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, November 28, 2011

[Advent Conspiracy] Enter the Story 2011



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

Wishing everyone everywhere a meaningful advent season.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

On History Rewritten and Perspectives Spun

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you a wonderful, cooperative holiday season.

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



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

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving movie reviews



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

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Beautiful Technology for Aging Ears

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

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

Monday, November 21, 2011

NASA Curiosity Launch - 2011


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

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Perfect Christmas Gift for 2011: Michael and the New Baby

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

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

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

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

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

You can order your copy directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/ldren-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/

Friday, November 18, 2011

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



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

Words of Inspiration on Being Proactive, Envy, and Activity

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day 2011 Remembrance

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

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

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

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


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

Silence please. 

 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Becoming Transhuman - Part One: Affirming



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

For more, much more, on transhumanism you can watch the rest of these episodes or link to the Studio 360 episode on this far out, high tech future at: http://www.studio360.org/2011/nov/04/

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

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

Monday, November 7, 2011

Best Toys and Gadgets Ever ... Birthday Gifts Remembered

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

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

For other lists,  you can see: http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/toys.html and http://www.squidoo.com/best-toys-in-the-world-ever and http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2010/07/09/the-100-greatest-childrens-toys/ and many others. Just google it!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Friday, November 4, 2011

Proud Parent's Record: Color Guard



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

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishingllc.com/index_files/OldLinePublishingChildrensMichaelandtheNewBabybyJSBrooks.htm 




Thursday, November 3, 2011

Injustice: Stories From One Large City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

First Movement of Robonaut 2 on ISS


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

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Celebrating Another Milestone at J.S. Brooks Presents

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

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

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