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

Friday, September 30, 2011

SpaceX Chief Details Reusable Rocket



Space X founder Elon Musk discusses plans for a completely reusable rocket in two stages, which lands on legs using propulsion to bring each stage to a controlled stop. No parachutes involved. This should be interesting to see, if it works.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Knowledge and Guidance from Descent Into Hell

Charles Williams' book Descent Into Hell provides a couple of provocative quotes (well, quite a few, but two in particular for this post) that help us navigate a prickly, angry nation and agitated populace today in our uncertain world. The first quote reads: "It was the hate of those men and women who had lost humanity in their extreme love of themselves amongst humanity." (p. 190) and the second is "So, salvation lay everywhere in interchange ..." (p. 181) Confused? Sure. Let me explain. There are quite a few provocateurs in our society today who are taking advantage of uncertain times to turn us inward and away from each other. They are harping on our independence and stating we should not trust others for help. We should look inward, use only our own resources, and love only ourselves. Of course, this is narcissism and quite destructive. It is a divide and conquer strategy used by those who wish to take advantage of us in a weakened state where we cannot organize and fight for what we know to be right. These agitators come from both the left and the right, the ultra liberal and ultra conservative camps. If we listen too closely to them, allowing them to color our world with a lenses of suspicion, paranoia, xenophobia, and who know what else, we will soon spiral down into an impotent hate of humanity and a love only of ourselves. Get into that state, and we can be driven by fear and hatred to do almost anything. Remember, the first thing that has to happen when leaders wish to take their people into war is that the "enemy" has to be tarred as the "other," a subhuman species worthy of hatred and slaughter.

The second quote provides a solution. Salvation lies in interchange. We were made to be social creatures. We are designed to work best in loving relations with others. All of us are given certain gifts and talents. None of us are given all gifts and talents. We need each other and our pooled resources working together to live well, to be fulfilled, and to have happy lives. However, the drum beat from the provocateurs steadily pounds out a message of suspicion, hate, splintered tribalism and narcissistic self-love over all else. It is long past time we tuned out these dangerous messages, remembered ourselves and our love of others, and started working together to navigate through the difficult waters of uncertain times. If we succumb to our basest fears, we will all be reduced to doing awful things. Let's not go there.

Hubble's Greatest Hits



Be ready to be awe inspired. Consider this closure to the Space Shuttle tribute series. Without the Space Shuttles, the Hubble Space Telescope would never have been deployed, and if deployed, could never have been repaired. Today, the Hubble Space Telescope continues to conduct valuable scientific work and send home amazing images like those seen here.

For all you fans of extra-solar planets, here's an article in Universe Today that provides extra added value and reason for excitement. At the beginning of this video, the host states the value of published scientific articles lies in how often other scientists refer to them. Hopefully, this exciting article will be often referenced. See for yourself: http://www.universetoday.com/89237/how-common-are-terrestrial-habitable-planets-around-sun-like-stars/

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Jim Henson on Making Muppets 1969



In honor of what would have been Jim Henson's 75th birthday. If you haven't introduced your child to the Muppets, you should. Jim's gentle humor and quick wit transcends the generations. You'll also never have anything to fear about what your child will learn from the Muppets. The messages are always well meaning and positive.

If you're looking for some rainy day projects, get your kids started on some of these basic puppets.

You are not forgotten Jim. Thanks for all the laughs!


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.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/ldren-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/


Friday, September 23, 2011

Sloggin' Thru Blogging: Simple Solutions Make You Feel Foolish

Yesterday, for no reason I could understand, my laptop lost access to my wireless connection. Okay, I know what you're thinking, and no, it's not somebody else's wireless connection close by who made it a secure line. The connection lost was to our very own wireless router (modem, or whatever) which was sitting there prettily lit up and looking innocent as always. I ran the connect program several times. I ran the full antivirus program overnight, thinking perhaps there was some new virus that blocked connections. Nuthin.

So, I behaved contrary to American males everywhere. I tried to connect again and when the laptop failed yet again, I stopped and read the instructions that popped up to tell me what to try next. The procedure was simple. Here it is. Go under your Menu. Find the Control Panel. Access the Network Connection folder and run a diagnostic (sounds so Next Generation). It may come back with the following simple instruction ... click the little button on the keyboard of your laptop that turns on the wireless connection, nitwit. Okay, it doesn't scold you or call you names, but it makes you feel foolish all the same. I'd been cleaning the keyboard yesterday and accidentally brushed against the little button with the antenna graphic on it with the little waves on either side. I pushed the button as instructed and felt really silly as a little icon appeared on the screen in the shape of a button reading ON. Within seconds, I had full access to the wireless world back at my fingertips.

It is amazing how, without Internet access, you suddenly feel like you are working with only half a computer.

So, that's it. Moral of the story: sometimes even computer problems can have simple fixes. Good luck blogger. You are now forewarned and forearmed. Use the information wisely.
Update: July 9, 2012: It happened again. This time the solution was even simpler: Turn off the offending laptop, unplug the modem, wait 10 seconds, plug it in again, give it time to get itself pulled together again, and restart laptop. Worked like a charm. Now you have two solutions for the price of one. Don't tell me we here at J.S. Brooks Presents aren't looking out for you.

CERN scientists break the speed of light



If this proves true, take that stodgy particle physicists! Nothing can go faster than light speed, eh! Ha, Ha, Ha! CERN and those tiny little neutrinos disagree. But, don't take it too hard. There was a time when scientists firmly believed nobody could survive speeds higher than 20 mph as well (around the time the first locomotives were being introduced). Time to rewrite physics, perhaps? Hmmm??? Thanks to my friends at Universe Today for bringing this story to my attention. Warp speed, Mr. Scott!

UPDATE 9/23/11: According to the BBC, if the speed of light is not the universal limit, then time travel is possible. And if time travel is possible ... so is Dr. Who!

UPDATE 6/3/12: Well ... according to recent reports they found a piece of equipment that wasn't working right and the speed of light is still the official limit. Party poopers. Of course ... it could be a conspiracy for those of you who are so inclined. Perhaps the Daleks are behind it all. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Our Beagle: the Family's Court Jester

Beagles keep you on your toes. Beagles "bay" at everything. Our beagle has a deep and abiding conviction that all inanimate objects are plotting against her. Ridiculous, yes? Ridiculous, no, this morning. I woke up several minutes before the alarm went off to hear Daisy whining softly. As always, I refused to get up early, thereby encouraging her to become my constant furry alarm clock. Being food obsessed (as all Beagles are), she'd get me up earlier and earlier if she had her way. But, this morning, the whining was replaced by soft thumps coming at odd intervals. Sleepily I wondered what mischief Daisy was up to, trying to encourage me out of my bed. She's been known to grab small items (tissues from the trash and such) and shred them to get attention. When I got up and stumbled out into the hallway, I was puzzled (blearily so) to find the bathroom door closed. I knocked to see if someone was in there. There was no response. I gingerly turned the knob, ... and out bolted Daisy. Somehow, she'd managed to close herself in the bathroom in the night. Perhaps, her deep and abiding conviction that inanimate objects are out to get her is not entirely unjustified after all.

Sloggin' Thru Blogging: The Posts with the Most

Carefully checking my Site Meter and Stats, I have come to a surprising conclusion. Downloaded videos, while raising your total number of posts and your presence in search engines, are not all that useful otherwise. It turns out that the blog posts that are most often visited are those text blogs with something to say (factual, experiential, humorous, whatever). Yes, the pen is mightier than the video. So, if you really want to draw attention to yourself, fellow blogger, write. Right now.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What does it feel like to fly over planet Earth?



International Space Station time lapse journey over the earth. Why? Because we need more inspiration in our lives. Enjoy. Be uplifted.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Keeping the Inner Geek Alive

Okay, no T.G. items here but camera is on fritz so this is geeky stuff
This is for all the sci-fi, anime, Star Trek (a force unto themselves), Star Wars, video gamers and everybody else who proudly waves the geek flag. There is a place for you online. No it's not World of Warcraft (please). It's a place where there is plenty of stuff tailored to your passions. And age is no barrier here. No amazing thumb reflexes necessary. Nope, geeks young and old are welcome. It's Think Geek, www.thinkgeek.com. They've got stuff you've never heard of but always hoped for. My favs are the miniature Easter Island heads and the 2001 a Space Odyessy Monolith Action Figure with 0 points of articulation (and you have to be a geek to get THAT joke). I know someone (I'm not telling who) who is a huge Portal fan with a T.G. favorite item being the plush Companion Cube. If you've kept that inner geek under tight reign for a long time, come on, let him or her out for air ... in private ... behind closed doors if you must. Just check it out. The caffinated monkeys await you (you'll see)!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Keep Hatred Out of Your Work

I was listing to NPR the other day, and I heard a piece I found shocking. An American Muslim family had a young daughter who had many friends in school and was doing fine, prior to September 11, 2001. One year after that awful day, a hateful teacher did a truly hateful thing. He brought in a small book for the class to read. This book blamed all Muslims for the deaths on 9/11. The teacher let it be known that he agreed with the truly misinformed (one can hope) or truly evil writer and his twisted ideas. Soon, this young girl had no friends and was subject to regular abuse. To protect her, the family moved to another neighborhood in a different school district. The hateful bullying continued. The local mosque they attended was shot at one morning during services. The family stopped going. The parents divorced as this girl's father felt America was no longer safe for his family, or for any Muslims. He had been raised on the West Bank and returned there, feeling that location was friendlier that the US. His wife, a native American citizen, did not feel the same. Splintered, the remainder of the family lives on. It is a struggle.

So, do not respond to the challenging world we live in with hate. If you are a writer, your words have power to impact lives seriously and permanently. Take care in what you write. Broadcasters, you have great power in a media age. Temper your voices, speak truth sanely and compassionately. Your words also have great impact on others. You can help lead to peace or incite riots. Everyone, choose your words and actions wisely. Spread peace, hope, and love. Set aside hatred and save lives. Do not give in to fear. Do not be what the apostle Paul called "the children of wrath." We can all be better than that. We all need to be better than that. Each and every day and every moment in each day, we can choose to be a blessing or a curse to others in all we say and do. Choose the harder path, the better path, the loving path. Set hatred aside and reach out to others with an open hand. Don't let what you write, say, or do, shatter lives and destroy families. Do not let your words and actions spread violence and sow hatred. Please.

Kepler-16: A Planet Orbiting Two Stars



Once again, science fiction is becoming reality. How long will it be before we find a habitable planet circling a double star. I'm old enough to remember when scientists poo pooed the idea that planets could orbit a double star system. This is a very exciting time to be alive. We are watching history be made and our understanding of the universe revolutionized regularly. And, with our new technology, we can share that knowledge so much more easily.

Now, the questions are, will we support additional research and will we use our high tech equipment to uplift everyone and improve life on this single star planet? The future is now. What will we DO with it?

Soyuz Crew Lands in Kazakhstan



Fascinating video of a International Space Station crew returning home in a Soyuz module. Terrific view of earth and the module flying toward the cloud tops. Extraction from the landed capsule is ... educational.

Friday, September 16, 2011

ENOUGH! Demand Social Justice for ALL



I have had it with political news these days in the United States (Disunited States in the current political climate). Years ago I read a Machiavellian book on how to get ahead in business. One of the key pieces of advice that stuck in my mind like a cold dagger was, when you need to make a serious decision, set up a subcommittee led by someone you want to fail. This someone, who will be out of your way by the end of the committee's life, will work on the problem and come up with a less-than-satisfactory answer to the problem. You, meanwhile, will scheme behind the scenes to come up with a better solution on your own to present after the committee's work is complete, further undermining the committee chair's position and elevating yours. I imagine the head of Congress's super committee on the economy is feeling like a marked person these days. From what I read, I don't believe anyone in Congress outside that committee believes anything will be accomplished there, despite their rhetoric. In the end, the American people, particularly the jobless (and I know too many) will suffer further and Congress will continue to set their own agenda to the advantage of their powerful cronies and the detriment of everyone else.

We are cruising toward the next election cycle, like a plane on autopilot cruising too low toward an approaching mountain range, and the results are likely to be about as positive for the average worker, the poor, and the struggling middle class of America. During this campaign, candidates for various offices, including the White House, will haul out their faith statements and say what good, faithful followers they are. However, they will have quite a job proving that is true. You see, God (in the Judeo-Christian understanding of God) is the God of mercy and justice. If these politicians are not working for social justice, if they do not have the best interests of the impoverished, the weak, the sick, the widow, the orphan, and the foreigners in mind, they are not following God's call. They are not people living out their faith and should not be allowed to say so. People of real faith should call them on this. If politicians are industriously trying to undermine social security nets, eroding political systems from which they have made a living to weaken average people's protections while increasing the profits for the rich, they are not people of true faith. Before the election season is in full swing, these office seekers need to reread their Bibles (or read them for the first time) and see how much time is spent on unjust governments, judges, politicians, religious leaders (see Pharisees here), and employers. They need to see, we ALL need to see, how angry God becomes when faced with such human injustice. Don't allow politicans of any political party get away with calling themselves people of faith if they do not seek social justice for all, particularly social justice for those who cannot support these politicians financially. Find your voice, speak out, insist on answers and demand change today. Oh, yes, and if you heard that Sodom and Gamorah were destroyed for their peoples' sexual preferences, you've been misinformed. Those ill-fated cities were destroyed for a failure to show hospitality and mercy. Think about that in light of the current political climate. For more on social justice and politics see Jim Wallis' blog: www.godspolitics.com and read this article: http://blog.sojo.net/2011/09/15/what-is-biblical-politics

Finally, why don't we dust off the wonderful Jewish and ancient law requiring a 50 year Jubilee in which all debts are forgiven in the 50th year, land taken from families for debt issues are returned to them, and everyone gets to go back home to their families and out of debtor's servitude. That would be a grand start to a new age of true social justice!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Be Wise: Don't Plagiarise

I woke up this morning to another story of a professional reporter caught plagiarising another writer's work. Okay, writers, let's be clear. There is no worse offense in the writing world than stealing somebody elses writing and claiming it for your own. This isn't the wild west. You can't stake a claim to information someone else took the time to dig up for themselves. There is no such thing as squatter's rights in the writing world either. You simply can't take somebody else's work.

 Look, here's how it goes. You can cite somebody else's work in your writing provided you give them full and proper credit in your footnotes (or endnotes) and bibliography. You can use direct quotes of up to 250 words in your work from someone else's work, provided you attribute it. However, note that 250 words is pushing the limit buddy, especially if you are pulling from an article rather than a book. This includes work found on the Internet, whether it is on websites, blogs, whatever. Somebody wrote it and that work belongs to them. It is far better to be overly cautious in this matter and attribute much rather than risk getting slapped with a plagiarism suit. Those are expensive and if you write for a living, will likely cost you your job, and most certainly your reputation. By the way, about those direct quotes. You're a writer, it's what you do. You're good with words. Rephrase that material in your own words (still attribute to the source, but rewrite). Too many direct quotes in your text and you look like you don't have a thought in your head. Not good.

I can't imagine why professional reporters think they won't get caught at the worst sin in the writing world. School kids use programs now that rate with a quick Internet review whether their writing includes plagiarism. Popular authors are able to easily track whether their work has been stolen or not. And writers do keep track of their work. I once (no plagiarism here, by the way) wrote a blog post about the top ten children's books (in my opinion). In less than a week, one of the authors mentioned had my glowing review of her kids book posted a link to my blog post on her website. Writers do watch. Computer systems keep track.

Be wise. Don't plagiarise. It's that simple. Really.

NASA Announces Design For New Deep Space Exploration System



Thanks to my friends at Universe Today for turning my attention to NASA's announcement yesterday that the heavy launch rocket system has been decided upon and will now be built. The crew capsule is already under construction. Now, we will have a vehicle to lift it, hopefully fairly soon. Part of proven and developed technologies from the Space Shuttle system and the cancelled Constellation program will be incorporated into this rocket. Hopefully, this vehicle will receive the support and funding it needs to be completed. I'd like to see our children and grandchildren dreaming of exploration in space beyond low earth orbit and heading into the astronaut corps to make that happen. With luck, this system will soon be under development and employing many people. This is good news. It is a start!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Happy 45th Anniversary Star Trek!

Original Enterprise model from the 1970s
Hard to believe it's been 45 years since Star Trek (the original series ... or TOS to Trekkers [i.e. former Trekkies who are too old and dignified for that title]) took to the airwaves. I was a wee bit too young for the original run of the show, but caught up with it in syndication as a teen in the 1970s. Back then, I watched the show at home on a tiny Sony portable TV as our color set wouldn't pick up the UHF station that was rerunning the show. This was the days of the big three TV networks and those UHF channels were the "Where No Man Has Gone Before" of TV stations. It was a real revelation to go to a friends house and see the show in color. I had no idea how bright the set was, especially those uniforms.

As a teen of the 1970s, I was in total agreement with the Prime Directive, which was basically don't mess with other cultures, especially cultures less advanced than yours. With the Vietnam War raging until 1975, I agreed wholeheartedly.

Things were different back then. Videotape players (never mind recorders) were behemoth machines found only in school classrooms so you took the episodes as the TV station, home of Captain 20 and Count Gore De Val for the weekend horror movie fest, chose to run them. There were no cell phones, so the crew of the Enterprise's communicators were pretty cool ... not devices with ridiculously few apps as they are seen today.

We fans learned our Vulcan split fingered greeting and trained ourselves to lift one eyebrow like Dr. McCoy. We were taught that damaged starships tilt at radical angles in space (when you produce a show on a shoestring budget you have to cut corners somehow), Klingons will attack anything they run across whether they understand it or not, if trouble is afoot but you don't see anyone around, there's probably a cloaked Romulan cruiser nearby, and starship captains get all the babes.

We've come a long way since then, but the positive outlook toward the future presented in ST:TOS resonates as well today in another war torn era as it did back from 1966 to 1969 when the series was originally aired.

Back then, we had no idea where Star Trek would go. We would not have believed you if you had told us that short-lived series would spawn multiple TV spin off shows, movies, and a galaxy's worth of merchandise.  But some of us are glad it did. Live long and prosper Star Trek!
Mego's Mr. Spock, 1970s

Sunday, September 11, 2011

ISS Astronaut Remembers 9/11



I have nothing to add to this. It is very powerful all by itself.

We Stand With and Pray With All Who Mourn Today

On this grim anniversary day, we take time out to remember all who were lost on 9/11/01. We remember all the heroes who came forward on that day and in the days that followed, working hard to save lives and recover people from the rubble of the World Trade Center. We remember all those heroes who have lost their lives in the years since, and who remain sick and injured from selflessly working amidst the toxic smoke and debris of the WTC to recover the bodies of those lost for their grieving families. We remember and stand by all the families and friends who continue to mourn those lost on this awful day ten years ago. We stand by you and pray for you in this time of your distress.

Let's pray together (I am a Christian and pray in accordance to my faith. If you are not, please pray in the way you are taught. God bless you all):
Eternal God, let your mercy rest upon us as we with grateful affection remember all who were lost in connection with 9/11/01, who have departed this life. We thank you for their days upon this earth and the joy that they brought to many. May our remembrance of them live long among us and be to us a source of guidance and strength. Give to those who miss them most deeply wells of consolation from which to draw comfort, and enable us to be you ministers of mercy to them in their time of need. Amen.

A hope for the future:

I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.. And I  heard a voice from heaven saying, "See, the home of God is among mortals. God will dwell wit them; they will be God's people. God will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away. Revelation 21:1-4

Friday, September 9, 2011

That's Just Not Right 2 Life's Little Ironies

I just checked my "comments." The only comments found were under SPAM (which seems to support a long-term blogger friend of mine's contention that blog readers are essentially too lazy to write comments ... is this friend right readers ... hmmm?!). The first spam message came from my Sloggin' Thru Blogging article entitled "Protection," which is about protecting yourself from unwanted computer drek like viruses. Now, that's just not right ... ironic, but not right.

Political Wisdom from C.S. Lewis' The Four Loves

On page 29, C.S. Lewis writes ... "Rulers must somehow nerve their subjects to defend [the nation] or at least to prepare for their defense. Where the sentiment of patriotism has been destroyed [by this he means a natural love of place people have that appreciates their way of life and all its unique little quirks] this can be done only by presenting every international conflict in a purely ethical light. If people will spend neither their sweat nor blood for "their country" they must be made to feel that they are spending them for justice, or civilization, or humanity. This is a step down, not up. ... nonsense draws evil after it. If our country's cause is the cause of God, wars must be wars of annihilation. A false transcendence is given to things which are very much of this world."

Can you think back to a time when your nation prepared for war using such dangerous tactics?

As we head into the next political election cycle (yuck), listen carefully to the rhetoric used, especially by those running for president. If you hear such dangerous nonsense from a candidate, vote for someone else ... for the sake of us all and especially for the sakes of the hard working young men and women of our military.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Is Cleverbot a Mirror?

Have you heard about Cleverbot? It's a smart AI program that learns to respond to us from the conversations we have with it. It develops a repertoire of dialog and possible responses from what we say to it. You can find Cleverbot at http://www.cleverbot.com/

The reason I ask if this program is a mirror is because when I've experimented with CB, the program has become insulting in the conversation in under two minutes. Now, I could be at fault, true. It could be my end of the conversation is so stilted, I deserve a derisive response. On the other hand, given the state of things today, I strongly suspect that Cleverbot IS a mirror and is reflecting back what we are becoming. It is worth pausing, thinking about, and perhaps hesitating before making the brittle quip that comes to mind next time. After all, Cleverbot is watching ...

NASA Human Space Flight: A Look Ahead



If Congress ever grows up and gets its act together, this could be our future in space. NASA has the materials and the know how. This could lead to many new jobs and technologies. Everybody prospers ... IF.

Then again, there's that whole growing up thing ... http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/02/opinion/oh-grow-up.html?_r=1 SIGH.