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

Monday, September 25, 2017

Americans Suffer While Trump Turns Attention to Squabbles with NFL & North Korea

American presidents are supposed to try to unite the nation, especially in times of crisis. Right now we have a monster crisis, a humanitarian crises of apocryphal proportions in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Puerto Rico will be without power for roughly a year. They are running low on water. Where I live many people have friends and family in Puerto Rico and are extremely worries as there is limited communications with them and great difficulty to provide them support. (I'm not dealing with Texas here, since Trump did pay some attention to flooded Texans before going off on the NFL.)

We get no (have I missed something, please, if I have ... something more substantive than a tweet ... I'd really like to know) response from Trump. The Senate is obsessed with trying to gut the ACA and put roughly 32 million Americans permanently off health insurance. Trump would rather misconstrue the protests of football players during the national anthem (they are protesting the deaths in the black community of unarmed people at the hands of police, by the way) and play chicken with a nuclear armed nation. This is craziness personified. This is dangerous. This will lead to violence if it continues. Never before have I heard a president take to a stage and call a citizen a "son of a bitch" and that is truly disgusting and potentially dangerous. This is the same president who thinks there are a lot of good people to be found among neo-Nazis and white supremacists in the US. How repellant. This president (a purported Christian) also attempts to turn the symbol of the US, the flag, into something akin to a religious icon. That is simply wrong.

There is one way in which Trump has managed to unite some of the country. The NFL is united against his inflammatory statements about their players. A number of veterans have risen up against this tirade as well, stating that yes, the did fight for everyone's right to speech, their right to state their outrage peacefully.

So ends the soapbox rant.

P.S.: Commentators state Trump goes off on these wild tangents when he has something to hide ... when the Russia investigation heats up, when some policy he supports staggers or fails, when his base become furious with him talking to "the enemy," i.e. Democratic politicians. Oh how I want to see this dark period of US history end.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Senator Bob Casey Responds to Republican Attempts to Destroy ACA

Writing in concern for all those who receive health insurance through the ACA, and the Republican's endless attempts to kill the program 22 million use, here is the Senator's response:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about recent efforts to change our health care system. I appreciate hearing from you about this issue.

During the week of July 24, 2017, the Senate majority brought several of their health care schemes to a vote. Together with the House majority’s bill, each of these proposals would have increased premiums for middle income consumers and stripped millions of Americans of their health insurance. Some of these proposals would have shredded important consumer protections that individuals have come to count on, in Pennsylvania and throughout our Nation, and some would have decimated Medicaid, hurting children, individuals with disabilities and hospitals throughout our state. Each of these schemes was fundamentally unacceptable, and voted against each of them. Any changes to our health care system must maintain or expand coverage, quality and care, and the majority’s proposals did not meet that standard. Ultimately, they were defeated on a bipartisan basis.

Although their health care schemes failed in the Senate, the majority could still bring these or similar proposals up for a vote. I do not support these efforts, and I will continue to vote against them. Instead of continuing down a path that would decrease consumer protections and increase the number of uninsured Americans, the majority should instead get serious and work with the minority to build upon and improve our current system. President Trump and the majority in Congress must also commit to properly implementing current law and end their efforts to sabotage our existing health care system. These efforts only harm middle class consumers and families.

We have made significant strides in improving our health care system in recent years: 20 million individuals have obtained health insurance since 2010; insurance companies are no longer able to discriminate against individuals with pre-existing conditions, women or older Americans; and senior citizens have saved more than $20 billion on the cost of prescription drugs. Even so, I recognize that our health care system is far from perfect and that too many Americans continue to pay too much for their health care and prescription drugs. More work needs to be done, and I am hopeful that the majority and the minority might come together to seek further improvements to bring down the cost of care and to improve its quality.

I am actively working on commonsense solutions to improve our health care system. I recently joined several of my colleagues in introducing a bill to bring down prescription drug costs by allowing the importation of drugs from Canada. I also support creating a Medicare-like “public option” to compete with private insurance and provide consumers with more choices. I have also proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act itself, such as making it easier for families to access the law’s tax credit for health insurance when one spouse already has insurance at work.

In addition, I am pleased that the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, of which I am a member, has announced a series of hearings in September on stabilizing the individual health insurance market. These hearings will bring together a bipartisan group of elected officials, state insurance commissioners, insurers and health care providers to talk about steps that can be taken quickly to prevent dramatic increases in health insurance premiums. This is precisely the kind of serious, bipartisan work that the American people deserve, in contrast to the majority’s earlier attempts to ram their partisan proposals through the Senate without a single hearing or markup. Though I regret that it has taken so long for the majority to make a serious effort on health care, I am nonetheless hopeful that this represents the start of a new and more deliberate approach to improving the health care system for all Americans.

Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future about this or any other matter of importance to you.

For more information on this or other issues, I encourage you to visit my website, I hope you will find this online office a comprehensive resource to stay up-to-date on my work in Washington, request assistance from my office or share with me your thoughts on the issues that matter most to you and to Pennsylvania.

Bob Casey
United States Senator

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Welcome to 50th Birthday of TV's Animated Spider-Man and George of the Jungle: GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE CARTOON INTRO.

Ah yes, damn fine viewing for a 7 year old 50 years ago this month! Animated Spider-Man and George of the Jungle (plus Super Chicken and Tom Swift). George was brought to us by two maniacs from Rocky and Bullwinkle and molded our young minds with satire. It didn't last a season, but lived on in syndication forever. Spider-Man joined my young pantheon of superheroic icons with Superman (first introduced to, Great Caesar's Ghost) and Batman ('60s groovy Batman that is). Both series had memorable, fast paced theme songs you just can't forget once you hear them. Imagine being hopped up on sugary cereal on Saturday morning and getting those themes hopping in your young skull. No wonder so many moms pitched so many kids out the door after the morning hyperactivity inducing TV themes to burn off the sugar in the community and NOT to come home until lunch.

Spider-Man Animated Series theme (50 years ago):

Friday, September 8, 2017

Falcon 9 launches X-37B OTV-5 & Falcon 9 first stage landing, 7 Septembe...

SpaceX beats Hurricane Irma, launches the US Air Force's mystery crewless space shuttle successfully. What the X-37B does, we don't know for sure and the Air Force won't tell. What the Falcon 9 does we do know, and congratulate SpaceX on this newest success!

Senator Pat Toomey's Response to Violence in Charlottesville, VA 8/10-11/17

I wrote to the Senator to express my anger at the bigoted violence during the "Alt-Right" Klan, Nazi violent demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, and my disgust with Mr. Trump's initial response ... and the follow up beyond the "hostage statement," where Mr. Trump expressed himself more clearly. Here is the Senator's response:

Thank you for contacting me about the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia. I appreciate hearing from you.
Like you, I am deeply troubled by the racist march in Charlottesville and terribly saddened by the tragic loss of life that occurred there. The racism, hate, and violence seen in Charlottesville are vile and unacceptable. I am disgusted by the white nationalists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis, and believe that the racism and hate spewed by these groups have no place in our society.
As to President Trump's statements about the events in Charlottesville, I believe and have publicly stated that there is no moral equivalency between neo-Nazis, bigots, and white supremacists, and those who oppose them. Our country has no room for corrupt ideology or violent acts.
I hope that what occurred in Charlottesville will be an isolated incident. Moving forward, I pray that members of Congress will put politics aside, unequivocally condemn hate and bigotry, and find ways to work together to protect our shared American values of equality and justice for all.
Thank you again for your correspondence. Please be assured I understand and appreciate hearing your concerns, and will continue monitoring the fallout from the recent events in Charlottesville. Do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of assistance.
Pat Toomey
U.S. Senator, Pennsylvania

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Hurricane Irma Causes Damage Across the Caribbean: Our Prayers with You

I know someone on Puerto Rico, have friends with family there, and am very concerned. My prayers go out to all in the path of Hurricane Irma, all those who have survived Hurricane Harvey, and everyone under threat by both wildfire in the west and terrible political decisions in Washington, DC, including all 800,000+ dreamers out there. I stand with you all. To the dreamers, many of us are with you here in the US and are doing what we can to change this terrible, ignorant, bigoted decision.

Conspiracy Theory: When Search Engine Hits Dropped

I say this tongue in cheek, and yet ... after posting my experience and video in the 1000 Ministers March for Justice on August 28, 2017, the number of hits this blog site received dropped dramatically, even for this modest operation. Is something nefarious afoot? Is the current administration so thin skinned that participants in a peaceful march against current unjust policies brings about an overreaching, irrational response. Prior to the Trump administration and their actions, I would never have entertained such a thing (although during the W. Bush administration I would have felt compelled to add "I support the troops" to anything I said). Now, I'm not entirely sure. Could it be? It would explain a lot.

P.S. Oh, yes, I almost forgot. During this period, views from the US dropped sharply, and those from RUSSIA* increased dramatically to first place. Coincidence??? The work of Trump??? I wonder!

*Honestly, Russian readers, glad you're here ... but given our current politics and the Trump/Russia investigation, this was too good to pass up! 

Senator Bob Casey Responds to Trump Ethics Concerns

Thank you for contacting me regarding the importance of maintaining strong ethics standards for elected officials in the federal government. I appreciate hearing from you about this issue.

I have heard from many constituents who are concerned about potential ethics problems facing the Trump Administration. In particular, many have expressed worries about the high potential that President Trump and several of his cabinet nominees face significant financial conflicts of interest. Many have also raised concerns about the President stacking his administration with lobbyists, contrary to campaign promises to reduce the influence of special interests in government.

I share these concerns. Public service entails a commitment to always putconstituents first. This means adhering to strict standards of transparency and accountability. Unfortunately, the Trump Administration has not yet lived up to these standards. The Trump Organization has ties to foreign governments and government-run corporations all around the world. A bipartisan group of experts have stated unequivocally that the only way for President Trump to come into compliance with ethics standards is for him to divest his business interests and put his assets into a blind trust, as presidents with significant business interests of both parties have done in the past. Otherwise, the American people will have no way of knowing where the Trump organization ends and where the Trump Administration begins.

On January 11, 2017, then President-elect Trump held a press conference in which he detailed several measures he would take to address ethics concerns. But, far from satisfying these concerns, his proposed remedies demonstrated that he is wholly uncommitted to ethical governance. He indicated he would not follow the bipartisan tradition of putting his assets in a blind trust or releasing his tax returns. Indeed, in the immediate aftermath of the press conference, the head of the Office of Government Ethics condemned the President-elect’s ethics plan as “wholly inadequate”, and the top ethics lawyer to President George W. Bush, Richard Painter, wrote a New York Times column saying the plan “does nothing to fix the serious conflicts of interest and global security threats posed by his existing business relationships.”

Honest and accountable government is important to all of us. When the Trump Administration is weighing whether to approve a contract or propose regulations, that decision must rest on whether those actions will improve our economy and security, not the President’s bottom line. When the Commander-in-Chief decides to put American lives at risk, it must be to protect our national security, not his foreign investments. The potential problems are endless, and until President Trump divests his assets into a blind trust, the American people cannot have confidence that their President is putting them first.

I have been fighting to ensure the incoming administration meets high ethical standards. In December 2016, I signed a letter to the President-elect’s Transition Team urging it to take steps to address ethical concerns, including by divesting financial conflicts of interests and creating a blind trust. I am an original cosponsor of a resolution introduced by Senator Cardin on January 4, 2017, which states that President Trump risks violating the Constitution’s prohibition on receiving money or gifts from foreign governments unless he divests his businesses interests. I am also an original cosponsor of S. 65, the Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act, which was introduced by Senator Warren on January 9, 2017. This bill would require the President, Vice President and certain family members to divest any financial conflicts of interest by placing them into a blind trust. It would also require the public disclosure of the last three years of tax returns by the President, Vice President, and all major-party nominees running for those offices.

On May 3, 2017, I introduced the S. 1026, the Know Conflicts Act of 2017. This bill would increase transparency and accountability regarding financial conflicts of interest in the administration of federal awards. Specifically, it would require that, a searchable public website with information on federal spending, include in any search results information as to whether the President or Vice President has a financial stake in the recipient of any federal awards. This would shine a light on any conflicts of interest that could affect the decision-making of the Administration when it comes to spending taxpayer money. I will continue to advocate for this commonsense bill, which was referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs.

Additionally, I support legislation to improve the transparency and accountability of the federal government as a whole. I am also a cosponsor of the We The People Act, a major package of good government provisions originally introduced in June 2016 and awaiting reintroduction in the 115th Congress. First, this package will increase transparency in the campaign finance system. It requires mandatory, timely disclosure of all special interest campaign donations, prohibits single-candidate Super PACs and restricts coordination between candidates and outside groups. Second, the package will limit special interest influence in Congress by strengthening lobbying laws. It enacts a permanent ban on lobbying by former members of Congress, closes loopholes that currently allow many consultants to avoid registering as lobbyists and eliminates the revolving door between government and the financial services industry.

I will keep fighting to see that essential ethics standards are met by the Trump Administration and the entire federal government. I often think of an inscription on the Finance Building in the capitol complex in Harrisburg that reads, “All public service is a trust, given in faith and accepted in honor.” It is incumbent on all elected officials to hold themselves to the highest standards of ethics, transparency and accountability in order to honor that trust.

Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future about this or any other matter of importance to you.

For more information on this or other issues, I encourage you to visit my website, . I hope you will find this online office a comprehensive resource to stay up-to-date on my work in Washington, request assistance from my office or share with me your thoughts on the issues that matter most to you and to Pennsylvania.

Bob Casey
United States Senator

Monday, September 4, 2017

Does This End J.S. Brooks Presents?

Good evening faithful readers ... and everybody else who just happens by. Welcome. This is the second time I've seriously considered ending this blog. The first time came when its original reason for being, the promotion and sale of the children's book Michael and the New Baby (now out of print), ended. At that point, I decided to continue for my own personal enjoyment and as a platform for ideas important to me. I used the platform to get out ideas and positions, especially on culture and religion, that I felt were getting short shrift. The numbers of views grew surprisingly a while back.That was wonderful.  Now they have dropped, equally surprisingly, and disappointingly to be honest.

So here we are. Do I call it quits on J.S. Brooks Presents? If so, what then? I'm a writer at heart and I love to bat around ideas and share stories on the blogging platform. So, to continue or not? What platform to continue on? Will I continue with Blogger or move on to something like WordPress, Weebly, Wix or Tumblr. Free it has to be for me. That's just the way I am.

At this point, if I'm to start over, I'll be a little more likely to follow some of the blogging rules. The site I create will focus on one topic only, rather than cut across a wide range of my personal interests. But which focus to hone in on? I see a few among the most popular blogging subjects (ideas) that interest me. The ones that attract me most, at first glance, include personal stories, charity and activism, product reviews, sourced news, travel, history, or funny stories. I'll just have to mull it over and make some sort of decision. I've enjoyed this. I've enjoyed writing for you and interacting with you. I'd like to do it better. We'll see.

Thank you for being here. Thanks for keeping me company in this endeavor. Whatever I decide, I'll let you know. If you have constructive suggestions for a new direction, please let me know.

The problem that stirs this question:

Contact Trump About DACA Decision

Donald Trump has made it clear he intends to undo the Obama Administration's DACA or Dreamers Act. In doing so, Trump will tear apart families, deporting children to countries they do not know. If you find this idea repellant, email the White House now and register your complaint. You can reach him at

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Schwinn Stingray Style Handlebars?

Those are some handlebars!
Discovered this bike outside the Crawfordsville, Indiana, public library. I don't know if this rider is a huge fan of the old late 1960s early 1970s Schwinn Stingrays or motorcycles with "ape hanger" handlebars. I understand that such high handlebars add to cooling the rider while riding at speed. I don't know if that really applies to bicycles or not, but here they are. It certainly makes for a unique look. 

Collectible History: Illinois Sesquicentennial Ashtray

On the way home from church today, in a long and looping discussion, my wife and I came around to the subject of houses and props used in commercials. One of my wife's friends had her house used in a commercial. On several occasions, during antiques and collectibles photo shoots for books, in antiques shops, I saw very focused individuals come in looking for particular antiques or period collectibles for commercials being filmed locally.

From there we looped around to ashtrays, one item that used to be everywhere and is now rarely seen. My wife remembered on such item in our house. When I was a kid in Chicago, my school class when on a field trip and I came back with this souvenir. I remember I liked the glaze color, the Lincoln portrait and the Illinois shape. I don't remember if I was aware at the time that it was an ashtray. How it survived all these years and remained with me is a bit of a mystery. That my wife remembered where it was hiding is astonishing.

So here you have it, a Haeger ceramics Illinois Sesquicentennial ashtray with Honest Abe's portrait from 1968. You won't see these around much these days I imagine.

Sloggin' Thru Blogging: Attempting to Correct Technical Difficulties

The blog is acting strangely. The numbers of views are down. Access may have been skewed in some way. Suddenly, there are much higher hits in a country other than my own for the first time as well. I'm attempting to fix this, so things may be weird for a while, until I discover what's wrong. Thank you for your patience. Stay tuned.

This is leading to a serious question:

Nashville Statement: NO

John D. Pierce, the executive director of Nurturing Faith Journal, has a powerful piece on the Nashville Statement concerning the LGBTQ and transgendered communities and all who support them. He calls the authors religious authoritarians and he thanks them for drawing a bright line between themselves and the rest of Christianity. I highly recommend reading the entire piece, especially if you grew up among the Southern Baptists or various evangelical fundamentalists.

Before you get to the article, I'll tell you what I believe. There is a lot of new research concerning the Bible and homosexuality (the rest is not much mentioned). There are scholars who are seeing a different context for the particular verses the fundamentalists use to clobber these minority groups. Among the interpretations I've read, there is the belief that the groups written about were Roman aristocracy who were free to rape anyone beneath them in the social hierarchy. Jewish and Christian writers were calling their people to not follow this awful Roman trend.

Aside from that, I've always been opposed to bullies. The authors of the Nashville Statement are just that. They proclaim for themselves who is in and who is out. I find it suspect they choose to focus on minorities who have nothing to do with their faith. They have nothing to lose by sneering Pharisee-like at these people or anyone who support them as they lose no congregants by doing so. That they would choose to do so now, when terrorists, fascists, and the KKK feel emboldened by the current politics, when Texas and Louisiana drown under the impact of Hurricane Harvey, San Francisco and other western locations suffer from high and rising heat, and North Korea first a missile over Japan and test ever more powerful nuclear weapons. Now is the time you choose to further divide people, to inflict unneeded pain, and deride all who do not see the world your way? I'm glad you do not wish to associate with this Christian. I hope in the future I will no longer have to explain how I'm not "that kind of Baptist." I am willing to have all sorts of discussions with open minded folks willing to live in the tension of different interpretations and perspectives on many religious issues, but not with folks who take this stance.

Now, here's the article, which states things far more clearly than I have:

Off the Beaten Track

Once we had headed north from I 70 to find Indiana's highest elevation, we ran across a windmill field of at least 30 windmills in our travels. In an age when some politicians are trying to revive the coal industry, it is wonderful to see such fields of clean energy growing across the US. I've seen such fields in western Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and now Indiana. Some people protest their development locally, claiming the noise and other effects will do them ill. We also found solar panel fields of clean energy as well. It is wonderful to see such progress, despite the worst efforts of luddites in politics and industry. How about we retrain the diminished numbers of coal miners to cleaner, safer work?

We turned southward to visit Rushville, Indiana, for personal reasons and discovered one claim to fame for the town. Here was a large exterior wall art installation for Wendell Willkie, who ran for President in the Republican party of 1940. Turns out Wendell married a local girl from Rushville, Edith Wilk, a librarian. Funny what you run across when you get off the beaten path.

Next time you travel, will you???

Finding the Highest Elevation in Indiana and Elsewhere

While traveling into Indiana, my wife and I discovered that the highest elevation in the state was listed north of Richmond, Indiana, which we were closing in on. Traveling alone, we decided to see if we could find this highest elevation in a fairly flat-ish state. We charted a course north of I 70 along some surprisingly hilly back roads, which gave the car that lift right over the rise you rarely feel along a highway. Heading north for half an hour or so, we were surprised to find good signs leading right to the spot. We had to travel off the paved road onto a gravel road along the edge of a corn field. There in a small wooded patch, we found a lot more than we expected. A stone with the height and coordinates of the spot carved into it. A bench had been put in place by a society commemorating such spots. The mailbox contained a registry, which we signed. Two fire pits graced the site as well. It was a lot more than we expected and suddenly we understood why one couple had traveled to all the highest spots in the lower 48 states of the US. We intend to find at least of few of these spots.

We are in the book!

On our way home, we traveled north from I 70 to Belle Fontaine, Ohio, in an attempt to find the highest point there. We found the town, where many names of buildings reflected the fact this was Ohio's high point, but we didn't find the exact location. It wasn't as well marked as that in Indiana. Later, we googled the location and found we were very close, technically there (it's a 1,549 feet compared to Indiana's 1,257 feet and with higher, wider vistas). The sign is at the end of a drive on the grounds of a technical school open Monday through Saturday. We'll return on our next trip to Indiana and get a photo there too.

We researched Pennsylvania's highest elevation, but that one may be even trickier to locate. It's in a backwoods location with a ranger's station at that location. I'm not sure yet how close one could get driving there.

If you're interested, here's a list of all the highest elevations in the US:  Happy hunting! 

Turkey Run State Park, Indiana: 2, Stairs and Ladders

Trails 3, 5, and 9 form a challenging loop of staircases and rock climbs. Watch out for "The Ladders" leading in and out of a steep crevasse my wife and I declared the "Oh Hell No" ladders. There is a dirt trail leading from path three to five that bypasses these ladders, most likely for people with the same visceral response we had. It is a steeper climb than it appears in the pictures.
Tall, stately trees fill the park. This one arcs over Sugar Creek from left to right.
Stairways of stone ...

Stairways of wood ...

The "Oh Hell No" ladders
To learn more about the park, see:

Turkey Run State Park, Indiana: 1

This bridge looks like it leads into an ancient, primitive landscape.


Turkey Run State Park is well worth the visit. It is a remnant of Indiana's early prehistory. The water sculpted sandstone dates back 600,000 to 300,000 years ago. It is worth the trip to be among towering trees, listen to the sound of running water over rock, and the sounds of bird in the trees and woodpeckers rapping away at trees. Some of the trails are challenging, not for small children or those who are wobbly on their feet. Turkey Run survives, a very small remnant of the distant past far south of the rest as can be seen on this map, at least in part by being too rocky, with too much sculpted rock, to be farmable property. Farms surround the park, but nobody farms within its bounds. 

A variety of landscapes are found within the park and the trails range from the simple and flat to the challenging featuring rugged climbs over rocks and seemingly endless staircases. 
See the small square of green in Indiana, far south of the rest of
the ancient forest?
Sugar Creek, popular canoeing waterway flowing beneath the bridge
Water carved rock everywhere ...

Friday, September 1, 2017

Hobby Time: N Scale Autos Wrapped in Nostalgia

I was recently given a couple of N Scale cars by my father, who models in the larger HO scale. The cars harken back to the 1930s, a little early for me (although 1950s-60s hotrods are a possibility for these), but the stickers on the front took me back. These came from the Hobby Hutch, the local hobby shop, hobby hangout, whatever you want to call it, in McLean, Virginia, owned by Gary (don't recall his last name but know someone who might be able to fill in a few details). This was the place you could get any plastic model you wanted from World War II to the starship Enterprise (TOS of course), and everything in between (monster models, gruesome guillotines, hot rods, sailing ships, tanks, cutaway nuclear subs, you know, everything). Plus all the stuff it took to build and paint them. Obviously they had some model railroad stock as well. My dad had helped Gary when it was time to close the shop when the onslaught of the big box stores became too much and bought out a lot of railroad stock, including these two cars. Now I have them, great reminders of a shop where I hung out when I was growing up in McLean. Funny what happens when you start a hobby! 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Metropolitan 1954 filmstrip for dealers 'The Inside Story of the Metropo...

Discovered this while cruising YouTube. I'll have to catch up on the "inside story" later. Enjoy!

399 TPA 1962 Nash Metropolitan

This is the car that made me a sucker for small cars. The Nash Metropolitan: the original American economy car. My grandmother and I cruised through town in this baby.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Three Wheeled Morgan

While vacationing in Delaware, Ohio, my wife and I ran across this 21st century engineering marvel called the Morgan. It was resting comfortably in front of a lawyer's office, just waiting to hit the road again.

If you'd like to know more about the Morgan, see:

NASA at Saturn: Cassini's Grand Finale

NASA's JPL has the following to say about the end of Cassini's wildly successful exploration of Saturn. Thank you for all the revelations.

The final chapter in a remarkable mission of exploration and discovery, Cassini's Grand Finale is in many ways like a brand new mission. Twenty-two times, NASA's Cassini spacecraft will dive through the unexplored space between Saturn and its rings. What we learn from these ultra-close passes over the planet could be some of the most exciting revelations ever returned by the long-lived spacecraft. This animated video tells the story of Cassini's final, daring assignment and looks back at what the mission has accomplished.
For more about the making of this video, including the science behind the imagery, see the feature at
The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. For more information about Cassini's Grand Finale, please visit

For another wonderful video, see: 

Sierra Nevada Corporation Dream Chaser Spacecraft Tow Test 2017

If you miss the Space Shuttle, this will encourage you. Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser® spacecraft completes a 60mph tow test at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center.


While hiking through Turkey Run State Park, we came across "The Wedge." This was a large slab of rock that split away from its cliff face and crashed to the floor of the ravine, sheering into three sections. Out of the left side section, a full-sized healthy tree had grown out of a crevice in the rock. Here was a perfect example of persistence. That tree's seed had wedged into a split in the rock, found some small amount of dirt, and created an environment for itself.

Whenever somebody tells you that a thing you intend to do (provided it doesn't defy the laws of physics) is impossible, remember this tree and persist.

Using Pontiac Vibe's Unique Power Plug with iPad

Cover hinge won't accept an iPad plug
One of the unusual features I really like about the Pontiac Vibe is the power plug built into the dash. It is turned on and off with the switch next to it. I wanted to see if it would power up my iPad on our vacation, but the large square plug wouldn't fit far enough into the socket with the bottom hinge for the cover. Turns out this problem was easily solved but getting an adapter plug, which fit upside down into the outlet. With that adapter in place, the iPad plug fit fully into the socket and the iPad battery was happily powered up as we drove from one location to another.

Problem solved!

I do enjoy the Vibe!

For more on the Pontiac Vibe, see: and

Indiana Sunrise

On the last morning of our vacation in the Midwest, we caught this sunrise. I discovered that the disk of the sun would be visible in the image provided it was filtered through the trees. Without that green filtering system, the disk completely disappeared into glare, as in the picture that follows. However, given my affection for old cars, I couldn't pass up this probably 1960s Chevy truck bed in the early morning light.

Turkey Run State Park, Indiana: Running Water 2017

Turkey Run State Park in Indiana is a unique place with primordial forest found nowhere else in the state. This is in large part due to the fact that the terrain is so rocky nobody could farm it. Here the water courses over rock in one small section of the park. Relax to the sound. Honestly, I just wanted to share the moment with you all.

Collectible History: Chevy Light Truck 1964

While vacationing, my wife and I saw this beautiful thing of beauty, a fully restored 1964 Chevy pick up truck. She sat outside a Subway shop, classing up the joint. Whoever owns it obviously loves it. I have come to terms with the idea that I will never own a classic car, and that's okay with me. It makes me smile to see classic cars and trucks of the 1950s and '60s. I am partial to their designs. To put a finer point on it, I love the look and am glad some examples are still around to see from time to time. Enjoy!

Monday, August 28, 2017

1000 Ministers March for Justice

A few images from the 1000 Ministers March for Justice, starting at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and ending at the Department of Justice. Ministers, priests, rabbis, and imams all marched. Over 3000 showed up, moving far beyond the expectations of those who organized the march. I started at the Crystal City Underground, took the Metro to the Mall, headed on over to the MLK memorial down near the Lincoln Memorial and joined the growing assembly of marchers there. Quote from the event: “It’s time for moral leaders of all religions to get rid of their fear and their political laryngitis and stand up together,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, who led the march with Martin Luther King III. “We agree that morality must be above party politics.” The "unique" camera views are due to the fact that it was a sunny day and the screen didn't give me much of a view of what I was recording. Still, this will give you a small sense of what happened from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. I was gratified to meet some of my friends and colleagues there.

For more information, see:

One Thousand Ministers March for Justice steps off

 Over 3,000 ministers (pastors, priests, rabbis, etc.) marched for justice on Monday, August 28, 2017, including me. The event was billed as 1000 Ministers March for Justice, but we managed to outdo the organizers' expectations. It is time to step out for what we stand for and let people know what we stand for together. It was a beautiful day when I had encounters with many friends and colleagues. And, as pastors tend to be gregarious folk, we all had some interesting discussions, when we weren't singing. We honored Martin Luther King Jr.'s August 28 Washington rally and speech with our march. We marched from the Martin Luther King Jr. monument to the Justice Department, moving past the White House and the Trump Hotel was we marched.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Hobby Time: Searching for Detail While Vacationing

My wife and I are on a Midwest vacation trip this week. We stopped in Delaware, Ohio, which is quite scenic. Digital cameras are such a boon at times like this. Along with taking scenic shots, I'm also taking reference shops of how a classic downtown is set up. Just how is the landscaping done? What elevation are the buildings found at on a hillside? What details jump out as wonderful?

Also, Delaware has a wealth of old, painted signage on building walls. I have captured a few that will end up on my N Scale layout and I also have reference shots showing how multiple signs are placed on nearby buildings, taking advantage of street view sight lines.
Lion's head on city hall

 Now, on to Indiana, to see more family and what details come next! 

Friday, August 18, 2017

2003-2008 Pontiac Vibe Pre-Owned Vehicle Review

Here's the Pontiac Vibe, which recently joined our family. As I said, I always liked the Pontiac style, but when the line ceased production in 2010, I figured the chance had passed. And yet, now we have one. It may not be a GTO or a Firebird, but it's fun to drive all the same. Going on a road trip next week. The mechanic has checked her over, given her the green light and inspection stickers, and we're ready to cruise. See you later.

For a Pontiac tribute, see:

A Tribute to Pontiac

 Back in my teens, the Pontiac style caught my eye. Loved the pointed nose, loved the Firebird and the GTO, wanted to own one. Now, we have a used Pontiac Vibe. Our mechanic enthused, "That's a NICE car!" Shortly after it arrived, a note was left under the windshield wiper by some admirer: "Love that car." Of course, the Pontiac is gone now. There will be no more. So, appreciate this retrospective of Pontiac from 1926 to 2010.

Car and Driver gave this tribute:

If you can't place the Vibe, see:

Thursday, August 17, 2017

What Do a "Jefferson Tree" and Southern War Monuments Have In Common?

Once upon a time, around 1980, I had a chance to spend a summer working as an archaeologist student intern at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home in Virginia. We were working off the south lawn along a row that once held slave houses and other buildings. A tree had grown up right in the center of a slave cabin. It was a large tree as trees grow fast in the warm, wet summers of Virginia. That tree was about 75 years old. In it, with its annoyingly central location to our work, was placed a photo platform among the branches to photograph straight down into our work. About 1/4 of its roots were exposed but everyone expected the tree to survive that indignity. To be on the safe side, guide wires were strung from the tree and anchored to let the head of the project (who climbed the tree and took pictures from time to time) sleep better at nights (nightmares about a toppling tree with a photographer in it were not uncommon).

As members of the crew, we were all considered part of the Monticello exhibit. We worked but were on display and needed to answer any questions put to us every so politely. That was hard since one question came up time and time again amongst concerned citizens. The size of that badly located tree had many people thinking this must be one of the near sacred in their eyes Jefferson Trees (trees planted by Tom himself and surviving to this day). Very few such trees were on the property (if I remember correctly) and this tree wasn't one of them. They would ask, glaring, if we were killing this obviously venerable and sacred tree. We would try to assure them that no, we were not killing the tree. With only 1/4 of its roots exposed we expected it to live. And, we'd add, despite its size, this is not an original Jefferson Tree but a much more recent pretender. The people who inquired left glaring hate at us, not believing word one of what we said. We were obviously evil Jefferson Tree killers!

After wasting much time in polite explanation, I finally succumbed to my darker nature. When asked that question, I would politely say, "Yes, we are killing this tree." The glare was the same but the leave taking was immediate and time saved gratifying.

The monuments and statues to Confederate generals are much like that tree. They are latecomers to American history. They were not put up immediately after the Civil War. They were not put up by folks directly involved with that war. In fact, many of them were put up with much darker intent than to memorialize a general. They were in largest numbers put up during the dark days of the Jim Crow era of the early 20th century, when freed slaves and other black citizens were being denied rights and terrorized by the KKK. Again, there was a much smaller burst of monument planting of the CSA variety in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement. These monuments are no more historic or significant than that darned tree among the artifacts. They do not represent good intentions and are painful reminders and thumbs in the eyes of our African American brothers and sisters and all who support them.

What the tree and statues have in common is that neither are original and neither are worth the emotional turmoil being lavished on them.

Somehow, as I write these words, I feel the glare of prejudgment I felt all those years ago at Monticello. So, rather than explain anything more in detail, I'll just politely say, "Yes, we are taking down those monuments, just like we killed that tree."

See this Southern Poverty Law Center article on those monuments for details: 

Congressman Ryan Costello Responds to Concerns Following Trump White Supremacist Defense August 2017

After the race riot and terrorist murder in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12 and Donald Trump's defense of the "alt-right" and all that stands for, I wrote the Congressman and my senators. I mapped out clearly my concern about Donald Trump's lack of moral authority and unwillingness to lead and attempt to unite the nation. Here is Congressman Costello's response:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the atrocious events that took place in Charlottesville, VA on August 12th and the comments made by President Trump in the aftermath of this tragedy. I appreciate hearing from you and welcome the opportunity to share my responses with you.
Our country is rightfully outraged, angered, and saddened by this violent and hateful incident. You should know that on August 12th, I issued the following statement 
"I condemn this hate and violence in the strongest possible terms. Hate is a dangerous thing. What happened today goes against our nation's character. Demonstrations by white nationalists to spread hate and intolerance are a stain on our national identity as an open, inclusive country that welcomes diversity."To expand on these thoughts, I wrote an Op/Ed on the hate-filled violence and rhetoric that ignited in Charlottesville. This piece, entitled “Hate is a Dangerous Thing,” ran in the Pottstown Mercury on August 16th. To read that piece in full, please click here.
With regard to my response to the comments made by President Trump and his failure of presidential leadership, I participated in an interview with WFMZ-TV on August 16th on this topic. Included below is the Q&A of that interview, and you can also read it on my Medium page. 
Rep. Costello Conversation with WFMZ regarding CharlottesvilleWFMZ: What’s your positon regarding the rising racial tensions between the alt-right and others – specifically what happened in Charlottesville: 
Rep. Costello: “I think it’s extremely unfortunate. I’m very worried about our culture right now and hate such as this has a way of spreading if we don’t deal with it in a responsible way. And I think one thing we all need to do is take a deep breath and realize that we’re all good people, and that the best thing we can do is to see good in one another, and not allow people who spread this kind of stuff to have a bigger microphone. If we ignore it, if we move beyond it, if we don’t give them a forum, if we don’t breathe oxygen into this, they will not have an audience. And to me, what concerns me most, is now we are having a very toxic conversation about racial tension, or, does hate just come from conservative groups or is it liberal groups? And to me, I don’t think hate has necessarily an ideology, I think it’s a personal decision to judge people in very harsh and inhumane terms based on their race or ethnicity – when we really should be looking at the content of one’s character. And I would just ask everyone to find wisdom in whomever they can find it in for clarities so that we can move forward in a way that deescalates the situation that we’re in right now.” 
WFMZ: And what about specifically the comments that the President made – naming both parties specifically – flip flopping on statements regarding Nazis, KKK, white supremacists:Rep. Costello: Well what happened was someone drove a car into a crowd and killed one person and injured 19 others, and that was a white supremacist. That’s what happened. So he should call it what it is and not get into this broader question of who else out there may be causing noise and contributing to the situation that we’re in right now.
It was a failure of presidential leadership and we’re going to have to move beyond it. And normally in a situation like this you look to your president to be the person of clarity and sort of ask us all as Americans to have a higher calling and look at this with longevity and more patience and more soberness. He did not that do that, and as a consequence of that I think we need to look to others for that clarity and that wisdom so we can come together as a country. 
WFMZ: Is that a tough position to be in, you think, as a country and specifically I guess because youre in the same party:Rep. Costello: Well it’s an unfortunate situation. It’s not tough if you’re just willing to say what you think is right or wrong, and you don’t worry about the political considerations, you don’t worry about what political party you’re in. I can tell you most Americans don’t really care what political party people are in. They think that most other human beings are good people. That’s why this is a moment in time that I think we all have to look inward and just realize that. And not determine whether who’s alt-right and who’s alt-left, and what organizations out there, or groups spread this sort of stuff. We just have to reject the entire emotion of hate because it’s pernicious and it undermines what’s great about this country – and what it really does also is it takes all of the men and women who fought for freedom, and all the people who go out every single day and do good in their community, and it subordinates all them and all the good that they do, and this nasty stuff comes out and we have the rest of the world looking at us, saying what is going on in the US? And if the president is not the person to be able to step up and say right from wrong, then others are doing it and should do it, and I’m going to say that because that’s what I think, and that’s what I think is the right thing to do. And I want my family and my constituents to be proud that I’m going to say what I think. 
And we’re a better country than what happened in Charlottesville. And we’re a better country than these remarks that sort of equalize or marginalize or create an equivalency between various forms of hate. Hate is bad and it’s ugly, and we should be pushing back against it on all cylinders. 
Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me and share your thoughts regarding this important issue. As I stated above, we have an opportunity to come together, unite as Americans, and push back against the hate and intolerance that has infected our communities. 
Moving forward, I will continue to engage in conversations that foster unity, cooperation, and respect, and will speak out against hateful actions and divisive rhetoric.  
Best wishes,
 Ryan CostelloMember of Congress