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, 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 ever 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.