region of the green object that faces the spiral galaxy IC 2947, located about 650 million light-years from Earth. Radio observations have shown an outflow of gas arising from the galaxy’s core. The new Hubble images reveal that the galaxy’s gas is interacting with a small region of Hanny’s Voorwerp, which is collapsing and forming stars. The youngest stars are a couple of million years old.

The greenish  is visible because a searchlight beam of light from the galaxy’s core has illuminated it. This beam came from a quasar -- a bright, energetic object that is powered by a black hole. The quasar is thought to have turned off less than 200,000 years ago.
Astronomer Bill Keel of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, USA, leader of the Hubble study, is presenting his results on this object today at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle, USA.

For more on this mystery object ... and to discover if King Derwin of Did is behind it ... go to: http://hannysvoorwerp.zooniverse.org/

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

January Snowfall in Predawn Light

You might as well know that some of the articles here act as a personal scrapbook and others as something like half-baked journal entries. This is one of the former.

Here is my first look at the new snowfall before the sun peaks over the horizon. Cudos to the local plow crews for having the streets cleared already. 2 hour school delay for the kids and teaching staff.

Now, how in the world did that little LED bulb powered by sunlight manage to stay on all night? Was the snow really reflecting enough light to keep the teeny tiny battery charged? It is a mystery.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Talking Machines and Why We Hate Them



I believe this is why we don't trust talking machines. HAL embodies all our fears of what our machinery might become, especially talking machines. A couple decades ago talking cars were introduced that nagged drivers, reminding them to fasten their seatbelts or that their "door is ajar." Those simple speaking devices were quickly ripped from vehicles and were never introduced again.

On a "Twilight Zone" episode Syfy ran recently, the main character encountered a talking doll that threatened to kill him ... and eventually made good on the threat.

Today we despise the automated answering services that plague customer service sites "press 1 for..." and grind out teeth in political seasons when the robocalls start.

The only talking machine I can think of at this moment ... admittedly it is early in the morning ... that we have accepted is GPS in our cars, giving us directions. However, have you ever noticed that if you miss a couple of turns, the "recalculating" message starts to sound just a little bit peeved. I hope it never reaches the HAL 9000 response ... "I can see no further purpose in continuing this conversation, Dave...".

Proposing Concerted Acts of Kindness for 2011

After the abominable shootings in Tuscon, Arizona, and knowing that gun violence plays a destructive role in the lives of many worldwide every day, I propose a concerted effort to create a year of kindness. Working together, let's sow seeds of love rather than hate. Let's each do all we can, every day, to make sure we are an inspiration to others and people who provide uplift rather than anger in all that we do. Take the time to encourage others to do the same, including those who in power and those who have direct access to the airwaves.

This is not as easy as it sounds. It means going against the prevalent messages of our cultures and social structures. It means not falling under the sway of powerful commentators who polarize others to increase their ratings and their personal wealth. It means doing good when there is no way to see, in many cases, any immediate impact from our acts. It means walking in faith, believing that the good things we say and do, the kindnesses we show are cumulative and do impact the lives of others. It means believing that eventually our acts of kindness will be more powerful than the acts of evil encountered by people each and every day.

I fully intend to follow this course and hope you will join me. Let us all work together and begin to build a better world.

Over the course of the year, write to me, either as comments to this blog post or at brooksjs180@gmail.com. If you permit it, I will publish your posts if they will provide inspiration for others.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Farewell to Christmas 2010 ... In Ornaments

Two Old Shiny Brites to start us off ...
Christmas 2010 was worth remembering. It was our first artificial tree year, assembly required. The whole family came together in an all day long celebration Christmas day. That had been preceded by a crazy day of last minute shopping, followed by a sublime Christmas eve candlelight service at our church that put everything back into perspective. Personally, I can relax when the candle is lit and Silent Night is sung as this heralds the end of the Christmas rush.

Here to send us on into the New Year are a few of the ornaments from the tree. Many (most) are Hallmarks picked up in the last two years at post-Christmas sales. This is a great place to pick up stocking stuffers for next year at bargain rates all you plan ahead shoppers ... particularly as one year's ornaments do not appear again the next year.

Have a wonderful new year ... and, as the incomparable Pogo and his gang would have said, "Don't take life to serious, it ain't no how permanent."

Old Santa ornament with a story to tell ... another time.

1961 T-Bird Hallmark 2009


Twilight Zone Hallmark 2009 ... who remembers wooden framed console TVs?

Batman Hallmark 2010 ... with a Shiny Brite lurking in the background

Enterprise Hallmark 2010, plus 2 other Hallmarks of years gone by and a Shiny Brite.
Can you find them all?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Delicious Extinction Theory

Dogs love chicken. It's a fact. Dogs find chickens delicious.

That fact started me wondering. That wondering (a dangerous habit) led to wandering down a strange avenue of pondering that ended up in a cul-de-sac of theory, leading to the creation of the Delicious Extinction Theory.

I wondered why dogs find chickens just so entirely satisfying. I hypothesized that long ago when dogs were gray wolves that scoring any bird for dinner was a real coupe in the wolf world. Birds were not easily caught and wolves prized the tasty morsels when they managed to bag them. Therefore, today dogs love chicken, which they still have a hard time getting in any quantities other than tiny tidbits left over from a meal. Hence, chicken remains a coveted and elusive food for dogs.

So, if dogs think chicken is delicious, if elusive, what in the long hard road of human history found humans delicious? Surely certain large predators found us both very tasty and often elusive due to either our tree climbing abilities or our nasty habit of creating equalizing weapons on long shafts. Over time, consciously or subconsciously, we humans must have noticed that certain large predators drooled everytime we went by.

My theory is that, noticing how delicious we appeared to be to those particular large and hungry predators, humanity set out to drive off or hunt down each and every one of these large and formidible predators. In time, we managed to drive every species that found us delicious into extinction and remove ourselves from the gourmet menus of predators worldwide.

At this point, all the proof for this theory is negative and so it remains a very tentative theory indeed. However, it is a delicious idea to ponder.

Sloggin' Thru Blogging: 2010 Retrospective

There was a lot to learn in the last year of blogging. Here are a few pearls of wisdom I picked up in the last year and have not yet discussed in any detail.

  • Trying to sell something (in this case the children's book Michael and the New Baby) before you have established your blog and created a readership is definitely putting the cart before the horse. You have to attract the attention of the blogging community first, then introduce a product if that is your intent once you have people who follow you regularly.
  • Blogging readership develops very slowly, particularly if you have little time to spend in networking with other blog sites. However, there is a slow and steady development if you put out material regularly.
  • As with any writing endeavor, write about your passions. Write about the things that interest and entertain you and readers with similar tastes will come.
  • A combination of fact, humor, and opinion works well.
  • However, a large and splashy article like NASA's announcement that they would soon release information about exobiology that would change the way we search for ET is a REAL draw. That article gave me more hits in a single day than any other to date.
  • Cruise various media for stories that you can give your own peculiar spin ... but be sure to site your sources.
  • YouTube is a great source for little pieces that keep your postings up.
  • Get yourself a small, inexpensive video camera and create your own YouTube videos and then post them. It's endlessly entertaining for you. Mind you, however, do not run afoul of copyright law. Be careful to only use your own original content. Also, as with blog posts, keep the videos short. No one wants to spend much time with this medium.
  • Keep a list of topics you wish to discuss. Otherwise, you may find yourself staring at a blank screen in the early a.m. during your brief window of blogging opportunity.
  • Blog postings don't always draw immediate response. Some postings garner interest and views over time as word slowly gets out.
  • Opinion posts, while personally satisfying, have no lasting value.
  • Helpful articles in any sphere do have lasting value.
  • Some articles, like the Sloggin' Thru Blogging series, are there to serve your own personal needs and are touchstones to return to when you need that material later. 
There you have it. Now, on to 2011. I notice a number of bloggers use their sites as personal journals. I may have to explore that a bit this year. Time will tell.

Happy 2011.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Cryptic Message from a Rural Cemetery

You run across a sign like this and you just have to ask yourself what event led to its posting. What was planted ... or WHO was buried ... without proper permission?




This modest video references back to, and illustrates, the Strange Signs posting from November 2010: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2010/11/strange-signs-along-highway.html

Wireless Router Myth Busting

J.S. Brooks Presents uses a variety of technology. The tower desktop computer that does the bulk of the work is an aging but reliable Compaq Presario SR1030NX. The modem comes through Comcast. Now, I have a modern laptop with wireless capability. Here's where the myth busting comes in.

One big box electronics chain, which shall remain nameless, gave me a song and dance about how difficult it is to establish a wireless connection at home, especially with a Comcast modem. However, for a "reasonable fee" covering the modem and installation ($140) technicians would come out and set me up, in consideration of the fact that I'm not very technologically savvy in many regards. However, savvy or not, I can smell a rat.

I inquired about the challenges of rigging a wireless modem at Radio Shack and quickly discovered that connecting a router would be quite simple actually. I told them the size and layout of our house and was quickly guided to a modem that would meet our needs (a reasonably priced unit and far from their most expensive).

The entire installation operation for the Netgear router took under half an hour. Now my Toshiba Satellite laptop and my new Nook ereader are happily connected wirelessly to the Internet via that Netgear router I hooked up myself (in four steps with two cables and a power cord). The disk accompanying the router took care of the rest with a few keystrokes from me. It could not have been easier. If I can do it, so can you. If some salesperson for a big box store tells you otherwise, take your business elsewhere. I did and I'm mighty pleased.

Daisy New Year

Wishing you a very happy new year ... courtesy of Daisy dog and our son Mike's photography!
New Year's Eve, ready to go!
New Year's Day ... whoo boy ...



Happy New Year!!!