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

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: https://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2017/08/a-tribute-to-pontiac.html

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: http://www.caranddriver.com/features/a-tribute-to-the-best-of-pontiac-feature

If you can't place the Vibe, see: https://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2017/08/2003-2008-pontiac-vibe-pre-owned.html

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: https://www.splcenter.org/20160421/whose-heritage-public-symbols-confederacy 

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

Prophetic Proverbs: Speaking to This Moment in 2017

Read this yesterday: 
The person who strays from common sense will end up in the company of the dead. Proverbs 21:16 NLT

Hobby Time: Using Actual Signs on Walls in N Scale

Beautiful cropped wall ad for a bakery

I love detail in any scale. After creating a couple signs for the back wall of a corner drug store from vintage ads, it occurred to me I might be able to use actual old signage off of walls. I already have the Testors Decal Paper to print the signage. I found an excellent free photo program called GIMP that allows for the necessary alignment and clean up of the images, I have the camera, so I took a few test shots of wall signage from a small town we were visiting. The images cleaned up and straightened up well. I'll be able to place vintage, aged signage on walls around town to give the age and backstory I'm looking for in my modeling. Here a several signs, ready to print to the decal paper and apply to structures as the years move forward. I'll be adding to the collection in time. 
Original sign in situ
Cleaned up, cropped, and ready to use.
Nicely aged

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Hobby Time: The N Scale Layout on a Door



I'm currently working on my N Scale layout on a door as well. I like what this hobbyist has done. It looks sweet. I'm also modeling inspired by a city in western Maryland. For me, I've driven past Cumberland for years and always felt the main street visible from the highway was beautiful and ripe for modeling. My era will be the 1950s-1960s roughly (i.e., there are more 1950s autos available than 1960s so I'm extending into two decades). Thanks for the inspiration David Betz!

My layout is in its very early stages, with benchwork under the door now: https://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2017/07/hobby-time-putting-legs-under-door.html

For examples of my modeling, see: https://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2017/05/hobby-time-n-scale-model-by-gloor-craft.html and https://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2017/04/hobby-time-n-scale-modeling.html

1971 Schwinn Sting-Ray "Pea Picker" - Disc



Had a moment of sweet nostalgia when walking down a small town main street. In among a number of empty store fronts, there was one serious bike collector's shop, open by appointment only three days of the week, with store hours on a couple more. There in the window was a sweet Schwinn Sting-Ray Pea Picker in what looked like near mint condition. If you weren't a kid back in the 1960s and 1970s, it wouldn't mean much to you. I had a non-Schwinn with the handle bars and the banana seat and sissy bar, but it wasn't like this. Mine had one gear, so no shifter. The model in the window had a speedometer I remembered well. I would have liked to have had one of these babies back in the day. It was great to see again and enjoy the flood of memories that went with it. I went on down the street with a nostalgic grin on my face. Honestly, I don't want to own one, but it was great fun seeing it again.

What Are the "Good Old Days"?

Over the years, from time to time, I've bridled against the elderly writing off the time I'm living by dismissing the present and saying it was better when I was growing up, or when I was young. My knee jerk response was, what's wrong with my time and my generation? It felt like a moral judgment.

However, I had an epiphany not long ago while listening an elderly couple in their 90s making that statement and then describing life in their youth. I came to know exactly what they meant, and it had little to do with how things are today for all of us, but what it means for them in particular. Describing their lives, I was told about their friends, their family, their adventures of their youth, raising the kids (now well grown and living busy lives in early retirement). It became obvious why the good old days were so good. Those were the days when many loved ones were still alive and having fun with them. Those were the days when they were active and adventurous. Those were the days when they were busy raising the kids (and all parents know there are few if any boring days when kids fill the house). Those were the days when they had a solid grasp on all the technology, the cultural references, the ground rules of life in society. Now, not so much. So, now I get it, and I'm sorry I didn't get it sooner. It will be the same for all of us if we are lucky enough to live so long.

Treat everybody gently folks. We're all trying our best and handling a whole lot of baggage.

God bless you all tonight.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

American Baptist Denomination Speaks Out Against Race Riot in Charlottesville, Virginia

I am an American Baptist and a pastor. I stand with my denomination, one of the most diverse in the United States, in speaking out strongly against the hatred on display from the white supremacists, Nazis, and other hate groups who gathered with the intent of violence from all reports. I have seen comments challenging what average pastors believe and why they don't speak out. Well, here we are, speaking out, condemning, denouncing the violent and deadly demonstration.

From the American Baptist Home Mission Societies: 

American Baptist Home Mission Societies denounces and condemns—in the strongest manner possible—the violent and deadly demonstration led by a host of white supremacist organizations and individuals in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday.
The human toll of three lives lost senselessly and more than two dozen individuals injured stains our American stature on the world stage. The racial and religious hatred expressed by the Neo-Nazi, Alt-Right, Ku Klux Klan and other racist organizations in opposition to the city’s decision to remove a monument memorializing the American Civil War’s Confederacy and its standard bearers is an affront to democracy and our social order.
We join with people of goodwill across our country who seek to make America’s public squares, government grounds and city streets safe for all citizens.
Furthermore, we commend and pray for all the valiant clergy, students, justice workers and others who gathered in Charlottesville to say “no” to violence, threats and intimidation from the white supremacist demonstrators.
In the wake of yet another terrifying episode of violence in America’s public square, we pray for the families and loved ones of Heather Heyer, whose life was tragically taken during the vehicular assault on dozens of peace workers. We pray, too, for the families and loved ones of Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates—the Virginia state police troopers who died in a helicopter crash related to the situation in Charlottesville—along with those who were victims of assaults and trauma, both physical and emotional, resulting from the violence.
“We call upon people of faith and goodwill to continue to pray and work on behalf of freedom, justice and peace in the United States of America and throughout the world,” says Dr. Jeffrey Haggray, ABHMS executive director. “Never were these prayers and this work needed more.”

From the General Secretary of American Baptist Churches USA

He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. (Ephesians 2:17)
Dear ABCUSA Friends,
As I write to you today, two concerns weigh heavy on my heart, as I imagine they do on yours as well. The whole world is watching the war of words escalate between the United States and North Korea. North Korea’s apparently successful development of its nuclear weapons arsenal threatens to destabilize Asia, forcing us to recognize that 25 years of diplomatic efforts to prevent such nuclear proliferation have failed. Since the end of World War II, American Baptists have advocated for nuclear disarmament in many ways, and surely in this current crisis no thinking person would want to see either side resort to the use of such weapons, or to precipitate armed conflict in any form. Our peacemaking mandate insists that countries find diplomatic means to settle disputes and differences. In response to this current crisis, I would like to commend to you all the thoughtful email sent out by Metro Chicago (Rev. Carol McVetty and Rev. Douglas Harris, Interim Executive Ministers), and the Mennonite prayer resources they refer to; please share it with your churches. Several people and I have been conversing about a specifically ABCUSA response. If you have suggestions/input, please share them with me.
Second, the white supremacist demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia (see, for example, http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/12/us/charlottesville-white-nationalists-rally/index.html), cannot be ignored. Let us encourage our pastors to remind our membership that ABCUSA stands for the full equality of all Americans and rejects every version of racial prejudice and specifically, the contemporary ugly resurgence of so-called “white nationalism.” I especially appreciated IM missionary Daniel Buttry’s Facebook reposting of an American Baptist Resolution which is still valid today:

AMERICAN BAPTIST RESOLUTION ON THE RESURGENCE OF THE KU KLUX KLAN
The mood of America is characterized by growing economic unrest, unemployment, rapid social change and a sense of impotency and futility. That mood is contributing to a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, or to a “new Klan,” and to other white-supremist movements in the United States.
Public opinion has encouraged the growth of the Klan and racism in general when it has sympathized with it or indirectly supported it by endorsing the attitude that America’s minorities have “come too far, too fast.” Public tolerance has been demonstrated by voter acceptance of Klan political candidates, widespread distribution of printed material which accepts KKK actions, and by the failure of the criminal justice system to investigate effectively and end Klan-related violence.
THEREFORE: In accordance with the American Baptist Policy Statement on Human Rights which supports the right of all persons to be protected against discrimination and in light of its concern over the current manifestations of racism as evidenced in the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, the General Board of the American Baptist Churches urges local congregations and individuals to:
1. Indicate publicly their opposition to the Klan by statement and action wherever the Klan appears;
2. Encourage politicians and governmental bodies to take active positions against the racism, terrorism and acts of violence fostered by the Klan;
3. Educate members, especially children, about the nature of the Klan and about the myths which it seeks to foster related to racial superiority;
4. Design and implement programs to educate people, especially children, about the biblical imperatives for racial justice;
5. Take every opportunity afforded by the media to affirm our support of racial justice; and
6. Become actively involved in local and national efforts to achieve and assure racial justice.
We call upon the agencies and the leadership of the regional and national units of American Baptist Churches in the USA to:
1. Provide informational materials and other forms of support to individuals and to congregations engaged in efforts to educate their members about the nature of the Klan and about racial justice;
2. Represent American Baptist Churches in ecumenical efforts to combat the Klan;
3. Encourage public media to use their resources to promote racial justice;
4. Commend those media which have carried out investigative reporting about the Klan and its activities; and
5. Express our repugnance for the philosophy and activities of the Klan through appropriate governmental and legal channels.
Adopted by the General Board of the American Baptist Churches – December 1980 130 For, 0 Against, 0 Abstentions
Rev. Dr. Lee B. SpitzerGeneral Secretary
American Baptist Churches USA