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, January 26, 2015

What Are the Best Online Weather and Traffic Sites?

Given the weather anticipated today and tomorrow, here are some of the best online weather and traffic information sources available.

Lifehacker provides a list of the five best weather sites to check: (Add to the list).

For traffic reports as the weather degenerates (if your governor says stay home, please do), check out the 511 sites for your state to get the traffic situation, roads impacted by weather, and roads under construction--all useful information. You can also try and Mapquest's traffic feature:

Good luck out there and stay safe. You may also want to read up on how to survive a blizzard. For that, let me suggest:

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Political Mandate in 2015? ... The Five Minute Response

Last night, after the State of the Union address 2015, the Republicans, through Joni Ernst, made the assertion they have a "mandate" from the people. 

Let's look back at the 2014 election shall we? A grand total of 36.4 percent of the eligible voters turned out. That is the lowest percentage in 70 years. Read the following for details: 

We spent 3.7 billion dollars to get that result. Talk about your incompetent expenditure. Sure, we spend a lot more on other things each year. True! We also get better bang for the buck in every case. See: 

After that hot mess, for any politician to claim they have a "mandate" from the people is laughable, it is ridiculous, it is crap. The most applicable definition of mandate would be:
  1. the authority to carry out a policy or course of action, regarded as given by the electorate to a candidate or party that is victorious in an election.
When a small fraction of the electorate votes, you don't have a mandate "by the electorate" at all and you are hardly "victorious." Let's stop that nonsense now. Let's work on cooperation instead. How about that???

And that's the five minute response.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Economy Cars for 2015

It is a new year and time to think about saying goodbye to the old friend who is becoming ever less reliable through no fault of its own. Time does not treat cars well. So, here are some suggestions for a new (or newer) economy car for the next few years.

U.S. News gives a rundown of affordable cars here:

For Kelly Blue Book's best economy cars in several categories, see:

AutoTrader gives a list of the ten best for a first time buyer:

Edmunds provides a list of top ten consumer favorites:

Consumer Reports provides the top ten list of used economy cars (and if you are a first time buyer or on a tight budget, this may be your best bet):

Best of luck to you in your search.

And, if you should get a Toyota Yaris, see the Toyota Yaris Maintenance Mysteries label for advice. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Few Quotes in Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King reminds us that change is not a given in human society: Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent.

Injustice must be fought: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

And, the most dangerous things in the world are: Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

Wishing you all a productive, reflective Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, Monday, January 19th. 

For more quotes and inspiration from Dr. King, see:

Friday, January 16, 2015

Skeptics: Lighten Up: Good Advice From Christianity

For those who don't know, here are some Oxford Dictionary (online from the people who created the Oxford English Dictionary) definitions of skeptics. A skeptic is a person who is inclined to question or doubt all accepted opinions. Skeptics can be philosophers by definition: an ancient or modern philosopher who denies the possibility of knowledge, or even rational belief, in some sphere. Further, a skeptic may be: a person who doubts the truth of Christianity and other religions; an atheist or agnostic. Synonyms for a skeptic are cynic, doubter, pessimist, and prophet of doom. Phew! Lighten up a bit there skeptics. Life is short.

I was researching skeptics online. I am well aware of the bushel load of good and bad you get from online searches. I have done a lot of research in a lot of fields.  Sure, I know, you're going to doubt that. You're a skeptic. All well and good, just shut it for a bit and listen, okay? I want you all to know that what I found was largely bitter, angry, and condescending content. What I was looking for was humor about skepticism, preferably by skeptics. It was not forthcoming. The closest I came was "they are so skeptical they doubt their own skepticism." Not bad, really, but I had to wade through a lot of bitter swill for that one teensy gem.

I went on to look up skeptical comedians, you know, just to see if there were some. There are, and have been for some time! Good! I hope their material is more generally approachable ... but the references I saw were ... well, no so much really.

Now, I know, that was one brief trip down the skeptic road. I'm sure there are many wonderful skeptic thinkers and philosophers who are more approachable than the folks I found. However, as a mainline Protestant, let me give you some hard won advice. Back in the last quarter of the twentieth century, we mainline religious folk made a serious mistake. When the extremists were in a 30 year uproar over many things, well, we largely remained silent, assuming people would know the difference. It was a mistake. We have all been tarred by the bad behavior of a few (look it up yourselves since you won't be inclined to believe me, I understand). Now, unjustly, all of us faithful are considered to be extremely judgmental, anti-everything, out of date, old fashioned, angry and following a WWJD (what wouldn't Jesus do) agenda. It is not true ... but we are stuck with it until we can work our way out of it.

You're heading down the same road, skeptic buddies. If there are a bunch of moderate skeptics out there who are not all those things I just mentioned, speak up now or suffer the consequences. And if you know some good jokes about yourselves, the kind that laugh good naturedly at yourselves and your ways of thinking, PLEASE get them out there. Show us a little humanity and let us laugh along with you.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sticking Landings and Fossils on Mars: Science and Sci-Fi Meet Again: The Five Minute Response

SpaceX's Falcon 9 stuck the landing on the autonomous seafaring landing platform drone the very first time attempted. Unfortunately, it hit too hard and destroyed the 14 story first stage of the rocket. However, with the data available and many launches to come this year, there is great hope they will get this little bit of science fiction pulled into the world of science reality this year. Good luck guys and gals.

In other news, I've long daydreamed about one of the Mars rovers rolling past and discovering fossil evidence of life once on the Red Planet. Well, one professor of thing ancient preserved in stone believes she has seen such evidence on Mars. She hypothesizes that some of the rock formations she sees from the Curiosity cameras in Gale crater look an awful lot like fossilized microbial mats found here on Earth as the oldest of fossils. If so, life did indeed once exist in the watery places on Mars. Time will tell if this hypothesis is correct. In the meantime, Curiosity has found spikes in methane off gassing around it that suggest life may continue even today ... unless geologic processes are creating this life-like gassing. Again time will tell.

And that's the five minute response.

To Replace a Hubcap, Tire Size Needed

You want to replace a hubcap. You do not want to pay $75 or more for one, so you head for an auto parts store to get a generic set of four for far less than the one. You quickly discover you need to know one important bit of information. Will the hubcaps need to be 12", 13", 14", 15", 16", or 17"? Put away the tape measure and look at the tire itself. You will find a series of letters and numbers there in a string that describe you tire to anyone in the know in the tire world. At the right hand end of that string is a letter R followed by two digits. Mine reads R15. That is the size for your hubcap. For me, R15 is 15". It's as simple as that. Know this though, in my travels, I see 14" through 16" hubcaps in those auto supply stores. The other sizes may require a trip to an Internet retailer instead.

Good luck, especially in winter when hubcaps have their highest mortality rate ... or so it seems to me.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

NASA | Need To Know: Sample Analysis at Mars Findings

The news coming from Curiosity on Mars keeps getting more interesting. Good luck to NASA. Find that life on the Red Planet!!!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Infectious Kindness WILL GET YOU: The Five Minute Response

Kindness will work
on YOU
This is not your standard random acts of kindness post. It's not about how your small acts impact others in ways you'll never know and spread kindness like yeast in bread dough. Nope. This is a WARNING. If you dare to venture into the vast and strange realm of practicing kindness to others, beware, YOU will be changed. It starts with very small and simple actions ... holding a door, smiling at a stranger, offering up your seat on the subway to someone in need, donating to the local food bank. That's all it takes. Small and simple actions take hold of you. Before you know it, you are doing small kind deeds without thinking about them and getting puzzled looks from those around you. Somehow, what you have done before has gotten down into your bones and you are doing more as some sort of strange reflex. Others start to see you as a different person. Then you find yourself looking for bigger opportunities. Perhaps you start seeking out the opportunities available during the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, maybe you spend spare time working in a soup kitchen, perhaps you pick up a book on how to thwart the worldwide scourge of slavery and carry the emergency number in your phone. Oh yes, once you start down the path of kindness, you become infected. You become a different person. You become ... BETTER! And once you do, there is NO GOING BACK! Beware!

And, that's the five minute response.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

How Guardians of the Galaxy Should Have Ended

A tongue in cheek look at a truly fun movie that didn't take itself too seriously. Doubly entertaining and a great antidote to a whole lot of meanness going around (including my own). Enjoy.

If you like this, you'll enjoy: