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

Wed, Dec 31 2003

Play More In 2004

What do I say on this last day of 2003? It's the end of a crazy year. We can all look back on so many things and be glad we didn't know they were coming, because we would have been too afraid to deal with them ahead of time. I guess that's what worry is, when you think about it--piling up troubles ahead of time. But now it's time to pile up new challenges and new starts for a new year.

Oh, the possibilities,
Readied in piles
Like Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs.
Friends showed me how to connect them.
Now we'll build warm, intricate days.
Play is work to some,
But I know play is oxygen,
Filling lungs with life,
Running through blood vessels,
Pumping joy through the heart,
Taking the mind
Right up
To God's playroom where creation is
The very heart and hearth of Heaven.

Happy New Year!

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

Tue, Dec 30 2003

Didn't You Just Know?

Anthropologists looking back at our news headlines will one day be able to see how dysfunctional our society has been at times, with a familiar cycle of abuser attacking victim and victim taking blame and then learning to identify and blame the abuser, who first blames the victim and then blames a third party, who then shuns both victim and abuser in shame, and then becomes both victim and abuser. The part that will make the anthropologists smile as they look back on the issues of today will be that one little additional headline that seems to follow most every other issue. Take the current issue of Mad Cow Disease as an example. This list of headlines at USA Today's web site fairly well says it all:

Disease Related To Mad Cow In Focus
Infected Cow Older
Beef Recall In USA Widens
Cattle Prices Socked Again
Japan Stays Firm On U.S. Ban
Mad Cow Boosts Some Stocks
Official: Cow From Canada

And finally, the one we all knew was coming:

Congress Eyes Bill

posted at: 08:50 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Mon, Dec 29 2003

Yard Work In December

Decembers here are strange. I spent the first part of this past weekend recuperating from last week's Christmas dash, and then spent Sunday catching up on yard work (which had been delayed due to rain last week) before this current rainstorm came in. If you happen to be reading this from the northern latitudes, let me remind you that this is coastal California, and though the grass would otherwise slow its growth because of cooler temps, this is also the "wet" season in the state, when heavy rainfall coaxes grass and dormant weed seeds into green plants of near tropical proportions. While the rest of you shovel snow and scrape ice off your windshield in the mornings, we are still out with mowers and clippers. By January we have to fight to remove the Christmas lights that have become entangled in vines and tree branches that have grown around them while the lights sat on them for the month of December.

I did learn something new recently when it comes to grass, and that is that Nasella pulchra, or purple needlegrass, is the state grass of California. You can even buy it at "native plant" nurseries. It's too bad I can't sell off some of this yellow oxalis. It's conspicuously absent in the summer, but when the wet season arrives, it takes over whole sections of the flower bed and threatens to crowd out every other living thing in this part of the Western Hemisphere.

It's okay though. I'd still rather rush to mow and pull weeds between rainstorms than have to shovel snow off the sidewalks or shovel the street to free the car parked at the curb (that was still accessible until a snowplow buried it while clearing the street). But I can't do this, or this.

posted at: 12:24 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Sun, Dec 28 2003

We Still Love You, Mister Rogers

When they air the special reviewing the work of Fred Rogers later this week, I plan to be watching. This man, with his gentle voice and that "let's have some fun" look in his eyes, was a consummate teacher, entertainer and all-around nice guy. I still miss his invitations to take a closer look at the universe and see it as an untapped source of joy and knowledge. I'm so glad he lived in an age when his work and thoughts were captured on videotape and film for all of us to enjoy and pass on to future generations.

posted at: 06:48 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Sat, Dec 27 2003

Every Life Counts And Every Life Can Make A Difference

In this story I see more proof that you can do amazing things with your life no matter what has happened to you or what choices you have made in the past based on what has happened to you. A new life is always just one new choice away.

posted at: 15:32 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Fri, Dec 26 2003

The Open Source Friends And Foes

I really liked the talk Bruce Perens gave concerning open source and the problems current copyright challenges are presenting for advocates of open source use and development. I've heard quite a few folks who are much "techier" than I will ever be say that SCO is forming a sue-happy, Scrooge-like reputation for itself that is going to be harmful to its ability to attract business in the long run. It will be interesting to see some of the fallout from all these legal battles in the next few years.

I keep imagining a scenario where future software developers write code in a sort of cryptological gamble, in which one writes code not to progress, but to mystify those who would use it for corporate gain. Taken to its ultimate end, one could never patent or market such a product, by simply owning up to the fact that "our code is so secret even we don't know what it does".

posted at: 07:51 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Tue, Dec 23 2003

A 6.5 South Of Us

I was sitting here yesterday about 11:15 a.m. and felt the strange sensation of both pressure in my head and dizziness. I thought maybe I was coming down with something, but finally felt the subtle rocking around me and realized it wasn't all in my head. Quakes can be noisy, but this far away the only sound I heard was the window blinds clicking softly against the window sill. I feel extreme empathy for the folks down in Paso Robles (having myself experienced the Loma Prieta event in 1989). It's only "exciting" until someone is killed or hurt, or major property damage occurs. Then it's just a disaster. Geologists tell us this quake was par for the course in the development of our California scenery. Nearby mountain ranges may have been thrust upward from one to four feet as a result of yesterday's 6.5 quake. I heard one TV reporter mention last night that you could pick up the scent of sulphur in the air, because nearby capped-off waters from nearby hot springs had been disturbed by the earth movement. If it's been a long time since chemistry class, think of rotten eggs, with a bit of a stinging sensation thrown in, to recall the smell of sulphur.

We tend to forget that our planet is not just a hunk of old material rolling around in space, but a dynamic structure that changes from moment to moment, giving us one wild ride throughout life. Many changes are cyclical and somewhat predictable, but now and then Mother Nature splashes her canvas with a touch of what seems madness to us. And yesterday she was definitely toting an artist's temperament along with her capricious brush.

posted at: 07:43 | category: /Science | link to this entry

Mon, Dec 22 2003

Christmas Week Terrorism?

I see they threw a little orange into the red and green of Christmas over the weekend. I didn't realize that, while most states have raised the alert to orange before since 9-11-01, Hawaii has decided to adopt the orange status for the first time. From what I understand, our biggest current danger comes, not from folks here in the U.S., but from cargo and commercial planes coming into the U.S. from foreign countries. Terrorists might gain access onboard an international flight and hijack it to American destinations where terrorist acts might then be carried out.

Some Islamic (or other) religious extremists might see a suicide mission as a shot at martyrdom and instant eternal reward as they die for the cause. My Christian orientation gives me a very different attitude toward such matters, where dying for one's faith means never denying one's Savior in the face of danger, even if you are killed in the process. It also means being killed alone and not murdering other people on your way out. I still can't quite figure out how these folks who murder will convince me that their religion is so great when their final act is to annihilate themselves and others around them. Love sometimes does mean sacrifice, but sacrifice of self, not of others. As we come up to the (somewhat pagan) holiday that is December 25, on which we choose to remember One who entered the planet quietly and sacrificed greatly for each of us (whether we choose to take the gift or not), I think of these terrorists as a sharp contrast to that kind of sacrifice. Terrorists seek to control, and in the event of being unable to control, they then seek to exclude or eliminate any dissenters. Agape love seeks to open the circle wider and to include everyone, even those who have been its worst enemies. The terrorists could fly a million suicide missions and never change that.

posted at: 08:50 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Sun, Dec 21 2003

Thoughts On Neighboring Counties

Local freebie paper Metro Santa Cruz can now be accessed online as a pdf file. The Coast Weekly for Monterey County has highlights online. I wish they'd put their whole publication online, because even though I live a short distance from the county line, I can never find a copy in this county. Although the two counties are adjacent and share a strip of some of the most beautiful coastal scenery in the world, there is this strange rivalry and snobbery that prevents cooperation in silly ways. As they begin to change the old Fort Ord area into housing. An article earlier this year shows the problem folks in this area have when it comes to owning affordable housing. The problem I have with all the talk that goes on concerning "affordable housing" is that everyone seems to want to subsidize and build on the cheap and cram people into condensed areas. The real answer should be to raise everyone's standard of living and encourage businesses to open in the area, and businesses should not mean just chain retail stores. We need jobs that provide people the kind of wage they need to survive in this state. There are times when I understand the reluctance of some neighborhoods in Monterey County when it comes to further "development". Residents in places such as Carmel and some of the scenic marina areas of Monterey and Pacific Grove know that a lot of their property value is in being exclusive. The trouble is that soon all roads leading into those exclusive areas are going to be lined with cookie-cutter substandard "affordable housing". High-density housing will create many more problems than it solves. And once we pave over the beauty, it will be a much more formidable task to turn it back into the wild beauty it once was.

posted at: 10:04 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Sat, Dec 20 2003

Graham Cracker Construction

Fourth graders in Falmouth, Massachusetts got a holiday lesson in sweet construction when they built a Graham Cracker village. And kids at Wilde Lake High School in Maryland did their gingerbread houses (also using lots of graham crackers) with some popular children's books in mind. Crushed graham crackers made a great sand substitute for the sea floor when doing a habitat for SpongeBob Squarepants characters. Want to try some graham cracker houses of your own? I found some simple instructions. And these Graham Cracker Bears are so simple to shape that kids could help you roll the parts.

posted at: 13:09 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Fri, Dec 19 2003

Online Christmas Distractions

This seems cute at first, but then it strikes me as being a little odd, like a horror story in a tiny world. Oh well, take a turn at shaking the snowglobe. Build a gingerbread house. Or build a snowman. Help Santa deliver presents in this game. I'm wondering if this one is rigged. I haven't won Christmas Tiles even once.

posted at: 09:51 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Thu, Dec 18 2003

Snoopy Touches Me More Than Darwin

The European Space Agency tells us that Beagle 2 should reach Mars on Christmas Day. You can catch streaming video and details of the event at the Mars Express site. There are also newsy updates on the Beagle 2 weblog. Even though Beagle 2 is named for the ship that carried Darwin on his travels, I've chosen instead to think of it as sort of a British version of Charlie Brown's beagle friend Snoopy, even though he's copyrighted by United Media and has nothing official to do with the ESA or Mars as far as I know. Nonetheless, when Beagle 2 touches down, I'll definitely be humming "Christmas Time Is Here" from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

posted at: 08:02 | category: /Science | link to this entry

Wed, Dec 17 2003

Bring Some (More) Food To The Party

This time of year there is food everywhere, and sometimes you get invited to a dinner or party and you're expected to bring a dish. This one is so easy that even beginner cooks can tackle it. There's a fruit salad (sometimes called a one-cup salad) in which you mix mini-marshmallows, coconut, drained canned mandarin oranges, drained crushed pineapple and whipped topping. I found that if you substitute sour cream for the whipped topping you'll get a rich product that's not quite as sweet, but still really tasty. And if you add pecans to the dish, don't add them until you're ready to serve, or they'll get soggy.

If they want you to bring a dip, don't do dry onion soup mix in sour cream. It's been done to death, and while it's good, this one will get you more compliments: Use 8 ounces of sour cream, a little over 1/2 cup of mayo, 2 or 3 cans of Mexicorn (drain it first), some shredded cheese (buy the stuff in the bag), and if you want some color, add canned diced chiles or some green onions or pimiento. Add some chili powder or cumin to it and taste. Add a little garlic powder or garlic salt. Throw it in a bowl and show up with that and some tortilla chips. You'll be such a hero.

If they tell you to bring cookies and you don't bake, make those boiled cookies: Put 2 cups of sugar in a large saucepan. Add 3/4 cup margarine and 2/3 cup evaporated milk. Bring this mixture to a full boil, stirring often. Take it off the heat and add a small package of (instant) butterscotch pudding mix and about 3 and a half cups of uncooked rolled oats. Mix together really well and let it cool a few minutes. Then drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper. If you want to, you can add a spoonful of peanut butter just before you add the pudding mix and rolled oats. Or drop in some raisins or chopped nuts or even chocolate chips. As an alternative no-bake goodie, do some of those Rice Krispies Treats.

If you need it to be even easier, pick up some Baskin-Robbins ice cream. How about Egg Nog, New York Cheesecake or Mint Chocolate Chip?

And cheer up. Next month is Super Bowl XXXVII. Food for Super Bowl is much easier. You can get by with hot wings, chili, bean dip, pizza or beer nuts.

posted at: 15:19 | category: /Food | link to this entry

Tue, Dec 16 2003

Holiday Animal Stories

It's nice if you can get home for Christmas. Someone brought the stolen star tortoises back to the Honolulu Zoo just in time to celebrate the holidays. I'm certainly glad no one decided to make turtle soup.

I've heard of people serving ham, turkey or roast beef in December, and I've seen tables laden with blintzes and St. Lucia buns and sugarplums, but I think it's going to be a hard sell to get the folks in Louisiana to include nutria as part of their holiday fare. If you don't know what a nutria is, think of an overgrown swamp rat in need of serious dental whitening.

If you see a 6-foot tall wolf holding a candle and singing up in Alaska, it doesn't mean someone slipped a little moonshine into your spiced cider. It's actually a human wearing a mask and protesting the local wolf-kill. Maybe they should just put reindeer masks on the wolves to fool the hunters.

And speaking of reindeer, who the thunder is Dunder? Would you believe we've been getting those reindeer names wrong all these years, at least according to this story? And if Blitzen was once Blixem or Bliksem, was Vixen really supposed to be called Vixem?

Ah, well. This is the time of year for mysteries and for miracles. Maybe some things are better left unexplained.

posted at: 09:48 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Mon, Dec 15 2003

Unusual Products I've Found Lately

We've been Amazon.com affiliates for awhile, but I rarely get the chance to go and check out the goodies over there. I did find some unusual things in the last few days:

Our friends once invited us to the family cabin in Minnesota, where we went out on the lake and spent the evening around the stove making "S'mores". I had no idea that this old-fashioned treat had gone high-tech. Now there's a S'mores Maker.

You know those inflatable matresses that come in handy for emergency beds? Well, now Aero Paws has one for Fido.

You've probably seen a Bucket Boss, but how about a Mug Boss?

posted at: 10:41 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Sun, Dec 14 2003

What A Victory We Have All Suffered

And so what of Saddam Hussein, who rose to announce his own power in war-torn Iraq? One of the writers in this article (written over a year ago) suggests that Saddam was like a character in one of his favorite stories, The Old Man And The Sea. If Saddam is not the old man, then maybe he is the fish. "It is hooked, but it refuses to accept its fate."

Some say when we dream that we are every character in a dream. Maybe Saddam has seen himself as the old man, the fish and even as the water in which the fish lived. An author or dreamer also makes part of himself, or herself, vulnerable when telling a story. Ernest Hemingway did it. Saddam did it too, in his novels. We all do it, whether we write a great novel, or sit at the dinner table and tell our family what happened to us throughout the day.

No extermal war begins externally. It begins in the mind, and is formed not in a vacuum, but in a familial, cultural, religious, political setting brought to us by previous generations. And no external war begins or ends with one person. No one outside can say for sure when another's war is won, or lost. We can all pat ourselves on the back and say how much better we feel about Hussein's capture, but the truth is that we have all lost. We lost the talents of a man who could have been a springboard for good in the world of all people. Saddam Hussein has failed himself, his family, his tribe, his country and his fellow human citizens of earth with his hate and selfishness. And the basic atmosphere that allowed him to fall over the edge into delusion still exists. I celebrate the end of his regime and I look forward to more freedoms for the people of Iraq. But I would never be so pompous to assume that we've changed anything except a few external details in the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.

posted at: 11:14 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Sat, Dec 13 2003

Holiday Helping Hands

I ran across several organizations with needs this Christmas. I'm sure they can always use cash, but these are a few who also have other needs if you are more comfortable giving goods:

Ronald McDonald House in Billings, Montana needs laundry detergent and fabric softener and could also use twin sheets, queen sheets and blankets. Call 406-256-8006. The Red Cross in the same area needs teddy bears for scared kids and basic kitchen items for fire victims.

The Wichita (Kansas) Independent Special Olympics folks could use some used golf clubs, and they need other team sports equipment, plus they could use some volunteer coaches. Call 316-946-9515. And the Leon Senior Citizens group (112 S. Main in Leon, Kansas) needs folding chairs, 8-foot folding tables, and kitchen towels, plus they could use some folks to work in their kitchen 3 hours a day. Call 316-745-9200.

Mosaic in Middletown, Connecticut helps adults with developmental disabilities, and would dearly love someone to help them out with computers for their day programs and group homes. Call 860-343-5570 Ext. 101. The Salvation Army in the same town would like newer computers. Call 860-347-7493

Angel Flight south Central in Addison, Texas would love to get their hands on a new model Pitney Bowes postage meter. I think they need other office supplies too. Call 972-458-0700.

(these are just a few - check with your local organizations for their needs).

If you like to give toys to organizations at Christmas, it's good to remember that they tend to get lots of toys for little kids, but not as many for older kids. And older kids enjoy things such as sports equipment, clothing, music, cosmetic and grooming aids, passes to shows, and memberships to athletic clubs.

Groups such as Meals On Wheels and your local food bank or soup kitchen need food, but they also need drivers, kitchen workers, grocery bags, baskets, and people who take time to sort and pack foods. An easy way to help if you want to buy food is to buy an extra of whatever you shop for during your own trip to the grocery store. And if you are buying in quantity (like ten chickens) to donate to a food bank, ask the grocery manager to either give you a price break or to throw in something of his/her own choosing to help the food bank too. It never hurts to ask!

posted at: 13:25 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Fri, Dec 12 2003

Some Guests Still Demand Rights, Not Privileges

If illegal aliens can't get to work with a legal driver's license, why do some feel the answer is to give them one anyway? Why can't they take a bus or hitch a ride with a co-worker the way physically challenged people must do? Why can't they get a license in their original country? I would be for translating that license into a license here (if they are here legally), but not just handing out state driver's licenses to them because they whine. Did someone forget that these folks are here illegally? I think the critical word in this article is "criminal". And how about the term "shacking up"?

Now some folks want to extend voting privileges to legal aliens

What's left to claim as a right if you're a law-abiding, legal citizen? If this is such a wonderful country to live in (and I believe it is), why not make the loyalty ring true by applying for full citizenship (or at least legal status)? I understand that these folks have made a tremendous impact on our economy, but that should not mean they have carte blanche to have whatever rights they demand. Our courts are clogged now with corporate embezzlers, inside traders and thieving criminals who thought the same way. Shall we throw out the rules for them too? I will be amazed if upstanding immigrants in this country are really in the majority on supporting driver's licenses and voting privileges like this.

posted at: 09:44 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Thu, Dec 11 2003

You Put Your Left Man In, You Take Your Centrist Out, You Do The Hokey...

Okay, I can't help it. I'm a writer, and I love "what-ifs". What if, after all this talk about Gore not playing nicely behind Lieberman's back, Lieberman were to get the Democratic nomination after all, and then Lieberman ended up asking Gore to be his running mate? It would be like a Prodigal Son story. Would Gore accept? Would they run into each other's arms with endlessly looping piano music playing in the background? Would all be forgiven and the duo then move forward with (one of) the weirdest campaigns in U.S. history?
What if Lieberman wins the nomination and then asks Dean to be his running mate? Will Gore be left out in the cold (again)?

What if Dean wins the nomination and then asks Lieberman to be his running mate? Will Gore be left out in the cold (again)?

As someone once said, there really are only a limited number of basic plots. It's the individual characters and setting that make the story a new one.

posted at: 08:05 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Wed, Dec 10 2003

Joe Dumped, Howard Pumped, I'm Stumped

Was it a dirty move when Al Gore jumped on stage and endorsed Howard Dean without so much as a nod first to his former running mate? Well, it would have shown a lot more integrity if Mr. Gore had chosen to talk to Joe first. If he chose to back Dean based on the one issue he saw (which would seem to be the war in Iraq) as a weak point for President Bush, it still leaves me wondering about his timing. He certainly seemed pumped up in the video I've seen of his speech. He almost seemed a little too pumped, in fact. I can't quite figure out what all that was about, and all at Joe Lieberman's expense. As one who tends to root for the underdog, I certainly noticed Joe's quiet, classy way of responding without any name-calling against Gore. I am puzzled about all this. And will Gore's endorsement of Dean this far before the Democratic Convention sway opinion so forcefully that all the other candidates will just give up and let Dean have the honors? Doubtful. And what does the average voter think of Gore endorsing Dean? Well, several people I've talked to have basically said, "Who cares who Al Gore thinks should run for President? He's never even been a President." Ouch. So will his endorsement carry any weight?

I lean mostly toward the Libertarian philosophies (with some exceptions), but it does bother me that Al would step on Joe's toes like this. Something just doesn't seem quite right about the whole matter. Whether or not you endorse Joe Lieberman as a Democratic nominee for President in 2004, if you don't like what Al did to Joe you can vote for Al to get a backstabbing award next year, at BackStabbers.com.

posted at: 12:42 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Tue, Dec 09 2003

"Flash Me, Baby": Workplace Harrassment Or Just High Tech Lingo?

The USB Flash Drive Alliance hopes to educate us all when it comes to the portability of data with those cute little pack-of-gum-size devices you can carry from work to home or from place to place at work. I've been hearing that more and more companies are moving to cut costs of real estate by creating "pools" where workers share computer stations, which would make these little devices invaluable to them. The idea that you might have to give up what tiny cubicle you have for being part of a "pool" is a bit sad, though. I suppose it's a bit like the days when there was a "secretarial pool" and a gal (always a gal back then) worked her way up in hopes of one day being a "private" secretary to a guy (always a guy back then) who had a real office with a door and everything.

Well, my sisters, as usual, we haven't raised ourselves to male level. Instead we've only managed to drag them down to where we ourselves were for so long. I predict gender flash drives next, with blue for boys and pink for girls, and maybe a "side car" with a place for a tube of lipstick (well, these days that might work for both genders). Equality in the workplace just isn't what it used to be.

posted at: 07:57 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Mon, Dec 08 2003

Meet The Neighbors

Folks at Carlingford Apartments in Houston are being crowded out by bats (along with bat guano). And the Indiana bats in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania have taken up roosting in an abandoned church.

If you see a very large cowboy hat moving through the Seattle area in the next couple of weeks, don't call your eye doctor. It's just a local landmark making its way to a new home in Oxbow Park. You can read more about the gigantic footwear (and its accompanying headwear) at Hat 'n' Boots.

In the not-so-funny department, a couple of ladies in Australia who were sunbathing on a hotel roof got the surprise of their life from a neighboring crane. And in Montreal, development next door to this three-story tall day-care building resulted in everyone having to flee to escape a shifting foundation.

Mark Pincus looked at neighbor Craig Newmark's successful site called Craigslist, and then developed his own version of an online networking site with a bit more commercial orientation, and named it Tribe.

So who, or what, is living next door to you?

posted at: 09:58 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Sun, Dec 07 2003

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, One Way Or Another

Santa makes his entrances in the wildest ways. He'll be rappelling in Stamford, Connecticut today. Snow is no problem for the jolly guy, but some low clouds kept him from skydiving at Sugargrove Tree Farm in Ohio. He got a break in sunny St. Peterburg, Florida, where the fine weather had him showing by helicopter. And in Suisun City, California, Santa stepped onto the dock off a yacht. He also often uses fire engines, sleighs and classic cars to hit town with style.

Later this year as the big night approaches, you can follow Santa's busy trip via NORAD Tracks Santa Website.

posted at: 07:32 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Fri, Dec 05 2003

LeRoy McCullough: No Knee-Jerk Judge There

Two twelve-year-olds got themselves an interesting sentence after they fired BB guns at a teen in a wheelchair in Washington. I did a little digging and found that this is not the first instance of Judge McCullough using practical justice, common sense and restitution in dealing with the misdeeds of children and teens. He's a wise man, in my opinion. Once courts begin to push a juvenile offender toward incarceration the child is then further alienated from family and society, plus the child learns the additional behaviors of other, perhaps more experienced and hardened, offenders. I'm all for justice, but we all know that the worst career criminals ever produced got their best education in crime right in the prison system. I do believe I would have added one more thing to the sentencing in this particular case. I would have made the parents or guardians do community service right alongside the boys. It might save a big headache and more court costs down the line if the whole family learns to work together now.

posted at: 08:07 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Wed, Dec 03 2003

Just Say No - To Tuna?

After hearing all the hoopla about the mercury emissions in the last day or two, I did some online reading this morning. There's mercury in some tooth fillings (which have to be discarded at some point), button-cell batteries (which have to be discarded at some point), scanner lamps (which have to be discarded at some point) and the LCDs and lamps used in some cars and appliances (which have to be discarded at some point). I don't have a lot of inside knowledge about many of the sources, but I do know that many dentists would happily use mercury-free tooth fillings for all patients if the insurance companies would cover their use. Many insurance companies will only assist patients in paying for "tooth-colored" composite fillings in the front teeth. Many will not cover composite fillings for children's baby-teeth at all. So the issues of mercury tend to feather into other areas that affect life and health on many levels. Many industries are becoming aware of all the mercury in use and are finding other ways to handle tasks. But this means we still have piles of this stuff to recyle or store. The United Nations Environment Programme released a report on Global Mercury Assessment earlier this year, and it does a good job of covering the basic scope of this problem.

Humans seem to get most of the mercury in their systems from eating fish, principally canned tuna. If we decide that we're going to limit the amount of mercury present in fish (more than we do now) we're going to affect the fishing industry, who will in turn pounce on the energy plants who have polluted the waters that pollute the tuna. If we allow the power plants to trade those "pollution permission credits" to delay upgrades to equipment, we run the risk of allowing mercury levels of seafood to rise even higher and create a scenario in which people may end up suing the fishing industry for supplying them with polluted fish. Or people might stop eating fish altogether. The fishing industry might then sue the energy companies for polluting the water in which the fish lived. The energy companies will no doubt pass along the cost of such a legal predicament to its energy customers (that would be you and me).

If the fish just died as soon as they became full of mercury this would be an easy decision. If we died as soon as we ate the mercury-laden fish, it would still be an easy decision. The problem is, as it is with most health issues, one gambles one's future health by making the pleasurable choices of today. In this case, our leaders are doing the gambling with our health. If they follow this projected path, forget the tuna. It's the rest of us who are dead in the water.

posted at: 08:49 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Tue, Dec 02 2003

Diebold Rethinks Strategy

I wonder if the fact that Congressman (and current presidential candidate) Dennis Kucinich published the links to the same internal memos that BlackBoxVoting and other sites pointed to had anything to do with Dielbold's decision to back off on the copyright issues (which never seemed much about copyright at all to most of us).

I believe that companies who make products that affect basic American rights such as voting should hold themselves to a very high standard. Everyone makes mistakes, but it's not a good idea to try to pass blame to other citizens who sound the alarm. I hope that now Diebold will do the right thing and concentrate on making a quality product that guarantees citizens the right to vote electronically with confidence. If Diebold does that, they may regain the respect of voters. But they shouldn't be surprised if that respect takes awhile.

posted at: 07:13 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Mon, Dec 01 2003

World AIDS Day Thoughts

I thought this article from UNAIDS director Peter Piot said things in a way that was bold, powerful and honest, and left none of us out of the equation for this battle. If you think you lead an insulated lifestyle and have very little chance of being affected by this disease, you are lying to yourself. This is a worldwide epidemic that will affect each of us socially, spiritually, politically and economically in the future.

Soapbox alert here: A lot of us who think of ourselves as spiritual people would do well to get off our high horse and deal with the real world. Young people today still often have no "adult" to talk to honestly about sex, drugs and other issues that are crucial to their life. They often get an embarrassed mumble, or they get a sermon. Neither works. Your life, your integrity and your example as a responsible person give kids hope. But they also need to know you care enough to reach out to them on the big issues. If you have kids of your own, it might go against your religious beliefs to give them knowledge about sex, drugs and other "taboo" issues. But who else do they have? If you don't help them, and they make uninformed choices that lead to consequences that may even include their own death, will you just tell yourself that you did the right thing by not encouraging their "immoral" choices? Dead is dead, people. A dead child cannot be brought back and made to fit our idea of what moral behavior is. Let's choose to be responsible spiritually and be there for kids now so they can still be here with us tomorrow.

posted at: 07:39 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

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