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

Sunday, July 26, 2015

NASA’s Kepler Mission Discovers Bigger, Older Cousin to Earth

Here it is, Kepler 452b, our larger, older cousin, 60% larger than ours, with double our gravity, and estimated to be 6 million years old. This planet would show a lot about our own world as it continues to evolve. Settled well in its habitable zone, this planet (believed to be rocky in composition) is a great candidate for life. Having had more time for evolution to work, this planet's life could be quite complex. This is very exciting news and NASA now believes the number of potential earth-like planets in our own galaxy is huge.

Fire up the warp drive, jump to hyperspace, we've got places to explore, to boldly go, seeking out new life and new civilizations.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Another Earth? Suspense Over Noon NASA News Conference

The first extra-solar planet was discovered in 1995. It is hard to remember when we did not know if there were other planets in the galaxy, but I grew up in that time. The pessimists felt our solar system was unique. Today, we know that is patently untrue. However, there is a holy grail of planet hunting: finding another earth. Today's announcement at noon EDT ... well, this may be a huge moment in history. We shall see.

For the announcement from NASA of upcoming coverage, see:

I'll be listening. How about you?

For the announcement that came (in part), see:

Monday, July 20, 2015

Arguments I Won't Read

Looking through my various news feeds, I have come to a decision. I will no longer waste time reading articles that begin with personal attacks on other people and groups. Name calling will be an immediate red flag for me that an article is not worth my time. As a reporter added a while back, anyone who brings the Nazis into an argument (accusing someone of acting like one) has lost the battle too.

The name calling tactic, which has become increasingly popular in adult circles (although it should have been abandoned when we left the elementary school playground behind), is used to both distract from facts (which may be few and far between) and to bludgeon a civilized opponent into shocked silence. This is nothing new. Socrates wrote long ago: "When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser." These days, however, many don't wait until they have lost and jump straight into slander as an opening gambit.

This tactic also flies in the face of several of the finer points of conducting a solid, civil argument in which either side might learn something new and see something from a different perspective. The most basic is that this tactic frequently hides the fact that the person launching this aggressive "offensive" is short on, well, facts. Also, in a civil argument, each side comes into the encounter admitting that there is a possibility they could be wrong on the matter and might have their minds changed. Additionally, in a good argument each party attempt to befriend the other so no harm is done. Finally, each side dedicates him or herself to listening to the other actively, taking in what that person has to say, and then responding with reason, fact by fact, perhaps even with questions. The idea is not to belittle the other person, slander them into silence, or anger them into violence, but to engage in an active discussion, fact for fact, detail for detail, and see if someone's mind is change and common ground is established.

I think I'll apply the same rule to any article that begins with gross generalizations tarring whole groups with undeserved accusations that do not fit the people/group as a whole. Most of all, I'll try to apply this standard to my own writing. We'll see where that goes.

Here's to a revival of civil argument leading to deep thinking and perhaps changed minds ... and new friendships. All of that has to beat the present alternative, I would imagine

For an article on arguments, see:

The Prophet Ezekiel Spoke to a Leadership Problem Relevant Today

During research for a recent sermon, I came across the prophet Ezekiel speaking out against the leadership of Israel. It speaks of God's complaint against those who were supposed to be taking care of their people, but were instead feathering their own nests. It reads, in Ezekiel 34:1-6: 

The word of the Lord came to me: 2Mortal, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel: prophesy, and say to them—to the shepherds: Thus says the Lord God: Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. 4You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them. 5So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and scattered, they became food for all the wild animals. 6My sheep were scattered, they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill; my sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with no one to search or seek for them.

This was written around the early 570s B.C., but speaks to the problems we are having with leaders equally well in the twenty-first century. In fact, I would suggest we have here a standard to hold our leaders to as we head into the next presidential election season. We can ask ourselves which leaders are meeting the high standards of strengthening the weak, healing the sick, binding up the injured, bringing back the strays, seeking the lost, and foregoing the uses of harshness and force to get their way. Who among our future leaders are more concerned with drawing us together as a united people oriented toward love, hope, peace, and justice? Who would divide us that we might fall prey to the many voracious predators out there waiting for us? 

It seems like a valuable standard for comparison to me.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Jurassic Park Artifact From Winning Cereal Box

I came across this artifact of an earlier age ... an artifact of the last millennium, when dinosaurs returned to the earth for the first time in the 1990s with Jurassic Park. The movie was out, our son was much younger than today. It was early in the morning. We were both having cereal for breakfast. I opened the box of his cereal, bleary-eyed as usual ... and the box roared at me. It was a T-Rex roar, not yet familiar to me from the movie, but very familiar to this little boy. The box roared again ... and again ... and our son went nuts. "We won!" he yelled. "We won!!!"

All I could think of at that early hour was how to make the blasted box shut up. It was too early for this nonsense. And won what?! I slapped the box lid shut and the roaring ceased, for which I was grateful. Our son did not stop jumping around excitedly however. Now, for the first time, I really looked at that box. Sure enough, on the cereal box it said, if it roared, we had won prizes. And we did. A Jurassic Park drink cup with a T-Rex head on top, walkie-talkies, a backpack, I believe a flashlight with the movie logo on it, and who knows what else.

We'd won. The stuff came. All of it is gone now, I believe, except this weird little souvenir pulled out of that cereal box. If you lower the paper away from the light sensor that thing still has enough charge to roar faintly, which surprised me no end when it resurfaced from a end table drawer.

Thanks for the memories, little roaring box. No shut up and go back to sleep. This was a strange thing to find so soon after seeing the most recent iteration of Jurassic Park at the movies.

Here's to the memories. I hope you stumble across some fossil of an earlier age soon and it brings back sweet memories for you too.

Animated Flyover of Pluto’s Icy Mountain and Plains

With the New Horizons successful Pluto flyby, NASA has
completed a goal established in the 1960s: to visit all of the
worlds in our solar system. Kudos NASA. Image Courtesy of NASA
Early returned images from NASA show close ups of Pluto's ice mountains standing 11,000 feet high and the icy plains in the "heart of Pluto." This is early imagery. There is a great deal more to come well into 2016 as New Horizons slowly transmits back all the data it collected in its 36,000+ mph flyby of this tiny world and its moons. Rumor has it New Horizons will now head on to two additional Kuiper Belt objects before she is through.

For the previous closest image of Pluto (note a marked difference), see:

Batman 75th Anniversary Stamps Even Better: Kudos USPS!

For some reason, while admiring the USPS 75th anniversary Batman stamps I received as a Father's Day gift, I never turned the stamp sheet over to the back. On the reverse side is a wonderful, succinct history of the origins of the Batman, along with a description of which stamps come from which age (Modern, Bronze, Silver, and Gold).

Kudos once again to the USPS. What a wonderful set! Enjoy ...

For the previous post, see:

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Why Do We Fall Silent in the Face of Angry Rhetoric?

I am going to be exploring this issue for a while. I was bothered yesterday while on Facebook. A friend posted a very angry message filled with rhetoric ... and on reflection, many false comparisons so far off base it wasn't even apples and oranges but apples and maybe potatoes. Instead of responding in some way, I quietly clicked on "I don't want to see this" and moved on, whistling past that particular graveyard.

My response bothered me. Why is it that angry rhetoric and name calling tends to drive many people of good will and good intentions into a defensive silence when a rational response would seem to be a healthier response for all involved?

I ran across an article that helped with the whole issue of what is anger. Anger is often a handy substitute for actual pain being felt. Rather than feeling hurt and vulnerable, a person can switch to anger and hide behind a self-righteous demand for justice against the one who caused the pain. From this, I gather many on social media are hurting ... badly. (Of course, others are just trolling anonymously for the cheap thrill of it, I get that.) One response could be to begin with, I'm sorry you are feeling so badly hurt. Would you like to talk about it? See the article at:

For an explanation of angry rhetoric, see this Psychology Today article: It begins to look like calming fears and seeking underlying hurts may be the positive response we can offer instead of shy silence. It's worth consideration.

A call against silence by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is motivational:

From Psychology Today, the other side of the story with 8 times when keeping silent is beneficial (and in some cases would eliminate the angry rhetoric):

For a little exploration of rhetoric itself and how non-angry rhetoric might be used, see:

Obviously, there is a lot more ground to cover. I'll return to this later.

Wishing you all peace. Hoping you are not hurting or fearful.

Getting Rid of Pop Up Window Blocking Use of iPad's Safari Search Engine

I was conducting a little research yesterday on my iPad's Safari search engine. Suddenly up comes a pop up screen, graying out all else on Safari and refusing to go away. It was from "" and wanted me to click Ok (the only button that appeared as if it would work on Safari at that moment) to collect my "prize" (a brand new iPad ... for free ... lucky me ... HA!). 

So, I went to my computer and conducted some hasty research there on how to make this evil phishing expedition go away and return my iPad to me (no turning off the iPad makes no difference). 

Here is what you do: 

  1. Don't panic!
  2. Get out of Safari
  3. Go to Settings
  4. Select Safari 
  5. Select Clear History (affirm you want to do this if asked)
  6. Select Clear Cookies and Data (ditto)
Congratulations, you iPad's Safari is yours again. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Darned Creepy Balloon!

Bil Lepp at the Jonesborough, TN,
storytelling festival
Storyteller Bil Lepp (and five time winner of the West Virginia State Liar's Contest) tells of being scared witless forgetting a child's balloon(s) left in the back of his car. That night, unsuspecting, he would get back in the car to head off for the store and jump when there was "someone" else in the car with him when he looked in the rear mirror. Darned creepy balloon!

In the education wing of our church, the day after our End of the School Year Bash, at which we had numerous balloons, I got a start when rounding the corner. There was a grinning yellow smiley face at eye level "standing" before me. The balloon in question had lost some of its helium and had lowered to head height. It appeared to be "standing" on its string, with the bottom end of that string curled on the ground like some single foot. Darned creepy balloon!

Do you have a story of a darned creepy balloon to share? Let me know.

In the meantime, here's one I found on reddit from a couple years ago:

I say it again ... darned creepy balloon!!!

South Carolina State Rep. Jenny Horne on Removing Confederate Flag (C-SPAN)

Bravo, Representative Jenny Horne. May we all be so bold speaking out against injustice!

For another example where "heritage" and "tradition" needs to make way for modern times and justice, see: After all, Dan Snyder, if South Carolina can change, so can you! I'd love to watch the team I grew up with again, but not until ...

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Celebrating 1475 Posts

Once again, it is time to take a moment and appreciate the little things. Since May of 2010, I have created 1475 posts on a variety of topics. The blog itself has morphed from one form to another. Some of the posts have proven useful to me since. I have found this to be more worthwhile (although not for the purpose originally intended) than I ever imagined. It has been a useful tool to develop my thoughts along certain lines and embolden me in speaking out after posting on those same subjects.

Over those five years and 1475 posts, much in the life of myself and my family has changed. Some of that is chronicled here in these pages.

Thank you to all who have read these posts. At this point, I have no intention of quitting. Who knows what the next five years will bring?

My best to you all. See you in the posts to come. 

Closest Image of Pluto Yet!

Image of Pluto
Courtesy of NASA
After nine years of travel, faster than any other spacecraft has ever moved, the New Horizon spacecraft rewarded its human creators on July 8 with the closest image ever taken of that far away world, Pluto. This is a historic moment, but the first of many to come in the next six days. The image was taken by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager. Closest approach comes on July 14 with many more observations to come. What will be revealed? Only time will tell. But this image suggests we're closing in on the heart of the matter!

How to Mix Gas and Oil for Weed Eater: Tips from Sears Home Services

It never ceases to amaze me what you can find on YouTube. I was recently given a used gas powered weed eater without its instruction manual. This bit about mixing gas and oil was the mystery to me. If you find it a mystery too, J.S. Brooks Presents is happy to help. Otherwise, I'll just refer back to this myself when the time comes to fire up that machine.

Telling Your Story, Encouraging Others

We live in a world of masks and pretenses. We put on our public face every time we head out the door and into the world. We are so good at it no one knows who much we have struggled. No one knows how much we are struggling. Many people suffer needlessly feeling they are alone in their pain or their challenges in life. Everyone else all around them seems to have their act all together. The operative word there is "seems." It just isn't true. People need to know that.

We have to find safe spaces with safe communities where we can share our challenges with others. We have to be willing to tells others the adversities we have been through and survived (all of this is within reason of course ... don't reveal those things so personal they will do you harm ... use the gauge of what would I willingly tell a stranger while waiting for the bus). I recently had the opportunity to present the case of a child who struggled in school due to eye troubles at an early age. It was something that took more than glasses to cure. It was a two year process followed by years of catch up. That child always felt a little behind with a slow reading rate. But, his retention rate was high, understanding strong, and eventually he went on to be an editor, author and more himself. I asked them to remember this child when they were struggling and be encouraged. I saved the bit about it being me for last. Many people were both surprised and encouraged. I wear my masks well too, you see.

Part of telling your story well is remembering it. A storyteller who uses his own life story as his subject matter told me we all remember far more than we think we do from those earlier years. The trick is to start writing about a period in your life you wish to remember better. Start with a place (home, school, etc.) from that period and put down all the details you can remember. Move on to people and situations. He assures me the details will come, more of them than you thought possible. Use those stories to remind others we are all part of the human family, we have much more in common than we imagine, and we are all in this together.

Good luck. Oh, by the way, you may never know who you help or how much. Don't worry about that. Just keep telling your stories when appropriate and forget about the results. Just do good.

Saying "No" and Taking Care

I have this week off from work. My job is very intense, filled with many obligations to others under circumstances that change regularly. It would be very easy to be completely absorbed in this work, to the point where I lose myself in the job. That would be a terrible mistake. It would lead to quick burnout. I knew I was in danger my first day off when I started to feel panicky about what might not be getting done while I was gone. What a red flag that moment was!

We all have to learn when to say no. There are demands and requests made that (through no fault of the person making them) are beyond the bounds of what each of us should do. We have to learn to politely say no when these requests come up. If we do not, our regular work does not get done, what we manage to complete is not done as well as it would be if we were able to focus on it, and many projects will utterly fail. In saying no, there are times when we can encourage an individual to do the work themselves or recommend someone who is able to do it and for whom it is a better fit with their job description.

We have to learn to say no to our machinery as well. We are becoming way too much like Star Trek: The Next Generation's Borg, integrating machines too far into our lives and letting them run us instead of us running them. A perfect example of this occurred recently. An audience member attending the Broadway play Hand to God clambered up onto the stage before the play and plugged in a cell phone to the stage set electrical outlet (a prop mind you). That is being way too dependent on the phone. I suppose it peeped that it was low on power and the owner slavishly sought to remedy the phone's problem rather than going without it for several hours (as should have been done anyway ... come on, you're at a Broadway play) during the performance and until arriving at some appropriate charging place ... like home. For more on this incident, see:

Finally, I've noticed I've been so busy lately I have not done some of the things I truly enjoy in the off time I do have. I'm going to be getting back to those hobbies now. I'm going to end this slippery slide to burnout before it is too late.

Watch out, that busy schedule is addictive. It makes you feel important and in charge ... until it nearly kills you. Take care, my friends.

The Year of Pluto - New Horizons Documentary Brings Humanity Closer to t...

We are only days away from NASA's New Horizon robot flying by Pluto. It is an impressive story. That fast moving little spaceship gave us all a little extra excitement on July 4th when that spacecraft declared temporary independence from operations. Turns out multitasking isn't all that great for spacecraft either. But, she's back on track and ready for a historic close encounter. If you weren't around for the Voyager flybys, this is something for the history books. Enjoy!

For the most recent information (as of this writing and pre-flyby), see:

Good luck to all the men and women who are making this historic event happen.

To learn how Pluto could have an atmosphere, see Pluto in a Minute at:

For an early photo of Pluto from July 8, see:

SpaceX Loss of Falcon 9 Rocket a Serious Setback

Falcon 9. Photo courtesy of SpaceX
On June 28, 2015, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket lifting an unmanned Dragon capsule full of supplies and new equipment to the International Space Station exploded after the first stage separated. It is a serious setback for a company that was running with the commercial partnership with NASA. Here is what SpaceX was saying at the time of this writing:

The reaction by Erin Sharoni, writing an opinion piece for Time is typical: The disappointment and worry are there, they are appropriate, but the big picture has to continue to be considered. Spaceflight is extremely difficult. Our worst disasters have occurred when we have felt otherwise, conning ourselves into believing it has become routine and the sci-fi future has arrived. If ever space travel is to become routine, that day is a very long way off ... although not taken further away by this mishap. We build on these mistakes. We learn from then and design new and better equipment. We can be grateful that no one died in this explosion.

Here's hoping the men and women of SpaceX bounce back soon, providing a better Falcon 9 for the future when this particular fault is corrected.

One final word: a major news network put out a one minute thirty-six second report shortly after the explosion that showed a disturbing lack of understanding on the part of the reporter. I will not name the network. Instead, may all reporters and editors learn a little something in the limited time you have on the subjects you cover. Never again do I want to see someone equate that explosion on liftoff with explosions of first stages attempting a new and experimental landing technique. They are in no way the same thing and should never be link. That was not the only error in that short clip. As someone who grew up with a parent who covered science news for a living, I know what I'm talking about. There is a lot of material provided before a launch. At least review it before you speak so you don't come off sounding so incredibly ignorant.

Buzz Aldrin weighed in on this explosion as well, and what he has to say is worth a look:

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Certain Pop Culture Heroes Appealing to Aging Boomer: T-800, Batman, ...

After seeing Terminator Genisys, which I recommend for summer fun ... although the reception has not been all that warm, there is a certain catch phrase Arnold uses (not the oft repeated, "I'll be back") that this Boomer can really appreciate. Glaring with robotic determination, the aging T-800 repeats several times throughout the film, "I'm old but I'm not obsolete." I'm not old ... yet (being from near the tail end of the Boom)... but aging and can appreciate the sentiment. I think a number of us, who remember seeing that first terminator movie in 1984 in the theaters, would agree with that sentiment. I hope aging actresses will be given the same opportunity to play aging characters in increasing numbers as well, by the way.

The last time some piece of pop culture resonated with me this way was when I discovered (long after its 1986 introduction) Batman: The Dark Knight Returns in which a Bruce Wayne returns to crime fighting as an aging Caped Crusader in his 50s. He snarls at himself repeatedly "Lucky old man" and grumbles about the increased challenges of the job with age. I also appreciate him having to depend more on wit than strength.   

I imagine I'll have a similar appreciation for the original cast returning in Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens this December. I'm looking forward to finding out. Yeah, I saw Episode IV on the big screen in D.C. when it came out in 1977 too. Changed my whole view of sci-fi movies right then and there. To see the second trailer for Star Wars VII, see: You'll see and hear a couple of the originals there. 

Well, gotta run. But ... of course ... "I'll be back."