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, September 29, 2010

Meet J.S. Brooks at Book Signing Saturday October 2, 2010

I'll be at a "mega author book signing" at Greetings & Readings of Hunt Valley this Saturday. I'll have copies of Michael and the New Baby ready to sign for you and your child. I'll be there from 1 to 4 pm Saturday. If you are anywhere near the Baltimore area and want to stop by, I look forward to meeting you.

You can find Greetings and Readings at the following address:
Hunt Valley Towne Centre
118-AA Shawan Road
Hunt Valley, MD 21030
Phone: 410-771-3022

It'll be a fun afternoon. I hope to see you there.
Next week ... how it went.

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: 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Writers: Toyota Yaris Will Get You There

Okay, let's face it, unless you are a New York Times bestselling author ... and if so WELCOME ... but, why the heck are you here ... you need to save your pennies. You have research to do, contacts to make, a job to do to pay the bills, and the occasional book signing to get to. The Yaris is small and that makes it perfect for zipping in and out of city traffic. So short is this car that parallel parking is a breeze. You've got lots of room in any parking space. The car's a hatchback and the back seats go down, so there's plenty of room for those books you hope to unload at a signing. Don't figure on this being a family car if you have teens. The back seat space is less than generous in the leg room department unless the driver wants to sit close to the steering wheel. That's the only negative you'll hear from me about this car. It is fun to drive with a 5 speed manual (go on, you know you want one, forego the convenience of automatic and get the manual) and the small engine is lively, taking you through traffic nicely. There are plenty of safety features including front and side air bags. Despite its small size, you sit up high so you don't feel small in all the traffic. There's no sense you could drive under the back bumper of the semi in front of you. The center mounted instrument cluster gives you the feeling that you have more abundant space in front of you, which is clever and also provides for a storage space in front of you, which I find handy.

Of course, in the penny pinching department, the gas mileage is terrific. City is 29 mpg and highway 35 by what are considered to be conservative estimates with more accurate highway mileage being 42-47 mpg. All I know is that it is satisfying pulling away from the pumps full for less than $25!!! Finally, the car handles well for its size. With antilock brakes, snow and rain provide no problem if you know what you're doing. High wind doesn't impact this car any more than others as it has a wide wheel base. So you get economy, practicality, and fun in one package. Go for it.

Dr. Livingstone Well Met...From Explorations and Adventures of Henry M. Stanley

Under a subheading titled "An African Salutation," Henry reports ...

"The natives in this region have a curious way of saluting a stranger. Instead of bowing they throw themselves on their backs on the ground, rolling from side to side and slapping the outsides of their thighs, while they utter the words "Kina bomba! kina bomba!" In vain the doctor [Livingstone] implored them to stop. They, imagining him pleased, only tumbled about more fiercely and slapped their thighs with greater vehemence."

Okay, I have to wonder, first ... are you sure this was a greeting? Are you sure the sight of a white guy on what appears to be a water buffalo wasn't just really amusing? Can anyone help me out here?!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

J.S. Brooks Challenge Completed! Results Are In!

Okay, the one month challenge is complete. I succeeded, although rules had to be bent given my schedule. I wrote the equivalent of an article a day for one month, following the guru's perscription for increasing online readership, AND ... the results are mixed. Over the course of the month, 318 visitors stopped by the site and read 602 articles. Two new followers of the blog and two new followers on Twitter arrived in this process. Welcome to you all. I'm glad you're here. This makes for mixed results. That's the highest number of readers to date for this not quite fledgling blog, but this is not the highest number of articles read in a one month period. That occurred in January, when 700 articles were read. Now, there is room to quibble in that January is far more likely to be a reader high month than August/September when the weather is warm and beaches and mountain trails beckon. Still, the results are mixed. The increase in total numbers of visitors is not that much higher for the effort, as the previous high was 283.

Still, the challenge was fun, looking for material every day (or the equivalent of every day) was entertaining, and the process was mildly addictive. Discovered the YouTube connection in the process, which led to some interesting results and was therefore a bonus discovery in the process.

Writers: On the Air Experience

Well, yesterday was the day of my interview with the Internet radio program: The Children's Author's Show. I was impressed with the editing done, whittling 15 minutes of interview down to 10 minutes of air time. For an over the phone interview, the sound quality was good (you have to speak up for the sake of the recording, but that's not difficult). I recommend writers take a shot at this, go to and sign up as a possible interviewee. The process is painless and the chance for a little exposure is worth the questions written, prep time taken, and 15 mintues of interview time. Of course, the listenership drawn is largely up to you. Since this is internet radio rather than over the air broadcast, you have to let people know you are going to be on the air for a 24 hour period so they can stop by and listen. Without your input, nobody really knows you're there ... unless there are true and dedicated fans of the show (and I'm not discounting that) who listen all the time. Give it a shot. It can't hurt and it may help get you some publicity out there in the sea of voices that comprise the internet.

Good luck!

Monday, September 20, 2010

J.S. Brooks On Air on The Author Show TODAY-TOMORROW

J.S. Brooks's interview about his children's book Michael and the New Baby airs on the Children's Author Show from midnight this morning to midnight tonight. Find out what makes this book worthy of reading to your child or of your child reading for him- or herself. Go to and listen in for yourself.

See you there.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Radical Discipleship

Duke University Chapel sermons are high quality affairs well worth paying attention to. I was excited to find them online. Here's an example well worth listening to. I really like the "Get to the Good News" story. We need more good news.

Monday, September 13, 2010

G.I. Joe commercial 1960's (Hasbro) A Different World!

It was a different world back then in 1964 when G.I. Joe was introduced. In the 1970s, with Vietnam in full swing, this warrior would become a bearded adventurer instead. Love the tag line ... Only G.I. Joe is G.I. Joe. From the state the obvious school of advertising I guess.

To see G.I. Joe's rival in 1966, go the the Captain Action commercial:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Parents: A Gift to Encourage Your Child to Read

Every parent wants his or her child to become an avid reader. One milestone of reading prowess occurs when your child finishes his or her first chapter book. A certain pride comes with that accomplishment, especially when your child is reading for pleasure rather than for a school assignment.

Get an early start on this accomplishment. Michael and the New Baby, a mere 32 pages long, is divided into small chapters specifically to give young readers this important sense of accomplishment. Many of the chapters cover only a page ... or two at the most. Your child will quickly reach small goals, covering chapter after chapter with ease while immersed in this fast paced adventure story with an important message.

Click through any of the illustrations from the book found on the right of this blog to the publisher's website. There you can purchase Michael and the New Baby for under $15.00. Soon your child will be meeting that important early reader's goal and will then be encouraged to read more and to tackle longer books. With Michael and the New Baby, you will take an important step in encouraging your child to be a lifelong reader.

J.S. Brooks' The Children's Author Show Interview Airs September 20-21

My experiment with Internet Radio airs on The Children's Author Show on September 20-21 from 12 a.m. on the 20th to 12 a.m. (ET) on the 21. This is a full 24 hours of J.S. Brooks discussing with Don McCauley exactly why you need to purchase Michael and the New Baby for your child, especially if your child is about to become the older sibling. Find out what makes this book worthwhile. Find out what J.S. Brooks sounds like. Find out if J.S. Brooks can hold his own in an interview.

So much to know. And it's all coming up soon. You can reach The Author's Show website at this address: Once there, click on through to The Children's Author Show (you'll see where) and enjoy the interview. Then, fully informed and mightily motivated, come back to this blog spot and click on any of the images from Michael and the New Baby (including the cover) found on the right side of the blog to go on through to the publisher's site and purchase the book. You'll spend less than $20.00 and your child will have a terrific, and reassuring adventure story ... and years of fond memories later on.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A 9/11 Proposal

Remember how Americans all came together in the awful aftermath of the tragedies on September 11, 2001? Remember the unity and the outreach, the genuine concern and outpooring of help for those in need? I remember it all very well.

Here's the proposal. Tomorrow, reach out to others in a show of support and unity. Express genuine concern for those in need. Help those who are struggling. Use this time to generate unity and good will, kindness and support, to honor those who fell, the heroes who came forward to offer assistance on that terrible day and in the months after, the fallen among those heroes who died in the twin towers collapse or from what they inhaled  as they strove to save lives, the heroes who have never regained their health, and in honor of all of us who drew together in those dark days.

Make tomorrow a day of peace and community. If we can manage that for one day, perhaps we could extend that show of support for many days, one day for each person who died ... and then one day for each person who suffered as a result of those awful events. We could be united in a loving community for a very long time if we managed that.

Peace to you tomorrow. May God's blessings be upon you.

What You're Known For...

Once in a great while you get an insight into what you are known for by others. It can be startling, it can be revealing, and if you're very lucky, it can be fun. Last night at night class, I found out what I was known for among my peers. I opened up my computer bag, got out my bright, shiny new Toshiba laptop, and ... the response was immediate! Where's your Mac?! Did it finally die?! These questions were asked with genuine concern. For 5 years, attending seminary part time at night and on weekends, I took my notes with an old Mac clamshell iBook in blue. It made me stand out in the crowd ... more than I had imagined. Okay, now I know ... and I was lucky, that was fun.

I should have known this was coming. In one course not long ago, a 20-somthing turned to me from a few rows ahead of where I was sitting, pointed up to that ol' iBook, his voice a little choked with emotion, and said, "It's beautiful, man." He meant it. I'm guessing that was his first computer.

Well, now I'm just part of the crowd with my modern laptop. I'm receding from view. So, if you want to be known, just hang on to some older, colorful piece of technology and use it in public. It might work. You just never know...
It hasn't died, just been retired to my daughter's use as it was starting to struggle keeping up with the rigors of seminary.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Burning Issue

I don't have a lot of time this morning, so I'll be blunt. I'm sorry if I offend, but this needs to be said, and as a Christian, a licensed pastor, and a seminarian, I'm in a position to say it. Terry Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, is about to commit an act of evil, an act that is not at all Christian in nature. He is going to burn the Quran, the holy book of Islam. This is wrong.

In the Old Testament, Israel was instructed to pull down the poles and destroy the high places of pagan worship within their nation. Why? Because they were being led astray by pagan worship and could remove its influence from their small and easily swayed nation. Is this the situation today with Pastor Terry and the Quran? No. He cannot remove the Quran from his region, let alone a nation. It's impossible and it is unwarranted. Christianity is not a small fledgling nation, easily swayed by other nations to stray from God. Terry Jones will say otherwise, and I'm sure he knows his congregation better than I do and perhaps he believes he has reason to lack confidence in their faith, but that does not make it so.

Turning to the New Testament, Paul evangelized among the Gentiles. Without his efforts, working among people who some of the nation of Israel would have considered as lost as Terry Jones obviously considers Muslims, Christianity would not be what it is today and most of us who are Christians might not be included in the faith. I'll let Paul speak for himself, providing his perspective as one of the most successful evangelists of all time, concerning how to treat others, including those outside your faith. In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 Paul states: 19For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. 20To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. 21To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. 22To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. 23I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings. As you can see, Paul does not promote outraging peoples of other faiths while involved in evangelical work.

To the rest of the world, the awful act about to be committed on September 11 by one misguided man and his followers is in no way representative of the majority of Christianity. As a Christian, I am appalled by what this small group is about to do. This is certainly no way to commemorate a tragedy.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Video Game Warrior

If you haven't done it yet, do it. If you feel it is immoral or mind numbing, loosen up! Don your inner child's warrior gear, read some instructions or better yet play the tutorial game alone, and prepare to become a video game warrior alongside your kid! You have a skill set your child does not and you can teach the tyke a thing or two. You expect to fail while your son or daughter does not. You laugh (or grumble) off the mistakes that get you booted out of the game, learn from the mistake, and carry on. Your child is reduced to tears. Watching you, your child learns to learn from his or her mistakes and continue. It's a great lesson.

You have a few lessons to learn as well. You quickly learn that your reflexes are no match for a child's, especially if you are going against each other in one on one competition! You will have to depend on guile if you hope to win any round in the game. And don't worry about winning so much you discourage your child. You won't. It's as simple as that. You will also learn that you child is great at checking your screen in a multiplayer game and learning at a glance what you couldn't take away from the same view in a minute.

You can also learn a profound lesson if you catch your child, as I did, playing the multiplayer mode alone. I was puzzled at first and then amazed and chagrined as I came to understand just how my son found me in one of those games so quickly, no matter where I was in the building we were in. He had played the game alone many times and memorized all the rooms. He would then take a casual glance at my screen, and seconds later BE at my location.

The best moment for me, however, did not come from playing competitively. It came (and still comes with our younger daughter) from sitting next to my kid and watching him or her play. If you are patient, there will come a moment that is too complex or too intense for your child and she or he will hand you the controller and ask you to get them out of whatever sticky digital situation they have gotten themselves into. It's a wonderful moment. It's especially wonderful knowing your child has faith in you that you can actually play the game well enough to get them, with their greater reflexes and gaming savvy, out of trouble.

A recent joy was discovering a note our daughter had left on Facebook. She said she loved playing video games with me because we trash talk the bad guys as we play. That felt really good. If you're wondering why we trash talk the bad guys as we play, I'll let you in on the secret ... it reduces the intensity level of the play greatly ... and is a heck of a lot more fun than playing it straight!

So, relax parents. If you monitor the games played, set limits, and then enjoy yourself, you too can have some special parent/child bonding moments with Mario, Link, and all the other digital characters your children know so well. Frankly, it's a great escape from reality for you too, especially since so many of the games have a narrative that plays out over the course of the game. You can get hooked on those, and when you do all your worries disappear for a little while.

Happy gaming!

Watching Kids Discover Your Joy

Granddad-built playset for Matchbox
There's something to be said for hanging onto some of your old toys from childhood. My daughter and I just saw the final(?) installment of the Toy Story saga yesterday, in which Andy is preparing to go to college and the old toys see their years of play and loyalty being abandoned in the transition. If you haven't seen it, I won't give away the ending. But, if you reached that decision point and stuffed some of your old toys in your parent's attic or in your basement, when your kids reach an appropriate age, haul that old stuff out. Pull out anything that you couldn't stand to see damaged by standard, enthusiastic child's play so you can relax. There is no greater kill joy than the parent who lectures a child on how careful she or he must be with a toy, especially if that parent hovers. No good imagination can really get fired up under those circumstances. Get those toys out, sit back, and watch your children discover the joy you felt years before when you first played with those toys.

I discovered this joy years ago when my mom pulled out the old Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars that my brother and I had played with and that had lingered in my parent's house idle for many years. It was great to see my son play with them and remember long forgotten hours of joy as I saw how he played with them. The funniest discovery was that certain cars were virtually pristine and others were beaten half to death. The cycle continued. You see, the boring sedans were pristine because they just were too dull to play with. The beaten up cars were all the really cool ones, and despite their less than perfect condition, these were the cars my son chose to play with as well. The cycle continued.

This also brought back memories in another way. My grandparents had kept some old toys around as well and would bring out a box of them for my brother and I to play with when we visited. It was nice to see the tradition continue into the next generation. I'm now at a place where it's time for me to squirrel some old toys away against the day when, maybe, just maybe, there will be a new generation of grandchildren around to discover the joys from their parents' childhoods.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Babylon - Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne in "Simply Enough"

Two great speakers together. Be careful ... they'll make you think!

NASA Offers Commemorative Shuttle Poster Downloads

My friends at Universe Today alerted me to an opportunity. NASA is currently offering downloadable tribute posters of the Space Shuttle fleet as they slowly move into retirement and history. The posters are beautiful and a great way to remember the fleet that was. You can read the full article at:

The addresses for the posters are available through the following article from the Coalition for Space Exploration:

Although, I have to say, I really enjoy the poster NASA came out with for an International Space Station mission inspired by the 2009 Star Trek movie. This you can download from the site as a PDF file.

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: 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Know Thyself!

If you ever find yourself suddenly, angrily opposed to some new decision being made by an organization you've been a member of for a long time ... or by an individual you have long known and supported ... and when you have cooled down and thought about the situation rationally, you discover you wouldn't normally oppose this decision, policy, etc. ... it's time to stop and think. Ask yourself why you suddenly have a distaste for the proposal and if you can't find a good, factual reason for your emotional, visceral response ... it's time to dig deeper. You may discover that you have been emotionally wounded by this organization or person recently over some other issue entirely. The true source of your pain may be masked from your attention because it is just too hurtful to deal with and you've thrust it out of your mind. However, denying that pain doesn't make it go away. Instead, it resurfaces from time to time in strange ways ... like your sudden opposition of a new proposal.

It pays to know yourself. It pays to take time to stop, take a deep breath, and ponder your motivations. Then, and only then, will you be able to move forward in a more rational frame of mind. Seek reconciliation or closure for the actual hurt. Then you and the other person or organization will be able to move forward in a constructive, peaceful way. If you don't do this emotional heavy lifting, choosing instead to gloss over the true emotional pain, you may find yourself in time distanced from that person or organization. Better to get the uncomfortable, emotional, hurtful stuff out in the open now than suffer alienation later.

As the good book says, (Ephesians 4:26) "do not let the sun go down on your anger."