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, March 31, 2011

Writers: Learn the Magic Words

Writers, there comes a time in every career when we all have to step out from behind the keyboard and meet the public. When that happens, you need to know the magic words. You see, people will like your work if they are coming to meet you. Set aside you insecurities and accept that for what it is ... and leave it alone. When someone comes up to you smiling and gives you a compliment ... that is a moment fraught with danger for the inexperienced writer. You hear the compliment, you blush, and ... you have reached a pivotal moment. What you say next will strengthen your fan's good feelings or shatter those feelings entirely and send the person away muttering "jerk" or something saltier. If you have a large ego you have to avoid any kind of smug response at this point. If you are effusive in public, do not use this moment to begin a monolog about your favorite parts. If you are like the rest of us, avoid false humility. Never, no never say something like, "Oh, no, you are too kind. My work isn't that good." etc., etc., other fatal humble phrases ad infinitum. Terrible response. Instead use these magic words, "Thank you."

You see, the false humility thing only conveys one message, and it's not the one you think. All it really says is, "You're mistaken. Your judgment is faulty." Wow, what a bad response to give to a fan. Think back to Mr. Rogers instead and hear in your head, "Can you say 'thank you'? I know you can. Good." At first, until you have had some practice, limit yourself to "Thank you" with a smile and a handshake. As you become more comfortable with this radical response, you can experiment with adding such heartfelt niceties as "That means a lot to me," etc. This instruction applies to all who work in the public sphere actually. So, remember your magic words and your public appearances will go well and your fan base will grow ... or at least it won't shrink. Good luck out there. I'm rooting for you. As the immortal Red Green would say, "We're all in this together."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sloggin' Thru Blogging: Quality Quantity Counts

New bloggers, do not despair. The small number of visits recorded on your site meter or in your stats will change over time. The more posts you create, the more opportunities for visits you create. The first year the numbers remain pretty low. This is to be expected as you are swimming in a huge sea with vast schools of key clicking bloggers and it will take a while for your voice to be established and for you to be noticed.

By the second year, more people will be showing up to view your most popular postings more often. Those posts will draw in higher numbers. What kinds of posts should those be? The kinds you would want to read, about stuff you are interested in. There are others like you out there, really! You just have to draw them in.

You Tube can be a big help. Posting short videos on various subjects attracts attention and raises your post count. There is one kind of post to avoid. Steer clear of opinion pieces. I indulged in a number of those at first. It is a great temptation. It makes you feel good. But there are two problems: 1. they are rapidly outdated and receive few hits; 2. nobody cares (hard to deal with, but there it is).

Keep the posts short, the quality high, the information or humor or whatever relevant, and soon your numbers will increase. It took me a year to beat my highest numbers last time. I expect by tomorrow to have repeated the feat in 2 months. Have fun and keep blogging.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New View of Robots: Aperture Investment Opportunity #2: "Bot Trust"

After all the robot articles I've done here, this little clip makes you wonder... Nah, still don't trust 'em.

Still, looks like a mind-bending game. Ever watch anybody play the first version. Hard to keep up with!!!

Lower Stress by Enjoying Moments of Beauty

The natural moments of beauty come free of charge ... what more could you ask for?
It struck me early this morning as I was headed out in the predawn black to collect the morning paper that the waning quarter moon hanging there in the eastern sky gave me a moment of beauty that helped reduce my stress over the early issues of the day. Take time to stop and enjoy beauty when it appears. Make the most of the moment and forget your troubles in that instant. The enjoyment you get will extend from a single moment to minutes to hours. It costs you nothing and gains you a great deal.

Yesterday's moment of beauty came in the form of a red velvet cupcake topped with white cream cheese frosting and little shavings of dark chocolate. It was a true thing of beauty and a moment worth remembering. Now that kind of beauty will cost you ... and is available at Barnes and Nobles bookstores that have a cafe. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

London Centre, Fall 1980, Part 4

Ball State University London Centre Students, Fall 1980

September 9, 1980

Today we discussed Hamlet and I'm looking forward to tomorrow's field trip when we will see the play. After class I didn't do much, but I was happy to see my weekly allowance. I discovered that if you are fairly stern about it you can get the British cashiers to make change.

September 10, 1980

Today's field trip was a lot of fun. I learned a great deal. I was impressed at Coventry by the cathedral turned war memorial. It made me think to see the word FORGIVE on the wall of that gutted building and to think why it's there. Dr. Lindblad said you would either love or hate the new cathedral attached to the old one. To me it was very beautiful indeed and an interesting contrast to some of the older cathedrals I've seen or seen pictures of. To me it was no less impressive, awe inspiring or holy than any of these. But I can also see why people of Coventry would nickname the steeple Radio Coventry. That spindly spire was one of the few things I disliked about the cathedral. Frankly, the very newness of this structure makes it memorable. Older ones manage to look very similar by comparison.
Moving on, the home of Shakespeare's wife to be caught my imagination more than Shakespeare's home did because so many of the furnishings were originals owned by her family. To me this is much more interesting than just "furnishings of the period." I picked up on a couple of things at her home more than the others. One was the overhead meat rack in the living room where guests were received. This was an indication to the newly arrived guest that he was welcome and that there was food in the house if meat hung from this rack and that he should make a hasty retreat if there wasn't. It had me very surprised to find that the thatch roof weighs many tons and only needs changed about every thirty years. But my favorite piece of information for the day was the phrase "More power to your elbow," which was referring to a jug of leather that you drank from while it was slung over your forearm and your elbow raised high. The play that evening was very good. I'd only seen one Shakespeare play before this and this was a real experience. The late ride home was also a real experience!!

William Shakespeare's boyhood home.

[Reviewing the slides, I was reminded how film was carried and processed and why the numbers of photos at each place was limited. Remember, with slide film, you had canisters with 12, 24, or 36 shots per roll. Each roll was carried, along with my camera equipment, in my backpack. You had no idea if you had taken a good or bad shot when filming and with a limited number of images available per roll, you tended to be conservative with the shots you took. In this case, the rolls I was carrying had to last 13 weeks. You tried to take the best views to capture the whole experience. However, as you could not see them until they were developed weeks or months later, you received no confirmation that your efforts were good or input suggesting you needed to change your approach. So images were far fewer and no corrective photos were possible. That is very different from today and I still find it hard to shake that photography mindset, which comes from years of experience. I was stunned the other day when at a recent event lasting 4 hours a friend of ours took over 200 digital shots. That possibility would have never entered my mind. It is interesting to note what impacts our lives and our habits as we grow! -- Of course, another reason the shots shown here are few is that it take a while to scan slides ... it seems, technology shapes action.]

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Snow on the Daffodils?!

Snow on the daffodils this morning?! Now that's just not right!

Then again, my son just returned from a ski trip in New England where there was plenty of snow, so I guess I shouldn't complain. 

Still, snow on the daffodils on March 24?! Come on Mom Nature. It's time for spring!

Robot Colonies on Mars

Does this seem creepy to anyone else? What if the robots don't want the humans to interfere with the mission once they arrive? I hope none of the bots are named HAL!

Parents: In Times of Crisis, Find Appropriate Ways to Explain the Situation to Your Children: (Subbed) Nuclear Boy うんち・おならで例える原発解説

This short cartoon was created to help Japanese children understand the nuclear crisis they were hearing about. It keeps the explanation simple and reduces fear amongst kids with a light touch. When crisis strikes in your area, as it surely will at some point, be ready and be creative. Silence is the worst possibility. If you remain silent, your children will hear about the crisis somewhere else, and will likely draw very dire or eroneous conclusions. Better to be proactive, do a little research, and come up with a calm response that will help your children understand the situation better.

You knew this was coming ... this is why we wrote Michael and the New Baby. It explains in a whimsical, adventurous way what it really means to become the older sibling. If you leave that job up to the popular media your kids consume, they will likely be quite upset as older siblings are often portrayed as idiots in comics ... or brutes. Not the image you want your child carrying in his or her head as the arrival of your second child approaches.
If you click on this post's title, you'll be taken to the publisher's website to order your very own copy of Michael and the New Baby for your child. Clicking on any of the images from the book on the right side of the blog will take you there as well.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

London Centre, Fall 1980, Part 3

September 7, 1980
[Several of us] went to the Natural History Museum on foot. It was an elaborate building! We picked up a new phrase today. Here you don't order the same thing as someone else. You order something similar or you'll be eating off their plate.

September 8, 1980
Today it was the Tower of London. The age og things is sinking in. I was stunned to discover that the White Tower was built in 1078 AD by William the Conqueror. This set me on my ear considering the greatest age of any American structure, not Indian mind you, is considerably less! I also picked up another couple of terms: 1. Tube or Underground are to the British folk what a subway is to us and 2. a subway is a pedestrian walkway beneath a street.

I wish I could speak another language. When I run into a bilingual person, I feel almost illiterate. Also, British are very tight fisted when it comes to change!

[Okay, I can explain that last remark. You'll see it again soon. When we received our weekly allowance (which of course we had paid as part of the package and was being doled out to us per diem style) it was at first in bills that were rather large. It did not seem so as we were not used to the difference in currency between pounds and dollars at first and were not seeing that 25 pounds was 50 dollars US, etc. That's why merchants seemed tight fisted. We were showing up (college kids to boot) with difficult to change bills. In time we learned to get to banks and head out with smaller bills. I'm really not casting aspersions on an entire nation, really.]

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Robonaut 2 Joins ISS Crew

Robonaut 2 is out of the packing crate. Who is controlling the station now? Thanks to Universe Today for directing me to this footage.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Super Moon Captured March 19, 2011

Captured with a small, hand-held Nikon Coolpix 4100 camera, the full "super moon" of March 19, 2011, just after sunset. The missing bit is intersected by a power line. Closest approach we'll see to the moon in 18 years. Enjoy.

Parents: these small wonders of nature make great little family outings that will help draw everybody together and create some memorable moments ... provided you aren't forcing the little ones into it. Take advantage of all the freebees that show up.
First glimpse of the super moon among the trees.

Daffodils of Spring Make an Entrance

Teeny tiny daffodils
If you haven't figured it out yet, after all the snow we've had, I'm delighted by the continuing signs of spring 2011. Both the miniature daffodils and their full-sized relations are showing up to welcome the warming weather.

Parents: take the young ones out to explore the neighborhood regularly as different flowers come into bloom. It's a great way to teach about plants and colors. It also creates some great together time that everybody needs. Good luck and happy flower hunting. 

And their larger relations who are taking more time to arrive.

Messages Across Time: London Centre Fall 1980, Part 2

On September 4, 1980, Yes performed its last concert. On September 5, 1980, the world's longest auto tunnel, St Gotthard in Swiss Alps, opened. On September 6, 1980, college football's longest losing streak of 50 games ended. Meanwhile, in London ...

September 4, 1980

One of today's discoveries was that you can get good food for a low price at a pub. ... We roamed further today. We made it around both Hyde and Kensington Parks. I feel that by the end of this trip my walking distance will have greatly increased. I have noticed a definite split in our group now into smaller traveling groups. Riding the bus was an experience. I was surprised to see that you don't pay as soon as you get on one of the double deckers, but wait for a "ticket taker" to come around. ... I rode the Tube, another name I've learned, for the first time with the group tonight. It made me feel like I've conquered one more mystery of the city but I'm not completely sure of it yet. Parliment at night was beautiful but I wish I knew the ages of buildings better so I could get a better grip on English history and the great age of things. As far as the traffic situation is concerned, a good rule of thumb while getting used to the reversed traffic patterns is to "do as the natives do."

Sadly, the Kodak slide film has lost some of its color and sparkle in 30+ years. But, I'm still glad to have them.

September 6, 1980

I was right. The longer I'm here, the further I'll walk. Several of us walked down to Reagents Park today. The parks seem to try to outdo each other, one being more beautiful than those before it. I haven't seen anything like them in the U.S. Today was the first time I took a casual ride on the Tube and now I have the hang of it. Another observation: it seems that water fountains are rare in London. Every one I've seen has almost been a monumental structure! Today we also went to the Madame Tousaudes wax museum. I'd heard about it. But on sight, it's a little more commercial than it's worth. [The opinions presented here are those of my 20/21 year old self and do not necessarily represent my views today.]

[I'm skipping those days where nothing happens. There were a few down days needed for regrouping during this trip. We stayed in a small hotel in the city with a tabletop version of Space Invaders in the lobby and a middle aged woman in a purple tiger striped leotard who was a fixture around the place.
For the first post in this occasional series, see: or click on the post title and it will take you there.]

Japan Tsunami Footage 2011

Very disturbing footage. You will soon be urging the videographer to move to higher ground. This video will shatter any illusions you have that we are in charge and have tamed the natural world. Pray for the Japanese people as this disaster continues to unfold. Seek out ways you can help.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Messages Across Time: London Centre Fall 1980, Part 1

I was startled the other day when my wife uncovered the old journal I was required to keep as part of the Ball State University London Centre program, where students spend a quarter in London learning about art, history, etc., followed by a three week trip to Europe. What follows, sporadically, will be a series of excerpts from that journal, complete with slides from that visit 31 years ago. I recommend keeping such journals. They are messages in a bottle from across time to you.

September 2, 1980
The first day was full of wide-eyed wonder, combined with fatigue and a touch of fear. I was full of great anticipation and didn't know quite what to expect. The fear came into play over having to feed myself and over trying to get a handle on the money. Part of the fear came from being a little too tired also. Diana, Dawn, and I got together and decided to pool our resources and overcame the food dilemma and learned how to handle the money together. This was a great help. Also while calling home I ran into the most polite operator I've ever run across! Getting used to the traffic going "the wrong way" is going to take awhile.

September 3, 1980
I spent some time in Kensington Park. I was amazed at the great beauty of the garden beside Kensington Palace. Also I began to see the diversity in the population of London. There are so many different nationalities here! Going to the Royal Albert Hall was a learning experience. I notice that the British seem to be more casual about their lines (queues). They were so much more spread out than American lines. Inside, the Royal Albert was beautiful. I've never seen anything quite like it although the way the interior was decorated reminded me of some U.S.theaters of the 1800s. Also I liked the idea of the open floor seating for low prices. This enables almost every performance to be enjoyed by all.

[Looking back, that was a different age for me and the world. No cell phones, none of the computer technology that currently creates this blog--all Sci-Fi stuff at that point (yeah computers were starting to show themselves, but nothing like today's). The images are all scanned slides. There was no digital photography. The images were taken with a Pentax K-1000 manual 35mm camera with several good lenses. And yet, much remains the same ... ]

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Parents: The Stories We Tell Ourselves Are Important to Our Children, Be Kind!

Just as Michael and the New Baby frames the experience of becoming an older brother or sister in a positive light and impacts upon the perceptions of children, so the narratives we tell ourselves impact upon how we deal with our children and what we tell them about themselves.

Each and every one of us has a little voice in our heads spinning out the narrative of our lives. When we are anxious, this little voice is a hectoring critic. If we accept the negative judgements of this little guy or gal, we fall into a trap of viewing ourselves as forever the screw up, as forever worthless in the eyes of others and more horribly, in the eyes of ourselves. If we are parents, and we accept that image, we will surely pass it along to our children in all we say and do. This morning's paper declares studies find fathers who are depressed are more likely to spank their children. As you see, the misery we feel when we tear ourselves down is misery we are going to pass along to those we love.

On the other hand, we can train ourselves to adjust that inner narrative. We can and should focus on the positive. Remind yourself of the talents you have been blessed with. Remember your accomplishments and celebrate them when they happen, no matter how small. Now, don't go so far as to become a narcissist, but give yourself a break and tell yourself a positive story. When you do, you'll have a better outlook on yourself, your life, and the lives of those around you. You will project a positive point of view to your children and they will love you for that, when later in life they  realize the importance of that gift.

Reframe the experience of your life for yourself. Tell yourself a better story. You'll live a happier life and have a more positive impact on the lives of those around you.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Here Is Why This Hymn Is Appropriate for Those Struggling in Japan and Elsewhere: It is well with my soul

Here is why It Is Well With My Soul is appropriate for those facing disaster and grief.

For All Suffering in the Aftermath of the Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan: "It Is Well With My Soul" By Wintley Phipps

My thoughts and prayers are with all who are suffering as a result of the earthquake and aftershocks in and around Japan and the tsunami that forcefully impacted Japan and other nations. I give you this hymn born of loss, grief, and strengthening faith. God bless and keep you in the difficult days and months ahead.

Kansas Protest Group NOT Baptist, NOT Christian

After the Supreme Court's ruling that Fred Phelps and his family can indeed spread their hateful bile under the First Amendment, this family organization -- which I can't in good conscience call a church -- is about to start hideous campaigns against new families who are currently grieving unimaginable losses. The first victims chosen are a family of hard working farmers is central Pennsylvania, the Clouse family, who lost seven children when their house went up in flames. This group has deemed the parents "Godless" and, encouraged by their Supreme Court verdict, therefore are going to spew their twisted theology of hatred as the parents grieve their unimaginable loss and bury their dead children. The second family to receive the unholy attention of these thugs masquerading as both church people and lawyers are the McAndrews, suffering the loss of two children at the hands of another one of their own. Fortunately for the Clouses, their community has posted a Facebook page stating when and where to form a human shield between these monsters and the grieving family for the funeral.

I agree with Senator Bob Casey, who was reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer that the plans of this group are "disgusting" and that they should do the following, "The protesters should stay in Kansas and pray for the Clouse family. The U.S. Supreme Court may say that they can continue to preach hate, but that doesn't mean we should tolerate their actions in Pennsylvania."

For those of you who are not Christian, I want to assure you that these people are not acting as Christians are taught to act by biblical teachings. These people act entirely outside of any Christian faith. Further, please do not try to judge Christians by the vocal minorities at either extreme of the spectrum that are noisy enough to draw public attention to themselves. They do not represent the faith in its entirety or its complexity. Most Christians are hard at work behind the scenes helping others and leading them by deed and word to a better life offered by God through Christ.

Please read the following messages by American Baptist Churches USA in response to the Phelps family's atrocious actions and their insistence on defaming the Baptist faith by including "Baptist" in the title of their so-called "church." And if you think I'm being hard on this small, outspoken Westboro group of hatemongers, well, two things ...1)  in respect for civil discourse and because of my faith I'm pulling my punches ... 2) and the Supreme Court says I have every right in the world to speak my mind. Please read these articles:

The first article is quite short and if you click on the title of this posting, you'll be taken there. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Discovery's Final Landing, STS-133 Landing

Space Shuttle Discovery completes her final successful voyage. This was the shuttle that first flew after each disaster. It's special. Now she is headed off to a museum to inspire new generations of future astronauts. What a sad mistake, ending this program with nothing to replace it, letting go all this technology and all these experts. It's a short-sighted waste to fortune and talent.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

STS-133 "Star Trek" Wakeup Call

My friends at Universe Today clued me into this special wake up call sent to Discovery. William Shatner reworked the opening monologue to fit the occasion. This makes a nice addition to the ongoing tribute to the shuttle fleet as the program winds down.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Expected Harbingers of Spring 2011

Now here are the snowdrops I expected to show up first as harbingers of the forthcoming spring. Oftentimes, these plucky little flowers are true to their name and rise up out of thin layers of snow to welcome the changing seasons. This year however they were beaten out by some early bird yellow crocuses ... and my sinuses I regret to report.
Up close and personal with Spring 2011's snowdrops.