The Thirty Minute Blogger

Exploring Books and the Writer's Life, Faith and Works, Culture and Pop Culture, Space Science and Science Fiction, Technology and Nostalgia, Parenting and Childhood, Health: Physical and Emotional ... All Under the Iron Hands of the Clock and That 30 Minute Deadline

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Peter Falk in The Princess Bride

RIP Peter Falk. We will miss you. Here's a clip from our favorite movie with Peter Falk narrating the tale of The Princess Bride. "As you wish."

Friday, June 24, 2011

J.S. Brooks Presents Reaches Milestone, Celebrates with Top 10 Lists

J.S. Brooks Presents now features 500 posts and that is worthy of a moment's celebration! Amazing how much material you can accumulate quickly. Hope it has been helpful, inspirational, a pleasant way to wile away idle moments, and possibly a happy introduction to the children's book Michael and the New Baby. We'll talk about this again when we reach 1000.

In addition, J.S. Brook's reaches the 500 posts mark at the same time it celebrates its second year in existence. Over those two years, over 9,000 pages views have occurred worldwide. The top 10 articles are an eclectic bunch and listed in order of viewing from most viewed to least (I'm copying this right off the stats sheet, so the longer titles are truncated [sorry]):
  1. NASA Offers Commemorative Shuttle Poster Downloads...
  2. Brunch at FIRECREEK in Downingtown, PA 
  3. Flying the Goodyear Blimp 1970s
  4. Printmakers Today Book Review 
  6. Turning Off the 2009 Toyota Yaris Maintenance Requ... 
  7. Happy Birthday Vincent Price: Tim Burton's Vincent...
  8.  Funny Thing Happened in New York City
  9. C.S. Lewis Explains Love Your Neighbor as Yourself... 
  10. NASA's Updated Moon Buggy ... That Won't ... Maybe...
Now, the top 10 nations reading J.S. Brooks Presents, in reverse order (but we love you all, no matter what your position on the list) ... and showing the number of visits ... are:

  • Australia, 75 views
  • Denmark, 80 views
  • Russia, 82 views
  • Slovenia, 84 views
  • France, 85 views
  • Germany, 204 views
  • South Korea, 225 views
  • Canada, 248 views
  • United Kingdom, 249 views
  • United States, 6,329 views
Thanks to everyone who has made the first two years memorable. We're still modestly sized here at J.S. Brooks Presents, still exploring the myriad ways and mysteries of the blogosphere, and still having fun. Let's see what post 1000 brings.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Silent Night-Wanamaker Organ

Yesterday, June 22, 2011, the Wanamaker's mighty pipe organ celebrated its 100th anniversary. It has been recently renovated and is now in good shape, thanks to Macy's, the current owners of the Philadelphia downtown Wanamaker's store. Enjoy this brief celebration of a truly massive, mightily impressive pipe organ. If you live in the greater Philadelphia region, drop down and wish that organ a personal happy anniversary and many more to come.

Cousteau and the Rights of Future Generations

As a follow up on the disturbing report on the state of our oceans, in this old video Jacques Cousteau reminds us of our responsibility to preserve the sea and the life there in for future generations. This call has been going out for a long time.

Why Liberal Religious Arguments Fail | Politics | Religion Dispatches

I don't do this often here, but in life outside of parenting, family, blogging, publishing, authorship, and editing, I'm currently a seminarian. The article you can reach via the link here explains that argument just isn't going to help Christians much ... or anybody else. See what works better. I agree with the author wholeheartedly, especially in the "my way or the highway" culture we're struggling with today. Good read. Highly recommend it. But, what do you think?

Why Liberal Religious Arguments Fail | Politics | Religion Dispatches

How Do You Speak To Yourself? It's Important

Here's the question, blog readers: How do you speak to yourself? Are you kind with yourself when you make mistakes or do you berate yourself internally. Does the inner you like you and want the best for you or is the inner you a petty tyrant who is always looking to scold and demean you? Are you somewhere in between? Think carefully, this is important.

Until recent years, I was very hard on myself. I scolded myself mercilessly for mistakes. My inner me questioned my abilities to do right and to think straight. My estimation of myself was pretty low. This was a problem, a BIG problem.

You see, the inner voice, the inner you, will tell you the story of your life. It will set the narrative by which you operate. If you scold yourself and tell yourself you are worthless, you'll act on those inner declarations. If you are kind with yourself and forgive your errors, you will act upon that as well.

Me, I finally realized I wouldn't put up with this kind of emotional/mental abuse from anyone else, so why should I take it from this petty tyrant in my mind. I worked hard to reign the little dictator in and changed the internal monologue into a more supportive and accepting assessment of myself. No, that doesn't mean dodging responsibility or giving myself a pass when I really goof. But it DOES mean not lashing out at myself when I, imperfect human that I am, do stumble. It DOES mean learning from mistakes but telling myself I will do better next time. It means being a friendly guide and not an abusive slave driver or your own anti-self talk show host.

So, why is this important? What difference could it possibly make? If it doesn't hurt anyone else, why do you care buddy? Why waste time writing about it?

It DOES make a difference. How you treat yourself will impact directly upon how you see the world and others around you. That pesky internal monologue will dictate how you treat others around  you when they mess up. Will you provide patient correction or heap on abuse? Will you guide others in a better path or dismiss them as total screw ups? Parents: this is especially important for you. It will impact directly on how you treat your children, those little people totally dependent upon you.

Be kind to yourself so you may be kind to others. Be patient with yourself so you will be patient with others. Don't deny your responsibilities or shirk owning up to your mistakes, but don't abuse yourself over them either. If you excoriate yourself, you'll do the same to others. That we really don't need any more of in this difficult world of ours.

Solutions for the Bad News Facing the World's Oceans Today

Here are the remedies suggested to change our ocean life smothering ways from the International Earth system expert workshop on ocean stresses and impacts. The sentence I have bolded in the first paragraph of the report is painful to read. I hope humanity will prove the report writers wrong on that count! 

4. Recommendations from the workshop
The participants of the meeting agreed to the following recommendations based on workshop conclusions. Technical means to achieve the solutions to many of these problems already exist, but that current societal values prevent humankind from addressing them effectively. Overcoming these barriers is core to the fundamental changes needed to achieve a sustainable and equitable future for the generations to come and which preserves the natural ecosystems of the Earth that we benefit from and enjoy today. This meeting of experts offers the following recommendations to citizens and governments everywhere to transform how we manage, govern and protect the ocean:
  •  Immediate reduction in CO2 emissions coupled with significantly increased measures for mitigation of atmospheric CO2 and to better manage coastal and marine carbon sinks to avoid additional emissions of greenhouse gases. o It is a matter of urgency that the ocean is considered as a priority in the deliberations of the IPCC and UNFCCC.
  • Urgent actions to restore the structure and function of marine ecosystems, including the coordinated and concerted action in national waters and on the High Seas (the high seas water column and seabed Area beyond national jurisdiction) by states and regional bodies to: o reduce fishing effort to levels commensurate with long--‐term sustainability of fisheries and the marine environment; o close fisheries that are not demonstrably managed following sustainable principles, or which depend wholly on government subsidies; o establish a globally comprehensive and representative system of marine protected areas to conserve biodiversity, to build resilience, and to ensure ecologically sustainable fisheries with minimal ecological footprint; o prevent, reduce and strictly control inputs of substances that are harmful or toxic to marine organisms into the marine environment; o prevent, reduce and strictly control nutrient inputs into the marine environment through better land & river catchment management and sewage treatment; o avoid, reduce or at minimum, universally and stringently regulate oil, gas, aggregate and mineral extraction; o assess, monitor and control other uses of the marine environment such as renewable energy schemes or cable / pipeline installation through comprehensive spatial planning and impact assessments procedures.
  • Proper and universal implementation of the precautionary principle by reversing the burden of proof so activities proceed only if they are shown not to harm the ocean singly or in combination with other activities.
  • Urgent introduction by the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly of effective governance of the High Seas beyond the jurisdiction of any individual nations. This should include a global body empowered to ensure compliance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and other relevant legal duties and norms and to establish new rules, regulations and procedures where necessary to implement these requirements in an ecosystem--‐based and precautionary manner.

Rogers, A.D. & Laffoley, D.d’A. 2011. International Earth system expert workshop on ocean stresses and impacts. Summary report. IPSO Oxford, 18 pp.

The questions are CAN we save the oceans and WILL we save the oceans? The answer to that one is YES. More troubling is the answer to the question, WILL we do it. The report writers believe we won't. Current events tend to side with that opinion. Putting this into perspective, we have to ask ourselves if we are truly willing to saddle our children, grandchildren etc. with dying or dead oceans? Are we willing to send our descendants down the path to extinction? Will we be blessed or cursed by future generations? It's up to us. 


Here's the standings. J.B. Brooks Presents has staggered a bit, falling to 11th place...or tied for 10th to see it optimistically. Here's the pitch: if you find what you read here interesting, entertaining, engaging, or even irritating, take five seconds to head to the fan page and friend me there. Push me up in the ratings a bit. I'd like to know blog readers can have influence (click on the post title to go to the FB fan page). UPDATE NOTE: After clicking on this myself, I find the Facebook Fan Page set up requires you either to become a member of Facebook (easy, but going to take more than 5 seconds) or for Facebook members to sign in to Like the Fan Page. Now that's more work than I thought, but only a little. If you are a Facebook member and read this blog, show everybody how mighty blog readership/Facebook fan people can be. I want to be up front about this so kind folks who can't easily Like the page won't waste their time going there. For the rest of you, DON'T LET ME STOP YOU. GO, GO NOW!!!

STANDINGS AS OF 6/20/2011 1:00 PM EST

The Gathering Darkness                                                                               308
The Fun to Read Rhyming With Really Cool Pictures ABC Book     115
Revolutionary Rose                                                                                         89
His Salvation                                                                                                       77
The Wild & Crazy Adventures of Panda Buddy and Mousie           71
Weaving Fate                                                                                                    45
Murphy Dive                                                                                                      40
Chasing Victory                                                                                                 35
The Kenai Catastrophe                                                                                  33
At The Appointed Time                                                                                 30
Michael and the New Baby                                                                          30
What If No One Believed?                                                                           29
How to Avoid Armageddon                                                                         18
The Little Match Girl                                                                                       17
The Fabulous World of Farberware                                                          17
The Logical Miss Liberty                                                                                 13
Discovering the Treasure Within                                                               10
A Psychic’s View of Heaven                                                                         6
The Heart of Hannen                                                                                      8
The Youngest Mountain Man                                                                     3
Domestic Violence: Seeds of Change                                                      3

Just follow the link or click on the post title. Either one will get you there:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Very Bad New For World's Oceans

An international group on ocean stresses and impacts by humanity has drawn some frightening conclusions. One of them is that our behaviors are smothering life in the seas. Rogers, A.D. & Laffoley, D.d’A. 2011. International Earth system expert workshop on ocean stresses and impacts. Summary report. IPSO Oxford, 18 pp. Here are the conclusions ...

3. Scientific conclusions from the workshop IPSO workshop – summary report 010611 5 The workshop enabled leading experts to take a global view on how all the different effects we are having on the ocean are compromising its ability to support us. This examination of synergistic threats leads to the conclusion that we have underestimated the overall risks and that the whole of marine degradation is greater than the sum of its parts, and that degradation is now happening at a faster rate than predicted. It is clear that the traditional economic and consumer values that formerly served society well, when coupled with current rates of population increase, are not sustainable. The ocean is the largest ecosystem on Earth, supports us and maintains our world in a habitable condition. To maintain the goods and services it has provided to humankind for millennia demands change in how we view, manage, govern and use marine ecosystems. The scale of the stresses on the ocean means that deferring action will increase costs in the future leading to even greater losses of benefits. The key points needed to drive a common sense rethink are:  

Human actions have resulted in warming and acidification of the oceans and are now causing increased hypoxia. Studies of the Earth’s past indicate that these are three symptoms that indicate disturbances of the carbon cycle associated with each of the previous five mass extinctions on Earth (e.g. Erwin, 2008; Veron, 2008a,b; Veron et al., 2009; Barnosky et al., 2011).
  • The speeds of many negative changes to the ocean are near to or are tracking the worst--case scenarios from IPCC and other predictions. Some are as predicted, but many are faster than anticipated, and many are still accelerating. Consequences of current rates of change already matching those predicted under the “worst case scenario” include: the rate of decrease in Arctic Sea Ice (Stroeve et al., 2007; Wang & Overland, 2009) and in the accelerated melting of both the Greenland icesheet (Velicogna, 2009; Khan et al., 2010; Rignot et al., 2011) and Antarctic ice sheets (Chen et al., 2009; Rignot et al., 2008, 2011; Velicogna, 2009); sea level rise (Rahmstorf 2007a,b; Rahmstorf et al., 2007; Nicholls et al., 2011); and release of trapped methane from the seabed (Westbrook et al., 2009; Shakova et al., 2010; although not yet globally significant Dlugokencky et al., 2009). The ‘worst case’ effects are compounding other changes more consistent with predictions including: changes in the distribution and abundance of marine species (Beaugrand & Reid, 2003; Beaugrand 2004, 2009; Beaugrand et al., 2003; 2010; Cheung et al. 2009, 2010, Reid et al., 2007; Johnson et al., 2011; Philippart et al., 2011; Schiel, 2011; Wassmann et al., 2011; Wernberg et al., 2011); changes in primary production (Behrenfeld et al., 2006; Chavez et al., 2011); changes in the distribution of harmful algal blooms (Heisler et al., 2008; Bauman et al., 2010); increases in health hazards in the oceans (e.g. ciguatera, pathogens; Van Dolah, 2000; Lipp et al., 2002; Dickey & Plakas, 2009); and loss of both large, long--‐lived and small fish species causing widespread impacts on marine ecosystems, including direct impacts on predator and prey species, the simplification and destabilization of food webs, reduction of resilience to the effects of climate change (e.g. Jackson et al. 2001; Pauly et al., 1998; Worm & Myers, 2003; IPSO workshop – summary report 010611 6 Baum & Myers, 2004; Rosenberg et al., 2005; Worm et al., 2006; Myers et al., 2007; Jackson, 2008; Baum & Worm, 2009; Ferretti et al., 2010; Hutchings et al., 2010; Ward--‐Paige et al., 2010; Pinskya et al., 2011).
  • The magnitude of the cumulative impacts on the ocean is greater than previously understood Interactions between different impacts can be negatively synergistic (negative impact greater than sum of individual stressors) or they can be antagonistic (lowering the effects of individual impacts). Examples of such interactions include: combinations of overfishing, physical disturbance, climate change effects, nutrient runoff and introductions of non--‐native species leading to explosions of these invasive species, including harmful algal blooms, and dead zones (Rabalais et al., 2001, 2002; Daskalov et al., 2007; Purcell et al., 2007; Boero et al., 2008; Heisler et al., 2008; Dickey & Plakas, 2009; Bauman et al., 2010; Vaquer--‐Sunur & Duarte, 2010); increased temperature and acidification increasing the susceptibility of corals to bleaching (Anthony et al., 2008) and acting synergistically to impact the reproduction and development of other marine invertebrates (Parker et al., 2009); changes in the behavior, fate and toxicity of heavy metals with acidification (Millero et al., 2009; Pascal et al., 2010); acidification may reduce the limiting effect of iron availability on primary production in some parts of the ocean (Shi et al., 2010; King et al., 2011); increased uptake of plastics by fauna (Andrady 2011, Hirai & Takada et al. 2011, Murray & Cowie, 2011), and increased bioavailability of pollutants through adsorption onto the surface of microplastic particles (Graham & Thompson 2009, Moore 2008, Thomson, et al., 2009); and feedbacks of climate change impacts on the oceans (temperature rise, sea level rise, loss of ice cover, acidification, increased storm intensity, methane release) on their rate of CO2 uptake and global warming (Lenton et al., 2008; Reid et al 2009).
  • Timelines for action are shrinking. The longer the delay in reducing emissions the higher the annual reduction rate will have to be and the greater the financial cost. Delays will mean increased environmental damage with greater socioeconomic impacts and costs of mitigation and adaptation measures.
  • Resilience of the ocean to climate change impacts is severely compromised by the other stressors from human activities, including fisheries, pollution and habitat destruction. Examples include the overfishing of reef grazers, nutrient runoff, and other forms of pollution (presence of pathogens or endocrine disrupting chemicals (Porte et al., 2006; OSPAR 2010)) reducing the recovery ability of reefs from temperature--‐induced mass coral bleaching (Hoegh--‐ Guldberg et al., 2007; Mumby et al., 2007; Hughes et al., 2010; Jackson, 2010; Mumby & Harborne, 2010) . These multiple stressors promote the phase shift of reef ecosystems from being coral--‐dominated to algal dominated. The loss of genetic diversity from overfishing reduces ability to adapt to stressors.
  • Ecosystem collapse is occurring as a result of both current and emerging stressors. Stressors include chemical pollutants, agriculture run--‐off, sediment loads and over--‐extraction of many components of food webs which singly and together severely impair the functioning of ecosystems. Consequences include the potential increase of harmful algal blooms in recent IPSO workshop – summary report 010611 7 decades (Van Dolah, 2000; Landsberg, 2002; Heisler et al., 2008; Dickey & Plakas, 2009; Wang & Wu, 2009); the spread of oxygen depleted or dead zones (Rabalais et al., 2002; Diaz & Rosenberg, 2008; Vaquer--‐Sunyer & Duarte, 2008); the disturbance of the structure and functioning of marine food webs, to the benefit of planktonic organisms of low nutritional value, such as jellyfish or other gelatinous--‐like organisms (Broduer et al., 1999; Mills, 2001; Pauly et al. 2009; Boero et al., 2008; Moore et al., 2008); dramatic changes in the microbial communities with negative impacts at the ecosystem scale (Dinsdale et al., 2008; Jackson, 2010); and the impact of emerging chemical contaminants in ecosystems (la Farré et al., 2008). This impairment damages or eliminates the ability of ecosystems to support humans.
  • The extinction threat to marine species is rapidly increasing. The main causes of extinctions of marine species to date are overexploitation and habitat loss (Dulvy et al., 2009). However climate change is increasingly adding to this, as evidenced by the recent IUCN Red List Assessment of reef--‐forming corals (Carpenter et al., 2008). Some other species ranges have already extended or shifted pole--‐wards and into deeper cooler waters (Reid et al., 2009); this may not be possible for some species to achieve, potentially leading to reduced habitats and more extinctions. Shifts in currents and temperatures will affect the food supply of animals, including at critical early stages, potentially testing their ability to survive.
The participants concluded that not only are we already experiencing severe declines in many species to the point of commercial extinction in some cases, and an unparalleled rate of regional extinctions of habitat types (eg mangroves and seagrass meadows), but we now face losing marine species and entire marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs, within a single generation. Unless action is taken now, the consequences of our activities are at a high risk of causing, through the combined effects of climate change, overexploitation, pollution and habitat loss, the next globally significant extinction event in the ocean. It is notable that the occurrence of multiple high intensity stressors has been a pre--requisite for all the five global extinction events of the past 600 million years (Barnosky et al., 2009).

I'll provide their recommendations later ... if anyone cares to read them.  

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Another Childhood Wish Come True with New Technologies

Courtesy of NASA
At the link below, another of my childhood wishes comes true. As a modest model rocket enthusiast ... it was hard to be a serious model rocket enthusiast in Northern Virginia--too many trees, I always wondered what the view from the rocket itself looked like and wished there was some way I could find out. Sure, if you could afford a king's ransom (in kid's terms), you could get a nose cone camera that would take a still, black and white photo for you after the chute deployed, but that wasn't very impressive, not at that price. Now, we can strap tiny cameras (key chain video cameras) to the sides of model rockets and ride along, taking the complete flight. Some of the bigger rockets with the biggest engines make for some pretty impressive viewing.

Here's the site:

You can also click on the title of this post and go there as well.

Yes, those old childhood wishes just keep getting fulfilled in the high tech age! Enjoy the show. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Parents and Children Need to Communicate

It isn't always easy to do, really communicating with each other. We all come to the process with a bundle of fears grown from our personal temperaments and experiences. We are encumbered by the fact that the words we choose are not always perceived in the same ways by others. But we need to try. This story captured by StoryCorps vividly drives home the point.

A writer with a number of books to his credit felt his father hated him. Never once in the author's career had his dad read a single one of the author's books. Not even the book in which the son captured his father's many lively campfire ghost stories, a book the son was sure would get at least some sort of reaction from his silent father. Nothing. On his father's deathbed the hurting son tried one last time. The son gave his father a collection of his short stories. The frustrated author handed his father the book personally. His father took a like at it, said, "That's very nice," laid it aside and never touched it again. The son was convinced his father truly and deeply despised him.

Only after the funeral, when the author son was going through his father's personal papers, did the son learn his father's secret, a secret he had worked hard to keep hidden. The son found all the father's papers were signed with an X. The author's dad couldn't read and had never told his son his secret. The author/son stated, "If only I'd known, I could have read him some of my stories on his deathbed. I'm sure he would have enjoyed that. I know I would have."

Don't let this happen to you, parents or children. Get past the fears, get past the awkwardness of the situation and really talk. Some of the best advice I ever received on interacting with a dying loved one came from an American Baptist minister. She said, "Say all the things you would regret not having said when you are at the funeral." In other words, she told me to communicate meaningfully while there was still time. Don't wait for your loved one to be dying. Open a dialogue now and keep it going. Don't go through life carrying assumptions about people that may be totally wrong and entirely hurtful. That's a terrible burden no one should have to carry.

Communicate well, communicate with kindness, communicate with compassion, communicate with love ...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ode To Joy

Spreading joy this morning, with the little Spread Joy song, was so much fun, I just have to keep the theme going. Beeker from Muppet Labs spreads joy with his manic Ode to Joy. Enjoy. Spread joy.

Parents, Teach Your Kids to Seek and Do This: Spread Joy

The pursuit of happiness is a mistake in many ways. Happiness is fleeting and if you chase it, you get frustrated and lose it. Or you try to cling to it. Joy, however, exists in good and bad times, health and sickness, and is worth spreading. Show your kids how to do that and they will have joy. The real kicker is, the more joy you give away freely, wildly, abundantly, the more joy will come to you. Like the little tune says, spread joy.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Talking Past Each Other

Over the past year I've discovered just how much we talk past each other. I have had several experiences where people speaking the same language came up with totally different interpretations of words, turns of phrases, and symbols. Different socio-economic backgrounds, ethnicities, urban-suburban-rural upbringings, and much more lead to wildly different interpretations of written or spoken words. And when it comes to symbols, Katie bar the door (okay so what does that phrase mean to you)! Wildly different interpretations of symbols are common place. All of this leads to misunderstandings that scale quickly up into offense ... which can lead to tragedy if not diffused with actions and strong efforts toward peaceful solutions.

So little time is spent in slow and meaningful dialogue. Misunderstandings run rampant. When was the last time you misinterpreted someone's intent when you read their email message? When was the last time they misinterpreted you? Me? Last week ... both ways. Sorted it all out without too much difficulty and hopefully no hard feelings. However, had I not been made aware how easy it is to misinterpret what is being said, I may not have made the effort. I hate to think how that could have gone.

So, how about you? Have you said anything or done anything lately you thought was totally harmless and had it completely misinterpreted? Have you made a gesture, told a joke, employed a turn of phrase that blew up in your face, much to your confusion, horror, or frustration?

How would you work toward solving this problem? Or, for that matter, should it be solved? Can it be solved?

What do you think? Me, I find it all rather scary, truth be told. I wonder how you interpret that statement as you read this?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Red Carpet Rolled Out at Space Station

Now we get an intimation on how complex docking in space really is. Just watch all the Soyuz retro rocket action as it approaches the station. Some beautiful imagery of earth in the background as well.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Dean Koontz On Good vs. Evil

Horror/thriller novelist Dean Koontz, in his fifth and final volume in his Frankenstein saga, The Dead Town, has his main character and primary villain go toe to toe on the issue of good vs. evil in human society. The characters are Deucalion (Victor Frankenstein's first monstrous creation who has learned to be more than he was created to be in two centuries of hard living) and Victor Frankenstein (monster maker who has used his twisted techniques to unnaturally extend his life). Victor is a materialist who despises his own race and seeks our destruction. Deucalion has become humanity's champion. They discuss whether or not humans are essentially good or basically evil. Take some time to think this through for yourself. Would you agree with Dean?

"[Victor] Why be a defender of their kind [humans]? They're less than you. They're of the same species as one another, all of the human community, and yet they hate one another, conspire against one another, war against one another."
"And some are willing to die for one another," Deucalion says.
"Yes, for something called duty and something called love--which are concepts, not realities. You can't deny they live for lust, for greed, to envy and to justify violence with their envy, to seek power over one another and to apply it ruthlessly."
"Most of them are not that way," the giant says. "But among them are enough like you, Victor, to lead them astray again and again, to be their conniving politicians and their self-sickened intellectuals, their self-satisfied elites who seduce them away from their better natures. There is a serpent in the world, and having signed a pledge with it, you spent your life...spreading its venom."

Each of us can make a difference every day, a small difference, through the things we choose to do and say. I truly believe that. Will you work for humanity's betterment or will you side with the serpent today?

Dean Koontz. Frankenstein: The Dead Town. Book Five, The Final Volume. New York: Bantam Books, 2011, p. 389.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Great Books on New Babies for the Older Sibling

Here's a list of a baker's dozen great children's books dealing with the arrival of a new baby. These will help reassure the soon to be older brother or sister that all will still be well, even after the new addition to the family arrives. Wishing you and your growing family all the blessings of life...and some good reading as well.

  1. Michael and the New Baby. J.S. Brooks
  2. Mommy Breastfeeds Our Baby. Teresa Carroll
  3. Will There Be a Lap for Me? Dorothy Corey
  4. We Have a Baby. Cathryn Falwell
  5. Julius, the Baby of the World. Julius Henkes
  6. Peter's Chair. Ezra Jack Keats 
  7.  My New Baby. Annie Kubler 
  8. The New Baby. Mercer Mayer
  9. Ma! There's Nothing to Do in Here. Barbara Parks
  10. On Mother's Lap. Ann Scott
  11. What Baby Needs. Dr. William Sears
  12.  That New Baby. Sara Bonnett Stein  
  13. Oonga Boonga. Frieda Wishinsky 
You may purchase Michael and the New Baby through Old Line Publishing's website, Amazon, or Barnes and Nobles online sites. For Old Line's website, click on any of the book's illustrations or the front cover found to the right. Thanks for your support. Or use this handy link:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


A unique view of space shuttle Endeavor while docked with the International Space Station. This video was taken by one of the exiting astronauts aboard a Soyuz space capsule returning to earth. This continues my ongoing tribute to the retiring shuttle fleet.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Public Service Announcement 2: What to Do When Your Old RCA 5 Disc DVD Player Gets Jammed

The following message applies to the RCA Home Theaters RTD206 & 207. Note also that at least the 206 is considered so old replacement parts are no longer available. I have to say, as a former archaeologist, my definition of "old" is vastly different from that of today's manufacturers! Here's what they say to do:

You can try to reset the unit using the procedure below:

Let the unit sit with the AC power cord out of the wall for a couple of hours. 
Then hit the power button 10-15 times (with the AC power cord still out of the 
wall socket!) and then try again. 

Unfortunately parts are no longer available for this model and we 
cannot offer a repair service. You can check your local TV/VCR repair shop 
to see if they are willing to offer a repair service with parts that they 
have available. Sorry we are unable to offer any service. 

Unfortunately, for us, this advice didn't work. 
But it gives YOU something to try. Good luck. 
UPDATE: What DID work was removing two screws on the side of 
the unit and six screws from the back, which allows the entire body covering 
to be removed. The problem was the disc had risen out of the disc 1 tray. 
Gently returned the escaped disc to the tray, plugged in the unit 
(keeping fingers clear of all interior workings), and pressed eject. The machine 
responded as it should. Repair complete. 

Civil Protection: Oil's Well (Machinima)

And now for a surprising environmental message from Scott Ross, delivered through his comedy series Civil Protection! Observe and learn.

Civil Protection - Episode 1: Friday

If you like the series Freeman's Mind, an ongoing comedy based on the Half Life video game, then you should try Civil Protection. It's based on the Half Life alternate future Earth police force. The main characters, Mike and Dave, get into all sorts of silly escapades. Amusing for adults and teens ... but parents, not for little children! Enjoy.

Monday, June 6, 2011


I'm slipping and could use some help here boosting the number of people who like the Michael and the New Baby fan page! Here's the stats:

STANDINGS AS OF 6/6/2011 7:30 PM EST

The Gathering Darkness                                                                               300
The Fun to Read Rhyming With Really Cool Pictures ABC Book     101
His Salvation                                                                                                       77
Revolutionary Rose                                                                                         74
The Wild & Crazy Adventures of Panda Buddy and Mousie           71
Weaving Fate                                                                                                    43
Murphy Dive                                                                                                      38
The Kenai Catastrophe                                                                                  30
At The Appointed Time                                                                                 30
Michael and the New Baby                                                                       29
Chasing Victory                                                                                                 27
What If No One Believed?                                                                           26
The Little Match Girl                                                                                       16
The Fabulous World of Farberware                                                          15
The Logical Miss Liberty                                                                                 11
Discovering the Treasure Within                                                               6
A Psychic’s View of Heaven                                                                         5
The Heart of Hannen                                                                                      4
The Youngest Mountain Man                                                                     3
Domestic Violence: Seeds of Change                                                      2
How to Avoid Armageddon                                                                         2

To help me out (it only takes a second) follow this link to my fan page and hit the like button near the very top of the page by the title:

Thanks for the help.

Parents: Let Your Child Help Plant

As spring rolls into summer, parents of young children, especially young school aged children who will soon be free of classes, are looking for summer projects. Aside from buying and reading Michael and the New Baby, which you should, try a gardening project. Let the little ones help you clear, plant, and maintain a flower bed this summer. There is a certain joy a child gets in being allowed to help a parent (grandparent, etc.) with a job the parent could handle alone. There is a sense of accomplishment that comes from a job well done. And it is something the two of you can return to again and again to admire your handiwork and see how the flowers planted are growing (or crops, that'll work too). Give it a try. You might start a trend in your neighborhood.
Examine your work together at different times in different light. It surprising what a difference that can make.

Are Dogs Imitating Us ... and Do They Have an Agenda?

Finding the family dog sitting on the couch with one paw resting on the arm rest reminded me of an NPR report I heard about dog barking. Turns out wolves in the wild don't bark. This scientist interviewed hypothesized that dog barking was dogs approximating human speech as best they can. In other words, dogs are imitating us. And there's the family dog (who barks a whole lot ... I guess we are a gabby bunch) sitting casually on the couch with her front leg extended on that arm rest. Just what is she up to?
Hey, bub, what are YOU lookin' at?!

Friday, June 3, 2011

CONTEST UPDATE: Here's the Standings Among the Authors


The Gathering Darkness                                                                               257
The Fun to Read Rhyming With Really Cool Pictures ABC Book     83
The Wild & Crazy Adventures of Panda Buddy and Mousie           67
His Salvation                                                                                                       56
Revolutionary Rose                                                                                         48
Weaving Fate                                                                                                    41
Murphy Dive                                                                                                      27
Michael and the New Baby                                                                          25
Chasing Victory                                                                                                 24
At The Appointed Time                                                                                 23
What If No One Believed?                                                                           22
The Kenai Catastrophe                                                                                  13
The Fabulous World of Farberware                                                          11
The Logical Miss Liberty                                                                                 10
The Little Match Girl                                                                                       7
The Heart of Hannen                                                                                      4
A Psychic’s View of Heaven                                                                         4
The Youngest Mountain Man                                                                     3
Domestic Violence: Seeds of Change                                                      2
Discovering the Treasure Within                                                               2
How to Avoid Armageddon                                                                         1

So, if you feel generous (and I hope you do), please go to the following address and push me up in the standings:

Writers: Push Your Boundaries

I've been writing in many fields for a long time. I've found several traits to be most helpful to writers. First is persistence. If you believe you have talent and write well, keep at it. In time good things will happen ... after dues have been paid, etc., etc. For instance, Michael and the New Baby was written when our son, now in his twenties, was six and was published in 2009.
Second, the point of this post, is to push your boundaries. Work in a variety of directions that interest you. Write as well as you can at everything you attempt. Eventually, that effort will pay off. I am attending seminary part time while working full time. A final exam research paper I wrote in the course Evangelism and Church Renewal, "Joy In Evangelism," ended up published in a peer reviewed magazine for professors. It turns out this topic was a different perspective on the subject, one I'd been living for years, but the professor saw as something that hadn't been written about and should be. Turns out, the professor was an editor for this particular magazine, Witness. Push hard in all your writing to create the best work you can and push your own personal writing boundaries as far as you can. You never know where it will lead.
Good luck in your literary pursuits. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

CONTEST: Facebook Fan Page Contest Begins for Michael and the New Baby

I am currently engaged in a pitched competition with 19 other talented authors. The publisher of my children's book has given me (and the other authors) our own fan pages. The author who receives the most "likes" in June WINS. Please go to the following address and "like" me! Tell your friends to go "like" me too. Let the games begin!

I promise to keep you informed on how things are moving forward ... unless I lose miserably. But YOU won't let that happen, will you?! 

For All Who Suffer: Answering the Question Where Is God in My Suffering?

In times of trouble, all of us who have faith have wondered at one time or another (you haven't yet ... oh, you will, you will) where God is during our struggles and our pain. Philip Yancey addresses that thorny question well in his popular book Where Is God When It Hurts? On pages 278-279, Yancey states:

Where is God when it hurts?
He has been there from the beginning, designing a pain system that, even in the midst of a fallen world, still bears the stamp of his genius and equips us for life on this planet.
He transforms pain, using it to teach and strengthen us, if we allow it to turn us toward him.
With great restraint, he watches this rebellious planet live on, in mercy allowing the human project to continue in its self-guided way.
He lets us cry out, like Job, in loud fits of anger against him, blaming him for a world we spoiled.
He allies himself with the poor and suffering, founding a kingdom tilted in their favor. He stoops to conquer.
He promises supernatural help to nourish the spirit, even if our physical suffering goes unrelieved.
He has joined us. He has hurt and bled and cried and suffered. He has dignified for all time those who suffer, by sharing their pain.
He is with us now, ministering to us through his Spirit and through members of his body who are commissioned to bear us up and relieve our suffering for the sake of the head.
He is waiting, gathering the armies of good. One day he will unleash them, and the world will see one last terrifying moment of suffering before the full victory is ushered in. Then, God will create for us a new, incredible world. And pain shall be no more.

"Listen, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we will all be changed--in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: 'Death has been swallowed up in victory.'
'Where, O death, is your victory?'
'Where, O death, is your sting?' " (1 Corinthians: 15-51-55)
Take heart, all who suffer. You are not alone in your pain. You are never alone in this world, even though your suffering seems to isolate you. God is always with you. We who believe stand with you and pray for you in your struggle.

Pinto Stampede Introducing The Pinto

Here's one of the stranger charity events currently underway across the United States. Vintage Ford Pintos are being driven from Colorado to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, over several days. We had a Pinto back in the 1970s. I don't remember too much about the maintenance free driving fun. I remember the rough idle it developed which actually shook the radio antenna from side to side at stoplights. Once I heard derisive teen laughter (I was a teen then too) and looked over to see who was making fun of the lightly shimmying Pinto at the stoplight. It was other teens in a raggedy Volkswagen Beetle (a real beater). What are you laughing at I thought ... although since news of Pinto's potentially explosive nature was out by then, I knew. Ah, the memories...

Space Shuttle Endeavor Heads Home for the Last Time

We are nearing the end of our tribute to the Space Shuttle fleet with this video of Endeavor's final landing. There is only one shuttle flight remaining. Endeavor, the youngest of the shuttle fleet, is now headed for a museum.