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, August 29, 2011

Hurricane Irene Moments

Hurricane Irene has come and gone. We here at J.S. Brooks Presents were among the lucky ones. We lost power for 15 hours but otherwise came through unscathed. Here are a few things we learned and a grateful for:

  • Little luxuries during tense moments, say cheese and crackers, help take the edge off things and provide a sense of normalcy so needed in a crisis. 
  • Smiles and kind words go a long way to reduce tensions in a crisis. 
  • Small kindnesses are so helpful in ways far greater than those who convey them can imagine: thanks especially to the guys at the Exxon station who kept the store open without power long enough for us to buy 2 bags of ice during the power failure to keep our perishables fresh
  • 15 hours without power is not the worst thing in the world: family board games, discussions, dinner by candlelight, and an early bedtime all have their benefits. 
  • We are grateful for trees that though stressed by a long period of drought stood tall in the winds
  • We are grateful for the preemptive measures states took to clear people out before the storm and save lives. So much better than the Katrina aftermath.
  • We are grateful the predictions were wrong and the storm was less powerful than feared ... this is no reason for complaint. 
  • We are grateful for the dedicated men and women of the power companies across the East Coast who continue to work hard through flood and damage to restore power to everyone impacted by Irene.
  • Facebook is a great way to let your friends know you are fine (until the power fails).
  • A land line telephone is worth its weight in gold during a long power failure. 
  • Sunshine and blue skies after a hurricane pass have never looked so good or been soaked in so eagerly.
  • Finally, a word of wisdom gleaned for parents with children worried about hurricanes approaching. If you live in an older house, remind the worried child (children) that this house has stood for decades through many storms and will weather this one as well. It helps. For us it proved to be entirely true. I hope and pray the same will hold true for you if you ever have to use this.
I hope this post finds you and yours healthy and happy in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Living Through Hurricane Irene

Here on the East Coast, Hurricane Irene is currently bearing down on us all. We are far enough from the center of this storm to be getting only heavy rains and moderate winds. The power has flickered from time to time here. If you want a view of the storm from space, check out the following address: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NiejvDFB5dI

That's the view from the International Space Station. From earthquakes to hurricanes, Earth is reminding us who is more powerful right now. It is good to remember we are not truly in charge.

Stay safe everyone. Help those around you and we'll all pull through this thing together.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

EARTHQUAKE

On August 23, 2011, the East Coast of the United States shook from North Carolina to New York. Many Facebook friends felt the shift and commented on it. In our area, at the office it started as a slight rolling sensation. It felt like someone was moving something heavy past my office door and causing the floor to shake. I stepped out into the hallway to see what was going on when the building started shifting side to side under our feet. A friend of mine recognized it for what it was and stood in a doorway just in case. It ended quickly, but for hours after that I walked around like the floor just wasn't as solid as it used to be. There hasn't been an earthquake that strong (5.9 at the epicenter) on the East Coast since 1879, so this is one both for the history books and to tell the grandkids about someday.

Now I start to understand, just a little bit, how people feel who go through a big earthquake and they all have my sympathy. No damage in our area, except a friend reports his garage floor cracked into several pieces. However, in DC the National Cathedral, the second largest church in the US, was damaged. Several spire bits fell off and the central spire is reported to have a lean to it. Now, where will they find the stone masons to undertake repairs. Hoping nobody southwest of DC in Virginia near or at the epicenter was hurt. However, unlike SOME large offices I could mention, after it was over we just went back to work.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sloggin' Thru Blogging: Technical Difficulties

I have run across a glitch. When trying to upload video from my YouTube account, I now receive the error message: bX-f0ok7a

I'm going to have to try to track this down. Not being a computer genius or programmer, this may take some time.

If ANYONE knows what this means and how to fix it, please leave a comment below. Over the past year, I've found very little advantage to blogging in the realm of community building. Here is one time where community help is needed and I'm hoping community will truly respond. If you like this blog, want to see it continue, and have an answer to this problem, please let me know soon. Life is getting busier and setting this aside for other things (given my level of aggravation right now) would be surprisingly easy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Working for the Future We Want

We are not passive players in life. We may not be able to travel in time. There may be no Back to the Future for us. But we can seed the future and help it grow in directions we want it to go. There is no reason to accept things as they are or surrender ourselves to some distopian view of the future (i.e. Bladerunner as one example).

For many decades science fiction authors have done just that. Now it's our turn as well. Work for a future filled with justice and compassion for all peoples everywhere. Work for a future in which everyone is valued and considered people of worth.

Follow guides you believe work well and apply them to our future world. Me, I'm a Christian seminarian, I'll be following the Bible and working for social justice and compassion as part of our collective future. For me, this idea is well expressed in the concept of Proleptic Eschatology, which means in a nutshell that God offers us all the chance to work with God to bring about God's peaceable kingdom of justice, mercy, compassion, and more. I intend to do just that. I'm flattered and humbled to take up that offer and run with it. I started years ago and never intend to finish. Michael and the New Baby was one small attempt to build a better future by offering up a positive vision of brother- and sisterhood for children to follow, calming their fears about the new baby. It wasn't easy ... and trying to promote it is hell ... but I believe every positive effort is a worthy seed for a better future. How about you? Ready to build a better future?




Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What Kind of Future Do You Want: Douglas Adams on Technology, Zoology and the Future


The most important point given here is our perspective on the future. What kind of future do we want? What perspective are we willing to take ... and to work for? Some useful predictions for future technology from Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) in 2001.

Sci-Fi Come True ... and Not: Future Technology: Arthur C Clarke Predicting the future in 1964



Woke up this morning to the BBC discussing science fiction author's future predictions come true. That got me thinking. Here's ten items that made it from the predicted past of novels and movies into the world of today:

  • Nuclear submarines (Jules Verne: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea)
  • Satellite communication (Arthur C. Clarke as shown above here ... although the death of the city by 2000 didn't happen)
  • Universal translators (Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek ... if the commercials are right our cell phones can handle this now, although only with other humans)
  • Rockets to the moon (lots of authors, too bad we let that one slip away)
  • Personal communicators (Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek ... although today's smart phones make ST's communicators look boring and simple ... then again, the series would have been pretty boring if the Enterprise crew had been sitting around checking out new apps and texting everyone)
  • AI: it's everywhere in one form or another, not sentient, just annoying
  • Robots: they are around, again in many forms, but I'm still waiting for Isaac Asimov's robots to show up! And the Roomba falls far short of the ever plucky Rosie from the Jetsons (although owners seem to love their robot vacuums anyway)
  • Robotic limbs: too many soldiers these days show us these have become a reality, at least with artificial legs
  • Computers: yes, computers are in almost every home now, hanging from many people's belts, hiding in their pockets, directing them through traffic ... 
  • Flying cars: since the 1950s there have been several of these ... but none of them have made it into mass production (thankfully since texting while driving is stupid enough, but texting while flying would lead to suicide at least and to the new category of "moronic homicide" at worst)
I'm sure you can come up with many more with a little thought. What would you add? What predictions proved ridiculously false (how about nuclear cars)? Are you glad?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mars:2020:Springtime



Who says space exploration can't be romantic?

We Do Come Together When It Counts





Saturday night at 8:45 pm tragedy struck the Indiana State Fair. As a powerful storm rushed in, 60 mph wind gusts brought down the stage, enveloping several rows of fans awaiting the concert in the front rows. Four died immediately, a fifth by the next day and more than 40 were injured.

However, things could have been far worse. Instead of panicking and running away from the disaster, potentially trampling others and leaving the 40+ people trapped beneath the stage, the fair goers in the immediate area instantly turned toward the stage to help rescuers reach the trapped victims of this disaster. Working together, the crowd was able to lift portions of the stage rigging, allowing quick access and medical help.

It is heartening to see, during these truly divisive times, that when it really counts, human beings can and will set aside all differences to help others. People will make sacrifices and risk their personal safety to reach total strangers and save their lives. This is uplifting. This is an encouragement to hold tight to as the invectives fly over world economic disturbance and politicians prefer to hang tight to political ideologies and seem only interested in helping their well heeled supporters rather than the people and nation they have sworn they would serve.

We, the average citizens, will rush forward to help in times of crisis. Despite all the horror stories in the news, I stand by the assertion that humans are basically good and that our nature is to rush in to help others when the chips are down and disaster strikes.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all the families who were impacted by the disaster of August 13, 2011. I stand with you in your pain and your grief.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Don't Succumb to the Temptation to Lash Out

In the twentieth century, a study on violence was conducted in Canada. The findings were surprising ... and discouraging (or encouraging from a certain point of view). Those conducting the study came up with their hypotheses like any good scientists or social scientists will do and had the facts topple their central idea. They believed they would find lots of violence directed at the rich coming from the poor.

The nineteenth century well-to-do believed this would be the case as well. They armed themselves against attacks they fully expected to receive. They purchased all sorts of fancy walking sticks with hidden weapons inside them for secret defense. They were armed and ready.

The researchers discovered that in reality, driven by fear of the "other," fear of those who were not like them, the rich instead attacked the poor. Their weapons of choice were ... riding crops and simple walking sticks with no gadgets inside them. They beat the poor regularly but the poor did not respond in kind in any numbers, certainly not in numbers that would justify the fear of the rich and their harsh response based on that fear.

There was one other group the rich needed to fear, a group who posed a real threat to long lives and well being among the rich. The rich needed to fear each other. When they weren't battering the poor, the rich were challenging each other to duels and dying on the fields of honor.

We are in difficult times. We are afraid. Let's make sure we do not act like our forebears of an earlier age. It may have been a long time ago, but we are essentially the same. Let's stay the whip hand and reach out the open hand in these troubled times. Let's lift each other up and make sure we get through this together. We're stronger when we set aside our fears and work as one for our common good. We're hearing a lot of us versus them talk these days. Ignore it.

Here's an article that ties in with this idea and calls for us to act and drive back the darkness and the fear: http://blog.sojo.net/2011/08/11/our-dark-night/ If you click on this post title, you'll be taken right there.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

SpaceX CEO Bets Manned Mission to Mars by 2020



Interesting discussion from SpaceX's founder Elon Musk on how the dream came to life and his rationale for sending humans to Mars. This is from 2009, 2 years prior to the discussion on how to get there. For now, we'll see if SpaceX can get their current vehicle, the Dragon, to reach and dock with the International Space Station. He has some sad information on what became of the Saturn V.

Message of Inclusion During Divisive Times by Henri Nouwen

Henri Nouwen was an influential twentieth century theologian who had much to say about the nature of the Christian faith. The following message concerning who Jesus Christ comes for is far more inclusive than most messages you will find today on almost any given subject. This excerpt comes from his daily devotional Bread for the Journey. I highly recommend it. It is entitled The Door Open to Anyone.

Jesus is the door to a life in and with God. "I am the gate," he says (John 10:9). "I am the Way: I am Truth and Life. No one can come to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) [Steady, read on, I guarantee this is an inclusive message, no matter how that passage has been abused in the past.] Still, many people never have heard or will hear of Jesus. They are born, live their lives, and die without having been exposed to Jesus and his words. Are they lost? Is there no place in the Father's house for them?
Jesus opened the door to God's house for all people, also for those who never knew or will know that it was Jesus who opened it. The Spirit that Jesus sent "blows where it pleases" (John 3:8), and it can lead anyone through the door to God's house.
This excerpt reminds me of twentieth century British author C.S. Lewis’s description of Jesus as Aslan the Lion in his famous children’s books, The Chronicles of Narnia. Lucy, Peter, and Susan, human children from war torn Britain who have stumbled across another world called Narnia, are told by the Narnians that their ruler Aslan is a lion and not a man as the children had assumed. Susan then asks if Aslan is safe. The locals respond, "Safe? Don't you hear what the Mrs. tells you? Who said anything about being safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you." We try to box Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit in (our triune, three persons in one being God) and make them safe, at least for ourselves. However, as Henri Nouwen states rightly quotes from John 3:8, the Spirit of God blows where it pleases. Jesus chose to come to save everyone. God crosses all the little lines we draw in the sand, Jesus wipes away all our human devised ideologies and rules, and the Spirit ... the Spirit goes everywhere. That's not very safe, is it? But it's definitely good, good for us.

SPACEX on MARs : Saving Human Spaceflight using public/private consortiums



Sure, it's an ad, but it also brings up interesting ways to get the job done. Glad somebody is thinking big instead of quibbling over the small. Sure, this could be another example of the 1950s flying cars, nuclear cars, city of tomorrow dream stuff that never happens ... but it's nice to see somebody talking about the far horizon.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Opportunity's Traverse on Mars: January 2004-January 2011


As the Mars Opportunity rover approaches Endeavor crater, a picture is definitely worth 1000 words. See the rover's 7 year journey. It's impressive.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Juno to Jupiter on This Week @NASA



This is exciting. The second news item states the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter may have found flowing water on the surface of Mars. And, as NASA says, if you want to find life, follow the water. We shall see.

Key Yard Sale Truths: The Top Twelve

We recently held our first yard sale, and here are a few truths we learned:

  • You can find a whole lot of advice on how to price and sell things online. Some of it is very good ... and some is just trying to sell you a product.
  • Advertising via telephone pole with posters is effective, even if the range is limited. Advertising in free online sites and via your blog don't work well, at least not in the last 48 hours before the big day. (Go figure.)
  • Bundling small toys together by theme in large Ziplock type bags and pricing them at .50 cents works like a charm. Bundles sell much better than individual small items. However, expect to run into at least one yard sale customer (God bless his/her heart) who wants only one thing out of the bundle (.10 cents, please).
  • Keep the prices for everything low. NOBODY is going to pay collectibles prices for yard sale objects.
  • Items placed up on tables where they can be seen and/or played with by potential customers WITHOUT bending over will sell much better than the stuff under the tables at ground level.
  • As space opens up on the tables, move things off the ground and onto the tables. They might sell.
  • Newly minted grandparents are GREAT yard sale customers when you have baby and toddler toys.
  • So are grandparents whose children have just bestowed a grandchild of a sex never expected upon that grandparent. Enjoy them, but don't take advantage of their joy. Enhance it if you can!
  • The items you think are your best items and have priced the highest simply won't sell. Examine your motives. Perhaps you don't really want to sell those few things and need to set them aside for YOUR grandchildren (someday, far in the future, God willing).
  • Nobody wants old, useful electronics, even if they still do work perfectly (unless they are strange and quirky toys). Trust me on this. It may be hard to accept if you like to use stuff until it can't be used anymore, but it's true. Toss the old DVD player or VCR ... or leave it exposed the night before trash day out by the curb. If it's free, somebody may take it. 
  • Finally, if your kid catches you explaining some geeky toy to a customer, your loving child will call you a nerd. OWN that title, wear it with pride!
You'll get less money out than effort and time put in, but you'll have a cleaner, more organized house when you are done. Better yet, once your "treasures" have been seen by the public, you'll understand clearly what is treasure and what is trash. We sold about a quarter of our stuff, trashed another quarter, and the other half is cleaned, tagged, and stowed, ready for next year's yard sale, in which we will include items we discovered people were looking for, and we didn't have out, so we can spice things up some more. What are they? That's another story ...


Friday, August 5, 2011

Juno Mission Launches to Jupiter



Hard to believe while watching this that the large spacecraft riding the nose of this rocket will take five years to arrive at its destination at Jupiter. Safe travels, Juno.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Paul Bloom: The origins of pleasure


This is a very sneaky talk. You'll discover some very surprising things about pleasure and the way we think. Now, I'm going to tell you parents, you will get great pleasure reading Michael and the New Baby to your child before or after your child's new sibling arrives and watch your child relax about becoming the older sibling. There is true pleasure in that.

Strange News: Computers Beat Dogs in Britain ...That Bytes!

According to one of our most reliable news sources, NPR's "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me" a survey in Britain shows that digital devices are now considered "man's best friend," shoving aside the furry pals for the more advanced Ferbie-like devices. Weird, sad, and apparently true ... dog gone it. 

J.S. Brooks Presents Reaches Yet Another Milestone!

We here at J.B. Brooks are celebrating once again. According to our meticulous record keepers, we have now had over 10,000 page views of the posts on this site. Slowly the word is spreading about the blog ... and even more slowly about the book that is the blog's reason for being, Michael and the New Baby. Now the day we have sold 10,000 copies of said book, then we'll REALLY celebrate.

For now, thanks for your support.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Selling That Shiny New Book

Okay, you've had your book published. Now, what are YOU going to do about it?
Congratulations new, first time author (perhaps an old author who is now publishing in a new genre for the first time)! You have accomplished your goal, completed your book, found a publisher, gotten the book published ... and now what? You sir or madame or mademoiselle are now living in a do it yourself age. Unless you have published with a very large firm and your title is extremely popular (now, now of course your work is brilliant and everybody should read it, but now is the time to be completely, brutally honest with yourself), you are going to have to do the marketing for the book you struggled so hard to create. The economy stinks, the US is involved in multiple military conflicts, jobs are scarce, and publishers have fewer dollars available for marketing. It's now up to you. You have to be your books Paul Revere, riding through the night hollering that your book is here. So, what do you do?

Google, Bing, Dogpile, etc. search the venerable and spooky subject of marketing. You'll find plenty of advice out there about how it is done. Find something that seems reasonable to you and run with it. In the end, it will be like anti-virus protection ... it'll take more than one program to get the job done well. You'll have to choose from among the options and play to your strengths. But make no mistake, you will have to do this yourself. The days of lavish book advertising and sponsored book tours are largely over, at least for now.

So, once you have done a little research ... see, this does play to your strengths ... you'll have to choose a course of action that works with your schedule and your wallet. Blogging is free and websites can come cheap these days. Establishing these will start to give you some presence in the world. However, you need to know that while nobody is clear how many websites there are in the world, WWW FAQ: states that Yahoo reported in 2005 there were 19.2 billion pages out there. As for blogs, the stats keepers aren't even trying. Blogs are poppin' up like weeds. If you go the website, blog route, you have to get people to notice your sites as well as your book. Then, according to the experts, you have to develop a loyal "tribe" of around 1,0000 followers who trust you before anyone will consider buying your book based on your website and/or blog. So, while they don't cost much to set up, these media outlets are expensive in man hours to get noticed in the sea of voices out there.

You can and should try book signings and make sure local papers receive Press Releases about upcoming book signings weeks ahead of schedule so you get noticed. See if or which libraries will carry your book so more eyeballs might find it. Although, if you find libraries who will carry your book, you come up against a visual impression of what you are up against. See all those books out there in the stacks? Anybody who wants to read your book has to know about it and be able to find it first. It is a daunting image. But, hang on to the small victories and simple pleasures as you move forward. Celebrate the fact that you are now a published author with a book in the LIBRARY. Not everybody can say that!

Good luck developing your strategy and enacting your plan. Know this, if you don't do it, these days nobody will.

By the way, Michael and the New Baby is available through Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and Old Line Publishing. Click on the images from the book on this blog and you will be taken there and can place your order now. See, you can market anytime.

Again, good luck.