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

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Collectibe History: Souvenir of NASA's Gemini Space Missions




Liftoff of Gemini III
Photo Courtesy of NASA
I dug up this little key chain with a Gemini command module at the end. It's a souvenir of the manned space program NASA referred to as the bridge to the moon. The Mercury program proved Americans could be lifted into space and returned home alive in a one man module. Gemini was the test bed for a great many technologies that would allow Apollo missions to succeed in getting humans safely onto the surface of the moon and back home again. The Gemini program ran from 1962 to 1966, with major manned flights in 1965-66. Ten crews of two men flew in those two action-packed years. The first American spacewalk was conducted from a Gemini capsule. The Gemini 10 mission proved two objects could dock in space and use one engine to move together in the same direction (important if you want to the the Lunar Module to the moon later on in Apollo). So, it's an interesting little souvenir of an important step in spaceflight, one I've overlooked for many years. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Adventures in Fitness 24: One Guy's (Renewed) Attempt to Knock the Rust Off: Benefits of First Week

No doubt I'm repeating myself, but it's been far too long, so here goes. Made it to the gym three times this week and was impressed with the results. The speed maintained on the elliptical machine increased significantly (for me), it took markedly longer for my heart rate to reach the maximum aimed for, and my body provided some fake news suggesting my heart might be feeling the strain. I looked at the heart rate monitor during that period, and it actually decreased slightly (uh huh, tell me another tall tale body). This was right before the body gave up and just fell into rhythm for the rest of the run and enjoyed itself.

The benefits of the first week were an end to lower back pain (souvenir of my first career in archaeology), general limberness, a feeling of well being, and greater confidence. These are all great reasons to continue. I hope I remember them well when the typical entropy sets in at the end of a work day. Oh yeah, and if your muscles ache after the first week (ache now, not scream with agony...you probably did something wrong there, tore something, and really should get that checked out, it's probably not bodily fake news), that's good. Muscle mass builds when muscles are torn down and rebuilt ... and that aches.

Good luck to you if you're in the same boat. Keep moving. See you at the gym.

For the previous post, which kicks off this new round, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2017/04/adventures-in-fitness-23-one-guys.html

Famous Quote for Science March

We are all in this picture. Can you find us?
As a person who puts great importance in both science and faith, I love this quote from British physicist, chemist, and mathematician Sir William Bragg: From religion comes a man's purpose; from science, his power to achieve it. Sometimes people ask if religion and science are not opposed to one another. They are: in the sense that the thumb and fingers of my hands are opposed to one another. It is an opposition by means of which anything can be grasped.

Here's to everyone in 2017 who marched for science on Earth Day, including ministers. Hats off to the lot of you. Let's make sure politicians don't ignore the hard evidence of science as we move forward, especially in regards to climate change, or we will be entirely responsible for the sixth great extinction event of planet Earth. 

For more from the science march, see: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/22/science/science-march-photos.html?_r=0 and https://satellites.marchforscience.com/

Saturday, April 22, 2017

End Death Penalty

Putting criminals involved in the most heinous crimes to death hardens us to state-sponsored execution without lowering violent crime rates. Look at Arkansas in 2017 and the spectacle of a state scrambling to execute 8 prisoners with an iffy drug before that drug expires at the end of the month of April, Easter month, what should be a holy time for many (of course there's a lot of irony here). The drug company won't make the stuff anymore as it doesn't want to be associated with this awful practice. Our new Supreme Court Justice, a conservative right to life sort of guy voted to execute the first of the 8 when the matter appeared. So much for life's sanctity there.

It is bad for humanity to play the role of executioner. It hardens us to taking life, which overflows into social interactions on the streets, raising the crime rate and the chance murder will take place. It also leaves no room for the mistakes we fallible humans make, and make regularly. How many convictions for murder have been overturned when DNA evidence proves somebody convicted of murder didn't commit the crime? If we kill one innocent person, we have killed far too many due to failures of our criminal justice system. Living in a country far from free of the ills of racism, misogyny, and many other social ills, we are not the greatest judge of who is worthy of death, especially among minority populations.

Keep people who have committed horrendous crimes off the streets, yes. Put them away for life if need be (all though restorative justice would be far better for us all when possible). But stop harming us all by state sanctioned executions. We all will be better off for that.   

Why Bad News Attracts

Why do we focus so much
on bad news???
I was concerned with a friend's post on Facebook, who was worried with all the terror news lately and felt under threat of terror attack as a result. It reminded me of working in a retirement community in the countryside where a 90-year-old resident was terrified the facility would be attacked by evil-doers of one sort or another. Frankly, unless the trees or cows were about to rise up, there was little to fear.

That sent me down an odd sidetrack I thought I knew the answer to and had it confirmed. The most common videos on the internet are cat videos, little kitties getting up to mischief, little kitties being cute, little kitties sliding into boxes and jumping from cucumbers, etc. You get the idea. So how come none of us are absolutely certain the world is about to be overrun by kitty cuteness, since kitty videos overwhelmingly outnumber bad news videos.

So I did some digging. The reason seems to be our brains trying to make sure we don't get eaten. You see, our primitive minds (which had to cope with keeping us alive far longer than our modern minds) are still entirely certain we will be eaten by large, hungry carnivores out in the woods or savannas (lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my). So, to keep us kicking and producing new little humans, our brains made sure we fixated on the bad stuff (hungry stomach growl of something large in the bushes, stealthy pad fall in the high grass, drool dripping down from the forest canopy overhead [a la Alien but far more local]). The good and wonderful stuff wasn't going to eat us, so no need to worry about that.

So, today, we fixate on the bad news and become overly fearful those bad things will come and get us. Well, time to recognize the source of this information bias and work hard not to be scared silly of everything we see or hear on the news. Turns out the news is skewed to the negative because our brains want to know about the negative so we don't get eaten ... it all goes back to that paleo-diet. Don't fall for it. If you live in a small town, a quiet village, a rural farm, it is unlikely great big bad things are happening all around you. If you live in a big city, more likely, because there are more people all around you, but the chance of it getting you personally is still small. Be calm, be brave, enjoy your life with courage and tell that chattering ancient mind to chill out. It can keep a look out for grizzlies and pizzlies all it wants, but it can't make you a nervous wreck over it.

Have a great, fearless, wonderful day.  

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Hobby Time: N Scale Modeling

Two completed models, painted, constructed, and decals added.
I confess: I have reached that point in life where I need a hobby for stress relief. I need that something that helps me forget all the concerns of work and life for a while and leaves me with some tangible result. It needed to be something that could be done over a long period of time, without staggering investments of cash, and something that would both be humbling and rewarding.

I chose to return to a hobby of many years in the past that was started far too soon, but I still had the bits and pieces tucked away for later use. I have picked up N Scale Model Railroading. Yep, I've joined that club now.

Irony of ironies, I don't really care much about trains. I am not interested in running an accurate railroad or making trains run on time. As luck would have it, the first Model Railroader magazine I picked up featured a layout from someone who feels about it as I do. Both of us are fascinated by the modeling and the miniature buildings, people, vehicles, and yes, even the trains too. Building the layout and the many scenes within the layout are what drive me and that other modeler.

So, to see if I could do it, I started with the earliest and simplest model I owned. Turns out, hobby paints will last decades if properly stored (who knew). I used that first model to see if my hands were steady enough to work at this tiny scale where 1" = 10'. I could. I also used it to learn some painting techniques like washes for brick mortal and weathering. That model went well enough I moved on to another. Shown here are two completed (or nearly so) projects produced by two different model companies. The three story corner drug store was by far the more complex and challenging of the two. The donut shop was pure fun. On the donut shop, I repurposed a couple of old figures (one a drunk) by repainting them in donut shop colors and putting them to work. Painting figures at that scale requires a lighted magnifying glass and a really small brush.

I discovered that there are such things as decal papers that allow hobbyists to create their own personalized decals. This opened a whole world of possibilities for personalized decals throughout the city I intend to create. My first use of these decals was on Stewart's Advance Drugs, which is a store owned by my wife's great grandfather.

Now, the Coca Cola ad I found is one of the creepiest I've seen.
On the back the ad for Ringling Brothers includes an inside family joke as well. It was fascinating to learn that the smaller decals on the donut shop (professionally made decals) were actually far simpler to apply than the larger homemade models. I will pass along one tip. These decals lift free of their paper with water and a water soaked Q-tip (cotton swab) will allow them to be moved into position once they have been gently shifted onto the model.

This has been a lot of fun to start with and also humbling. It's a bit like theater stage set design. None of the buildings will be viewed from really close, so the imperfections seen in the close up images blend into a more convincing paint job when you back a way a bit. I'm far from perfect in my modeling yet, but I figure I've got years to develop the techniques and years of stress free hobby work to come.

This will give you a sense of the scale of N Scale with
both model buildings on my workbench.
One great advantage anyone getting into the hobby today has over decades past is that there are so many how to videos on YouTube these days to explain the basics. That is how I got up to speed on painting techniques, washes, and decal placement (both professional and homemade). I will have to buy a couple books on layout design and scenery before I have gone much further, but that doesn't bother me.

If anyone's interested, I'll let you know when the basic layout is up and running, with track in place, properly wired. After that, the slow scenery and model progression will follow. I have chosen the 1950s-60s as my era for modeling and the downtown area of Cumberland, Maryland, as my inspiration, a town I always felt was perfect for a model railroad. We'll see how that goes.

I highly recommend some sort of hobby for anyone who works in a stressful field. That and exercise are great escapes during any given day. 

NASA: News Conference on Oceans Beyond Earth



Meanwhile, beyond Earth orbit and SpaceX's reusable rocket, NASA on April 13, 2017, announced they have found some encouraging signs for the potential for life in oceans off Earth's surface. As NASA states: 
News conference held on April 13, 2017. NASA announces two missions are providing new details about icy, ocean-bearing moons of Jupiter and Saturn. In one discovery, NASA's Cassini spacecraft detected hydrogen in the plume of gas and icy particles spraying from Saturn's moon Enceladus. This discovery means the small, icy moon — which has a global ocean under its surface — has a source of chemical energy that could be useful for microbes, if any exist there. Meanwhile, Hubble researchers report additional evidence of plumes erupting from Jupiter's moon Europa.
So, Enceladus may well have the chemicals necessary, along with liquid water, to support life. No signs of aquatic aliens yet, but at least there's nothing to entirely preclude the possibility of life in the oceans of Saturn's and Jupiter's oceanic moons below the ice crusts. With the plumes present, given the right instruments (which Cassini doesn't have) we may well be able to determine if there is life on those moons without ever having to get beneath the ice caps ourselves. Exciting times to live. Enjoy the show if you're a dedicated space geek like me!  

SpaceX Falcon 9 launches and lands first-ever reusable rocket 03.30.2017

 Dang, the things that happen when you take a blogging break! History has been made in a big way. Once again science fiction and science shake hands as SpaceX (spoiler alert) successfully reuses a Falcon 9 rocket. The refurbished rocket successfully flew and landed on the SpaceX drone barge. With that feat accomplished, SpaceX is revolutionizing space flight. Reusable rockets will make spaceflight cheaper as each rocket no longer needs to be a unique, one use vehicle. Further, having the opportunity to recover the rocket and see how the stresses of flight on all the components compare with the hypothesized projections is invaluable data allowing SpaceX to improve upon the rocket design with each use. This was a great day for spaceflight. It is most impressive that it is coming from a private company. I look forward to seeing where this will be headed in the future.

As a follow up note: as someone who grew up with the American space program, I had always wanted to see what happened from the spacecraft's point of view. The new cameras today make that wish come true and I find that thrilling!

P.S. Oh, the suspense, at 9:24!

Okay Elon Musk and SpaceX, now let's see you get all the rocket stages reusable! 

Life Post 11/9: NPR's Indivisible and Attempt to Get Divided Nation Talking

Since the election of Donald J. Trump, a new radio show has cropped up on NPR, called Indivisible. It is an attempt to get an oh-so-divided America to check out what we share in common as well as what divides us. In a recent episode I listened to a conservative Southern reporter tell the host how what liberals and conservatives tick off as negatives about each other are largely, if not entirely, the same list of faults. So, perhaps, we aren't so different after all. We are all people. We all have basic needs to be met, the healthy among us love our families and wish nobody in particular ill (outside of those seeking to actively harm us or our families ... these broad statements always come with caveats). Perhaps, if we choose to listen less to politicians, pundits, and social media comments sections, we might discover more of us could actually get along and not dismiss each other out of hand because we wear a red trucker cap or don't. Could that be?

It seems this might be the case. We certainly did unite (or many of us did) in our anger over how United (oh the irony in that name) Airlines treated a paying customer ... and explained their bizarre treatment to the legalism of our contract says we can. We were able to come together over that moment and, in a united from that no political divide seemed to blunt, drive down the airline's stock price significantly over night and force the CEO to a quick and more complete apology than he at first felt needed to be made.

If we were to get past all the divides thrown up in our faces by forces seeking to control us, who knows what we as the public might accomplish. This could be a really good thing coming post 11/9/16. Time will tell.

If you want to hear Indivisible, check it out at http://www.npr.org/podcasts/516647023/indivisible

Gone Too Long: Apology

It has been far too long since last I blogged. I'll make no excuses ... just say LIFE and LOTS OF IT and leave it at that. I'll try to do better for anyone who enjoys what I have to say. Thank you for stopping by and mulling over the posts. I hope you find something enjoyable here among the years worth of posts, old and now new. 

Adventures in Fitness 23: One Guy's Attempt (Yet Again) To Knock the Rust Off; Try, Try Again!

Confession time: there are two things that keep me from fitness success and I've been trying long enough to figure it out for myself. The two are rivals in terms of which one is the greater culprit.

1. A compromised immune system: I'm a life-long asthmatic and I tend to get sick roughly quarterly throughout the year. Each sickness tends to linger. With that impediment, it's hard to maintain an exercise routine and cling to results gained during periods of good health. If anyone has a workaround for this problem, let me know.

2. Like many ministers, I spend more time caring for others than for myself. This is a huge error, as I have now learned in my first years in ministry (third career, and with God's help final one). I will have to spend more time in self-care if I'm to be of use to others, both in family and congregation.

So, that said, excuses aside, I've returned to the gym after far too long. One very useful thing I've picked up from years of on-again, off-again exercise is that some things stick with you. Like, for instance, when you're starting a routine you no longer listen to the fake news coming from your body telling you how hard this is, how uncomfortable your lungs, heart, muscles are, and keep going. In five minutes or so, as I've learned over and over again, those reports fade and cease when they are ignored. Could that be a life-lesson for us all? I think it is for me.

So, back to the gym and time to figure out how to make this at least a three times a week effort to maximize the time when I'm healthy and possibly extend that time.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

What happens when we stop putting people in boxes ....



A powerful exercise in thinking outside out boxes. In the current toxic culture we're living in, where everyone is being labeled, pigeonholed, and all those outside our "in" groups treated with suspicion and even violence. I hope we can come to see each other in more useful ways, ways that do not take after our current leadership, intent on defining who are the "enemies of the people" and inciting violence.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Life Post 11/9: Excellent Advice for Handling 2017 from Christian Citizen

The American Baptist Home Mission Societies Christian Citizen article "God Has Called Us for Such a Time as This" by Dr. Jeffrey Haggray is well worth reading and serious consideration. How we respond is mapped out in the Old Testament story of Esther. Give this article serious consideration: https://medium.com/christian-citizen/abhms-executive-director-god-has-called-us-for-such-a-time-as-this-8dddfed3aeb5#.8u39c1b52

NASA Announces Discovery of 7 New Planets, 3 In ‘Habitable Zone’ | NBC News



NASA's news did not disappoint today, February 22, 2017. During the news conference, the exciting announcement was made that 7 earth-sized planets orbit a single star. Three are in that star's habitable zone. This is a red dwarf star, small and stable. If these planet's atmospheres survived the early phase of the red dwarf's life, when the stars are more volatile, then these planets have a good opportunity to develop life over a very long lifetime, longer than Earth will enjoy around our much larger sun. With this many earth-like planets around a single small star, the amount of habitable real estate and chances for intelligent life in our galaxy have just jumped immensely. This system, with planets close enough together they'd appear moon size from one planet's surface, reminds me of the inhabited solar system in the Sci-fi Western Firefly. The galaxy just got a lot more interesting.

Monday, February 20, 2017

SpaceX Falcon 9 Successful Landing live (19 February, 2017)



Do love to watch what was once sci-fi translate so beautifully into science fact. Well done, SpaceX! This after the perfect launch from NASA's historic pad 39-A, from which Apollo blasted off for the moon and the Space Shuttles lifted off to build and maintain the ISS. 

NASA Holding New Exoplanet Information Close to Vest

NASA has cryptically announced they will have a press conference Wednesday, February 22, 2017, at 1 p.m. to announce new information about exoplanets. What discoveries have been made, we do not know. Will this rewrite the history books, the astronomy books, the diaries of many envious exoplanet explorers worldwide? We just don't know. We will have to wait, tuning in Wednesday afternoon at 1 p.m. EST, to NASA TV or the webside at nasa.gov. All they'll say for now is that they will "present new findings on planets that orbit stars other than our sun, known as exoplanets. The event will air live on NASA Television and the agency's website. Details of these findings are embargoed by the journal Nature until 1 p.m." Keeping us in suspense, eh Nature? I hope it's something big, or it'll be "Fie on you Nature!" 

If you want to see a little more before the big reveal, go to: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-to-host-news-conference-on-discovery-beyond-our-solar-system

To see what they found, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2017/02/nasa-announces-discovery-of-7-new.html

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Standing Up for Journalists and "Real News"

What is journalism? 
“The purpose of journalism,” write Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel in The Elements of Journalism, “is not defined by technology, nor by journalists or the techniques they employ.” Rather, “the principles and purpose of journalism are defined by something more basic: the function news plays in the lives of people.”
News is that part of communication that keeps us informed of the changing events, issues, and characters in the world outside. Though it may be interesting or even entertaining, the foremost value of news is as a utility to empower the informed.
The purpose of journalism is thus to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments." For more, see: https://www.americanpressinstitute.org/journalism-essentials/what-is-journalism/purpose-journalism/
So journalism, or "real news" is designed to keep citizens informed on a wide variety of issues. Why should we be informed? Because this is not a "so-called" democracy, but the real thing. Only an informed citizenry can make smart decisions on the direction that democracy goes. But, when people decide they'd rather eat junk food than healthy food, and turn away from the real deal and instead pig out on cable commentators and one wing or the other's yellow journalism (i.e. obsessed with sensationalism and crude exaggeration)  or outright propaganda (information, especially of a biased or misleading nature [read "lies" here], used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view. [thanks Google Definitions]) then democracy lurches down crazy side streets into dangerous territory where the real terrorists of the world come forth to play on the public stage: the demagogues, the hate groups, the ultra-nationalists, the fascists, and all the other underbelly bullying types who feel their misinformed, uninformed, rage and fear filled view of the world had come to the fore. 

One more definition, bear with me here, we are almost done. We've seen what journalism is, but what is a journalist, what does he or she do? Here's a short definition from The American Press Institute: The journalist places the public good above all else and uses certain methods – the foundation of which is a discipline of verification – to gather and assess what he or she finds. Again, for more, see: https://www.americanpressinstitute.org/journalism-essentials/what-is-journalism/journalist/


Our current president, the 45th U.S. president, has declared war on journalism and journalists. I won't bother to quote much of what Mr. Trump has said, because I don't want to give him yet another platform. Here's something to get the ball rolling: "I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth, right?" And press secretary Sean Spicer used his first White House press conference [press rant really] to attack the media with lies about how reporters maliciously underestimated the size of the crowd's at Trump's inauguration. What is it with Mr. T. and size??? 

Back in 2015, during the heady campaign days, Mr. Trump had this to say about journalists, which was of course reported by journalsits: "I would never kill them, but I do hate them. And some of them are such lying, disgusting people. It's true." 


Alright, enough data, enough facts, and now let me roll up my sleeves for a minute and tell you what I really think. I grew up with a journalist. I know journalists. The best of them live out the definitions above. They are committed to digging out the truth, wherever it takes them. Some die for their profession, others lose their spouses to the long hours and many trips to far flung locations, they put in ridiculous hours (the journalist I know best was up for 36 hours straight covering Apollo 13), and they get sent to places most rational human beings would stay away from (driving into a hurricane to report, heading toward a firefight like a soldier but not as well armed or trained, or attending a press conference with Sean Spicer). 


D.T. declares he hates journalists, finds them terribly dishonest (funny from the guy who lies daily and doesn't appear to care about getting caught), and is very angry when they don't treat him in ways he thinks of as "nice" or "fair." I'm guessing Mr. T has a real hatred for what true journalism is all about and what real, committed journalists do because they slow him down, expose his inadequacies ... which appear to be legion at this point in his presidency ..., and won't let him spin reality in directions that best suit him. Hence the need to give Breitbart, the neo-Nazi, ultra-nationalist yellow rag, a private interview with the press secretary. His hatred has spilled over into his most devoted followers who will go far beyond Mr. T's purported aversion to killing journalists who don't see reality his way and do send death threats by every means available to the offenders. This is not how democracy works, ever

Mr. T., let me give you a little advice from a journalist about what happens when you make a mistake and you are asking yourself if you should cover it up. The journalist I know would ask you, what do you want, a pint of trouble now or a gallon later? The pint of trouble is what you get if you're up front with the real journalists, admit your mistake, declare what you'll do to fix it, and everybody then moves on. If instead you choose to lie to the real journalists, expect a gallon of trouble later when the really committed journalists uncover and report the truth you tried to hide, the truth they are committed to deliver to the public to keep us all informed. I believe in the news now you see some of those issues beginning to come to light. You are quite fortunate, Mr. T., that you have been able to stack the deck in the House and Senate so much in your favor that it will be very difficult for that gallon of increasingly rancid milk to splash on you in any real effective way.


To all of you, dear readers, if you have stuck with me this long, support real journalists and real journalism. Determine to your own satisfaction using research tools readily at hand what are authentic news outlets and buy their products, read their news, become informed and inspired, and in that state be ready to act as real members of a real democracy, one whose members make informed decisions that are best for the vast majority, not some shambling zombie that once was a democracy that harms most and benefits only a few. 


I was going to wind up to a real rant here, but you know, I'll leave that to others who do it so very well. Are there bad journalists? You bet. I've been interviewed by great and awful journalists. Journalists are people too after all. Does journalism screw up from time to time? Yes indeed. After all, the major networks were lured by their own greed into giving Mr. T. an unprecedented (not unpresidented by the way) amount of free air time to the detriment of most citizens. Support the best of them, ignore the yellow ones, and steer far clear of the purported "news commentators" who give their most devoted fans nothing but red meat propaganda designed to stoke fear, hatred, and affirm a skewed point of view, an oftentimes dangerous point of view. Finally, find ways to push back against the most outrageous assertions of Mr. T. concerning journalists, the environment, our society, the world, etc. Of course, to do that, we'll all need to be well informed with real news. 


"Good night and good luck," as famed journalist Edward R. Murrow used to say. Mr. Murrow also stated, "We will not walk in fear, one of another." Be informed and fear-free. 


If you like this post and want more, let me suggest: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2017/02/reading-defense-against-alternative.htmlhttp://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/12/life-post-119-standing-up-to.html, and http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/12/protecting-free-speech.html

    Thursday, February 9, 2017

    Bad Day for Deliveries

    If you have been wondering where your package has gotten to, it is just possible it was slowed down by this wreck recently. The semi and trailer tipped and the roof of the trailer exploded, throwing packages around the landscape.

    Fortunately, the brown clad driver is near the police officers and appeared to be physically fine. Another semi was arriving on the scene while we waited to be directed past at this intersection with an off ramp.

    This wasn't the most unusual wreck I've seen recently. Last year, traffic was detoured around a garbage truck. Something among the trash had caught fire. I wonder how often that occurs? 

    Historic Williams Deluxe Cabins Changing near Exton, PA

    When you drive to and from work every day and it takes a good while to get where you're going, any change in the landscape draws your interest.

    For some time I've been driving past an abandoned old-fashioned motel complex and thought little of it. Then one of two houses on the property was repaired and repainted, followed by a second. After that, it appears new sewer line has been buried in front of the cabins and a building in the rear of the complex has been completely torn down and is being built anew in the same style and layout from the concrete slab up.

    All of this activity led me to a little research. This motel was built in 1937 and was in operation as the Williams Deluxe Cabins near Exton, Pennsylvania, along Route 30. Over time it was also known as The Tudor Motor Inn (c. 1960), and Ichabod's Plaza or Ichabod's News. The office was attached to a gas station, two cabin-like structures with a connecting breezeway. A postcard I've seen of the site in years gone by showed it as an Esso service station.

    In 1988 the site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and until recently all the structures were boarded up and appeared to be abandoned, despite its NRHP status. It was listed as:
    Historic Significance:Event 
    Area of Significance:Transportation
    Period of Significance:1925-1949
    Owner:Private
    Historic Function:Domestic
    Historic Sub-function:Hotel, Single Dwelling
    Current Function:Commerce/Trade, Domestic
    Current Sub-function:Hotel, Single Dwelling, Specialty Store (see: http://www.nationalregisterofhistoricplaces.com/PA/Chester/state7.html )
    Now, things are changing. I have yet to find out why. If anyone knows and is willing to share, I'd love to find out. Please let me know. Our daughter has hypothesized it's being renovated to be reopened as a hipster retro motel complex. Would that transform the gas station into a coffee shop? What have you heard?

    For more information, see: http://research.omicsgroup.org/index.php/Williams_Deluxe_Cabinshttps://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Williams_Deluxe_Cabins_Chesco_PA.JPG, and https://www.flickr.com/photos/modbetty/sets/72157625305023545/

    For a Library of Congress image of just the "deluxe cabins" themselves, see: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/hhh.pa3973.photos.202913p/ and for more, see: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/PA3973/ and http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/pa3973.photos.202911p/

    If you're really curious, you can join a group talking about the site on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Williams-Deluxe-Cabins/538469026181443

    Update: I found another Facebook page for Architectural Concepts PC that stated (in c. 2016) Ichabod's Plaza Originals (7 photos of the buildings and details) with the subtitle "Sneak Peek of a Few Photos Before We Recreate the Magic." This apparently is the architectural firm rebuilding the site. Will Ichabod's Plaza a.k.a. Williams Deluxe Cabins a.k.a. Tudor Motor Inn be returned to service along Route 30, Lincoln Highway, near Exton, PA? Was our daughter correct? See: https://www.facebook.com/pg/architecturalconcepts/photos/?tab=album&album_id=763401560452494

    Tuesday, February 7, 2017

    Reading: Defense Against Alternative Facts

    Forty-two percent of American college grads never read another book. Thirty-three percent of U.S. high school grads refuse to read books every again.

    In the age of "alternative facts" this is a dangerous trend. Giving your brain over to the commentators (who do read, but highly skewed material) is not healthy. Remember, those who seek to entertain or misdirect are interested in high ratings and/or have an agenda this is not very often healthy to large groups of Americans. Consider reading your very own "defense against the dark arts," to quote J.K. Rowlings Harry Potter series of books.

    If it's been a long time, you might want to start with some fiction. Then move on to non-fiction, particularly books that will help navigate the contentious political/social world we live in. Head off to a library and ask a reference librarian what he/she would recommend on any given subject. You will not be judged for this. Librarians are there to help and will be glad to send you in a good direction.

    Equipped with facts, real facts, facts that may make you uncomfortable (remember the "fake news" stokes your own bias and builds up your "righteous indignation" and confirms your bias), facts that might even change your perspective on some subject or other. That's healthy. That's good. That may save lives.

    Good luck. Wishing you years of healthy exploration through books.

    Monday, February 6, 2017

    Six Ways Opportunity is like a Teenager


     Nobody would have imagined how far this rover would come or how long she would last. It's nice to know, with so much up in the air politically at home and around the globe, that we humans and our robots are still making significant and surprising strides. Well done, everybody involved. I hope she keeps going for another decade at least ... and keeps surprising us as she goes and grows. 

    Pastors, Funeral Directors, and You

    What do pastors and funeral directors have in common? I know, sounds like the start of a joke, perhaps one with a nasty punchline. However, I have new insight over the last three years.

    Pastors and funeral directors perform a vital service for people who mourn. Both professionals bring order into the chaotic lives of grieving individuals, families, and those who love the mourners. Following the death of a loved one, when one feels the world no longer makes sense, the best pastors and funeral directors come in with compassion and plans. They listen to those who grieve and provide steps forward, leading out of the immediate chaos and providing answers to what becomes of my loved one now and how do I (we) go on with life? The structure, planning, and performance of the funeral service and interment (or handing over of the cremains in an appropriate urn) give order, provide meaning, and offer opportunity for the third element that is vital at such times, you.

    And by you, I mean all of us who come to support an individual or family as they grieve. Many of us come in fear and trepidation. We spend most of our lives avoiding the issue of mortality and here it is, front and center. We approach with anxiety, not knowing what to say in the presence of this horrendous loss. But really, it is a simple thing. You (we) also help bring order into chaos. By our presence, our embraces, our tears, our remembrances, we help the grieving see that they are loved, that the whole world is not lost to them, and that there are people who will stand by them as they pass through this dark valley of grief.

    When you receive the tragic news of the loss of a friend's family member, an associate's spouse, a workplace fellow employees loved one, be willing to step up. Do your part, no matter how mixed your feelings are. Your help is vital, it will be remembered, and in time you will receive that help in return. We are all here to help each other on our collective journey. Nobody gets out of life alive and nobody needs to make the journey alone. 

    Taking a Facebook Break

    I saw a title of an article on my Facebook feed that gave me the push I needed. It stated (didn't bother with the facts, went with my gut feeling based on my own experience) that if all the time we spent on social media were redirected, we could read 200 books in a year instead. As an avid book reader and person of limited time, I've decided to cut back deeply on my FB consumption rate. I want to get at least a few extra books read this year. I've found FB and other social media (yes, I see the irony here) all too alluring, especially as I've set up a great many useful news feeds (actual news, not fake news, not alternative facts) on my page. That little red circle with the number in it telling me I may have responses to something I've said has become too much the siren song leading to rocky shoals of many lost hours scanning and getting increasingly angry. Comments sections are far too acid, too toxic for my taste. Bitter is not my favorite flavor.

    So, for a time, if my resolve holds, FB will have to carry on largely without me. I have books to read, a great outdoors to explore, and a body and actual physically present people to reconnect with.

    I'll be here from time to time to let anyone curious enough to check in know what I find beyond the screen. Who know, I may see you out on the streets.

    Take care.

    Saturday, January 28, 2017

    Oh FFFFUDGE! Christmas 2016

    We found this in the local Christmas Store this year. It made a great stocking stuffer and got a laugh out of everyone as we're all fans of A Christmas Story. We thank the McJak Candy Company of Medina, Ohio, for their sense of humor and delicious fudge. Keep up the good work.




    Come to think of it, given recent turns of events, this box cover and sentiment are both totally appropriate here and now. Oh FFFFudge indeed!!!

    Monday, January 23, 2017

    World marches to support women’s rights: January 21, 2017


    Our family had friends and associates marching in the Women's March in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and San Francisco. We are proud of them and their peaceful marches. Their messages are complex and wide ranging but can be boiled down to wanting the best for humanity in all its forms and for our planet. Thank you all for staying safe and non-violent in your actions. Thank you for following the First Amendment and making sure your voices are heard. Let this lead to inclusive conversation and cooperation across many lines, including party lines in the U.S.

    Marches took place on all 7 continents on earth. That has to be a record. Somehow, I imagine, unless things change quickly and suddenly, it is a record that will be topped in the near future.

    Nonviolent Communication: It's Up to Us in 2017

    We are living in a society today that is increasingly divided into us and them categories that are growing increasingly small and increasingly insular. We have gotten to the dangerous position of deciding that if someone does not agree with us on some particular position (a wedge issue most likely set up by an organization to meet an end that profits that organization and nobody else). We demonize all who view the world differently, or are in some way physically, emotionally, mentally, psychologically, sexually, or in some other way different. We are writing people off in large swaths. This path leads to judging others as less than human and it leads to physical, emotional, and psychological violence and death. In a civilization where private citizens can get hold of weapons that allow for death on a massive scale, that is an awful way to be thinking.

    We need to be mindful of and work hard to avoid using violent communication, which takes on the forms of judging, blaming, finger-pointing, name-calling, bullying, bigotry, discrimination, refusing to listen to learn or to understand another point of view, criticism, hostility (in initial action or reaction, often way out of proportion to any perceived slight), using divisive political/theological rhetoric, being defensive, judging others as evil and hell-bound, deciding who is right and wrong, good and evil, painting whole populations, races, religions, etc. with gross generalizations intended to demean and dehumanize. This is violent communication, which leads to physical violence.

    Non-violent communication involves intentionally viewing others differently, refusing to tar people with that broad brush. It starts with seeing people differently. Much of society chooses to see people as basically evil (especially those outside our little in group, whatever that may be). If you choose the path of non-violent communication, you start with the proposition that people are innately good. People start out as being basically empathetic, caring for others, and that it is a violent society and violent individuals within that society that teach people to be something other than their basic human nature. Violent communication, bigotry, greed, and a great many other social ills are learned. When you decide that people are basically evil, you have recast them in your own image rather than seeing them all as much loved children of God (yes, I'm a pastor, and I speak in religious terms but practice non-violent communication here and don't write me off if you are not, as this method works on both the sacred and secular level) or as basically good people if that is your perspective. To be non-violent in communication we see all people (yeah, even those of a different political party) as redeemable people. Nobody is lost. God sees us all as forgivable, redeemable, lovable people and if God can do so, so should we, as we too are sinners. Reaching for non-violent communication means listen to others' perspectives to learn from them, coming to any conversation from the position of here is an opportunity for me to learn and perhaps for my position to evolve. It's a good place to be. Who really wants to go through life with the exact same set of beliefs they had when they were five? We use language to build bridges to others, not to push them away. We need to work toward solutions that are inclusive not exclusive. We want to reach out to as many people as possible, banding together in ever larger groups to use all our combined talents and knowledge for the advancement of us all, for the inclusion of others, for the strengthening of us all.

    In an age when people are redefining lies as "alternate truth," we need to step up and work for truth, justice, and love as we understand them. It starts with how we choose to see others and the world around us. It moves on to what we say and do.

    I do not want to live in a dystonian future. How about you?

    For more on non-violent communication and its influence, see this sermon: https://lansdownebaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2017/01/fishers-of-people.html