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

Thursday, July 31, 2014

War in Gaza: Tragedy for All, Call to Peace

Back in the day, when I was an undergraduate studying Anthropology, I saw a film about the Yamomami people of the Amazon. While the premise of the film has been somewhat refuted in decades since, the premise was that these peoples (roughly 35,000 in number) were in a state of never-ending warfare with their neighbors and each other. They had a system requiring revenge for injustices done to their people, even for injustices committed by accident. Revenge equated to violent death. The anthropologist noted that this created an endless, terrible cycle of death, a cycle no one could break free from, a cycle the anthropologist believed would lead to the extinction of this people unless they could come to a different solution to their problems. Unless they could develop a non-violent way to resolve issues of injustice between members of their tribe and neighboring tribes, one day there would be no more Yanomami. The war in Gaza between the Palestinians and the Israelis has the same feel to it. This endless cycle feels like a war destined to end in extinction, unless some other way is found, a way of peace instead of revenge and endless death. It presents both sides with an endless wheel of bloody tragedies and perpetual screams for deadly revenge. Somehow the counting of injustices and demand for blood in return for every crime must come to a stop before death wins all.

For a review of this sad situation, see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/20436092 This is not a perfect review, I'm sure, and has been revised for balance after complaints, but it is a short summary of the events since the late 1940s.

Pope Francis has made news recently for calling for an end to all war. I agree with him. We must find a way to free ourselves from our basest, most violent ways and become peacemakers and protectors of each other and our world. My denomination, American Baptist Churches, USA, has a treatise written in the 1980s deliniating our stance on peace, and it is a good one for your consideration. You'll find it at: http://www.abc-usa.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/peace.pdf  The document was last modified in 2007, so the thinking remains recent.

Praying and working for peace. Perhaps we could find a way to do this instead: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/07/looking-to-love.html

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Looking to Love

We spend so much time and effort being reactionary and angry with each other. We seem to forget we are called to love. We are called away from what the apostle Paul called us, "children of wrath," to a better way of living with one another. We all fall into this trap. Our culture is steeped in angry call and response knee jerk reaction we see modeled for us by opinion makers and public functionaries daily. We have gone from a culture of intelligent discourse (well, maybe I go too far here ... were we ever really that sort of culture) to one of kindergarten playground name calling. This approach to life has made us fearful. When we are fearful, we spiral up our reactionary responses and get more shrill ... and more violent. As a Christian, the Bible is a profound source of deep guidance. Despite the quibbling that puts us all to shame, the Bible has a great deal to say about loving others (friends and enemies alike) and about not being afraid--we are supposed to help each other, diminishing fear, and we are promised God will not abandon us. Here are three examples to consider: 


1 John 4:7-12: 7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.


1 Corinthians 13:1-13: If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast,* but do not have love, I gain nothing.4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror, dimly,* but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.



Luke 2:8-12: 8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.10But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah,* the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ 

Wishing you all fearless, loving days when others bless you and you bless them.

For another post calling us to positive action, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/07/faithful-people-listen-and-help.html

Monday, July 28, 2014

Religious Children Can't Tell Fact From Fiction, REALLY?!? NONSENSE!!!

According to a study published in the journal Cognitive Science, as related by the Huffington Post and New York Daily News ... among others, poor little 5 and 6 year old religious kids will be susceptible to buying the Golden Gate Bridge, will believe Star Wars is real, and--especially children of fundamentalists--will always believe what they hear from opinion makers like Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh. Why are these poor children unable to tell the difference between fact and fiction? Because they are being raised with a religious faith, any religious faith it seems. This is especially true of the Bible literalists, apparently. You see, believing in God, believing in miracles, believing one should love others, including enemies, place service to others above the almighty dollar and self interest, well those things just make you a little bit stupid, sorry to say, according to an extensive study of some 66 kids (phew, now there's going all out to try to prove a point, huh). You just can't tell what's real and what not if you have faith. Poor, poor children, being led astray by families and churches who will believe Winnie the Pooh is actually playing Pooh sticks on that bridge in the Hundred Acre Woods, Dorothy really went to Oz to squash a witch with her house and would want to return to rural Kansas with those magic ruby slippers (who is going to believe that--London, Paris, Rome ... maybe), all those kids cartoons on the Cartoon Network are real folks living real lives, and that reality TV has any bearing of reality. All because they have faith. What a shame.

What nonsense! What happened to all the studies stating that young children live in a world of magic, a world where the fantastic is part of life, where imagination is nurtured? What happened to the psychologist who told listeners on NPR some years ago that you can't tell children there are no ghosts or monsters when they are young because they will not believe you. They aren't ready yet. But you can tell them that their parents or guardians won't let those spooks into the house and they will believe in their guardian's or parent's authority to keep harm out. Passe now? Just another passing phase?

As someone who grew up in a religious family, whose ancestors heading back many generations have been faithful Protestants, I can assure you we never had trouble telling what was real from what was not. My kids have been raised in the church and they know well the difference between reality and fantasy. I too know the difference. And I can sure smell fabrication all over this study. You'll have to do better than that guys. Much better than that. So ends the rant ... and that's a fact.

For another rant on the warped idea that religion is the root of all warfare, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/06/religion-is-cause-of-most-warfare-what.html

For a much calmer, more cooperative post on faith and positive interactions [personal caveat: in the current post I'm defending children, not God ... you'll see], see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/07/faithful-people-listen-and-help.html

For the kind of organizations most of these studies really seemed to be aimed at, try: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/07/no-to-fear-based-authority-driven.html

For where we really should be aiming our efforts and energies instead of silly studies like this, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/07/injustice-poverty-crushes-in-these.html

Surprising Discovery Writing Recipes for Manly Men

I started my blogging life on HubPages. It is a well structured site that guides you through the ins and outs of blogging post writing. It has a wonderfully supportive community and teaches you something about how to try to make money from your posts. Needing early material, I decided to write at least one recipe easy enough for men to complete successfully and impress a date or a spouse on a date night. The premise is that the men involved all see themselves as manly men and all are just about incompetent in the kitchen.

I thought this might work in encouraging men to actually attempt to cook who had never cooked before. I imagined that these posts might actually get these poor guys a few good home cooked meals and might actually impress some significant other without getting anyone hurt.

Through the HubPages community I discovered something surprising. My manly man recipe was drawing a crowd ... but not the one I expected. I was getting laughs and accolades for my humorous recipes from women. These were women who couldn't resist different recipes and loved the writing style and suggestions for uses of manly tools in this very manly art of simple cooking.

It all came as a surprise to me ... a pleasant one.

Moral of the story: you may THINK you know your audience, but don't be too sure.

Manly man recipes include: http://jsbrooks.hubpages.com/hub/Garlic-Chicken-and-Potatoes-For-Men-Who-Need-To-Impress-Women and http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/07/manly-mans-recipe-to-never-shuck-corn.html

If you find these recipes useful and/or entertaining and would like to see more, let me know. I could go there again.

Money from Blogging ... BWA HA HA!!!

Since I enjoy blogging, I check the "how to" articles periodically myself ... just to assure myself I'm on the wrong track for blogging success. It is reassuring to know how wrong I am! That said, I couldn't resist looking up what it takes to make money with a blog.

"If you build it, they will come" doesn't work. Millions upon millions of bloggers have done just that ... and they haven't raked in the bucks. As one article said, American is just not awash in multimillionaire bloggers! Of course, I'd settle for being a millionaire blogger. I'm not greedy!

The very best blogs are works of art in some cases and they are all daily events. The readership comes in the thousands to many thousands ... A DAY! Efforts to raise funds produce small individual results, but when the readership is large enough, that works. Those small results add up. Further, the most successful bloggers spend time reading posts on the most successful other blogs and commenting on them to draw eyeballs to their own blog posts as well.

So, from what I picked up:
  1. First and foremost, you need time and writing talent. Write continuously for maximum success. Focus diligently on one topic you know where you can provide useful information and stick with it. 
  2. Find and cultivate various methods to procure ad revenue.
  3. Draw people to your blog by commenting many times and intelligently on other top blog sites. 
There you have it. Good luck! For me, it's like those ads today by real estate firms looking for home owners. They keep showing up homes worth a quarter million or more when roughly half of all Americans earn $34,000 a year or less individually. A ridiculously tall order. Making money with THIS blog???? BWA HA HA! 

Thanks to each and every one of you who do come and read this. You make writing this small time blog worth while.

For additional posts on blogging success, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/07/sloggin-thru-blogging-10000-hours.html and http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/07/sloggin-thru-blogging-top-ten-blog-post.html. If you just can't get enough, search for Sloggin' Thru Blogging on this blog for more posts!

New Research Says: Asteroid Last Straw for Dinosaurs

Research out of the University of Edinburgh suggests that the massive asteroid that slammed into the ocean off Mexico was the very last straw for dinosaurs. It seems the climate was already causing serious difficulty for the guys at the top of the food chain 65 million years back. It seems for some time there had been trouble with Earth's environment. Increased volcanic activity was causing fluctuations in both temperature and water levels. The food chain was seriously stressed with less variety among the species when the mountain fell from the sky.

Seriously stressed already, unable to rely on their environment completely, the dinosaurs were faced with earthquakes, wildfires, tsunamis, sudden temperature swings, other unpredictable environmental spin offs, and dust covering 80% of the planet. It sucked to be a dinosaur just then.

In the end, it was the worst possible timing for the reptile rulers of Earth. It was all too much and extinction was the name of the new game. That of course made room for us, those little tiny mammals always underfoot.

Then again, we should take heed of this new finding. Replace volcanic activity with pollution from the industrial age and the pre-asteroid strike ancient Earth's environment sounds a lot like our own in the twenty-first century. We had better hope there is no asteroid out there ... no large mountain-sized one that is ... with our name on it. It looks like we are set up for the same bad timing, last straw moment as the previous dominant denizens of the planet. In the meantime, we better work hard on fixing the damage we've done just in case that next massive asteroid does happen along. It would be nice if we had one or two extra straws available, don't you think? 

Manly Man's Recipe to Never Shuck Corn on the Cob Again! The Five Minute Response ...


So, manly man, you're ready to show you have cooking mojo and impress your date? Choose sweet corn and this secret method, delivered in manly terms, and success is ensured (or as nearly so as it ever gets in the manly man world where bizarre catastrophe is always possible).

On his show, A Prairie Home Companion, Garrison Keeler described fresh summer sweet corn as better than sex. Gentlemen, I'll leave that up to you to decide, but we here at J.S. Brooks Presents have discovered that some of the more aggravating "foreplay" can be eliminated. Never again do you need to shuck an ear of corn. Presented for your consideration, the no shuck summer corn, written in manly fashion! This lightening fast corn prep and presentation will be sure to impress the love of your life and suggest you have cooking mojo (and mojo suggested can at times like this be as powerful as mojo earned)!

  1. Cook an ear of corn, one at a time, complete with husk and tassels, in the microwave set on high (naturally as manly men take no half measures) for five minutes. The natural moisture will keep it from drying out. Fear not, desiccation and disappointment will not ensue.
  2. Use hot pads or an oven mitt to move the now piping hot ear from microwave to a large, rugged cutting board. Yes, gents, protect those callused hands from the now hot corn. You impress no one with scalded fingers and high pitched screaming coming from the kitchen.
  3. Cut off an inch from the base ... you know ... the end where the stalk was attached. No, not from that pointy end with the scraggly hairs sticking up like the very worst of morning after hair. Use a large and impressive knife to accomplish this feat as, well, it's more fun. A serrated knife works well. Count fingers. Sigh with relief (let no one see this) and move on to be amazing.
  4. Now the amazing thing happens. Take hold (still using protection against heat) of the tasseled end firmly, lock steely gaze on the corn, and gently begin to squeeze the corn ear out the now opened base end onto a large, manly man's platter ready to receive this summer delight (nothing fails to impress like forgetting to have something ready to receive that hot corn and having it roll away, off the table or the counter, and into the ready jaws of your dog waiting under your feet or lurking beneath the table ... where some form of stupidity occurs that further reduces your cooking stature when your best furry friend discovers how hot that corn really is.
  5. When that cooked and delectible ear comes free of the husk, it is entirely or almost entirely silk free and ready to prepare and eat as best you see fit. Show this proudly to your date, spouse, significant other for appropriate accolades. Repeat until enough corn is ready to satisfy! (Keep completed corn warm while cooking the rest.)
It is a wonder, a great time saver, and yes manly man it will make you look like you know what you're doing in the kitchen. 

For complete imagery of the process, see this post: http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-never-shuck-corn-again/


That IS the five minute response!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Faithful People: Listen and Help

One of my seminary professors told us ministers-to-be that God just doesn't need us to defend God. That is not our job. I've been tempted lately to write argumentative posts against some pretty silly notions that have been gaining traction lately (the one aggravating me the most lately assumes children are stupid but I'll say no more), but have been restrained time and again from acting upon that impulse. Who needs another voice saying, buddy, that just ain't so?!

Instead, God reminded me last night of at least one thing I should be doing instead. It is something I have the gifts to do. I was at a banquet with my family. On one occasion, during the dinner, the person next to me asked me what I did for a living. Discovering I am an American Baptist minister--and after a short and reassuring conversation about what that meant--led to a long and interesting discussion in which I listened more than I spoke. We found some great common ground. It was quite nice.

Later, the bartender caught my eye. He looked beat. I went over and talked to him for a while. It was late. The crowd was dispersing. We had an opportunity. I mentioned he looked ready for the night to end. One thing led to another. My career came up again ... but only after I learned some fascinating things about his two careers ... and once again we had a long and rewarding conversation. Reassurance was provided when needed and all was well with the evening.

With all the arguments going around, all the downright weird accusations, all the lines drawn in the sand by angry people on extremes of just about everything, we could use a whole lot less grandstanding from soapboxes and a lot more human discussions one-on-one dealing about our common issues ... and being human, living in a rough and tumble world where life gets hard ... where we often make it harder ... we do suffer many things together, no matter what we do or don't believe. We can find common ground if we take the time to listen. From there, we can do some wonderful things together and with much better understanding. There's no getting rich or famous doing this. There's no making of news. There's no winning of arguments or beating of opponents. But, it is one of the things faithful folk are called to do. It comes under that second great commandment. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Mysterious Radio Bursts from Space, Pingos, and Sixth Extinction ... OH MY!

Ever since I was a teen, I've lived for the stories that rise up out of nowhere, leave you puzzling, and disappear as quickly and strangely as they came. In time you wonder if you ever heard them at all. I have just had that experience once again with two large radio telescopes on planet Earth picking up picking up brief and intensely powerful radio bursts from somewhere out there in deep space. At this point, no one knows what they are. However, having them picked up by two separate radio telescopes knocks out the idea that this is simply a hiccup in the one telescope. The Parkes telescope in Australia and the famous Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico have both picked up this burst. This beats the "Wow" signal picked up back in the day by SETI once and never repeated.

What causes this signal. I almost don't want to know. Right now it's all a tantalizing mystery: it could bd blitzars (bursts from supermassive stars collapsing into black holes ... how freakish is that), powerful solar flares closer to our own solar system, or ... wait for it ... in the scientific literature it has even been floated that this could be "signatures of extraterrestrial civilizations." YES! Now that's mysterious. Linked with NASA's belief that in the next couple of decades we will find Earth-like planets with life on them confirmed in a galaxy we now know is riddled with planets, this is drool-worthy if this kind of thing gets your juices flowing ... so to speak. 

But, don't believe me! Listen for yourself as Joe Palca on NPR explains: http://www.npr.org/2014/07/26/335335653/close-encounters-of-the-radio-kind-mystery-bursts-baffle-astronomers 

Meanwhile, things are getting "holey" in Yamal ("End of the Earth"), a region in subarctic Siberia. Two large and deep holes have been discovered there that look like the end of the Earth in progress. Whatever caused these holes happened from underground and burst upward given the pattern of debris. No UFOs here, no meteors, not old space junk returning home. The two strongest theories right now are global warming related. Either a mix of water, salt and gas is combining explosively or permafrost is eroding to the surface, melting away and leaving massive holes behind as the frozen ground collapses, leaving "pingos," which fits in with cold water, ice and snow being found in the depths of these spooky deep holes in the ground. The area appears to be living up to its name.  Speaking of global warming issues, NASA has reported that the American West is using up deep underground reserves of water at a high rate during their multi-year drought. It is way past time to start taking our part in global warming seriously.

Speaking of which, scientists state they firmly believe we are on the teetering edge of the sixth planetary mass extinction event ... the first one we humans can claim responsibility for. Species are dying off at an alarming rate since we got a real hold on things on old terra firma here. There is a ray of hope here, as with global warming. If we get serious, there is time to divert this planet-wide catastrophe from happening. If we can't make that happen, really, we don't deserve to stay ... or to meet anyone from elsewhere with sentience from another world. As for the brave soul who admitted he refuses to believe in global warming because it would make him feel guilty, I say nevermind the guilt. Let's get on with all we need to do for the fix, for our sake, every species on the planet's sake, and for the sake of the very life of the fragile ecosystem of this planet itself. Things are getting far too interesting to miss out on what's coming next. Let's pull together and make the new astounding, mind boggling discoveries of the next century and beyond. I don't know about you, but I really don't want to see myself growing old in one of those dystopian futures we read so much about and see so much of in sci-fi movies and books.

For additional stories of the weird, see the following posts: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2012/11/our-story-seti-institute.htmlhttp://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2011/07/mystery-lights-rural-cemeterymp4.html, and http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2011/07/communicating-with-aliens-complicated.html

Classic Restos: US Tour - GM Futurliner Ep 7 Part 1 Future Transportation as Envisioned in the 1940s and '50s by GM



First introduced by GM in 1940-41 and used from 1953 to 1956 in a second life after World War II, the vehicle of the future as seen by General Motors was two stories tall, over ten feet long, weighed in at 15 tons, had eight tires, and could only manage 38 mph with its six cylinder engine. (The introduction to this vehicle begins at roughly 1:30 if you want to cut to the chase.) It was used as a portable show for fairs and such, drawing large crowds wherever it went. Taller than the trailers on tractor trailers (or Prime Movers in New Zealand as you'll find out here), this machine was designed to draw attention. Based on the streamlined passenger trains of the period, this shiny, streamlined machine gave a sense of speed it just didn't produce. Still, with the center top of the roof rising up to reveal floodlights and the side panels rising to unveil large displays (like "The Miracles of Hot and Cold" ... which included an early microwave I'm told), it's ability to draw a crowd was tremendous.

A grand total of twelve of these beasts of tomorrow were made, nine of which still exist, and three remain in running order. Enjoy this rare treat, seeing the future that never was rolling down the street!

For more automotive nostalgia, see the following posts: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2011/01/56-nash-metropolitan.htmlhttp://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2011/01/1960-metropolitan-drive-by.htmlhttp://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2011/01/ford-thunderbird-1963.html, and the idea that never quite goes away, the flying car: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2011/07/flying-car-crazy-videoflv.html

For trains of tomorrow, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-train-of-tomorrow-ketc-living-st.html and http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2013/02/turbojet-powered-railways-flight-of.html

Again, I'm glad some of these "things of tomorrow" remained firmly in yesterday!!!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Cheyenne Rodeo

If you've ever wanted to check out a real rodeo, take a look at Jim Slade's blog post on Footloose Footnotes named "Cheyenne." There are some great images and prose there. See: http://jimsnyder309.blogspot.com/2014/07/cheyenne.html?spref=fb

Speaking of Jim Slade, you can also see him discussing his years covering the NASA manned space program as a journalist in CNN's episode of The Sixties entitled "The Space Race." 

INJUSTICE: Poverty Crushes in These United States

Of the 46.5 million Americans living in poverty ($19,090 for a family of 3), women were 32% more likely to live in poverty than men, 16.4 million of the impoverished are children, and over one million of those children are homeless. One of the most pernicious lies about poverty is that any individual wishing to rise out of poverty need only "pull themselves up by their own bootstraps" and "be a self-made man and woman." It does not work that way. Living in poverty means living without support in many different spheres of life at once. It means you do not have social safety nets in place, your education may have been less-than-beneficial given your environment (perhaps you learned as some children do that when gun shots ring out in your neighborhood while you're walking to school that you hide in a trash can until things are quiet again, all the while praying some stray round will not find you among the garbage), you have little support from family, cannot easily access social services because you cannot get to and from appointments in various offices quickly or frequently, and the list goes on. Let's explore how fragile the hope of rising out of poverty is for those who struggle with one simple example.

For the rest of us, losing a license or a photo ID is a mere nuisance. We head down to the DMV, order and pay for a new copy (roughly $30), chide ourselves for our carelessness and the lost couple of hours and move on with our lives. Now, if you are poor and lose that ID, you have a problem. Without it, you can't get a job and get paid. Without pay, you cannot replace the ID. What do you do? You don't have social safety nets, family and friends easily capable of helping out, and you are in a bind. Now, suppose you do get the cash together. You still have to get to and from the DMV, most likely on public transport. Where do you keep your kids while you do all this? Take them with you and pay the extra fares you may or may not have?

Suppose you get the ID, secure the job, and start getting paid. Most likely, you won't be making a huge income, probably something still below the poverty line. After all, half of all the jobs in the US pay less than $34,000 a year ... which really makes the proposition that anyone can succeed who tries look like the crock it is. You are still going to be living one setback away from jobless disaster again. There are states after all where employers have the right to fire employees for no reason at all. Have the bus run late too often, have children get sick and keep you out of work too much, lose your apartment through misfortune, and there you go. You're out of work again and foundering once more.

And our myths of riches for all who work hard for them leave us so ashamed when we struggle that we won't seek help or admit we have trouble. And yet, the statistics say that half of all Americans will experience poverty at some point by age 65.

I know a local food bank for families who suffer from regular food insecurity (that means they go hungry regularly) in an inner suburb of a major city--a place where you would not imagine poverty to be from the looks of the community--that cannot keep the shelves stocked for long. The demand from working folks who can't make ends meet is just too high ... and that's with strict limitations on how many times a month one family can receive assistance from that food bank. I read a story of a small town police chief who is humiliated to admit he has to use his local church's food pantry regularly because on his salary he can't make ends meet. We need to stop feeling humiliated and stop being silent. The injustice of poverty is simply too great to sweep under the increasingly frayed rug (and the U.S. has it good compared to those places around the globe, forgotten struggling places, where roughly 22,000 individuals starve to death daily)!

Poverty is crushing many in these United States (and far more around the world). It is time we put our collective heads together and worked much harder to stem the high and rising tide of suffering in what is supposed to be one of the wealthiest nations in the world. It is long past time we stopped quibbling over everything under the sun that the talking heads on the opinion shows tell us are the new hot issues of our time, that we demand our politicians actually work together to solve problems rather than earning larger paychecks than many in this nation will EVER receive for doing nothing and make the hard compromises needed to push back against poverty and support people who suffer. It is long past time we stop blaming teachers for a system stacked against them based largely on the economics of local neighborhoods and found new ways to distribute funds and resources evenly so all are well educated.  It is time to stop blaming the poor for being poor and time to start rolling up our collective sleeves and ending poverty for the benefit of all of us.

For more depressing and angering statistics about poverty in these United States, see this Bill Moyers post: http://billmoyers.com/2013/05/29/u-s-poverty-by-the-numbers/

Solution: Garmin Cigarette Lighter Charger's Refusal to Charge

The other day, out of the blue, my trusty Garmin charger stopped working properly. It no longer lit up when placed in the cigarette lighter power port ... or its little green charge light would flicker intermittently and die. Repeated insertions would in time get it to work.

Close inspection of the silver tip at the business end of the charger that contacts with the base of the power port led to the discovery of an instruction that turning that silver tip one way would lock it and a quarter turn the other way would unlock it. I tried to unlock quarter turn and ... voila! The power cord worked properly and charged the Garmin.

I have no good explanation for why that locking feature is there. All I can say is that if your charger starts to misbehave as described here, give it a try. You might be pleasantly surprised.

If you can explain the purpose of this lock feature to me, I'd appreciate knowing. Thanks for the help.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

SpaceX's Falcon 9 First Stage Return | ORBCOMM Mission Largely Successful





SpaceX hopes to bring real economy back into their rockets, returning the sections back to Earth for a soft landing on the ground via landing legs. The idea is to reuse each section of the rocket for much greater economy. In this short video, we see two burns of the main engines. The first brings the rocket stage out of orbit and the second "lands" the rocket on its landing legs at very low velocity in the ocean. This second test of concept was deemed a success even though the stage lost integrity as it toppled over sideways into the waves.



With luck there will be a test over land in the near future. If this works, spaceflight takes a big step forward in economy. Here's hoping. Good luck to the whole SpaceX gang.

NO to Fear-based, Authoritarian Organizations

Remember the song "You're So Vain," which includes the verse "You're so vain, you probably think this song is about you"? Okay, when you read this, keep that sentiment in mind. This post in NOT aimed at one particular organization, but at a whole bunch of organizations popping up like weeds all around the globe. This is my declaration of freedom from ALL such organizations, everywhere. 

Here are the key features of organizations I say NO to, will free myself from, and am loath to support, in quick bullet points. Such organizations are: 


  • Founded on fear: fear of any interpretation of reality other than their own, fear of deviation from that particular interpretation and even the knowledge of other interpretations, fear of others, fear of the world, the universe, of ideas ... the list goes on.
  • Driven by authority flowing from that fear: with leaders rarely questioned and their power considered absolute (until they are proved to be human by making mistakes).
  • Living with a "my way or the highway" mindset: often required to keep such fear-based organizations running--particularly if that mindset leads to the belief that others who do not see the world your way are either doomed or stupid.
  • Closed and static systems: loath to change and threatened by new ideas or changing social realities.
  • Relying on a very narrow interpretation of reality: that stubbornly refuses to entertain even the idea there might be other useful interpretations out there generated today that might actually benefit the organization in some way.
  • Are threatened by new discoveries: especially those who react to such discoveries with violence in any form.
  • Denying that humans make mistakes: especially if that organization thinks people who DO make mistakes are evil or mentally deficient or irredeemable. 
  • Denying we live on a fragile world: refusing to take an interest in and care for all who live here (fauna and flora) ... or refusing to help any who live here who do not believe as they believe.
  • Repressive of half the world's population.
  • Defending themselves by rote recitation of circular arguments, especially if those arguments are provided by opinion makers supporting their beliefs, whether those opinion makers work in the broadcast media or in print.
  • Either demanding there is only one meaning and truth as interpreted by its central authority figure(s) or that there are an infinite number of meanings and truths and therefore anything goes, no matter who is injured or dies in the process.
  • Humorless.
  • Demanding of loyalty to interpretation over thought.
  • Prone to conflict and dismissive of social issues.
  • Using "truth" as they see it as a bludgeon.
  • Withdrawing from others who think differently. 
  • Solving problems with violence. 

I'm striving to divest myself of the pernicious impacts such organizations and their often stridently stated beliefs have had in my own life over the decades. I find I have scars myself from run ins with such groups over time ... some quite recent and from opposite extremes. This delineation of the attributes of organizations I choose not to support and declare my freedom from has helped me to pull away from their more toxic teachings. I do admit that some of these organizations do mean well and some of their ideas have merit, once stripped away from their more dangerous teachings. It makes navigating the world a challenge, but a challenge well worth grappling with in my humble opinion. 

I actively work to promote organizations that have what I believe is a positive, healthy outlook on the world, an outlook that replace fear with joy, works with others to protect life in its great diversity on this planet, grapples with ideas as best they can while maintaining core values that promote the above. I'll support leaders who seek to bring out the best in others, accept that we all fail, that we are redeemable, that we can learn from our mistakes, that we can and should compromise, and that we benefit most when we move onward together. I will help those who promote peace, who choose the path of meekness in this life, who want to help those who struggle rather than condemn them, and who are willing to change with the times in necessary ways to remain relevant. 

What do you think? Am I on the right track or completely wrong?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer Vacation Spots to Consider: One Dozen Recommendations






The J.S. Brooks Presents crew will be spending time at Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes, Delaware, this summer. Here are links to some of the best vacation spots in the nation, if you are looking for places to go this year, or any year

For the top ten national parks, check out the National Geographic post: http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/national-parks/top-10-landmarks/

Check out this Fodor's Travel article for the ten best state parks: http://www.fodors.com/news/photos/americas-10-best-state-parks#!1-intro

For the very best in smaller amusement parks, see this blog's article on "trolley parks:" http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2009/06/take-family-to-trolley-park-this-summer.html

We'll turn to Fodor's again for the best of the big "theme parks" in the US: http://www.fodors.com/news/photos/10-best-us-theme-parks-for-2014#!1-intro

In my personal opinion, any park that does not have bumper cars is NOT among the best, as you'll see in my post: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2010/08/bumper-cars-best-family-rides-around.html

If camping is your thing, see the Greatist article: http://greatist.com/fitness/best-camping-united-states

If 26 places to pitch a tent is not enough for you, try this top 100 list from tripleblazehttp://www.tripleblaze.com/best/?s=2

From a recent trip to Philadelphia, I can recommend this city to you as well: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/05/awestruck-in-philadelphia.html

Interesting things happen in New York as well, like Comic Con: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2012/12/adventures-in-new-york-citys-2012-comic.html

Funny things happen in New York, too: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2010/08/funny-thing-happened-in-new-york-city.html

When vacationing with small children, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2012/08/parents-plans-for-happy-vacationing.html

If the vacation you seek is in Disneyland or Disney World, consider this: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2009/10/disneyland-and-disneyworld-still-great.html

To round out this "baker's dozen" vacation recommendations, this is Lewes, Delaware, where Cape Henlopen State Park resides: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2010/08/relaxation-modest-proposal.html

Those should get you started on a proper vacation. If nothing else, these articles will get the ideas flowing and you can take it from there. Just remember, a good vacation doesn't have to bankrupt you and it should not leave you exhausted. If, for example, you go to Washington, D.C., to see the sights, be selective. Pick a couple places you most want to see and spend time there. Do not be like the rank amateurs who dash across the Mall, dragging crying kids after them, trying to take in all the sights in a few days. IT CAN'T BE DONE!!! Give everyone a break and just see what interests you most. For me, I'd include the National Air and Space Museum ... and the Natural History Museum ... but that's just me.

Wherever you go, whatever you do, drive carefully, be safe, have fun, and relax.


Sloggin' Thru Blogging: 10,000 Hours!?

I've set one of my "Google Alerts" searches to seek out articles on blogging success. In some ways, these articles are like the child raising books my wife and I read before the birth of our first kid. The advice varied decade by decade, was often contradictory, and frequently flew in the face of common sense. We carefully set those books aside and moved on. The kids came out fine, thank you very much.

The most recent article states that blogging success comes from a diligent application of hours to the project. With 10,000 hours of blogging under one's belt, one will have made the blogging process routine and with that routine, all that practice, all that verbiage, the practiced blogger will find success through practiced familiarity with the medium. That and check out what wildly successful bloggers do.

Okay, I can understand that. Practice makes perfect and all. But, then there was that bit about blogging every day. That I find extremely difficult as ... well ... how to put it tactfully ... LIFE gets in the way. This comes on the heels of the article stating quality over quantity is the way to go. There's truth in that as well. But, I'm getting that queasy feeling that I'm receiving that wonderful, contradictory advice from the child raising books again.

So, rather than casting it all aside, I'll go for a compromise. Somewhere along the line, some day, I just might get in that 10,000+ hours. I'll strive for quality wherever I can and restrain myself from writing what I believe to be total crap that wastes everyone's time. We shall see. I'm also armed with all those trending topics (blogging advice being among those topics worthy of discussion) so I can keep to hot topic grounds ... if I so choose.

I'll also be keeping it short, which is more advice received ... and probably among the best considering the amount of material blogged each and every day around the globe!

Good luck, fellow bloggers!

Other useful Sloggin' Thru Blogging posts: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/07/sloggin-thru-blogging-top-ten-blog-post.htmlhttp://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/07/sloggin-thru-blogging-quality-over.html, and http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/07/google-alerts-search-for-you.html

Apollo 11 TV Broadcast - Neil Armstrong First Step on Moon

 It was 45 years ago (July 20, 1969) that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the surface of the moon. This was and remains a technological triumph for humanity and says a lot about our inquisitive nature. The politics that led to this moment, the race for arms superiority between the U.S. and Russia, take nothing away from this achievement.

I was nine years old when this event took place. I remember seeing part of it at my Grandmom's house with the family watching. However, 10:39 pm was a little late for this kid. I nodded off before the main event. I remember watching the image of the LM sitting there on the surface of the moon for what seemed like forever for me. It's nice to be able to look back on this event all these years later and better appreciate what a sleepy nine-year-old could not.

I fervently hope I will live long enough to see humans set foot on another celestial body again.

Thanks to everyone involved who made this momentous event possible. You helped us dream of and aspire to more.

For one of my most popular posts on human spaceflight activity, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2010/03/progress-in-manned-space-flight.html

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Power of Friendliness

I stopped in the local convenience store this morning on my way in to church to preach. As I picked up what I needed and got into line at the register, I noticed something surprising. The cashier was a very friendly young man who seemed genuinely pleased to meet you and to do business with you. Each person was met with a smile, a polite greeting, and a friendly attitude.

I have to say, after that service with a smile, I left the store with a bit of a spring in my step. There was the simple power of a friendly smile. There was the power of another individual showing you that you matter.

This friendliness cost the employee absolutely nothing, gained him a far more enjoyable morning, and gifted everyone he met with a lifted spirit with which to face the day. I'll bet that friendly attitude was contagious.

If you see this post, it may also be lifesaving in some instances: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/07/the-power-of-smile-suicide-prevention.html

The Power of a Smile: Suicide Prevention

Your smile could save a life. It's true. Check out the American Journal of Psychiatry article "Just a Smile and a Hello on the Golden Gate Bridge" in the link below. In it you'll discover that the Golden Gate Bridge is a magnet for the suicidal. Very few jumping from the span roughly 220 feet above the high water mark survive. One person who let a note behind said if a single person smiled at him, he wouldn't jump. He jumped.

John Kevin Hines is one of two survivors of the jump since 2000. He stated that if someone had smiled at him and asked if he was alright, he would have abandoned the jumped and pled for that person's help. 

The doctor in the article surmises that the smile and hello tell the person feeling isolated, depressed, and suicidal that they really are a person of worth recognized by someone else. That's a lot of power in a simple friendly greeting. 

In my faith as a Christian, one of the greatest commandments in the Bible is to love our neighbors as ourselves ... and our neighbors are everyone on this world of ours. In another passage, we are told  (Matthew 5:15-16) No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others ...


I say, love those neighbors, let that light shine, smile, say hello, and perhaps save lives. It's so very simple, isn't it? It's hard to believe it would work. And yet, what do you lose in trying? Nothing. What do you gain? You may never know, but you just may save a few lives. You may improve a few days filled with darkness. You may buoy a troubled soul and remind that person the world is not so bad. That person may smile at another, with the same impact. It might just spread to many people in many places. The light will shine and it will spread. Is that worth stretching a few muscles and adding a friendly greeting? Is it worth following the still, small voice inside you that says from time to time, this is a person who needs you. Smile and say hello. I'd recommend following that voice. It sure beats the alternative, having yet another person succumb to the terminal phase of a long struggle ... suicide.

To read the compelling article, see: http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?articleID=98321



Saturday, July 19, 2014

Sloggin' Thru Blogging: Top Blog Post Topics


Here are the top ten blog topics right now for all you eager bloggers out there, according to WP Virtuoso


  1. Music: top of the charts!
  2. Fashion
  3. Car
  4. Real Estate
  5. Beauty
  6. Travel
  7. Design
  8. Food 
  9. Wedding 
  10. Movie
I've posted periodically on two of the top ten. The rest, well, I just don't care much about them. Topics of interest for me appear much farther down on this list, providing far fewer hits. That could explain a lot. 

However, Upworthy has a different spin on things more favorable to me, with the top three topics of highest importance for 2014: 

  1. Climate Change and Clean Energy
  2. Income Inequality and Poverty
  3. Human Rights
Now those are issues I can sink my blogger teeth into. 

Still, Search Engine Journal takes a different spin altogether. Their top nine popular posts include: 

  1. Blog Lists: Posts like this one of lists of things people are interested in are interesting to people! Huzzah, I got one right! 
  2. How-To Posts: Yeah, how to turn off that blasted "Maintenance Required" light on the Toyota Yaris is a big hit for me!
  3. Reviews & Recommendations: Restaurant, book, and movie have all worked for me.
  4. World Events
  5. Blogging Tips: Hmmm, maybe I'm just writing those wrong!?
  6. See What Top Blogs Are Writing About
  7. Link Roundups: Links to great blogs with terrific posts ... to see more on this subject, go to: http://www.searchenginejournal.com/find-great-topics-write-blogging/81831/
  8. Interviews
  9. Google Trends
To sum up, the posts that I've done that are popular fall into either Upworthy's or Search Engine Journal's lists. I'm almost entirely out of luck if you stick with WP Virtuoso.  

According to my blog's history, the best topics include, in order of popularity: 

  1. How-To Posts
  2. Space Flight
  3. Reviews & Recommendations 
  4. Flight (Flying the Goodyear Blimp)
  5. Guest Written Posts
  6. Politics
  7. Health
  8. History
  9. Careers
  10. Blogging Tips
What are your top ten, based on experience? 

Celebrating 1300 Posts with the Best Posts of the Month

As I always say, writers, celebrate your small victories as they come. Through dogged and perhaps foolish persistence, I have reached another milestone, 1300 blog posts. That's far more than I ever imagined when I started on this little adventure. The blog's purpose has morphed over time. High hopes have been tempered, subject matter adjusted, and methodology changed. To mark this milestone, here are the top ten blog posts of the past month--well, the past 30 days as we're only part way through the month at the time this was written: 

I Want to be Ebenezer Scrooge: "I Want to be Ebenezer Scrooge."

Turning Off the Toyota Yaris Maintenance Required Light: Turning Off the 2009 Toyota Yaris

New Career, New Challenges: Emotional Baggage: New Career, New Challenges: Emo

Google Alerts Searches for You: Google Alerts Search for You

Toyota Yaris: Finding Your Jack and Tire Pressure Information: Toyota Yaris: Finding Your Jack and 

Stress Relief Through Old Favorite Book Genre: Stress Relief Through Old Favorite

Space to Ground: 5000 and Counting: Space to Ground: 5,000 and Counting:

Refusing to Let Bullies Win: Refusing to Let Bullies Win

Ridding Your Computer of the Unwanted Outfox TV Program: Ridding Your Computer of the Unwanted
and finally ...

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

Sloggin' Thru Blogging: Quality over Quantity

Using Google Alerts, I put in a search for what makes for high quality blogs. The first article I read went against the common wisdom of yore. When I was starting, the advice was to write daily, more than once a day if you could manage. That way the search engines would find you more often and your readership would grow.

The recent article said, "Hold on there cowboy or cowgirl. Rein in the verbiage. Make sure the product has quality." The writer stated the search engines are getting more sophisticated and can differentiate junk from real quality product in a variety of ways. So now, when you write, pick topics of interest and write well about them. Then your blog will grow with readership that really wants what you have to say and will come back again to catch up with you knowing you'll provide quality reading every time you post.

The blogging world just keeps on changing.

Good luck. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Google Alerts Search for You

Bloggers are always looking for new material. So are all the rest of us, on a lot of topics, for many different reasons. One way to stay on top of things is to use the Google Alerts service to keep you up to the moment on certain topics ... or even job opportunities.

Go to: http://www.google.com/alerts fill in the search query line with the information your searching for, adjust the other fields to meet your needs (result type, language, region, how often, how many, and deliver to email address). Once these are set, you're set. You can manage your searches over time as well, adding new searches, dropping old ones, editing those you need to hear more from.

This service could be used to keep track of how often and by whom your blog is mentioned, you are mentioned, where specific jobs are being sought, what the most recent stories in a particular field are. Authors with thick enough skins could keep track of their books to see what reviewers and others have to say. Bloggers might find it a way to link up with other bloggers with similar interests. The possibilities go one, limited largely by your own creativity.

Monday, July 14, 2014

New Career, New Challenges: Emotional Baggage

Here I am, in the new career I've trained long and hard for, worked through a Master's degree program and much testing to obtain, and ... I found myself seriously worried. I was all wound up that I was not doing everything exactly right and not accomplishing nearly as much as I had hoped. That was five months into the job. I was told by those in the know on the job that I needed to stop being so hard on myself. They were wondering why this was the case ... and basically I thought it through and explained it to them on the spot. It was an epiphany for me and I'll pass it along to you in case you are suffering from the same.

I was bringing a lot of emotional baggage from my previous two careers. In both careers, mistakes could have some really disastrous impacts on those who made them and the firm's future efforts. In the first career, future contracts with other clients could be damaged if the failure was large enough. Your standing in the community could take a hit as well, along with your potential career path.

In the second career, mistakes that were serious enough could lead to legal action. There was a lot of pressure on you to make sure what you did was right, and that what the people you worked with and shepherded through a complex process was correct. It fell on you to be very concerned about the outcome, whether the person you were working with appreciated the magnitude of the potential issue or not.

Needless to say, this led to some very stressful moments in two careers. I realized I was carrying those expectations and all the emotional baggage I had developed related to those expectations along into this new career, where expectations were different ... quite different.

I am working hard right now to drop that baggage. I want to uncurl my clenched hands and drop the handles, leaving all that debris where it lies. I imagine there will be a lot of freedom to that and, with that baggage dropped, an ability to move forward more creatively. It will be easier to commit to new projects, new pathways, new expectations, when not in a defensive crouch wary of pitfalls that no longer apply. 

It was quite an epiphany, a great moment, and I thank those I work with for making it possible. 

Wishing you such moments of enlightenment as you move forward in your career. Let the baggage fall and move forward with a new spring in your step.

For more posts on the new career, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/05/new-career-new-challenges-dealing-with.htmlhttp://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/05/new-career-new-challenges-partial.htmlhttp://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/03/managing-your-new-job-month-one.html, and http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/07/stress-relief-through-old-favorite-book.html

Space to Ground: 5,000 and Counting: 7/11/14





A NASA roundup of news about the International Space Station. including the milestone passed of 5,000 consecutive days of space science conducted since the first ISS mission began with a significantly smaller station. It's a momentous occasion with a lot more days to come.

Refusing to Let Bullies Win

Here is a terrific story of Carleigh O'Connell creatively facing down bullying. She is a 14 year old. Someone attempted to shame her body, humiliating and hurting her publicly. Carleigh decided to go a different direction with this ... and the response has been wonderful (except amongst the comment trolls ... which of course is to be expected and ignored or dealt with creatively as this is another form of clueless bullying).

For the story, see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/08/carleigh-oconnell-graffiti_n_5567875.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular

What useful methods have you found to resist the toxic effects of bullying?

For a related post, offering encouragement to those feeling bullied and depressed, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2010/10/bullied-depressed-desperate-please-read.html