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, October 19, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens New Trailer

During the half time of the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants football game (which the Eagles were leading 17 to 7 at the half) on October 19, 2015, J.J. Abrams and crew first released the next Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer. The official poster, released just a little before that, has no image of Luke Skywalker. There is scant presence of him in this trailer either. Make of that what you will. Mostly, just enjoy this tease as we all wait with growing anticipation for this next Star Wars installment.

If you want to read a little more along with this final trailer for the movie, see:

Surprise! Rose of Late Fall

On a weekend where areas of New England had significant snowfall, it was a pleasant surprise to have a last hurrah from one of our rose bushes. One last perfect bloom before the cold winter sets in completely. For all of you who live in cold weather climates who are battening down the hatches in preparation for winter, this one is for you. Enjoy this last, lush surprise and the promise it holds for next spring. 

Take care and keep warm! 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Soapbox: Misinterpretation of the Second Amendment and Magic Phrases

One of the most corrosive misinterpretations of Scripture is known as prosperity gospel. If you believe in a particular way, God will bestow wealth and good fortune upon you. Conversely, if you suffer it is because you are a great sinner and a terrible person. Believe correctly and you'll live on easy street. This is patently false, as the Bible will tell you over and over again throughout both testaments.

Chicago's Archbishop Blaise Cupich argues against the current corrosive misinterpretation of the Second Amendment, see:  As for what the Second Amendment did and did not do, see: This balancing act between Federalists and Anti-Federalists led to this document, for good and for ill. In the modern interpretation, the first thirteen words are eliminated entirely. The idea of balance is tossed. Instead, this misbegotten idea that we will all be safe only if we are all armed to the teeth has grown up (a wonderful way to sell guns and ammo, kudos on that manufacturers). Open carry white folks walk through airports in some states armed with semi-automatic weaponry ... and walk out unscathed while a black man in a toy store holding a squirt gun is shot dead. The current state of affairs led Georgia to allow firearms in bars ... which led to the easily seen result of drunks in gun fights. Instead of the land of the free and the home of the brave, many in the US are now the terrorized in the home of the exceedingly violent. Internationally, it has been proposed that travel outside the US be restricted until we get our house in order.

In the midst of it all, I see a repellent trend recurring. Back in the George W. Bush years, you could not raise a valid complaint about any governmental program without adding "Of course, I support our troops." It was a phrase designed to tell others you were still an American, despite having a complaint. Today, we have come around to that again, "Of course, I support the Second Amendment" before you can say word one about trying to keep children from being shot in schools! But NO, I do not support the Second Amendment as it is currently interpreted. I do not support a strange and twisted view of Old West American history in which every person carried a six gun on hip, ready to deal out frontier justice as seen fit. That mentality leads to vigilante justice in store parking lots, firing at shoplifters in a crowded lot. That line of thought leads to pre-teens shooting little girls who won't let them see a puppy.

Worse that that lip service to a twisted interpretation is the venomous response to those who stand up against that interpretation. The acidic name calling (which should have been left behind on the grade school playground in reality), the dark aspersions against someone's character, the questioning of a person's intelligence, allegiance, religious background, and country of origin are loathsome in the extreme ... and are seen as much a part of regular discourse as shootings in public places have become.

Look, I don't really care which side of this divide you fall on. What I care about is that innocent people are dying with alarming regularity in the US, in greater numbers than any advanced nation not currently involved in a devastating war (or civil war). In the end, I want what it will take to bring the death toll from gun violence down, way, way down. NO, I will not use any magic phrases to make this go down easier. I will not say, "I don't want to take away your guns." NO, I will not say, "Gun don't kill people. People do." No, I won't say any of the other things people say to defend themselves and their positions these days in weird attempts at self defense or balm against each other. Right now, far too many people who should never have them are enabled by guns to do what they could not so easily do without them ... murder people. I want it to stop, NOW. That is my bottom line. The killing must stop. To make it stop, good people from both sides of this divide (YES there are good people on all sides of this debate who DO NOT DESERVE THE SMEAR CAMPAIGNS RAINED DOWN UPON THEM WHEN THEY SPEAK UP OUT OF HONEST CONCERN) to get their heads together, use their brains as God intended, and come up with actual solutions to real problems. I want people to stop dying violently at the hands of weaklings empowered by guns. It is a plain and simple thing to which there is no plain and simple solution. However, railing against each other, blaming each other, accusing each other of asinine and illogical things while digging ourselves ever deeper into trenches of our own positions that are looking every day more like our own graves and the graves of a great civilization will NEVER get the job done. The current approach will only get more people killed and more weapons sold to those who are incompetent to use them. It is time to act like grown ups, roll up our sleeves, and get down to the hard work of seeking a real COMPROMISE solution to a misinterpretation of a compromise amendment that has opened us up to a world of hurt, a world of violent death, and deep, dangerous division fueled by the misguided idea that anyone who does not agree with me completely is my sworn enemy. That isn't true either. That's an idea we need to put behind us if we are ever to solve this crisis. We claim to be a moral nation. It is long past time we acted like one.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Public Speaking: Freedom From the Fully Written Text

If you have long been wed to a fully written manuscript for public speaking, let me suggest an alternative. No matter how well rehearsed you are, no matter how well you read, working from a fully written text (even perfectly polished) sounds ... well ... read.

I suggest to you being bold enough to venture out into the world of the bullet point text reminders instead. Here's how it works for those who have spent years writing everything out.

Take a deep breath, be calm, much will be the same.

Begin with your note taking as usual.

Create you outline. Place your notes in order throughout your outline.

Now, take the leap of faith you have probably considered before.

Instead of writing out your manuscript as usual from your organized notes, commit to creating just a few pages of bullet points instead.

When you have committed to moving forward with the bullet points, you'll quickly realize you are going for a more lively story telling method of delivery. This will change how you think about organizing your material and what to include. You'll probably lean toward more emotive material that is easier to remember and deliver and jettison a lot of intriguing but tedious (and difficult to remember) details that give your delivery an academic feel.

It is very important that you DO NOT write out that manuscript, AT ALL. It will only paralyze you later when you desperately try to remember all those beautiful transitions and pretty turns of phrases. You do not need them! Your more natural delivery will carry the day.

Give yourself enough information with each bullet to remind you where you are going at each step in your presentation.

Avoid complete sentences to avoid the temptation to read.

When you are finished with the bullet points, if you discover you have created too many pages beyond what you planned for, brutally edit down what you have written. Root out those full sentences that have crept in.

What you will discover is that you are now liberated. You have more time to practice as you've cut down on hours of writing time. You will be looking up at your audience far more often and they will find you more engaged with them and more interesting to listen to. You will actually enjoy yourself far more as you will be telling stories instead of reciting what you have written. You'll quickly discover that your delivery will be more creative and as you work on practicing you may well discover narrative threads and images that connect throughout the text that you did not realize were present all along and you will emphasize those, much to your own delight and the enjoyment of your audience.

If you are held back by the fear that you will forget some detail or other, remember YOU and only YOU know what you intend to say. If you jettison some small detail or other by accident, only you will ever know (provided you don't tell anyone ... i.e., don't be a blabbermouth about that). You can do this. You should do it. It is liberating the very first time you do it. You may even discover that your body gets more involved in the story telling than it ever has before. That shows you the new level of engagement you have achieved. I cannot encourage you enough to make this move.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Does Kepler Discover Massive Alien Construct???

Photo Courtesy of NASA
Every once in a while a story comes down the line that just piques the imagination like no other.

Among the many stars the Kepler space telescope has studied is a star like no other so far observed. The light dimming with a transit that marks a planet passing in front of its host star is usually very regular as planets are basically round objects. However, it has long been hypothesized that an alien civilization sufficiently advanced could make large structures (such as sunlight harvesting platforms of immense size as an example) that would create an irregular dimming of light as it passed in front of its parent star.

Such an irregular dimming has been discovered. Natural explanations are being sought (of course). Perhaps a cluster of comets pulled by the gravity of a nearby star has drifted across the star. It has been suggested that this may be the answer. Then again, it may not. Time will tell. I'm rooting for advanced aliens. That would be so much more interesting, don't you think.

To read more, try: or

Live long and prosper ... as the aliens say.

To see what the SETI Institute is doing in response to this news, see:

Fall Beauty Intrudes

I spent a little quite time in a local cemetery today. I was waiting for a funeral party to arrive as the officiating pastor. As I waited, nature's beauty came sneaking into my preparations.

This colorful tree, boughs extending gracefully over many graves, was struck by late morning sunlight. It blazed with color. As I admired the view, capturing the moment with my cell phone camera, a red fox ran past, a blaze shooting through the grass.

During the graveside ceremony, a hawk called out twice from a nearby tree.

The air was still, the sun warm, the gathered crowd thoughtful amidst the quiet, gentle beauty all around us.
Can't decide which cropping I prefer ...