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, March 29, 2013

Page View Puzzle: Sloggin' Thru Blogging

I've been blogging a while now and this I have not seen before. For a brief period at the beginning of the year, my Site Meter stopped working. Now it's back and reporting my visits and page views once again. In the past, the page views outstripped the visits significantly. Numerous readers were dropping by and browsing more than one post before heading off for other blogger's works. However, since the Site Meter's return, the reports state I'm still getting a significant number of monthly visits ... but ever dwindling numbers of visitors are sticking around to look at a second page.

So, I'm left to wonder if my writing style and subjects have changed so radically that readers are discouraged from browsing further and reading more ... or if the Site Meter is simply not recording all that is happening. It is a puzzle.

Anyone know the truth? I hear it's out there.

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/

Secret to Freeing Garmin's Suction Mount

What to do when your Garmin suction cup mount won't yield and release its grip
Increasingly, today's technology is intuitive. This means manufacturers have realized we aren't going to read instruction manuals ... it just isn't happening ... and they have given up. Instead they've been clever and made their devices self-teaching. Kids are familiar with this as every video game in the world now follows this method, some with tutorial games but the better games incorporating the tutorial into early game play.

For things other than video games, manufacturers have made the devices simple to use, easy to understand, and interesting enough to keep most of us playing around until we figure things out. Most of the time. Sometimes, without instruction, we're left feeling silly when the technology rebels against our every effort.

Such is the Garmin suction cup holder, that firmly holds your amazing little navigation system (the first machine I've owned that I didn't mind having talk to me) to your windshield. You flip down that little lever, the device is attached to your windshield, you attach your Garmin, and away you go on your next satellite guided adventure. All is well ... until you go to remove that sucker (literally) from your windshield.



Has it happened to you? You flip up the lever that you flipped down to seal the mount to the windshield, it raises up ... and refuses to let go of the glass. This most often happens when someone else is in the car with you. You have gone from suave techno-guy or gal to the goof ball fighting with a suction cup. That suction cup mount is now sliding up and down the glass, dropping the Garmin itself loose, and yet refusing to yield without an embarrassing fight.

Never let it be said that here at J.S. Brooks Presents that we don't want to help you in this life, dear reader. We discovered, quite by accident, that there is a secret to getting that suction cup to let go without a battle royale. Look at the second photo. See the little tongue behind the switch, the little tongue actually attached TO the suction cut itself.



Here it is, the secret move that ends the embarrassing, potentially damaging wrestling match:


  • Lift that little tongue on the suction cup.
  • The suction mount drops instantly into your hand. 
That's it. It's as simple as that. 

Being male, I assumed I'd simply not read that bit in the instructions that came with the Garmin ... we rarely do, as stated above. So, I checked ... and NO that little bit of information is not present. 



Now you have the inside scoop. Your next suction mount release will suck a whole lot less. Happy adventuring.

For a story about my wanderings using the Garmin itself and my thoughts on its abilities, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2012/12/getting-new-direction-from-garmin.html

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/



Thursday, March 28, 2013

Zenith Solid State from 1970s Remains Solid

Back in the early to mid-1970s, I wanted a clock radio to get me up for school in the morning. I went shopping and found this Zenith with the sliding number clock display (the numbers are on a film that rolls into and out of the screen and is backlit). It was on sale as the floor display model was the only one left. It has a plastic case with faux wood sides and top to indicate quality ... you see back in the day wood cabinets still represented quality products so some early plastic items were made to look like wood and suggest quality.

Today, I appreciate the durability of this old Zenith. While some time ago it gave up on telling time, it still finds and plays radio stations quite well. The sound it deep and the tones clear. Sure, it has been relegated to service in the bathroom, providing news for me, classics for my wife, and rock for the kids. It endures and continues to serve.

Considering the number of computers I've been through, watches, and various electronic gear of more recent vintage, I have to say I appreciate a product that endures like this old Zenith. It can't do all it used to do ... but it still does its primary job. As long as it continues to do so, I'll keep this old radio around and remember that not everything was always made for a throw away culture. I appreciate that.

Do you have any old, enduring objects in your life you'd like to discuss? Let me know. Please, though, don't bring up spouses. I don't want to be responsible for the strife that follows!

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Elastic Time: A Mystery

The other day, I heard from an acoustic biologist who stated on Krista Tippet's show, On Being that she firmly believes we are only hitting the tip of the iceberg on all there is to know. She made her discoveries by approaching her topics--communication among elephants and whales (within their own species and not cross species, just so you know)--by bringing a childlike wonder to her studies.

Well, I'm working with a mystery as well. I call it "elastic time." We hear there are only so many hours in a day. We hear that we never have enough time. However, I have discovered over the years ... first while working full time, being a loving parent and husband, and attending seminary part time and now while working with the church on various projects (graduated seminary but the rest remains the same) ... that time is mysteriously elastic when I have worthwhile projects to accomplish. I find I can scrounge up more time in the day than I would have thought possible. Even this blog post has come after three side projects this morning that needed attention. I have the same number of minutes as always, but somehow, while working on worthy projects, those minutes just seem to mysteriously stretch.

I agree with the acoustic biologist, we are only at the cusp of all there is to know. And personally I think some of what there is to know will be mind-bendingly strange and eternally mysterious ... like elastic time. Here's wishing you mysterious and elastic days and nights!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Don't Suffer Alone

My friends, we are living in troubled times in the developed and the developing nations. These times can be soul crushing for people suffering through financial collapse--the middle class has been called an "endangered species" in the US and many families are suffering dire choices between power and food, housing and medicine with dwindling funds, little or no support for mental illness, not nearly enough support for health issues, hunger, victims blamed for rapes, and so much more. If you follow the news, you know this very, very well. If you are suffering under any of these circumstances or others, you know it painfully, firsthand.

In the US, the culture revolves around the myth of the self-made man and virtually demands everyone be independent, pulling up themselves by their own bootstraps (tough for you if you can't afford the boots). Along with this pernicious myth goes blame. If you aren't meeting up to the standards, there is something wrong with you ... and the list of painful names that follows is not to be repeated here.

All of this shame leads to silence. Those in pain try their best to get by, to live the myth (the lie), and put on a happy face ... or at least a scrubbed face that acts as a hardened facade against the suffering within. Tell no one is the mantra of the day. This is wrong. We were all made for community. From introvert to extravert, we were made to live together and to help one another. Life is hard, sometimes brutal, and we often need others to lean on to make it through. If this is you, find yourself a community of folks who will support you along life's difficult road, folks who have knowledge that can point you in the right direction, folks who have helping hands, willing hearts, and very broad shoulders they are not afraid to get tear-stained.

Living under the myth of do-it-all-yourself, we no longer understand exactly what a healthy community is and how if functions. For that I recommend M. Scott Peck's The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace. Members of a healthy community will refrain from generalizations, speak personally, be vulnerable, avoid attempting to heal or convert, empty itself (of barriers to good communication), listen wholeheartedly, and embrace the painful as well as the pleasant.

One place to start looking for community would be a place totally free to you. Talk to the reference librarian at the public library and see if that person can't point you toward sources of guidance, both in book form and on their computer terminals.

Find help my friends. Do not suffer in silence and end up in dark places you never chose for yourself or others. Know that you are not alone. There are others who will understand. Seek them.

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/

Monday, March 25, 2013

Busy Life Equals Bad Blogging: Sloggin' Thru Blogging

Here's the hard truth of the matter: your blog is only as good as your last post. Not true you say! All those other posts are still there! Yes, that's true. And they will bring in some viewers. However, to keep the numbers up, you have to keep posting new and different material. At least some of it should pass along interesting and useful information (which takes longer to write). When life gets busy, as mine currently is, the blog posting rate drops drastically, and with it your stats. Less writing, less readers.

However, on the other hand, while life is busy some of the stuff done and learned will have to be blog worthy for future posts. Keep a list of topics in your head or on paper for that time when life slows down and you can get back to your keyboard.

Now I need to get ready for another "interesting" day with 3-6 inches of snow on the ground by day's end and hopefully a car inspected and passed with no need for big repairs or replacement of parts. Yes, another interesting day.

Later bloggers and blog readers. Thanks for stopping by. I'll be back soon ... I think.

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/

Possum: 1, Beagle: 0 -- OR -- Mighty Hunter, Barking Beagle

Friday evening, at around 9:30 PM, our beagle Daisy was out in the back yard. She started to bark. Anyone owning a beagle knows this is no surprise. A beagle will use any excuse for a good bark. But this barking kept on and increased in intensity. So, out I went to see what was the cause of the commotion. I found our mighty hunter (roughly 10 years old) standing over something, tail erect, ears up, barking wildly. When I got closer, I discovered the something was an animal. The animal was an opossum. The opossum was rolled over on its belly, jaws hanging open, and apparently dead. It looked to be nearly Daisy's size. I quickly herded the dog inside (not easy to do when your beagle's hunting blood is up). Inside I checked her over thoroughly for bites and was relieved to find none. I went back to the show I'd been watching with my wife, reported what had happened, and we decided to go out after the show and see what we might have to do in the bagging and disposing of corpses department.

Gathering a large black trash bag ... a body bag to be we half believed, out we went, intending to view the crime scene first and then head for the shed and the flat blade shovel with which to transfer the corpse to the body bag. When we got there, there was no crime scene. There was no corpse. That opossum had played 'possum to a tea. He/she really knew how to carry off the role. Part of my mind had noted, I reflected, that there were neither blood nor guts on the critter ... but I thought of snapped necks instead as that is the dog's favored method of dispatch for opponents. Part of me had been completely duped.

Posting this among my Facebook friends, one had an interesting tale to tell of another opossum. He'd found one outside his home, dead as a doornail. He had a picture taken of him holding the dead critter up by the tail. He was going to wait until the next morning for burial services. When that morning came, the dead opossum had resurrected and gone. Again, kudos to the opossum world for getting the role down so well.

The lesson of all this is simple. Head knowledge only goes so far. Until you know something emotionally, experientially, it just isn't the same thing ... and harder to accept when stumbled upon when out checking on your barking beagle. And that's the barking beagle truth.

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/

Thursday, March 21, 2013

"Brilliant" Passwords: Sloggin' Thru Blogging

After many years, it finally happened. My primary email address was hacked ... twice. The first time, a stupid post was sent and responded to by outside sources foreign to me. My provider alerted me and told me what to do. I did it ... but not well enough. The second time the provider just told me to change my password as "suspicious activity" had been associated with my account. So, this time I took things more seriously and read the provider's instructions for creating a truly worthy password.

Here's what you need:

  • At least one capital letter
  • At least one symbol 
  • At least one number
I pulled together all of these elements in abundance and was told in response that my password was not weak, good, or strong ... but "brilliant." 

Be brilliant. Avoid the embarrassment of needing to make a statement to all your addressees that no you have not set up a "special" website where they can go and look at pictures of you set up "just for them" and signed with "hugs." Avoid the worry about what else these invaders might have been looking for ... and how they might have enslaved your machine with malware. You may not think there's any reason anyone would hack your email. You'd be wrong. Some don't need reasons. Others have reasons you just don't want to know. 

So, be brilliant, be safe, and change that brilliant password often with other equally brilliant bulwarks against the barbarians at the gate.

Brilliant book, too: If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Nip Whining in the Bud Early, PLEASE

I really dislike whining ... so much so that if one were to whine to me about something he or she needed, that individual would be almost guaranteed not to obtain the desired object or service using that action (I say almost as there are times when a higher power trumps my will). It's a personal failing, perhaps.

Professionals label whining as a behavioral disorder of childhood, a control problem that may manifest itself as: oppositional or other forms of disruptive behavior, temper tantrums, overactivity, or excessive whining. These hard-eyed professional folk further label this as a problem of parents who have an inability to set limits. At times it may also be a symptom of serious parental, marital, or family dysfunction.

Setting the professionals aside now, let's get down to the nitty gritty of the matter. Please, parents, set limits while your children are young ... be the parent, not the friend of your child. Your child seeks limits and will be a more assured kid if you provide them. Tell your kids that whining will be the quickest way NOT to get what they want. Make that a rock-ribbed rule of the house, PLEASE. Otherwise, those kids rewarded for whining and temper tantrums will grow up to be insufferable adults who continue to use these dysfunctional behavioral disorders of childhood to try and get their way. They will make everyone around them miserable and resentful. They will be remembered by others as a stain on the social fabric of life. So, please, do us all a favor now and curb this problem. If you have trouble doing so yourself, seek professional help. Save us all from those annoying whining, tantrum throwing adults of the future. To put this in a succinct country-themed summation: Mommas, don't let your babies grow up to be whiners!

THANK YOU!

Monday, March 18, 2013

So, Exactly What Is the Bible Good For: Good News From Christianity

Here's a couple of good quotes from N.T. Wright on the subject of what the Bible does for the reader. The first is from his book, Simply Christian:
“It helps to remind ourselves constantly what the Bible is given to us for. One of the most famous statements of “inspiration” in the Bible itself puts it like this: “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Equipped for every good work; there’s the point. The Bible is breathed out by God so that it can fashion and form God’s people to do his work in the world. … It is there to enable people to work for justice, to sustain their spirituality as they do so, to create and enhance relationships at every level, and to produce that new creation which will have about it something of the beauty of God himself.
The second is from his book The Last Word:
“Reading and studying scripture has been seen as central to how we are to grow in the love of God; how we come to understand God and his truth more fully; and how we can develop the moral muscle to live in accordance with the gospel of Jesus even when everything seems to be pulling the other way.”
 Donald Brash states in his book, The Indispensable Guide to God's Word:
I believe God's intention for the Bible is to testify to and to anchor the continuing dialogue between God our Creator and humanity. Just as God shepherded the Bible's formation, the Holy Spirit stirs our interpretations of it, as we seek God's guidance in faith.
 I suggest you open a dialogue with God today and see where it leads. Who knows what muscles you'll grow and what work you'll take up to work toward the new creation?

For those who ask, how do I defend the Bible against its detractors, my suggestion: don't. There is no need for you to defend the top selling book in the world. All you need to do is suggest the detractor sit down and read that Bible. Let God open a dialogue with that reader and do all the heavy lifting. For the true newcomer, perhaps you could suggest Peterson's paraphrase The Message as a starting point. For those with a more scholarly bent, or those who are being a tad fanciful in their reading, perhaps a good study Bible filled with guiding notes and references ... and NRSV or NIV depending on the reader's inclination. For the curious techno-geek there are various computer versions available ranging from the very cheap or free to the hardcore like the NRSV Study Bible with voluminous reference material. The best of the lot for combining various technologies to create a wonderful, elegant, slow read is the Glo Bible, which comes with various translations (NIV, NKJV, the Message, etc. ... but alas no NRSV just yet). It includes the entire Bible, the Zondervan Bible Encyclopedia under Notes, pictures that can be explored in depth, and videos about the life of Jesus.

There are a great many thorny passages in the Bible. They are uncomfortable and they are not easily dismissed. I suggest you wrestle with these, wrestle with them long and hard like Jacob wrestled with God in the night, as stated in Genesis 32:

24Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.25When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” 27So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” 29Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” 31The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. 
You're likely to come away a changed person.

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/



Friday, March 15, 2013

You Get Your Answers ... If You Live Long Enough

Back in the early 1980s, when men were experimenting with "perms," I went to a sci-fi movie and wondered why the main character had chosen to have the hair on the top of his head lightly curled. It seemed an odd choice, a choice that didn't add much to his heroic persona in my humble opinion.

Well, in 2013 I have the answer to that question from decades past. It wasn't a choice at all. Sadly, now I understand all too well. You see, the hair on top of your head will lightly curl as it thins out. When its compatriots abandon the high ground, the hair that's left decides to fill the space with little twists and ringlets. It dances around in the freedom of all that extra space. I'm roughly the age this actor was then and I know. My hair is doing the same thing.

Yeah, you live long enough and you get your answers ... whether you like them or not.


If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/

Well Played, Doctor's Office ... Well Played!

The other day I had a little blood work done ... nothing serious involved, just a little check ... or so I thought!

Before we go further, let me explain. I'm a writer. I have a writer's imagination. If you are a writer or know one, you understand. If not, read on, you'll see.

The doctor's office calls the home number while everyone is out. The message left is simple ... and ambiguous. I received it in the evening after office hours ... "Please call the doctor's office about your test results" and the phone number. That was it. Nothing more, nothing less. Very succinct and to the point. Also, so filled with ambiguity that the writer's imagination can begin working on it. That imagination drifted toward the dark side, as it is prone to do from time to time. An unsettled evening followed (I'm grateful not to be a hypochondriac).

The next morning I call the office ... early! The person answering the phone is polite, takes my information, and then asks for a number where I can be reached. She says a nurse will get back to me shortly. This also gets the attention of the writer's imagination ... dark news coming it whispers.

The nurse calls. Slight elevations, a small change, everything is fine. Life moves on.

There was just enough left unsaid in that scenario to guarantee a return phone call. I admire that brevity, that hook ...

Well played, doctor's office!


If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What a Circus Should Be: by Mr. Phineas Taylor Barnum Himself

Toward the end of his autobiography, a colorful affair, Mr. P.T. Barnum sketched out what he believed a circus ought to be (afterwards I'll provide a little perspective from P.T. comparing HIS circus to others of the day):

The Mission of the Circus
 When under proper management [the circus] is decorous and orderly in operation and composed of features which appeal to all ages, classes and conditions. While modestly submitting to bear the generic title of circus, a genuine tent exhibition under that name must comprise a menagerie and museum, the accumulating of which necessitated a diligent searching of the whole earth at an incredible pecuniary outlay. In the proper circus of to-day the athlete demonstrates the perfection of training of which the human body is capable. His feats of strength and graceful agility pleases the understanding as well as the eye, and if the average small boy does stand on his head and practice turning "hand-springs" and "flip-flaps" with exasperating persistence for three weeks running after going to the circus his physique will be all the better for it. The juggler shows the marvelous precision and nicety of touch which can be acquired by patient practice. In the real circus of to-day the intelligent lover of horse-flesh will find the finest specimens of the equine race trained to do almost anything but talk. There the scientific mind is attracted by such strange examples of mechanism as the talking machine, an ingenious duplicate of the structure of the human throat, giving forth under manipulation a very human, if not very sweet, voice. The ethnologist finds gathered together for his leisurely inspection representatives of notable and peculiar tribes, civilized and savage, from far distant lands--types which otherwise he would never see, as they can only be sought in their native countries at the risk of life, and at the expenditure of time and money possible to very few. The menagerie of wild life, from the denizens of the torrid African jungle to those of the Polat regions--form a study that will impart more valuable information in two hours than can be obtained from reading books on zoology in a year. 

Now, that's entertainment. It is easy to tell this is the man who ran the "American Museum," a structure filled with entertainment and enlightenment. Mr. Barnum goes on to describe how much better his and Mr. Bailey's circus is in comparison to the shabby affairs that besmirched the name "circus." Of these low establishments, Mr. Barnum stated that for entertainment, drunken characters were represented and broad jokes made, that clowns made vulgar jests accompanied by vulgar gestures that they passed off as fun. Those "circuses" hired rowdy folk including card-sharpers, pickpockets, and swindlers. Law-abiding citizens dreaded the appearance of such shows and the attendant drunkenness and disorderly conduct that followed them like a slimy slug trail. These disreputable establishments would engage the local firemen in a town to protect the circus company against angry "rabble" who grew increasingly annoyed as they were repeatedly swindled. Ticket-sellers were not paid, but kept as much money as they could cheat customers out of by shortchanging them. This description reminds me of the Depression era carnivals that would sweep through one town, pull up its public flowers in the dead of night and use them to decorate the show in the next town over.

We tend to forget in the passions of the moment the passions of yesteryear. So abhorrent was the conduct of some miscreant circuses that, "Years ago no two institutions were more actively antagonistic than the Church and Circus. The former waged fierce and uncompromising war against the latter, the Methodist Church going so far as to make it a part of their discipline that attendance at a circus entailed forfeiture of membership."

So there you have it, the late nineteenth century circus as it was and as it should be as penned by the incomparable showman, P.T. Barnum himself.


If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/

Monday, March 11, 2013

Living with Surprise: A Life Improvement Model

It pays to be surprised, to keep yourself open to a universe of wonder all around you. As stated in Jesus Laughed: 

To live with surprise, you must be open to surprise. You must put yourself in a position to be surprised. A mind-numbing routine at work or school or even play will kill it. 

Living with an eye for surprise, you become more keenly aware of your surroundings and of others. You'll live a life more open to change, to curiosity, to outreach to others, to a glad heart and a freed mind. This world we live in today can be either a world of wonder or a world of mind-numbing routine, depending on the choices you make. You can go through life with blinders on, working your way through the daily routine and becoming perhaps slowly cynical about everything and painfully jaded about life. Or, you can be delighted by the small wonders to be found around you when you look, listen, read, and learn. With that sense of wonder, that joy of discovery, that awe awakened in your heart, you are more likely to become a lively individual eager for each new day's discoveries. Your choice.

I was reminded of this by hearing of the tardigrade recently, a.k.a. the "water bear" or "moss piglet." This teeny weeny wonder ranges in size from 0.5 mm to a whopping 1.5 mm. You have here an animal with insect-like properties of a hard shell and egg laying reproduction, a short lifespan of one to three years, and the shape of an 8-legged caterpillar. It's omnivorous, fitted with bear-like claws and a waddling locomotion that makes you think of piglets. Basically, the little guys and gals are adorable to behold. But they also can live almost anywhere, including in the hard vacuum of space. Tremendous boiling heat, outrageous cold, enormous pressure ... all are nothing to a tardigrade. They can waddle through irradiated landscapes with nary a moment's concern. They are polyextremophiles  and it may be that they are a truly unique branch of life on planet earth with no equal at all anywhere. Could they be from mini-astronauts from another planet in a galaxy far far away? Some think they could be. Any way you look at it they are worthy of our wonder.

In recent news, scientists believe now that dolphin pods have names for each of their members based on unique patterns each individual produces and others use when addressing it. There's one more feature once considered unique to humanity that may be ... well, no so unique after all. If dolphins have names for each other, do they have names for us as well. Perhaps it's best we never know.

Finally, for today's wonder raising quotient, astronomers have discovered, courtesy of the Kepler space telescope, that planets are truly everywhere. Red dwarf stars are rotten with them. There are even rogue planets that have been ejected from their own solar systems, sailing icy and free in between the stars. Fascinating.

So, my advice to you, cultivate that sense of wonder. Live in awe of the world around you. Look for discoveries to make and live a fuller life. Open your eyes ... who knows what you'll 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: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/
 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Could Lack of Sleep Lead to Our Extinction???

This morning I saw a "HuffPost" snippet on "FB" about some of the worst effects of lack of sleep on the average working stiff. I looked at those impacts, asked myself "Really?" as I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, and went to WebMD to check it out. Sure 'nuf, (not that I really doubted you HuffPost reporter ... but still, that name, on Facebook ... I needed outside confirmation, sorry ... and I'm sleepy), it's true. So, here's the top ten list of negative impacts from not getting enough sleep:


  • Accidents: without sleep, we screw up ... think Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Exxon Valdez level screw ups
  • Dumbs you down: think reality TV
  • Serious health problems: heart disease, heart attack, heart failure (I think I see a trend here), irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes (getting nervous now)
  • No sleep, no sex: kills sex drive in men and women alike (no more late night shows for you!)
  • Depression: less than six hours sleep a night and it's high anxiety and emotional lows for us
  • Ages your skin: "lackluster" skin, fine lines, deep dark evil Emperor from Star Wars circles under eyes
  • Forgetful: it's going to be awful finding those keys in the morning without sleep
  • Weight gain: More sleepy,  more eaty ... snooze to lose as WebMD put it
  • Impairs judgment: especially about sleep, you think you've adapted to less sleep ... you poor brain addled sleepy fool
  • Increased risk of death: almost goes without saying given the other nine, wouldn't you say?
So, why the extinction thing. Think about it. Our leaders all around the world are running on Starbucks and adrenaline to keep going. They sleep little, keep crazy hours working and fund raising, and may well be convinced they're doing fine. These folks have their oftentimes pudgy fingers (no sleep, gain weight, remember) on the nuclear arsenal, all those drones with Hellfire missiles, the arsenals of nations, and the soldiers, sailors, pilots, and Marines to use them. They have been dumbed down, are frustrated from little sex (now this is all hypothetical based on the above so don't get angry with me specific leader), are forgetting probably some pretty important stuff like how to play well with others, and their judgment has gone down the toilet ... and lets them think they're fine at the same time. Worse, we are also sleep deprived so we go along with what they say and propose ... including wars. So, if we want to save our species, fire up the dvr for all those late night TV shows and hit the sack. All of our lives may depend on 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: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

SpaceX Dragon Capsule Captured by Space Station Crew | NASA ISS Science ...

 If you weren't up before 6:00 AM Eastern time Sunday, here's the Dragon's second payload delivery to the ISS. Congratulations to SpaceX and NASA. Congrats to working out fixes for the Dragon's stubborn streak after launch as well.

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/

SpaceX Dragon Launches

For those of you who couldn't watch the most recent SpaceX launch, Friday, March 1, 2013, here's a shortened version of a truly beautiful launch. SpaceX ran it as a live feed until the Dragon capsule experienced thruster and solar panel problems after launch ... which were resolved (thank goodness). It is worth noting that had Dragon not been able to successfully fix those issues, it still had the capability to return to earth with its payload intact to try again another day.

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/

Friday, March 1, 2013

Yesterday, I Heard Happiness Has a Price: $75,000: Good News from Christianity

I was listening to NPR yesterday, and one of the interviewees (it was a busy day and I don't remember which one, sorry) stated that people who are currently earning under $75,000 for a family of four can't be truly happy because they are struggling to make ends meet and simply can't go out with loved ones and friends to enjoy life's simple pleasures like a game together at the ball park or an evening at the theater or a night out at a good restaurant. I was shocked. By this standard, I know a whole lot of people who simply can't be happy! I'll bet you do too.

Well, I'm a contrarian. I say it isn't so. Many may not be able to take in Les Mis in New York or go to a professional ball game (given the prices today), but happiness is not out of reach. Robert Darden, in his book Jesus Laughed: the Redemptive Power of Humor, observed that to be truly happy, all that is required is for you to help somebody else, somebody who needs a hand. Christians have been instructed to do so by our own leader, Jesus, who stated that the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves (meaning, as gleaned from the parable of the Good Samaritan, to help those who need our help that we can help). As Darden observes:

You want to be happy? Help someone else because you love them, not because they deserve it. The more you're assisting someone less fortunate than yourself, the less time you spend thinking about yourself. 

And would it hurt to laugh once and a while as you do so? Nope, in fact, it'll help a lot. Darden states: "Laughter fights the darkness. Laughter says, 'I believe. Despite it all, I believe'."

So, help somebody else, laugh enough to fight back the darkness around you, and live a better life for it. That really doesn't come with much of a price tag ... and I don't think you have to be earning $75,000 or more a year to do 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: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/

We Are Abandoned by Congress to the Sequester They Created: Looming cuts, and Congress skips town

 Here's the caliber and courage of our elected, and highly paid, politicians in Washington, D.C. In the face of the fiscal mess they created, the sequester, that was supposed to be so odious no one would let it pass, rather than hammer out a compromise (which too many feel means lose instead of cooperate), they flee and leave us to wallow in their mess (and ours, we elected them). This is a sad commentary on our leadership. So endeth my soapbox moment ... and who knows what else now ends. Time will tell.

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/