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, August 30, 2014

Good Guy Biker Strikes Again Helping blind man

Here is one of those acts of kindness I discussed in the post "Simple Kindness vs. Open Carry." As I see here, the entire encounter took even less time than I imagined. It was a grand total of one minute, eight seconds for this kindness to be completed. Why you could commit a whole lot of kindness in a single day with acts of that short duration taking place. Think how many lives we could improve together and how much safer we could all feel!

To read the original post, see:

Multimedia Poster of NASA's Vision of Spaceflight's Future

Art Courtesy of NASA
If you are a space geek like me, you'll want to explore this digital multimedia poster offered up at NASA. It explores NASA's vision for the future of spaceflight ... much of which I hope to live long enough to see. However, this vision requires cooperation from our politicians and from us, the taxpayers. Make sure your politicians know that you are an enthusiast and want to see the US have a future in space exploration. Do not allow us to make the mistakes we have in the past, developing amazing technology and then handing it off to others to run with because our vision was too limited. Let's not embarrass ourselves in that way again.

Art Courtesy of NASA
Anyway, enjoy the poster here:

For an update on progress with NASA's Orion crew capsule, see:

Orion Crew Capsule Gets Heat Shield

Courtesy of NASA
Protecting the Orion crew capsule from the 4,000 degree Fahrenheit trauma known as reentry into the earth's atmosphere, the indispensable heat shield was added. The cabin is coming ever closer to readiness for its unmanned launch in December. That "backshell" as it is called at Kennedy Space Center, features 970 tiles familiar to fans of the late, great Space Shuttle.

Orion's first reentry will definitely be a trial by fire. While the shuttles slid into the atmosphere at 17,000 miles per hour, Orion will enter at 20,000, giving that backshell a real fiery workout before any crew boards her.

Once she has her crews, Orion's heat shield will be able to be repaired in space should it encounter and be damaged by any of the multitudinous space junk floating around up there after decades of spaceflight. However, NASA's ever inquisitive engineers want to know more about what damage to the shields might do, specifically micrometeorite damage:
Before installing the back shell, engineers purposely drilled long, skinny holes into two tiles to mimic damage from a micrometeoroid hit. Each 1 inch wide, one of the holes is 1.4 inches deep and the other is 1 inch deep. The two tiles with these mock micrometeoroid hits are 1.47 inches thick and are located on the opposite side of the back shell from Orion’s windows and reaction control system jets. 
“We want to know how much of the hot gas gets into the bottom of those cavities,” said Joseph Olejniczak, manager of Orion aerosciences. “We have models that estimate how hot it will get to make sure it’s safe to fly, but with the data we’ll gather from these tiles actually coming back through Earth’s atmosphere, we’ll make new models with higher accuracy.”
Good luck and Godspeed engineers and Orion.

To view how NASA sees the future of spaceflight, go to:

Friday, August 29, 2014

Simple Kindness vs. Open Carry. The Five Minute Response

It's been a peculiar morning, news-wise. I started the day with a couple of beautiful short videos. In the first a scooter rider in the US pulls away from his group of like-minded riders. He had seen a blind, elderly man walking along the side of the road. Respectfully he informed the gentleman that there was a sidewalk along the sea wall just four feet to his left. The blind gentleman asked the rider if he could help him get there. The rider parked his scooter, led the gentleman to the sidewalk, informed him there was a handrail to his left and that he was facing the direction of town. The blind gentleman thanked him for his kindness. The exchange took less than two minutes and the scooter rider was once again on his way. The event was recorded on his Go-Pro camera attached to his helmet.

In the second video, a Russian couple stops on a deserted stretch of roadway. The road is compact earth. In the middle of the road something struggles, halfway out of the ground. It is a prarie dog that is caught, Winne the Pooh fashion, half way out of its burrow hole, which was probably compacted and made too small for the animal by passing traffic. Carefully (one must be careful with scared, wild creatures ... or any wild creatures), the couple used a blanket and gently lifted the stuck one from the burrow. It ran away to another burrow entrance. Again, this act of kindness took less than two minutes. It was captured by the camera mounted in Russian cars to be used in collision disputes and a personal hand video camera.

The third report was captured on the BBC via my radio. An American (sigh) was touting his children's book on the wonders of open carry gun laws in the US and how wonderful it is to tote your weapon openly for all to see. The juxtaposition was jarring. However, after watching these brief and easy acts of kindness, I wonder if we couldn't eliminate some people's perceived need to carry weapons with an escalation of brief acts of kindness in our world every day. Keep an eye out today and see what you might accomplish. I'll do the same. Shall we meet here again later and compare notes?

And that's the 5 minute response.

To witness the scooter rider's kindness, see:

To see the prairie dog rescue kindness, see:

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Life, Death, and Pattern Recognition: The Five Minute Response

Life: has been discovered under the South Pole. Beneath the ice sheet is a whole biosphere lurking, proving that life can survive in what seems to us the most inhospitable places. That may be a good thing for life in general if not for us given the new report from the UN on the ongoing climate change crisis. That new life may have to take over when we cause extinction on the mass scale ... including of ourselves.

We pray that the Ebola virus cases will be brought under control but with 3,000 cases in West Africa and 1,500+ deaths so far, and predictions of 20,000 before this is over, we have to take this more seriously and provide more resources in defense against this rabid killer.

On the pattern recognition front, we see a thigh bone on Mars (looks like a whole burial to me as a former archaeologist with all that colorful rock scattered among bone fragments, very ritualistic) and an oval that looks like a microbe in a Martian meteorite from 1911. Oh, pattern recognition run amuck. That defense mechanism designed to allow us to see carnivores hiding among the forest leaves is toying with us yet again, creating suggestive patterns where none exist. Have you ever noticed how difficult such a pattern is to shake once it has been seen.

Here's to life, defense of life, stewardship of our planet, and common sense over pattern recognition. And that's the five minute response.

Book-lovers' Reactions to Nonreaders

Bustle: News and Entertainment for Women has put out a wonderful post showing the various reactions of their readership to those out there who know how to read books but refuse to do so. We here at J.S. Brooks Presents heartily agree. We have got to learn how to use GIFs!

Enjoy this short read:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Slice O' Life: Nostalgia's Power

Time marches on inexorably. No matter what we do, what we say, how we act, who we are ... this is an inescapable truth. As time flows forward, ever onward, we lose people we love. It is the price of living and loving on planet earth. Over the past two years, I've lost my mother and my grandmother and learned much more about the power of nostalgia.

That sentimental longing and wishful rosy view of times gone by is a natural byproduct of life's ever forward motion. The restless sands of time move along, carrying away from of those we have loved from time to time. If we are fortunate, new wonderful people drift to us on our journey down time's river. Okay, enough with the metaphors!

Nostalgia for things grows as we age. Those things that survive the restless years, that elude the destructive grip of time, become precious reminders of our past and those we once knew and still love. For me, I look forward every year to the emergence of the Christmas ornaments, especially the old Shiny Brites that have been passed down in the family since my parents were kids. They are like old friends come back, reminding me of the stories of family and friends gathered for Christmas celebrations.

There are other treasures from the past that have the same appeal. We inherited a cabinet full of Midwestern gifts for special occasions, usually weddings, from the 1920s to the 1950s and it is a case of nostalgia. It is also a wonderful record of what was considered special when.

Enjoy those things of the past and all that is associated with them. Let the memories come. Then, gently set them down in a safe place, ready for your return when you need them, and move forward into the land of the living. Enjoy.

Facebook Silences?

The religious order "The Silence" from Doctor Who would appreciate the news about Facebook. Perhaps FB is a Silence project!!!!

I was startled to see in the paper that Facebook silences opinions. No, the FB organization does not eliminate opinions ... the users do. It seems that FB participants will not speak up on issues if they do not feel their FB friends will agree with them on that issue. They are more likely to participate in an ice bucket challenge than to take a stand on the riots and attacks in Ferguson or the Middle East.

It seems FB is silencing many for fear that the great "them" out there will not share their opinions, rejecting them. Well folks, there are too many important things going on in the world right now to remain silent on any of them. Screw your courage up a notch and take a stand ... but take it in the real world. Passing along a strong opinion on FB or Twitter is unlikely to get results. Getting a group together in the real world, speaking out, and acting in unison to be helpful to others or to the environment ... now there's something useful to do. Not to mention, it's fun.

Step away from the computer, log off of Facebook, and take a stand for good out there! Let the silence end.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Stereotyping and Dehumanizing Run Wild

Twin diseases are running wild through the human race these days: stereotyping and dehumanizing others. To stereotype is to believe unfairly that all people or things of a similar characteristic are the same, according to Merriam Webster. Unfairly is a pivotal word in that sentence. To stereotype is to pigeonhole someone and dismiss them as a mere type. It is to, with the swipe of a hand, dismiss entire populations as all simply a single characteristic, and that characteristic often based on the bad behavior of some small fraction of that population. 

Here are a few quotes relevant to stereotyping: 
Stereotypes lose their power when the world is found to be more complex than the stereotype would suggest. When we learn that individuals do not fit the group stereotype, then it begins to fall apart.
~ Ed Koch
Stereotypes do exist, but we have to walk through them. 
~ Forest Whitaker
Stereotypes, they're sensual, cultural weapons. That's the way that we attack people. At an artistic level, stereotypes are terrible writing.
~ Junot Diaz
(For more, see:

Right up there with stereotyping is dehumanizing others. We do this when we want to go to war with them, physically and/or psychologically. We humans find it hard to go to war with other humans, or commit atrocities against them, so we try to make others less than human in our own minds. So, the Nazis called the Jews "rats" and the Hutus referred to the Tutsis as "cockroaches." Sadly, countless other groups have done the same when they want to inflict harm on others. We are endlessly inventive in figuring out ways to dehumanize and harm our fellow humans.

Stereotyping and dehumanizing have created conditions in which unarmed African-American males are dying in the hands of the police when they shouldn't. These factors are leading police forces to become convinced that to fight amorphous terror threats they need military equipment and one officer was recorded in Ferguson, Missouri, as referring to the populace as "animals" and urging those "animals" forward so he could shoot them. 

We have used and continue to use stereotyping and dehumanizing to keep those of specific races, religions (and lack thereof), genders, ... and anything else you care to name, subjugated, enslaved, or murdered in genocidal rage. ISIS is currently doing so in the Middle East. 

Horribly, we are allowing our opinion makers and reactionaries to lead the way in the USA in this terrible and dangerous form of abuse and all that it leads to. We need to reign in this awful tendency we have to dehumanize and stereotype others, given the bizarre and deadly reactions these twin horsemen of evil lead to in far too many cases. If we are to save ourselves and ensure we ourselves do not convince each other to commit mindless horrors on our fellow humans, we have to stop these tendencies now. We have to reveal them for what they are ... our basest, most evil, most genocidal urges at work ... and end them.

If we do not, then the last transmissions leaking from earth into space and across the universe will be the madness of stereotyping and dehumanizing language moments before the explosions that put an end to us all. 

Extending this theme, here are other recent posts to see:, and

Saturday, August 23, 2014

HUZZAH! Blog Site Earns Income!

I'm taking a moment to revel in a small victory. Ad Sense reports that this blog site has just earned me some income for the first time since ... well, never you mind since when. The point is that through dogged persistence and multiple ad clicks by you wonderful readers, this site finally, eventually became a small revenue stream ... at least this once.

Here's hoping it happens again sooner. Thanks for helping J.S. Brooks Presents get there. I'll try to continue to provide worthwhile content. Please keep reading. You all are the best.

Okay, moment of victory noted. Time to move on.

See you next time.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Saying NO to Interviews by the Media's Offensive Opinion Makers

Watching the Little League World Series the other night, Mo'ne Davis made the most profound observation. When she is tired of interviews, autograph signing, and other hype, she just says no. She refuses the offers for yet another shot in front of the microphone or the camera. We could all learn from the wisdom of this 13 year old Philadelphian.

At the same time, I have been increasingly offended by the opinion makers of radio and television who have been saying the most incredibly stupid, blind-to-reality things in relation to the dire situation in Ferguson, Missouri, and around our country. Actually, I'm sick to death of the incredibly stupid and offensive things they have to say about just about everything. We all have to power to stop that. Like Ms. Davis, we too can say no to offers of interviews with such people. Interviews are a large part of their life's blood. We can drain that from them with a simple "no."

I highly recommend this tactic. I've been interviewed a few times myself. Most of the interviewers were wonderful professionals ... none of them the present day opinon mavens, but actual hard working journalists ... who asked responsible questions. There were a few who I regret having agreed to speak with, but not many. One found himself truly embarrassed (or so I hope) on the air when he brought up a topic we had agreed during a "pre-interview" (the only one of those I ever had) not to discuss as we had divergent views on the issue. I didn't bother to tell him why our views diverged during the pre-interview because I thought it was a dead issue. Well, then he tried to "gotcha moment" on the air live ... and I had to tell him flat out the reason we diverged was because he was dead wrong in his assumption ... and I explained why. We moved on.

So, if you are the sort who might be interviewed by such people, opinion makers at the ends of the political spectrum, just say no. Let's bring these folks back to some sort of decency. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Daily Vlog #231 Rant the Second: Of Capes and Cooties

Hey folks, John is right. Equal time for boys and girls in capes and crusading!!!

Changing Rear Turn Signal Bulb on Chevy Uplander

Into each life a little change must fall. When your turn light indicator on your dash starts flashing frantically when you go to indicate your turn, and the message comes up that a specific bulb is out (thanks for that message Chevy, it is truly helpful), it is time to replace a bulb. Changing the rear turn signal, running, or reverse light on the Chevy Uplander is simplicity itself, IF and only IF you have the right tool. That tool is a fold up Torx key set. Get it now and return.

Ready? Okay, here's the process:

  1. Open your liftgate, exposing the taillamp housing. 
  2. Note that there are two deeply recessed screws in that mount along the inside edge.
  3. Take your Torx key set, using the smaller of the three largest keys, and loosen the screws. This may take some force as it is likely a pneumatic driver was used to tighten it before. 
  4. Gently remove the taillamp assembly. 
  5. The turn signal light is the center light. The top is your stoplamp/taillamp and the bottom is your back-up lamp bulb. 
  6. Note the bulb socket and wires. Gently turn the bulb socket counterclockwise to remove. 
  7. Replace the bulb by gently pulling the old bulb out of the socket and pushing the new bulb into place with equal care. 
  8. Reassemble by reversing this process. 
It really is a simple job if you have the right equipment. To learn to replace the other bulbs, see pages 5-46 - 5-49 of your manual. I've replaced both front and rear bulbs. It is not hard. Patience and the right tools are all that you need to have. 

Good luck. 

Turning Off the Change Oil Soon Light on Chevy Uplander

You have changed the oil as requested by your Uplander's (not Highlander or Outlander ... but of which are somehow more memorable to me than Uplander) persistent "Change Oil Soon" message that appears when you turn on the car. You have been an obedient owner ... but your van is not convinced. The Change Oil Soon admonition continues to show up every time you start the car.

Here's how to reset that system and make the persistent nagging stop.

  1. It starts with finding your DIC (yes, that sounds very wrong, but it is true). That's the Driver Information Center, a cluster of three buttons located to the right of your steering wheel. Found it? Okay, let's begin.
  2. Sitting in your car's driver's seat, turn on the ignition to run but do not turn far enough to start the engine. Just turn it over far enough to bring up the electronics of the vehicle.
  3. Now, note the large button with the i in the center and the up and down arrows on either side. Push the up side of this button until Oil Life is displayed on your dashboard in the same place that irritating Change Oil Soon message appears. Note it will be reading 0% oil life. 
  4. Now for pure satisfaction. Push and hold the set/reset button (the center button with the crooked arrow) and hold it for five seconds. The number will disappear (the dread 0%) and be replaced with a blessed 100. 
This needs to be done every time you change the oil. It won't happen automatically and most places will not reset it for you. Anyway, why would you want to give someone else the satisfaction of making that nagging little message go away?

To find this information in your manual for yourself, see page 5-17.

Personal confession: Why, you ask reasonably, are you providing us with maintenance mysteries now for this older model car? Really, I'm doing it for myself. I keep forgetting how to make this change and need a quick reference for it. I really don't expect huge numbers of readers to by dying for this information out there, really. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Curbing Violent Speech to Promote Peace

What we say about each other matters. What we say to each other makes a difference. Who we choose to listen to, watch, and respond to can have a huge impact on how we behave. If we live off a diet of anger, hatred, violent language, vicious stories that all end with problems solved with a bullet, stereotyping, and anger, our perspective will in time become warped so badly that in a moment of crisis we will say or act in ways that are wrong, dangerous, and even deadly. Live on a diet of terror and war rumors, we end up militarizing our police forces ... really "a war on drugs" was supposed to be a metaphor guys.

As far as "free speech" goes, that freedom is tempered with responsibility. I have been seeing far too much free speech with far too little responsibility for the consequences being aired on conservative news and opinion shows in relation to the terrible events unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri. I am deeply ashamed of all the white faces that have been smearing people with all sorts of negative stereotypes and false accusations, all the while looking smug, self righteous, and furious. In reality, they prove themselves to be clueless and dangerously deluded. I have no idea if they believe the bile they spill or if it is just a paycheck to them. However, when things continue to go wrong and the violence escalates, none of them better come back sniveling that "it was only entertainment and no one should have taken me seriously." That doesn't fly. There are far too many damaged minds out there who do take that steady diet of hatred seriously. They eventually arm themselves and commit atrocities based on what they heard. Check out the recent declaration of the KKK, who feel comfortable in this climate of hate to head for Ferguson to "protect the police." 

Further, when people hear this constant drumbeat of hatred, they begin to think of themselves as victims or soon-to-be victims. Then they become timid. This leads to situations where a Philadelphia park ranger asks three kids skateboarding on the stairs in Love Park (illegal) to stop. One knocks down and beats the ranger, kicking him several times in the head, while onlookers watch timidly and do nothing. Nothing except film the event that is. This has to stop. The assailant was unarmed and outnumbered ... yet nothing was done to restrain him.

We have a responsibility to each other. We must stop spreading violence, hatred, and fear with what we say. We must do better to spread peace. We must speak out against hate speech as well. We must civilly let people know we will not tolerate such poison being spread around us. We need to speak responsibly and encourage others to do so. Otherwise, in an effort to promote our first amendment rights without forethought, we will continue to poison each other, view the world with increasing suspicion, and become so frightened we lash out with excessive force at every perceived threat.

For more you can do, see:

If Your God Is So Loving, Then Why???

This question "if your God is so loving, then why ...", followed by the latest atrocity in the world as proof for the lack of God's existence, is both tedious and wrong-headed. I saw the most recent version of this question on the editorial page of a large circulation newspaper couched in a larger issue and written by a philosophy professor. I could give you a whole bunch of references to support what I'm about to say, but the contention simply isn't worth that much time and effort. Not to me, it isn't.

The premise itself is both wrong and childish. The questioner, who is not really asking a question but making a pointed statement, is presuming God is either a "helicopter parent" or Santa. This is a very simplistic view of the divine. While God is not the originator of evil, God is also not one to deflect all harm from God's followers. Nor is God one to grant our every wish, desire, and whim. What a horrid bunch we would be if this were so. Never facing adversity, we would never grow up and learn to do things for ourselves. Always receiving what we asked for, we would become incredibly greedy and entirely dependent upon God instead of seeking out each other for help when needed or offering help to others, which allows us to grow in so many good ways.

Then there is the biggest issue the questioner overlooks. The issue of responsibility. Each of us has been given our own responsibility in this life. We are responsible for God's creation, this beautiful world and all of its resources. It is ours to care for and conserve. It is ours to develop while making sure it does not come to harm. How are we doing with that? As for natural disasters, well, look at it this way. To be a living planet, certain large energies must be allowed to exist, be in circulation, and release themselves when they reach critical mass. If you are looking for a perfectly peaceful place where no natural harm can come to you through earthquake, fire, storm, tidal wave, or any other powerful agencies of a living world, such a place is available to you. You can see it in our night sky often. It is the moon ... and it is dead. Now, when people die during powerful storms, the people who most often die are the poor forced to live in the least safe and desirable land, like flood plains. Who forces them to live there? It is not God.

Now, on to humans and our responsibility to each other. We are to love one another, to love our enemies, to forgive each other, to live as one, to let justice roll down like water, to be the restorers of streets, to be the blessed peacekeepers, and so much more. That is on us. It is all on us. We need to grow up and accept that. God loves us enough to give us free will to choose to either do what is right or to follow evil paths. Sometimes we get it right. In fact, we often get it right. But, when we get it wrong, we get it very wrong indeed. We are in charge of how we will respond to each other, to how we will treat all the marginalized peoples of the world. God has set high standards of behavior for us to strive for. God has promised to help us along the way, encouraging us to do better, and providing the means for us to accomplish truly amazing things ... but the responsibility is ours and will always remain so.

If you want a simple proof for a loving God, try standing your own question on its ear. The proof we have a loving God is that despite all the horrors we inflict upon each other and all the ways we degrade this world, God allows us to continue and works with us toward a day when we will actually live up to our own responsibilities. That's way too simple as well, come to think of it.

Have a blessed and complicated day. Do something good with it.

For a similar post and article, see:

Why the Excuse "We Don't Have All the Facts" Doesn't Work

With the recent violence over the shooting of an unarmed African American teen in Ferguson, Missouri, has come the cry that we cannot act, we cannot stand up, we cannot speak out because we do not have all the facts yet. It sounds so reasonable. It is so wrong. We cannot sit idly by in the face of injustice. We cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that African American men are at greater risk than others during interactions with our own police forces. Within the last month prior to the death in Ferguson, at least four unarmed African American males had died when encountering our own law enforcement officers. This is unacceptable, no matter what the details that slowly bleed out from Ferguson may be. As for the footage of Michael Brown stealing from a cigar store prior to his death, a allegation the officer in question was unaware of at the time, when did theft become a capital crime in the US? It is irrelevant to the death and shows a real disregard for justice among those who released it.

Those who bring up the we don't have all the facts excuse for sitting on their hands and sitting safely on the sidelines fail to know our own history. I direct you to Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from a Birmingham Jail for a refutation of this excuse, well thought out, well written, and entirely relevant. It was written angrily (justifiably so) to King's fellow clergymen, who were employing this excuse to stay out of the fray in Birmingham.

I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds. 
You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative. 
In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied." 

The bold and italics are mine. The statement is Rev. Dr. King's. The truth is timeless. Justice too long delayed is justice denied. When militarized police take to the streets and point their weapons at unarmed citizens, including children, it is time to act. When peaceful protesters are interlaced with those who would loot stores and throw Molotov cocktails, it is time to act. When a pastor praying in the streets is shot with a rubber bullet for promoting peace, it is time to act. When one protester shoots another as a night descends into chaos, it is time to act. Justice must not be delayed.

Read the entire letter for yourself at:

For a supporting post on working to end violence, see:

For provocation to do something, see John Oliver's brilliant video:

Standing Against Violence

Flag of Truce ... we need to talk!
In June of 2013, the American Baptist Churches USA denomination held a Mission Summit on violence. It is a timely document, given what is currently going on in the world at home and abroad. Here is a summation of what we as humans should be doing in the face of an increasingly violent world. The time to sit on our hands, keep our mouths shut, and hope violence does not find us is long past. Actually, it never was. We are supposed to be looking out for each other and helping each other through this challenging life ... rather than being cruel to each other and reverting to our most primitive "might makes right" state of being. We have to be better than that. We have to speak up and act. We must work hard to end situations like those facing Ferguson, Missouri, the Love Park beating in Philadelphia where a skateboarder assaulted a park ranger who asked him not to grind on the stairs (it's against the law) while others stood by watching and filming the attack, the extended misery in Gaza for all involved, and all the cruelty plaguing humanity around the globe. This violence is part of us. We need to own that rather than blaming others for it. We need to struggle to curb it and make sure the hand we offer others is open and not in a fist.

Here are ways in which we can work daily to end violence as suggested by the mission summit. These fell under categories of "insights," "challenges," and "experiments." I'm editing down to some of the best. I'll give you a link to the rest. See if you agree ...

  • We are all victims of violence, but we are also practitioners in violence (in the language that we use, in meetings on hot topics, etc.)
  • Justice is a precondition of preace as a way to overcome violence.
  • Open our hearts to people; do not stereotype. 
  • Violence is not about "them;" we need to be able to look at ourselves and how it touches us. 
  • Many issues breed violence: mental illness, drugs, poverty, alienation (I'm sure we could all add many more)--there is great complexity. We need more awareness of the faces of violence (economic, cultural, environmental, systemic). 
  • We need to accept our complicity in violence and promote healthy conversations against it.
  • We need to reject violence in all its forms, denouncing cultural violence and bullying. 
  • We need more respectful language with each other and about each other. What we say and hear repeatedly will eventually impact how we think ... and right now there is an awful lot of irresponsible bile out there.
  • Addressing and rejecting violence in all its forms is essential.
  • We must have far greater education about violence in all its forms and violence prevention. 
  • We need to be willing to speak out and stand out with others working for justice and against violence. We must be willing to stand up and risk much to provide a safer world for us all. 
To see the entire document, see: It is a start but by no means an end.

To explore a response to the excuse to do nothing "We don't have all the facts yet," see: and Martin Luther King Jr.'s profound "Letter from a Birmingham Jail:"

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Ferguson, MO and Police Militarizati...

We need to speak out against injustice. We need to be as creative as John here. We also need to demand justice for all ... and peace.This is also what happens when we start taking our own metaphors, like "war on drugs" literally!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Don't Remember Colors? Want to Know Why?

I had a chance to talk to a neurologist I know recently. I asked her what twist or turn was missing from my brain that made it difficult, if not impossible, for me to remember colors encountered in daily life. I have no problem discerning colors. I can tell my reds from blues from greens and so on. I know what colors things are like stop signs, the sky, grass, trees, my wife's eyes, all of that. But, so help me, ask me what colors my kid was wearing today or what the dominant color of the front cover of the book I'm reading is and ... impossilbe. I draw a complete blank. I assumed it was some sort of deficiency or problem I've always had and is getting worse in recent years.

My neurologist (my sister-in-law actually) smiled and shook her head. My assumption was completely wrong. There is nothing wrong with your brain, she said (yes, go ahead and sigh with relief). You do not have the beginnings of altzheimers (I hadn't even thought of that ... and I'm glad). All those who think their memories stink for one reason or another are in most cases perfectly healthy. Those who firmly believe their memories are perfect are the ones frequently heading down the altzheimer trail.

Here it is. Here comes the answer.

She told me I simply do not invest my energy into remembering those colors. They are not important to me. They do not have any emotional impact upon my life. Therefore, I do not remember them. That's it. That's the answer, pure and simple.

That makes me pause. It makes me think about choices in life. I do not remember those colors because I choose not to on some level. My life is so busy, so full of facts, so full of choices to make, things to do, people to see, that I have chosen not to remember those colors.

What else might come down to a matter of choice? If I choose to invest the energy and the emotion into color memory, could I have Technicolor memories that look like the Land of Oz when Dorothy arrives? What else might be a matter of choice? What purposes might we accomplish, what great feats of justice and kindness might we do if we so choose? Where might we go? Who might we free? What courses of history bend ... if we so choose? It is worth a lot of energy in consideration, a lot of emotional energy in pursuit. There's a world of suffering out there. How might we change it? What colors could be paint the future? What colors will future generations use to portray us based on what we choose today?

Truth About Science and Religion ... Food for Thought

I enjoyed this post from American Thinker that I stumbled upon while on vacation. I believe this writer sums things up pretty well, so I pass this along for your consideration and enjoyment.


I'll be back writing my own material very soon ... but right now I have to unpack! I hate unpacking ...

For a related blog post of my own, see:

Suicide Prevention, Mental Health, and Nonviolence

I'm back from a week away visiting family. What a refreshing time. I have three church blog posts I want to pass along for your consideration. They deal with suicide prevention in the wake of Robin Williams's tragic death, mental health issues and how we can help, and our responsibility in growing a more nonviolent culture following the ongoing, unfolding horror that is Ferguson, Missiouri. It is a tall order, but it is what we are all called to do to live in a civil society.

Suicide prevention:
Mental health:

All three posts and their own links are well worth your time and consideration. Given the events in the world today, they also call for our immediate and positive action.

For related posts from this blog, see: and

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Farewell Robin Williams

I grew up with Robin Williams's career. I was introduced to him as Mork from Ork and followed him
 right on through the hilarious, high octane comedy and the more serious dramas. I have long admired his work. It was terribly sad to hear that he had succumbed to a protracted depression and died. A psychologist I heard once called suicide the terminal phase of the disease of depression. If you find yourself depressed, PLEASE seek out help immediately. You are too valuable a human being to face this debilitating condition alone and its potentially fatal end stage. Seek help. There is no shame in admitting you struggle with this or any other disease of the mind. Consider yourself prayed for in your struggles.

For me, the most memorable moment with Robin Williams came when our son was little. We had gone together to see Disney's Aladdin and, of course, our son was mightily impressed with Robin William's portrayal of the genie. It was high octane and full of no doubt unscripted asides that were this comedian's trademark. A day or two later, my wife received a phone call. She listened briefly and responded "Hi, Jeannie." Our son turned to me wide eyed and excited, having heard "Hi, Genie" from his mom and whispered to me in awe, "Mom's talking to the Genie!" It was a shame to have to tell him otherwise. I'll never forget that moment of pure excitement. I have to admit, I would have liked to talk to the Genie, to Mr. Williams, myself. I would have liked to have thanked him personally for his body of work, work which I have truly enjoyed over the years.

Robin Williams has moved on now, finding the peace with God that he did not know in life. I want to say to all of his family and friends, I stand by you in your grief and pray for you. We have all lost a great talent, a comic genius, and an energetic friend who cared deeply for others. Rest well, Robin Williams. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Sloggin' Thru Blogging: Referencing Your Own Posts

There are two points here:

  1. It finally happened: I've blogged long enough I've gone back hunting among my own posts for techniques for fixing something I posted on over a year ago. I was happy to find the information. I've found this a great use for the blog. If I want to remember a technique, I blog about it, knowing it is then on file for later referencing. 
  2. A handy technique to keep people engaged with your posts longer is to provide links to other similar posts of yours to be found elsewhere in your blog. That way, readers can move from one post to another with a simple click and stay with you longer. Perhaps they will become regular readers.
That's it. I have to run. I'm scheduled to visit with extended family today.

Good luck. Happy blogging!

Secret to Have a Successful Visit with a Hospitalized Person: Fear Not!

For many of us, visiting someone in the hospital, rehab facility, or nursing home raises anxiety. It is something we avoid. That avoidance makes us feel guilty. The loved one or friend in the facility is denied our company, spending long hours alone.

This does not have to be the case. There is a secret to a successful visit. All you have to know is that what you say does not matter. Your presence makes all the difference. You do not have to have answers, you only have to be there. Most of the time, all you need to do is listen. It is as simple as that.

If you really need an opening line, try "How are they treating you?" Then be ready to note how many people are there looking out for and helping your loved one or friend recover.

The biggest no nos you need to avoid are trying to fix things yourself (not moving a tray off to one side or moving a trash can closer to the person for their use ... you can do that) or making promises you cannot keep. You are there to visit, not to fix, not to promise. You are there to listen and to support.

It's simple. Just be there with the person for a while. Arrange your schedule so you do not have to rush off in a few minutes, making the person you are visiting feel less important than the next activity. Just clear enough time to be there until the person being visited tires. Then gracefully depart. Repeat this process as needed. Then, someday, when the roles are reversed, you'll receive much desired visits as well.

Remember, recovery is a dull business and there are lots of hours of waiting. You have the power to make that waiting far more pleasant. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Oh Dreaded but Necessary CHANGE: The Five Minute Response

In general, we human beings hate change. We work against it. We lift up tradition. We embrace our routines, sometimes even when they are bad for us. Change is just so darned unsettling ... and yet, and yet, so very necessary.

Before this month is over our daughter will be in college. It'll only be a short distance down the road, but she'll be staying there now, living on campus and getting on with her adult life, discovering who she is and where she'll go from here. She's busy with the business of getting on with her life.

As parents, on one level that stings a bit. We've enjoyed her company for 18 years and thrilled at watching her grow ... and change. Hmm, there it is.

Now it's time for us all to change. This is our last child being sent off to college and out into the world. Now our home life will change in a way it hasn't in 24 years. My wife and I will be home alone. More change to get used to.

We'll manage. We'll find our new ways of being. We'll change right along with our children and that great big world outside our door. I'll take a deep breath now, face it boldly (for my daughter's sake as much as mine), take my wife's hand, and step out boldly down the next new path change has provided us. This has been a momentous year of change and I expect there will be one or two more before it's done.

That doesn't mean we'll enjoy each and every one of them ... but we'll manage. We'll change. After all, to change is to live. Everyone and everything on this living planet does. Come to think of it, there is one thing in this world we can all be certain will remain the same forever. That is: everything changes!


That's the five minute response.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Shore Bike Challenges Perception

While vacationing at Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes, Delaware, an opportunity arose for a bike ride. The nature center provides bikes (and helmets too) free of charge for a couple of hours, and a decent 2 1/2 mile trail to follow. The helpful folks running the borrow a bike program gave us a map and showed us which direction to ride on the trail to take advantage of the shorter uphill and longer downhill direction. There was a time when that would have dinged my pride. To my surprise, despite the fact that in fanciful conceit I consider my mental "set age" as I like to call it to be 25 years old, my actual-aged logical self appreciated the advice.

Then we got to choose our steeds. All the bikes had thick frames, broad tires, and wide seats. There were your classic shore bikes. And here is where that mental set age really got challenged. You see, at home I still stubbornly use the 12 speed street bike I've had for a long time. That's the kind with the narrow seat, narrow tires, and curled handle bars. It's chief asset is that it will glide forever and has all the gears you need to gasp your way up any average hill. Truth be told, I don't ride it much anymore because, unlike my 25 year old mental me, the physical me is finding the thing damned uncomfortable.

So, I got on my trusty is stodgy looking steed ... and was horrified. It was bliss. It was comfort. It flashed me back to the bike I got when I was twelve (a British Hercules so heavy and durable and wide you could navigate it down creek beds with no difficulty whatsoever). Worst of all, I loved it. Those 2 1/2 miles went by smoothly and joyfully. I didn't care at all what it looked like or how it made me look riding it. It just felt too good and was too much fun. It did not make my spine snarl from being doubled over aerodynamically. It did not make my backside ache for the seat never felt like I was sitting on a balance beam. The braking was a little weird as it had been a very long time since stopping involved pushing the peddles backwards (coaster brakes ... I had to Google that), which left the peddles in lousy positions to start peddling again, but that was a minor issue in the face of all the assets. At the end of the ride all MY assets were happy ... and I was challenged to rethink that mental set age.  Okay, not really, in my brain I'll remain 25, happy in my denial, but I'm considering a cushy coaster style shore bike for the joy of it all. As for looking aged on one, who cares? After all, I grew up without bike helmets and still think everyone, myself included, looks incredibly goofy wearing them. Besides, while I might look um "older" on a shore bike, that has to be better than I'd look in those skin tight outfits designed to make street bike riding comfortable (padded crotch) and aerodynamic.

Surprising what you learn down at the shore on a beach bike! 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Cookbook for All Suffering on Tight Budget

I was extremely pleased to see an NPR news item on chef Leanne Brown, who wrote the cookbook Good and Cheap for all those who suffer from too little money and too much month, leaving them (47+ million) living on food stamps. This allows people with little to eat healthier for less. Best of all, free copies may be downloaded online at:

(Address revised since 2014: )

If you want a print copy to give to someone you know who is struggling, you can write to the author at the following email address:

To see the entire NPR piece, see:

It is wonderful to see someone using their talents to help "the least of these" to quote Jesus. I hope this cookbook will help you or someone you know. My experience in an inner suburb of a major city is that there is a lot more food insecurity in communities that seem to be doing just fine than you would think. Food pantries are struggling to keep up with increasing requests during difficult times. 

Smoothest Retort for Any Confrontation

When you find yourself angrily or bizarrely confronted and accused on any number of ridiculous things, Mark Twain, in his biography, provides the perfect response. He wrote: 

Ah, well, I am a great and sublime fool. But then I am God's fool, and all His work must be contemplated with respect.
I plan to use this one myself as nothing diffuses the posturing and puffery of our strangely confrontational society better than well placed humor. Thank you Mr. Twain for being brilliant yet again!!!

Prayer Request from War Torn Gaza

Baptist Pastor Hanna Massad, living in Gaza, is calling on everyone to pray for the people of that war torn land. She states the violence is worse than ever before and the people are in desperate need. See the blog post at the Lansdowne Baptist Church blog site for details concerning the prayers Pastor Massad seeks:

Multiple Revenue Streams: Like Our Forebears ...

With the complexities of life today and half the nation (U.S.) earning $34,000 or less a year on the job*, it is time to adopt the strategy of our forebears on the old frontier of Colonial yesteryear. Back in my archaeology days, we spent several years excavating a colonial plantation along the Potomac River that back in the late 1600s and early 1700s was out there on the wild frontier where Native Americans, pirates, and foreign powers roamed. Why the frontier, you ask perceptively? Because with the rugged and untamed edges of civilization came the opportunity to become involved in multiple revenue streams. Our planter (a merchant from England arriving in 1680) became a farmer, a ferry boat operator, millowner, woodsman, and head of the local militia. It's been a while. He may have had his fingers in one or two other pies that have slipped my mind. In terms of both influence and funds, our colonial entrepreneur had his hand on many forms of influence in the local community, was providing many services for the other frontier farmers, and was benefitting from multiple revenue streams at all times.

Today, we don't live on the wild frontier ... most of us, so we can't take advantage of wide open career paths to power needing to be filled. However, we can pick up on the strategy of multiple income streams, even if some of them are paltry. It will require creativity and extra work, but you can manage that! In fact, once you begin, you'll find you have more time than you think as you start pursuing ideas you love and dropping hours of TV or computer play time.

In the modern era, we have access to tools our man of the Colonial past couldn't even dream of using. We have computer connections in so many forms that give us access to platforms operating 24/7/365. Ponder for yourself how you can make use of that. From my second career as a writer and editor of antiques and collectibles books, I watched several antiques dealers do their business all day every day straight out of their homes with no shops involved. All their advertizing and sales came through their home computer. The most efficient had their own postal equipment and boxes at home as well. Material came and went via various postal services daily. Their digital shop was open always.

I know crafty people who add income by creating small and popular objects they produce quickly and at low cost. Lots of these items are sold via word of mouth and form one modest stream. Others find ways to use entertaining skills. Many jobs we have will provide spin off opportunities that do not interfere with the job at hand. Perhaps you can write for journals and newsletters or blogs about how to succeed in whatever it is you do ... without giving away trade secrets that will get you fired. I wrote many articles based on my book research in that previous career and those always proved useful revenue streams for my family.

Like our Colonial era entrepreneur, you'll need to be working seveal different areas at once as we too live in a challenging world, full of financial uncertainties and setbacks. It will require extra time management and lots of attention to keeping yourself from exhaustion. It will require some experimentation to find which of your passions actually pay off and are worthy of your time and energy.

Best of luck to you applying modern techniques to a centuries old strategy. Keep it safe and legal and see how far you can go.

*With this sad figure being the case, why is it that realators keep showing families purchasing quarter million dollar houses (roughly) in their TV commercials?

Friday, August 1, 2014

Compelled by Old Fashioned Bowling Pin Shaped Signage

Every day on the way to work, I pass this sign. It tugs on my heartstrings. I'm not exactly sure why. Is it the nostalgia of a bowling pin shaped sign (I do like signs with unusual shapes) or is it the sport itself and memories of bowling alleys of yore where I spent happy hours with strikes and gutters? Perhaps it is the fact that this alley is closed all summer, which could be a bad sign or a hopeful sign that restoration work is happening inside.

I posted one of the sign pictures on Facebook. My brother and I ended up in a fascinating conversation. He's an artist. He loves signs with unusual shapes and buildings with odd shapes as well. He shared photos of restaurants shaped like flying saucers and ice cream parlors shaped like ice cream cones. It brought back a lot of memories of early signage ... like the old neon McDonald's sign with the walking hamburger headed man or the neon arrow sign for Holiday Inn. The best signs though seem to be like this simple bowling pin. Pretty direct and to the point with a little style to draw your eye.

So, when something draws your eye and you're not sure why, take a moment, take a picture, and share it. See what others have to say. You might discover the reason that sign or whatever it is calls to you is far deeper than you first imagine. You never know what you'll learn about someone else in the process.
Here's hoping the Frazer Lanes open again in the fall healthy
and ready for business once again.

For more nostalgia, see:, and