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

Friday, January 30, 2015

False Dichotomy Between Science and Religion


Geoffrey A. Mitelman offers up a cogent explanation on why our current "debate" over science vs. religion is getting us nowhere. Extremist language is preventing dialogue in so many ways. The demand that people choose one side or the other does not conform to the thinking of reasonable people, setting up this false dichotomy ... well, I'll let Rabbi Mitelman speak for himself. See: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-geoffrey-a-mitelman/3-major-stumbling-blocks-_b_5399014.html

Well stated, sir.

For more on this topic, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2013/04/faith-and-science-work-together-please.html

Sooner or later, you'll run across trolls from one polarized viewpoint or the other on this hot topic and here's some advice on how to cope: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2015/01/before-quibbling-or-trolling-listen-to.html

Monday, January 26, 2015

What Are the Best Online Weather and Traffic Sites?

Given the weather anticipated today and tomorrow, here are some of the best online weather and traffic information sources available.

Lifehacker provides a list of the five best weather sites to check: http://lifehacker.com/5897973/five-best-weather-web-sites (Add Weatherbug.com to the list).

For traffic reports as the weather degenerates (if your governor says stay home, please do), check out the 511 sites for your state to get the traffic situation, roads impacted by weather, and roads under construction--all useful information. You can also try beatthetraffic.com and Mapquest's traffic feature: http://www.mapquest.com/traffic/

Good luck out there and stay safe. You may also want to read up on how to survive a blizzard. For that, let me suggest: http://weather.about.com/od/winterweather/a/winter_survival.htm

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Political Mandate in 2015? ... The Five Minute Response


Last night, after the State of the Union address 2015, the Republicans, through Joni Ernst, made the assertion they have a "mandate" from the people. 

Let's look back at the 2014 election shall we? A grand total of 36.4 percent of the eligible voters turned out. That is the lowest percentage in 70 years. Read the following for details: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/2014-midterm-election-turnout-lowest-in-70-years/ 

We spent 3.7 billion dollars to get that result. Talk about your incompetent expenditure. Sure, we spend a lot more on other things each year. True! We also get better bang for the buck in every case. See: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/11/06/the-2014-election-cost-3-7-billion-we-spend-twice-that-much-on-halloween/ 

After that hot mess, for any politician to claim they have a "mandate" from the people is laughable, it is ridiculous, it is crap. The most applicable definition of mandate would be:
  1. the authority to carry out a policy or course of action, regarded as given by the electorate to a candidate or party that is victorious in an election.
When a small fraction of the electorate votes, you don't have a mandate "by the electorate" at all and you are hardly "victorious." Let's stop that nonsense now. Let's work on cooperation instead. How about that???

And that's the five minute response.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Economy Cars for 2015

It is a new year and time to think about saying goodbye to the old friend who is becoming ever less reliable through no fault of its own. Time does not treat cars well. So, here are some suggestions for a new (or newer) economy car for the next few years.

U.S. News gives a rundown of affordable cars here: http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/rankings/Affordable-Small-Cars/

For Kelly Blue Book's best economy cars in several categories, see: http://www.kbb.com/car-reviews-and-news/top-10/most-affordable-cars-2014/2000010311/

AutoTrader gives a list of the ten best for a first time buyer: http://www.autotrader.com/research/article/best-cars/215404/10-best-new-cars-for-first-time-buyers-2014-edition.jsp

Edmunds provides a list of top ten consumer favorites: http://www.edmunds.com/car-reviews/consumers-favorites/best-economy-cars-2013.html

Consumer Reports provides the top ten list of used economy cars (and if you are a first time buyer or on a tight budget, this may be your best bet): http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/04/best-in-used-car-fuel-economy/index.htm

Best of luck to you in your search.

And, if you should get a Toyota Yaris, see the Toyota Yaris Maintenance Mysteries label for advice. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Few Quotes in Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King reminds us that change is not a given in human society: Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent.

Injustice must be fought: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

And, the most dangerous things in the world are: Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

Wishing you all a productive, reflective Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, Monday, January 19th. 

For more quotes and inspiration from Dr. King, see: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/martin_luther_king_jr.html

Friday, January 16, 2015

Skeptics: Lighten Up: Good Advice From Christianity

For those who don't know, here are some Oxford Dictionary (online from the people who created the Oxford English Dictionary) definitions of skeptics. A skeptic is a person who is inclined to question or doubt all accepted opinions. Skeptics can be philosophers by definition: an ancient or modern philosopher who denies the possibility of knowledge, or even rational belief, in some sphere. Further, a skeptic may be: a person who doubts the truth of Christianity and other religions; an atheist or agnostic. Synonyms for a skeptic are cynic, doubter, pessimist, and prophet of doom. Phew! Lighten up a bit there skeptics. Life is short.

I was researching skeptics online. I am well aware of the bushel load of good and bad you get from online searches. I have done a lot of research in a lot of fields.  Sure, I know, you're going to doubt that. You're a skeptic. All well and good, just shut it for a bit and listen, okay? I want you all to know that what I found was largely bitter, angry, and condescending content. What I was looking for was humor about skepticism, preferably by skeptics. It was not forthcoming. The closest I came was "they are so skeptical they doubt their own skepticism." Not bad, really, but I had to wade through a lot of bitter swill for that one teensy gem.

I went on to look up skeptical comedians, you know, just to see if there were some. There are, and have been for some time! Good! I hope their material is more generally approachable ... but the references I saw were ... well, no so much really.

Now, I know, that was one brief trip down the skeptic road. I'm sure there are many wonderful skeptic thinkers and philosophers who are more approachable than the folks I found. However, as a mainline Protestant, let me give you some hard won advice. Back in the last quarter of the twentieth century, we mainline religious folk made a serious mistake. When the extremists were in a 30 year uproar over many things, well, we largely remained silent, assuming people would know the difference. It was a mistake. We have all been tarred by the bad behavior of a few (look it up yourselves since you won't be inclined to believe me, I understand). Now, unjustly, all of us faithful are considered to be extremely judgmental, anti-everything, out of date, old fashioned, angry and following a WWJD (what wouldn't Jesus do) agenda. It is not true ... but we are stuck with it until we can work our way out of it.

You're heading down the same road, skeptic buddies. If there are a bunch of moderate skeptics out there who are not all those things I just mentioned, speak up now or suffer the consequences. And if you know some good jokes about yourselves, the kind that laugh good naturedly at yourselves and your ways of thinking, PLEASE get them out there. Show us a little humanity and let us laugh along with you.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sticking Landings and Fossils on Mars: Science and Sci-Fi Meet Again: The Five Minute Response

SpaceX's Falcon 9 stuck the landing on the autonomous seafaring landing platform drone the very first time attempted. Unfortunately, it hit too hard and destroyed the 14 story first stage of the rocket. However, with the data available and many launches to come this year, there is great hope they will get this little bit of science fiction pulled into the world of science reality this year. Good luck guys and gals.

In other news, I've long daydreamed about one of the Mars rovers rolling past and discovering fossil evidence of life once on the Red Planet. Well, one professor of thing ancient preserved in stone believes she has seen such evidence on Mars. She hypothesizes that some of the rock formations she sees from the Curiosity cameras in Gale crater look an awful lot like fossilized microbial mats found here on Earth as the oldest of fossils. If so, life did indeed once exist in the watery places on Mars. Time will tell if this hypothesis is correct. In the meantime, Curiosity has found spikes in methane off gassing around it that suggest life may continue even today ... unless geologic processes are creating this life-like gassing. Again time will tell.

And that's the five minute response.

To Replace a Hubcap, Tire Size Needed

You want to replace a hubcap. You do not want to pay $75 or more for one, so you head for an auto parts store to get a generic set of four for far less than the one. You quickly discover you need to know one important bit of information. Will the hubcaps need to be 12", 13", 14", 15", 16", or 17"? Put away the tape measure and look at the tire itself. You will find a series of letters and numbers there in a string that describe you tire to anyone in the know in the tire world. At the right hand end of that string is a letter R followed by two digits. Mine reads R15. That is the size for your hubcap. For me, R15 is 15". It's as simple as that. Know this though, in my travels, I see 14" through 16" hubcaps in those auto supply stores. The other sizes may require a trip to an Internet retailer instead.

Good luck, especially in winter when hubcaps have their highest mortality rate ... or so it seems to me.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

NASA | Need To Know: Sample Analysis at Mars Findings





The news coming from Curiosity on Mars keeps getting more interesting. Good luck to NASA. Find that life on the Red Planet!!!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Infectious Kindness WILL GET YOU: The Five Minute Response

Kindness will work
on YOU
This is not your standard random acts of kindness post. It's not about how your small acts impact others in ways you'll never know and spread kindness like yeast in bread dough. Nope. This is a WARNING. If you dare to venture into the vast and strange realm of practicing kindness to others, beware, YOU will be changed. It starts with very small and simple actions ... holding a door, smiling at a stranger, offering up your seat on the subway to someone in need, donating to the local food bank. That's all it takes. Small and simple actions take hold of you. Before you know it, you are doing small kind deeds without thinking about them and getting puzzled looks from those around you. Somehow, what you have done before has gotten down into your bones and you are doing more as some sort of strange reflex. Others start to see you as a different person. Then you find yourself looking for bigger opportunities. Perhaps you start seeking out the opportunities available during the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, maybe you spend spare time working in a soup kitchen, perhaps you pick up a book on how to thwart the worldwide scourge of slavery and carry the emergency number in your phone. Oh yes, once you start down the path of kindness, you become infected. You become a different person. You become ... BETTER! And once you do, there is NO GOING BACK! Beware!

And, that's the five minute response.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

How Guardians of the Galaxy Should Have Ended



A tongue in cheek look at a truly fun movie that didn't take itself too seriously. Doubly entertaining and a great antidote to a whole lot of meanness going around (including my own). Enjoy.

If you like this, you'll enjoy: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2015/01/lego-hishe-sand-people-are-bad-shots.html

When Beset by Quibbling Trolls, Turn to Dr. Seuss

I read a lot of news and special interest feeds on Facebook and other sources. Many of the stories are quite useful, constructive, and informative (if the feeds are properly chosen). Sadly, the comments are not. There in the comments is a world populated by quibbling, angry trolls and extremists determined to maintain their superiority over anyone who thinks any differently than they do. These apparently unevolved souls seem to have never left the state of the ape people in the movie 2001 who contact an artifact of tremendous, otherworldly intellect and use its knowledge to develop the club with which to bludgeon ape people of a different tribe to death over a watering hole. The subject of the arguments never matter. Facts serve no purpose. The discussion never rises above the verbal equivalent of throwing poo. Of course, in many quarters that seems to pass for "reasoned debate" these days. It would not matter if these folks and their quibbling ways were limited only the the comments on Facebook. There they could easily be avoided. However, these arguing tribes are found everywhere, raising their voices and writing their lines in every medium available. Their one goal seems to be creating division, dissent, and anger everywhere.

So, before you try to contend with another inflammatory, defamatory line in this never ending, tribal bludgeoning, let me steer you to the wisdom of Dr. Seuss. First, refer the aggressive party to a copy of "The Big Brag." In this story, a bear and a rabbit play the roles of the quibbling parties. In this case they are arguing over who is better by who can sense things at greater distances. The bear uses his nose and the rabbit his ears. The two make ever greater claims of more distant sensing, each more absurd than the last. In time an earthworm shows up. They turn to the lowly worm for a solution as to who is greater than whom. In great irony, the worm, sporting eyes and large, bookish glasses begins to stare. He stares so long and so hard he worries the fighting duo. Finally, he turns to them and speaks. He tells them he has stared right 'round the world and this is what he saw: 


The two biggest fools that have ever been seen! 
And the fools that I saw were none other than you, 
who seem to have nothing else better to do 
than sit here and argue who's better than who! 

So, please, for your own sanity, point the quibbling troll to the worm's wisdom. Ask this aggressive, angry soul not to be one of those biggest of fools.

Now, please turn your inquisitor's attention to "The Sneetches," the story of those foolish creatures who rated social success by the presence or absence of a star on their bellies. When your troll quotes his/her favorite hero or heroine from her/his particular tribe with snoot in the air, oozing superiority to all who are in disagreement with said troll, ask this angry individual who profits from his or her little battle with any other tribe (including you, fellow sufferer). Somewhere among that person's numbers will be his/her very own Sylvester McMonkey McBean, the "Fix-It-Up" Chappie who is making money off of that tribe's endless battle with any other tribe. Once that Mr. McBean has wrung all the money from the trollish tribe he/she can, that individual will leave, chuckling, and saying of your troll and his/her tribe what Sylvester said of those now impoverished Sneetches, those slaves to star bellied fashions: 


Then, when every last cent of their money was spent,
The Fix-It-Up Chappie packed up. And he went. 
And he laughed as he drove In his car up the beach, 
“They never will learn. No. You can’t Teach a Sneetch!”

I've heard the arguments from several of these angry tribes involved in their various skirmishes over one "water hole" or another with ever growing frustration at the absurdity of the situation. I did not realize the good Doctor had grappled with these issues long ago and I had heard the answers in childhood from his excellent works. In the end, I doubt this will make one whit of difference to the warring parties, but it does make me feel better. Please be forewarned that from now on I come forearmed with the wisdom of Seuss to use against all mindless, tribal trolling from now on.  And now you are so armed too.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Lego HISHE - Sand People Are Bad Shots




The truth comes out about the Star Wars Sand People, courtesy of How It Should Have Ended! For more HISHE entertainment, especially episodes of the Super Hero Cafe, see: https://www.youtube.com/user/HISHEdotcom

For more video humor (although for older viewers), see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2015/01/freemans-mind-episode-68-final-episode.html

You'll also get a kick out of HISHE's endings to Guardians of the Galaxyhttp://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2015/01/how-guardians-of-galaxy-should-have.html

Avoid Inanity in 2015: Thomas Merton's Advice

Toward a smarter tomorrow
From Thomas Merton's book, Life and Holiness, comes some sound advice for avoiding inanity in the new year. Merton writes:

When we read in the New Testament of faith "moving mountains," we must not interpret the symbolic language in an exclusively literal sense, as if it meant that prayer were a wonderful means of accomplishing physically difficult or impossible tasks. This is the kind of inanity that atheists come up with, after they have moved a hill with a bulldozer, or after a Russian astronaut has returned to earth without seeing angels. Faith does indeed deal with impossibilities: but it is not intended as a substitute for mere physical power, or medicine, or study, or human investigation.
So, following Merton, let's have more deep thought, more dialogue, more faith, and far less inanity in 2015. The year 2014 ended badly in that regard. Let's do better this year.

For more helpful hints for 2015, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2015/01/reconciliation-third-way-and-smug.html

Reconciliation, the Third Way, and "Smug Avoidance"

Building blocks for better understanding
and community!
In the month of December, when many were attempting to focus on peace on earth and news of great joy to all people, I ended up doing a massive face palm when numerous folks decided the time was ripe for throwing rocks at beehives. I won't name names. There was plenty of disgraceful, anger generating nonsense spewed from many quarters. In response, I give you my resolution for 2015. I will try (not guaranteeing I will succeed) to avoid their provocation and be true to the methods espoused here by two theologians, Henri J.M. Nouwen and Richard Rohr.

In his devotional guide, Bread for the Journey, Nouwen writes of reconciliation:
Essential to the work of reconciliation is a nonjudgmental presence. We are not sent to the world to judge, to condemn, to evaluate, to classify, or to label. When we walk around as if we have to make up our minds about people and tell them what is wrong with them and how they should change, we only create more division. Jesus says it clearly, "Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge, ... do not condemn ... forgive" (Luke 6:36-37). 
 In his message, The Third Way--Contemplation, Richard Rohr calls us to be wise and not smug:
The contemplative mind does not need to prove anything or disprove anything. It's what the Benedictines called a Lectio Divina, a reading of the Scripture that looks for wisdom instead of quick answers. It first says, "What does this text ask of me? How can I change because of this story?" And not, "How can I use this to prove that I am right and others are wrong or sinful?" The contemplative mind is willing to hear from a beginner's mind, yet also learn from Scripture, Tradition--and others. It has the humility to move toward yes/and thinking and not all-or-nothing thinking. It leads to a "Third Way," which is neither fight or flight, but standing in between--where I can hold what I do know together with what I don't know. Holding such a creative tension with humility and patience leads us to wisdom instead of easy answers which largely create opinionated and smug people instead of wise people. We surely need wise people now, who hold their truth humbly and patiently.
Seeing and hearing from the contentious voices, from the rock throwers and provocateurs, we could really use more people seeking both a nonjudgmental presence and a Third Way. I'll be working toward both, which will be a long, slow process in light of my own humanity ... but it will be a worthy effort for 2015.

For another useful approach in 2015, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2015/01/avoid-inanity-in-2015-thomas-mertons.html

Twelve Top Blog Site Lists of 2014

It is always good for little bloggers like me to keep track of what the big guys and gals are up to. So here are a few lists of the big blogs of 2014:

eBiz will give you their top 15 blog sites (and there isn't much surprise there): http://www.ebizmba.com/articles/blogs

DailyTekk's listing of the top 100 "most interesting" blogs and websites is a little suspect in my mind (then again I'm small stuff in this world) as they rank themselves quite highly (hmmm): http://dailytekk.com/2013/11/18/the-100-best-most-interesting-blogs-and-websites-of-2014-2/

Cision will give you the top 50 mom bloggers: http://www.cision.com/us/2014/05/top-50-u-s-mom-bloggers/

If food is your thing, try Saveur's list of 2014's best food blogs: http://www.saveur.com/content/best-food-blog-awards-2014-winners

Social Media Marketer provides their top 10 social media blogs: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/top-10-social-media-blogs-2014-winners/

IMFdirect provides their top 10 posts of 2014 (which is what you might have thought you were getting from me in a previous post although they were only MY most popular of the month of December and hence this post--guilty conscience and all): http://blog-imfdirect.imf.org/2014/12/31/the-top-ten-blogs-of-2014/

Healthline provides the top weight loss blogs (do I hear 2015 New Year's resolutions here): http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/best-weight-loss-blogs

If travel is your thing, try Fathom's top travel blogs and websites: http://fathomaway.com/slideshow/fathom-2014-best-travel-blogs-and-websites/

From the world of "who knew" we have Paleo Magazine's top Paleo blogs: http://paleomagonline.com/top-10-paleo-blogs-on-the-web-2014/

An ambitious list from Church Relevance includes the top 300 Christian blogs, rated by impact upon the social media market (I'll be back to this one myself): http://churchrelevance.com/resources/top-church-blogs/

The Peace Corps provides a list of their top bloggers worldwide for your review: http://www.peacecorps.gov/resources/returned/thirdgoal/highlights/bloggers-vote/

Rounding out these twelve, we'll go to Real Men Real Style for their top men's fashion blogs (which amuses me to provide while the Mummer's Parade is on): http://www.realmenrealstyle.com/2014-top-mens-style/

Giving you a baker's dozen because we here at J.S. Brooks Presents love you so much, here are the top blog sites to leave you laughing, according to Will Video for Food: http://willvideoforfood.com/2012/06/13/10-great-comedy-humor-websites-and-blogs/

So many specialty blogs, so little time. So, future bloggers, see, specialization is key (something this blog never does and one reason it will always be small). 

My Top Posts for December 2014: Ringing Out the Old Year

Here are the links to my top blog posts for December 2014. Many readers want to know how to deal with their Yaris. Some want to know why anyone would want to be like Scrooge. Others wanted to see the Orion flight (for good reason, considering it is the most advanced spaceship ever made). Click the links to see the rest. Thank you for your support in five years and 1400+ posts. We'll see what adventures 2015 has to offer us together. Wishing you a wonderful, fulfilling new year. Peace. To see what the biggest and best bloggers are up to, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2015/01/top-12-blog-sites-of-2014.html









Freeman's Mind: Episode 68 [FINAL EPISODE!]



Rounding out 2014, on the last day of the year, Ross Scott completed Freeman's Mind, his seven year adventure with Dr. Gordon Freeman in Half Life. We got to laugh along with this 27-year-old neurotic physicist as he makes his way through the Black Mesa complex under attack by aliens and human military forces. It was vastly entertaining for me keeping up with Freeman's Mind as Ross moved the project forward. If you want to get the full effect, you can binge watch all 68 episodes at Ross Scott's website: Accursed Farms. Here's the address to take you straight to Freeman's Mind: http://www.accursedfarms.com/movies/fm/



I'm looking forward to seeing what Ross does next ... and if any more FM is in the offing somewhere down the road. Thanks for the fun and for Freeman's inner thoughts.