If you don't like the built-ins for date and time, extracting the same information from the date command is relatively easy. Examples already seen in this HOWTO include date +%H%M, which will put in the hour in 24 hour format, and the minute. date "+%A, %d %B %Y" will give something like "Sunday, 06 June 1999". For a full list of the interpreted sequences, type date --help or man date.
Relative speed: "date ..." takes about 0.12 seconds on an unloaded 486SX25.