Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
Everyone is welcome here.
(Some links or topics may not be completely kid-appropriate.)

Tue, Sep 30 2003

Eminent Greed

I was disturbed when I saw this story on TV the other night. Then I found out there are so many of these kinds of stories that there is a whole organization out there to fight the misuse of Eminent Domain. When you can define the term "blight" by using the word greed, it's time to fight the developers--and the politicians who sell out their own constituents.

My own neighborhood is looking at a side issue of this very type of greed. The nearby city of Watsonville wants to expand its borders and its tax base with a nice land grab of property which will be developed (filled with high density housing units, plus the cars that come with them--all in an area already hurting for lack of decent jobs). The Buena Vista area has traditionally been a place of rolling hills, ag fields, horse properties and a few small streets with older subdivisions of houses on fairly large lots. When the expansion went to a vote in Watsonville, we in the Buena Vista neighborhood were never allowed to vote--even though we will be the ones most impacted by this town sprawl. A group of people have begun to try to keep the land-grabbers at bay. Ours is a tiny local issue, but so was the first abuse of Eminent Domain. Once it begins to happen on a widespread basis, it becomes tougher to fight in each new area. And if you ever drive scenic Highway 1 in California, you'll be affected too, with a view of high density housing when you come to the Buena Vista exit. So hurry on over and look now, while you can still enjoy the horses and rolling hills.

posted at: 09:12 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Sun, Sep 28 2003

Spam, Bam, Thank You Ma'am

This internet-draft from the Internet Engineering Task Force does a really good job of laying out the difficulties for those who would rid the email world of the problem of spam. I don't ever buy any goods or services via telemarketing, junk snail mail, or spam. So whatever they do will not affect my buying habits one way or the other. What does bother me is the tide of spam I get with sexually explicit subject lines, or even with regular-sounding subjects that, when opened, reveal sexual photos. Come on, people. How do you know that a child isn't receiving your spam? I can hit the delete button all day because I know you're selling something. But I've been given the understanding that's it's just plain illegal (not to mention immoral and abusive) to send sexual communication to minors. And another thing. In your haste to hook people to buy tickets to your little fantasy, you might have at least fired up the old brain cells to be responsible enough to transmit photos in which the participants are practicing safe-sex. Can you at least see that?

Maybe not. There is that old joke about going blind.

posted at: 10:30 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Fri, Sep 26 2003

Will Work For K(ibble) Rations

What do you do with a leftover torture prison in Baghdad? How about this?

posted at: 12:13 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Thu, Sep 25 2003

Homeland Security Has Failed Us Thus Far

This resident of Arizona who helps patrol the border, explains (in a way I could not) the problem of easing the access and acceptance of illegal aliens into the United States. It isn't even so much the hard-working folks from Mexico that concern me as it is all the other folks. You don't have to come directly into the United States if you are a terrorist. All you have to do is get as far as Mexico, and then slip over the border into the U.S., alongside the Mexican people.

If we're going to use the term "illegal alien", it needs to mean something. But if we're going to let everybody in and give them a driver's license and immunity, let's stop calling anyone an illegal alien. And until we decide which one of the two we want to do, let's stop talking out of both sides of our mouths while people put their lives on the line for a lost cause at our country's southernmost borders.

posted at: 12:08 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Wed, Sep 24 2003

Copyright Infringement?

I just learned a particularly disturbing bit of news over at Don't Be A Hero. It seems that Bev Harris's site, blackboxvoting.org, has been shut down due to issues with Diebold Election Systems. The folks over at Diebold have a chance to play this decently, or to be really bad boys and girls. A company that makes voting equipment and which has a link on their site reading "Every Vote Counts" should be first in line to encourage the dissemination of correct information. I'm sure they want their products to be displayed in the best light possible, but if they want to be considered fair and honest, they will welcome product reviews that shed lots of light on their voting system features, strengths and weaknesses.

Censorship and attempts to suppress reviews and opinions tend to raise suspicions--not alleviate voter confidence. I hope this really is just a copyright issue, and not something more.

posted at: 13:13 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Moose Launches Hunter In Easy Victory, Bears Still Up For Grabs

I love this story of hunting as a full contact sport. The only problem was that Mr. Hunter was after bears and not moose.

Mr. Hunter says he'll be back for more abuse later.

Altogether now, gang...

posted at: 08:35 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Tue, Sep 23 2003

Keyhole Journalism

I really don't care whether or not Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez are engaged, married, fighting or visiting alien psychics. I do care whether or not they keep their individual caca together so that they can continue to produce entertainment projects--good ones I might be willing to pay for an opportunity to see and hear. I cannot understand what it is in the American way of thought that makes people follow these trash-filled stories about celebrities and to run craning their necks at the cheap shots taken by paparazzi wannabes who are in the privacy invasion business. There are plenty of tasteful photo ops with willing, eager celebrities, and there would probably be more if people didn't invade folks' privacy at every turn. Why do people want to take pictures of celebrities in personal moments when they don't wish to be photographed, and why do other people want to buy and see those pictures?

How about some stories and pictures of these kids? They aren't celebrities, but they deserve to be. And I bet they'd pose for a picture and be glad to give you a story on their work.

Actor Keanu Reeves has donated money to individuals he works with (who don't get as much money or as much recognition) and also to medical research. Why aren't the paparazzi knocking down his door to get pictures and a story? Keanu is just one example of many generous "famous" people who use their success and their monetary earnings to pass along the good fortune they have gained. Now, I don't know Keanu Reeves. Maybe he would like to do his good deeds quietly. Maybe he has no wish to be photographed handing checks over to charity. I'm just using his deeds as an example of what people don't plunk their money down to see in the trash tabloids. But just let him take a step into the twilight zone of what some wacko with a camera thinks is dirty, sinful or humiliating, and we'll see sneaky pics of him all over the rag sheets. And people will knock one another over to get the first copy. We can behave better than this, can't we?

posted at: 16:32 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Mon, Sep 22 2003

Poor Dad, Rich Kid

Will your kids do better financially than you have done? The teens in the Academy of Finance intend to do just that. I think this is so good for kids in today's world. You can teach them math and English all day long, but if they can't maintain a good credit rating, get a home mortgage or invest their money, school doesn't give them much of a foundation for the real world in which they'll have to earn a living after you are gone. You can get more information about the Academy of Finance here.

posted at: 10:48 | category: | link to this entry

Aren't They Glad They Raised His Pay Now?

A big congrats to Brad Garrett for his Emmy. I don't think most award shows do true justice, but in this case they were very smart (IMHO) to acknowledge Brad's excellent work on Everybody Loves Raymond. (Doris Roberts got an Emmy too--she has such wonderful comedic timing. I'm happy for the folks of West Wing too. I've enjoyed this show so much. I hear that there will be even more "political" shows soon, including K Street.

posted at: 08:49 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Sun, Sep 21 2003

No Pain, No Gain? No Way!

Mary Case gives new meaning to working through the pain.

posted at: 07:32 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Fri, Sep 19 2003

Getting To Know You

This test could be interesting, and it might be a great way for a fiction writer to plump up a character who doesn't seem to be pulling his or her weight in a story. Sometimes we just don't know them well enough to tell their side of the tale. At this link you can find out more about the various personality types.

posted at: 22:23 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Thu, Sep 18 2003

But I'm Not Milking It

And you thought yesterday's jackalopes were something. How would you like to meet up with a guinea pig the size of a Holstein?

posted at: 16:47 | category: /Science | link to this entry

Wed, Sep 17 2003

Remember these critters?

We used to get postcards with jackalopes on them. But they weren't cute and cuddly like this one.

If you've never seen a jackalope, you can find pictures and stories about them here.

posted at: 21:34 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Tue, Sep 16 2003

Reach Out And Touch Someone, With VoIP

Thanks to Unbound Spiral for the news (new to me, at least) on Skype, which promises P2P telephony with superb sound quality. The software is free to download at Skype's site, and is offered by the same folks who did KaZaA.

posted at: 10:18 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Mon, Sep 15 2003

But, I Already have My Absentee Ballot

Well, if we thought the road to hell was paved with good intentions, we should have thought that things like this could happen.

posted at: 11:51 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Supplementing Stupidity

I live in a nation where we're still trying to figure out how to stop subsidizing the tobacco growers, and where citizens are getting fatter and fatter, (even though we know that too much fatty food makes us fatter). People in the U.S. spend several billion dollars a year on coffee. And now there's a battle over whether or not to regulate dietary supplements. We (it will be "our" tax money that pays for this, you know) don't need another law. If people can't figure out that they need to research something (Vitamin C, ephedra, black cohosh, aspartame, spinach, sugar cookies) before they put it into their stomach, no bill is going to make them do it. We need to take some responsibility to make informed choices, and if we choose to ingest something anyway, we need to stand up and be adult about it, instead of expecting the government to watch out for us, and instead of expecting to sue the nearest vendor of the offending substance.

posted at: 09:08 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Sun, Sep 14 2003

They've Had Enough Cracks, Thank You

These Georgia residents love their county, but they don't always love its name.

I can understand their situation to some extent. I grew up in a town (in Missouri) called Cuba. And at age 21 I joined a church in a nearby town with its own distinctive name. I still get strange looks when I tell people I was baptized in Bourbon.

posted at: 15:08 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Sat, Sep 13 2003

The Emperor's (Kids') New Clothes?

When you go to Abercrombie & Fitch and then click to enter their site, you'll see either a very young man with no shirt, or a very young woman wearing no shirt (or anything else). There are sketches of clothing to the right of either model. I guess this is an advertising campaign that goes something like this: "Hey, let's use nudity to sell clothes to kids!"

But wait. There's more. We're not just talking about nudity. They'll sell your kids their Sex Ed Quarterly (click on A&F Quarterly for a preview photo).

Do you really want Abercrombie & Fitch to be the ones to teach your kids about sex?

This makes me really uncomforable. And (taking one shot here) not to be too rude or anything, but--just where they planning to put their company logo?

posted at: 14:46 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Fri, Sep 12 2003

Let Them Be Kids

Am I the only one who thinks schooling in America is becoming an Olympic sport? This article is just one example of the move to institutionalize children at younger and younger ages. There is conception, then birth, and then it seems, a race to get the child into daycare, play groups, pre-school, and then kindergarten, and then fierce competition to get the little nippers into just the right elementary school so they can get be on the right track for Harvard, Stanford or MIT.

Why do people even have kids anymore? Most don't burp them, clothe them, read to them, play with them or teach them their colors. These tasks are all left to professional caregivers and teachers.

It would serve us all right if the kids decided to go for a retro-hippie lifestyle. I can just imagine all of them wearing their faded little jeans and tie-dyed shirts, and passing flowers and love beads to each other. They'll be organizing sit-ins via pagers and cell phones. And they won't trust anybody over the age of puberty.

posted at: 14:35 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Thu, Sep 11 2003

It's Been Two Years

Everyone lost on 9-11-2001. We lost a lot here in America. But no one lost more than the people who did the hurting and the killing. They were a part of the human family, but they failed to be protective of their human brothers and sisters, and chose to become executioners instead. They threw away their birthright in violence, killing others while claiming to be martyrs in a jihad, or holy war. By this, my religious beliefs, and yours, and theirs, were mocked.

We can't bring back our beloved friends in America who died that day because of the hate and violence of a few. In this life, there is no true justice. But for those of us who believe in a Loving Creator, eternal justice is that which we choose by our allegiances each day in this life. What might be our best gift to those we lost on 9-11-2001, and what might be our best way to honor their memory?

The real jihad is a battle fought in human hearts. May we choose to care for and protect one other and to live by the Golden Rule every day.

posted at: 07:25 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Wed, Sep 10 2003

Is It Even Worth Sharing?

When I was a teen there was a juke box company near my home. When they'd bring the machines in for maintenance, they'd empty all the records (which were 45s) out of the machines and put in new ones. The discarded records went to a corner of the store where anyone could come in and buy four for a dollar. Once in awhile they had sales when you could buy six for one dollar. They never advertised the sale of the used records. It was just one of those things that was passed along to people by word of mouth.

I suppose, in a way, we were participating in something akin to the file-sharing of music that goes on today online. The original artists never saw a penny of that money we paid for their music. Neither did the record companies. We figured we were paying a great price for used items that would otherwise have been destroyed--and which, in most cases, still had a lot of playing time left to them.

The recent actions RIAA has taken against folks sharing music files online has raised questions. RIAA claims that music sales are down because of people downloading files instead of paying for CDs. That may be true. But sales are down in a lot of things right now, due to the current state of the economy. I have a feeling that the people who have money to pay for music aren't doing a lot of buying. I wonder if they're even doing any "file sharing" online. A lot of popular music today has very little appeal to many of us. Most of today's young artists are marketed, molded, conditioned and dressed to fit a particular image, and most of their music is engineered to sound very much alike. Baby-boomers such as myself were discovering music when the industry was on the cusp of an explosion. We had the many talented black artists moving into the mainstream with their blues and jazz, and we had Elvis Presley helping to bridge the gap between black and white artists. Then The Beatles and other bands came along and suddenly every kid with a dream got his friends together and formed a band of his own in hopes of making it big. Baby boomers are used to classical, jazz, pop, blues, country and more. We expect variety and range in our music, and the current industry just isn't giving us that. Why buy the same "sound" over and over?

I wonder how much of the price of a CD we pay now goes to the actual artist(s)? I see that Universal Music Group is lowering its wholesale prices by about three dollars. Who was getting that other three dollars up until now? I'll bet it wasn't the artists.

Big film studios used to put performers under exclusive contracts. They marketed the actors right along with the films, and though it was all very glitzy and polished and full of glamour on the surface, a few people managed to control a lot of other people. I'm wondering if the music industry is trying to go through that stage of development now.

One thing's certain. If this phase ends up with the same burst of creativity that came after the major studios lost their hold on actors, I'm willing to sit this cookie cutter music out, and save my bucks for later when there are better things to come.

posted at: 09:31 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Tue, Sep 09 2003

Google Is Five

A very Happy Birthday to the folks at Google! Your work has enriched my time online, and I'm sure many other people feel the same way.

posted at: 13:53 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Mon, Sep 08 2003

Sweets On The Brain Today...

My husband is always saying that cucumber tastes like unripened watermelon rind to him. I wonder if he'd like these.

Years ago, some friends in Minnesota mixed root beer and heavy cream one night and made "brown cows" for us.

Of course, if you have time and patience, nothing beats the rich chocolate rush you can get from Chocolate Decadence.

posted at: 10:31 | category: /Food | link to this entry

Sun, Sep 07 2003

What Is He Really Saying?

Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger have quite a few things in common. Both of them had fathers who did things their sons may not be very proud of. Neither Davis nor Schwarzenegger is a native Californian, and yet both have chosen to make their home here. Both are interested in health, and both have had bouts with serious health issues that could have been life-threatening. Both seem to be disciplined, intelligent men.

And so I was really disappointed to read this story. If Davis is making an attempt to point out the differences between he and Schwarzenegger's speech and use of words, he certainly is doing an admirable job of it, to his own detriment. If you really said that, Mr. Davis, I'm sorry to hear it. Your better command of the English language places you in a perfect position from which to lead by a gentlemanly example.

As for the remark about "the actor"--it's true that Arnold Schwarzenegger makes a living as an actor. The film industry brings in a lot of money to the state of California every year. And let's not forget that part of that money has helped to pay your salary all these years, Mr. Davis. It seems odd politics to me that a politician would court one set of immigrant worker votes by insulting another immigrant worker's pronunciation and occupation.

I hope we misheard you, but I'm afraid we probably didn't.

posted at: 16:14 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Fri, Sep 05 2003

Still Trendy After All These Years

Writer Ambrose Bierce probably died in Mexico about 1914, though no one seems to know exactly when, where or how he made his exit. Over the years his works have been annotated, debated, and even made into musicals. Young people tuned into the Goth lifestyle have rediscovered his talent for turning life and death into quirky partners that parallel their own demons of discomfort as they try to fit into this circus tent of a world that's been passed down to them by previous generations.

The saying is that dead men tell no tales, but Ambrose is still making the news.

posted at: 10:36 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Thu, Sep 04 2003

Clueless Minds Persist In Giving Missouri A Bad Name

I ran across the story of Dusty Ross and his bike ride, and found out that he (along with other riders) has been treated badly in my old native state of Missouri.

Well, Dusty, I can't make up for the rude treatment you're getting from those folks, but I can tell you that not everyone from Missouri is a total jerk--though I must admit I met some real doozies when I grew up there. I hope this mention of your bike ride balances the scales just a bit. Godspeed.

posted at: 10:59 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Tue, Sep 02 2003

I Forgot To Cook Dinner--Again

I'm the type of person who realizes at 5 o' clock in the afternoon that I've forgotten to thaw anything for dinner, and that the efficiency of using a slow cooker only counts if you remember to assemble the ingredients and actually put them into the cooker many hours before you think you'll be hungry. The Complete Idiot's Guide to 20-Minute Meals just might be a good book for me to dig into.

I have figured out a few tricks on my own, such as plopping some frozen peas onto the rest of the fully cooked vegetables (or into the pot of cooked rice), and putting the lid on just to thaw them with a bit of the leftover steam.

Cooking is an art, and you know what they say--art is anything you can get away with.

posted at: 15:03 | category: /Food | link to this entry

Guests Have Privileges--Not Rights

Is your state or community recognizing the matricula consular card? You might want to find out more about this form of identification, which is not issued to immigrants by the U.S., but which is increasingly accepted as an identification card in many places. If I went to another country and visited, or worked, I would not expect to be given services as a right. I would consider myself a guest in their country, and would conduct myself accordingly.

Guests in my home have privileges--not rights. I believe we should look at immigration the same way. A guest in a country should not be entitled to all the rights that a legal citizen receives.

And how does this sort of thing line up with good old Homeland Security's job? This author seems to think the card is an open invitation to patient terrorists who could use it as a channel to obtain free run of the U.S.

Many people work here illegally and send a lot of the money they make home to their country of citizenship. I'm very much in favor of people coming here and enjoying the freedoms of this country, and of their opportunity to work here--even if they send most of the money back to the country from which they came. But let's face it. If the originating country issues the matricula consular card, the originating country has its own best interests at heart--not the interests of the U.S. or of U.S. citizens.

posted at: 10:23 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Mon, Sep 01 2003

Juvenile Corrections No Longer An Oxymoron

When I was growing up in Missouri, it was not uncommon to hear parents (either seriously or kiddingly) threaten to send a mouthy son to Boonville. Those days are gone, and the state is finding new ways to help "bad boys".

posted at: 10:36 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

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Stealin' copy is as bad as horse-thievin'
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