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 28, 2015

Breaking News: Water Found on Mars

Curiosity rover landing site on Mars. Courtesy of NASA.
Today NASA declared that they have found evidence of water moving across the surface of Mars in certain areas during the spring and summer months in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Evidence came from Recurring Slope Linea, dark lines descending from high slopes during those warmer months. This water is highly salted, allowing it to remain liquid at much cooler temperatures, down to -70 degrees C. So Mars is a much wetter world than previously thought.

The entire hour long press conference was fascinating in its explanation about how evidence from multiple spacecraft and rovers combined brought about this important discovery. While at this point NASA officials were unwilling to say whether or not this improves chances that life might be found at the surface of Mars, everyone on the team felt that life deep below the surface, sustained by water and ice found there, was a virtual certainty.

The presence of water at the surface also has importance for future Mars missions involving humans exploring the red planet directly. Stay tuned for future developments. This will certainly impact what equipment is carried on future robots headed for Mars. 

For the highlights from today's historic news conference, see:

For what the scientists currently believe was Mars's early life as a world like ours, see: 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, American Baptist Church Seeks Part-Time Pianist

Here's an opportunity for some talented student of the piano. See:

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Matters of Life and Death on a Highway

I've found myself stopped in traffic many times. Here on a major highway, we all came to a stop for no reason we could see. We were too far back from the action to know what was going on. It's frustrating when you have someplace to be and you're going nowhere fast. All those car commercial claims declaring that one vehicle or another will go from zero to sixty in the blink of an eye are worthless in this situation. A few cars manage to get turned around, travel back up the shoulder and exit the wrong way up a nearby ramp, risking another wreck or ticketing if the police come by.

People get out of their cars. People do what people do. They stand up in open door frames, trying to get a better view of what has happened. Several head off toward the roadside shrubbery, apparently very interested suddenly in local flora (hey, when you gotta go ...). One gallant man brought an umbrella with him so his lady could have some privacy when she took her turn in the shrubs. But mostly we waited.

Then the police do start to show up, riding up the shoulder in a hurry, lights flashing and sirens blaring. Along with them came fire and rescue units. We began to understand that something bad had really taken place. Shortly thereafter the thump of helicopters overhead was heard. One was a news chopper from a local station. Two others were medivac helicopters from hospitals. We became quiet and solemn indeed, realizing a truly terrible wreck must have occurred. Matters of life and death filled our minds. Prayers for whomever was involved were sent up. After forty minutes, once helicopters and several fire engines had moved off, we started to move slowly forward. We were funneled left to avoid the wreck. It had been bad. One car was a charred skeleton of its former self. We went by solemnly, silently, and drove carefully onward, mindful of each other and of life's fragility. 

Adventures in Home Maintenance: Cleaning the Siding

We have reached that exciting point in home ownership where many changes need to be made. Much painting and upkeep needs to be done. Here's what we learned from power washing the siding.
Electric powered pressure washer.
Note how the water hose and hose for the wand attach.

  1. You can rent a power washer from many of the chain hardware stores. The electric models are the least expensive. In our neck of the woods, $25 will get you four hours of washing. For a modest ranch house, four hours is quite enough. 
  2. When renting a power washer, have the hose coupling checked before you leave the store. The hose for the power washing wand is held in place with ball bearings covered with a sleeve that holds the connection tight. The male attachment on the hose gets a lot of wear and tear. Our first try failed as the sleeve covering the bearings would not lock tight and upon turning on the motor the hose flew out of the mount followed by an impressive stream of water. Upon returning the unit for a replacement, it took the staff three times to find a hose that would work. Have them check it first and save yourself a second trip.
  3. Get a bottle or two of the cleaning fluid, which requires you to use a different tip to apply the soapy water than the high powered rinsing tip (either tip applies to the end of the wand used for washing the house). 
  4. Watch a video on YouTube demonstrating how to use the make and model of power washer you are using before you rent the unit. This will save you confusion and irritation later. 
  5. If you use the electric model, make sure you can plug it directly into an outlet. They do not recommend using an extension cord (tripped breakers may result). 
  6. Experiment with side to side and up and down motions. Dirt and grime will respond differently in different places ... I can't tell you why. 
  7. Work section by section across the wall surface. Have a ladder ready for the higher reaches of the wall. 
  8. Have someone work with you for safety's sake, especially when climbing up and down a ladder with wet shoes. 
  9. Wear clothing you don't mind getting wet. Work in warm weather. 
  10. Prepare to be horrified at how dirty the wall that gets less sunlight really is as you start to clean ... and glad that you have done the job. I recommend starting with the dirtiest wall while you are fresh. It is tiring cleaning walls with pressurized water. Oh yes, and be especially careful around those windows (they need to be shut and you don't want to hit them with the water stream). 
The dirtiest wall coming clean ... slowly.

Expensive Veggies ... The Stuff of Legends???

I know the organic vegetables can be more expensive than the regular "garden variety," but this is ridiculous. At $249 each, these tomatoes really are the stuff of legends. Now, I know what they mean and I know they know we'll know what they mean. But if you take that lack of a decimal point literally, WOW! If that's the bonus buy savings, how much are the regulars???

Clock from a Bygone Era?

Sometimes items from the past take us by surprise when we're out on the road. Here is a clock in a downtown area that looks like it has been there a good long while, keeping time near the train station, courtesy of the local Masons Lodge No. 711 from the looks of it. Then again, clocks like this are still made, so this could be a recent addition. It's hard to say.

With the cameras in phones these days, it's amazing what you can capture walking along the street.

If you know more about this particular clock, especially whether or not it is an old model, I'd love to hear from you.

Update: I found out the Masons had restored this clock in recent years and that it sits out in front of their lodge. For more, see: