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

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

ScienceCasts: A Sudden Multiplication of Planets





The Kepler Space Telescope multiplies the galactic real estate available for study. Others are learning to read the atmospheres for traces of water. How long before we confirm an alien earth? Astronomy keeps getting more exciting. Waiting for the James Web Telescope coming down the pike.

Enjoy the wonder.

For an additional video on this topic, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/02/keplers-new-universe.html

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Story of Ruby Nell Bridges and Loving Your Enemies ...

In honor of Black History Month and the call to love our enemies given to us by Jesus in the ever memorable Sermon on the Mount, I want to recount part of the story of Ruby Nell Bridges.

This is one of my favorite stories about loving your enemies. Ruby Nell Bridges was a little six year old African-American girl who was chosen as one of the first children to desegregate the New Orleans school system in November of 1960. She was not the only child chosen; there were a grand total of six African-American children who were candidates to desegregate the school system, two of whom decided not to go. Ruby was the only child to be integrated into William Frantz Public School on that momentous November day. Her mother and four federal marshals made sure she arrived safely through a hostile white crowd shouting racist taunts at a six-year-old child.

The first day Ruby did not make it out of the principal’s office as white parents rushed their children out of the school. The second day, Ruby met her teacher, Mrs. Henry. Ruby looked at her uncertainly. She’d never had a white teacher before. But Mrs. Henry greeted her warmly. Ruby remembers she was much like her own mother, only with a Boston accent. In the year those two spent together alone in that classroom, they came to love each other.

Going to that school had cost Ruby’s family a lot. Her father lost his job at the grocery store. Her father’s parents lost the land they sharecropped in Mississippi because the landowner knew whose granddaughter it was down in New Orleans causing all that trouble. But then there were other people who showed Jesus’ game changing love as well. One local white businessman gave Ruby’s father a job painting houses. Other white families braved the angry mobs and returned their children to school. Still other determined, loving souls took to walking behind the marshal’s car, using their bodies as shields to make sure Ruby remained safe

Through it all, Ruby’s mother had told her to pray to God when she was afraid. She could pray to God anytime, anywhere and God would hear her. She prayed on the way to school in the marshal’s car and was able to ignore most of the awful taunts coming from the crowd. One day, however, she stopped at the front door of the school, turned to the crowd, and spoke. Mrs. Henry, watching through the classroom window, saw Ruby do this and later asked her what she had said to the crowd. Ruby responded that she wasn’t talking to the crowd. She was praying for them. She explained she had forgotten to pray in the car. Ruby said she prayed, “God be with me, and be with those people too. Forgive them because they do not know what they are doing.” Mrs. Henry’s response was, “Ruby Nell, you are a very special person.” And she hugged her more than usual and looked at her with the same pride that would fill her mother’s face when Ruby had done something right. That's a wonderful prayer to consider as we head into the season of Lent and Easter.

For more, please check out Ruby Nell Bridges website: http://www.rubybridges.com/story.htm

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Two Significant Articles on Repealing Stand Your Ground Laws

If you've read my blog before, you know I despise what I refer to as the "007 license to kill laws" in 26 states that allow people to gun down those they THINK might be a danger to themselves. This is vile and runs counter to everything I believe in. One of the powerful arguments countering this law was written as an open letter to Floridians by the pastor of Riverside Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., Pastor Michael Bledsoe. I'm proud of his efforts and the way he's standing up for his church's (and his own) cornerstone Christian belief that loving God and neighbor (your neighbor is everyone, by the way) has primacy. Baptists have a long and notable history for standing up for human rights ... a history that makes me proud to be an American Baptist. Take a look at the letter for yourself: http://riversidedc.org/dear-white-christians-of-florida-an-open-letter/

If that doesn't move you, try the column written by Jordan Davis's mom, who lost her 17 year old son (African American) to a white man with an itchy trigger finger and overactive imagination, Michael Dunn, in a gas station lot over loud music. She speaks eloquently, especially for a mom in grief. One powerful point she makes is that she believes culture had more to do with the tragic outcome of the argument than race. She states, "While I understand the racial significance of this discussion, I believe the blame lies with the culture that emboldened Dunn to pull a loaded gun from his glove compartment and a law that encourages unnecessary violence. Florida's 'stand your ground' is the reason my son is dead." See the whole article at: http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/02/20/stand-your-ground-michael-dunn-jordan-davis-column/5655819/

There are endless arguments being made on both sides of this issue. For me, these laws are obscene. They cater to our worst instincts and lead to horrendous tragedies that may never be taken back. Yes, we have problems with crime. Yes, people feel insecure. Yes, we need to have ways to counter crime and to counter those sick individuals with truly evil intent ... but, for me, this is not the way. This path is as sick and twisted as the problem it seeks to solve and that never works.

I'll not argue this point with anyone. I have neither the time nor the patience for it. I'll busy myself working with those who would see these twisted laws repealed. I hope I'm on the right side of history with this one and I'm willing to take the chance I'm not and speak out. 

Adventures in Fitness 21: One Guy's Attempt to Knock the Rust Off: WHY Is It SO Hard to Maintain a Regular Fitness PROGRAM???

Here is the great mystery of exercise. It feels good, I know it feels good and I feel great afterwards. I'm energized, my body feels smooth and well turned ... and yet SOMEHOW in between exercise sessions part of my stubborn mind forgets all that and is forever looking for excuses not to go. It is tedious, annoying, galling, and that lazy butt in my brain often wins, which is baffling given what I know about exercise.

I searched the web for wisdom and found common excuses we use. The ones that my brain toss up are ...


  • I don't have time.
  • I'm too tired.
  • I never see the results I work so hard to receive.
There were eight altogether, but only these applied. I know these are nonsense excuses too. When you work full time, have a family, and successfully manage to go to seminary on evenings and weekends, you learn the "I don't have time" excuse is baloney (keeping it clean here, you know what I was thinking). Sure there are only 24 hours in a day ... but we have more control of those hours than we think. We prioritize the stuff we really want to get done and time takes on a more fluid quality than you'd imagine. So, that's not it ... although I'll piddle around enough to make it SEEM true some days. 

I'm too tired: THAT one hits a lot closer to home. That's the dangerous old law of objects at rest tend to stay at rest. No exercise equals tired body equals no exercise. This is my most dangerous enemy. But, I know from past experience that a body in motion also tends to STAY in motion. My problem is there are certain conditions that tend to jump up periodically to make exercise impossible (very hard to exercise with filled sinuses for example) that throw me off my stride. But, I've noticed that while muscle mass decreases and weights able to be lifted lessen pretty quickly, endurance is more ... enduring, which is encouraging upon my return. 

The third argument is whining pure and simple. Results take time and persistence. These whiny excuses cut into the persistence, lessening the visits to the workout equipment and therefore reducing the time spent with working out, hence the results. 

Another article told me that somehow experiments with rats (you know, I don't want to know how) led to the discovery that if you TELL yourself you feel good while exercising and that you're doing well, you'll stick with it longer and get a better workout. 

A third article suggested changing exercise priorities. Switch from exercising to lose weight and move to exercising to feel good. Well, at least that one works with the experience I've had. I wonder if I can get that one past that inner lazy masochist who apparently would rather sit there feeling down about himself and doing nothing than get out there and feel good. I think I can focus on that guy as the adversary and maybe make this work.

From my extensive (snorts with derisive laughter at that one) research, it appears the answer to "why or why can't I keep exercising even when I know it feels so good and is so good for me" IS ... drum roll please ... my BRAIN keeps getting in the way. The body loves the workout, the brain tries to sabotage the joy for strange, twisted, selfish reasons. Well now, that's not helping ... even though it appears to be true. Not ALL my brain, just a whiny, selfish part that would rather be on the couch watching nerdy shows ... the part I need to bring along for the ride, acknowledge is there, and work to diffuse the strengths of his never well articulated arguments. 

As one NASM elite trainer, Deb Froehlich, states, the secrets of mind game success include (she provides the points and I've expanded on them ... you can't blame her for the extended explanations, those are mine, the main points succinctly stated are hers): 

  • Be happy and grateful for where you are and what you have now: after all, I can actually do this and know many who can't. Okay. That helps reorient that stubborn portion of my brain.
  • Love and respect yourself: Hmmm, harder, but I'll work on it ... like exercise. She adds have enough self respect to make good food choices ... okay, that hits close to home, especially right after Valentine's Day ... but I'll gather up some more fruit and get on it.
  • Care for YOU first: Meaning, care enough about yourself to get out there and move those muscles ... without (as I've learned) comparing yourself to the individual next to you whose younger and fitter at the gym or on the track. This also means not tearing down that brain piece that is reluctant so much as acknowledging its there and encouraging it instead of berating it. Encourage it to be part of the team.  
So, it's a mind game. I should have know ... and did suspect ... this all along. 

I'll try to use the same tactic I use to get past not writing. I disengage my brain long enough to start writing (the part that comes up with all the excuses not to write that is ... disengage the rest and nothing would appear on the page AND I would die) and discover myself enjoying myself writing. Once I'm into it, I have much less trouble continuing the work. I guess I'll just have to apply that to this workout bog down I'm in at the moment. 

Well, see you at the gym. Keeping the brain in the game ...

Update: 1 PM, same day. Made it to the gym. Exercised for one and a half hours, felt a little bored on my favorite machine (elliptical) and stepped up the pace to drive boredom away. However, the point here isn't to brag. The point is that after writing this article, after learning how the mind tries to slip out of exercise, my brain kept trying frantically ... mostly with the there's no time today excuse (really lame excuse, brain!) ... to do just that. Oh brain of mine, just give in to the inevitable. Get with the workout program. I'll treat you to a book or movie later. What do you say???

For the previous post on fitness, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/01/adventures-in-fitness-20-one-guys.html

Friday, February 21, 2014

New-ish Car Tech Allows for Resurrection of Old "Books on Tape" Tech: The Five Minute Response

I have a long commute with my new job. I also have a lot of old books on tape I could never quite bring myself to part with. My wife had one of the very last Walkman tape players to ever come on the market. I had a connection cable for my iPod to connect it to a jack conveniently installed in my car (the cable and the jack are the "new-ish" tech, in case you're wondering). I have pitifully few books on CD, which would play in the car's radio. The library's availability is limited and checking out books inconsistent.

Then I connected the dots. I have to praise the old technology of the Walkman and the cassette tapes. Both were stored (not intentionally but fortuitously) in cool places. The Walkman was battery free so the connections had not corroded with battery leakage. I was curious. I loaded the Walkman with AA batteries and ... lo and behold ... it works. Now, for a while at least, I'm going to and from work happily listening to old friends (books both fiction and non ... Forward the Foundation by Isaac Asimov for example) on cassette that make the drive more tolerable and keep my blood pressure low.

Sometimes it's good to hang onto that old technology. You just never know when the new tech will allow you to bring out the old tech once again ...

And that's the five minute response.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Kepler's New Universe: Watch and Be Amazed ...

 My friends at Universe Today introduced me to this short film summarizing what new truths the Kepler Space Telescope has discovered about our galaxy. Having grown up in a time when it was unknown whether or not planets really did orbit other stars ... all though all the science fiction I read affirmed it ... this information is amazing and inspiring. Our sense of wonder can expand right along with the knowledge revealed here.

For more recent Kepler/planetary news, see the posts: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/01/kepler-telescope-did-indeed-find.html and http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2013/11/earth-like-planets-abound-in-milky-way.html

A Chapter Closes: Children's Book Michael and the New Baby Is No More ...

There have been many changes in this blogger's life recently. My title has gone from Mr. to Reverend. My work from publishing to pastor. And now another chapter closes. The children's book originally written to quell our son's fear of becoming the older brother (a job it performed brilliantly) and published not that long ago is being discontinued by the publisher. The sales never met our hopes. Neither publisher nor I could give the book the marketing attention it so richly deserved and so my experiment in children's fiction comes to an end. Another chapter closes, opening the possibilities for many new chapters to come.

This, while painful, is no great surprise. The promotion I could accomplish via this blog site never went anywhere. People visited. A few looked at the "Why You Should Buy This Book" material but far too few were ever convinced that it really was a book their child could use. When I realized this was the case, the blog site was reworked to reflect a different approach and life moved on. It will be retooled once more to remember the book that was and let it go at that.

So with great fondness and regret, I say goodbye to my one and only children's book. I'm pleased to have my own published copies. I'm pleased to know it holds a tiny place in the Library of Congress and a few households. Thanks to those of you who purchased a copy and those of you who considered doing so. You have my undying gratitude.

This is all part of the writing life. In the future I hope to write at least one or two more books ... perhaps more.  Probably no more children's fiction, however.

Now, let's move on together. On to other things. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

There Are NO Insignificant People!

YES, I'm talking to you ... especially you!

There are no insignificant people in this life ... only people who refuse to take any significant action. One reason for avoiding such action is being duped into believing the pernicious lie ... "There is nothing I can do. I can't make any difference anyway." Nonsense.

On Saturday, February 15, 2014, there was a massive pileup on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Imagine: you're driving the highway, intent on getting where you are going and all your plans for the day. Suddenly, the road beneath you is covered with ice. The front of your car begins to swing on its own. Startled, you and many, many others hit the brakes ... the wrong move but the usual first one. Tractor trailer trucks jackknife, cars and SUVs slide and there are at least two wrecks in a chain involving 20 to 25 cars each. Twenty-five people are injured, hundreds of motorists, yourself included, are stranded on that stretch of highway. Our transportation technology has given us the illusion the world is smaller ... but now, on that icy stretch of highway the world has gotten very big for you and everyone else, very big indeed.

Significant people took action. Of course you had the police, the ambulance crews, and the wreckers. You also had concerned citizens moved to act to make the day just a little better. There was the man who immediately sprinted from his car to the car of the woman he hit to apologize and make sure she was alright. There was the woman who seemed to materialize out of nowhere with coffee and donuts. walking among the cars and handing them out. Another man showed up with bottled water and stood hollering, "Anybody need water?" A manager, 6 months pregnant, called her staff, who were able get there to take her little girl to daycare. This manager's young daughter was getting cold, hungry, and scared. You can imagine this mother's relief when her daughter received help from her staff. She's giving her coworkers raises.

When one stranded motorist's battery died, her equally stranded fellow sufferers from surrounding vehicles found jumper cables and recharged her battery so she could stay warm. The list of significant people goes on.

You can find significant people anywhere on any day. They come from all walks of life.

On this day, they were drawn to those multiple wrecks along the highway that had people stuck from 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM and helped in many ways. You may try feebly to argue that these were very small acts of no lasting significance. Tell that to the motorists who received the kindnesses of strangers. I believe they will tell you a different story. I also believe they'll look for ways to extend that significant helping hand to others in the future. Those people who reached out started a wave that will move forward, a wave of positive action that will grow as time goes by and more people take action. No, there are no insignificant people. Only those who believe the lie and sit still when they should be doing something.

So, what will YOU do today? Keep your eyes open. Pay attention and be prepared. Opportunities will arise today. Be ready to act and make a real difference in someone else's life. Or, maybe today is the day someone else gets to make a significant difference in yours!

Good luck!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Valentine's Day Gift Suggestions for the Cash-strapped Manly Man ...

It's happened again ... just as it does every year.

Your nemeses have struck.

Those evil souls in the advertising industry have raised the bar for that most dread of all days in the manly man calendar ... VALENTINE'S DAY!!!

They say the love of your life should have diamonds in all the colors of the rainbow. They say you lady love should have a new car. They say she deserves showered with all manner of expensive baubles, bangles and bright, shiny beads.

Your wallet says ... yet again ... "Fat chance, bro."

What are you to do???

Panic sets in, your mind is a blank, you have no idea what to do ... and you're on the verge of some huge mistake with a panic-driven purchase.

STOP NOW, MANLY MAN. STOP NOW. SIT AND READ ON. We at J.S. Brooks Presents are ready to help.

Breathe deep, clear your mind, turn off the TV, put down the junk food, and THINK, my friend. What does the love of your life actually LIKE. There's a place to start. No, not what YOU like (that's manly man Valentine's Day mistake number one ... and it's huge). What does SHE like? Does she read, garden, like flowers, shred the slopes, appreciate cards, caber toss, rock climb, sky dive??? What? Still drawing a blank? You may have to resort to manly man ploy number one. Find ways to ask questions about her actual interests and preferences ... and LISTEN. Gather data, you still have until next Friday ... BLACK Friday if you blow this, manly man, so man up and find ways to ask. Of course, if you want to try the approach that's sly and espionage-like, look around her domain and SEE what is actually there ... besides her. Books, chocolate, music, costume jewelry, crafts, grappling hooks, skis, golf clubs, sledge hammers? WHAT??? Take note.

Now, go online, manly man and look up articles on the worst Valentine's Day gifts ever. AVOID THEM at all cost. I learned from such sites that 40% of women don't like roses. Did you know that? Look up inexpensive Valentine's Day gifts and see how similar many of them are to the worst Valentine's Day gifts. Avoid those that overlap or send off even the tiniest alarm bells in the back of your head. Do not ignore those alarms this time, manly man. That's Valentine's Day ploy number two.

From these sites I discovered a truly cardinal sin, manly man. Stay away from skimpy lingerie. It's not right ... and far too obvious! Remember, your shopping for somethings she'll LIKE and be happy to have. It's not about YOU today. Nothing says romance less than an object destined to create yeast infections. Need I say more, guy?

Once you have this data collected, you are ready to take your meager funds and sh ... no, I won't say that
word. Let's say "hunt" instead. That terrible four letter word beginning with s and ending with p will just make you hyperventilate. So, "hunt" it is.

Books, hard cover, recently released from a brick and mortar bookstore are good, manly man, if they are on subjects of her preference. NO graphic novels ... unless she's very special indeed. Note: keep to the physical here ... something to wrap and give ... NOT a digital book. Not good, manly man, nobody's impressed ... and it shows no real effort. Effort and thought are key, manly man.

Flowers are good manly man, and may be procured for less at the grocery store. If the love of your life doesn't like roses, you are in luck manly man. The other flowers aren't marked up nearly as much as the roses. (But remove the identifying tags, guy ... trust me.)

You'll have to swing by the card shop, dude. Sorry, but this will be a must. If you avoid the singing cards and the huge cards, this isn't too painful. But read them, manly man. Take the time to read them and find a card that is right. This will again take time and effort, which is good. Just don't wait until the last day ... don't ask me why, just don't. (That would be manly man Valentine's Day mistake number two.)

If you have a 10,000 Villages or similar store close by, go there. Many unique gifts, many prices, works well ... but only if you did that research manly man!!!

If you choose the chocolate route, go to someplace specializing in chocolate and pick out something nice in your price range. Drug store chocolate may work when you've done something stupid ... but not on this day, my friend, not on Valentine's Day!!!

Steer clear of perfumes and colognes, cash-strapped manly man. Anything in YOUR price range is something she stopped wearing in middle school. Don't do it.

We could go on, manly man, but time is short and you have work to do. Procrastination would be the third and probably most deadly of the manly man Valentine's Day mistakes. This should be enough to head you down the right path. Let us know how you made out ... er, no, no, no, ... let's go with "how you did" or "how you fared" instead.

Good luck.

If you mess this up manly man, J.S. Brooks Presents WILL disavow any knowledge of you ever having visited this blog post for advice. This blog post will ... insist that you get started in the next five seconds.

And for YOU, womanly woman, that micro-brewery in town just might be the place to go for your manly man ...


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Remembering Space Shuttle Columbia's Crew 11 Years After Their Loss

Remembering 11 years ago ...
On February 2, 2003, at 9:00 AM, the space shuttle Columbia tore itself to pieces 39 miles above Texas, a mere 16 minutes ... an eternity it would turn out ... from what was expected to be a routine landing on the Florida runway specially built for shuttle touchdowns. What happened was later confirmed and redesigns were undertaken. A chunk of foam had fallen away from the large external fuel tank, striking the shuttle's wing. Heat tiles were lost and the loss was undetected. The 3,000 degree heat of reentry entered into the shuttle's wing structure ... and the craft broke apart in a fireball over Texas, killing her crew of seven.



The crewmembers were: Rick D. Husband, Kalpana Chawla, William C. McCool, David M. Brown, Laurel Clark, Michael P. Anderson, and Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon. We commemorate your courage and your desire to advance our skills and knowledge on that final frontier. We remember your families, gathered in Florida to welcome you home, twelve children among them. We stand by them in their collective grief and pray for them as the years roll by.

The photos here are of the coverage that day in the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, whose staff did an excellent job with the story while we collectively were recovering from shock and grieving. I had forgotten we had kept that paper until it resurfaced on February 2 of this year. How appropriate. Due to my current schedule, this posting is late. But, better it be late than never to occur.

 


Personally, I remember coming downstairs. The TV was on. That horrid scene over Texas was playing again and again. As soon as I understood what was happening, I yelled, "No, no, not again, no!" Our young daughter ran over and threw her arms around me. It's one of those days you don't soon forget.

Once the shuttles flew again, a new, intricate ballet was performed in space, with the team on the International Space Station inspecting the craft for any signs of damage as it performed a slow and graceful series of maneuvers flying next to the ISS. No further death and destruction occurred during the rest of the shuttle flights with the twice diminished fleet.

In the future, all spacecraft carrying humans will place their most valuable cargo, those precious people, at the very top of the rocket stack where no object will ever again fall away from the craft to damage the crew's ride home.

For other posts about the Space Shuttle fleet, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/01/for-fans-of-space-shuttle-and-star-trek.htmlhttp://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2010/11/space-shuttle-cockpit-view-of-landing.html, and http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2012/07/video-montage-gift-for-space-shuttle.html You'll find these posts more joyous and uplifting. Still, from time to time we do need to step back, stop, and remember our fallen heroes.