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, September 30, 2013

Looking Back on 1977: What the World Was Like When Voyager 1 Launched

Artist's image courtesy of NASA
In honor of Voyager 1's momentous accomplishment, becoming the first human made object to leave our solar system after 36 years of travel at 35,000 miles per hour (the solar system is huge!), here's what life was like ... and wasn't back in the year Voyager 1 launched. 

Back in 1977 you could have this suspenseful scene ... a man runs down a dark street chased by forces unseen (human, monster, alien, whatever). Sprinting, stumbling, gasping, he searches for something familiar. There it is down a darkened side street ... a telephone booth. He rushes up, pulls open the folding door, slams it behind him as the light flickers on in the roof above him. He desperately starts dialing for help while looking all around him into the gloom for his approaching attackers, feeling incredibly vulnerable in his lit glass booth and praying for someone to pick up the phone at the other end. The first bulky, cell phones would not be introduced to the public for another year, although the first test of a cellular phone took place in New York City in 1973, when Motorola's Martin Cooper placed the first mobile phone call from Manhattan's 6th Avenue between 53rd and 54th Streets.  

In 1977 the IBM Selectric (in my humble opinion) was still the star of the typewriter world and personal computers able to match or exceed its abilities were still years away. The amazing Selectric had been introduced in 1961 and as someone using a Olivetti portable manual typewriter to grind out term papers in 1977, it was an object to covet. 

Some of the major events of 1977 prior to Voyager 1's September 5 launch include: 

  • January 19, U.S. President Gerald Ford pardons Iva Toguri D'Aquino (a.k.a. Tokyo Rose).
  • January 20, Jimmy Carter succeeds Gerald Ford as 39th President of US.
  • January 21, Jimmy Carter pardons Vietnam War draft evaders.
  • January 23, Roots begins its phenomenally successful run on ABC TV.
  • February 7, Soviet Union launches Soyuz 24 to dock with Salyut 5 space station.
  • February 15, Space Shuttle program, first test taxi flight of Space Shuttle Enterprise.
  • March 10, rings of Uranus discovered (leading to endless off color jokes).
  • April 30, Led Zeppelin sets a new world record attendance for an indoor solo attraction at the Pontiac Silverdome when 76,229 persons attended a concert here on the group's 1977 North American Tour (rock on!).
  • May 17, Elizabeth II commences here 1977 Silver Jubilee tour in Glasgow, Scotland (I'd pick up a souvenir glass mug commemorating that event on a college trip to London in 1981).
  • May 25, Star Wars opens in cinemas and later becomes historic highest grossing film for that time ... forever changing how we geeks viewed science fiction films.
  • May 26, George Willig climbs South Tower of World Trade Center
  • June 4, the VHS videocassette format introduced in North America, Video Home System. System called Vidstar, cost $1,280. Blank tapes: $20 each.
  • June 25, American Roy Sullivan is struck by lightning for the seventh time.
  • June 26, Elvis Presley holds last concert at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis.
  • August 3, Tandy Corporation TRS-80 Model I computer announced at press conference (called affectionately the "trash 80" by kids who got one).
  • August 12, The NASA Space Shuttle, named Enterprise, makes first test free-flight from back of Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.
  • August 15, The Big Ear, a radio telescope operated by Ohio State University as part of SETI project receives a radio signal from deep space; the event is named the Wow! signal for a notation made by a volunteer on the project.
  • August 20, Voyager Program: The US launches the Voyager 2 spacecraft.

Now back to the world of technology that "wasn't" back in 1977. The 8-track player was still selling briskly in 1977 and somehow professionally recorded 8-tracks always managed to change tracks loudly in the middle of an album's best song. It never failed.  As for what wasn't around, let's start with the personal computer that is so much a part of today's world. The first computer was invented by Konrad Zuse in 1936. It was the Z1, the world's first programmable computer. In 1974-5, Scelbi & Mark-8 Altair and IBM 5100 computers became the first consumer computers. In 1976-7, Apple I, II, & TRS-80 and Commodore Pet computers were introduced to an interested public. However, it would not be until 1979 that Seymore Rubenstein & Rob Barnaby would introduced the word processing program WordStar that made these offerings far more useful to writers everywhere. I used that system briefly when it was old, years later. In 1981, IBM offered the IBM PC Home Computer and from an "Acorn" a mighty computer revolution grew. In 1977, it was still just a seed. 

There were no digital cameras and no Internet either. It would be September 24, 1979, when Compu-Serve, later CompuServe, would offer the first dial-up online information service to the public, changing the way we communicate forever. 

Research would change after that as well. In the decades since, more useful information has become available online, slowly ending many physical searches of old documents such as stacks of dusty newspapers and journals. I don't miss that personally. The first Internet search engine, Archie, that's archive without the "v" was introduced in 1990. Goodbye dusty documents. 

The first digital book would not show up until 1987, when  Eastgate Systems, a computer game company, published its first hypertext fiction book: Afternoon, a story by Michael Joyce. That book was on a floppy disc.

The DVD would not appear until 1996. 

First digital camera for the consumer market worked with a home computer via a serial cable were the Apple QuickTake 100 camera on February 17, 1994, the Kodak DC40 camera on March 28, 1995, the Casio QV-11 (with LCD monitor, late 1995), and Sony's Cyber-Shot Digital Still Camera (1996).

First camcorders were available to public in the 1980s.

First video game console: Magnavox Odyssey, 1972 with 6 game cartridges (only works on Magnavox TVs). Pong in 1975 from Atari. In 1977, the amazing Atari 2600 VCS became available. That was a good year.

That's a brief tour of the world that was and wasn't back in 1977 when Voyager 1, with its suite of ten instruments powered by a small nuclear core, rode into the heavens on a pillar of fire to change history and, in 2013, discover the very outer edge of our solar system and become our first interstellar robot. It will keep us informed of the world beyond the solar system possibly until 2030. 

This is what NASA has done with 1970s technology. History is still being made with equipment many decades past its prime. It makes me wonder about our culture and our drive to have only the newest, shiniest technology, discarding the old at a staggering rate. There may be a lesson here somewhere. I'll leave that up to you, dear reader. That's the world that was and wasn't back in 1977. Congratulations to the NASA team that has kept Voyager flying and bringing back the discoveries for all these decades. Thanks for the inspiration.

For more on Voyager 1's recent accomplishment, see:

Coaxing a Hoarse Voice into Working Order

If you are involved in public speaking, you know how important a good, strong, clear voice is to you. If you have an upcoming event and find yourself getting hoarse, it doesn't take long before you start to panic. After all, your voice is your living. Well, recently I had a pivotal speaking engagement accompanied by record high ragweed and other seasonal allergy irritants making my voice hoarse. I was beside myself with worry. Here are the remedies I found online to maintain a weakening voice and get you through your speaking engagement. Try them out and see what works best for you.

  1. Drink at least 80 oz. of water in a day. I know this is hard because you have so much drainage going from maddened sinuses down the back of your throat that your stomach feels full. Still, this remedy is the key to your success. I have 20 oz. plastic water bottles that are very useful for keeping track of intake. Four bottles of water downed from that baby and I know I've hit the minimum target. Also, you'll quickly discover that somewhere around the 60 oz. mark, you start feeling better. You're getting hydrated, probably for the first time in a long time. Keep that voice moist.
  2. Keep the cough to a minimum and resist the urge to clear your throat. Take cough syrup. When you find the urge to cough coming on anyway, use cough drops to fight that urge. This will give your vocal cords more help toward recovery. 
  3. Try warm broth with garlic to ease those vocal cords as well. If you want a different approach, I personally recommend hot and sour soup well made from your local Chinese restaurant. That stuff will give you about two hours of sinus drainage relief (totally unscientific observation). It also gives you a treat to help with your frazzled nerves. 
  4. Take a long, hot bath or shower. The steamy water will also help to rehydrate your vocal cords and return your dulcet tones. 
  5. Sip at hot drinks. Tea with honey works well and soothes those precious cords. This will also provide relief for irritated throats and vocal cords. 
  6. Get lots of sleep the night before and start hydrating again like crazy the day of the speech. 
  7. When forced to speak before the public engagement, speak in low tones. No shouting, no whispering, no singing. Keep those conversations to a minimum. Rest the voice for the big event. I know it's tough for anyone who makes a living speaking, but do it anyway. 
The first tip is the key to the whole thing. Remember, at least 80 oz. of water in a day and preferably more. Just make sure you're not far from a bathroom. On the big day, take water with you. You should have a stronger voice for your efforts and once you start speaking and stop worrying, all your skills will kick in to help you leap past your vocal trials and tribulations. On the day of the speech, make no apologies for the voice you have. Never let that audience see you sweat ... or know they could have gotten more out of you if circumstances were different. What they don't know won't hurt them ... and what you don't tell them won't bias them as you start speaking. 

Good luck! You're going to get through this. I used all these techniques recently and came through just fine. In fact, the results of my last speaking engagement appear to be bearing fruit that will change my life in some very significant ways! More on that later.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Christianity Slowly Untangling Itself From the 30+ Years of Culture War

For some 30 years and more, the most conservative wing of Christianity worked hard on the battle come to be known as the "Culture Wars." These believers exhibited what Dr. M. Scott Peck described as Stage 2 Spirituality, which involves:

Stage II: Formal, Institutional
  • Stage of the majority of churchgoers and believers [if you are here, you are in very good company].
  • Very much attached to the institution of the church, to canons, to liturgy, to tradition. 
  • Anything or anyone changing up the rules will cause turmoil for people in this stage. 
  • Vision of God is as external, transcendent Being, not immanent or indwelling. See God as loving but also as firm and distant judge.
  • Have a deep desire to be governed by a legalistic religion. 
  • Loving parents, whose children sometimes head into Stage III.
See bullet points three through five for where a lot of the trouble began. The "Moral Majority" that grew up during that war was a very rule driven, my way or the highway (to hell) organization. As a result, much harm was done to the image of the faith as a whole, as the more central and liberal wings of Christianity did little to counter this impression in any meaningful way, and it spread. 

All through my seminary readings, various ways to counter what had been done and to reach out to people in a more understanding, loving fashion were advocated. It was uplifting for me, within one week, to read a message from Pope Francis and from a writer in Red Letter Christianity, who both give me hope for a more open future with others. 

On September 20, 2013, it was reported in the news that the Pope made the following statement to Catholic reporters and others, 
The Church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the Church must be ministers of mercy above all. 
In the middle of the last century of the previous millennium (the 1950s) we Christians had the luxury of operating under the "If you build it, they will come" mindset about our churches. Want to gather more folks to the faith? Build a nice, new church building or expand an old one. Offer gyms for the youth and classrooms for everyone, and you're all set. And, given the blue laws of the age shutting down businesses for the day, it all worked out pretty well. Church was just about the only game in town. Not true any longer. 

In Christian Piatt's article "Five Things That Are Holding Christianity Back," he spoke to that mindset and what must replace it. 
... we're mistaken if we believe that most people still are comfortable with the idea of walking in "cold" to a worship service as a way to get to know a church family. Whereas we've tended to see worship as the entry point into our church communities, this really should be flipped on its end today, so that we see invitation to worship as the culmination of a long standing relationship with the person, build outside of the church even, before we earn the right to invite.
I'd add, from other sources, be ready to apologize for the pain caused by as a result of the long fought Culture Wars. Then spend more time listening than talking. Get to know the people you'd like to reach and let them speak of their issues first. Then have something helpful and generous to say. Like all wars, it has created a lot of collateral damage. 

Finally, last Sunday, I attended a church that really is on the right track. It was amazing to see how many outreach programs they had going on at once. They were running a food pantry with the gathered churches of the town. Together those churches were fund raising for scholarships for poor students to ensure they receive a better education. They were preparing to attend the Crop Walk (an ABC USA program participated in by American Baptist churches all over, gathering funds to feed others) and much more. They were making themselves the community church that actually reaches into the community and provides help. They were helping to dispel the image of the Church as a harsh place filled with rules and regulations and scoldings and shame that is obsessed with "small minded rules" to quote Pope Francis again. 

In their Sunday bulletin that week was this passage from Isaiah (58:6-12), which provides good guidelines for any 21st century church looking to reach out. It reads: 

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house: when you see the naked, cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

I'd like to be the "restorer of streets to live in." How about you?  

For more on M. Scott Peck's challenging four stages of spirituality, see:


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Two Ancient Spiritual Practices May Fight Insomnia: Good News From Christianity

Surrender your restless thoughts to these disciplines!
I recently discovered a prayer, an old five step prayer ... you know it's old because they hadn't developed twelve steps yet ... that helps calm the mind on those nights where your brain just won't let go of the day and keeps running in tiny, lunatic circles in the still dark watches of the night. Begin there and follow it up with the discipline of silence. That one-two punch may do the trick for you. It has for me, twice. Here's how. First the prayer ..

The author of the book Heaven and Mirth, James Martin, SJ (pp. 176-178), recommends turning to St. Ignatius Loyola's five step "animation of conscience" prayer to help us create a sense of gratitude. Who knew gratitude could so calm the mind? The whole prayer journey hinges on the certain belief that true joy always and eternally stems from God. Keeping your relationship with God front and center in your life will allow you to find your joy, comfort, and solace ... even when it hurts, even when you can't sleep. Let the prayer begin ...

1.                  Gratitude: recall those things that happened during the day for which you may be grateful (I know you're hurting, I know it's hard, but you can do it). Simple, small things are fine: a kind word from a colleague, friend, or family member, a child's smile or laugh, some objective completed, a good meal, a walk in the warm sunshine, anything and everything you can think up. Linger over these items and feel a little bit a gratitude start to glow deep down in your hurting heart. As Martin states, "nothing connects us to God more quickly than orienting ourselves toward those things for which we are grateful."  
2.                  God's presence: mull over the day's events and discover where God was present in your life. You probably overlooked that in your busy day. It is much easier to see God's hand in things after the events of the day, when things are calmer. 
3.                  Grace: be bold and ask for the grace to see where and when you may have sinned by turning away from God during your day. Go ahead. Don't get defensive. Relax. It happens ... and God knows it. So should you. It'll help. 
4.                  Forgiveness: Be bolder still and sincerely ask for forgiveness for any sins committed during the day. You may want to follow us with the even bolder reconciliation with a friend, coworker, family member, or neighbor slighted if you have committed some wrong against them (best to be quick as small wrongs grow in the mind of yourself and the one you wronged if allowed to grow). 
5.             Grace again: Finally, be very bold and ask for the grace to see more clearly where God is at work in your life tomorrow. 

The secret to this five step prayer is the creation and cultivation of a sense of gratitude in our lives for the gifts God has already given us. Through this, even in our pain, we can reconnect with, as Martin beautifully states, "...a believing joy. Gratitude reminds us of the underlying joy in our lives." As a side note, the second time I used this useful, calming prayer, step 5 was granted to me the very next day. God's graces that day were much more apparent in my life. 

Follow this prayer with the spiritual discipline of silence. It is designed to stop a person from thinking long enough to come into the presence of God and just rest there with the one who loves us most. To accomplish this goal of shutting down thought (which isn't easy and must be developed over time) try one of two things. Envision a river with a bend in it that is quickly masked by trees. Anytime a nuisance thought interrupts you silence, envision yourself setting that thought into the river and watching it disappear around the bend. Don't worry. If you need that thought, it will return at a more useful hour. Keep at it. Or you can pick a word that you'd like to concentrate on, perhaps something you'd like to have like "joy" perhaps and just repeat that word over and over again in your mind, driving out the other thoughts. In time ... you are getting sleepy ... you may discover morning has come and your dark and restless night is over. You slept. 

Give it a try and let me know what happens. All I can say is, it works for me. Blessings to you all, sleep deprived children of God. 

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, September 20, 2013

Triton Seafood Restaurant in Downingtown, Pennsylvania ... Enjoy the Shore Shack Experience

If you live anywhere near Downingtown, Pennsylvania, or happen to be passing through, and have a taste for some quality, fresh seafood, simply made and simply served, stop at Triton. They serve what they call Calabash style seafood. It originated in the town of Calabash, North Carolina ... which should receive some sort of reward to doing so, in my book. Located on the inland waterway in eastern North Carolina, the seafood is lightly breaded and, as the menu states, "fried to perfection." Amen brothers and sisters! If you're hankering for something a little different, they say they also offer "a smidgen of soul food, a pinch of Cajun, and a dash of Creole style.

On the dinner menu, you have fish, shrimp, clam strips, and oysters to choose from. Having opened only a couple weeks back, you'll soon be able to create your own combination (can't wait). They also have four salads, two sandwiches, family meals will also be coming soon ... 40 pieces of shrimp or catfish (ooohhhh!), a range of sides, appetizers ranging from the classic onion rings to more original fare including green tomatoes, fried pickles, barbecue oysters, frog legs, and calamari. There's a  couple more, but why spoil all the surprises. Dessert is available ... if you have room. I haven't so far. It's Key Lime or Pecan Pie right now, with Sweet Potato coming soon.

Not convinced yet? Okay, the food is great. The breading is light as advertised and does not hide the taste of whatever food it is applied to. The prices are very reasonable with the most expensive items so far weighing in at $13 ... the butterfly shrimp, which I can personally recommend! But there's one item I have yet to mention. It's the hush puppies. These little fried wonders are amazing and they are served hot to the table right after your drinks (sweet tea is fantastic and sweetened to more Northern tastes ... if you've ever lived in the South, you'll know what I mean) and they make everyone smile ... as they quickly disappear. Twice my daughter and I have split the last one. My saintly wife assures us she's already had her fill.

The decor and ambiance are strictly shore shack. This is a relaxed experience, so loosen up, y'all. The staff is attentive and the food comes quickly. The price is right and the delicious food is a bargain at the price. It's a BYOB joint, so come packing if you want it.

Lastly, they have takeout ... and we'll be taking advantage of that soon! When last we visited, a customer was picking up takeout and had one question, just one. He asked, "That bag, that bag right there has the hush puppies in it?" He was assured it did and went away happy.

You'll find Triton on the west side of D'town in the Caln Village Shopping Center. You can call them at 610-873-FISH or check out their website: They are open Tuesdays through Thursdays from 11 am to 9 pm, Friday and Saturday from 11 am to 10 pm and Sunday from 11 am to 6 pm. Mondays they rest ... a rest very well deserved. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Future I Refuse to Support

I am an optimist and a futurist. I firmly believe we humans can work to bend the future in the direction we would like it to go. We can't always succeed, but we can aim for the future we'd like to have.

For me, that is a bright future of greater equality, less suffering, more community in which the members actively work to raise each other up, more peace ... a future quite unlike the dystopian imaginings of tomorrow that are all the rage today. I understand well that we are flawed creatures and we are quite willing and able to cause each other as much harm as good in any particular circumstance. Still, I choose to work for what is good, what is morally right, what my faith and my upbringing dictate are proper ways to treat others and to expect to be treated. I choose to work for a bright tomorrow and a better today in any little way I can. No one will ever be able to convince me I should do otherwise.

So, when NPR ran a report on an economist and his new book, I was far less than pleased with this individual's view of tomorrow. I won't name names here as I try not to disparage people and their writing, especially when I've only heard an interview and have not read the book. I don't fancy myself much of a book critic.

Still, this view of tomorrow repels me. In this darker future world, there will be a rise in the total number of wealthy individuals. Their class will rise to a whopping 15%, which the economist came back to several times as the bright and shiny carrot for us all to chase after. Sorry, my friend, that's far too little carrot and way too much heavy, bludgeoning stick. The middle class will be rolled back from the "aberrant, post World War II 1950s-60s era" and return to "historical levels of inequality." (Hmmm, I'd ask descendants of the French aristocracy how that worked out for them in the revolution ... if there are any.) What remains of this beleaguered class will now live a "bohemian" lifestyle (say, have I been part of this bold new future for years now?) with greater struggles and far fewer members. Economic life for these people and for the poor will be a life of economic fragility. I guess this means that this 15% nouveau riche will be standing on the necks of increasing numbers of always struggling poor people who will die young while the lucky few enjoy the "good life."

In what seemed to me an icy tone, this individual stated there would be far fewer second chances. Screw up young and you'll be a screw up for life is what I heard. No ability to redefine yourself and create a new life in a new town, not with your electronic trail tattling on you wherever you go in this no secrets society of tomorrow.

Trying to paper over all this bleakness, our intrepid visionary assured us this will be a fantastically creative time where we are "liberated from factory work" and will have more educational opportunities online with computers. People who aren't rich will still be able to be extremely happy because they will be able to educate themselves online and take part in the new online jobs of tomorrow. REALLY?! Sure, the rich will be able to do so, and this bohemian middle class of shrunken proportions, I suppose. But what about all the rest? How will they afford the computers? When will they have the time to get online while working two or three service industry jobs to try to make ends meet while the wealthy wail about how bad it would be for business if such service jobs were forced to pay a living wage. As a final thumb in the eye, our dreamer of this particular future added, with a nice dollop of judgment, of course, not everyone will take advantage of these opportunities, but the new paths to creativity will be there.

I enjoyed the reporter's rather pointed summation of this view of the future. He stated, it sounds like you're saying, "Don't even argue. Give up."

I will argue. I won't give up. I won't surrender myself, my family, my descendants, or any of you, to such a grim and dismal future. I choose to actively work against such a world of tomorrow. How about you?

To explore this topic further, see:

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, September 12, 2013

Voyager 1 Spacecraft Makes History: Goes Where No Robot Has Gone Before

On September 5, 1977, the Voyager 1 spacecraft launched like Voyager 2 seen here, courtesy of NASA. On March 5, 1979, Voyager 1 made its closest approach to Jupiter. On November 12, 1980, she swung close by Saturn. Voyager 2 would head on out to the other two gas giants while Voyager 1 headed off to her rendezvous with history, which she made today, 36 years later, when Voyager 1 crossed over the border between our solar system and interstellar space. This is the very first human made anything to have ever gone so far (other that radio and TV signals). It is the very first physical artifact speaking of the creativity and curiosity of humanity that will head out into the great void between the stars and provide mute testimony to who we were long after our species has gone the way of all things, provided she doesn't encounter some cold body out there in the deep. Of course neither Voyager 1 or 2 are entirely mute. Both carry a golden multimedia record (courtesy of Carl Sagan and company) featuring sounds of earth and us out into the stars. Given enough time, who knows, somebody out there may find one of them and be amazed and perhaps get to know a little of the best about us, while never hearing of the worst. If you want to know more, please see:

I want to pause today, as history has been made, to congratulate all the dedicated men and women who poured their creativity, hearts, and souls into this effort. Thank you NASA team and anyone else involved for all the invaluable data, all of the new visions, and most of all for all of the wonder, all of the awe. We'll continue to hear from our plucky, durable robots until 2025 or 2030, when the nuclear power plant finally fails. Or so I've been told. Who knows. Maybe these robots with 1970s technology will continue to surprise us. So, now, Voyager 1 has begun her interstellar mission.

With all that is going wrong in the world today, thanks NASA team for giving us a moment to pause and wonder, a moment of amazement and joy.

Voyager 1 in interstellar space, artist's concept. Artwork courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech

For more on the Voyager missions, see:

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, September 10, 2013

Official Response From Petition for Safer Regulation ...

The White House, Washington

Dear [J.S. Brooks]:

Thank you for taking the time to write.  I have heard from many Americans regarding firearms policy and gun violence in our Nation, and I appreciate your perspective.  From Aurora to Newtown to the streets of Chicago, we have seen the devastating effects gun violence has on our American family.  I join countless others in grieving for all those whose lives have been taken too soon by gun violence.

In this country, we have a strong tradition of gun ownership that has been handed down from generation to generation.  Hunting and sport shooting are part of our national heritage.  Yet, even as we acknowledge that almost all gun owners in America are responsible, when we look at the devastation caused by gun violence—whether in high-profile tragedies or the daily heartbreak that plagues our cities—we must ask ourselves if we are doing enough.

While reducing gun violence is a complicated challenge, protecting our children from harm should not be a divisive one.  Most gun owners agree that we can respect the Second Amendment while keeping an irresponsible, law-breaking few from inflicting harm on a massive scale.  Most also agree that if we took commonsense steps to curtail gun violence, there would be fewer atrocities like the one that occurred in Newtown.  We will not be able to stop every violent act, but if there is even one thing we can do to reduce gun violence—if even one life can be saved—then we have an obligation to try.

That is why I asked Vice President Joe Biden to identify concrete steps we can take to keep our children safe, help prevent mass shootings, and reduce the broader epidemic of gun violence in our country.  He met with over 200 groups representing a broad cross-section of Americans and heard their best ideas.  In January, I put forward a specific set of proposals based off of his efforts, and my Administration is working to make them a reality.

We have already given law enforcement, schools, mental health professionals, and the public health community tools to help reduce gun violence.  We are strengthening the background check system to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, making schools safer by helping them hire more resource officers and counselors and develop emergency preparedness plans, and ensuring law enforcement has the training it needs to most effectively respond to gun violence incidents.  From hosting the National Conference on Mental Health to finalizing Affordable Care Act regulations that will expand mental health benefits for 62 million Americans, we are working tirelessly to improve access to mental health services.

There is still more work to be done.  We must address the barriers that prevent states from participating in the existing background check system.  And we must study the science behind this public health crisis—which is why I directed the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence, including possible links between video games, media images, and violence.  We will leave no stone unturned when working to keep Americans safe.

As important as these steps are, they are not a substitute for action from Congress.  To make a real and lasting difference, members of Congress must also act.  Ninety percent of Americans—the clear majority—support universal background checks for firearm purchases.  And most Americans also believe we should renew and strengthen the assault weapons ban and make firearms trafficking a Federal crime.

Despite the overwhelming support for these reasonable proposals, a minority in the Senate blocked these commonsense measures—and it is now clearer than ever that change will not come unless the American people demand it from their lawmakers.  Now is the time to do the right thing for our children, our communities, and the country we love.  We owe the victims of heartbreaking national tragedies and the countless unheralded tragedies each year nothing less than our best effort—to seek consensus in order to save lives and ensure a brighter future for our children.

Thank you, again, for writing.  I encourage you to to learn more about my Administration’s approach.


Barack Obama


Monday, September 9, 2013

A Blessing for Your Day: Good News from Christianity

Here is a small, traditional blessing to give you some spiritual uplift today:
God bless you and keep you.
God's face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
God look upon you with favor and give you peace.  
Wishing you well in whatever you face today.

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:

Toyota Yaris Clock Stops: What to Do When Time Stands Still

I have provided several informational posts about various aspects of the Toyota Yaris, which I own and love. At the post about resetting the Toyota Yaris clock, I received a question about fixing the Yaris clock when it stops working. I "Googled it" and came up with the following answer.

When the clock stops, or in the case of one Toyota Corolla owner, when both the clock and radio ceased functioning, here is what was recommended that one seek to fix. Small note of caution: check your owner's manual for the location of the Yaris fuse box. I imagine it is the same as the Corolla, but to be honest I haven't gone out to check this morning.

Look beneath the steering wheel for the drop down fuse box. The fuses themselves are labeled on the inside of the lid. Replace the fuse in question and check the results. There may be some extra fuses in the box, but you should pick up some more yourself.

For more on this issue, see the Toyota Owner's Club Forum. The posting I referenced is:

Good luck and happy motoring.

For more on the Yaris, see:

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:

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Seeing the Minotaur 5 Rocket Take LADEE to Space

On September 6, 2013, NASA launched the LADEE space probe to the moon from the Wallops Island launch site in Virginia. NASA stated the rocket launch would take place at 11:27 PM and that the rocket would be visible in our area one minute later.

As luck would have it, I had put the finishing touches on Sunday's sermon by then and was ready to go see if the Minotaur V would make the projected appearance. I almost missed the chance when, for reasons unknown, I got it in my head the launch was at 11:35 PM. A quick check with NASA's Facebook post corrected me and my wife and I made it outside at exactly 11:27 PM. Sure enough, one minute later, trending a little from south to north, but heading most distinctly east, came an elongated red light moving silently through the starry night sky. That was the Minotaur's flaming engine in action as the craft headed away from us over the Atlantic Ocean. It was quite a sight. As quickly as it had come, it was gone. But it was an exciting sight to see. I'd hoped to see the classic arching streak in the heavens, but it was too long after launch for that.

The Minotaur V is an Air Force rocket that was being managed by Orbital Sciences.

If all goes well, LADEE will have two missions. The first will be to examine what is believed to be a trace atmosphere on the moon that raises enough dust to create the familiar streaks of light we see in at sunset and that Apollo astronauts were surprised to see at lunar sunset. The second mission will be to experiment with laser communication between the robot and earth. If it works, that system will provide a high speed, high data rate communication system that may allow future astronauts to operator robot avatars on a planet's surface while they remain snug in their orbiting spacecraft.

Courtesy of NASA

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: