The Thirty Minute Blogger

Exploring Books and the Writer's Life, Faith and Works, Culture and Pop Culture, Space Science and Science Fiction, Technology and Nostalgia, Parenting and Childhood, Health: Physical and Emotional ... All Under the Iron Hands of the Clock and That 30 Minute Deadline

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Freeman's Mind 2: Episode 1

This news is 8 months behind the times but I don't care. I'm really glad Ross Scott of Accursed Farms is back with a second series of Freeman's Mind. For video game geeks who have played the Half Life games, this is really entertaining. But I don't believe you HAVE to be a video game geek to enjoy the adventures of this narcissistic, egocentric, neurotic, and reluctant adventurer. Take a look and see what you think. He's up to episode 6 of the new series, and I hope it will take as long to complete the second series of Freeman's Mind as it did the first. Check out his Game Dungeon videos as well. The opening reminds me of the old horror show openings from the Friday night shows like Baltimore's Ghost Host. Not a bad way to ring out the old year and in the new. Beats a hangover. 

Wishing Us All a Little Weirdness in 2018

I hope you all find moments that bring you to a stop because they are just plain weird. I hope we all have those little incidents that leave us trying to put some sort of coherent story around something out of place or some experience out of the norm.

I was out with my new phone camera, checking out what it could do, when I was stopped a couple of times in the same day. (It's an iPhone 7 if anyone cares and the camera does a pretty good job, I have to say.) I headed over to a local cemetery where two beautiful trees were in full fall color so I could get shots of them for my wife, who loves those trees. Under one of them was this little hand demanding my attention, symbolizing for me the need to stop and take note. I did, and snapped this shot.

Later, walking down a local hiking trail, minding my own business, I noticed an older woman in the distance nudging something with a walking stick. She and her companion left, and when I got to the place that had held her attention, I found these little girl's shoes, which the woman with the walking stick had neatened up on the path. Instantly, my mind wanted the story behind the shoes, and really wanted that story to be benign. I hope they were kicked off unnoticed by a little girl in a stroller. I want the story to be that simple and that safe. That image sure did bring me to a halt.

So, I hope 2018 will find you puzzling over weirdness right along with me. After all, it beats fretting about politics!

Speaking of weirdness, try this:

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year: A Wish for 2018

Well, it's a little belated for the Merry Christmas wish for 2017, but that's because I was busy living out my own merry Christmas with my family. Merry Christmas to you all, all the same. If there is some other religious holiday you celebrate this time of year, or none at all, I wish you the very best for this holiday season!

So, here's wishing each and every one of you a happy new year with all the love, joy, excitement, family, and friends you could hope for.

My wish for us all for 2018: Here's to standing firm in the face of injustice, speaking out against expressions of hatred, standing with victims of all sorts of crimes, demanding justice from and for all who serve and protect, increasing pressure on public servants to serve the public rather than their financiers, befriending and supporting minority groups under attack at home and abroad, insisting upon better treatment of the only world we have, persisting in resisting the lures of greed, corruption, and all other worldly vices so that we might help make this a better world in the upcoming year. Here's to a year where more of us put aside our busy schedules periodically and help those around us in need, the weak, the poor, the "least of these." Here's to all who have suffered from disasters in 2017, natural and human made. May we stand beside you, grieve with you, and support you in the year ahead.

May it be a busy and fulfilling year.

God bless us, every one! 

Closing Out 2017 with Beauty

We were visiting family in the mountains for Christmas. It snowed Friday and Saturday morning before we left, cautiously, by car, for home. We managed to put aside the worry over the drive ahead (which turned out just fine) and, instead, enjoyed the beauty of the snow-covered world around us.

It's a great way to ring out the old year, surrounded by white draped, sparkling beauty. It's a wonderful reminder for 2018 to pause and enjoy the moments of beauty and joy as they present themselves. It would be all too easy to be overwhelmed and embittered by the disaster and the strife ahead. So much better to be buoyed through it all by the moments of beauty and joy we are gifted with as we move forward.

Wishing you all the joy you can stand in 2018. Peace be with you. 

Historic Williams Deluxe Cabins Continue Changing

Driving by the construction site daily, I continue to be intrigued by the changes to the historic site of the Williams Deluxe Cabins on Lincoln Highway outside of Exton, Pennsylvania. Here's an update for the last day of December 2017.

A second duo of cabins is going up at an angle to the first cabin. This site is not one where previous cabins were standing prior to construction. At the time of this writing, the original string of cabins have now been torn down and a concrete foundation is in place for more of these new "cabins," if that is what they are to be. A small service building has also been removed. At this point, the original check in building/gas station combination remains, but for how long remains to be seen.

The cabins that were torn down had been standing empty for many years. I imagine there was next to nothing left to save. Roofs were in disrepair and no doubt much of the interiors had long been exposed to the elements.

Here you can see the service building that was removed and a glimpse
of the original cabins off to the right, now gone.

How this will end, only time will tell. And I'll keep watch if you are curious.

See this post for more information:

Friday, December 22, 2017

Don't Be a Trolling Jerk

Samantha Melamed, staff writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, recently published an article entitled "Trolls storm-troop 'Star Wars' spoilers." In the article, she states how many people out there think it's "funny" to put a bunch of spoilers out there on social media, trying to ruin the movie surprises for others. It's not "funny," it's lousy, it's rotten, it's the sign of a sick mind lacking empathy. Spoilers in memes, spoilers in emails, spoilers in comments/posts on Facebook and all the rest simply suck and reflect badly on those who spread them. "It's just fun to see people upset" one spineless internet troll cooed. No, it isn't. Life is hard enough without people going out of their way to be jerks. Let people have their small joys, their little surprises.

The article points out that back in the day, when the Sixth Sense came out, many weeks in NO ONE had given away the secret the movie revolved around. Back then, people respected each other. People WANTED others to share in the surprise when the time came and have the same movie experience they had. That was a community BUILDING moment rather than one where some jerks want to see it all burn.

I don't think I'll be spoiling the article for you by pointing out today that Samantha Melamed reports the Psychology Today refers to trolls as sociopaths. Other studies list them as "every day sadists," leaning toward psychopathy, and sub-human (well actually below average) empathy.

Don't be that way. Be a decent human being instead. This is a small thing but small things pile up to make society far uglier than it needs to be. In the end, it leads to a coarse society, one that eventually devalues life, has no empathy for those less fortunate, and becomes self-centered and hateful. We must be better than that. Take this small step. Don't be a trolling jerk. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Hobby Time: Gloor Craft Train Shed Complete

I did complete my adventure with the 1970s survivor Gloor Craft Single Engine Train Shed. By the time it was over, the roof panels had to be replaced with new balsa wood as they had warped beyond repair. I tried flattening them, but 40 years sitting idle was too long. I used those pieces to create the new roof pieces and moved forward.

After the painting was done, three different types of glue were used to assemble the structure: wood glue, Super Glue (metal pieces), and a specialty glue for the windows that would not leave blotches of glue or fingerprints on the "glass." When working in this small scale, you can use all the help you can get. This specialty glue works well but does leave a wavering glass effect behind, which is okay, looking like old glass.

The chimney over the main roof designed to allow the engine to idle in the shed and smoke escape was madness. All four sides had to be built (typical) but then the four rods elevating the top had to be added, created from a single rod measured to length and glued along the inside corners of the chimney. There were no set points to stop the rods so getting them level and nearly the right height was nuts. I admit they are a little tall, but that's probably the difference of 1/8" in N Scale and I decided not to push my luck.

The painting of the small chimney for the office was an interesting experience. I started with the sand of cheap bricks but decided I didn't like that. Mixed some red and white, came up with an aged brick look I hadn't expected and went with that.

I loved the process of having to improvise and create replacement pieces. That really grew my confidence in improvisation that at some point will lead to scratch built models.

There it is, the finished shed. Well, finished except for some weathering of the gutters and roof with a black wash to reduce the brightness and newness a bit. I really enjoy the overall effect. There something different about the wooden models. They take a long time to complete, but I think they are well worth the effort.

For the rest of the articles on this adventure in modeling, see:; and

Close up of those windows and the office chimney.

Passenger engine goes by on the main line.

Joy or Despair: YOU CHOOSE

How do you choose to see the world, to live your life?
What do you see looking at this photo?
Are you enjoying the beautiful lights or
critiquing the way the images is cropped?
Culture, society, ad people, credit companies, score keepers will ALL try to tell you that you have little power, UNLESS you meet specific, arbitrary standards. Well, dear readers, that's unmitigated ... hmm, the technical term would be ... CRAP. You have great power in this life. There is much you can accomplish. It starts each and every morning with a simple choice.

Each and every day, getting up, you may choose to view the world through the lens of joy or despair. I know, "it can't be that simple." But, it is. It's like the hospital patient who must make the choice either to consider him- or herself trapped by disease in that facility powerless at the whim of others OR to consider him- or herself given the opportunity to, for once, allow others to help him or her recover, to be on the receiving end of grace and healing instead of giving. Do you see the difference? The person who makes the positive choice of perspective WILL feel empowered, more in control, grateful rather than resentful and will likely recover faster.

You choose each and every day how to see the day ahead. Will you embrace or dread the day, will you curl in upon yourself and believe you are as helpless as society suggests, or will you accept joy and look ahead asking how can I help others, and in doing so help myself. Will you chose the direction that leads to a bleak day doing nothing or the bright day reaching out, making some small difference, BELIEVING a small kindness, a positive word, a smile can actually make a positive difference in the world. Your choice. All yours. You have great power. Will you use it today?

Sure, if you choose the bleak view, you can discard this, stating I can't make a difference in a world of global warming, nukes, corrupt politicians, etc. That is a piss poor way to live your life. Embrace joy (which is far more robust than happiness and doesn't require happiness to exist) and make a difference. Yeah, it does make a difference. There are a number of suicide notes left behind by bridge jumpers who wrote, "If ONE person smiles at me on my way to the bridge, I won't kill myself." One simple smile MIGHT just save a life.

The confounding thing about this is you have to take it on faith. In most cases, we won't see the results of what we do. That's hard to swallow in an instant gratification world. I'm asking you, no imploring you, to step out on faith today to make a difference. I'll see you out there. I'll have a smile, a positive word, a helping hand for you. Join me?

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Sign of the Times via MAD!

Here's a real sign of the times seen on the ACME magazine rack. Alfred E. Newman, Mr. What, Me Worry looking alarmed, even with the smile still plastered to his face. I did a little research. MAD's editors rarely change their mascot's expression and that is an editorial decision. It's subtle, a tilt of eyebrows, a roundness of eye to accompany the body language and the company.

Of course, standing next to Trump with his trademark What, Me Worry smirk would be enough, without the nuke going off in the background. Trump certainly out-Newmans Newman. Well done, MAD!

Back After a Break

I don't know what happened. I may never know. However, in the time away, the level of response to this blog has returned to normal levels. Being away was a chance to refresh, renew, and have something new to say.

For those who drop by, I'm glad you are here. I hope you find something to enjoy and that my work gives you a break from a hectic day, or a laugh ... 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Americans Suffer While Trump Turns Attention to Squabbles with NFL & North Korea

American presidents are supposed to try to unite the nation, especially in times of crisis. Right now we have a monster crisis, a humanitarian crises of apocryphal proportions in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Puerto Rico will be without power for roughly a year. They are running low on water. Where I live many people have friends and family in Puerto Rico and are extremely worries as there is limited communications with them and great difficulty to provide them support. (I'm not dealing with Texas here, since Trump did pay some attention to flooded Texans before going off on the NFL.)

We get no (have I missed something, please, if I have ... something more substantive than a tweet ... I'd really like to know) response from Trump. The Senate is obsessed with trying to gut the ACA and put roughly 32 million Americans permanently off health insurance. Trump would rather misconstrue the protests of football players during the national anthem (they are protesting the deaths in the black community of unarmed people at the hands of police, by the way) and play chicken with a nuclear armed nation. This is craziness personified. This is dangerous. This will lead to violence if it continues. Never before have I heard a president take to a stage and call a citizen a "son of a bitch" and that is truly disgusting and potentially dangerous. This is the same president who thinks there are a lot of good people to be found among neo-Nazis and white supremacists in the US. How repellant. This president (a purported Christian) also attempts to turn the symbol of the US, the flag, into something akin to a religious icon. That is simply wrong.

There is one way in which Trump has managed to unite some of the country. The NFL is united against his inflammatory statements about their players. A number of veterans have risen up against this tirade as well, stating that yes, the did fight for everyone's right to speech, their right to state their outrage peacefully.

So ends the soapbox rant.

P.S.: Commentators state Trump goes off on these wild tangents when he has something to hide ... when the Russia investigation heats up, when some policy he supports staggers or fails, when his base become furious with him talking to "the enemy," i.e. Democratic politicians. Oh how I want to see this dark period of US history end.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Senator Bob Casey Responds to Republican Attempts to Destroy ACA

Writing in concern for all those who receive health insurance through the ACA, and the Republican's endless attempts to kill the program 22 million use, here is the Senator's response:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about recent efforts to change our health care system. I appreciate hearing from you about this issue.

During the week of July 24, 2017, the Senate majority brought several of their health care schemes to a vote. Together with the House majority’s bill, each of these proposals would have increased premiums for middle income consumers and stripped millions of Americans of their health insurance. Some of these proposals would have shredded important consumer protections that individuals have come to count on, in Pennsylvania and throughout our Nation, and some would have decimated Medicaid, hurting children, individuals with disabilities and hospitals throughout our state. Each of these schemes was fundamentally unacceptable, and voted against each of them. Any changes to our health care system must maintain or expand coverage, quality and care, and the majority’s proposals did not meet that standard. Ultimately, they were defeated on a bipartisan basis.

Although their health care schemes failed in the Senate, the majority could still bring these or similar proposals up for a vote. I do not support these efforts, and I will continue to vote against them. Instead of continuing down a path that would decrease consumer protections and increase the number of uninsured Americans, the majority should instead get serious and work with the minority to build upon and improve our current system. President Trump and the majority in Congress must also commit to properly implementing current law and end their efforts to sabotage our existing health care system. These efforts only harm middle class consumers and families.

We have made significant strides in improving our health care system in recent years: 20 million individuals have obtained health insurance since 2010; insurance companies are no longer able to discriminate against individuals with pre-existing conditions, women or older Americans; and senior citizens have saved more than $20 billion on the cost of prescription drugs. Even so, I recognize that our health care system is far from perfect and that too many Americans continue to pay too much for their health care and prescription drugs. More work needs to be done, and I am hopeful that the majority and the minority might come together to seek further improvements to bring down the cost of care and to improve its quality.

I am actively working on commonsense solutions to improve our health care system. I recently joined several of my colleagues in introducing a bill to bring down prescription drug costs by allowing the importation of drugs from Canada. I also support creating a Medicare-like “public option” to compete with private insurance and provide consumers with more choices. I have also proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act itself, such as making it easier for families to access the law’s tax credit for health insurance when one spouse already has insurance at work.

In addition, I am pleased that the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, of which I am a member, has announced a series of hearings in September on stabilizing the individual health insurance market. These hearings will bring together a bipartisan group of elected officials, state insurance commissioners, insurers and health care providers to talk about steps that can be taken quickly to prevent dramatic increases in health insurance premiums. This is precisely the kind of serious, bipartisan work that the American people deserve, in contrast to the majority’s earlier attempts to ram their partisan proposals through the Senate without a single hearing or markup. Though I regret that it has taken so long for the majority to make a serious effort on health care, I am nonetheless hopeful that this represents the start of a new and more deliberate approach to improving the health care system for all Americans.

Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future about this or any other matter of importance to you.

For more information on this or other issues, I encourage you to visit my website, I hope you will find this online office a comprehensive resource to stay up-to-date on my work in Washington, request assistance from my office or share with me your thoughts on the issues that matter most to you and to Pennsylvania.

Bob Casey
United States Senator

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Welcome to 50th Birthday of TV's Animated Spider-Man and George of the Jungle: GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE CARTOON INTRO.

Ah yes, damn fine viewing for a 7 year old 50 years ago this month! Animated Spider-Man and George of the Jungle (plus Super Chicken and Tom Swift). George was brought to us by two maniacs from Rocky and Bullwinkle and molded our young minds with satire. It didn't last a season, but lived on in syndication forever. Spider-Man joined my young pantheon of superheroic icons with Superman (first introduced to, Great Caesar's Ghost) and Batman ('60s groovy Batman that is). Both series had memorable, fast paced theme songs you just can't forget once you hear them. Imagine being hopped up on sugary cereal on Saturday morning and getting those themes hopping in your young skull. No wonder so many moms pitched so many kids out the door after the morning hyperactivity inducing TV themes to burn off the sugar in the community and NOT to come home until lunch.

Spider-Man Animated Series theme (50 years ago):

Friday, September 8, 2017

Falcon 9 launches X-37B OTV-5 & Falcon 9 first stage landing, 7 Septembe...

SpaceX beats Hurricane Irma, launches the US Air Force's mystery crewless space shuttle successfully. What the X-37B does, we don't know for sure and the Air Force won't tell. What the Falcon 9 does we do know, and congratulate SpaceX on this newest success!

Senator Pat Toomey's Response to Violence in Charlottesville, VA 8/10-11/17

I wrote to the Senator to express my anger at the bigoted violence during the "Alt-Right" Klan, Nazi violent demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, and my disgust with Mr. Trump's initial response ... and the follow up beyond the "hostage statement," where Mr. Trump expressed himself more clearly. Here is the Senator's response:

Thank you for contacting me about the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia. I appreciate hearing from you.
Like you, I am deeply troubled by the racist march in Charlottesville and terribly saddened by the tragic loss of life that occurred there. The racism, hate, and violence seen in Charlottesville are vile and unacceptable. I am disgusted by the white nationalists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis, and believe that the racism and hate spewed by these groups have no place in our society.
As to President Trump's statements about the events in Charlottesville, I believe and have publicly stated that there is no moral equivalency between neo-Nazis, bigots, and white supremacists, and those who oppose them. Our country has no room for corrupt ideology or violent acts.
I hope that what occurred in Charlottesville will be an isolated incident. Moving forward, I pray that members of Congress will put politics aside, unequivocally condemn hate and bigotry, and find ways to work together to protect our shared American values of equality and justice for all.
Thank you again for your correspondence. Please be assured I understand and appreciate hearing your concerns, and will continue monitoring the fallout from the recent events in Charlottesville. Do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of assistance.
Pat Toomey
U.S. Senator, Pennsylvania

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Hurricane Irma Causes Damage Across the Caribbean: Our Prayers with You

I know someone on Puerto Rico, have friends with family there, and am very concerned. My prayers go out to all in the path of Hurricane Irma, all those who have survived Hurricane Harvey, and everyone under threat by both wildfire in the west and terrible political decisions in Washington, DC, including all 800,000+ dreamers out there. I stand with you all. To the dreamers, many of us are with you here in the US and are doing what we can to change this terrible, ignorant, bigoted decision.

Conspiracy Theory: When Search Engine Hits Dropped

I say this tongue in cheek, and yet ... after posting my experience and video in the 1000 Ministers March for Justice on August 28, 2017, the number of hits this blog site received dropped dramatically, even for this modest operation. Is something nefarious afoot? Is the current administration so thin skinned that participants in a peaceful march against current unjust policies brings about an overreaching, irrational response. Prior to the Trump administration and their actions, I would never have entertained such a thing (although during the W. Bush administration I would have felt compelled to add "I support the troops" to anything I said). Now, I'm not entirely sure. Could it be? It would explain a lot.

P.S. Oh, yes, I almost forgot. During this period, views from the US dropped sharply, and those from RUSSIA* increased dramatically to first place. Coincidence??? The work of Trump??? I wonder!

*Honestly, Russian readers, glad you're here ... but given our current politics and the Trump/Russia investigation, this was too good to pass up! 

Senator Bob Casey Responds to Trump Ethics Concerns

Thank you for contacting me regarding the importance of maintaining strong ethics standards for elected officials in the federal government. I appreciate hearing from you about this issue.

I have heard from many constituents who are concerned about potential ethics problems facing the Trump Administration. In particular, many have expressed worries about the high potential that President Trump and several of his cabinet nominees face significant financial conflicts of interest. Many have also raised concerns about the President stacking his administration with lobbyists, contrary to campaign promises to reduce the influence of special interests in government.

I share these concerns. Public service entails a commitment to always putconstituents first. This means adhering to strict standards of transparency and accountability. Unfortunately, the Trump Administration has not yet lived up to these standards. The Trump Organization has ties to foreign governments and government-run corporations all around the world. A bipartisan group of experts have stated unequivocally that the only way for President Trump to come into compliance with ethics standards is for him to divest his business interests and put his assets into a blind trust, as presidents with significant business interests of both parties have done in the past. Otherwise, the American people will have no way of knowing where the Trump organization ends and where the Trump Administration begins.

On January 11, 2017, then President-elect Trump held a press conference in which he detailed several measures he would take to address ethics concerns. But, far from satisfying these concerns, his proposed remedies demonstrated that he is wholly uncommitted to ethical governance. He indicated he would not follow the bipartisan tradition of putting his assets in a blind trust or releasing his tax returns. Indeed, in the immediate aftermath of the press conference, the head of the Office of Government Ethics condemned the President-elect’s ethics plan as “wholly inadequate”, and the top ethics lawyer to President George W. Bush, Richard Painter, wrote a New York Times column saying the plan “does nothing to fix the serious conflicts of interest and global security threats posed by his existing business relationships.”

Honest and accountable government is important to all of us. When the Trump Administration is weighing whether to approve a contract or propose regulations, that decision must rest on whether those actions will improve our economy and security, not the President’s bottom line. When the Commander-in-Chief decides to put American lives at risk, it must be to protect our national security, not his foreign investments. The potential problems are endless, and until President Trump divests his assets into a blind trust, the American people cannot have confidence that their President is putting them first.

I have been fighting to ensure the incoming administration meets high ethical standards. In December 2016, I signed a letter to the President-elect’s Transition Team urging it to take steps to address ethical concerns, including by divesting financial conflicts of interests and creating a blind trust. I am an original cosponsor of a resolution introduced by Senator Cardin on January 4, 2017, which states that President Trump risks violating the Constitution’s prohibition on receiving money or gifts from foreign governments unless he divests his businesses interests. I am also an original cosponsor of S. 65, the Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act, which was introduced by Senator Warren on January 9, 2017. This bill would require the President, Vice President and certain family members to divest any financial conflicts of interest by placing them into a blind trust. It would also require the public disclosure of the last three years of tax returns by the President, Vice President, and all major-party nominees running for those offices.

On May 3, 2017, I introduced the S. 1026, the Know Conflicts Act of 2017. This bill would increase transparency and accountability regarding financial conflicts of interest in the administration of federal awards. Specifically, it would require that, a searchable public website with information on federal spending, include in any search results information as to whether the President or Vice President has a financial stake in the recipient of any federal awards. This would shine a light on any conflicts of interest that could affect the decision-making of the Administration when it comes to spending taxpayer money. I will continue to advocate for this commonsense bill, which was referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs.

Additionally, I support legislation to improve the transparency and accountability of the federal government as a whole. I am also a cosponsor of the We The People Act, a major package of good government provisions originally introduced in June 2016 and awaiting reintroduction in the 115th Congress. First, this package will increase transparency in the campaign finance system. It requires mandatory, timely disclosure of all special interest campaign donations, prohibits single-candidate Super PACs and restricts coordination between candidates and outside groups. Second, the package will limit special interest influence in Congress by strengthening lobbying laws. It enacts a permanent ban on lobbying by former members of Congress, closes loopholes that currently allow many consultants to avoid registering as lobbyists and eliminates the revolving door between government and the financial services industry.

I will keep fighting to see that essential ethics standards are met by the Trump Administration and the entire federal government. I often think of an inscription on the Finance Building in the capitol complex in Harrisburg that reads, “All public service is a trust, given in faith and accepted in honor.” It is incumbent on all elected officials to hold themselves to the highest standards of ethics, transparency and accountability in order to honor that trust.

Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future about this or any other matter of importance to you.

For more information on this or other issues, I encourage you to visit my website, . I hope you will find this online office a comprehensive resource to stay up-to-date on my work in Washington, request assistance from my office or share with me your thoughts on the issues that matter most to you and to Pennsylvania.

Bob Casey
United States Senator

Monday, September 4, 2017

Does This End J.S. Brooks Presents?

Good evening faithful readers ... and everybody else who just happens by. Welcome. This is the second time I've seriously considered ending this blog. The first time came when its original reason for being, the promotion and sale of the children's book Michael and the New Baby (now out of print), ended. At that point, I decided to continue for my own personal enjoyment and as a platform for ideas important to me. I used the platform to get out ideas and positions, especially on culture and religion, that I felt were getting short shrift. The numbers of views grew surprisingly a while back.That was wonderful.  Now they have dropped, equally surprisingly, and disappointingly to be honest.

So here we are. Do I call it quits on J.S. Brooks Presents? If so, what then? I'm a writer at heart and I love to bat around ideas and share stories on the blogging platform. So, to continue or not? What platform to continue on? Will I continue with Blogger or move on to something like WordPress, Weebly, Wix or Tumblr. Free it has to be for me. That's just the way I am.

At this point, if I'm to start over, I'll be a little more likely to follow some of the blogging rules. The site I create will focus on one topic only, rather than cut across a wide range of my personal interests. But which focus to hone in on? I see a few among the most popular blogging subjects (ideas) that interest me. The ones that attract me most, at first glance, include personal stories, charity and activism, product reviews, sourced news, travel, history, or funny stories. I'll just have to mull it over and make some sort of decision. I've enjoyed this. I've enjoyed writing for you and interacting with you. I'd like to do it better. We'll see.

Thank you for being here. Thanks for keeping me company in this endeavor. Whatever I decide, I'll let you know. If you have constructive suggestions for a new direction, please let me know.

The problem that stirs this question:

Contact Trump About DACA Decision

Donald Trump has made it clear he intends to undo the Obama Administration's DACA or Dreamers Act. In doing so, Trump will tear apart families, deporting children to countries they do not know. If you find this idea repellant, email the White House now and register your complaint. You can reach him at

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Schwinn Stingray Style Handlebars?

Those are some handlebars!
Discovered this bike outside the Crawfordsville, Indiana, public library. I don't know if this rider is a huge fan of the old late 1960s early 1970s Schwinn Stingrays or motorcycles with "ape hanger" handlebars. I understand that such high handlebars add to cooling the rider while riding at speed. I don't know if that really applies to bicycles or not, but here they are. It certainly makes for a unique look. 

Collectible History: Illinois Sesquicentennial Ashtray

On the way home from church today, in a long and looping discussion, my wife and I came around to the subject of houses and props used in commercials. One of my wife's friends had her house used in a commercial. On several occasions, during antiques and collectibles photo shoots for books, in antiques shops, I saw very focused individuals come in looking for particular antiques or period collectibles for commercials being filmed locally.

From there we looped around to ashtrays, one item that used to be everywhere and is now rarely seen. My wife remembered on such item in our house. When I was a kid in Chicago, my school class when on a field trip and I came back with this souvenir. I remember I liked the glaze color, the Lincoln portrait and the Illinois shape. I don't remember if I was aware at the time that it was an ashtray. How it survived all these years and remained with me is a bit of a mystery. That my wife remembered where it was hiding is astonishing.

So here you have it, a Haeger ceramics Illinois Sesquicentennial ashtray with Honest Abe's portrait from 1968. You won't see these around much these days I imagine.

Sloggin' Thru Blogging: Attempting to Correct Technical Difficulties

The blog is acting strangely. The numbers of views are down. Access may have been skewed in some way. Suddenly, there are much higher hits in a country other than my own for the first time as well. I'm attempting to fix this, so things may be weird for a while, until I discover what's wrong. Thank you for your patience. Stay tuned.

This is leading to a serious question:

Nashville Statement: NO

John D. Pierce, the executive director of Nurturing Faith Journal, has a powerful piece on the Nashville Statement concerning the LGBTQ and transgendered communities and all who support them. He calls the authors religious authoritarians and he thanks them for drawing a bright line between themselves and the rest of Christianity. I highly recommend reading the entire piece, especially if you grew up among the Southern Baptists or various evangelical fundamentalists.

Before you get to the article, I'll tell you what I believe. There is a lot of new research concerning the Bible and homosexuality (the rest is not much mentioned). There are scholars who are seeing a different context for the particular verses the fundamentalists use to clobber these minority groups. Among the interpretations I've read, there is the belief that the groups written about were Roman aristocracy who were free to rape anyone beneath them in the social hierarchy. Jewish and Christian writers were calling their people to not follow this awful Roman trend.

Aside from that, I've always been opposed to bullies. The authors of the Nashville Statement are just that. They proclaim for themselves who is in and who is out. I find it suspect they choose to focus on minorities who have nothing to do with their faith. They have nothing to lose by sneering Pharisee-like at these people or anyone who support them as they lose no congregants by doing so. That they would choose to do so now, when terrorists, fascists, and the KKK feel emboldened by the current politics, when Texas and Louisiana drown under the impact of Hurricane Harvey, San Francisco and other western locations suffer from high and rising heat, and North Korea first a missile over Japan and test ever more powerful nuclear weapons. Now is the time you choose to further divide people, to inflict unneeded pain, and deride all who do not see the world your way? I'm glad you do not wish to associate with this Christian. I hope in the future I will no longer have to explain how I'm not "that kind of Baptist." I am willing to have all sorts of discussions with open minded folks willing to live in the tension of different interpretations and perspectives on many religious issues, but not with folks who take this stance.

Now, here's the article, which states things far more clearly than I have:

Off the Beaten Track

Once we had headed north from I 70 to find Indiana's highest elevation, we ran across a windmill field of at least 30 windmills in our travels. In an age when some politicians are trying to revive the coal industry, it is wonderful to see such fields of clean energy growing across the US. I've seen such fields in western Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and now Indiana. Some people protest their development locally, claiming the noise and other effects will do them ill. We also found solar panel fields of clean energy as well. It is wonderful to see such progress, despite the worst efforts of luddites in politics and industry. How about we retrain the diminished numbers of coal miners to cleaner, safer work?

We turned southward to visit Rushville, Indiana, for personal reasons and discovered one claim to fame for the town. Here was a large exterior wall art installation for Wendell Willkie, who ran for President in the Republican party of 1940. Turns out Wendell married a local girl from Rushville, Edith Wilk, a librarian. Funny what you run across when you get off the beaten path.

Next time you travel, will you???

For our highest elevation adventures so far, see:, and

Finding the Highest Elevation in Indiana and Elsewhere

While traveling into Indiana, my wife and I discovered that the highest elevation in the state was listed north of Richmond, Indiana, which we were closing in on. Traveling alone, we decided to see if we could find this highest elevation in a fairly flat-ish state. We charted a course north of I 70 along some surprisingly hilly back roads, which gave the car that lift right over the rise you rarely feel along a highway. Heading north for half an hour or so, we were surprised to find good signs leading right to the spot. We had to travel off the paved road onto a gravel road along the edge of a corn field. There in a small wooded patch, we found a lot more than we expected. A stone with the height and coordinates of the spot carved into it. A bench had been put in place by a society commemorating such spots. The mailbox contained a registry, which we signed. Two fire pits graced the site as well. It was a lot more than we expected and suddenly we understood why one couple had traveled to all the highest spots in the lower 48 states of the US. We intend to find at least of few of these spots.

We are in the book!

On our way home, we traveled north from I 70 to Belle Fontaine, Ohio, in an attempt to find the highest point there. We found the town, where many names of buildings reflected the fact this was Ohio's high point, but we didn't find the exact location. It wasn't as well marked as that in Indiana. Later, we googled the location and found we were very close, technically there (it's a 1,549 feet compared to Indiana's 1,257 feet and with higher, wider vistas). The sign is at the end of a drive on the grounds of a technical school open Monday through Saturday. We'll return on our next trip to Indiana and get a photo there too.

We researched Pennsylvania's highest elevation, but that one may be even trickier to locate. It's in a backwoods location with a ranger's station at that location. I'm not sure yet how close one could get driving there.

If you're interested, here's a list of all the highest elevations in the US:  Happy hunting!

For additional highest elevation adventures so far, see:, and

Turkey Run State Park, Indiana: 2, Stairs and Ladders

Trails 3, 5, and 9 form a challenging loop of staircases and rock climbs. Watch out for "The Ladders" leading in and out of a steep crevasse my wife and I declared the "Oh Hell No" ladders. There is a dirt trail leading from path three to five that bypasses these ladders, most likely for people with the same visceral response we had. It is a steeper climb than it appears in the pictures.
Tall, stately trees fill the park. This one arcs over Sugar Creek from left to right.
Stairways of stone ...

Stairways of wood ...

The "Oh Hell No" ladders
To learn more about the park, see:

Turkey Run State Park, Indiana: 1

This bridge looks like it leads into an ancient, primitive landscape.


Turkey Run State Park is well worth the visit. It is a remnant of Indiana's early prehistory. The water sculpted sandstone dates back 600,000 to 300,000 years ago. It is worth the trip to be among towering trees, listen to the sound of running water over rock, and the sounds of bird in the trees and woodpeckers rapping away at trees. Some of the trails are challenging, not for small children or those who are wobbly on their feet. Turkey Run survives, a very small remnant of the distant past far south of the rest as can be seen on this map, at least in part by being too rocky, with too much sculpted rock, to be farmable property. Farms surround the park, but nobody farms within its bounds. 

A variety of landscapes are found within the park and the trails range from the simple and flat to the challenging featuring rugged climbs over rocks and seemingly endless staircases. 
See the small square of green in Indiana, far south of the rest of
the ancient forest?
Sugar Creek, popular canoeing waterway flowing beneath the bridge
Water carved rock everywhere ...