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

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

SpaceX Falcon 9 BulgariaSat-1 launch & landing, 23 June 2017

This is the first time SpaceX has launched two missions in one weekend. Both were successful. See the June 23 and June 25 dates. That put one rocket in each ocean, Atlantic and Pacific, on two drone ships. Oh yes, and Elon Musk wasn't sure this first stage would survive the landing because it was coming in from higher and hotter than usual. See the steering fins glow bright red just before signal loss. Then see the suspense when the signal is reacquired and where you see roiling water. It doesn't look good. Here's what SpaceX has to say for themselves:
On June 23, 2017, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched the BulgariaSat-1 satellite into orbit—the first geostationary communications satellite in Bulgaria’s history. This mission marked the second reflight of a Falcon 9 first stage, having previously supported the Iridium-1 mission from Vandenberg Air Force Base in January of this year. 
Following stage separation, the first stage of Falcon 9 successfully landed on SpaceX’s East Coast droneship “Of Course I Still Love You,” stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. This marks the first time a Falcon 9 first stage has landed on both SpaceX’s East and West coast droneships, having previously landed on “Just Read the Instructions” in the Pacific Ocean.

For the second launch and landing, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2017/06/spacex-falcon-9-launches-iridium-2.html 

SpaceX Falcon 9 launches Iridium-2 & Falcon 9 first stage landing, 25 Ju...


This never gets old for me. SpaceX launches two sets of satellites for Iridium, twenty of the 75 satellites for a network. The first stage lands in iffy conditions in the Pacific Ocean on the "Just Read the Instructions" drone. This is two reused rockets launched and landed (with payloads successfully delivered) by one company in one weekend. This is a significant proof of concept for Elon Musk and company's idea of reusable reliable rocketry done far less expensively. Well done, SpaceX. Now get that crew module test out beyond the moon done in 2018!

To see the first launch of the weekend and its suspenseful first stage landing, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2017/06/spacex-falcon-9-bulgariasat-1-launch_28.html

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Senator Bob Casey Reports How GOP Sabotaged the ACA

When I wrote to Senator Pat Toomey (R. PA) I was ... underwhelmed ... with his response. As far as I was concerned, it was filled with "alternative facts" about the ACA and addressed virtually none of my concerns. The C.B.O. report, the response of AARP and the large negative response from doctors, hospitals and insurers to Trumpcare have left me even more concerned. Here, following this link, and you'll have an enumeration of the ways in which the GOP have attempted to destroy the ACA. You may consider these alternative facts if you wish, but I want this information available in the week when history will be made. This may be the first time in US history that we walk back from an social improvement to our way of life. If we do, who knows what will be attacked next or how many of us will die as a result.

The report from Senator Bob Casey (D. PA) may be read by following this link: https://www.casey.senate.gov/newsroom/releases/casey-unveils-new-report-on-gop-sabotage-of-health-care-system

Monday, June 26, 2017

Collectible History: 1991 Addams Family Cereal

So, did any of you actually EAT Addams Family cereal
when it came out in 1991?
In 2017, my wife helped costume our high school's Addams Family Musical. One of the gifts she received in appreciation is as weird as the Addams's themselves, a box of Addams Family cereal brought out by Ralston in the same year as the movie itself, 1991. A "free, reusable" flashlight is on the front cover and apparently it came shaped as other "things" than Thing. It is described by Ralston as the "creepy, crunchy cereal with the great taste you'll scream for." On the side panel, this cereal is described as a "Delightfully Demented Breakfast." I'm sure it is all that and more. The shapes of the cereal itself are headless doll, skull, and dismembered hand (i.e. Thing).



It is amazing what survives the years and can be found online. This plastic wrapped survivor is as weird as the family first portrayed by cartoonist Charles Addams in 1938 in The New Yorker, and continued until his death in 1988. The Addams Family first came to TV in 1964. This movie portrayal arrived in 1991 starring Angelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd, and all the rest. The Addams Family musical hit Broadway in 2010 and the rest is history, including this box of cereal. Delightfully demented it is.
Sorry the images are a little soft. The plastic wrap doesn't help.

If you want to relive the TV theme song, you can visit YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6QzbvH-ZNo

For more details about the cereal and this box, go see "Mr. Breakfast": http://www.mrbreakfast.com/cereal_detail.asp?id=4
You know how you kinda absently stare at the back panel
if you have nothing better to do at breakfast. Interesting
art to eat to, don't you think?

Immigrant Harassment Escalates in Southeast Pennsylvania, Elsewhere

At a recent meeting of the oldest denominational association in America, it was reported that many immigrant groups are currently being harassed and are living in terror given the anti-immigrant sentiments coming from our nation's "leaders." For example, a Burmese Christian congregation in Philadelphia is being attacked going to and coming home from church (with the usual ignorant "go back to your own country" rhetoric and angry threats). This has escalated significantly since the election of Donald Trump and his cabinet. Chinese Christians are so nervous, given the hateful climate, they are afraid to come out of their houses. One third of the population of Norristown, Pennsylvania, is Latino and they are living in a state of terror. The ICE teams are dressing virtually identically to the local police and there are daily rumors of raids given the confusion. ICE teams now respect no sanctuary situations around churches or schools. Hmong, Liberian, and Haitian refugees are all living in Philadelphia in large numbers and they are feeling the hate. Following the 2009 earthquake in Haiti, Haitian refugees were given a limited time in the US. Six months from now they must return to Haiti, whether or not Haiti is ready for them.

An immigration lawyer told the group meeting that until you are a citizen of the US, whether here legally or not, you may be removed from the US for whatever reason the government dredges up. Immigrants rounded up in raids on the excuse of "being close to the raid site" are treated as guilty by association and deportation follows.

Let's explore the refugee situation a little here. Most people moving from one country to another have been displaced by war, whether an armed conflict or economic warfare. They do not choose to leave their home country and they'd rather not. They fear for their families and so they go, often having little more than fifteen minutes to pack and clear out ahead of violence. Many of these are the people currently being harassed on the streets, in restaurants, in grocery stores, on mass transit, you name it. It's terrifying. It's a continuation of the violence they fled in the place where they'd hoped to be free of violence. To engage in such anti-immigrant behavior is as unChristian as you can possibly be. Do a little research for yourself and see.

By the way, when the various immigrant groups (I am a mix of multiple nationalities from England, Ireland, and Europe) that comprise my family came to the US, they booked passage with brokers (as is still done today) and faced a couple of very simple tests of physical health and mental acuity (given in the immigrants' native tongues). You see, back in the day the doors were flung open as growing business and manufacturing centers desperately needed much help to compete. My ancestors faced the same vile rhetoric from the most ignorant and backward Americans when they arrived, but managed to get by. I pray the current refugees and immigrants will be able to do the same, however vile and pervasive the hatred is today. Today, however, the immigrants are limited in numbers accepted as our need in manufacturing and business is not so great. The hoops to jump through are far greater and more onerous. The vetting process that Mr. T finds too lenient takes anywhere from two to eight years before you can enter the country. If you are not a skilled worker, you have no legal recourse for entering the country.

At this point Egyptian Coptic Christians and Iraqi Christians are being deported back to their home countries, where they are being hunted and killed in increasing numbers (see: http://www.newsweek.com/iraq-christians-trump-death-sentence-deportation-625722 as an example).

What can we do? Those of us who are the least directly impacted can speak up, as I'm doing here. Cry out to your politicians. Take a stand in the streets. Write letters to editors. Talk to friends. Get the word out. Refuse to stand by doing nothing as examples of hatred escalate.

And for those who say, "You're in American now. Speak English!" let me tell you a story. One of my brothers-in-law married a woman from Greenland. He brought her home to the Midwest. She could both understand and speak English. She rarely did, however. Why? Because when she spoke it identified her as a foreigner and she was loath to be seen as such and mistreated. She was here legally, but life was very difficult. Her children are perfectly acculturated. Keep that in mind the next time you want to pass judgment and harass someone who is different from yourself.

Also, on the border between the US and Mexico, in the desert areas, churches are placing bottled water along routes immigrants enter the country and have been dying of thirst. Militia groups "defending the US" are emptying and slashing those water bottles, ensuring needless deaths. This anti-immigrant stance that has escalated in emotional and physical violence since 11/9/16 is going to get a lot of people killed and may very well gut the soul of this great nation.


Recycling an Old TV

Where old TVs, monitors, and computers go for recycling. Ours is the gray and black
JVC near the lower left. It was one of the smaller sets there.
Our old TV, a JVC with a big tube that had been set aside as a video game monitor for the past few years, finally gave up the ghost. In the state where I live, TVs can't be put out with the garbage anymore. Now by law, manufacturers who sell short-lived electronics such as computers, monitors and TVs have to agree to recycle them at the end of their lives.

To make this happen, these "covered devices" are gathered up in a side area at the landfill (outside another town about 25 minutes away from where I live) where they are placed on pallets, wrapped in plastic, and shipped to wherever the work to be done is done. It was an interesting process for me. The landfill itself is a huge facility rising like a small mountain on the far side of town from my direction of travel. Driving into the property, signs guide one to the "weigh master" who politely asks where you live and what you're bringing in (some items require a fee). I was sent up the hill and off to one side where the TVs and monitors were gathered. Up the hill a little further, the pallet mounted and wrapped electronics were gathered awaiting shipment.

The place was so huge, I never caught sight or heard any of the operation associated directly with the landfill itself. It was an interesting experience. Hopefully the flat screen we have today will not have to make that journey for some years to come.

I thank my wife who came along for the ride and helped lug the set both to the car and out onto the pavement.

If you're curious, here's how Pennsylvania handles the issue: http://www.dep.pa.gov/business/land/waste/recycling/electronics/pages/default.aspx

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Senator Pat Toomey's Response to Healthcare Concerns

I wrote to the Senator voicing my concerns over what was to become of healthcare in the Republican plan. This is his response. I will let you decide what to think for yourselves. For me, I see a lot of alternative facts and avoidance of some of my concerns.

June 22, 2017

Dear Mr. ,

Thank you for contacting my office about President Obama's health care law. I appreciate hearing from you.

President Obama's health care law is fundamentally wrong in its approach to improving our nation's health care system. It forces people to buy overpriced health plans they do not want, hikes taxes, and puts important and personal health care decisions in the hands of politicians and bureaucrats instead of patients and their doctors. News of skyrocketing health insurance premium increases--32.5 percent on average in Pennsylvania--coupled with the fact that 40 percent of Pennsylvanians now live in areas with no health insurance competition, show just how Obamacare's broken promises are hurting Pennsylvanians.

Given the massive spikes in premiums and deductibles so many Pennsylvania families are enduring, the loss of choices, and the collapse of individual markets, Congress has begun the process of repealing and replacing Obamacare. This comes after multiple elections, years of discussion and numerous open and public hearings in both the House and the Senate detailing the failures of the current law and how to fix the health care system.

On May 4, 2017, the House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (H.R. 1628). This proposal is merely the first legislative step; the Senate is drafting a new version to repeal and replace Obamacare so that Pennsylvanians can have access to quality health care at a price they can afford.

As part of any replacement, I want to make sure that there is a suitable transition period so no one covered by Obamacare has the rug pulled out from under them. I also want to ensure people with very expensive, chronic illnesses have access to affordable coverage. The manner in which this can be done includes, but is not limited to, the use of state-based risk pools and extending the incentives for individuals to maintain credible coverage, which already exists in employer-sponsored market, to the individual market.

Rest assured, any legislation considered by the Senate will be made publicly available before a vote. The bill will be subject to an open and unlimited amendment process, allowing every member to suggest changes before final passage. Please know that I understand your concerns, and as Congress continues to debate health care reform, I will be sure to keep your thoughts in mind.

Thank you again for your correspondence. Do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of assistance.

Sincerely,

Pat Toomey
U.S. Senator, Pennsylvania

See Congressman Ryan Costello's response to the original House Trumpcare plan for contrast: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2017/05/republican-congressman-ryan-costellos.html

For Senator Bob Casey's (D. PA) rebuttal, see: https://www.casey.senate.gov/newsroom/releases/casey-unveils-new-report-on-gop-sabotage-of-health-care-system

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Powerful Pastoral Letter from the American Baptist Churches USA General Secretary

In light of the recent violence in the US and the UK, Rev. Dr. Lee Spitzer, the General Secretary of the denomination provides a powerful letter stating what American Baptists have always stood for. A sample of this important letter reads: 

In 2017, American Baptists gladly and forthrightly reassert our fundamental Baptist convictions regarding individual liberty, dignity and respect for all people, regardless of their racial or ethnic heritage, political or religious beliefs, or any other factor. In 1976, the General Board affirmed a policy statement on human rights, which said:
“Baptist history is rooted in concern for conscience and for freedom of individual beliefs, for choice, and for unregimented living whether by religious dogma and institution or by social and political structures. John Bunyan in prison and Roger Williams driven from Massachusetts, reflect commitment to these ideas, as did Martin Luther King, in his witness to human dignity and the rights of minority groups. Resolutions by the American Baptist Churches over the years have particularly sought to reflect the denomination’s basic principles of freedom of thought and belief, the right of dissent, the responsibility to speak prophetically to church and society and support for human dignity and social justice.”
For the full letter, see: http://www.abc-usa.org/2017/06/16/a-pastoral-letter-from-abcusa-general-secretary-rev-dr-lee-b-spitzer/

Friday, June 9, 2017

Philadelphia Holds Powerful Conversation on Racism in 2017

Read up on the event that attracted 175 people on evening in Philadelphia and listen to it on the site where the event is discussed. People of all different races and ages provide their experiences. Lansdowne Baptist Church discusses the event at: https://lansdownebaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2017/05/courageous-conversations-in.html

In this day and age, when the US is plagued with increasingly violent racist actions and words, encouraged by our current divisive and angry politics, we need to address this issue head on.

Here is the link to both several written stories and the recording of the event to listen to: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/education/item/104158-courageous-conversations-sharing-stories-about-race-and-pledging-to-practice-more

Christian author and founder of Sojourners, Jim Wallis, calls Christians out to stand against, speak out against, and act against racism and bigotry in a powerful article. See: https://sojo.net/articles/be-strong-and-courageous-face-hate

Watched a Driver's Near Death Decision

I was out driving yesterday on one of the small, two lane side roads in our area. I came to a railroad crossing. The gates were down and lights lit. There was no evidence of a train in sight, although the view was limited by buildings along either side of the tracks. The rails of the gates only covered one lane, the lane beside which the machinery was installed.

On the other side of the road, one driver decided not to wait. It didn't appear any train was coming anytime soon. So, he quickly pulled out into my lane on the other side of the tracks, moving with that hasty speed that says, "I know what I'm doing is illegal, probably dangerous, and I don't want to get caught." In the instant, the heart beat before he could enter the clear side of the track, the side without the gate on his side of the tracks, the train arrived. It was a local express apparently. It was moving at speed. One second it was not there; the next heartbeat, it was filling the intersection ... and then it was gone.

I don't remember if the trains sounded its horn. I don't know if it was required to do so or if the local express trains have horns to sound. All I can tell you is there was virtually no warning in sound or sight that the train was arriving. The warning came strictly from the gates and the flashing lights.

It was a near death experience for that impatient driver. Had he hurried a little more, his car and the train would have met. Who knows how many of us would have been collateral damage.

Don't gamble with your life and the life of others on the road. Don't try to guess when the train is coming. You can lose that bet in less than an eye blink. Stay safe. 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Life Post 11/9: Trump Backs Out of Paris Climate Agreement to Detriment of All

45 may prove more dangerous to life
than an asteroid to dinosaurs
Stepping onto my soapbox to rant.

That's my disclaimer. If you think the 45th President of the US is the best thing since sliced bread, this post is not for you. God bless you and go on your way please.

Rarely have I been so thoroughly disgusted ... but I've said that a few times since 11/9/16 and the electoral college travesty. Listening to this ignorant, climate change denying, twittering businessman spew his isolationist rant was painful. It was hard to hear the US being diminished word by word, and the future growing grimmer word by word. We are now one of an "illustrious" three nations that do not support this long negotiated agreement. I did not vote for this, not for any of it, and I don't agree with it. It's a real pile of "covfefe" to quote 45 directly.

We are supposed to be good stewards of this earth we have inherited. We are supposed to maintain life here, as a moral act and not just because we have nowhere else to go, no matter how many planets around distant suns are found to be in "Goldilocks" zones. We can't reach them, and if we destroy the climate that allows us to live here, we don't deserve to reach them, ever.

This stance of 45 is a direct threat to life at home and abroad. This is not "good for America." Pittsburgh's mayor has already complained about being singled out for mention, stating he's with Paris and not Trump. This position is not good for our families; it is not good for life as we know it.

We will have to see how this all plays out. Right now it looks very bad indeed. It will be four years before we can completely withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. That's time enough to get this individual impeached for other disastrous moves made or to make sure that he doesn't get a second term, and return to the agreement when sanity returns.

So ends the rant, for now.

If you want to check out the veracity of the statements Trump made, see NPR's annotation of his speech: http://www.npr.org/2017/06/01/531090243/trumps-speech-on-paris-climate-agreement-withdrawal-annotated

If you wish to complain to your  US Senator in DC, check: https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/

If you wish to complain to your US Congressperson, go to: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/