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 29, 2014

Cover Art Sending Mixed Signals ... Revival or Zombies???

Every once in a while, you come across a cover that is striking ... but in a way unintended originally. This book speaks to church revival strategies in the 1960s. The illustration is intended to remind people of Ezekiel 37, the vision of God reviving the lost nation of Israel .., as lacking in vitality and strength as a valley of dry bones. It's a good idea, a strong image in words of revival ... but seen in light of today, the image comes across as odd, especially in an age when people are fascinated with zombies. I find the image very striking ... but not quite what I'd like to see happen in my church, thank you very much. This is no aspersion on the author or the author's work. It is amusing that the background color is purple (yes, a long standing royal color) as in one of his works of horror Stephen King tells us that purple is the color that sells more scary books than any other.

However, here's the original text from the book of Ezekiel in the Bible. It is striking imagery that has stuck with me since childhood. Again, I never imagined it looking quite like this book cover!

Ezekiel 37:1-14: The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.” So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,” says the Lord.

For another zombie related post, see:

For a fiction book where this cover art would be strangely, weirdly appropriate, see:

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Assisting in the Ebola Outbreak Crisis

A friend of mine in ministry, originally from Liberia who has family and friends in the "ebola" belt, has lost a good friend and doctor back home. He succumbed to this dread disease while trying to fight it.

This is an incredibly serious outbreak threatening to spread like wildfire. The projections for infection and death are terrifying. Here is what has been done in the US, according to the White House, if you wish to read it:

There are organizations we can get behind to help. UNICEF, Doctors without Boarders, Samaritan's Purse are all seeking donations in the fight against this dread disease. A quick Google search will bring you others. Be careful to choose well.

We can also push our politicians to do more, to be more proactive in this cause. It has been predicted that 1.4 million may be dead by winter. Join organizations that are pushing for more robust help from our governments. It certainly beats other expenditures I can think of! Add your name to their growing list of names to be delivered together. Hey, send your own letter and email as well.

I don't want my friend to lose more friends and family back home. In hundreds of years, I don't want children playing some rhyming game like ring around the rosy in memory of this ebola outbreak. Let's work to stop this now.

Ring Around the Rosy ... and Zombies

I was wondering, given the fascination with all things zombie today, if anyone has noticed a change in the behavior of young children? Now, we all know that the children's game "Ring around the rosy"  is purported to be a remnant of the Black Death. Far from pleasant, but kids enjoy the rhyme and the falling down, so the game lives on. But, since it apparently IS about death, and they do all fall down, do they now all get back up, stagger around groaning, and demanding BRAINS? That would seem to be the next logical step in the game, don't you think?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Determining the Paint Color of a Toyota Yaris

It's happened. You knew it would sooner or later. The paint job on your Toyota Yaris has been scratched. You want to touch up the paint, covering the scratches and protecting your car. What do you do? Where do you find what color was used on your Yaris.

Do not go to your local auto parts store and just see if you can find a Toyota paint that appears to match. It won't.

Open your driver's side door. Take a look on the frame of the car where the door meets the frame. There you will find a panel with all sorts of information about your car, including the code number indicating which paint was used on your Yaris. The code is found on the lower left hand side of the panel. That code begins C/TR: and is followed by a three digit/letter code followed by a slash and another code you don't have to worry about. The paint code number in this case is 8T1: which according to Automotive Touch Up ( is known as "Bayou Blue Metallic."

After adventuring in local automotive shops, while I believe this color to be common as dirt in reality, it is nowhere to be found on the shelves of the standard stores. You'll likely need to go online to some reliable source to find your color. Good luck. Happy touch ups!

To solve other Yaris maintenance mysteries, see:, and

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I Love News Stories Including Space Aliens

I love these stories about space aliens, especially the ones about how to handle meeting them. I would have loved to have been able to attend the conference of scientists and theologians dealing with how humanity will react WHEN we find life elsewhere in the universe. Whether it be microbes on Mars or space-faring intelligence elsewhere, what will it mean.

I agree with the theologian who feels it will expand and reinforce his faith ... and with the individual (I don't remember whether scientist or theologian) who felt the news would be a three day wonder and then we'd be back to concentrating on the new reality TV show (depressing but sounds about right).

See for yourself:

Progress in Space: Boeing, Dragon, and Maven ... Oh My! The Five Minute Response

ISS successfully grappled Dragon as of this writing, Courtesy of NASA
It has been a busy few weeks in space! NASA has decided to award both Boeing and SpaceX contracts to complete their crew transports to take astronauts to the International Space Station. Boeing's CST-100 was the safest choice and SpaceX's Dragon v2 the most interesting. The two together should keep things lively. It will also be fascinating to see which capsule astronauts prefer.

NASA's Maven spacecraft came smoothly into its insertion orbit over Mars recently. If all the equipment checks out, we will soon be learning why, oh why, the "red planet" is also the "dead" or "nearly dead" planet ... and what it means for us. Where did that atmosphere go, when, and most pressingly ... WHY???

SpaceX's Dragon cargo carrier is about to dock with the ISS as of this writing. It is bringing with it a 3-D printer to create spare parts for the station in space. Any chance of getting Robonaut2 to oversee those operations?

Yes, it is busy over at NASA right now. More to come with the December unmanned test launch of the Orion crew capsule destined to take astronauts out beyond the orbit of the moon where no human has gone before ... outside of science fiction!

And that's the five minute response.

It looks like I'll need to once again update this post:

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Colleges and Universities: DO BETTER by Your Students!

If we don't the whole system comes down
like tumbling blocks.
This morning my blood was boiling by the time I finished with NPR's report on post-doc students working for professors. Here were hopeful young adults who had spent many years and small fortunes getting to the very pinnacle of academia, the doctorate degree (well, the lower pinnacle below, far below, tenured work in an institution of higher education), and were now working in what are proving to be dead end jobs for far less than they should be making. I suppose some would respond, "At least they are working in their field." Well, sort of, kind of, but it is not at all what they were promised, what they were told they could expect.

This is one of a long history of lamentable false promises made on the road to higher education and great debt. Back in the day, science and social science majors were told to go ahead and get those advanced degrees. In five years, the old heads in the field will be retiring and you'll be ready for the opening positions. Hopeful students followed that advice ... and fifteen years later that promise had yet to be fulfilled. Poor, hopeful, perhaps naive students.

Well, the hard-eyed cynic will say, that's the marketplace for you. After all, colleges and universities are there to run students through the mill and give them degrees. That's what they do. Caveat emptor, y'all.

I say, ... well, let's keep it civil and leave it at NONSENSE! For the price paid, higher education needs to be honest about the chances. For the prices paid, the family sacrifices made, the highest paid institutions should provide job guarantees in the field to their students! No fussing, no excuses ... you all profess to be smart people, well educated, so put your heads together and devise systems worthy of your institutional names.

I don't care about the details. I don't care about the hurdles. Administrators and legislators dealing with higher education, YOU MUST do better. The students deserve it. No economy can continue forever on false promises. No society can afford to waste brainpower the way this system is wasting it now. Any society that does will be doomed to extinction. DO BETTER!

Never Again! Restaurant Reviews!!!

It's still a restaurant, just not the one
I reviewed for Sunday brunch.
NEVER AGAIN! I am done with restaurant reviews. I find some new little restaurant, like what they do, want to give them a supporting nod, and so I write a little review here. Now, being a small potatoes blog, I don't expect much to come of it ... but a number of people see it and I hope a few might just go and give the place a try. I don't do it often, but I enjoy it when I do.

But now I'm done. The last couple of restaurants I've reviewed have folded up their tents, closed their doors, and ceased to be. Now, I don't really feel I've cursed them ... and yet, with MY track record. Hmmmm.

I understand how tough the restaurant business is. Still, I'd rather not, not anymore. Fire Creek and Triton have both closed up shop, I'm sorry to say. I hate to see them go from their communities.

Good luck to all you restaurateurs everywhere. You are bold people following a worthy passion. I wish you well. 

Every Faith Challenge: Focus On Love

Let's really try love of neighbor!
This is a challenge for everyone, of every faith--including professions of no faith ... which in my book is another faith (no slight intended, trust me)--whose beliefs revolve around love. If you are in a faith tradition that does not place love at its core ... flee! Find some better system for your own sake and the sake of others.

Here's the challenge: place love central in all your dealings and your life. As the apostle Paul wrote to the cantankerous church in Rome, love God and love your neighbors. Do this and you will fulfill the commandments (10 Commandments of Moses). Love does no harm to a neighbor. I'm sure every faith worth its salt has some version of this advice. Stick with it in all your dealings with your neighbors (i.e. everyone with whom you have contact), with family, with friends. Use this guideline to steer where you shop, what you purchase, which charities you support, how you treat the environment, how you speak to and write to others. Placing love central in our dealings will improve things "on the streets where we live" to paraphrase the prophet Isaiah.

Before pointing to all the horrors in the news around the globe (and thank God those things remain newsworthy ... if they were common as dirt they would not be), and declare this mamby-pamby new agey sentimentality, take a look at the steel spine of those who have loved well in the past. Take a look at the long history of individuals and groups who have stood up for love. These people were and are not pushovers. They worked hard for their beliefs. Blood, sweat, tears and sometimes death accompanied their work. But ... they ... made ... a ... difference! They are sources of inspiration now ... and, in my book, they always will be. How many of those daily news horrors would cease to exist if everyone, everywhere took the power of loving others seriously.

Let's put aside all our little quibbles over minutia (the church in Rome's members were after each other for not following the laws well enough or eating the wrong foods, celebrating the wrong holidays ... or not celebrating any ... to name a FEW). Let's not be like that. Down that road lies stupidity, insanity, and extinction. Let's choose to follow where love of others will lead us instead. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Rocket welding tool ready on This Week @NASA

Things keep getting more interesting at NASA. Congratulations to the Curiosity Rover team, who have reached the base of Mt. Sharp after 25 months of exploration. They have already discovered evidence of life-friendly environments once existed on Mars. Looking for more exciting news to come.

For more NASA spaceflight information, see posts: and

Friday, September 12, 2014

BOATLIFT, An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience

"I can't stand by and watch other people suffer ..." On September 11, 2001, a few people were so twisted by evil they did monstrous things and thousands died. Many, many other people reached deep, found their courage, their empathy, and responded in love. This boatlift was the result. This is worth remembering and taking away from 9/11.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

9/11 Anniversary: Cry Peace and Unleash the Dogs of Stewardship

With all that is currently going on in the world, on this anniversary of the 9/11 attack, let us turn our efforts to peace and stewardship of our resources, our planet, and each other. In an age of once again escalating violence, let us speak up and act for peace with our neighbors. Let us each do our small part to make our corner of the globe a better place. Let us encourage our leaders everywhere to work for the same goal. In the US, let us call those leaders to be good stewards of the children place in their hands by way of the all volunteer military. Let us not allow leaders to declare and maintain endless war based on the fact that most of the population will not be directly impacted by such warfare. Their children will not be placed in harm's way. This is wrong.

What good will speaking out do? Look back to the history of the American Civil Rights movement and the freeing of India from British rule under Gandi. There is great power there. There are many other examples to choose from as well, both secular and sacred. May these histories and texts give us courage.

We must support this day the efforts in Africa to fight the Ebola virus ravaging populations there. Many good people are sick and dying. We need to help them. Do we need to deploy buckets of ice water?

Let us work this day and always for the mitigation of climate change in all its horrific forms. If we allow this human produced sickness to continue, we may be the authors of the end of civilization. See:

For a previous 9/11 reflection, see:
That's enough for one day of remembrance. Let's make it a good one. Peace to you all.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Writer's Corner: Virtue of Writing Antiques and Collectibles Books

I began working life as a historical archaeologist. That career morphed into writing and editing books on antiques and collectibles, which isn't such a stretch as both deal with artifact analysis.

The great virtue of writing antiques and collectibles books is preserving a record of some truly amazing collections. It was my privilege to be able to go to the homes and shops of really amazing collectors and see their works of a lifetime. I got to hear from them personally why these objects meant so much to them. I heard some great stories of finding really rare items and of the comrades met along the way at sales and auctions. But truly the best part was making a record of part of the collections they had created. In the case of a book on canes and walking sticks written years ago, I now know that every single collection in the book is now dispersed among other people. Those years worth of work and passion no longer exist outside of the pages of my book ... and a few auction catalogs from their final sale.

For someone with an archaeological background, there is great appeal in that. Capturing a moment in time, a collection amassed based on the tastes and talents of particular individuals, was special. The books record those achievements and the names of the individuals (when they wished their names included) who had managed to amass sizable, impressive, and unique collections of objects of great variety.

That is one of the joys of the writing life in one very special niche market. What writing joys do you encounter in your work? I'd like to know.

Good writing to you!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Airlines and Reclining Seat Wars: Is Civil Cooperation Dead?

The Washington Post noted that there were three reclining seat wars on airlines in the past nine days. Good grief, as Charlie Brown used to say ... and I say in disbelief. Have we become so "empowered" in this society of ours that we have lost all sense of cooperation, all modicum of civility? Are we mentally incapable of feeling empathy for others? Where is the Red Green attitude of "we're all in this together?" Perhaps if we could take the time to consider the people around us while riding in increasingly miserable airline conditions, we could stop having flights diverted for kindergarten behavior.

Then again, perhaps we should all decide that paying a little more to get to Peoria is worth having adequate leg room? I am of an average height, no six footer, and I find myself uncomfortably close to all around me. With broad shoulders, the center seat is a real trial, especially when the guys on either side decide neither arm rest is mine. But, I doubt that will happen anytime soon.

So, we turn back to ourselves. It is time to look out for each other, fellow travelers of life. It is time to make being civil, being friendly, being courteous contagious. Let's think twice before reclining that seat or kicking that seat or overstuffing the overhead bin, or being any kind of jackass in a situation that is already lousy to start with. How lousy, you ask. So lousy that if I am within 15 hours travel time by car of my destination, I will take that car. That spares me all the aggravations of getting to and from the airport, stowing luggage, getting a seat, flying, disembarking, getting that blasted bag I wish I hadn't brought, finding my rental car, and getting to my destination. It just isn't worth the irritation, especially now that there is the possibility that a playground brawl over something like a seat recline will cause further delay with diversion to another airport and the calling of the police.

Let's revive civility instead. What do you say? 

Devotions on Going All In and on Work

Some books just speak to you and to your situations. Joshua DuBois's book The President's Devotional does it for me. Two of his recent reflections on Scripture really captured my attention ... and my enthusiasm. I hope these observations and this book will do likewise for some of you, friends.
Going Big
It's time to go big. Big like building a boat to survive a millenial flood. Big like swinging a rock at the face of a giant. Big like refusing to bow down when a fiery furnace is the likeliest fate. Big like grasping the Savior's hand and stepping out onto raging waters. Big like sacrificing everything for the good of the world. We don't serve a little God. We serve a big one. And it's time for us to go big. (Based on Luke 16:10)
Why We Work
The same God who knit us together in our mother's womb, who formed our emotions and character and innate worth, who orchastrated our lives up until this point--that God placed us where we are today. In our jobs, in our families, in this place.
There are some moments when the light of that purpose burns clear and bright but others when we can barely discern it through the fog. Regardless, we must work "as working for The Lord." Serving a heavenly Christ, even through our earthly tasks. (Based on Colossians 3:23-24)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

"The Great Filter" Currently Working Overtime???

Over the last few days, I've heard about "the great filter" hypothesis some in the scientific community have put forward to explain why we haven't run across intelligent alien life throughout the galaxy and universe just yet. The idea, as I understand it, is that some force at work denies intelligent life to the stars. Every single intelligent race on any world anywhere runs up against "the great filter" and dies out in some catastrophe or other. Given how many potential catastrophes there are, this seems to make sense.

Then there is all that is currently going on in the news at home and abroad. Wars and civil wars, bloodshed and violence for "reasons" that make no sense at all. Our total disregard for the fragility of this natural world of ours. Just because it is far bigger than us doesn't make it immune to our degradation. Perhaps "the great filter" is currently working overtime on us?

Another article posits that perhaps we have already cleared all the evil "great filter's" challenges and the galaxy is ours. We are home free.

All this from not finding life elsewhere yet. Well, I remember when a lot of scientists felt that our solar system was a universal freak show because we had yet to find a single planet outside our own solar system. Turns out we just didn't have the right technology and techniques just yet. I imagine the same will be true of life elsewhere.

Frankly, I prefer another scientist's cheeky idea that what will lay us low is the "stupid." That our stupid mistakes will drive us into extinction. That seems to gel nicely with what I'm seeing in the news. I hope I'm wrong.

Here's my final word on "the great filter." This strange, unrelenting, universal mechanism sounds an awful lot like the vengeful, capricious, very human gods and goddesses of mythology of old. Falling back onto familiar ground are we, scientists?

Then again, this also sounds like the old 1970s excuse Flip Wilson popularized with Geraldine: "The devil made me do it."

My guess is, given another generation or so and some new technology, we'll find other life out there in this sprawling galaxy of ours. If it's intelligent, we may also get our feelings hurt when we find out exactly how much attention that life has not been paying to us and why.