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

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Good News From Christianity: Kindness Is Contagious

Not long ago, I was standing in an airport security line waiting for my turn with the X-rays and security team and noticed the older woman behind me. She looked nervous. We were in one of those long, snaking, back and forth lines you see in amusement parks a good many minutes back from our appointment with emptying pockets, removing belts and shoes, and throwing stuff in plastic bins. I figured I knew the reason for her anxiety and asked, "How long until your flight?" It was less than 30 minutes until takeoff. No doubt the early boarding calls were already underway. So, I told her she could move in front of me. It was a small kindness but I was happy to extend it. I believe kindness and goodness grow with use. Then the guy in front of me, overhearing our conversation, added, "Here get in front of me too." He and I had both been to the same Christian conference and heard the same sermons about reaching out into the community to find God among the people there. Then, my fellow conferee one-upped me. He was standing in just the right twist and turn in the line to remove the strip from between the posts at one end and say, "In fact, why don't you just go through here." Suddenly, that anxious woman was three people back from the very head of the line. "Thank you both," she said, relief flooding her face. For just a moment she was nervous again, wondering if someone near the front of the line would tell her to go back to her place. Nobody did. Everyone around us had overheard the conversation and apparently wished her well. It was wonderful to see a little kindness grow like that in a crowded airport full of harried people on tight schedules. Moments like that give me hope. And that's the good news from Christianity on the last day of January.

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 

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Bark Side: 2012 Volkswagen Game Day Commercial Teaser



Tails from the Bark Side. Super Bowl ads can be a beautiful thing!

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 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Writers: Even the Lone Ranger Had Tonto

Writing is one of those lonely, go it alone sort of professions or avocations. You research, write, and edit ... edit ... edit alone ... and your name stands alone on that cover (for better or worse) once the book is published. It can give one a "Lone Ranger" complex. You feel you HAVE to go it alone and (not wanting to appear weak or someone who can't pull him- or herself up by the proverbial bootstraps) you LIKE going it alone. But remember, friends, even the Lone Ranger had Tonto to let him know when he had strayed off the beaten trail.

Here's the truth of the matter. We humans are wired to be social animals. We need the community of others to keep us on an even keel. We need well meaning folks who like us enough to tell us when we have gone around the bend, over the cliff, or off the deep end. We need a loving person to act as the slave who stood behind the Roman general returning in his chariot from a victorious battle to whisper in our ears, as the slave did for his general, the much needed reminder "You are only human!" Others are needed to deflate the balloon of pomposity that grows when things go well and to help pick us up, dust us off, and take away the whiskey bottle when things go wrong (as they are wont to do in this field of endeavor).

Cultivate a cadre of trusted friends and loved ones who can keep you from jumping on your mental Silver and riding off into the sunset of delusion. Keep them close and apprised of your thinking and your progress. Better them than a harried editor or feisty critic somewhere down the road. It'll keep you sane and help you avoid the worst transgressions somewhere down the literary trail.

Wishing you luck pardner.

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 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Monty Python - Spam



Speaking of SPAM and Monty Python's Flying Circus in the previous blog post on Hostess's downfall and the potential for the demise of the Twinkie, here is the famous SPAM skit. It's full of SPAM. It teams with SPAM. SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM ...

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog: 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 

Hostess Bankrupt: Twinkie the Kid Down on Luck: Classic Twinkies Commercial



It's hard times for Hostess. The company built on white bread and Twinkies is bankrupt for the second time. When the public's taste turned toward heartier wheat and multigrain breads, Hostess stuck with the white stuff.

Then there is the great Twinkies divide. Those old c. 1960s kids were happy to go along with the Twinkies cowboy to Twinkies town. Today's youth consider Twinkies something akin to plastic wrapped poison. I'd say the great divide probably starts at around age 40. Above 40 and Twinkies are still beloved, sponge cake snack food. Below 40 and Twinkies are best known for being close to immortal and home to Wall-E's cockroach. It's about the same disregard Monty Python's Flying Circus fans have for SPAM.

So, the big question is ... will those of us who grew up with Twinkies and love them still be able to enjoy them in the future ... or are Twinkies going the way of the dinosaurs? Only time will tell.

As for me, well, the grocery was having a 2 for 1 sale on Twinkies the other day. Bought me two boxes for old time's sake. MMMMMMM.

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog: 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 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Upgrading Technology ... It Ain't Just Plug 'n' Play

The main workhorse in the J.S. Brooks household, the ol' Compaq tower computer (at least 8 years old with as much RAM and video card upgrade as it would stand) finally gave up the ghost near the end of 2011. We brought in its replacement, a big HP tower with lots of capacity and speed to replace our fallen hero. (You may be asking yourself at this point, why a tower and not a laptop or a tablet? The answer is simple, and two fold, towers are cheap and towers are durable, both good reasons when an entire family will be using that computer as the family workhorse.)

Now, they tell you it's as easy as plug and play with new computer installation. They mean well when they say it. They're being friendly and all ... but it just ain't so. While the fortunes of football teams were decided in the background, I spent the evening getting acquainted with the new computer and setting it up with programs and preferences so it could do the necessary job. It's considerably later than I expected it to be when I finally finished.

I did get an answer to a question that has long dogged me. I have a Simple Tech external back up drive that I have been backing up all the files from the Compaq on for years. I've always wondered if it was actually getting the job done and if the files would truly be transferable when the time came. If transferable, would they appear in an organized fashion or would they need weeding out. I'm happy to report, all files downloaded completely, quickly, and in good order in all their little file folders from the old system to the new. It was reassuring to see all the old friends show up again. So here we are, a new year, a new computer, and the whole family will be moving forward with more computational power and speed ... once we learn where everything is all over again.

It's an adventure ... an adventure far beyond "plug and play."

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog: 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 



Friday, January 13, 2012

Good News from Christianity, Seeking Social Justice

As a seminarian about to graduate in May, I was pondering how to get a positive message out in the midst of a swirl of snarling voices from the extremes of Christianity, and I was pondering this with great solemnity. Then a series of small events shook me from this solemn pomposity. Be enthusiastic, be funny, tell the exciting tales about the faith in action, just like you do for all things space related (if you've been here before, you know I'm enthusiastic for space exploration in all its forms). I'm equally enthusiastic about Christianity (should be since I plan to be a minister). Now it's time to let that enthusiasm show. So, here goes.

Many folks get the shivers at the word "evangelical." No wonder, considering what has happened to that word in the 20th century with the strong rise of fundamentalism and their claiming of that term for their own. (Okay, fundamentalism started in the 19th century, but who's counting?!) Anyway, did you know that in the 19th century the evangelicals were the social justice crusaders? They were the folks who stood up for the poor, the disenfranchised, and the slaves. Well, good news, evangelicals are moving away from their 20th century posture of gloom and doom, end times are now*, we are going to scold you into heaven and love you but hate your sins and only talk about those sins to ... wait for it ... social justice, peace, and reconciliation people! Now THOSE are evangelicals I can support as I too am very much in favor of social justice, peace, and reconciliation for ALL! They have put down the Tim LaHaye and Hal Lindsey end of the world books and are starting to reach out to others in need. Don't believe me? Check out this article for yourself: http://prismmagazine.org/page.aspx?pid=396#Peace

Who knows where this will lead? It's exciting and I plan to be out there rolling up my more liberal Christian sleeves next to these folks so that we can be 19th century evangelical together. 

If you live in or anywhere near Philadelphia, you too can be directly involved in social justice in action. Call either Circle Thrift or Philly Aids and see when you can volunteer to work at these thrift stores. Both serve their communities providing nice clothes and other items for those with little means for good prices. They also turn their profits back into the community, investing in the neighborhoods and aid organizations that do the most good.

*Speaking of the "end times are now" attitude, here's a tip. If you find yourself working as a chaplain in a retirement community, nursing home situation and a sweet elderly lady asks you (with a smile on her face), "So, tell me pastor, are things getting better or worse today?", the answer to the question is WORSE. This sweet individual is an end times believer looking forward to a rapturous reprieve from the natural end times that await us all. I gave the wrong answer and was told it was wrong in no uncertain terms, but sweetly. Now you know.

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog: 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, January 12, 2012

Billions and Billions of Planets ... & a Ship to Take Us There

News from the Hubble Space Telescope team: Kailash Sahu of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, states that there is at least one planet for every star in the Milky Way galaxy, according to the international team she represents, who have been studying extrasolar planets using microlensing observations. Within 50 light years of our home world, there are an estimated 1,500 planets. These findings are the results of six years of observations. The exciting conclusion of the study is that there are far more Earth-sized planets than giant Jupiter-sized worlds. The results of the study are released today (January 12, 2012) in the British journal Nature.

For more information, this is from News Release Number: STSci-2012-07 from the HubbleSite news archive. Or go to http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2012/07/full/ and see for yourself.

This is really exciting news. When I was growing up (watching Star Trek and dreaming of alien worlds), there were a wide range of kill-joy astronomers who were grumbling that it was quite likely our solar system was a freak in the universe and there were NO other planets out there. Well, to all you who said that and tried to crush a young man's dreams ... IN YOUR FACE!!!

Of course, today, there are an equal number of kill-joy, no fun scientists who say it doesn't matter if there are other planets out there because space is huge and we'll never be able to cross the void to reach them (and with today's technology they're right as it would take 100,000 years to reach the nearest star, Alpha Centauri, with what we've got). Well, for you spoil sports, here's the news via my friends at Universe Today: NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) are sponsoring the 100 Year Starship Project to develop the technologies required to send a manned mission to the stars and all those myriad planets. The new leader of this long term endeavor is former Space Shuttle astronaut (and the first African-American woman in space in 1992) Mae Jemison. One of the objectives of this project is to stay alive long enough as a non-governmental organization supported by private-sector funding to develop the many disciplines needed to make deep space travel viable. For the full article and a link to more information on this project, go to: http://www.universetoday.com/92528/100-year-starship-project-has-a-new-leader/

Scientific discoveries and advancements just keep getting more interesting and exciting every day. This is a great time to be alive!

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog: 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 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

For All Who Grieve, a Link to Prayers and Scripture

These are difficult times. Many people are struggling. Many grieve for the loss of loved ones. If you grieve today, please follow this link to a Pennsylvania church blog site for some prayer and promises from Scripture. Know this, you are not alone in your crisis. I stand with you and pray for you in this time of grief. So does this small Pennsylvania church.

Before you go, a prayer for you, whoever and wherever you are:

Merciful God, comfort us as we face the valley of the shadow of death. Lift our eyes from the dark depths to the hills from whence help comes. Aid us to see your light, that it may be for us a light upon the path and a lamp upon the way until we come into the fullness of your presence, where there is no shadow or hiding. Amen

http://extoncommunitybaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2012/01/for-those-who-grieve.html




Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Farewell to Christmas 2011 ... In Ornaments

Christmas was ... super ... this year. Long ago my wife and I established a family tradition. Early Christmas morning at home opening gifts for each other and then over the river and through the woods (literally, via interstate) to Grandmother's (and Grandfather's) house we'd go. Well, this year, many years down the line, I thought we might bend the tradition and head for the grands house on Christmas eve. Our daughter, bringing up what was for her a lifelong tradition, asked for us to continue true to form this year. She was convincing and we did.

Christmas morning in the car was special. There was a very thin cloud overcast that gave the landscape a luminous glow, the colors rich and bright. It felt like God was gracing the morning ... and there was blessed little traffic.

The whole family was present and a rollicking time was had by one and all. It was one for the books. But somehow, few photos and videos get taken at such events in our family. We're too busy living them to stop for record taking. Hence, Christmas in review by ornament.

This year on the tree Hallmark (always purchased after Christmas at a half off discount ... it's always interesting to see what's left) gave us the Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ala Disney to cruise for slave ships to sink. I'm happy to report Captain Nemo found not one slaver to sink ... although he seems to have malicious intent toward the wooden Santa and his Noel light pole (if that's what it is ... that ornament always reminds me of the old image of the drunk hanging onto the lamp post outside the bar ... weird). Marvin the Martian also joined the crew to stake out a portion of the tree for Mars.


The starship Enterprise has taken high orbit around a glass globe gas giant with several LED stars in the background.


Superman and Batman patroled Treeopolis or Treeom successfully and no evil doers broke any ornaments or burned out any bulbs. Meanwhile, the most unique and rarest ornament, a tribute of an Indiana grain elevator, hung nearby, well protected.
Wood and glass ornaments join the festivities



The bubble lights did their thing (artificial trees with branches flexible enough to wrap around bubble lights have finally made these odd little lights stand up almost straight) and the rest of the ornament gang added twinkle and holiday cheer and/or nostalgia.


Meanwhile, son Mike and his girlfriend Kate found patterns online for Star Wars paper snowflakes, which grace the Dark Side of the tree, along with Darth Vader and the Emperor ... maybe Cap'n Nemo can take those nefarious characters on with his nuclear sub!



Finally, daughter Madeline made this paper ornament for French class ... an anime sort of teddy bear wishing you all Joyeux Noel for the rest of 2012.

Gotta fly (yeah I said it). See you next Christmas in ornaments. Have a wonderful new year!

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog: 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 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Saving Game or the Video Game Tap of Doom

We all learn by experience and I have one to share with all the video gamers out there. This is news to me. I received a new game for Christmas. By the first Saturday in January, something had gone wrong. I would reach the stage when the game would load the next section ... and it would declare itself damaged. Removing the game from the system, I found the business side of the disc had a neat white scoring around one track. Taking it back to the game store where it was purchased, I made a disturbing discovery. It seems the game system was lightly tapped while the disc was moving and the surface of the disc came into contact with the surface of the laser that reads the program. This caused the scoring and lead to the termination of this shiny new game.

Fortunately, my wife is very smart. She had agreed to purchase the $3.00 one year replacement guarantee. Normally, I think these things are bogus, but in this case not so. The game was replaced free of charge and I came away with valuable new information.

The real kicker is this. All of the modern, disc reading game systems have this weakness. The tiniest nudge can lead to destruction of a sort no video game character can conquer.

So, be careful out there when you play. Make sure nobody bumps your system while your favorite game is being played, or you too will be headed back to the video store. And pick up that one year guarantee if it's offered for a reasonable rate. You may need it!

Things like this make me nostalgic for the old cartridge games ... until I think of the complexity and graphics of the modern games. Put in perspective, I'm not THAT nostalgic.

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog: 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 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

SpaceX Launch Set on This Week @NASA



In the midst of the political mess we are plunging into in the US with the next presidential election looming, it's nice to know we have something to look forward to in February. While keeping track of NASA's future manned spacecraft, it's nice to see that Space-X's Dragon crew capable craft will be launched for a second test flight, which if all goes well will head on to the International Space Station. Good luck Space-X team!

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog: 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 

Sloggin' Thru Blogging: Regular Book Promotion

When I opened this blog site, the intent was to advertise my children's book, Michael and the New Baby. Within the first year I discovered that stories entirely about the book and children's book-related posts simply weren't drawing enough attention.

I turned to blog posts on subjects that were interesting to me. That increased the traffic a lot. However, while drawing a more diverse readership, that didn't promote the book very often, with the exception of the masthead and materials down the right hand side, which are easy to ignore. What to do to promote the book?

At this point, I've settled on another option, placing a short ad of the NPR fundraiser sort at the end of each blog post with a hyperlink to the publisher's page selling the book. Will this help? Only time will tell. All I can say at this moment is this approach at least mentions the book on a regular basis. We'll see what happens. Here it is:

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog: 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 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Seeking Surprise and Joy in the New Year

Happy New Year to you!

I intend to make a resolution I can keep this year. Each and every day I am going to prepare myself to keep alert for whatever surprise the day has for me. I'm going into the day with the expectation of something unexpected, whether great or small. Going into each day with those new eyes and the expectation of some small adventure, life will be more lively. This suggestion comes from Henri Nouwen.

Also, I will do my best to enter the day with joy (which is different from happiness as it is more sticky and can even be clung to when grieving) and positive words and deeds for others. When I am not feeling that joy (and there are quite a few mornings I expect I will not) I will pretend and see where that leads me. As C.S. Lewis suggests, if you want to be uplifting and don't feel it, pretend to be uplifting and soon enough, much to your own surprise, you will be.

Those resolutions I can keep. Care to join me on this expedition of surprise and joy?

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog: 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