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, November 30, 2012

Celebrating 880 Posts

As of last night, J.S. Brooks Presents has reached its 880th post! Who knew we'd reach that number?! Who knew I'd find blogging worth doing 800 times. The blog site has changed a lot in that time. First it was dedicated entirely to focusing on the book Michael and the New Baby. In time, I learned that such an effort was not worth while. For a moment the blog teetered on extinction. Then I decided to write about whatever I pleased and things took an uptick. Discovering first Networked Blogs and then Google+ drove the numbers of readers monthly higher. The numbers are still really modest ... I haven't the time to sweep the bloggosphere for more communities and linkages to others sites by socializing (all efforts on this blog are done in 20 to 30 minutes of speed writing in the mornings). So, now we have discussions of children's books, books more far ranging, movies, faith issues, astronomy, space flight, archaeology, and whatever else catches my attention on a daily basis ... along with a variety of short YouTube videos to mix things up.

So here's to 880 posts down, the next 880 posts to come, and whatever the future may bring. And here's to you, readers. Keep dropping by. Thanks for reading ... now, come on, buy a copy of Michael and the New Baby. I'll be glad you did!

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:

Thursday, November 29, 2012

How many exoplanets are there?

 Don't let the name fool you, The Bad Astronomer provides some really good information. Here's an answer to how many exoplanets had been found by April 2012. There's been a bunch more since ...

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:

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Video #9

 Here's a look at the new December gift from Peter Jackson to Tolkein fans everywhere. The Hobbit is almost ready for release. I heard on the BBC this morning that the 48 frames per second makes for marvelous movie viewing. Who out there is enthused??? Surely it can't be just me!

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:

Sloggin' Thru Blogging: When the Connection Fails ...

The past two weeks, J.S. Brooks Presents was hurled back into the 20th century in a time before fast Internet access. Our modem (provided by our cable company) was dying slowly. At first everything just bogged down. Loading and viewing were taking longer than usual. At first we blamed the computer (poor, innocent computer). Then we went away for Thanksgiving. Upon our return it became evident it was the modem as its normal array of flashing lights was reduced to a single mournful light slowly flashing. In the mornings it would rally briefly and we'd have the equivalent of dial up access (remember that?) for a brief period, enough to send an email or two, but not enough to view or listen to anything of significance. Needless  to say, blogging was out of the question.

Today, the cable crew came, replaced the modem (they told us that when you are down to one light on the modem it is well and truly dead and that if it's two lights instead of one, it's the cable connection instead). Then they looked outside the J.S. Brooks abode and discovered the wire was old and kinked and feeble. They replaced that as well.

Now we have rapid access once again and J.S. Brooks Presents has been brought right up to 21st century standards once again. It is amazing what all requires Internet access these days and how disconnected one can be without it. My brother called tonight wondering if the zombie apocalypse had struck us as I had not posted anything on Facebook or here lately and he could not reach us by phone yesterday. Limited access can be terrifying for you ... and for others. Also, did you know that high school homework is now given out online rather than in paper form. We know that now as well.

So, if your connection begins to slow down, check the cable box, check the modem, call for help ... or you too will be cast back into the 20th Century Zone!!!

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:

Star Wars & Life on Mars???

Some news snippets have caught my eye in the past few weeks. We all know that Disney bought Star Wars, the Mouse is the true power in the Force. We all know that there will be 3 new films VII-IX. And we all know that it will pick up the story of Luke and Leia in their world and will follow the style and form of the original three movies and ... not ... those ... other films (see the difference between someone in their twenties and fifties writing adventure/sci-fi ... twenties: rebels and Empire locked in battle, fifties: trade blockade and political repercussions. Let that be a lesson to all you 50+ year old writers. What you may or may not know is that there are future plans for additions to the Disney parks that will include Star Wars creations ... however, there will not be an entirely new park. It will probably take the Universal approach with a major section of a park devoted to Star Wars similar to the Harry Potter offering currently available. However, that is for the future. Right now Disney has promised investors that they will curb their buying and building for a time, having updated their parks, added two new ships to their cruise fleet, and purchased that galaxy far, far away.

In science news, we have learned that when an excited engineer at NASA, John Grotzinger, states that a discovery made by Curiosity is one for the history books, that doesn't necessarily mean it's really big news from the point of view of us average folks. It is probably big, earthshaking engineering news, but maybe not so big for the rest of us. Of course this could also be NASA playing coy as some suspect until they can test the findings again. If my computer wasn't currently disabled by a damaged modem (fix it soon repair guy) I'd give you specifics ... but now I can't. A researcher now professor who once worked with NASA's Viking probe, Gilbert Levin, has long held that the two tests that found evidence for life on Mars were right and the third wasn't refined enough to detect the faint traces necessary to confirm. He believes Curiosity has now confirmed the Viking original findings from the 1970s. So, speculation runs rampant. It reminds me of the uproar over the arsenic aliens living right here on planet earth that turned out later not to be so alien after all. NASA doesn't want to repeat. Still, we should know more around December 7-8 during a big science meeting when the data will all be revealed. Will we all be bowled over by the news ... or will only engineering types be ecstatic? Only time will tell.

For more, see:

There's an ongoing theme here: Wait for it. Good things come to those who wait. In the meantime you can distract yourself with seasonal shopping binges. For me, I've got Christmas shopping to attend to. Those of you who are finished ... I don't want to hear about it!!!

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:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Suni Williams Space Station Tour: View the Cupola

Take a look at what Suni Williams (ISS commander) called the ISS's "glass bottom boat."

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:

Create Community This Christmas

"Community is currently rare." 
--M. Scott Peck, The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace, p. 25

After Black Friday, which started on Thanksgiving Day evening (making harried shop workers decidedly less-than-thankful for being ripped away from their families during what should have been one of their few days off), news reports rolled in of mayhem in shopping centers and in stores across the nation, providing proof of Peck's assertion that community is currently rare. Not a whole lot of community to be found when one guy cuts in line, another complains, the line jumper takes a swing at the one who complained (quite legitimately), and the one registering the complaint pulls a gun on the line jumper. Not much community when shoppers fight over an item that once bestowed on a loved one for Christmas will in most cases be forgotten by the time next Christmas rolls around. Not much community to be found when violence rises in shopping centers over a holiday intended to remind us of the Prince of Peace born so long ago. Peck adds: 

"In and through community lies the salvation of the world" 
--M. Scott Peck, The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace, p. 17

So, how do we help to grow community instead of shattering this Christmas season? Let's return to Jesus himself for an answer: 

Luke 10:27: [Jesus] said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself." NRSV

This was followed by the parable of the Good Samaritan. Samaritans were considered enemies of the Hebrew people (although they believed what Israel believed and worshipped in nearly the same way ... but at a different temple, which was the major irritant in the relationship). The story deals with a Jewish person traveling along the steep descending road from Jerusalem, a road frequented by thieves. This son of Israel is attacked, robbed, beaten, and left along the roadside for dead. To make a long story short, two church officials of Israel see the man and do nothing. The third person to encounter him was a Samaritan merchant. This man not only stops and cares for the fallen Israelite, he also binds his wounds, takes him to an Inn, pays for 2 months of care, and promises to return and pay anything more the innkeeper expends to make this Israelite whole. The Samaritan does all within his power to help this stranger, this supposed enemy of his people. 

My suggestion to you is that we each try to be like that Samaritan as much as we can. This shopping season, help those you find struggling, wherever you come across them. Be kind, generous, and gracious in all public encounters. Smile and appear relaxed (whether you are or not). These behaviors are contagious. You never know how much a small act of kindness may mean to someone else this season. Work for justice as well, if that is among the gifts given to you. And if you think this is too big to accomplish on your own, Brian McLaren reminds us we don't have to go it alone. Call on God. God is a resource of great power available to you this season and God's glad to help. As McLaren poetically states: 

"There is a river that runs like a song through this world, a river of sacredness, a river of beauty, a river of reverence and justice and goodness. I know that some people have only rarely seen or barely sensed it. But I know that you and I are learning to live like green trees along its shore, drawing its vitality into us, and passing it on for the healing of our world. Its waters are clear, refreshingly cool, and clean, and if you dare, you can strip naked, dive in, and swim." Brian D. McLaren, Naked Spirituality, p. 237

Let's see if we can make news as peacekeepers and community builders this season. After all, it's Jesus we celebrate and Jesus prayed that we all might be as one some great and shining day. It's a goal worth working toward.

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:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Keep a Weather Eye Out for New Traditions

A wonderful discovery has been made this Thanksgiving. We, people of the pie, have discovered the brand new (for us) "Three Pie Thanksgiving". It is a beautiful thing. Our son's fiancee brought us the third pie, a tradition in her family. It was a Toll House Cookie Pie. You heard it right. Cookie outside, various chocolates and pecans inside. This was added to the apple pie baked by my 98 year old grandmother and the obligatory (for me) pumpkin pie. Our combined households feasted on turkey, all the trimmings, and over the course of a long and lazy (triptophan induced) afternoon, enjoyed all three of those pies, sampled at various times as our stomachs allowed. We all declared we'd made a mutual discovery of a new family tradition, "So let it be written, so let it be done." I'm looking forward to whatever new traditions might come along for Christmas, New Years, and all the other days ahead. I'll keep a weather eye out for them and suggest you do the same.

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, got out of Black Friday without a black eye or police record, and enjoy putting up all the Christmas or Hanukkah decorations. Christmas decor is next on our list ... and with an artificial tree we can start ... right ... NOW!

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:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wildlife Adapts to Urban Living

Don't expect these to last long ...
If you've ever been out driving late at night or early in the predawn hours, you have no doubt come across a variety of wildlife that is now making cities and their surrounding suburbs home. I've seen skunks and raccoons team up to raid trash cans. In Morgantown, West Virginia, a couple years back, my parent's cat went running frantically up and down along the front wall of the house, peering anxiously through the windows into the night. They found out the next day that a black bear was strolling up their street. Over in Germany, wild boars are making as much of a nuisance of themselves in urban areas, destroying park land and household gardens in search of tasty insects. However, did you know that deer frequent city cemeteries?  Yes, it's true. When laying a loved one to rest in October, the representative of the cemetery where she would be interred told us that the flowers that were placed upon the grave would be left for three days or until the deer ate them, whichever came first. A family member reports that upon his return trip to the grave site the next day, the deer had already done their clean up job. It turns out roses are their very favorite flowers (let that be a warning to all you rose growers out there). So, while humans, elephants, and ants may be the only species with burial grounds for their dearly departed, deer are regular visitors to human burial grounds. That's an interesting adaptation to urban life. Oh, and by the way, the scads of silk flowers all around the cemetery in urns don't fool the deer for even a moment.

I thought I felt watched during that service!

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:

Friday, November 16, 2012

SKYFALL - Official Trailer; SKYFALL Movie Review

 If you are a fan of James Bond and have been for many years, this is the movie for you. This film ushers in 007's 50th Anniversary with a bang ... with many bangs. Furthermore, about half way through the movie, there is the introduction of a certain iconic item or person (I won't tell you which) that will make you very, very happy. It's/his/her part in the movie is beyond satisfying. Whether you see this film in public on the large screen or at home on any sized screen, this is a movie well worth watching. Toward the climax of the film, there is the introduction of an actor with a long history of successful films that gave me that always weird "Huh, I thought he/she was dead" moment but was a very pleasant surprise. Again, I won't tell you. Go see for yourself.

Skyfall also has the unique ability to introduce newcomers to the James Bond world of spies, intrigue, beautiful women, and death very well indeed. I envy the newcomers the opportunity to be introduced to James Bond by the incredibly capable Daniel Craig, who has to be the most lethal of the Bonds, the one who most captures the spy with the license to kill since Sean Connery introduced the movie going public to "Bond, James Bond" 50 years ago.

I won't go into the deep psychological, philosophical, world view analysis of this or any Bond film because for one I'm not an expert in such things and for two ... I really don't care. For me, as a long time Bond fan, the questions are: "Is this actor portraying the famous British spy well?" (YES);  "Does the story line hang together well enough for me not to be distracted by plot holes or implausible story lines and can I keep my disbelief suspended well enough to enjoy the story?" (YES, YES); and "Did I have fun?" (YES, YES, YES!!!)

Skyfall is a wonderful way to celebrate Bond's 50th ... or any year thereafter.

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: 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

OUR STORY: The SETI Institute

 A short film for those of you out there who do believe the "Truth is Out There." Frank Drake begins this short story. Keep up the search guys. I understand they will start looking for laser pulse communication as well. I've long wondered if more advanced civilizations than ours out there would actually still be using radio.

Considering the scientific discoveries become ever more startling, finding life seems ever more plausible. Now some astronomers believe there may be more "rogue" planets in the galaxy than stars themselves (although you won't find life on planets tossed out of their solar systems ... at least not life we know how to search for. We now have evidence that planets orbit a wide range of stars and in strange varieties of ways. Now we also know that there is at least one planet circling that often used in science fiction stories locale, Alpha Centauri, our nearest stellar neighbor. So, who knows what the next big find will be?

As always, thanks to my friends at Astronomy Today for pointing me to this short film.

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: 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

In Grief You Truly Learn Where You Stand

In my life, I like to ask a lot of questions, push a lot of boundaries, and play with a range of options. I have been known to use doubt as a tool and an incentive for research and further understanding (as every archaeologist does ... or any scientist, social or otherwise). But, I have to say, in times of grief, you don't have these luxuries. In times of grief, you really learn where you stand and what you believe in. Recently, a beloved family member died and was buried on October 31. I was asked, as a trained pastor, first to provide the closing prayer, and then, upon meeting with the pastor who would perform the service, to create and deliver the eulogy. After initially bridling at the idea, I agreed. The pastor asked for verses for the service, and here some of my bedrock beliefs surfaced immediately, taking me by surprise. I asked for Paul's beautiful exposition on love in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-13:

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. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end;
as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.
9For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 
10but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 
11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child,
I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 
12For now we see in a mirror, dimly,* but then we will see face to face.
Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been
fully known. 13And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three;
and the greatest of these is love.

I also asked for verses from that often mysterious and beautifully poetic apocalyptic book of Revelation, 21: 3-4:

'See, the home* of God is among mortals.He will dwell* with them; 4 he 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.’ 

In these verses I encountered some bedrock beliefs on mine concerning us all and concerning the present situation of our departed loved one (speaking for family and friends here). I might have added this from Revelation 22, as it gives me comfort, but is  perhaps a little too mysterious for most:

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; 4they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.they will be his peoples,*and God himself will be with them;*

You can learn a lot about yourself when you grieve.  

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Method to Restore Unity and Calm

Go ahead and admit it. The political season has left you on edge, wired, aggravated, agitated, infuriated, and downright cranky. We've all been bombarded with political ads featuring gloom and doom prognostications the likes of which Nostradamus would have been jealous. We've been misled, lied to, and spun, spun, spun until we are sick.

So, I have a modest proposal to purge your system and restore your calm, and even create a little unity in a divided nation. Can we all agree we are irritated with seeing politicians we pay for do nothing but spout their party's ideology? Don't we all feel we should be getting more work for the dollar from these folks? Okay, so let's unite on one issue. Let's all promise to take all this pent up energy and irritation and harness it. Let's promise to work together to make sure these guys and gals on the national and state level actually work FOR US. Let's keep their feet to the fire ... starting with the big fiscal cliff we face on January 1. Let's agree to send blizzards of emails, letters, and calls to our representatives shouting them down if they have the temerity to utter the word MANDATE and balk at taking action because they think they have one. Gerrymandering to keep your seat doesn't give you a mandate sir or madam.

I theorize that if we take this action together we might just start feeling better real soon. So, what do you say? Care to try out my modest proposal? Could be fun.

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: 

Grasshopper Two-Story Hop 11/1/12

 SpaceX is working to bring the sci-fi to science. Here is their second test launch of their "grasshopper" vertical landing system for the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket. Here the ten story rocket takes a two story (doesn't look that high ... scale is a tricky thing) hop, controls its direction, and lands back on the pad without drama. When this system is perfected, each stage of the Falcon 9 rocket, including the Dragon capsule with crew, will return to a landing pad for refurbishing and reuse. It's just like the rockets in those old 1950s sci-fi movies. The only thing missing is the giant tail fins. Elon Musk stated some time back, and I paraphrase, "This is how a rocket is supposed to land!" Good luck SpaceX. I look forward to a future where all rockets return to their pads for reuse. Now, I wonder, do you think they'll all be silver ... or black and white???

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: 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Civil Democracy in Evidence at Polling Place

Yesterday, I was surprised and pleased with the turnout and attitudes at our polling place. I arrived ten minutes prior to the polls opening at 7 AM. I was the 33rd person in line at that moment. By the time I had voted and was leaving, the size of the crowd had doubled.

The people gathered were civil and courteous with one another, even (dare I say it) friendly! I stood next to a retired Marine. He told me he was voting for his five buddies in the Corps who never made it home from war to vote themselves. We passed the time together exchanging stories. Not once did political rhetoric or campaign ad vitriol pass our lips, or those of the others in line, OR those of the party reps from each side present outside the polling place. The general consensus was we were all grateful that the political ads were now to be soon behind us, given their frequency and mendacity. It was a very good experience.

There was one peculiar note however. After the representatives of the parties were done setting up their lawn signs, it felt like we'd entered a strange parallel universe. The signs for the Republican candidates were all located on the far left and those for the Democratic candidates occupied the far right. "How weird is that?" (to lift a line from Serenity).