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 26, 2012

Flash Drive More Durable Than I Imagined!

Flash drive in the wash?!
Do you remember the old Timex ads in which watches were subjected to all sorts of tortuous tests you were sure would destroy them? Those Timex watches always came through and the ad would end with the motto, "Timex: takes a licking and keeps on ticking!" Well, my PNY 8GB flash drive has pulled off a Timex stunt. I accidentally left the handy little device in a pair of pants that went through both the washer and the dryer. My wife returned it to me steaming hot when she discovered it. I figured the little guy was history.

Still, I was curious. I inserted the device that looked no worse for wear (once it was cool again) into the USB port and much to my surprise, it worked. It opened, retrieved its now squeaky clean data, and accepted new information copied into it and returned it to the computer in fine form. This was a tremendous surprise. I guess devices without moving parts can be as durable as those old Timex watches. This flash drive took a washing and keeps on ... sorry I can't think of the appropriate rhyming word at 7:17 in the morning.

Do you have any surprising feats of technological durability to share?

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:

Friday, September 21, 2012

When iPad App Updates Fail: A Quick Fix

When I graduated from seminary, I became the proud owner of an Apple iPad 3 and a Kensington wireless keyboard with case. It is a thing of beauty. It is also addictive. Somehow, with its little pings for updates of various sorts waiting within and appointments to keep, it makes you feel important (very sneaky Apple folks). The screen is gorgeous. And the applications (Apps) seem endless.

Then something goes wrong. You go to upload App updates (which have happened seamlessly many times) and hit upload all, only then wondering if 10 uploads is too many at once. And you're stuck. All those little apps awaiting updates dim and a bar opens at the bottom of each app icon and says, "Waiting...". And you wait, and they wait, and nothing happens. It's stuck. After the initial panic, "Noooo, I've broken my new best digital friend," you start asking yourself what you can do.

Here's one solution:

  • Go back to your full blown computer and bring up the iTunes program. 
  • Go to the Apps icon on the left and click on it.  
  • Upload all the App updates to your trusty computer
  • Plug your stuck iPad to the computer (by the way, the other programs and features keep working so your beloved iPad is not dead ... keep telling yourself that)
  • Synchronize the iPad to the computer.
  • Your Apps should change from waiting, updating themselves from the computer
  • Should any App refuse to upload updates this way, banish it from the iPad by holding your finger down on the App until the little X appears and the icons dance. 
  • Press the X, removing the App, and reload it. If you have paid for this App through the Apple Store, this will be remembered and you won't have to do it again. 
Added bonus information: If you have one of the most recent iPads and you are asked in iTunes if you want the update, agree to it. You'll end up with the Siri program ... which once again will make you feel more important and even happier with your iPad (again, Apple people, very sneaky indeed. Well played.)

That's it for now. Oh yes, one last thing: If you use computers regularly and are faster on a keyboard than with a pen, go ahead and invest the extra $100 to get a wireless keyboard. You'll be happier with that than the keyboard iPad comes with (nothing wrong with it Apple people, nothing at all). The internal digital keyboard is a little small, very sensitive, and of course can't give you any tactile input on the location of the keys. For casual use, the internal keyboard is fine (answering email, Facebook, etc.) but if you want to correct a document or do something else where detailed typing is involved, you'll like the wireless keyboard and the results you get (also a bit small, but you get used to it). 


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:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Good News From Christianity: Speaking Beneficially Rather Than "Lawfully"

This has been a week full of examples for me of why we should follow Paul's wisdom in the New Testament when he wrote to the Corinthians. As a well traveled evangelist and citizen of Rome, Paul had some experience with speaking to vastly different groups of people. He wrote: 
1 Corinthians 10:
23 ‘All things are lawful’, but not all things are beneficial. ‘All things are lawful’, but not all things build up. 24Do not seek your own advantage, but that of others.
31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. 32Give no offence to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, so that they may be saved.

With our broad understanding of "freedom of speech" in America, a great deal is lawful, but that doesn't make a lot of it beneficial. I think it is well past time we started to ask ourselves if what we are about to say, or print, or film will be beneficial and of advantage to others rather than ourselves.  Paul speaks of giving no offense to anyone and we might want to give that a try. After all, we've seen the results of sticking to what is strictly "lawful." 

A poorly made short film disparaging the prophet Muhammad and the result is riot elsewhere in the world and death. This certainly may have been lawful speech but it was far from beneficial. The results were obscene and I do not defend them in any way, but they were incited by "lawful" speech. 

Mitt Romney makes remarks disparaging 47% of the American population, brushing them off as not his concern. This speech was "lawful" but hardly prudent. It has left many of us wondering if Governor Romney would truly have the interests of all Americans at heart. He has raised doubts while seeking his own advantage with a group of wealthy donors. The result has been anything but advantageous and has left many angry, hurting, or despairing for their party's chances in November.

Our daughter came home shaken from school yesterday. We are American Baptists and I have just completed the ordination process and schooling to be an American Baptist minister. We are open to others of all faiths or lack thereof and Madeline engages friends of all stripes in friendly dialog about her beliefs and theirs. So, she came home yesterday and told us that in Chemistry class religion came up and many students "lawfully" spoke of their hatred of Christians. For the first time, our outspoken daughter was silent in class. She said she felt afraid to speak up. I'm sure the teacher not speaking up to temper the class's remarks didn't help much. All that was said was "lawful" but hardly beneficial. 

I heard on NPR yesterday that there is a huge disconnect between the United States and the rest of the world when it comes to this issue of "free speech." It is believed in the rest of the world that the speech that comes from the U.S. has the backing and approval of the U.S. government. Needless to say, this is often less than beneficial. And when people around the world react badly to our "lawful" yet harmful, self advantage seeking speech, we believe them to be merely dictatorial, reactionary, fundamentalists seeking to curtail our rights. And so a vicious cycle is created.

Let's go back to the wisdom of a widely traveled, highly educated, vastly experienced public speaker and speak that which is beneficial for others rather than what is merely advantageous to us or simply "lawful," which can so often be awful. It is a choice. How will you choose?

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 19, 2012

Seeing Even Our Leaders As Human

As politics continues to be divisive, as many religions seem to have a hair trigger for an offended reaction (fundamentalist Christians angered by Dr. Pepper [really guys, an ad?], others offended by cheap shot films, etc.), atheists angry with angry Christians, and all of us riding the roller coaster of offense from one newscast to the next, we forget we are all fallible humans capable of greatness and of great mistakes.

I was reading Brian D. McLaren's Naked Spirituality and he made a statement that in my irritation with recent events I didn't want to hear. Still it made me pause. He stated (I leave out bits referencing his system of spiritual growth as it would take longer to explain than is worthwhile and do not impact the message), "We can finally begin to accept that all our knowing, past and present, is partial (1 Cor. 13:12). Harmony requires this posture of humility, which allows us to finally see authority figures neither as godlike ... nor as demonic ..., but rather as human beings like us, often doing the best they can and even then making plenty of mistakes along the way. This newfound humility also allows us to find our identity in a new way in relation to others: ... in a more mature interdependence of mutuality." (p. 189)

I think there is a lot to be said for this humble approach. Thinking of the opposition to your position as a fellow, fallible human being helps keep us from demonizing each other. It makes it harder for us to lash out at each other and stereotype each other so we can dismiss those we consider others. If we must recognize that we need each other to progress in this difficult life, we may be able to seek accommodations with each other ... even compromise (GASP) with one another, and move forward peaceably into a better world.

It's not a welcome idea in our highly charged emotional environment where we'd rather be mad at the other side (of whatever is the moment's irritation), but it may just save us grief, tears, and bloodshed. It's not a message I wanted to hear as I'm dealing with my own anger and grief at the moment, but it's something I need to wrestle with. How about you?

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 18, 2012

Robonaut 2 Learns to Interact with Equipment More: ISS Update - Aug. 23, 2012

Slide over to the 4:23 mark to begin seeing the progress Robonaut 2 is making toward helping out the crew actively aboard the ISS. In time R2 is hoped to be set to work both inside and outside the ISS, doing tedious tasks robots are well designed for or assisting crew members as they work together on various projects. Robotics takes another small "step" forward (even though R2 has no legs as yet).

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

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mars Curiosity Descent - Ultra HD 30fps Smooth-Motion

 With sound added, you really feel like you're landing with the Curiosity rover. Note the very short time between parachute release and rocket motor firing. This is all very impressive. Only with current technology can you live this momentous occasion so completely. Looking forward to seeing what comes next.

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:

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sloggin' Thru Blogging: Social Media

It's confession time. I started this blog without a clue about how to make it work. I've posted the discoveries I've made along the way for other hapless beginners like myself. Now, let's be honest, just you and me reader. If you're reading this, you're an immigrant to the world of the Internet and all things computerized and high tech. You're probably not in your twenties or below (I pick that cut off date because the Internet starts in earnest in 1991 and all those born after that date have grown up with all the media options open before them all their lives--they are natives to this high tech landscape while the rest of us are immigrants to its digital shores). You may have more or less some clue about how this stuff works but it doesn't come naturally to you.

So, I'm going to do something I have not yet done. I'm going to explore more deeply that distant land and some of its principalities. I'm heading into the social media jungle more deeply (I've only stuck a toe in so far ... not really understanding what happens in these alien lands or what the native customs are). I'll send messages back from time to time and let you know I'm still alive in those foreign shores and digital jungles.

I have reasons for this. I want to understand better what the natives know and learn how better to get out my messages via these media of choice for so many. I intend to find out how to better use the tools I've signed up for, namely Twitter and Google Plus. Facebook I'm familiar with ... but I doubt I've plumbed its depths yet. I'll let you know what I find.

I'm spurred by the son of a friend of mine. In a 24 hour telethon on his own popular site for food reviews called he raised $20,000 and 3000+ pounds of food for food banks in North Carolina. That is the equivalent of 102,000 meals. That's the kind of power to help others I'd like to try to harness. There must be ways to do this. I just have to find out what they are.

Are there any friendly social media natives out there who would like to act as my guide?

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 12, 2012

Good News from Christianity: Choosing Joy and Speaking Love

Every day in the news, locally, nationally, and internationally, people are busy choosing hatred over joy and division over love. I strongly believe, as a Christian, that we should march to the beat of a different drummer, follow Jesus instead of divisive leaders screeching one ideology or another, and choose joy. In choosing joy, we will be empowered to choose to make others joyful by speaking with love and feeding people's great need for love. As Henri Nouwen wrote concerning joy:
Strange as it may sound, we choose joy. Two people can be part of the same event, but one may choose to live it quite differently from the other. One may choose to trust that what happened, painful as it may be, holds a promise. The other may choose despair and be destroyed by it. What makes us human is precisely this freedom of choice.True joy is hidden where we are the same as other people: fragile and mortal. It is the joy of belonging to the human race. It is the joy of being with others as a friend, a companion, a fellow traveler. This is the joy of Jesus, who is Emmanuel: God-with-us. 
Once we are joyful, emulating God-with-us, and celebrating our community with other adventurers in joy, then we can turn to loving others as ourselves.

Henri Nouwen's observation on the power of speech is incredibly important now in a season of division and strife in so many quarters:

"Still, the word has the power to create. When God speaks, God creates. When God says, 'Let there be light' (Genesis 1:3), light is. God speaks light. For God, speaking and creating are the same. It is this creative power of the word we need to reclaim. What we say is very important. When we say, 'I love you', and say it from the heart, we can give another person new life, new hope, new courage. When we say, 'I hate you', we can destroy another person. Let's watch our words." And, "Words of love and affirmation are like bread. We need them each day, over and over. They keep us alive inside."
Some would say an individual can't make a difference. I would strongly disagree. Choose joy and speak with love to others today and see if you don't make an immediate difference in someone else's day. Once you plant that seed of joy and love in that other person, who knows where they will go and how those seeds will grow. Keep seeding and moving along, never looking back, never wondering if you've made a difference, but trusting that God will make those seeds grow and the joy and love spread right along. It seems a good antidote to the anger and division, the strife and the hatred being shrieked today in so many quarters and so many destructive ways. I'm choosing to be joyful and the spread love. In doing so, I follow the two greatest commandments, as noted by Jesus, love God and your neighbor as yourself. You are loved neighbor. Do you choose to feel the joy?

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:

New Writers: Don't Read Those Online Reviews

First book + bad review = PAIN
Okay, you new writer, you. You've published your first book and it has hit the shelves, both physical and Internet. Your book is available on Amazon and other online sales points. You start checking to see how you are doing. Amazon has a counter to tell you how your book ranks among the sales of all their books. If you're a Type A personality, this little counter alone becomes addictive. It makes you happy when the numbers go up, it makes you a pain in the neck to your publisher's marketing department when it doesn't and you start calling them to ask why. Then it happens. Someone reviews your book. You get one star or no stars. You slink away devastated, crushed, you and your baby have been rejected by the world. You want to paint the world black, you want to crawl under a rock, you want to die!

Reality check new writer: anyone can write those reviews and despite the claims that editors check them, there is not all that much that Amazon and their ilk can do to guarantee the veracity of the reviews received. They have a program that compares the writing styles of reviewers, but this largely catches authors who are giving themselves fake praise to pump up their ratings ... or are giving a competitor devastatingly bad reviews to electronically kneecap an opponent (shame on you for sinking so low). They can't do much more because they have a huge volume of books and couldn't possibly check all that comes in.

Even if the review is made by someone real, it could be someone angry that he or she wasn't included in your book and is writing in spite (happens in niche market books all the time). Or, as happened with one of my books on a form of antique ceramics, the person writing is a complete novice and knows nothing about what he or she is talking about. In my case, the admitted novice was angry that my book on a Victorian ceramic form didn't include every form or pattern and rated my book badly. What she apparently didn't know is that Victorian ceramics have 101 pieces in a table set and that particular type had over 1500 known patterns. Had I created such a tome it would have been so unwieldy no one could have ever lifted it or afforded it. Nor is my life long enough to write such a volume. I was not devastated by this review because I had been writing for a long time by the time this one showed up and I saw it for what it was. You, new author, don't have that perspective.

Save yourself the heartache and avoid checking the status of your book on the online sites. The reviews aren't written by professionals there and the folks who write definitely don't have your best interest at heart. Many of them have no idea what it takes to write a book in the first place and a great many of them will speak from ignorance (meaning the high praise from some will be worth just as little as the bile from others). Protect yourself, new author, and turn to your own marketing of your new baby. Enjoy this first published book. You'll never feel quite the same about a published book again (provided you keep writing ... which you won't if you take bad reviews to heart).

If somebody else is handling your marketing, then go start your next book! What are you hanging around here for?!

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: