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

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins

Here's a treat for anyone who loves Dr. Seuss ... and especially if you are a fan of The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, as I am. These guys really bring life to that story, much as the story records I had as a kid did!

Take the 01/01/11 Random Acts of Kindness Challenge

Please follow this link to the Exton Community Baptist Church blog site and read about the 01/01/11 challenge:

Who knows where this might lead?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Meaning of Christmas from Peanuts

And that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Building a Christmas Tree This Year ...

Artificial tree bits awaiting assembly!
It's been a while since last I posted. We're in the Christmas rush here. Working full time, attending seminary part time, and the holiday festivities have been keeping us hopping.

This year we needed to build an artificial tree. The last two real trees were causing allergy difficulties and so the really ever green came home to roost.

Hey, this is starting to look complicated!

This object was a surprise. I had sort of imagined a pole to which all the branches were hinged and folded downward. Oh, no. How naive of me. This was an assembly job that first reminded me of when we put up a 15' above ground pool in our backyard. In the end, this proved to be easier ... and the results are fine. We like our tree just fine now that we've inserted all the JJJ branches to BBB branches (color coded too) in the right places and gotten it decorated.

So this is what it should look like?!
This branch goes where?

End result ... not bad.
Speaking of decorations, we like 'em old (Shiny Brite c. 1940s) and we like 'em new (Hallmark c. 2009 ... I was a big fan of Superman as a kid and that's all the connection I needed ... especially with the ornaments deeply discounted after the holidays!).

Shiny Brite, c. 1940s w/ modern LED lights.

Modern Ornaments Too, c. 2009.
From our family to yours, Merry Christmas, and may you have a wonderful new year. And for those of you with different religious persuasions ... or none at all ... we wish you all happiness during the holiday season and joy in the new year too.

Joy to You This Christmas ... and Always

Several teen choral groups, and group alumni, joined forces to deliver this message of joy and hope for Christmas 2010.

Advent Conspiracy ... Is This For YOU?

Here's a little something to think about for Christmas. Not a bad plan, not a bad conspiracy to join.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


You never forget that first infatuation of youth.

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: 

Meeting My First Flame ... Years Later

I was driving down a winding backroad the other night. "She" rolled up beside me. My first flame, the infatuation of my teen years. I looked over and jumped as she caught my eye. I stared, unabashedly stared. She looked good. Her lines were just as I remembered. All these years later and she hadn't changed one bit. The man she was with looked over and caught me staring. I didn't look away. Such is her power. He looked concerned and a bit nervous, until I grinned and gave him a big thumbs up, recognizing his good taste and that she was with him now ... and that was fine. His face lit up, he waved, and we both went on our separate ways.

She, the Jaguar XKE sports coupe with a convertible top, still looked fine as she pulled away with him. I don't want her anymore, but was glad to see she is still around and that she is still as beautiful as I thought she was in the 1970s.

Still, I mentioned my encounter to a friend at work, and he told me an unsettling story. His brother had one of these automotive beauties back in the day. All was well, as I would imagine, until the starter motor gave out. Such was this Jag's design that the mechanic told the dismayed brother, "Well, there are two options. To reach that starter motor we can either cut a hole in the firewall or drop the engine."

Sometimes it is best simply to admire old flames from afar and never get too close. Learning truth can put a big dent in an old fantasy.

Still, she did look fine!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Is New Barn Storming Age Here?

Back in the days of early flight, wealthy pilots explored the limits of their early aircraft in the barn storming era. These enthusiasts helped usher in the era of air travel.

Now, SpaceX has successfully launched their Falcon 9 heavy lift rocket with the Dragon capsule that will be able to lift equipment payloads or humans into space. Here's a private corporation stepping in to replace the some of the services provided by the Space Shuttle, filling the gaping (and foolish) hole in our ability to send humans into space. You can find out more about SpaceX's program at

Meanwhile, in July Boeing announced it might team up with Bigelow and provide the Orion space capsule (remember the Orion capsule, once to return people to the moon and now demoted to rescue capsule for the ISS--not returning to the moon is a big mistake if you ask me, but that's another story) as a vehicle to take well heeled visitors to an inflatable Bigelow space station (a concept originally explored by NASA and set aside--this is their design enlarged). Spaceflight Now covered this news item in July 2010.

Further, Virgin Galactic has created the first private spaceport and is now preparing the Ansara X Prize winning suborbital spacecraft to take adventurers to the edge of space for a glimpse of the great beyond.

To learn more about any of these stories you can also check out articles from my friends at Universe Today.

So, is the new age of barn storming upon us? Could be. Looks to be an exciting time.

Great Christmas Gift: Michael and the New Baby

Tis the season for frantic shopping. Look, Michael and the New Baby is small enough to slip into a stocking (6" x 9" paperback), inexpensive enough it will not set you back even if you have multiple childern ($12.95--a real steal in a bad economy), and provides a great adventure story with wonderful cartoon graphics. It's the sort of book your kids will return to for years to come just to relive the adventure.

This book does not have to be limited to the child who will soon be an older sibling. Any child can learn great lessons about siblings and love, conquering fears, not giving into pop culture corrosive ideas, and much more. Click on any of the illustrations to the right of this blog page and you will be taken immediately to the publisher's website, where you can order the book securely online.

Also, if you live near Greetings and Readings in Maryland, there are 4 copies there just waiting for you ... or there were after the book signing. As they say, those copies of Michael and the New Baby are only there as long as supplies last (which won't be long).

Finally, if you like what you read on this blog and want to support it (me), buy a copy today. Okay, that was cheesy, I admit, but the original purpose of this blog was/IS to sell this book.

Happy Holidays to everyone everywhere.

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at:

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Daisy Blasts Off .mov

Experimenting with another medium. It's a small start. A different sort of "launch" from what I usually discuss here.

At Home with Commander Scott Kelly: Private Space Aboard the ISS

Welcome to the crew quarters aboard the International Space Station!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Simple Childhood Wish Comes True in Technological Age!

Fighting Knights on lower right.
That childhood playset, closed and showing signs of much use...

When I was a kid, I had a Fighting Knights playset by Marx. It had a metal carrying case in which lordly knights and a barbarian horde were kept, along with plastic castle turrets, main gate, catapults, a well, and other accessories. However, for me, the most intriguing feature was printed onto the inner wall panel of the set. It was an open doorway, with a staircase leading upward in the distance. I always wondered where that staircase went and wished I could explore the interior of that castle between pitched battles. Of course, such things can't come true ... or can they?
Opening that set I was surprised to discover other "recruits" including a Robin Hood from a cereal offer and several fancier knights.

Those compelling doorways ... where did they lead?!

Decades later, that simple childhood wish did come true, in a way. First it came true in the computer game Myst, in which I could happily explore all sorts of structure interiors and plenty of mysterious staircases and passageways. It was a joy to have that childhood wish fulfilled.

However, I was reminded of this satisfaction while playing Halo Outreach and wandering happily through a multi-structure facility, ignoring the goals of the game for a time, and exploring every digital nook and cranny until I was completely satisfied.

Yes indeed, in the age of high tech, some simple childhood wishes can and do come true. Don't even have to wish upon a star. Sorry, Jiminy.

Political Delays, Blocks, Filabusters ... Is This What We Voted For?

The news today is full of federal shenanigans. Headlines read: "GOP, in procedural tiff, blocks 9/11 aid bill;" "Senate delays Dream Act vote, short on support for it;" "Obama backpedals on new emissions rules;" and "House Democrats want changes in tax deal." And let's not forget Senator McCain, who demanded the military run a study on whether Don't Ask, Don't Tell should be repealed. The report is in. The military says, roll it back. The senator's response is, the study was mishandled ... do it again. Oh yes, and then, as we approach Christmas, let's not forget that wonderful old chestnut moldering on a dung hill fire, "extend unemployment compensation only if you can pay for it." Hmmm, alright, I can think of one really quick way to pay for it. Bar salaries for wealthy congress people and senators for the duration of the economic crisis (until all who need work have it, none of this "jobless recovery" nonsense, not when the economy is based on people's buying power--how does that work anyway in a society that is skewing all the advantages to the wealthy and grinding the long suffering middle class, working poor, and totally impoverished into the dust). Take away their federal salaries, their pensions, their health care, everything that comes out of our pockets...and what they get from special interest groups. That money should pay for the extension. Further, then at least we'll be getting better bang for our buck. Right now, we're footing the bill for obfuscation, ideological pandering, and stalling. This is a bad bargain for the American people. No wonder our average life span in the US is dropping.

Now, I ask you, is this what you want to pay for from your government? I know I don't. I want to overfed, overpaid, overprotected civil servants who presumably work for us to get the job done. People are suffering throughout the country. Then again, I'm one of the radicals who thinks everyone should have affordable health care. After watching one friend die without health care, and seeing others suffer from illnesses because they can't afford health care, and still others pay the equivalent of a second mortgage to cover their families every month, my view on that subject is set in stone.

Ah yes, one last thing. In a news report earlier in the year, a reporter described politics in the newly established "democracy" of Iraq. He stated that whichever party was out of power stalled and refused to work with the other side until they had regained power and could take credit for whatever decisions were made. The reporter's analysis: the system is broken. Sound familiar?!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Life Gets WeirdER 1

Just when you thought things couldn't get any stranger--what with arsenic life, secret mini-shuttles, and catalogues devoted to geek life (thanks to the company that sent that one along ... we LUV it)--an ad like THIS shows up in the local hardware store supplement to the paper. No explanation, just THIS. My wife and I puzzled over what kind of product THIS could be ... AND OUR 14 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER KNEW!!! What is it? Google it yourself ... or ask a teen. I'm not tellin'. Sometimes life just gets weirdER!

Friday, December 3, 2010

My God, It's Full of Stars!

A view of many, many distant galaxies. Thanks Hubble team.
When Dave Bowman uttered that memorable line in both the book and movie 2001: A Space Odyessy, little did anyone know how prophetic the fictional astronaut was being. Now astronomers have said the same thing. Recent findings discover astronomers were off on the size of the universe by, to borrow a line popularized by Carl Sagan [via TV commedians], a few billions and billions. Turns out, certain galaxies different from our own are chock full of far more stars than the ol' Milky Way. The new estimate revises the total number of stars in the universe (drum roll please) from one hundred sextillion to three hundred sextillion!!! That leaves a whole lot more flaming gas balls to find potential earths around than we thought.

Just when we think we have a handle on what's going on ...


NASA News Release ... Suspense is over ... life can take strange, new forms!

NASA-funded astrobiology research has changed the fundamental knowledge about what comprises all known life on Earth.
Researchers conducting tests in the harsh environment of Mono Lake in California have discovered the first known microorganism on Earth able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical arsenic. The microorganism substitutes arsenic for phosphorus in its cell components.

“The definition of life has just expanded,” said Ed Weiler, NASA’s associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington. “As we pursue our efforts to seek signs of life in the solar system, we have to think more broadly, more diversely and consider life as we do not know it.”

This finding of an alternative biochemistry makeup will alter biology textbooks and expand the scope of the search for life beyond Earth. The research is published in this week’s edition of Science Express.

Carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur are the six basic building blocks of all known forms of life on Earth. Phosphorus is part of the chemical backbone of DNA and RNA, the structures that carry genetic instructions for life, and is considered an essential element for all living cells.

Phosphorus is a central component of the energy-carrying molecule in all cells (adenosine triphosphate) and also the phospholipids that form all cell membranes. Arsenic, which is chemically similar to phosphorus, is poisonous for most life on Earth. Arsenic disrupts metabolic pathways because chemically it behaves similarly to phosphate.

“We know that some microbes can breathe arsenic, but what we’ve found is a microbe doing something new -- building parts of itself out of arsenic,” said Felisa Wolfe-Simon, a NASA astrobiology research fellow in residence at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., and the research team’s lead scientist. “If something here on Earth can do something so unexpected, what else can life do that we haven’t seen yet?”

The newly discovered microbe, strain GFAJ-1, is a member of a common group of bacteria, the Gammaproteobacteria. In the laboratory, the researchers successfully grew microbes from the lake on a diet that was very lean on phosphorus, but included generous helpings of arsenic. When researchers removed the phosphorus and replaced it with arsenic the microbes continued to grow. Subsequent analyses indicated that the arsenic was being used to produce the building blocks of new GFAJ-1 cells.

The key issue the researchers investigated was when the microbe was grown on arsenic did the arsenic actually became incorporated into the organisms’ vital biochemical machinery, such as DNA, proteins and the cell membranes. A variety of sophisticated laboratory techniques were used to determine where the arsenic was incorporated.

The team chose to explore Mono Lake because of its unusual chemistry, especially its high salinity, high alkalinity, and high levels of arsenic. This chemistry is in part a result of Mono Lake’s isolation from its sources of fresh water for 50 years.

The results of this study will inform ongoing research in many areas, including the study of Earth’s evolution, organic chemistry, biogeochemical cycles, disease mitigation and Earth system research. These findings also will open up new frontiers in microbiology and other areas of research.

“The idea of alternative biochemistries for life is common in science fiction,” said Carl Pilcher, director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute at the agency’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. “Until now a life form using arsenic as a building block was only theoretical, but now we know such life exists in Mono Lake.”

# # #

The research team included scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz., Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource in Menlo Park.

NASA’s Astrobiology Program in Washington contributed funding for the research through its Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology program and the NASA Astrobiology Institute. NASA’s Astrobiology Program supports research into the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life on Earth.

More information about the finding and a complete list of researchers:


So, aliens live among us, at least in a NASA research lab ... teeny, tiny aliens. The more we look, the wilder things become. Thanks to the NASA team for broadening our horizons once again! Keep up the good work.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


NASA will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 2, to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe.
The news conference will be held at the NASA Headquarters auditorium at 300 E St. SW, in Washington. It will be broadcast live on NASA Television and streamed on the agency’s website.
Participants are:

- Mary Voytek, director, Astrobiology Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington
- Felisa Wolfe-Simon, NASA astrobiology research fellow, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, Calif.
- Pamela Conrad, astrobiologist, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
- Steven Benner, distinguished fellow, Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, Gainesville, Fla.
- James Elser, professor, Arizona State University, Tempe

Media representatives may attend the conference or ask questions by phone or from participating NASA locations. To obtain dial-in information, journalists must send their name, affiliation and telephone number to Steve Cole at or call +1 202-358-0918 by noon Dec. 2.
For NASA TV streaming video and downlink information, visit:

For more information about NASA astrobiology activities, visit:

That's the official word from NASA. They've discovered something that will "impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life." The blogosphere is buzzing over what this might be. Some say SHADOW LIFE has been discovered (look that up, it's interesting), others say it relates to the thin atmosphere recently discovered around one of Saturn's largest moons (Nope, it's no Endor ... what a geek I am), and still others let their fevered imaginations run far and wide. Industrious, curious web researchers tell us that at least 2 members study ocean life ... which supports the shadow life theory. Still, could it be extraterrestrials have been mamboing across NASA's front yard? Only time will tell ... a little over 24 hours from this writing to be precise. The truth is out there. At 2 pm EST tomorrow we discover part of it.
Thanks NASA guys and gals for adding a little mystery to my life!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Strange Signs Along the Highway

In my travels, I've run across a few strange signs lately ... signs that made me think, ponder, and imagine.

Along the side of the road outside of a store selling wood pellet burning stoves were large wrapped blocks stacked up in two layers, one on top of the other. Each block (containing one ton of pellets) had one letter or more written in red on a plastic strip surrounding the block. Originally, the top row had spelled WOOD and the bottom read PELLETS and a price per ton. However, the D has rotated sideways so the sign now reads WOO PELLETS and a price per ton. Now, just imagine what YOU could do with a ton of Woo Pellets ... How much would YOU pay for those?! Woo Hoo!

The second sign appears at either end of a small church cemetery in western Maryland. It reads:

"No Unauthorized Digging or Planting."

It makes you think, that sign does!

So do the road signs YIELD A HEAD and END CONSTRUCTION. The first is awfully grisly and the second seems downright militant. And then there are the neighborhoods that have to put up the SLOW CHILDREN signs. I feel for them and their mentally challenged progeny. Then again, I suppose their kids may just be ungainly and awkward.

Of course, all of this probably just indicates that I have too much time to think while I'm driving.

Victorian vs. Camel: 19th Century Reality Writing

Yes, it's time to continue our adventure series, returning to the amazing Explorations and Adventures of Henry M. Stanley.

In today's offering, Sir Samuel and Lady Baker give us the inside scoop on the joys and sorrows of riding the "ships of the desert" from the perspective of Victorian English folk.

Sir and Lady Baker report (p. 443): "When a sharp cut from the stick of the guide induces the camel to break into a trot, the torture of the rack is a pleasant tickling compared to the sensation of having your spine driven by a sledge-hammer from below, half a foot deeper into the skull. The human frame may be inured to almost anything; thus the Arabs, who have always been accustomed to this kind of exercise, hardly feel the motion, and the portion of the body most subject to pain in riding a rough camel upon two bare piees of wood for a saddle, becomes naturally adapted for such rough service, as monkeys become hardened from constantly sitting upon rough surfaces.
     The children commence almost as soon as they are born, as they must accompany their mothers in their annual migrations; and no sooner can the young Arab sit astride and hold on, than he is placed behind his father's saddle, to which he clings, while he bumps upon the bare back of the jolting camel. Nature quickly arranges a horny projection to the nerves by the thickening of the skin; therefore an Arab's opinion of the action of a riding camel should never be accepted without a personal trial. What appears delightful to him may be torture to you, as a strong breeze and a rough sea may be charming to a sailor, but worse than death to a landsman."

The Lord and Lady have MUCH more to say about the "joys" of camel riding ... however, not one mention of strange security procedures or pat downs. That's a plus.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Wishes and Quotes

Whomever you are, wherever you go, may you find yourself in good company, with good food, love, joy, and peace this Thanksgiving.

For Americans: may your football team not embarrass you too much if they are playing Thanksgiving day ... or over the weekend.

For everyone again: may you discover the quiet joy that comes from living in the moment, forgiving those who have done you wrong in the past (which is an act of personal will done for the benefit and healing of yourself), remembering but giving no weight to your past, fretting not at all about the future, remembering all the blessing that have been bestowed upon you (and if you are upright and taking nourishment there are blessings to be counted, whether large or small), and enjoying the moment in love.

Food for Thought:

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

What we're really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets. I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving? ~Erma Bombeck, "No One Diets on Thanksgiving," 26 November 1981

For each new morning with its light,

For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

God has two dwellings; one in heaven, and the other in a meek and thankful heart. ~Izaak Walton

To TSA agents: Thanksgiving, man. Not a good day to be my pants. ~Kevin James

For everyone everywhere, whether you celebrate a thanksgiving day or not: Small cheer and great welcome makes a merry feast. ~William Shakespeare

Now that we have the warm fuzzies, here's a reality check from 19th century America's conscience, the inimitable Samuel Clemens: Thanksgiving Day, a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for - annually, not oftener - if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors, the Indians. Thanksgiving Day became a habit, for the reason that in the course of time, as the years drifted on, it was perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all on the white man's side, consequently on the Lord's side; hence it was proper to thank the Lord for it and extend the usual annual compliments. ~Mark Twain

Thanks to for the quotes. Many more there to explore.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Atlantis' Acrobats: One backflip and a dock to ISS

One stately maneuver for our continuing tribute to the soon to be discontinued Space Shuttle program. If you ever wanted a good look at the shuttle in space, here it is.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Life ... Out of Context 3

It is just too easy to switch that little camera to movie mode! Random scenes litter my computer like autumn leaves.

But enough of that. Time to move on!

Life on the Highway

I've got to start carrying a carmera with me more often. Not long ago I ran across a sign reading "Ancient Auto Repair" and was sorry I didn't have a camera.

Every now and then even life on the highway gets pretty.

Life ... Out of Context 2

It was in 2005 that I first noticed life out of context gets weird. What is being laughed at? Why are these little people numbered? Where are they going?

Life ... Out of Context

With digital cameras combining movie features, it's easy to create accidental slices of life. You know, life looks odd when it's out of context ... just like text. In the end, I discover I'm not taking a still picture ... and respond.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Space Shuttle Cockpit View of Landing

Continuing our Space Shuttle tribute as the end of the program nears, here's a shuttle landing as seen from the cockpit. The commentary is terrific, as is the final approach. Be patient to about 3:15. Enjoy.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dog Declares Man Either Idiot or Zombie!

Dog manipulates man to her advantage...
I'm not sure how to take this. However, I have the sneaking suspicion that after years of careful observation our beagle Daisy (hey, that's the name she came with when we adopted her from the ASPCA) has concluded that I am either a complete idiot or an easily manipulated zombie.

Here's what happens. In the evening, I let Daisy out one last time into our fenced backyard to take care of any calls waiting from nature. Then, she gets a Milk Bone and goes off to bed. However, over the past few months, Daisy has thrown a twist into the proceedings. About half an hour after her last nighttime commune with nature, Daisy asks to go out again (I'm still up doing something). Then she comes in and begins the cookie dance (if you have a beagle you know the one), like I've completely forgotten we did all this no more than thirty minutes ago.

So, seeing Daisy's behavior and giving this careful thought, I've concluded that she believes I am either a complete idiot or a zombie as stated above. The complete idiot suspicion comes from her actions. Apparently, Daisy believes I cannot retain short term memory beyond 30 minutes. I begin to worry about this. What behavior has she seen that I'm unaware of? What habits have I developed the she has interpreted this way? Hmmmm.

The other hypothesis is that Daisy, after watching me spend hours motionless in front of one glowing screen or another ... most often in front of one where my only movements are the constant, spastic twitches of my fingers and less often in front of the larger screen before which my face goes slack and eventually I fall asleep after many hours in front of the finger-twitching glowing screen. Observing these actions, it is quite possible Daisy has drawn the conclusion that these devices have left me a mindless tele-zombie. She has concluded that if those glowing screens can keep me under their sway for hours at a time, why shouldn't she be able to bend me to her will as well?

The dog/human relationship can give you pause sometimes. What if Daisy is right?!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Parents: Stress Relief

Okay, here's my remedy for a long and stressful day. It's geeky, but it works.

1. Get one XBox 360 ... if you're on a tight budget, a refurbished model will do.

2. Buy Halo Reach ... buy it used if you need to.

3. Set the game on the Easy mode, where villains are dumb and YOU ARE THE HERO ... YOU ARE THE MAN OR THE WOMAN ... AND NOTHING, NO NOTHING, WILL STAND IN YOUR WAY!!!

4. Play, play hard. Blow away your troubles along with the baddies!!!

Note to the Bungie programmers who bring us the Halo games: I would pay good money to play a version of this game where, all the game through, you drive the tank and blast away everything that gets in your way. After years stuck in traffic, that would be truly cathartic!!!

UPDATE: Halo4 will get you there too ...

For Parents Everywhere

Parenting is "tuff!" This is for loving parents, everywhere. A small gift of laughter.

Thanks, son, for sending this one along.



Friday, November 12, 2010

You Know Your Getting Older (not old mind you) When ...

You know you're getting older when,

  1. You discover a YouTube video featuring a "bike restorer" talking about a bike similar to one you owned who states, "There are fewer and fewer of us who have the expertise and tools to restore these bikes." Your knee jerk reaction is, "Oh come on, it was only 1969 when I got that ..." and then it hits you ... that was 41 years ago!
  2. You talk about the original Star Wars trilogy with a collector and say, "I was 18 when that first movie came out and getting ready to go to college" AND the collector says, "I was 2."
  3. When you are on assignment to photograph a young collector's Transformers action figures and you have to tell said collector to set them up EXACTLY as he wants them photographed because you have no freakin' idea what you are seeing when you look at them!
  4. When the decades you grew up in appear in your kid's history books.
  5. When your kid has to walk you through the steps needed to use some new piece of technology.
  6. When your kids look at you like you're from Mars when you tell them to "Go warm up the TV."
  7. When you start to get really interested in the idea of Rapture, considering the alternative.
  8. When you open any conversation with a health issue.
  9. When you have "good old days."
  10. When you begin any social critique with "Kids today ..."
  11. When you can't remember the next #@!!^* thing you were going to add to this list!!!

Veteran's Day, 2010

While this is a day late, it is still heart-felt.

To the dedicated men and women who have served their country honorably throughout time, we salute you.

For standing as our strong front line against adversaries, we remember you.

For those of you who paid the ultimate price in the service of your country, we memorialize you.

To all the fighting men and women who are currently in harms way serving our nation in all our armed forces, we pray for you. Be well. Be safe. Come home soon. God be with you.

Doubt ... No Doubt About It, It's Fantastic

This is a limited time only blog post ... and a scrap book memory for me (blogs have so many uses). If you live anywhere near Forge Theater (yes, this is another of the "virtues of community theater series"), you are fortunate indeed. See Doubt. The play runs for one and an half hours. It will be one of the most riveting hour and a halfs (is that a proper turn of phrase?) that you have experienced recently. It is deep, tense, beautifully performed, and will leave you with a great deal to think about. I have no doubt about that. The images provided here give you all the details you need.

I can give you one guarantee. Doubt will be better than anything you would watch on TV in the same amount of time. This is time much better spent! Go!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

1968 Raleigh Superbe Three Speed Bicycle at 2001 All British Cycling Event

Okay, when I was a kid, I had a 1969 Raleigh Hercules 3 speed painted gold. The shifter was housed in the right hand grip. It looked something like the model discussed here in detail by a restorer of these bikes! Who knew the bike I rode from grade school through college would be popular today?! Not me. I rode it everywhere, including through the middle of creeks. You could not beat it to death. Anyway, that bike lingered with me until recently, when my son (in college now) gave it to a friend to use in college. So, that old Hercules has a new lease on life now with another college student. Quite a few of the niceties wore out over the years. My favorite was the headlamp with the generator that leaned against the rear wheel. The faster you peddled, the brigher the headlamp.

To see what my old Hercules looked like back in the day, take a look at this site:

I was reminded of those early days riding the Hercules--which was big enough when I first got it (age 10) that I had to get on the bike at a road curb so I was tall enough to get on it--when I read Stephen King's It. The main character rides a bike that sounds an awful lot like mine and that character got the same magic out of it I remember.
You never know what will be popular decades later. You just never know.

Open Letter to Politicians

Warning: if you aren't in the mood for a cranky rant about the current state of politics, please move on. Glad you came, you are welcome here whoever you are, but try another post. If you like cranky rants ... or are a politician ... please read on!

Dear Politicians:

What I am about to say, I say with due respect for all our American governing institutions. That said, okay, you've had your little midterm election and it's time to move on. First things first, you did not win your seats because voters like you. We don't. We don't like the childish behavior, we don't like the mindless name calling, we hate the fact you guys and gals won't work with each other like civil adults are supposed to, and the middle class and poor in this nation resent the fact that you have so much money and so many perks you just can't fathom what the rest of us go through on a daily basis. So, I'll say this as politely as I can. SHUT UP and get to work. It is long past time you worked together and legislated. Sitting on your hands is not governance. Waiting for the next election cycle is not doing the nation's business. Remember, you are civil servants. You work for us and we pay your salaries ... so get down to business and get things done! No, no, that doesn't mean dismantle government or push your party's or your personal ideologies. Getting things done means righting a broken economy (now, shut up, don't start in on who broke it and who should clean up the mess because none of you ... except the newbies who are just getting into the game ... have clean hands on this). The economists are wrong. The economy is not in recovery as far as the general public is concerned until everyone who wants a job has one ... and read that as a GOOD job, one that pays enough to live on.

Hey, and while you're at it, could you please legislate away the ability for private groups to anonymously fund attack ads. That was a lousy decision from the courts and needs to be blocked politically. Do that and perhaps the populace will take you guys and gals a little more seriously. Frankly, we hate those ads ... and we aren't all that fond of the people who create them and promote them ... so get rid of them. Not in your best interests, true, but then again who do you work for and what are you supposed to be doing?

If you really want to get in touch with the populace, buy private health insurance and give up all your other perks for a year and see how we live. Then you'll have a better idea of what needs to be done.

And no, none of you have a mandate. Truly, we don't like you. You misbehave in ways we would not tolerate from our children. To quote a former campaign, "It's the economy stupid." So get down to it. Address the issues of the day. Do not work to make sure the president doesn't get a second term. That a stupid goal, folks. Do not make threats against each other. Work together like grown ups. Work for the money you are making off of us, which need I remind you is more than the majority of your voters make. GET TO WORK ON BEHALF OF THE PEOPLE.

Finally, to the voters, let me just say this. Before the next election, educate yourselves on the issues, get off your couches, and actually VOTE. It is a right that was earned for you through blood, sweat, and tears and defended for you with lives of patriots. They deserve our best efforts and their memories honored by all of us actually voting. This last election was a very grey election, with oldsters doing most of the voting. That should not happen (not that I have anything against people with gray in their hair, I'm getting more of that every day). Everyone eligible to vote should vote. So, next election, let's all get to it.

Sincerely, respectfully, and angrily yours,

J.S. Brooks

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

ISS View From Cupola

That last launch took "Node 1" into space. Here's the view from the European Space Ageny's "bay window on the universe" in Node 3. This is the first really large window in space. The cupola not only provides a beautiful view of Earth, but also provides an amazing view along the length of the ISS itself. It has useful functions as well ... but for all us civilians ... just enjoy the view. You won't see another like it anytime soon.

STS-88 First Shuttle to the International Space Station

Continuing my tribute to the Space Shuttle fleet as we approach their final mission, here is the first visit of the Space Shuttle to the International Space Station, carrying the first piece of what would eventually become a station with living/working space as long as 3 747's linked together. That's a big station taken up largely by the Shuttles, one payload bay sized piece at a time. An amazing effort and credit to human ingenuity. There is now consideration of using the ISS after 2020 as a tranfer vehicle for lunar expeditions. Let your representatives know if you think this is a good idea.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween From My Family to Yours

Wishing you and your family a happy, healthy, and safe Halloween night 2010.

Our favorite line of the night came from a small trick or treater dressed as Sponge Bob. He lightly tapped on our door. As usual our beagle bayed loudly to let us know someone was there. When I opened the door, Sponge Bob's mom coached him, asking, "What do you say." The tiny tyke looked up at me and said, "I wish you had a door bell!" Great line.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Don't Vote Tuesday. Trust ME Instead!

Another election day is fast approaching. You can tell by the whole new crop of lovely political ads that tell you absolutely nothing about the candidate's policies ... or thought processes ... and everything about how evil and flawed his/her opponent is. This year, let ME help you out. Never mind all that inconvenient waiting in line, that bothersome thinking about candidates and scanning newspaper's candidate choices, that irritating voting booth and whatever new gadgetry they have there. You just go to work, go home, go about your lives ... and let me -- and others like me -- do the thinking for you. All you need to know is, I've been around a while. I know the score and I'm motivated. So, just trust me and I'll take care of all that nasty voting for you. Well, me and my buddies will. Who are they? Well, they're other concerned folks with some gray in their hair who've done some serious living and know their own minds. And, then of course, there are the seniors. Now they're really hot on voting and they are smokin' on all the issues. They know their stuff and will vote for their ... um, I mean YOUR, best interests, believe you me.

So, look, stay home Tuesday. Don't vote at all. Don't even think about it. Give us your voice and your ballot. We'll take care of both. I'm sure to vote for my ... again, I mean YOUR, best interests. I'll be happy to speak up for me, er, YOU, and am sure to vote on the issues that concern me ... YOU ... and you can just sit on the sidelines and let the nasty ol' political parade and crazy political machinery pass you by. You'll be secure in the knowledge that you've handed your voice and your influence over to people who really care, people who will really get things done, people who will be delighted that you and others like you aren't getting in the way and muddying the political waters with something as antiquated as democracy. Let MY voice be the people's voice this year and come November 3 you'll see just how well that really works out for you. Trust ME.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Hubble Space Telescope - The Final Repair Mission

In 2009, the Space Shuttle visited (after much debate) the Hubble Space Telescope one last time. The final visit has extended the space telescope's life significantly. However, now that the shuttle fleet is being retired, there will be no more servicing missions and the vaunted space telescope known around the world will now die.

1990: STS-31 Discovery, Hubble Space Telescope (NASA)

In 1990 came the history making shuttle mission that launched the Hubble Space Telescope. We know the problems Hubble faced with the main lens ground incorrectly. Remember that without the Space Shuttle and the well-trained NASA crew and flight team, that telescope would never have been repaired, nor provided us with all those observations that have (and continue to) change the astronomy books and our understanding of the cosmos.

STS-74 space shuttle docks with Mir

Prior to the construction of the International Space Station, there were multiple expeditions to the Russian Mir space station (now long gone). Those dockings were terrific practice in preparation to building and docking with the future International Space Station to come. The Space Shuttle has had a long and storied history.

50's TV: Ford Edsel Commercial (1957)

Here's a car even the ad men of "Mad Men" would have had trouble selling. I like the glowing speedomenter. It gave me pause however, to see how far the front end rose when first heading up a steep slope, despite the heavy engine and long front end. Check out this "...experience no man should miss!"

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

STS-1: Shuttle Columbia Flight#1 April 12, 1981

Continuing our tribute to the NASA Space Shuttle fleet, here's a NASA production film of the very first Space Shuttle flight in 1981. That was Columbia. Note the white external tank. You won't see that again. Paint weighs a lot. This film takes you from launch, through flight, to landing. Enjoy.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Space Shuttle Enterprise (OV-101) First of a Series ... Tribute to the Shuttle Fleet

As the Space Shuttle program comes to an end, and we await whatever the future holds for American manned spaceflight, here's the first of a series of short films to commemorate the program that has kept NASA flying since the 1980s. This was the test bed shuttle named Enterprise ... much to the joy of "Star Trek" fans.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Butterfly Circus: A Hope Filled Short Film ... A Must See Film!

Please take 20 minutes out of your busy day and watch this short film. See how beautiful a hope filled life may be. Follow this link to The Butterfly Circus:

May we all live such hope filled lives.

Oh yes, the man driving the car in the opening scene is Doug Jones, who wore the Charlie Cardinal mascot's costume at Ball State University when my wife and I were there in the later 1970s and early 1980s. You'd know him better in heavy make up ... fairly recently as Abe Sapien in both Hellboy movies.

Video Sermon: Playing with New Technology, Uploading Videos ... Or Trying To

I'm currently playing with new technology. I have Kodak's version of the flip video camera, a tiny flexible tripod that will wrap around anything (including the chair back in the front row of a pew), and am now learning how to upload sermons online. This one is on my Facebook page. If you're curious what I sound like in the real world and want to know how Small Efforts Can Make a Big Splash, follow the link.!/video/?id=1679451864

What I'm really curious about and will need to dig deeper to find is a storage site for my sermon videos that accepts larger sized videos and some that may be a little bit longer than 20 minutes (the FB max ... YouTube's 15 minute restriction just doesn't work for preachers) and will allow me to load those videos into a blog or website with the snappy look you get from YouTube. Anybody know where I should look.

Ah, new world's to explore.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cruelty Levels a Disgrace

In the US we are in the throes of yet another political campaign season. The rhetoric has heated up again and the distortions are flying fast and furious. There is a new twist this year. The Supreme Court has decided groups can donate money and inflammatory ads anonymously. The fabrications in ads are even higher and wilder than ever. Frankly, in many cases, the lies are cruel on both sides of the aisle. Nobody has clean hands in this one. But this is not a political rant. That is just one example of rampant cruelty slithering its way around the globe.

What really drew my ire today is the You're Ugly app for the iPhone, available for 99 cents. The program supposedly reads a face, checks it against parameters for symmetry and declares a person, a victim I would say, beautiful or ugly. Here is another tool in the bully's arsenal for cyber-harassment. We've heard lately in the news of several teens who have committed suicide because they were cruelly treated and could not stand it another day. How appalling.

We need to stand up against this disease sweeping the globe in all its small and large manifestation. There is nothing "fun" about cruelty. Cruelty distorts lives and warps personalities. Worst of all, cruelty is self-perpetuating.

Here's a definition of cruelty/sadistic behavior from the Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling: "Actions which inflict pain and suffering: delight in another's suffering; getting sexual pleasure as the result of another's suffering ..." Oh, there's more, but I think you get the idea. Worse than the definition is the result of cruelty. Very often a victim of repeated, unremitting cruelty in childhood has had his/her future "mapped" by this form of evil. Unable to relieve the pent up and often deeply suppressed feelings left over from the acts inflicted upon him or her, the child later in life acts out this cruelty upon another victim. It is self-perpetuating. Cruelty is a disease that just keeps on giving. Cruelty is a social cancer. Worst of all, this disease thrives when we refuse to speak out against it, when we provide tacit approval for cruel behavior by our silence. It is long past time to work to end cruelty in all its forms in this world of ours.

As I have told church youth groups I have worked with repeatedly over the years: "You have a choice every day. You can choose to be a blessing or a curse in other peoples' lives in every moment." Choose to bless others today. Be countercultural and be kind to everyone you meet and work with today. Help break this cycle of mindless cruelty today.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lost In Space Clips, Robot and Dr. Smith

Clips of a very different robot in action from the 1960s. Some of us remember this one.

Neanderthals Not So Dumb, Eh?

Well, well, well, this is very interesting. New reports now state that the Neanderthals, those distant relations now extinct, weren't as dumb as portrayed. In the past, the Neanderthals have been portrayed as over muscled, lumbering brutes who couldn't keep up with their lighter, sleeker Homo Sapien Sapien relations. Every tool found with them was claimed to be merely a byproduct of their scrapes with those brainier relations.

Now, not so, say the scientists. New evidence now shows Neanderthals were busy creating and improving their own tools right along with the rest of us. In central to southern Italy from 140,000 to 42,000 years ago, at least one archaeologist has attributed two cultures, the Mousterian and Uluzzian to the local Neanderthals before the rest of us moved in. For more on this, check out the following article and its links:

Now you don't suppose this has anything to do with that earlier finding that Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens Sapiens ... from time to time ... found each other sexy enough to interbreed with do you? Could this early amour be the reason for the sudden rehabilitation of the reputation of the Neanderthals? Makes me wonder.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bullied? Depressed? Desperate? Please Read and Consider

If something is happening in your life to leave you feeling isolated and sad, depressed and desperate, please consider the following. If you are bullied and scared, please consider what is written here. Nothing remains the same forever. If there is one constant in this world of ours, it is that things always change. But this only happens if you endure long enough to discover this simple truth and allow change to happen for you. That does not mean you remain passive throughout your troubles, however.

If you are bullied in school or online, cry out for help! There is nothing that disrupts bullying faster than bringing it out into the light of day, loudly and frequently. You have a voice. Use it. When bullying begins, shout, roar, demand for it to stop. Be insistent. Take this horrible issue up with parents and school officials. Insist that they take action to put an end to this. Speak with your friends and seek their support. You are a person of worth and you deserve help. Go places with a friend or friends because it is harder to bully two or more people at a time who are willing to stand up to a bully. If you see someone bullying another person, do not stand for this. Get an adult to intervene. Get authorities to intervene. Yell for attention. Do not stand idly by. Here's a site dealing with this issue for younger kids: There are many sites available offering professional suggestions.

If something awful has happened in your life and things feel hopeless, please understand you are not alone. You have family and friends who love you and want the best for you. Speak about your problem with others. Do not try to handle whatever this situation is alone. And, above all, do not believe that old, useless phrase, "You wouldn't understand. You don't know what I'm going through." That's a load of crap, frankly, a dangerous load of crap. Sure, nobody knows exactly what you are going through and exactly how you feel because they are not you. However, we've all suffered through crises, we've all had troubles, and you can be sure someone, somewhere has been through something similar, because frankly we humans are not all that different from each other. We do go through similiar things in life, and yes we can understand what you are going through. We've been there. Don't let that nonsensical phrase isolate you. Isolation is dangerous when you are depressed, sad, threatened, fearful, and desperate. Isolation can lead you down dark and dangerous paths that can lead you to false conclusions with horrible consequences. Reach out to others. Seek help. And, if you are truly depressed, seek professional help, please. There is no disgrace in this. Seek the help you need.

Finally, know this. You are loved. You are a person of worth. There are people in your life who wish you well and who want you around for a long, long time. Cling to that in dark times and hang in there. Nothing in this world remains the same forever.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Office Workers: A FAST Cup of Tea

Time is money, or so they say. So, in business today you need to be fast to keep up, right? That's also what they say. Giving this common wisdom its due, here's a fast cup of tea to keep you going. Now, sophisticates, you'll have to do without your loose tea and favorite tea ball for this one. Sorry about that, but this is an office cup of tea. Here's how it goes.

You need:

1. Microwave
2. Teabags of your preferred tea
3. Teacup
4. Spoon
5. Whatever sweetener you prefer
6. Cold Water

Alright, got everything you need? Good. Here's what you do. Place your teabag in the cup or mug you use ... don't worry about the little paper tag on the string and the fastener holding it there; that fastener will not impact negatively on your microwave. Just wanted to get that out of the way up front. Now fill your teacup or mug with cold water. That's important, the water must be cold or you'll be swamping out the microwave when your mug overflows. Place mug of cold water with teabag into microwave, shut door, and set for 1:30, that's one minute and thirty seconds, no more. Hit on and the magic begins. At the end of 1:30 you have hot water and brewed tea. Swirl that bag around (your hot tea may only look like hot water at first but swirl away, you'll get your tea, trust me on this) and fish it out with the spoon. Trash the teabag, add your sweetener, and you're ready to go in under two minutes. If you want a stronger brew, let the teabag sit in the hot water for a while back at your desk while you're busy before fishing it out. Couldn't be easier. Couldn't be faster. And to look (um, I mean to BE) productive, go do something else while your tea is being microwaved for you.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

NASA Robonaut Humanoid Space Robot

On the upcoming Space Shuttle Discovery flight, this robot will be joining the International Space Station crew. First it will be used inside and then unleashed into space to work on the outside of the ISS, along with a large battery lugging robot and the Canada arm. Quite a futuristic crowd assisting the astronauts.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Muppet Show - Pigs in Space: The End of the Universe

And now we pause for the answer to the really big question. And it isn't 42!

A Puppy In Halo 3 (Machinima)

There is still truth in advertising ... or at least in YouTube video titles. Okay, it's silly ... but I like it! Especially the last line after the dramatic, Halo 3, intensity building music.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Community Theater A Bargain in Tough Times

Recently my wife performed in and my family attended our local community theater's performance of Screwtape, a play based on C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters, that witty social commentary couched in a demon's letters to his nephew on how to properly lead humans astray. The performance was terrific. The set was marvelous. The hours flew by all too quickly at Barley Sheaf in Lionville, PA. The cast was startled during a scene change when they were downstairs throwing off one costume for another when they heard a loud, repetitive noise coming from upstairs. The scene change music was The Devil Came Down to Georgia (nice touch) and the audience this Friday night, enjoying the show, started stamping along to the music. You won't find that happening at your New York Broadway production or big city stage performance!

Look, the actors and actresses at community theater do what they do for love. Same for the crew. The prices are terrific, even in recessionary times. There is nothing better than getting away for a few hours with others and enjoying a live performance. Check it out for yourself. Find your local community theater and see what is coming your way soon. I guarantee, it'll be worth the price of admission.

Where Zombies Come From

No, THIS is not where zombies come from my friends!
Over the past 10 days, I've had sinusitis. That's all now changed. It has migrated south to an upper respiratory tract infection, deciding to make another part of me miserable. Yes, I've seen the doctor. Yes, I have medicine. And yet ...

I arise in the morning with a souless moan feeling every muscle ache. I shamble around with glazed eyes, arms outstretched, feeling more than a little malevolent, ready to snarl at the least provocation, driven to mindless frenzy by resistant pill bottle caps. I haven't developed an unholy desire for human brains ... YET. BUT IF THIS DOESN'T GO AWAY SOON .... UUURRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!!

Yes, I know where zombies come from!