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, June 28, 2013

Deciding How Best You Can Help Others

Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you. 
~H. Jackson Brown, Jr. 
There comes a time in your life when you decide you really want to make a difference in this troubled world, you want to help. Then, you can easily become overwhelmed with all the possibilities. You freeze. You do nothing. You become frustrated and then cynical and you lose hope. Don't let that happen to you. Here are some suggestions excerpted from a recent sermon of mine. The sermon is entitled "That's Not Fair" and is based on the Bible verses: 1 Kings 21:1-21 (NRSV).

Actually, it is not all that hard to find places and people who need our fairness, our voices, and our actions on their behalf. There are people suffering under unfair circumstances everywhere. So, the question is, where will we focus our efforts? To answer that, each of us can ask ourselves, what kinds of unfairness, what sorts of injustice, really makes our blood boil. One of my seminary professors asked that question, stating a good pastor needed to be really mad about some unfairness in the world. He was much surprised by the number of unfair, unjust issues these students were angry about. Once you can settle for yourself on one issue that really makes your blood boil, you can start to work in small ways to alleviate that unfairness on the individual level. The same goes for me.

For example, there are over 50 million Americans who live in “food insecure” households. That means over 33.5 million adults and 16.7 million children don’t get enough to eat and are not sure where their next meal will come from in this powerful nation. Here are two personal examples. In California in 2011, a real estate agent and his wife, owning their own company, went from making $300,000 a year to $30,000 a year when the housing bubble burst. They are often hungry. A small town sheriff admits that on his salary he wouldn’t get nearly enough to eat if it were not for a food bank run by a local church. If that situation makes you angry, volunteer to help at a food bank, make donations, advocate for a fairer system, or grow some extra food for Phil-abundance if you are blessed with a green thumb.

Kimberly McOwen Yim is infuriated by slavery in America among immigrant labor and domestic help. She states, “Told they will have good-paying jobs when they arrive in the United States, thousands of immigrants, both legal and illegal, get tricked into forced labor annually. Traffickers often deceive these people by offering half-truths, saying the individual will work at a restaurant or in a hotel. Once these people begin working, they are held captive either through never-ending debt or simple physical immobility.” Kimberly founded Abolitionist Mamas in San Clemente, California, to start working against this wicked form of unfairness in her state. Since then she’s worked with Women Who Stand, an advocacy group affiliated with World Relief and has written the book Refuse to Do Nothing, which teaches readers where to look for possible modern-day slaves in their own communities, what the signs are of an enslaved person, and how to take action. The last part is very simple. If you suspect someone is enslaved, you call the National Human Trafficking Hotline. You can be a modern day abolitionist and stand for God’s justice with just a little education and a phone number. You think it can’t happen in your area. However, when I was growing up, we lived in McLean, Virginia, surrounded by government workers, military professionals, and UN members. Not long ago, running down the street in a panic, a young woman was picked up by the police, terrified she would be caught by the family who had enslaved her. They were well-to-do and had brought her to America from overseas under false pretenses, forcing her to work as their personal household servant.

As followers of God, we are all called to be fair to others, to everyone, as each person is a beloved child of God. We are called to be fierce in our efforts to remedy unfairness wherever we find it, however God has gifted us to do so. Our differences in temperament, gifts, and personalities don’t matter in this issue. The prophets came in all sizes and personalities. God can work with anyone and through anyone to help bring more fairness into this troubled world. God is calling for our help. Are we ready to respond? Are we ready to stand up, say “That’s not fair,” and do something about it?

Back from the sermon, let me add this. Whether you are a person of faith or not, you can make a powerful difference to those suffering under one form of unfairness or another in this world. Just follow the "what makes your blood boil" model and find your place to pitch in.

These men ask for just the same thing, fairness, and fairness only. This, so far as in my power, they, and all others, shall have. 
~Abraham Lincoln 

(Thanks www.brainyquote.com for the quick access to great quotes!) 

For a related post, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2013/06/speaking-truth-and-living-truth.html

Thursday, June 27, 2013

CO2: The Critical Issue: A Friend's Efforts to Clarify Climate Change

 I want to take a moment to support my friend Dick Whiteford and his efforts to communicate the dangers of globally tinkering with Mother Nature to the extent humanity continues to do so. He's taking his concern for our planet and getting active in a variety of ways: conventions, conferences, protests, lectures given, and a video series. You can find more of what he has done at: http://www.youtube.com/user/Savebiosphere?feature=watch Perhaps you'll be inspired to take action, too.

After the recent unsettled weather here, I'm paying closer attention. Yes, I understand that no one weather event points to global warming, but the trend and the science do. I'd rather we take heed, work to stabilize our climate and reduce our emissions now than face even more forceful storms to come. We were lucky only to lose trees in the microburst that hit us recently. Next time lives could be at stake. See: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2013/06/violent-storm-last-night-reflections.html

Oh, by the way, Dick also had a long, early history in the music industry. He's also placed a lot of videos on his site from great musicians well worth your time listening to and enjoying.

Keep up the good work Dick!

A little supporting literature ...



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, June 26, 2013

Adventures in Fitness 17: One Guy's Attempt to Knock the Rust Off: Discipline and Determination

It's moment of truth time. Over the past 16 posts and many hours at the gym, I've learned a lot about myself. I've improved physically. I've discovered stress relief that has been a benefit to me, my family, my colleagues at work, and my friends.

Now, it's time to step up to the big leagues. It's time to rework my schedule and life priorities so that this exercise can become a regular feature of my week three times a week. I came to this decision last night, at the gym. I discovered that physical exercise can also positively impact your determination to do something or be something.

So, I've determined to bring discipline to my exercise, hitting the gym, the elliptical machine, and all the rest three times a week, every week. I'm taking this public as I need to keep myself to this schedule and it is far too easy to let it slide if I'm the only one who knows about it.

We'll see where that leads together. Anyone else willing to make that decision and declare it here? Who's up to the challenge?

See you at the gym.

For my previous adventure in fitness, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2013/06/adventures-in-fitness-16-one-guys.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/

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Violent Storm Last Night: Reflections ...

As we gathered around the table for dinner last night, a violent storm blew through our town. The rain beat down so strong and in such volume that everything in the distance disappeared in a white haze. The wind picked up to ferocious levels. Thunder and lightning made and appearance, as did hail. The wind whispered of tornadoes around the doors and window sills. The power failed, taking many familiar household sounds with it. By the time dinner was done, so was the storm, a "microstorm" the paper would later hypothesize.

As the skies cleared and the sun was setting, my wife and I ventured out. We had long talks with the neighbors concerning recent events. We caught up for quite a while, the way you only do after some natural disaster when the house is temporarily out of order with the power cut. The stream through town had overflown its banks. The police station had flooded. Trees and lines were down all over the place.

We decided to take a walk and see. We joined the many. The further up the hill from our house we went, the worse the damage became. We came to appreciate just how potentially deadly this storm had been. Tall stately trees that had shaded our community for many decades were shattered. Their trunks exploded in the ferocity of the wind, scattering their heavy bodies and limbs across yards and streets. Never outside of a lumber yard have I smelled so much wood, this time splintered instead of sawn. It feels strange to be unsettled about walking beneath a tree, suddenly aware of its weight. In our travels, it seemed almost miraculous that only one tree had fallen onto a home, and that on the garage and not the main house. We did find one roof that looked to have been peeled from its house from back to front, but that was the only one in our wanderings. Another was missing some shingles, but for the most part people's homes remained intact. Another testimony to the power of the storm was the flag pole we found bent flat to the ground. It had not snapped. It had simply been bent flat at its base where it met the ground.

We talked to many people on that walk, people we had not spoken to before and people we knew well. We assured each other that we were alright and in no need of help, we commiserated about losses and clean up to come, we reminded each other of how happy we were to be alive. Police cruisers, fire engines, power trucks, and a local tree surgeon inspected the damage and made sure the neighborhood was generally secure. Power company workers rolled up their sleeves and got down to business.

As the sun set, we returned home. My wife works at the local school and it was amazing to see how many candles she had been given over the years as gifts. Our kitchen, living room, and bathroom were alight with soft candle glow. Shadows danced in their uncertain light, reminding me that for most of human history (and in many locations yet) the night has been a far darker, far spookier place all on its own.

The windows and doors were left open to catch any breeze that came by and we took to our porch ... something you don't do much in the high tech twenty-first century. There we joked with friends about going over to the next neighborhood to ask to borrow a cup of power and wondered just how long the power would be out, comparing notes on what we'd seen on our tours of the battered neighborhood.

At five minutes until ten in the evening, the hard working power crews had our lights back on. We returned home and battened down the hatches, blew out the candles, reset the electric clocks, and turned on Under the Dome, replacing unsettling reality for dark fantasy, and left the porch all to itself, waiting for our return in the next power failure.

We left the candles on the porch burning in their lanterns. Somehow it seemed right.


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, June 24, 2013

TED Talks on Killer Robots and Improving Lives

Presents a different road to a better world while preventing killer robots ...
The recommended TED talks by the novelist Daniel Suarez: "The kill decision shouldn't belong to a robot:" http://www.ted.com/talks/daniel_suarez_the_kill_decision_shouldn_t_belong_to_a_robot.html and by architect Paul Pholeros, "How to reduce poverty? Fix homes:" http://www.ted.com/talks/paul_pholeros_how_to_reduce_poverty_fix_homes.html may seem at odds with each other, but both discuss and explore building a better future. In the first, denying robots the independent decision making power to take human life will end a very potent threat to democracy itself. In the second, better housing for all leads to healthier living for all and a more democratic, robust society. Both work toward a better future from two very different directions.

What decision will you make today to build a better tomorrow for yourself and for others?


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/



Sunday, June 23, 2013

Bridging the Digital Divide ... Video to Audio

I have found in recent months that it can be a big challenge getting digital material to the people who need it, especially if they do not have access to the technology so many of us, particularly bloggers, take for granted. If you need to create an audio file from a digital video for someone who doesn't have a computer but has a CD player, here are some steps to try:


  1. Download a free copy of freecorder.
  2. Play your video while recording with freecorder to grab that audio track (follow freecorder instructions for this).
  3. Use your Windows Media Player to translate the audio file to the aiff format, which is the format used by store bought (or Amazon bought) CDs.
  4. Burn the saved results to a CD and send to the intended person.
The caveat to this is that I have not tried this personally so cannot guarantee you success with this method. An alternative is to suggest the computer free person goes to a person with a computer to watch the brilliant video you made or ask them to go to their country library and borrow one of their computers to watch said video.

Good luck to you in your efforts! Let me know if this works ...

For more on bridging the digital divide, but WITH videos, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2013/06/converting-digital-movies-from.html AND http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2013/06/creating-special-purpose-youtube-sites.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/

Fifty Years of Faithful Performance, The Passion Play

Please go to the following address if you want to see how one church has been performing The Passion Play for 50 years and the impact that has had on their members ... http://extoncommunitybaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2013/06/experiencing-hopewell-methodists-50th.html

It is a far richer experience than expected!


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/

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Speaking Truth and Living Truth

In Christian theologian Henri Nouwen's daily devotional, Bread for the Journey, he writes today profoundly of truth. For the short and sweet of it, he states, speak truth and grow into living it. The devotional is entitled "Growing into the Truth We Speak." He writes,

Can we only speak when we are fully living what we are saying? If all our words had to cover all our actions, we would be doomed to permanent silence! Sometimes we are called to proclaim God's love even when we are not fully able to live it. Does that mean we are hypocrites? Only when our own words no longer call us to conversion. 
Nobody completely lives up to his or her own ideals and visions. But by proclaiming our ideals and visions with great conviction and great humility, we may gradually grow into the truth we speak. As long as we know that our lives always speak louder than our words, we can trust that our words will remain humble. 
Valuable words, well written, that come from a life well lived by this author. He understood well the struggle to live up to the ideals we believe in and strove hard all his life to meet those values. It is valuable to remember that we are only hypocrites if our words do not convict us, do not push us to try harder ourselves to strive for God's ideals and God's dream for human life lived well in service of others that we might all work together toward a better life for all. It is worth striving for and definitely worth talking about.

I would add that blogging about your beliefs helps. It is good practice for both speaking of them and living them. Enjoy the journey ... and the conversations sure to come along the way.


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, June 21, 2013

Secrets to Writing the Five Minute Blog Post

Pure and simple, this is writing fast about something you know very, very well. Here's how it's done.


  1. Pick a subject you know by heart and love.
  2. Make sure you have one and only one point to make.
  3. Get straight to the heart of the matter ... there is no time for embellishment or fancy flourishes.
  4. Put your inner editor to sleep, write while he/she sleeps and throw caution to the wind.
  5. Focus solely on the task at hand.
  6. Make sure all distractions are turned off and put aside for the five minute duration. 
  7. Pause for a moments reflection in minute four and ask yourself, have you made your point and was it a point worth making. 
  8. If the answer is yes, hit publish before you inner editor wakes up. If the answer is no, delete ... after all, you've only used four minutes.
  9. If you need it, fall back on the old template: tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them. 
  10. DONE!
It's simple, fast, but takes practice. Do not be discouraged when your first attempts create nothing but a mess. With time and focus, you'll get there.

My five minutes are up.

With that, my promised topics from the post Two Weeks of Madness Completed are fulfilled. See for yourself: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2013/06/two-weeks-of-madness-completed.html

For more on writing quickly, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2013/04/30-minute-blog-post-how-to-write-on.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/

Dismiss No One: Leaving Behind Stereotyping

We live in an incredibly complicated world. Life is getting trickier each day. So, we simplify our lives in any way that we can, just to get by. It’s normal, it’s necessary, and it’s entirely human. One way we simplify is by stereotyping others, dividing everyone we meet into one little group or another so we don’t have to think too hard about what we might expect from each person. Using stereotyping, we try to predict to some degree what the future might hold and what to anticipate when dealing with different groups. Star Trek, the original 1960s TV series, was great at this. Whole species were stereotyped down to a single personality trait. Klingons were warlike, Romulans sneaky, Vulcans logical, and humans impulsive. This simplification went right on down to the individual level too. A guy who showed up in a red shirt who you’d never seen before on the show and who was a member of the security team … doomed. Wasn’t going to make it through the episode. Those Star Trek stereotypes simplified the narrative and let you know what to expect without a lot of dull and expensive dialog every time certain characters popped up. It’s what we do to get through the day boiled down to its simplest form. It impacts all aspects of our lives. It often gets way out of hand.

In today’s world, this whole business of stereotyping is intended to provide us shorthand for what to expect from different groups under different circumstances. However, this stereotyping thing often goes terribly, terribly wrong. We take it too far. We generalize too much. For example, we tend to believe all attractive people are sensitive, kind, strong, poised, and sociable and everybody else … well, not so much. Intelligent people are industrious, poor people lazy. We create self-fulfilling prophecies based on false stereotypes. If we assume a certain group is unfriendly, we steer clear of them. As we remaining cool and aloof toward them, that group is likely to respond to us in an unfriendly manner, confirming our assumption.

In politics and religion both, some of us appreciate power and authority. We expect lines to be clearly drawn and order to be maintained. Others among us are suspicious of any authority, feeling it will eventually become corrupt and harm us. Both sides are stereotyping their leaders and the other guy's and gal's, often creating those self-fulfilling prophecies in the process.

We won’t even approach racial stereotyping and the gross exaggerations that lead down the pernicious road to prejudice. Finally, there are some groups of folks we may even be willing to write off entirely as a lost cause, often based on flawed assumptions and exaggerated stereotyping.

Perhaps it is time to table our excessive use of stereotyping and cease to draw conclusions about folks based on a single aspect of their lives. Maybe we should jettison any conclusions about someone based on whether they come from a red or blue state, whether they favor the Eagles or the Giants (I know, that’s a hard one), or whether they share our particular brand of religion or not. Perhaps we should instead expect to find great faith and good works among people in unexpected places and at unanticipated moments, and be ready to appreciate them when we do. As the newly elevated Pope Francis stated, “perhaps what we should be surprised at is not that unlikely and unexpected people demonstrate faith and do good works, but that we consider them unlikely and unexpected in the first place.”

Let's all broaden our horizons today. Let's set aside the shorthand of stereotyping and actually get to know people. Resist the culturally prescribed writing off of individuals. Especially those who don't agree with us on one issue or another [an increasingly popular reason to dismiss people today]. Let's be willing to have actual conversations on those issues with people who disagree with us, coming to such discussions with open minds and the idea that we might actually learn from each other ... and/or that we might actually change our minds! (GASP!) Let's work together, despite our differences, to create a better world today, for us, for our children, for our children's children. 

Excerpted from my recent sermon "Finding Faith," based on the story of Jesus and the centurion in Luke 7:1-10  ... (Have you reclassified this post in your head yet, based on that one new piece of information?)

I promised you we'd get to this, and now I've done it: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2013/06/two-weeks-of-madness-completed.html

Thursday, June 20, 2013

I'm Taking More Family Photos Now

Until recently, lining up the folks you love at a get together for one of those all inclusive family photos has been very low on my priority list. The line up, the fixed smiles, the multiple cameras, the switching in and out to get the photographer ... you know the routine ... it all seemed a big nuisance.

Then, Mom died ...

...

...

That changed everything. Looking back through photos I had, I couldn't find her nearly as often as I wanted to see her. Mom was not a big fan any kind of photo ... of her. She was lovely, self possessed, and her warmth would shine through in a picture ... to me ... but she was not very happy to find herself in front of the lens. And yet, Mom was the one who got everyone off to a photo studio during a big family gathering for another session in front of a big lens ... and bigger as the years went by to get us all in. The last time we sat for a photographer in the mall, they had to work hard to gather up enough seats to sit on and boxes to stand on to get us all in.

From time to time, during these expeditions, I'd wonder about that paradox. But now I understand Mom's wisdom in this matter all too well. Life teaches its lessons.

So, from now on, with cameras in just about everything, I'm making sure whenever the rest of us get together, however many of us there are, I'll be capturing at least one group shot of us all. I want that record of those happy times as bright beacons for the stormy weather that is sure to come again somewhere down the road.

Yeah, I'm a big fan of the family photo now.

Stand a little closer together, will you? Let me get this ...

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Creating Special Purpose YouTube Sites

Recently I needed to deliver a couple of videos to a group for their review. I mulled over a variety of delivery systems and settled on creating a YouTube site dedicated to the task. This turned out the be remarkably simple.

When you ask the create the account, you will be asked to fill in some very basic information. 

YouTube at this point provides you with a brand new, shiny gmail account dedicated solely to your new site. 

Once the basic site is established, take the few minutes necessary to add your own channel so you have a place to upload videos to. This is essential. If you are in a rush and just start uploading without a channel, the file will go through some of the motions of uploading without ever actually doing so. Take a minute to read the offered tutorial about creating your channel so you get it right.

There is a feature offered here that I found a great improvement since I set up my first YouTube site a couple years ago. At that point you needed about ten short videos on the site before they'd offer you more than 15 minutes per video. Now, once you have proven you have control of your site by offering YouTube a phone number to call or text and give you a verification number, you will instantly be able to place videos longer than 15 minutes. This is very handy for public speakers who need to upload their work for others to see. 

Once you've successfully created your channel, when you now try to upload videos, they will appear on a screen complete with information for you to fill in while the upload is in progress, including a description of the video and tags for it. When you see those things, you know you've done it right. 

An additional bonus will be that once you have the site up, you'll know when the team has visited you, especially if you list the videos as private, with only those you give the address to able to view your offerings. 

For converting videos from the .MOV format used in the less widely distributed QuickTime format to .WMV, which is used in the widely distributed Windows Media Player, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2013/06/converting-digital-movies-from.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/

Friday, June 14, 2013

Interviews: The Day After ... ZOMBIFICATION!

There are all sorts of self-help books out there to tell you how to navigate an important interview of whatever type. All sorts of questions you can ask, response techniques that are better than others, eye contact, voice inflection and speed of delivery, etc. But what they tend not to discuss is the day after.

Having recently been through a long and productive interview, the next day, much to my horror on arising, I was a zombie, yes, an emotionally drained, hollow-eyed, zero energy, slow moving zombie (nothing speedy like World War Z ... I have no idea where those guys and gals got all that energy, obviously they had a different sort of interview). I shuffled through the day, getting things done (barely), interacting when absolutely necessary, and just kept wishing it was bedtime. And this interview went well, mind you!

So, be prepared. Rest up as best you can prior to the big moment. Do the exercise thing like I did the night before. BUT, DO NOT (not shouting here, just giving emphasis) schedule anything that requires energy for the next day. Prepare to be "zombiefied" in the slow moving sense the next day (without the unnatural desire for brains, there's one plus) with brains of mush in your own skull. Try not to second guess what you might have said or what the interviewers are saying about you afterwards. That road leads to crazytown and you don't want to live there. To get through the zombie-day-after, I recommend putting some bright and shiny fun thing at the end of your day to help you navigate through the fog and to keep you from simply curling up under your desk for more sleep.

Good luck to you in your interview and better luck to you in the day after!

See: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2013/06/adventures-in-fitness-16-one-guys.html for the day before exercise recommendation ...

See: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2010/10/where-zombies-come-from.html for more on zombification ...

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Science and Fiction Blend Yet Again with Opportunity and Lone Signal

Using equipment long after its warranty and expected life-span ends has its advantages. NASA's Opportunity robot, that solar powered wonder of endurance in the tenth year of its 90 day mission, has found, at the rock dubbed Esperance, clay minerals made by water long ago, water that is deemed by science today to have been right for life way back when. Previous evidence for water has found that such water would have been polluted (by our preferences) with sulfuric acid (OW) ... but the new find suggests water that was acid neutral and a happy place for life to start and to grow. Could it be that the strange and wonderful "water bears" of Earth are native Martians of long ago who invaded Earth via meteor???

Dr. Jacob Haqq-Misra is heading a team called "Lone Signal" involving scientists and well endowed entrepreneurs in a METI mission. METI stands for Messaging to Extraterrestrial Intelligence. No more little one off spurts of signals like the big hello we sent out in 1974 from the Arecibo dish. No, this time it's a continuous signal being sent toward one of our early solar system discoveries with potentially habitable planets found by the Kepler mission, Gliese 526.  This will be a continuous message sent out on our hailing frequencies. And all of us can take part. The Jamesburg Earth Station in Carmel, California, will get the honor of sending out this long sustained shout. This shout will include a message in a message. The top message will give basic Earth info, while the second message, the message in the message will send messages from the people of Earth (oh no, these will indeed be Tweets!). How many of you want to bet that the first reply from extraterrestrial intelligence will translate to "SHUT UP!" with a few alien expletives thrown in for good measure?

For more on Lone Signal, I commend to you: www.universetoday.com/102844/lone-signal-first-continuous-message beacon-to-find-and-say-hello-to-an-extraterrestrial-civilization/

If you want real, old time science fiction instead of reality looking like sci-fi, I recommend Old Time Radio's X-Minus One. This sci-fi of the 1950s gives a wonderful window into what was scaring us in the middle of the last century, including renegade Nazi doctors, nuclear rockets gone wrong, massive robots gone wrong, angry Martians gone wrong, and much much more. See: http://archive.org/details/xminusoneotr

For more weird news, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2011/08/strange-news-computers-beat-dogs-in.htmlhttp://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2011/02/mysterious-news.html, or http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/search/label/strangest%20story

Enjoy a strange day!!!


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Adventures in Fitness 16: One Guy's Attempt to Knock the Rust Off: RELAX!

Today I have an important conference call to make. This call may impact my future and the future of my family in a big way ... or it may not, depending on how it goes. Stressful ... absolutely. I've done what I can to prepare (which isn't so much ... and that's maddening for me). So, last night I decided to take all that stress over to the gym and work it out. An hour later, lo and behold, I'm not worried, overly concerned, sweating bullets ... nope, I'm calm. I have a happy body that has been well worked out.

This morning I get up and that body is STILL relaxed. This body of mine feels loose and limber, without overly sore muscles, stiff neck, or angry lower back (a regular feature of mine if I don't exercise and a souvenir of a long past career in archaeology, but that's another story). This is a revelation to me. Happy body = calm mind. 

My take away from this is: the night before the big meeting, interview, or phone call, get yourself to the gym. Work out all those bullets you'd sweat anyway in a positive, proactive way that will leave your body humming and in good humor. 

I imagine by the time of the phone call some of the tension will have returned. That's fine; that's normal. For now though I'm going to enjoy this grace moment and get things done with a clear head and fearless heart. I believe it was in Frank Herbert's Dune series that one character intoned ominously that "Fear is the mind killer." If so, exercise appears to be the mind saver, keeping you loose and your thoughts clear for the big day. 

Take that fear to the gym and work it out. See if it helps you as it is helping me. Good luck with whatever big moment awaits you.

For my previous adventure, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2013/05/adventures-in-fitness-15-one-guys.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/

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Kindness Challenge 2013

I challenge everyone who reads this post to go forward for the rest of 2013 making a concerted effort to be kind to those you meet. Each and every day in each and every moment you have the choice to be a blessing or a curse in someone else's life. Be that blessing, be kind, you have no idea what impact you may have on some stranger's life.

If you are looking for simple ways to be kind: you can carry a few bottles of water in a small cooler in your car and offer water to those who need it when you see them (lawn care folks, a construction worker, a tired passerby). In the cold months, carry a couple of those inexpensive chemical hand warmers and hand them out to the bare-handed (mine went to the mailman who was very happy to receive it on a bitter winter morning).

For more inspiration, see:

www.wimp.com/kindnessboomerang/

At the end of the year, having made safe and wonderful choices, let me know what worked best for you.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Simple Home Improvement for Peace of Mind

Homeownership brings with it built in hobbies. There hobbies involve tools and techniques renters never imagine employing ... and often require knowledge we simply don't have. Where do we get the know how to do what must be done?

I suggest beginning with YouTube. There are a great many short tutorial films on how to make various home repairs. Go there and search for the subject you need. For instance, I needed to replace an my ancient back porch light. I took a quick look at it and discovered that for this 1960s vintage house, nobody had bothered to put in an inset electricians box for the wiring and the guts of the light I'd purchased. What to do? Would I have to cut holes in the house and apply such a box ... something way beyond my knowledge base and any previous skill sets??? The answer was no. In one of the videos I discovered an exterior raised plate that both acts as the required box and brings the light vertical on the slightly canted surface of the exterior wall panel. That box cost only a few bucks and was quickly screw mounted to the wall, the electrical wire caulked in place, the new light's mechanisms housed comfortably in their new home, and the house improved in the process.

Amazing what you can do with the right video! Knowledge definitely is power.

Oh yes, and if the project requires working with tricky and potentially dangerous things you aren't comfortable with replacing (or anywhere near professional enough to do), call in an expert. Better safe than sorry ... or hospitalized! Just sayin'.


Finally, a great side benefit of a home improvement project well executed is the peace of mind it brings. You have taken your house into your own hands and improved it. That feeling is worth the repeated trips to the hardware store from some tool or other you just don't have, some special screw required, or that exterior mount that makes previous shoddy work done long ago so very much better. Good luck with your next home improvement project.

For my previous adventure in home maintenance, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2013/01/secret-to-diy-small-project-success.html

Friday, June 7, 2013

Converting Digital Movies from QuickTime to Windows Media Player for Free!

If you're anything like me, you're old enough to be a digital immigrant rather than a digital native, i.e., the digital world grew up around you rather than you being born immersed in it. For me, the introduction started relatively early ... by my early teen years with pocket calculators (who remembers the first simple Texas Instruments calculator that could add, subtract, multiply and divide only ... and what it cost, think three digits before the decimal place here). It's all great as long as things work well. However, if there is some failure to communicate ... I'm almost lost. I know enough to seek out help either from Google or my friendly IT guy at work, and I am able to follow instructions with some level of confidence (meaning I don't think I'm going to kill my machine trying to work a problem through ... although I'll back everything up first ... from that machine and any others ... before beginning). All this is preamble to the problem. If someone who needs to see a video you've made but can't open your .MOV file, what do you do? You fix the problem by translating your video to the .WMV format, which is read by Windows Media Player and send another copy.

Here's how it is done in a nutshell.

1. Check to see if your PC is loaded with Windows Live Movie Maker (if you have Windows 7, it is). Look for Windows Live Movie Maker under your start button, All Programs. That is Start, All Programs, Windows Live, Windows Live Movie Maker OR Start, All Programs, Windows Live Movie Maker standing among the programs available rather than further down in the folder. If you don't have Windows Live, you can Google it and check to see if you can download it to your machine.

2. Open Windows Live Movie Maker and from the Home tab select Add Videos and Photos. You'll get the customary dialog box and be asked to find your movie. WARNING: If you are getting ready to convert a fairly long video, it will take some time to upload completely. Go get coffee or tea and busy yourself with something else. When you come back, you'll be a lot closer to completion if not ready to go.

3. Test the video. It will appear on the left. Hit the play button to make sure the whole video is there and ready to convert. If it is, it will play. Simple so far.

4. Go to the Save Movie icon near the far right. Select this, name your video, and make sure that under the title you select that you want to save your video in the .wmv format.

5. Let Windows Live Movie Maker do its magic.

6. Send the converted film and make someone happy.

For a more detailed and prettier version of this information, see: www.groovypost.com/howto/microsoft/easily-convert-mov-files-to-wmv-free/

Mystery solved. Enjoy!



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

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Two Weeks of Madness Completed ...

I'm back after a grueling two weeks. Massive projects had to be completed at work. Challenges loom and are being contended with on an issue important to my future. That has left no time for blogging. It's nice to see the site wasn't totally overlooked in my absence, although the numbers are way, way down. Still, having over 1000 posts available does keep people coming back from time to time.

I was reminded once again that the blog's original purpose is an utter failure ... I just can't promote a book this way, that's all there is to it. Others might be able to, but not me.

In the days and weeks to come, I'll grapple with issues such as:


  • how do you get people who are not tech savvy and who you need to reach technologically for important reasons to be able to use the technology you need to use to reach them?
  • judging not and condemning not based on stereotyping gone mad in the 21st century.
  • what to do when you only have 5 minutes to blog instead of 30? 
  • additional adventures in exercise at the gym (who knew you could learn so much working out)!
  • and whatever else comes into my rusty mind (two weeks is a long time away in the blogging world)!
Until then, thanks for stopping by. Come back again when life is running more normally and see what I've been up to. 

Well, my five minutes are up and I've gotta run.