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, November 30, 2015

Like BBQ? Seek Out Jimmy's BBQ in Malvern, PA

Jimmy's BBQ, located at 309 Lancaster Avenue in Malvern, Pennsylvania, is worth your time. Your taste buds will thank you. Slow cooked barbeque awaits you there. The pulled pork sandwich I had (dry rubbed and smoked for 12 hours) was wonderful. It was also large enough to sample all three of the barbeque sauces at the table (hot, sweet, and vinegar-based [the last a treat I hadn't had since living down South]). It was well worth the $7.25 for that filling sandwich. No coleslaw topped this pulled pork, although provided on the side, so do as you see fit.

I look forward to going back to try the ribs sometime when I need a real treat. You know you are in carnivore heaven when you see offered as an appetizer 1/4 pound of smoked bacon for $3.50. You can get chicken, sausage, and salmon sandwiches as well. Salads and sides are available if you feel so inclined. Family packs are available and catering is done.

If you are looking for a fancy joint with plenty of "ambiance" and a two hour wait, go elsewhere. If you're looking for a place you can take the whole family and you'll be fed right, stop by Jimmy's BBQ.

You can find Jimmy's online to see more. Here's the menu:

Bon appetite. (So much for my declaration never to review another restaurant after two closed on me, but this is special.)

Stand Up Against Toxic Speech

With the shooting at the Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado as the most recent example, it is long past time for civil people to speak up against hateful speech. For far too long, we have allowed commentators, politicians, and their followers to spew hateful messages against all who oppose them. We must not allow such hateful lies stand. We need to counter such messages with facts, delivered civilly, to counter messages that demean others (often simply for the crime of disagreeing with the speaker's narrow interpretation of some issue) and are quite often fact free.

We need to speak up and help curb this dangerous trend for the sake of those who can be swayed to violence based on such hate speech. To stand by silently, is to be complicit with the violence that comes in the future. Politicians who lie to make political points must be called on their falsehoods, publicly and persistently. Politicians who use thug tactics and support violence against those who disagree with them from among their own supporters must be stopped. Their way of thinking and acting is too toxic to be allowed to gain access to the seats of power in ours or any nation.

Those who resort to bullying, lies, and hate speech to get their way are banking on the idea that civilized people will not speak up against them. Civilized people will be too shocked and will resist getting drawn down into the mud where such folks thrive. Well, that cannot be allowed to continue. We must be willing to speak up, to marshal our facts, to speak truth to power, and to demand together that the equivalent of yelling fire in a crowded theater is not allowed to continue any further. If we do not, our democracy and our civilization will be destroyed. If we do not, those chimps using simple stone age tools may be our replacements as we allow hatreds to grow to the point we enter a final war. I hope and believe we are smarter than that. 

Stone Age Chimps Offer Humans New Opportunity

Science fiction is full of stories of the benevolent advanced species who helps guide a much more primitive people to a better understanding of their universe. These advanced species put their primitive counterparts on a path that advances them in their evolutionary struggles. Well, science has provided us, we humans, with the opportunity to become that advanced and benevolent species ourselves. It seems African chimps with stone resources readily available to them have entered a stone age all their own. It's pretty simple tool use at this point, rock hammers for pounding open tough nuts, but it's a start.

The question is, could we bring ourselves to be concerned enough about another species to actually provide such help. Or, are we more primitive than we like to think? Will we remain mired in our own arguments, feuds, and turf wars and not be inclined to help? Or, will we be so greedy for land and resources, that we will drive yet another thinking species into extinction, as we have done before. The choice is ours. I hope we'll follow the science fiction path. I hope we'll be more successful at it than the monolith seeding aliens of 2001: A Space Odyssey whose advanced knowledge led the early humans to use those bones as clubs to kill off a particularly irritating rival for a water source. While the monolith technology is beyond us, the ability to help is not. Although, we would have to violate that Star Trek Prime Directive to do so. I wonder if we will?

For one of many articles on this subject of tool using chimps, see:

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Disturbing News from Bookstore: The Five Minute Response

I was in my local bookstore, looking for a particular translation and edition of a study Bible I find valuable. I couldn't find it on the shelf in the hardback edition, so I went looking for the information desk person and help. I was told that the Bible I was seeking was listed as being available on the shelf. We went to look again. The edition I was looking for was not to be found. My helper sighed and told me a "Bible liberation" group had been through the last week.

I was mystified. I asked for a little clarification.

I was told "Bible liberation" folks believe the Word should be free to all. Therefore, they go against the teachings of the Bible and steal copies from bookstores to give away later.

I am appalled with this behavior. It is wrong and wrong-headed. Let me suggest an alternative. If you wish to give away the Word free, then purchase copies, perhaps used from library sales, and give them away. That way you respect the work that went into printing, binding, publishing, and distributing the Bible. You encourage more copies to be printed. You provide the Word free as you desire it to be, standing on your values without going against Scripture in the process. You become a better believer on a much more honest ministry mission.

And that's the five minute response. 

When Passion Twists Us

I had an unfortunate encounter with a "true believer" the other day. The event, the day, the time, none of that is important. The person's identity and gender, equally unimportant. What was important is that this individual had very strong views on abortion and was sharing them publicly in a venue not appropriate for such sharing. This person is stridently against legal abortion.

Sadly, this individual also is strongly against any human being who does not share the very narrow interpretation this person had adopted as his/her own. In a very few minutes, this true believer had managed to insult many friends of mine, family members, and all the Protestant denominations in a wide ranging series of gross generalizations extending far afield from the original topic. I did my best to remain civil while trying to suggest that not all of the information and assumptions about others presented were correct or helpful. However, when taken by surprise, it is difficult to be as clear-headed as one would like to be.

I have reached an age where I can no longer sit silently for the sake of polite society when one stomps so carelessly on others while following a certain point of view and position in society, especially a hot button issue like this. It is going to take some time to find just the right note or to determine when the best response might simply be to question the appropriateness of the discussion at that particular moment in that venue. The thing I found saddest in the situation is that this individual who so strongly supported life prior to an age of reason, seemed to have no support whatsoever for people who disagreed on this one topic once they could think for themselves.

I suggest moving forward, even when passionate for our position on some topics, that we work hard to respect the views and life experiences of others, listen to them, and see where we might agree, where we might actually be able to work together from those positions of agreement, so that we can strengthen society as a whole, understand each other more clearly, and leave behind the gross generalizations that so often lead to violence and injustice when left unchecked.

Wishing you all peace in troubled times.

Advantage of Early Rising

When you find yourself
up with the moon...
It is the day before Thanksgiving. I have to go to work and tie up loose ends, including writing my Sunday sermon (not something I want to be doing on Friday after Thanksgiving while visiting with family). It is 5:45 a.m. I've been up since 5. That'll teach me to go to bed early because I "need the extra sleep for the five hour trip." HA! I feel like I'm living in Stephen King's novel Insomnia (if you haven't read it I highly recommend it). So, being a sometimes blogger (sorry about the lack of material for over 20 days ... work and one of the biggest seasons of the liturgical year coming up kept me away), it was nice to have something to do with the hour before I am supposed to be awake.

Rather than fighting, tossing and turning, and possibly waking my wife, I'd rather be doing something at least somewhat useful. So here we are reader, you and I, sharing a few moments. I highly recommend to you that you too find something you enjoy doing with the sleepless times as they come. Be grateful rather than resentful and put yourself to work. Obviously you've gotten all the sleep your body is going to give you. Like the main character in Insomnia, learn to appreciate what you were given and deal with the wakefulness in a positive way. Who knows where that will lead you? It could be quite productive. An approach of thankfulness is certainly better than one of resentfulness. It starts the day on so much of a higher note. 

Capturing More with Cell Phone Camera

I've taken pictures for a long time, some of the photography was done professionally for books on a wide variety of antiques and collectibles. I've used a wide range of cameras. However, none has changed my own behavior as much as the camera in my cell phone. I'm more willing to experiment with a wider range of images using my cell phone because it is always there with me. The quality is good ... not nearly as good as an expensive digital SLR would be. However, it is good enough to capture the play of light and shadow, as seen here with the nearly full moon lighting the clouds around it. The moon isn't crisply defined, but then again the picture was taken hand-held and is pretty good for that unstable mount in the dark of night.

I'm enjoying playing with this system. I wonder just how much more of life is being captured during this time in human history than was ever captured before using rolls of film or digital memory cards in larger cameras.

Well, I can answer at least part of that question. A great many cell phone cameras are being used to capture injustices (still pictures and movies) as they occur and change the way people either behave or view the behavior of others. So, at times the impact is great ... especially when it allows so many of us to become photojournalists of the amateur sort. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Stress Kills Joy: The Five Minute Response

Stopping at the library tonight I made a discovery. For quite a while now, my new career path has had me seriously stressed. With that stress came a loss of desire to do some of the things I love, the things that make me feel human. When I say a new book by Christopher Moore (self-described comic horror author), a sequel to one of my favorite novels: A Dirty Job, titled Secondhand Souls, I snatched it up for a quick read. It was then I realized just how long it had been since I'd read fiction for fun. That was one of my joys, one that had dropped away under the stress of getting up to speed with the new career.

Another joy is writing these blog posts on the weird variety of topics I like to follow. But that's over now. I'm back. I'm feeling a lot more myself for it. Don't let stress rob you of your joys. Force yourself to continue to do those things you love. Force yourself to carve out time FOR yourself. It is necessary for mental health and will make it easier for loved ones and friends ... and work colleagues ... to be around you.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some reading to do.

And that's the five minute response.

For more on Moore, Christopher that is, see:

Monday, November 2, 2015

Our Superpower

When you were a kid, did you wish you had superpowers? Yeah, me too. I thought if I had real superpowers I could make a difference in this world of ours (after spending a lot of time flying and busting through walls just for the heck of it ... I was a kid after all). Turns out we are all gifted with one superpower, a superpower that actually is a life or death power over others. It is called ... love.

Sure, roll your eyes now. You knew it had to be something lame like this, right? But, I tell you it IS a superpower. You only think it is not because we have all been gifted with it (every normal human that is, yeah there are a few dangerous and sad illnesses that prevent this superpower from taking hold). Babies will not thrive unless someone bestows love upon them. Our domesticated pets crave love from us. We have written more books, songs, and poems about the superpower of love than any other thing in the whole wide world.

Using this superpower to love others, we change the world in small ways. Did you know that notes have been left behind by suicide victims (people suffering from the terminal effect of a dread disease, that's suicide) who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge that said if just one person will smile at me or say a kind word to me (offer me just a little love in other words), I will not jump. That's the life or death power of love. It's real.

I recently watched an old video of one of my very favorite preachers, the Reverend Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood fame speak on the power of love when receiving an award later in his life for his work on TV. He said each and every person involved in the television industry had a responsibility to promote the sanctity of life, the worth of every person, so that all who watched might be convinced that they are a person of worth, that their life makes a difference, and that they can improve the lives of others. Promoting an idea that life is cheap is wrong and must end. That was powerful preaching from someone who knew the power of love. During this show, Mr. Rogers would tell the children who watched that he loved them. When asked why, he said he knew that for some it would be the only time that day they heard a person tell them they were loved. That's how important love was to Fred Rogers.

I've used this superpower to diffuse tension. Try this: while waiting in line at the cashier, if things begin to get tense, find some reason to smile and maybe strike up a friendly conversation with the person next to you. Watch the tensions begin to diminish as the people around you react to your warm and relaxed attitude. It's powerful. Be kind to others, offer a helping hand, and listen more than speaking (others need to be heard, sometimes desperately). Use you superpower for good. Help change the world around you in small ways. You never know where that will lead you. You never know when your warm smile, friendly wave, or gentle greeting might just save a life.

Let me know how it works out for you. Yes you, who are a person of worth, a person loved. Have a blessed day. 

Top J.S. Brooks Blog Posts of October 2015

Here they are from highest to lowest, the top ten J.S. Brooks Presents articles that caught readers eyes for October 2015, in link form:

Toyota Yaris: Finding Your Jack and Tire Pressure:
Resetting the Clock on Your Toyota Yaris (timely for November 1st):
Turning Off the 2009 Toyota Yaris Maintenance Required Light (do you see a theme here?):
Top 12 Blog Site Lists of 2014 (ironic perhaps):
Changing Rear Turn Signal on Chevy Uplander (much maintenance required in October I guess):
Contribute to Philippines Super Typhoon Haiyan Disaster Relief Fund (your generosity honors you all):
C.S. Lewis Explains Love Your Neighbor as Yourself:
Does Kepler Discover Massive Alien Construct?:
Soapbox: Misinterpretation of the Second Amendment and Magic Phrases (sometimes I lose my cool):
AND Star Wars: The Force Awakens New Trailer:

To this I would like to add two early November posts that deal with Halloween events and history:

Halloween's 2500 Year History (broke my 30 minutes or less rule with this one ... but it was worth it):
AND Asteroid Ultimate Trick or Treater for Halloween 2015:


Asteroid Ultimate Trick or Treater for Halloween 2015

Asteroid 2015 TB145
Image Courtesy of NASA
Halloween 2015 say a visitor zip by at 302,000 miles above earth that we were glad to see leave without tricks. This dead comet looking so much like a death's head came calling at one in the afternoon East Coast time, saying boo to astronomers. The Arecibo Observatory saw the specter first and created this radar image. This spook measures 2,000 feet, rotates once every five hours, and has headed back into the nether regions.
For more, see:

For another article about strangeness in space (much deeper in space), see:

Halloween's 2500 Year History

Consider this an early article for next year. It's been that kind of month ... sorry.

First, I have a background in archaeology. One of the questions archaeologists want to answer is WHY people did what they did in the past. And no, it never boils down to, "they were primitive and dumb and didn't know any better." People are complicated. The history of America's second most expensive holiday today is complicated.

Second, this is an adult version of the history. If you wish to pass this along to children, some editing will be required.

It begins in Ireland, some 2500 years ago when the Celts (well, there is currently some dispute on that among British archaeologists but we'll stick with Celts until we know better) discovered this was a great place to live. At this time, the prophets Joel and Malachi were working hard to try to get the people of Israel to change their wicked ways. This is some 500 years before the birth of Jesus among a people the Israelites would have termed "Gentiles" (people Jesus and the evangelist Paul would work with centuries down the line).

The Celts had a problem over there in Ireland. They were concerned at their harvest festival, October 31st, when summer officially ended and the people needed to have enough food stored away to live on until spring, that their harvest might be ruined and their people threatened with madness in the dark and dangerous months ahead. They determined the threat to be coming from ghosts, specifically the ghosts of those among them who had died in the previous year. To counter this threat, on October 31st, during the harvest festival of Samhain, adults would dress up in wild costumes (animals, demons, hobgoblins, and witches, oh my) in an attempt to confuse and spook the spooks away. The idea was that the ghosts of the dead lingered for one year with an eye on ruining crops and possessing living souls (human or animal) for a full year until they could move on to the afterlife.

When the living were appropriately dressed in spooky fashion, they would noisily parade through their homes, wreaking mischief as they went, in order to make the place unappealing to spirits looking to take up residence. The costumes also helped keep you from being identified by old uncle Sean and aunt Annie who had died and never liked you much anyway. Once parading noisily had been accomplished inside the house, the process was repeated outside the house, with neighbors gathering together and parading through town. Outside of town, a roaring bonfire was lit, more mischief made, and here things got particularly dark. In fear of the ghost possessed, at times Celtic townsfolk would identify one who appeared to be possessed already among them (it did not pay to be eccentric back in old Ireland) and sacrifice them. Here we see the use of the admonition against occult practices from Deuteronomy 18:9-12. In fear, we can do terrible things heading down dark paths. The "why" in this case remained trying to protect your people from evil.

Around 2000 years ago, the Romans invaded Ireland, in 43 A.D. They found the celebration of Samhain appealing in the dressing up in costumes, the parading, the bonfires, and the mischief. The human sacrifice part they wanted nothing to do with and replaced that with an Egyptian practice of using effigies in royal tombs (instead of the pharaoh's servants, which was a great relief to the staff when the royal leader died), creating effigies if they felt it necessary to appease restless spirits in some way. So, by the time Jesus had practiced his revolutionary ministry in and around Israel, his disciples were performing their ministries (which would be recorded in Acts), and the apostle Paul was evangelizing and letter writing to the Gentiles in the 40s-60s A.D., the Romans were going to be taking up the lighter side of the Celtic Samhain festival. They also fused it with two festivals of their own, one honoring the beloved departed who had gone before them and were missed and the other honoring a goddess whose symbol was an apple. From this fusion, the Romans created a game: you took a large bucket, filled it with water, dumped in a bunch of those apples, shoved your face into the water, and attempted to retrieve apples with your teeth. Bobbing for apples was a Roman addition to what would become Halloween. However, the Romans had other ideas about how to appease the restless dead (those who had passed violently and remained angry) and in Italy, "bones of the dead" almond cookies are still made (looking like finger bones). Those cookies showed respect for those who had gone before them. For more, see the article referenced by Archaeology Trowels and Tools, and originally appearing in Forbes Science

In 609 A.D., the Catholic Pope Boniface added to this growing tradition. Pope Boniface declared November 1st to be All Martyrs Day, which in time become All Saints Day, the day to remember the beloved and missed departed souls who were residing in heaven (those of more questionable destination will be addressed a little later). Deciding it would be a good thing to bring those Irish Celts into the Catholic fold (a really good idea as Ireland produced some great and very determined evangelists afterwards), it was decided to incorporate aspects of the Celtic holiday into a new holiday, including the bonfires and the costumes and parades and such, while jettisoning the darker, occult heritage. A new holiday needed a new name (one that would stick with variation) and All-hallows Eve was born, coming from the Middle English Alholowmeesse.

After the Irish became Christians, they added another wonderful wrinkle to the holiday, using a folktale to spice things up. This is the story of Stingy Jack, an awful sinner, terrible drunk, and obviously penurious guy (here's a story for the kids but keep it gentle, okay). One day this pretty despicable guy manages to convince the Devil himself (note this is the first mention of the Devil you've seen in this history ... and will be the last until the 1980s) to climb a tree (I don't know how or why precisely). Once the Devil was up in the branches, old Stingy Jack quickly carved a Christian cross in the tree, trapping the Devil where he sat. Stingy Jack kept the Devil there until extracting a promise from Satan that he would never tempt Jack to sin again. Sadly for Jack, the promise came too late. When Jack died, he had sinned too many times for even God's grace to forgive. Heading for Hell, Jack discovered the Devil held a grudge against him for his trick with the tree and refused him access to the fiery underworld. Jack was doomed to trudge the frigid nights of earth until Judgement Day. However, Jack did get one concession from the Devil, a single ember to light his way. Jack placed this one solitary burning coal into a hollowed out turnip (Jack hollowed it with his teeth) and this became Jack's Lantern. Every year since, the Scots and Irish had hollowed out potatoes, turnips, and beets, placed lights in them, and set them out in the night as jack-o-lanterns (is this still done by the way dear readers?) These lights served a singular purpose ... can you guess? That purpose was to ward off evil ghosts with scary faces carved into these lights in the night. Here again, we see protection of the people playing a role in All-hallows Eve. Personally, the image of the lit watchmen in the night protecting people from evil, driving back the darkness with the light, is an image I've always enjoyed.

Moving on to the 800s A.D. in Europe, another innovation is added to this complicated holiday. November 2nd had by this time been declared by the Catholic Church to be All Souls Day, remembering the dead of that more uncertain destination of Purgatory, where souls laden with sins to expunge before entering into heaven waited. On All Souls Day, European villages practiced "souling." Souling involved going from village to town seeking square biscuits laden with currants called "soul cakes." For each soul cake given, the person receiving the gift promised to pray for the soul of a dearly departed loved one suspected to be residing in Purgatory. Every prayer that individual received would shorten the time that soul spent in that limbo world. So, it paid to be generous to those who arrived at your door seeking soul cakes. Note that here the theme has become protecting the beloved departed. This is a recurring answer to the why question for Halloween.

Over in the British colonies in North America and the early United States, Protestants were suspicious of this very European and Catholic holiday they had heard about. Halloween gained no real traction in the U.S. until the 1840s and the Irish potato famine. With an influx of Irish Catholics came the Halloween celebration. The dressing up, the treats, the bonfires, and the mischief arrived on American shores. When Protestant kids saw what their Irish Catholic compatriots were up to, they wanted to join in on the action. The mischief turned toward tipping over outhouses and taking people's front gates off their hinges, having nothing to do with scaring off ghosts anymore. The mischief makers had a lot more to fear from the living if they were caught. Once arriving in New England, the Irish abandoned carving turnips, beets, and potatoes. They turned instead the the impressively large pumpkins. While the Pilgrims gave us uses from the pumpkins interiors for Thanksgiving, the Irish gave us a use for the shells at Halloween ... creating the most enduring symbol of the holiday ever.

The U.S. would continue to have a love/hate relationship with Halloween. In the 1920s and '30s, the mischief took a marked jump as vandals took to that aspect of the holiday with far too much enthusiasm. By the 1950s, communities across the nation had enough of that nonsense. They declared Halloween to be a holiday for small children, in which they could trick or treat in hours set by their communities. Now the holiday had gone from a costumed affair for adults with a serious purpose in mind to a holiday treat fest for young children. In 1982, Pat Robertson and the Christian Coalition declared Halloween to be a gateway drug to the Devil, raising opposition to the holiday among conservative evangelicals. Churches agreeing with Robertson and crew created Hell Houses as a way to scare teen straight into the faith, away from evil, and bolster church attendance numbers.

However, the spookiest aspect of the modern holiday was yet to come. Here was a terror far greater than the ancient Celts, the Romans, the Catholics, or the Protestants could imagine. Modern industry has run with Halloween in a very big way. In 1985, the story goes ... and there may be some folktale to this, but who doesn't like a good folktale ... that the candy industry worked hard on senators (even leaving candy pumpkins on their seats in the Senate Chamber in D.C.) to extend daylight savings time to November. Doing so would keep Halloween evening lit longer, kiddies out collecting candy to later hours, and neighbors buying ever larger supplies of treats to give away. Then there's the abomination of "sexy" anything costumes ... but that is too frightening to contemplate. Despite the misgivings of some, today Halloween is the second most expensive holiday on the calendar, topped only by Christmas.

That's the long and complex history of Halloween. Through it all, the whys comes down to protecting our loved ones from evil in the night and remembering those we have loved and lost. Wishing you and those you love the best in all your All-hallows Eves to come.

Had the Irish of old seen the asteroid of 2015 Halloween day come by, they'd have created a whole bunch of jack-o-lanterns to ward off that evil spirit. See:


Panati's Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things, various articles, and The Oxford Annotated Study Bible NRSV.