The Thirty Minute Blogger

Exploring Books and the Writer's Life, Faith and Works, Culture and Pop Culture, Space Science and Science Fiction, Technology and Nostalgia, Parenting and Childhood, Health: Physical and Emotional ... All Under the Iron Hands of the Clock and That 30 Minute Deadline

Monday, June 30, 2014

"What the Heck Were They Thinking" Toys I Grew Up With ...

In the mad rush to create the new "hit" toy, manufacturers have made some wonderful toys ... and then again there are toys that you have to wonder what they were thinking ... or smoking ... when they designed them. 

Pictured here is a surviving set of "Clackers," that incredibly bad combination of spheres ready to shatter attached by cord to each other. The object was to get the two spheres to bang together. If you gained enough speed with them, those fragile balls would smack together both at the bottom and tops of their arcs ... until they shattered, scattering fragments far and wide among your admiring friends. Or the cord could snap, sending hard balls in unpredictable directions. AAAIIIEEEE!!! As Jonny Quest bad guys used to say when doom was immanent. 

Then there were various sets designed to create plastic figures all by yourself. Liquid plastic, an open heat source, unvented fumes .... What could possibly go wrong???

Lawn darts ... or Jarts ... those potentially lethal weighted darts with metal pointed tips designed to penetrate your yard turf when you threw the darts like horseshoes. Disaster could ensue ... Standing beside the ring aimed for or even off to one side anywhere down field was a very bad idea. Of course if you stood behind the kid who accidentally let go on the back swing like a bad bowler ... well, you were in the wrong place at the wrong time! 

Cap gun cap rolls ... little pockets of flash powder in paper (50 to a roll) intended to go off with a bang as they were fed through your metal cap pistol for that "authentic" bang as you took out "Commies" or "Nazis" or whatever evil lurked in your bushes. Of course, get a couple of bored kids, a rock, some matches, or a bare foot slamming down on a roll of these babies ... and dumbness and possible injuries ensued. 

Chemistry sets ... need I say more???

"Wire controlled" airplanes with little, heavy gas engines that somehow regularly managed to head right back toward the controller along those guide wires ... especially if you spent some time going around and around in circles keeping your plane going.

Spinning, flying fireworks ... I believe the ones we had were called something like "lotus blossoms." Circular in shape, with a little cone shape underneath, and a fuse sticking out one side. Light these babies, step back, and "lift off," up they went into the sky shooting sparks in all directions. Of course, they also could come down as hot glowing embers into dry brush ...  or your house's roof. Excitement ensued. 

One I never saw personally, but heard about later, was the "candy dispensing pistol." You load the pistol with candy pellets, stick the barrel in your mouth, and fire. Now there's a learning experience for you! 

Sit and Spin ... get the little tykes going around and around until they get off and topple over dizzily against some hard piece of furniture or lose breakfast all over the shag rug. 

The jet black Super Ball (not because it didn't work well, which it really really did, but for a lamentable feature of its dark form) ... that energetic black ball that bounced everywhere and could break everything as it ricocheted off walls, ceilings, floors, stairs, lamps, your head, etc. When driven outside with your Super Ball, a couple of good bounces and that black ball quickly disappeared into the shadows, never to be seen again ... unless your Dad ran over it later with the lawn mower, which could be pretty exciting! 

Growing up was often exciting. With the heavy duty bikes I rode unhelmeted as well, barreling down hills in excess of 30 mph, I guess I'm (and all my colleagues and confederates of the latter half of the twentieth century) lucky to be here! 



Sunday, June 29, 2014

NASA Tests Two Parachutes for Two Systems


Image Courtesy of NASA

June 25, 2014: In one test, the Orion orbiter mock up conducts its final and most complicated parachute drop successfully in preparation for its first test flight into space later this year. The drop took place at the U.S. Army Proving Grounds in Arizona. This success moves NASA one step closer to returning to human spaceflight, where we need to be. The Orion capsule and the massive rocket being designed to propel it will be able to take astronauts back to the moon, out to an asteroid, and possibly, in time, on to Mars. This capsule will be designed to take us further than we've gone before.

Image Courtesy of NASA

In the meantime, NASA also tested its UFO for Mars. In other words, they took their Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator up to 120,000 feet via balloon and let her go. The large disk decelerator wrapped around the body of the craft appears to have done its job up there where the atmosphere is Mars-like. There will be a total of three tests before the system gets a trip to Mars (should all go well).

Things just keep getting more interesting in spaceflight.

For more on manned spaceflight, see the regularly updated post: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2010/03/progress-in-manned-space-flight.html

For more on the LSDS, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/06/ldsd-great-shakeout-test-for-mars-nasa.html

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Who Is Jesus ... A Church Blog Site that Grapples with This Question Well

This is a pivotal question for believers and non-believers alike. Who is this Jesus the Christ people keep talking about? Well, the Lansdowne Baptist Church blog site does a nice job of beginning that examination. They have connections to other materials designed to help. In today's world, a great challenge is to define who Jesus is in terms that are not so drenched in the theological that no one other than those who either grew up in the faith or attended seminary can understand them. It is an amazing challenge. This post is a nice start. It could be the beginning of a fruitful conversation as well. If you are curious, see for yourself at: http://lansdownebaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2014/06/who-is-jesus.html

Knowing You're Doing What You're Made For ... An Article of Faith

I spent over 6 years attending seminary part time, while working full time and helping raise a family. I was called by God into ministry and there were heavy costs associated with that proposition. I went into the process with eyes open, knowing the sacrifices ahead (if not exactly the magnitude ... amazing what you get used to), all in the attempt to prepare for servant ministry like Jesus', whose example we ministers are to follow.

Yesterday, I had the grace from God to know I was doing what God made me to do. I received an emergency call from a distressed family. They needed the help only a minister could readily provide (no details for the sake of their privacy). Could I come right away? I agreed. Ten minutes later, book of services at the ready, the suit jacket and tie I kept in the closet for just such emergencies in place, I arrived and served that family in their time of crisis. I gave them the comfort and support God had for them. I used what I had learned about being God's calming presence. God used me in the service of those who needed me in that moment. It was a joy to serve, a joy to know I was doing what I had trained long and hard for, a joy to know that I was doing what God had made me for.

I wish you all such moments of joy.

Peace.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Curiosity Selfie After One Martian Year

Image Courtesy of NASA

Congratulations to Curiosity and her crew. The SUV-sized robot rover has been exploring for one Martian year now, that's 687 Earth days! It's a good thing she's designed for dealing with dust. As you can see, Curiosity is going native Martian red as time goes by. Curiosity's goal was to discover whether conditions were once right to support microbial life. That goal was met very early on. NASA states: 

One of Curiosity's first major findings after landing on the Red Planet in August 2012 was an ancient riverbed at its landing site. Nearby, at an area known as Yellowknife Bay, the mission met its main goal of determining whether the Martian Gale Crater ever was habitable for simple life forms. The answer, a historic "yes," came from two mudstone slabs that the rover sampled with its drill. Analysis of these samples revealed the site was once a lakebed with mild water, the essential elemental ingredients for life, and a type of chemical energy source used by some microbes on Earth. If Mars had living organisms, this would have been a good home for them. 

There have been a great many more accomplishments in that year. From what they've learned, Curiosity's team can drive her further than ever before each time. They are also checking radiation levels ... they did in space while Curiosity traveled and now on Mars to see what future astronauts will need for protection and has been looking at Mars' thin atmosphere to determine what was lost over time.

For more, see: http://www.nasa.gov/press/2014/june/nasa-s-mars-curiosity-rover-marks-first-martian-year-with-mission-successes/#.U6qfBfldXPY 

Happy anniversary, team! Here's to all the discoveries to make in the NEXT Martian year. Hooray!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

THE FIRST AIR FORCE ONE





An important artifact of United States history, the first Air Force One, is slowly rotting away in the desert. This is the only Air Force One that was ever sold by the government. What a shame.

Muffins and Durable Yaris: The Five Minute Response


Sorry for the delays ... yesterday, my blogging time was taken up by yard work too long delayed and jungle deforestation activities.

Anyway, two small points in five minutes or less. I spend a lot of time in the car for work. The other night on the commute home I stopped in at a Dunkin Donuts for some snack to get me where I was going without listening to a rumbling stomach. Not a great idea, but so far so good. Then the bad idea happened. I didn't see a donut that just called to me. There were no apple fritters, my next go to. So, I went with a blueberry muffin. An okay choice, right? Wrong.

Muffins lose their structural integrity at about half way eaten and begin falling to pieces. This is made worse by the shifting of a manual transmission. I ended up with a lapful and seatful of muffin bits needing significant sweeping when I arrived home. Not a good choice for a driver.

After having my now crumb free Toyota Yaris inspected, I saw the mileage total. I keep it set to a trip miles rather than the total miles run for personal reasons. So I was astonished to see that my 2009 Yaris had over 84,000 miles on that odometer. It still runs like a top and has given me no significant trouble ... ever. This is without a doubt my favorite car, ever.

And that's the five minute response.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Reframing the Issue: What's Your Outlook?

There are many times when it all just becomes too much. Too much terrifying news leads to a fear driven outlook on life. Too many horror novels can turn the sunniest day dark (I know ... never read 5 Edgar Allen Poe stories back to back ... bad news). Too heavy a diet of political diatribe leads to an angry, fuming life. Too many opinion shows on "Cable News" leads to ... really, really furious old white guys (according to the news ... see how this feeds on itself). All of it leads to an increase in fear, an increase in the activation of that old reptilian portion of the brain that seeks fight, flight, or freeze. None of that leads to a positive outcome unless you really do have a large and hungry carnivore bearing down on you.

So, what to do when you want to paint the world black? Reframe the issue. Step back, take a deep breath (or a dozen), calm yourself and look at the issue objectively. Ask yourself how you might approach it as a problem to solve, a puzzle to complete. Ponder which experts might be able to help. What sort of information do I need to fix this? Who do I know that can help?

Turn away from the panicked, we're doomed mindset and the reptilian responses. Look to more evolved portions of the mind, the parts that know about working together with others and see the world a little differently. There is never only a single way to view a situation. Seek the healthier way. Find the source material that will help you get there. Seek out the peaceful people who follow such paths and ask them how they manage to reframe the issues for themselves. Try what they do and see if it doesn't work for you. Your world view may become a little brighter as you feel empowered to do more, to join others doing it, and to help take charge of the problems around you rather than being their victims.

Based on this, if an event can be explained with "a person died because we are all scum" or "a person sacrificed himself because of his love for us," based on reframing, which should you choose. In case you're wondering, these are two views of why Jesus was crucified. Just so you know.

Good luck.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Positive Force Challenge ...

I have a challenge for you today (and for me) ... and for every day. Are you up for it?

I want you to be a positive force in the world today.

I was looking up why we are so cranky with each other in our public forums, our social media, our opinion pieces, face to face, whatever. There were many answers, many different ideas (just as any parent to be soon discovers that there are many approaches to child raising), but one central them. Yeah, we don't treat each other well.

So, here's the challenge. Look for opportunities today to make another human beings day better (okay, another pets as well). Look for innovative ways of doing that.

Here are a few suggestions:

Offer a warm hello, good morning, good afternoon, etc. If you get the classic "Is it?" angry response, offer up "Any day I'm upright and taking nourishment is a good day!" Humor deflects.

Hold a door open for someone.

Smile at many people. You have no idea who you might deflect from some dark and potentially dangerous path. Besides, people will wonder what you are up to. You become a person of mystery. How cool is that?

Be humorous in a good an inoffensive way if that is your talent.

Offer up a compliment. Make a positive comment on someone's performance.

Allow other people to merge with ease in traffic. We'll all get along better if each of us tries this one.

Come up with five other approaches during the day, based on your own observations, to be a positive force and send me the lists. I'll post them. We'll all get better at this.

I believe every small gesture for good, every kindness, every smile makes a positive difference in this world of ours and those efforts are cumulative. Let's see how much positive difference we can send rippling through our societies around the globe today ... and every day.

The challenge is made. I accept it. Care to join me (I say with a smile while holding the door open)?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Reports State Summer Blockbusters Dwindle After First Viewing

Movie reviewers have opined that the summer blockbusters just aren't what they used to be. There is an initial spike, sometimes quite profitable, followed by a serious dwindling away of interest almost immediately. Is it badly written material? Retread issues? Poorly done sequels??? The possibilities seem endless.

Let's look at something else. Something a little closer to home and more practical.

I love movies. I enjoy going to the theater to watch them ... even when clueless folk have to be politely reminded that their cell phone screen is creating light others around them can see. However, there is a significant problem that keeps me away more often than not. I'll illustrate the situation.

Not long ago, I was at the movies with my family and saw another dad there with three small children. The man had already forked over a significant sum to bring the kids out for a couple hours entertainment at most. But, I caught him walking away from the candy counter with boxed sets of goodies for each child. All three children were beaming and excited to head off to their show. Dad's face was a much different story. Slowly he put away his much thinner wallet and the look on his face was a shell shocked "I'm screwed" look I won't soon forget.

Yes, reviewers, there was a golden time when a really good blockbuster had fan guys and gals returning to the theater all summer long to see a favorite again and again. Those days are indeed done except among the highly monied set or single folks working good jobs with no family to feed. It just costs too much, especially if the movie is in 3-D or heaven forbid IMAX (I have to ask as I won't fork over the fee ... the IMAX screens I've seen in the past were impressive at least two story high monsters. I can't imaging the average theater with IMAX has installed such a system so what makes it IMAX now???). If you want to see the blockbuster make a comeback ... find a way to lower the fee. Otherwise, expect continued low attendance. Most films, especially the summer blockbusters, are films most of us can wait until they come out on a cheaper platform we can see at home ... with our own significantly less expensive popcorn and candy.

Remaining Flexible and Equipped as a Leader

For success in leadership in specific situations, it often is necessary to remain open to change on the day of a leadership opportunity. I have often found that the flexibility to change with evolving circumstances leads to a much higher chance of the event working out well.

The secret to that flexibility is being equipped. Before you take charge, you need to equip yourself with the knowledge necessary to handle the event. Learn what options are available for a successful event. Communicate well and frequently with people you will be working with so that all are clear on their expectations on the day of the event. If, despite your best efforts, your clients show up with a different agenda, make sure you have material available to you to adapt on the spot. Calmly step aside, reassess, come up with a quick plan based on what you know of people's expectations and the material you've brought with you, give yourself a rough outline to work from (even if only in your mind), and then lead the event calmly. So no signs of being flustered or nervous to your audience/clients. If you express confidence, take control, and see it through, no one will know what you are juggling to keep it all moving forward.

Events are have you walking a fine line. Your clients expect you to lead ... yet, they also expect you to be in accord with their wishes for the event if they have hired you. You need to guide them through the event, being respectful of their needs but tempering their enthusiasm with reality gently when needed. It is an art that takes some time to learn and longer to learn to improvise to meet the needs of the crowd in the moment.

good luck. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY to Dad's Everywhere

I'm taking just a moment out of a busy Father's Day Sunday to wish dads everywhere a wonderful day. Take a little time off, today, guys. Enjoy yourselves.

Here's a little advice for children and dads to follow on this subject, from an old source that knows a thing or two about relationships.

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother--this is the first commandment with a promise: so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth. And fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."

Father's Day bonus points if you can name the source and the book and chapter within that source. On your marks, get set, GO!

Enjoy the day, dads. 

FREEDOM! Taking Back My Email Account

It took a long time to happen, but eventually so many emails from so many different businesses and special interest groups were filling my email account ... with a new torrent every day ... that I was loath to visit it. I have several accounts, now, being a 21st century guy. The one I've had longest, to which so many things are attached, is the one that has become unmanageable. And yet, that is the email address where a great many people I do want to hear from contact me when they don't use Facebook messaging. Yeah, I know a lot of retro folks who still do things old school ... not snail mail old school, but still.

So, yesterday, I decided to strike back. I took the time to go to the bottom of many of the email ads and group messages, ferret out the unsubscribe links, open up the extra screen, and told them all to go away in whatever way was necessary. It was surprisingly satisfying. I highly recommend the exercise. It felt like freedom, yes it did.

One political organization was entirely clueless of my intent in this process. They sent me another email asking me to reconsider my unsubscribe. I guarantee that is one organization, all though they do good work, that will never be allowed back into my email. Guys, really, when someone unsubscribes, LEAVE THEM ALONE!!!

I hear there are now email programs you can get that will manage the email torrent, organizing it into stuff you want to see and stuff to delete. Frankly, I get a certain vindictive little satisfaction out of digging up that unsubscribe link and ending it all that way.

Oh, yes, and organizations, really, when I decided to unsubscribe to you, I really mean it ... and no, I don't want to take a survey to find out why I wanted to leave. If you have to ask ...

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Writing Success: Check the Sources



Along with never stopping writing to hone the craft, you also have to develop a system of research that leads to trust. You have to provide strong, reliable source material. Whether you are writing fact or fiction, you have to get the details straight.

Today it is all too easy to do an online search and grab the first material your eyes fall upon on your topic. That would be a deadly mistake. You are quite likely to send along to readers erroneous material, old wives tales, conspiracy theories, and dates that are way off. You need sources you can rely on. Online check the end of the address. Look for organizations ending in the following: .org (non-profits), .edu (education), .mus (museums), .gov (governments). Those are the sites safest to reference (and do give them all proper credit of course, no plagiarism!). But you'll want to back that up with old fashioned footwork, checking into libraries, historical societies, and museums for primary source documents, physical books, newspaper archives, microfiche collections, and all the rest. One of the real great joys, if you get the chance, is to spend a day researching in the Library of Congress. University libraries are wonderful on a smaller scale as you will find lots of people interested in helping you out. If you can find sources to interview on the topic, all the better. Just make sure to cross-reference their information with known facts.

Books give you an added value over internet sources. Books had to pass through a publishing house and en editor. There at least the material had to stand up against some sort of scrutiny before it reached you.

Finally, you need to be very picky on your sources. If one source provides a detail you can find nowhere else and cannot confirm, you probably should play it conservative and set that piece of information aside or tuck it into a footnote and have it ascribed to that author. Never assume a "scoop" is just that. The reason for all the careful research is that you need your readers to trust you if you want your book to succeed (or your article, or post, etc.). That trust is lost when readers discover that your facts are in error. Remember, writer, you are truly human ... but your readers expect a higher level of diligence from you than from other mortals.

Good luck!

For the first post in the "Writing Success" series, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/06/writing-success-never-stop.html

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

LDSD: The Great Shakeout Test For Mars: NASA Plans Sending UFO to Mars!



Another new way to bring bigger payloads to Mars, the planet that tends to hate human hardware in orbit or on the ground. We've had great success in recent year and this expanding decelerator intends to keep that trend moving in the right direction. However, in my humble opinion nothing will be cooler than the Skycrane for a long, long time.

Bill Moyers Reports on Gun Deaths Since Newtown

There have been 4772 people killed by guns so far in 2014. Since the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting, there have been 74 additional horrid school shootings, including the Tuesday, June 10, 2014, shooting in Reynolds High School, Troutdale, Oregon, just 5 days after the Seattle Pacific University shooting. Since Newtown, 51,158 individuals have been killed by guns. It is obscene.

For the full story from Bill Moyers, see: http://billmoyers.com/2013/05/03/gun-violence-since-newtown/

The details are disturbing. There are 310,000,000 guns in the U.S., one for every person. No country matches this level of deadly force potential. The closest contender is Yemen with 11 guns for every 20 people. In 2011, the NRA spent over 231 million to make sure we remain #1 in guns. At least, for a brief moment in 2014, the NRA had a brief fit of honesty and found the open carry gun guys and gals in Texas trying to get into restaurants and taunting an unarmed veteran, all while filming themselves, to be weird. They backpedaled quickly as they started losing a few of their most strident members ... sadly.

I suggest you avoid the comments, however. Ugh.

Also check out the Washington Post article, "Depressing Number of the Day: 74 School Shootings Since Newtown:" http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/06/10/depressing-number-of-the-day-74-school-shootings-since-newtown/

This madness has to end. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Shaking Fear's Impact

Successfully shaking fear's impact takes tremendous honesty and abundant courage. There are many times in our lives when we do not participate in something we would like to do. We feel restrained, our guts tightened, our palms sweaty, and our "what if" brain coil overheated to the extreme. We are stopped by fear.

Now, let's pause for a moment to consider: if the fear rational or not? Is this fear of death, perhaps, that would come from jumping off a cliff without a parachute that would be rational fear. However, if it is fear that grows out of all sorts of "what if" speculation that is less than likely to happen, then that is irrational fear. If it is irrational, that's the fear to fight. That is the fear to push past to do whatever it is you want to do or need to do.

It is vital to a healthy outlook on life to shake irrational fear. The best way to do so is to go ahead and do what you know to be right and good. Go ahead and have that little adventure in the local state park, explore your surroundings, get to know the neighbors, ask that wonderful person you've been thinking of asking out to go to the movies or to dinner (yes, you can do it) ... live! Right now, I'd say there are a great many people who live in deeply rutted routines because they feel safe there. Life lived well is not a life that is trying to simply avoid death and stay safe for life. Life well lived is life lived outside of what if fears, a life lived with and for others.

Today we live in a culture that also tries to beat down those who stand up against socially accepted unfairness in the culture, the politics, the business world, the stewardship of the planet, the military, the NRA, and a great many other places. Throw aside the "what if" fears and stand up against injustice where you see it. Never mind that this might be an unpopular stance. If you are well informed and truly see something that is wrong, do not let your fears (in this case some of these fears may indeed be justified but most will still be what ifs) silence you. Your voice may be the tipping point to getting something done.

I for one was horrified find that roughly 22,000 children die of starvation daily in out of the way, backwater places where the global community does not see them. 842 million people do not have enough to eat. The stats go on and on in a most shocking manner. See: http://www.thp.org/learn_more/issues/know_your_world_facts_about_hunger_and_poverty as one of many sources. I'll be looking for my way to speak out and help.

Best of luck to you in living fearlessly in your life, today and always. 

NASA's OPALS Beams Video from Space: FIRE THE LASER!





NASA has now successfully communicated large amounts of data  to earth via laser, updating communication from space to earth that the experts say is the equivalent update from dial-up to DSL. It's all high def, too. What can we expect from the ISS next? Will Robonaut 2 be walking around making documentary films for the crew? Will we one day be communicating with lasers around the solar system? Time will tell.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Writing Success: Never Stop

Success in writing is like success in many fields. You need to love it and you definitely need to never stop doing it. Writing only gets better with practice. Be prolific, be dedicated, be a little obsessed. You cannot map out a book, an article, or any other piece of writing entirely in your head before you start. You have to start putting words on the page, whether that page is physical or digital. As you do, magic happens. Connections occur that you didn't know where there. As you wrestle with ideas, with facts, with fiction, with history, with prose, with poetry, the words take off and move in surprising directions, taking you down avenues, paths, byways, and alleys of the mind you didn't even know where there.

As you continue, you write faster, you begin to trust you instincts, you begin to see places you can go, ways of tackling the subject that are eminently more satisfying than where you started. Write every day if you can.

And when you aren't writing, read. Read voraciously. See how other authors you admire handled the subjects as well. Then you learn what it is you have to offer that is uniquely yours because you begin to see the thrust of other authors' passions and perspectives. It fuels the fire and helps you write better. Read book on writing as well ... although never let those books replace writing itself. The writing is key. The writing develops and evolves over time. Enjoy the process and never stop trying to improve. Accept that early work is likely to be crap and that serious editing is always part of the process. Never deceive yourself into thinking your words are golden. Never imagine your pearls of wisdom cannot be improved. That way lies pain and disappointment. Anyone who thinks their work is perfect has lost the desire to learn and their work will suffer.

Now, stop reading and start writing. There's no time like the present.

How to Collect Anything ...

After 20 years of writing about collecting, working with collectors, seeing some of the best collections anywhere, hearing the stories about how those collections came to be, writing articles about collecting, and finally editing nearly innumerable books about collecting ranging from antiques and collectibles spanning hundreds of years and many nations, I have a few observations to pass along about collecting.

Collecting is an impulse we all have at some level or other. However, few people follow through seriously on the impulse and collect well. Here are a few things you need to do to collect with confidence and joy.

Where do we begin when we want to collect. Well, let's begin with what delights you. What objects raise your spirits? What things do you want to have around because they bring you joy? Take a moment to think of a few. Start with lost things from your own childhood. Do any of those fill you with nostalgia? Shiny Brite Christmas ornaments like the one pictured above, perhaps?  Let's move on a bit, putting away those colorful balls, chugging trains, sweet dolls, rugged action figures, and all the rest. What items from your parents' or grandparents' homes speak to you of happy times? What mysterious things intrigued you? What beautiful things stirred something inside you? Which objects could you not resist touching, examining, exploring?

If these do not inspire you, perhaps you have a penchant for history. Are there objects from the historical past that inspire or excite you? Perhaps gentlemen's or ladies canes fascinate you in all their forms. Western wear, the shooting irons or squirrel rifles of yore, bootleggers' stills, fine dinnerware of centuries long past requiring many rules and more pieces to hold successful formal dinners, simple yet elegant ceramics from Japan, aged cars or motorcycles, books by great minds of ages long past, shady advertising, souvenirs of places or events long gone? Did anything stir in you just now? Find that thing or those things that intrigue you most. Maybe you have to look to the materials rather than the objects first. Glass, metal, ceramic, plastics, mother-of-pearl, what will it be? I heard an author recently speak most intelligently of the miracle of stainless steel. His passion was contagious and his knowledge was wide spanning.

Before you settle on something to collect, you want to sit yourself down and ask yourself very hard questions about your own finances. Can you afford to pursue the thing that excites you the most? Be honest. If not, scale down to something within your means, something that won't leave you or your family struggling. That would be a crime, an obscene crime.

Once you've settled on something, take the time to learn all you can about that object. Read widely, go to shows where those items are available, talk to dealers and collectors who know about and love those items ...  and those who really love them will want to talk about them. Don't be afraid to admit you need to learn. How else will you get started? Learn the difference between marks made by manufacture and damage done over time. Find out how the materials your objects of passion age and what sorts of damage they are subject to. If that collecting object is popular, find out if it is currently or has in the past been faked. You'd be surprised how many items have been reproduced, some well and others quite shabbily.

Check out a few online auctions sites to see the range available in the thing that intrigues you most. Head out to wherever the dealers may be found in brick and mortar stores. Get to know those objects of fascination. Get to handle them and know them personally.

Then and only then, begin to collect. And when you do, collect for joy, not for investment. Collect the best you can afford rather than the most of that particular thing. But make sure those objects you collect give you pleasure. Be careful not to become addicted to the thrill of the hunt. Some collect avidly and constantly, piling up objects at home but never satisfied. They are hooked on the hunt, the stories of objects "bagged," deals made, swaps performed, and comrades met. Don't let the objects become all pervasive in your life. If you find yourself wanting no one else to touch those things, no one else to enter the room you have set up for them, you have tipped over the edge from healthy collecting to a form of idol worship that will not serve you or your family well. Take care.

Now we shift from "dos" to "don'ts." I mentioned "shady advertising" before. Let's return to that. The really, truly collectible things are things that have been owned, used, and most of them have been destroyed through use ... particularly if those objects were used and enjoyed. This being said, anything that has the term "collectible" plastered on the box is most certainly not. Over the years many "collectible" fads have come and gone. None are worth naming. None are worth you time and money. Any object made whose sole purpose is to part would-be collectors who are in it for a quick cash windfall with their hard earned cash are useless items. I have heard stories of people whipped into frenzies seeking such items knocking down the elderly to get to the last such boxed "treasure" on the shelf. Often these limited edition collectibles appear again in some other packaging six months later with much less fanfare. Steer clear. These shiny objects are destined for future trips through yard sales to landfills. Be suspicious of any object that suddenly has "investment experts" popping up on TV and radio shows like dandelions telling you which of these collectibles are the rarest of the rare and sure to put your kid through college. It just ain't happening.

If the objects you love suddenly begin increasing in value to dizzying heights ... it is most likely time to either content yourself with what you have ... or sell. Continuing to pay incredibly high prices for objects all out of proportion to their intrinsic value is setting yourself up for a crash. It is quite likely the market will drop as a bubble pops loudly all around you and your overheated antiques or collectibles. It happens periodically when enthusiasm outpaces good sense.  

That's enough for now. It's certainly enough to get you started. My intent here is not to gore anyone's ox, just to provide some sound advice. You'll derive a great deal of pleasure from the process and in time find yourself chasing after some truly elusive objects in your collecting field. It can be very entertaining and a great diversion from the troubles of this world. In the end, enjoy your collecting hobby without letting it consume you.

Oh yeah, one final thing about the most elusive object in your line. Sometimes items are rare because they are of high value as they were made very well, very expensively, and very briefly ... but quite often items are rare because they were never popular at all ... they were just considered butt-ugly by all potential buyers, never sold, and were quickly discontinued. You might want to avoid those items. But hey, you might just love butt-ugly and if so, well, good for you!

Good luck! Enjoy!


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Famous Quotes on Warfare

As the United States finally extricates itself from a decade of war ... and yet some remain unsatisfied and wish us to send our young men and women into other conflicts without end (there's one problem with the all volunteer army ... politicians with no skin in the game by in large), it is my fervent hope that one day all humanity will turn to the accumulated wisdom of the centuries and decide, like Edwin Starr stated in the 1960s, "War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing!" While honoring the sacrifices of brave men and women through time to defend their families and societies from others out to do them harm and evil, I would prefer to honor them all by allowing them to turn swords into plowshares and turn to the ways of peace. I hope some fine day we will all come to our senses and stop this bloody business of torturing and killing others ... for whatever reason we cook up at the moment. Without further ado, a few quotes.  

Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind.
John F. Kennedy

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

War does not determine who is right - only who is left.
Bertrand Russell

The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.
George S. Patton

It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it.
Robert E. Lee

I have never advocated war except as a means of peace.
Ulysses S. Grant


There will one day spring from the brain of science a machine or force so fearful in its potentialities, so absolutely terrifying, that even man, the fighter, who will dare torture and death in order to inflict torture and death, will be appalled, and so abandon war forever.
Thomas A. Edison [Sadly this hasn't happened yet Tom.]

War is a defeat for humanity.
Pope John Paul II

You can't say civilization don't advance... in every war they kill you in a new way.
Will Rogers

War is hell.
William Tecumseh Sherman

If it's natural to kill, how come men have to go into training to learn how?
Joan Baez

We have war when at least one of the parties to a conflict wants something more than it wants peace.
Jeane Kirkpatrick


For a very opinionated piece on warfare's origins, see this post: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/06/religion-is-cause-of-most-warfare-what.html

Mega-Earth Messes with Our Understanding of the Universe ...

Once again, the universe is messing with us. Astronomy text writers are pulling what's left of their hair out as the books once again need revised.

Now, that pesky Kepler space telescope has informed us that Kepler 10c is a planet 560 light years from here that ought to be a gas giant but instead is a rocky "mega-earth," with 17 times our mass. This is one big, heavy chunk of real estate revolving around a sun-like star, but one twice as old as ours. A little more than twice as big around as us, with that weight, this is a rocky planet.

This messes with planetary expectations. A ball this size should have pulled in a whole lot of gas and shrouded itself in clouds like Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune or Uranus ... but no. For now, 10c is considered an outlier among the planets ... but that might not be true. Ol' 10c here could be common as dirt in the grand scheme of things. This increases the potential for habitable planets quite a bit ... and the age of its star suggests life could have quite a long run on such a rock. That gives a lot more time for sentient beings to rise up and develop on a massive heap like 10c.

Of course, this could also be why we don't hear from them. If creates have grown up and gained intelligence long ago on worlds like 10c, it is possible that they are now a civilization of oldsters who just want the young whippersnappers of the galaxy to leave them along and stop playing in their lawn, dag nab it. Perhaps time will tell.

For more on life in the galaxy, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/05/100-million-planets-with-complex-life.html

Religion Is the Cause of Most Warfare: What Twaddle!

Could something like this start a war???
Waking up this morning, I heard a BBC correspondent and interviewee opine that the cause of most organized warfare is ... religion. This is a quick, easy, cheap, and essentially misguided throw away answer that has been repeated so often it has become common wisdom. However, it is basically twaddle, piffle, useless claptrap.

This ready answer reminds me of the story told me by the president of a particular company. Back in the 1950s, he stated that this company was the world's largest of its sort. They had refurbished and expanded the place and they felt this would be a great sales tactic. Now, this president did not know if his company was the world's largest or even the nation's largest. But, he figured the claim was good for business and he would take it down if anyone contradicted him. Nobody did and in many books today you'll find that claim listed as fact. The same is occurring with this little bit of fluff about warfare.

Let's go back shall we, waaay back around 4,000 BC to Egypt and Mesopotamia. Back there, we'll find other culprits lurking in the darkness. Of course, to give you a little something from Christianity and Judaism to look at, you can check out Genesis 4 and find what I'm about to tell you. Scholars have felt that organized warfare may have had its start in ... agriculture. Yes, blame the farmers. They are the hawks you seek!!! (Not really, calm down folks.) Yes, with agriculture came land value. With agriculture came staying in one spot for an extended period of time and working the land up into something really valuable ... a "breadbasket." With agriculture comes people staying in one place. With people staying in one place comes organized society. With organized society come leaders who are in charge of a large number of people, all of whom need to eat. With large numbers of people all needing to eat, the leaders look to other valuable, food producing plots of land that other kings are in charge of and they decide to make them their own. Voila, organized warfare ... and not one single solitary angry priest required.

Now, around 2700 BC you get the first standing army in Sumer. Once you have a standing army, you need to use it. So, you attack that rival king and take his breadbasket land.

Or, perhaps your rival has lots of pretty yellow gold, or perhaps shiny silver, or hard diamonds, or some other stone or metal people were placing inordinate value on. You decide as king you need to have that instead of food, so off you go to attack with that wonderful standing army of yours decked out with bronze weapons. There you go. Other reasons to fight. And still no need to involve religion.

Through all this we have that leader or those leaders. We humans have this bizarre habit of making strong men into leaders, whether they have the brains for it or not. We also make old people leaders, wizened and full of years ... and without any skin in the war games who feel free to send other people's loved ones off to fight. Now, perhaps, just perhaps, the leaders we lift up have more to do with organized warfare than the farmers, the valuable land, or the organized society.

Then there is the general pissiness of humanity in general. Now a great many major religions will tell you that we are good people, we humans, but we have a disturbing habit, a terrible flaw in us that turns us to violence, destruction, and death. We are a generally cranky bunch who like to provoke each other, poking incessantly at each other with one silly trope, one too often quoted common wisdom that is simply BS, and eventually the poked human takes a swing. The other human shrieks, his buddies come running, the other guy shrieks, same result, and before you know it, you're at war.

Then, there's this really foul habit we humans have. We kill off, with great regularity, all those who tell us we humans have a better nature and we are intended to live together in peace ... many of whom have been great religious leaders.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sloggin' Thru Blogging: Well, Crap! Knowing Your Blog Will Always Be Small

Well, crap! Today I checked out an article about the 20 best blogs going today. Those things were amazing. The designs are beautiful and detailed. I cannot begin to imagine how long it takes to create and post each of those quality, jewellike creations. Well, dear readers, I have to tell you this ... having seen what is great in blogging today I now know this blog, the one you read and I appreciate that you read very very much, I now know that this blog site will always be a very small, modest, but honest production. My time is way too limited, my skill sets too blunted, and my ambitions far too small to be a blogging great.

I'm a writer and derive pleasure from getting my voice out there on a small scale on a wide variety of subjects. I know I should be devoted to just a single topic per blog ... but I have no interest in that. I just don't care to be that focused or disciplined. What you see here covers a range of topics that fascinates me and that's the way this li'l blog will always be. If what I do entertains you and matches your interests, stick around ... and find a way to let me know. I could use a little encouragement now and then. But I plan to stay in the game at least a little longer as these posts make great writing exercises.

In a way, it is liberating to know this creation will always remain a modest proposal. That way I can focus on enjoying the process and entertaining the eclectic readers who appreciate those topics that interest me. I truly appreciate your interest and your readership. See you next time ...

Free Online Video Gaming Stress Relief

Have you been having a bad day? I'm sorry, first of all. But, I'll bet you could use a little stress relief. These days, with everything so expensive, would you like that relief to be free? (Well, as free as you can get with an Internet connection already in place, that is.)

Head on over to Deadwhale.com, that's www.deadwhale.com, and check out the simple but addictive free games. I highly recommend Bubble Shooter, Bubble Cannon 2, Bubble Spinner (do you see a theme here) and Connect Animal. All are engrossing, simple to learn, but hard to perfect. You'll soon put aside you frustration over the bad day, at least for a little while. Just be careful. You can lose a lot of hours in front of these games if you don't watch out. Then again, if the day was bad enough, and you don't have any other engagements pressing or family responsibilities to honor, then why not?

There are a great many games there to explore, some more to your liking than others I'm sure. Find the games that make you happy and enjoy.

With luck, tomorrow will be a better day.

For more on video gaming, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2010/09/video-game-warrior.htmlhttp://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2011/11/off-book-video-games-pbs-arts.html, and http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2013/12/play-dots-on-ipad-and-iphone.html See the video gaming label for more. I've had a few things to say on this topic over the years. Have fun!