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, April 30, 2014

I Continue to Back One Season TV Shows: Almost Human Gone ...

I have a long history of enjoying TV shows destined to be very short-lived. It all started when I was small with Jonny Quest, I guess. Almost Human is the most recent to fall to the block after a single season. Fox once again shows the same willingness to experiment with interesting shows that they did when they cancelled Firefly after a single season. Way to show spine guys! Woo hoo. Going to give us some shiny new reality TV show instead? Probably.

The series started with 9.2 million viewers and ended the season with 5.6 million, according to bit.ly. Meanwhile, your spiffy science resurrection Cosmos, which started with roughly the same initial numbers, although lower at 8.5 million, is sliding down the gravity well to 3.5 million. Looks like you're dropping the stronger performer, Fox. Why am I not surprised. Not that Cosmos would be back for a second season, either ...

Then again, I'm old school. I grew up with seeing all the episodes of a single season week after week, back to back, with no months of mid-season hiatus or multi-year disappearances. I'm not geared for those mentally and tend to assume other shows I like have fallen victim of the chopping block too, even if they are just "away" for some irregular period of time. Frankly, guys and gals in programming, my life is too busy to keep up with which odd month or year you plan to reintroduce the next "season" of some show or other.

So, keep up the "good" work folks. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Star Trek TV Guide Souvenirs from The Next Generation and Voyager

I was clearing out the proverbial closet again when these old TV Guides came tumbling out. The first, a "Collector's Edition" (hint: whenever something calls itself that ... it really isn't), offering up a farewell to Star Trek: The Next Generation. It is dated May 14-20, 1994, and sold for 89 cents.




The next two are from 1994 and 1995 respectively, featuring information about Star Trek: Voyager. The price remains the same.



So, think back, Trekkers. Where were you when these things happened? Which Star Trek was the best, in your humble opinion. Which was the series you grew up with? Would you like to see the franchise return to TV ... or was Enterprise finally enough?

For me, I'd grown up with the original series in syndication on one of the early independent networks (Channel 20). I was an adult by the time The Next Generation came along. I'm equally fond of the first two series, although they show their age ... which is part of their charm for me. While I love the reboot in the movies ... I waffle on another series for TV. Again, how about you?

Book Review: The Expanse Series -- Science Fiction by James S.A. Corey


I stumbled upon The Expanse series of science fiction novels by James S.A. Corey by accident. It had been years since I had read science fiction and I wanted to get a taste. I missed it. Honestly, I missed relaxing in those other worlds, getting lost in strange situations, getting swept up in a future I hope might someday come to pass (well, at least the expansive good parts ... other parts would be truly terrifying).

Being a 21st century computer driven geek and writer, I "googled" best science fiction of 2013. There I discovered the third novel in The Expanse series, Abaddon's Gate. I picked it up at the local library (volumes 1 and 2 were out) and was quickly engrossed. As the authors themselves say, these books are love letters to the science fiction they grew up with. I couldn't agree more.

The three books in the series are, in proper order:

Leviathan Wakes
Caliban's War - and -
Abaddon's Gate

These books tell the satisfying tale of humanity expanding out across the solar system. Being humans, we've divided into Earth, Mars, Outer Planets, and Belters, with political organizations and power struggles galore. Making matters worse, a powerful device from long ago and far away (but not from the evil Galactic Empire of Star Wars) has become active in the solar system, wreaking havoc and pursuing goals all its own, which leave humanity terrified and at war with itself.

Tying it all together are the wonderful characters who propel the story across the novels and about whom you come to care very much. James Holden, XO of an ice miner with a bigger future awaiting leads a crew of memorable characters across the solar system on a series of adventures arising from human conflicts and alien terrors. The technology is present, is far from perfect, but does not run the show. That is left to the characters and I, for one, am glad.

For the first time in my life, given which book was in or out at the library when, this is the first series of books I have ever read backwards, starting with the third and ending with the first. Each is so self-contained that is this both possible and enjoyable. Later I'll get a kick out of watching it unfurl as the authors intended, but for now I'm happy to roll backwards through the story like a Time Lord. The character development is just that good.

I highly recommend this series to anyone who has ever loved science fiction ... or anyone who wants to give science fiction a try for the very first time. Each novel is gratifyingly large, so you'll get to live in the world the authors have created for quite a while.

I also understand a fourth volume, Cibola Burn, will be out June 17, 2014. I can't wait. 

James S.A. Corey is the pen name of authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, who call Albuquerque, New Mexico, home ... at least in this timeline.

Art and Writing: The Process and the Fears

I was just having an insightful conversation with my brother. He's an artist and I'm a writer. We got into a conversation about process that I thought might be instructive to pass along to those just beginning their endeavors.

He told me about the process for art. The original idea, he said, is stupid. It just is. If the end product is the faithful culmination of that original idea, the art will be awful. The real magic in the process are the myriad decisions that are made all through the creative process that transform that original, foolish idea into a meaningful, beautiful work of art. All those decisions, all those details, lead to a creative whole that the artist could not have imagined when the process began. That's a secret that is well worth learning and repeating to yourself over and over again, budding artist. My brother has been at this for a long time and says he still has to relearn that basic lesson many times as the years roll by.

One artist fear he related is that doing art seems like foolishness, especially when you are just starting any project. That is, of course, before you are fully vested in the work and well before you've made all those decisions. You're just working with that original, stupid idea, so, of course, it feels stupid. But it doesn't stay that way. Have faith.

Now for the writer. Writing is a cumulative process. The writer who feels he/she knows exactly what the book, story, article will be when he/she starts in in for a rude awakening. The end product is once again the result of many decisions made throughout the writing process. There is a lot of editing work to do. No author, none whatsoever, writes pearls and gems the first time around from beginning to end. Like the artist, a huge number of decisions need to be made and a great deal of investment in time and interest goes into the end result (much more so for a book than a 500 word column for a small circulation magazine of course, but it is still there).

The fear is that you are wasting your time. The fear is that what you will write will be derivative of the research you've done. You'll just be saying what others have said before in your voice. It's an awful feeling. It's the feeling of impending failure before the process has really begun. We're back to that initial stupid idea problem. That comes from forgetting that no two writers have ever lived the same experiences, felt the same feelings precisely, or view the world through entirely the same lens. None do. Every book on the same subject will be different as long as each author has made an honest effort to produce his/her own work.

There they are in a nutshell. The creative process and the fear that rides right along with it. Stick with it, enjoy the work, all of the work, all those many cumulative decisions, and eventually, the finished result, which is yours alone. 

President's Response to L.A. Clippers Racist Comments: President Obama Holds a Press Conference with Prime Minister Najib of Ma...





At 25:32, you can observe President Barack Obama's response to the L.A. Clippers' Owner's racist remarks. "When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you just let them talk." That's one of the best comments ... and applies equally well to Cliven Bundy.

For a related post, see how the L.A. Clippers team responded prior to the fourth playoff game. It's classy: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/04/bravo-to-la-clippers-team-for-their.html

My Top Ten Blog Posts of the Last Month

As a writer, I believe in celebrating the little things, the small accomplishments that make the moment sweet. J.S. Brooks Presents has passed the 1220 posts mark. To recognize this achievement, I offer you the top ten posts of the last month: 



  and Tire Pressure Information

  Unwanted Outfox TV Program



  Best Candidate for Life Off Earth (in our solar system, that is)


  About Technology and Trash
  




  Truly Insane? 

These links will take you to the popular articles for your review as part of the celebration. Not a bad milestone. Think we can do better, readers? 

Science and Religion Both Have Much to Offer ... Says Time Magazine

I was browsing through my Facebook page last night and came across an article from Time Magazine that was a breath of fresh air for me as a former archaeologist and current pastor. The article is entitled "Why Science Does Not Disprove God." It may be found here: http://time.com/77676/why-science-does-not-disprove-god/

Take a look for yourself and see what you think. I agree with the Time author's conclusion that science and religion are two side of the same coin. Each has incredibly valuable insights to offer on living life to its fullest and answering many large and vexing questions. I take great inspiration from both ... until both sides start fighting each other like angry kindergartners out on the playground. I believe the fundamentalists on both sides ... religion and science ... do the world a great disservice by sniping at each other. It is a pissing match that is soiling all of us while they fight each other and it really needs to stop (see the comments following the article if you don't believe me). We are better than that. We are more mature than that. We really are.

For a related post, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/04/respecting-stories-that-shape-our-lives.html

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Bravo to the L.A. Clippers Team for Their Reaction to Owner's Statements: The Five Minute Response

Following the allegations that L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling made racist statements, telling others not to bring blacks to his games, the team has made a bold statement against such outright stupidity. Before game 4, taking to the center court of Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, they stripped off their shooting shirts with the team logo emblazoned on them and left them in the middle of the court. Afterwards, they commenced warm ups, nationally televised, with inside-out gear that barely showed the team logo at all. Not a word was spoken by the players, but their statement was eloquent.

Bravo! This is no time to allow racism to go unchallenged. Well done, Clippers teammates. You guys have class, even if the team owner does not.

And that's the five minute response.

For President Barack Obama's response, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/04/presidents-response-to-la-clippers.html

Space News and Science Fiction: Getting Harder to Tell Them Apart


It seems the recent space-related news is getting ever more like science fiction ... which I've said before and I haven't been wrong yet. I was raised on Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, among others and recent events are starting to sound like what they wrote years ago.

Let's start with my favorite private space company, SpaceX. SpaceX completed their third delivery to the International Space Station. The Falcon 9, new and improved version, was fitted with landing legs. The idea is that in time every stage of a SpaceX rocket will return from space to solid ground on landing legs to be refurbished, refueled, and reused. That will keep the costs down. This first Falcon 9 experiment, to follow the reignition of 2 rockets of the 9, bringing the first stage back through the atmosphere under control and in one piece, the deployment of the landing legs with the rocket in the upright position, and "landing" in the ocean, was give only a 30 to 40% chance of success. From what I've heard, it succeeded. Recovery was in doubt due to rough seas. Since I've heard no final word on the rocket's recovery, I assume it was lost after landing, sinking in the choppy waves. However, if what I hear is true, a landing attempt on dry ground may occur within the year. There's something to look forward to.

Aboard the Dragon capsule arriving at the station, were the legs for Robonaut 2, the first humanoid robot astronaut. When attached and functional, R2 will have a 9' reach and will be ready to experiment with spacewalks. This could save astronauts from excursions for balky backup computer replacements, as recently occurred. Isaac Asimov's robotic world draws a bit nearer.


In deep space, 490 light years from earth, an earth-like planet has been found circling a red dwarf star in its habitable zone. Kepler 186f is the first planet found to be earth size in the right place where it may well have life. It depends in part on whether the red dwarf can impart enough energy to the planet to allow life to thrive. If it can, then life will have a much greater span in which to evolve as red dwarf stars have much longer lives than our own sun. Imagine the civilizations that could arise with many billions more years available to them than we have. The possibilities are staggering.

Closer to home, Cold War era satellites are being repurposed for much better uses than spying on other nations. Archaeologists have gotten hold of these aging technological wonders and are finding buried and long-lost structures and towns buried by the ages. This is being done without lifting a single trowel or conducting a single shovel probe. What a savings in time and effort. What a way to discover many lost habitations and learn a great deal more of our common story, the shared story of humanity. Many sci-fi writers have explored that topic.

So there you have it with more to come. The world of science and science fiction draw closer once again. Who knows what tomorrow might bring!  


Near Death Experience with Family Dog


It has been a hard week, very hard indeed. This is Daisy, our beagle. We nearly lost her this week. It seems she managed to do something many dogs have done lately. ... But that would be getting ahead of myself. 

Monday was fine. We took Daisy for a long walk and played ball with her in the back yard. Everything was fine. 

Tuesday morning Daisy ate breakfast and became ill. She threw up multiple times during the day. That night she looked very bad and we wondered if she'd still be with us in the morning. 

Wednesday, we took Daisy to the vets. She was severely dehydrated. She was sent to an overnight facility for an iv and scans. 

Thursday, an operation would be needed to save Daisy's life. However, the facility required a rate that was far beyond anything we could hope to pay. We made the agonizing decision we would have to let Daisy go. I mourned her loss for two hours. If you've owned a dog, you know the pain is intense. Then my wife called. Another vet in another town could handle the procedure for far less ... FAR LESS. This expensive facility had suggested this alternative to my wife (we thank them for that kindness) and the operation was scheduled. Then I was informed. At this point, my emotional gears were completely stripped and I was exhausted. 

Friday, Daisy underwent surgery and came home, wearing a "cone of shame" if you've seen UP. We joked that we had an Easter resurrection dog on our hands here ... and after the pain and anguish we had been through we're not trying to be sacrilegious here, just trying to tell you how it felt to us. It gave me a better understanding about how the disciples felt after Jesus' death when he appeared to them in the locked room in the book of John. Seriously stripped mental gears there, no doubt about it.  

Saturday, Daisy returned to the vet and was seen to be making good progress. 

Sunday, continued improvement. Tomorrow we return to the vet for what is hoped to be the last time. 

Daisy had swallowed a length of ribbon. It lodged in her small intestine, causing swelling and preventing the passage of sustenance.  Many dogs swallow improbable things and need this surgery to survive. It is performed often. My suggestion to you: dog proof the lower levels of your rooms. Remove any small items that might be swallowed by your beloved pooch. Also, don't give up hope too soon. Ask about options from neighboring facilities if you are quoted a catastrophic price. There may be options. That way you can avoid the pain I went through. I wish you all the best with your pet and many, many happy years together. 

Respecting the Stories That Shape Our Lives

Stories make our lives much more powerful. This was proven recently on two separate radios hows: Snap Judgment and Radio Lab. In the Radio Lab episode, the pain felt from gunshot wounds was different depending if the individual was shot on the battlefield or in civilian life. On the battlefield, at the moment of wounding, the brain ran out a narrative that made the fallen soldier a potential hero, someone who would recover and come home to family and friends, to parades and medals. That individual felt less pain from the resultant wounds and required less morphine than his civilian counterpart. When the civilian at home was wounded, perhaps by a robbery gone wrong, the brain immediately spun out a different scenario, filled with lost hours from work, high expenses for hospitalization, potentially losing a job, and all the stress and worry that went with it. That civilian felt a great deal more pain, based on the story spun out in his or her mind.

On Snap Judgment, Glynn Washington was visiting with a tribal healer. This individual was brought a patient in agony, carried by his friends, who plead for a healing. The healer went through all the rituals, including pulling various objects out of the man's flesh, including screws or nails. After the healing was complete, the sick man arose, there were smiles all around, and he headed for home with his friends, cured. Afterwards, Glynn related how he asked this healing about the slight of hand he had used to create the illusion that he had pulled these objects from the man's body. Glynn basically said the healer had fooled him. The healer frowned deeply and told Glynn, "You never take another person's story from him." This individual came for a healing and he received the story he needed.

In this day and age, it might serve us all better if we stopped trying to refute each other's stories and instead respected them. From these radio stories, the truth of the matter is that stories are powerful for us all. We need them enough that our brains on an almost subconscious level will spin stories for us that we need when we need them, without our active involvement. That is a survival skill. We should honor that rather than fighting over whose story is correct and whose isn't. We all need our stories to survive (except for those stories created by sick/injured minds that spin dangerous tales, dangerous for the owner of the mind or for those around them). We should be respectful of those stories. We might just find we can learn a great deal from all of our stories if we listen instead of argue. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Georgia's New Gun Law ... Are We Truly Insane?


On April 23, 2014, Georgia's governor signed into law a bill allowing for guns to be carried in "some" school zones, churches, government buildings (watch the legislation you guys pass now), bars (there's a really good idea!),  and certain airports. Welcome to the new and ever increasing level of lunacy in these United States.

I will give you only one example of why this is wrong and ridiculous. In a friend's church, just the other day, during the funeral service for a 19 year old, gun shots rang out in the sanctuary. Several people were injured and everyone was traumatized during an already difficult situation. I suppose the thinking is that if everyone was armed to the teeth ... what, instant revenge and vigilante justice could be imposed within the walls of God's house? How many would be cut down in that crossfire? How obscene and stupid is this law? Very.

As to the argument, if more people were armed, fewer would die as gun violence would be deterred ... well, explain Fort Hood Military Base and it's two horrid shootings five years apart. You'd think a military base would be an extremely safe place, given this theory. Further, with all the guns on a battle field, by this way of thinking, no one should ever be injured.

Given the law passed in Georgia, I think I'll stay away from that state. I don't trust the leadership's ability to think straight and given this evidence of what passes for logic today, I really doubt any of us are safer. Sorry to piss you all off today but ... well, join the club.

At this point, I really do wonder about our sanity. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What Not to Do When Feeling Blue

When we are emotionally exhausted, physically weak, or just feeling a real case of the blues, that's no time to undo a decision made when in a better state. It is no time to act out, be reactionary, or follow our lesser natures with anger toward anything or anyone. Keep from burning bridges with others, walking away from an ongoing project or situation, or quitting until rested and more level headed.

Most of the time, when we are down, the responses we have will be sharply negative and colored with emotions so dark they are not to be trusted. Our fuzzy, hurting, perhaps weeping selves will be telling us tales of woe and viewing reality in a way so bent, we cannot put much stock into what we are receiving. In those times, wait it out. We also need to do for ourselves what we put off when we were feeling better. We need to rest, to stop pushing, to do something good for ourselves ... or something necessary if this state of mind and body goes on for too long. Get help if necessary. It is not a weak thing to do but a strong one, for it is hard to admit help is necessary, especially in a culture that has made an idol of self sufficiency and pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. Feeling this way, there is little strength for bootstrap pulling and we actually need the support of others to help ride this out and give us a little perspective our frazzled minds are incapable of producing.  

However, one thing we can do is file away the feelings and thoughts generated for review when feeling ourselves again. There may be some real issues in need of attention that came out during those dark hours or days. Thoughtful, well-planned action may be required ... in time.

Best of luck. Feel better soon.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Women as Ministers? Yes! Stop Making Case Specific Teachings Universal

I joined Linked In the other day at the request of some friends already involved there. There were several ministry-related sites there recommended and I joined three. I was quickly disappointed with one site where the first question I saw was whether women should be ministers according to biblical standards. Sadly, annoyingly, the consensus there was no room in the pulpit for women. The verses focused on were penned under Paul's name and the verse in particular spoke of ministers and their wives. How can you have a woman as a minister when ministers were to have wives? This is a very Pharisee way of parsing verses, sticking to the letter and not the spirit of the law, something Jesus railed against many times. This verse was written in a letter to a particular people, in a particular patriarchal culture, at a very specific point in time. Like other verses, one needs to determine what is a universal truth and what is a case specific issue being addressed. I am not going to get into specific verses here as this whole issue annoys me and I'm not interested in arguing letter.

To say because the verse reads minister and wife that no other possibility may occur is to negate the roles of any preacher or priest who is unmarried, divorced, widower ... In this logic such individuals, no matter how talented or called, must step aside. This is odd logic considering the author of the letter is considered to be an unmarried man.

As for women keeping silent, not teaching men, again an example easily explained as case specific to the churches involved. Women of the time, becoming very excited about the faith, but totally untrained, were causing disruption in services. Paul addressed this. Not a universal issue, especially since among Paul's retinue of fellow pastors were women, who were to be treated with respect when they arrived.

There are also a great many powerful women recorded in the Bible taking on leadership roles or acting as the first evangelists to their people after encountering Jesus ... and with great success I might add. I think that tells you more about the spirit of the law.

There are a great many case specific passages in both the Old and New Testaments. We no longer concern ourselves with what animal to sacrifice at the altar or how to build the temple itself in accordance with Old Testament instruction. All of this reminds me a great deal of the running argument between Paul and the budding Church in Jerusalem over what would be required of Gentiles joining the faith. We are all fortunate Paul won that argument.

One thing this group said that proves correct is that many churches still feel women should not be ministers. I disagree of course and have been ministered to by some wonderful women preachers among the American Baptists. My life and my understanding of the faith would be poorer without them.

Finally, if you seek to capture the younger more dynamic people in today's society, you might as well give up this letter of the law, Pharisee's approach. Give up on the "it's not what I say but what the Bible says" fall back. They have neither the time nor the patience for this sort of argument. They have in large part already figured where they stand on a great many issues ... and they have left a great many churches behind in the process. Am I advocating putting aside the letter to capture the culture ... or am I suggesting where the active, living God is calling us to be in the world today? Decide quickly. Time may be shorter than you think. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Welcome to the Choice of Palm Sunday

Today Christians celebrate Palm Sunday, the day Jesus rode into the capital city of Israel, where David had brought the Ark of the Covenant, the footstool of God, and Solomon had built the Temple for God, and shattered expectations. The Israelites had come to the city for Passover. Visions filled their minds of Moses and God extracting them from slavery in Egypt and brought them into the promised land. Now, the people of Israel were eager for a new conquering Messiah, a warrior King who could free them from the oppression of Rome ... and any other threat that might come to light.

Jesus begins his entry into the city in Bethphage, an outermost village of the city, the farthest city from which bread could be baked for use in the Temple, on a donkey, a nursing mother donkey trailing her

 colt behind her. He was given a king's triumphal procession by disciples and followers, who placed cloaks and palm leaves on the road before him. While they cried out Hosanna to the Son of David, or Save Us Son of David! they declared his royal lineage. In Jerusalem there was confusion. Who was this? Could a true Messiah come to town riding a symbol of peace rather than a war horse as they had hoped. Could a Messiah be a prince of peace arriving without legions of troops to depose Rome? Could a true Messiah overturn the market stalls in the Temple that kept Gentiles away from God? Could a real Messiah spend his time around a high holy holiday proclaiming all that was wrong with Jerusalem and her religious leadership?

The people of Jerusalem were tasked with seeing if they could adjust their expectations from those of a warrior Messiah to a King of Peace. It is the same task all believers face today. In a society that proclaims might makes right and cries out that individuals must arm themselves and take the law into their own hands in the face of evil while the state amasses the largest military of all time ... Jesus calls us to the life of peacemakers, breaking down barriers that divide people, reaching out a helping hand to strangers and enemies alike, working to end the injustices of our world just as he worked to end the injustices of his. What choice will you make?

Wishing you a blessed Palm Sunday, Easter, and life. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Pecan Pie Bars: MAKE THEM!!!

Do you love pecan pie? Are you sad when it is so quickly gone? Well, reader, now there is relief from the agony of the disappearing pie. Introducing the pecan pie bars, 36 little square wonders from a single recipe. They taste just like the pie ... but satisfy oh so many more people. According to the recipe, prep time is 20 minutes and cooking time 45. So in 1 hour and 5 minutes, you can be satisfying your desire for pecan pie, and making friends and family happy too.

Like everything else (almost), you can find the recipe online. Here's the address for the recipe we tried, my wife and I, last night: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/pecan-pie-bars-i-2/

Give it a try. Make yourself happy!

Friday, April 11, 2014

21st Century Church in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, Invites Community to Feast


The 126 year old Lansdowne Baptist Church, in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, hosts their annual "Feasting With Friends" dinner from 1 to 3 PM on Saturday April 12, 2014. Roughly 100 people, many suffering from food insecurity issues, will dine with church members tomorrow, sharing fellowship and coming to understand a little better the two greatest Christian commandments, love God and love neighbors. Local stores have contributed generously to this dinner, which we greatly appreciate. It is marvelous to see what we can accomplish when we work together.

This is part of what it means to be the church in the new century. The focus is on supporting the community, showing people who are struggling that Christianity has much to offer them. In the months and years ahead, this church will be supporting its community in a great many ways, becoming a true community church as God is calling us to be. It is an exciting adventure in which we are eager to participate, bringing light, love, and good news to our community with our sleeves rolled up, ready to work side by side with our neighbors to make life better.

I for one am excited to see what comes next ...

Examining Wasted Resources in Abandoned Structures for Earth Day

Take a quick tour of the Internet and you can find stories about abandoned structures everywhere, ranging from houses to factories, penal institutions to hospitals. Driving through a city a while back, I passed a row of mansions long abandoned to rot in a former wealthy neighborhood.

In my last career, I edited several books on exploring urban ruins. I have to say, in the institutional settings, I was shocked to see the massive equipment still in place within the rotting structures. Massive metal furnaces, boilers, heavy machinery, and in hospitals large pieces of medical equipment that ... had they been removed and refurbished at the time ... would have been welcomed in struggling countries, despite their age. It is incredibly wasteful and I doubt we can afford that anymore. If we are trying to get oily residues from sand and shale, we might want to rethink leaving behind steel, iron, wood and more to rot. We should strongly consider for Earth Day this year how these materials could be recaptured and repurposed or recycled. Back during World War II, a portion of the 25 acre Stetson factory complex was scrapped to create a more streamlined factory system in Kensington, in Philadelphia. The papers reported that the steel from the scrapped structures, which was sent to the war effort, was the equivalent of numerous tanks or a battleship. At that point, you can be sure that steel was reused to keep the world free from Nazi rule.

It is time to take back the abandoned factories, hospitals, shopping malls, offices, and homes and remove their usable materials or repurpose the structures if they are fit for reuse with the equipment present. There are just too many of us and our resources are too limited to act as if we can simply use and discard anything and everything in favor of the newest model. It is past time to get serious on this issue.

Take a look at this site on abandoned shopping malls to get a taste of what disturbs me in our wasteful society. There are far too many useful materials present in these structures to leave them moldering away: http://www.urbanghostsmedia.com/2010/09/dead-malls-9-abandoned-arcades-markets-and-shopping-centres/

On a brighter note, I have also edited several books on reusing industrial structures and barns as beautiful and unique homes. Some of this work is being done, but we have a long way to go.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

What Tragedy of Flight MH370 Says About Technology and Trash

Before I begin, first let me say how much my heart goes out to all those waiting to hear with finality about what became of their friends and loved ones aboard the ill-fated, mysterious flight of Malaysian Airlines MH370. I pray for you all.

That said, this disaster tells us much about the state of our technology and, even worse, about just how all-pervasive our trash has become. In the first instance, we had come pretty close to thinking that in the Western world our technology allowed us to track anyone or anything anywhere. Then MH370 stops broadcasting and takes a sudden turn from the expected course ... and a Boeing 777 is lost. That's not a small aircraft ... but the world is huge and our technology is not as all encompassing as we might imagine. For some, this realization will be a relief ... for others a nightmare.

In the trash department, how many obscure locations have been fruitlessly searched for aircraft debris when something was observed floating in one remote location or another. What we quickly discovered to our dismay is that we humans have left debris of our throw away cultures everywhere in the world, no matter how isolated ... and some of it of considerable size.

We are headed for Earth Day this month. I think we might want to resolve to work harder to eliminate debris from our world more aggressively after this experience. Trash is like roaches. What you see is only a small piece of the problem.

Here's hoping this experience is humbling enough to motivate us to make a difference.

For a related post, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-earth-is-large-and-our-control-is.html

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Saturn's Moon Enceladus May Be Best Candidate for Life Off Earth

Southern Polar Ocean of Enceladus as envisioned by NASA based on Cassini probe date.
Image courtesy of NASA
The Cassini space probe in orbit around Saturn, conducting multi-year studies of the complex system of rings and moon around the gas giant, plus the dynamic planet itself, through some fancy maneuvers has determined there is an ocean under the icy surface of the 300+ miles across moon. Having pondered the water geysering from the south pole, and what mechanism caused it, the tug on the passing spacecraft has led scientists to believe that there's an ocean under all that ice. There is a rocky core this ocean, all six miles deep of ocean, rubs up against with all sorts of potential for chemical reactions that could lead to life. With the plumes flying from the ocean, the right spacecraft with the proper sampling tools could perhaps determine if there was life in the ocean located 19 to 25 miles below the icy surface. It's worth a look if we ever get our national finances and politicians in order! Stay tuned.

For more, especially about critical elements found in the plumes that are essential for life, see the article from my friends at Universe Today: http://www.universetoday.com/110966/cassini-spacecraft-confirms-subsurface-ocean-on-enceladus/

For a nifty video about planets outside our solar system, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/02/sciencecasts-sudden-multiplication-of.html