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

Sun, Feb 29 2004

May I Say, A "Positive" Battery Experience?

We had to buy a truck battery today, and we thought we were going to do that at Sears, but the line was long, and there was no one even at the service counter to handle their 30-minute battery replacement. My husband decided that we'd try an alternative and go up to the Batteries Plus store up in Scotts Valley. We pulled in and had no wait. A very courteous young man came out and checked the battery and alternator and sold my husband a new battery (and installed it at no additional charge) within a few minutes. I just went to their web site and even found a coupon which we'll ask about using on our next purchase. If you live near one of these stores, go and have a look around.

posted at: 19:11 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Sat, Feb 28 2004

Flea Does It Again

Note the wetsuits on these world-class surfers at Maverick's. That water is cold. But the best don't care. They want the reward, and that means more than money. Just being able to be in the line-up is a competition in itself, because surfers get a 24-hour notice to get there when the wave action is pronounced ripe. The supreme surfing location was featured in Stacy Peralta's film, Riding Giants, which was shown at this year's Sundance Film Festival. I found some beautiful online videos of surfers at Maverick's. (Disable your pop-up stopper before you click on a specific video link). Darryl "Flea" Virostko won the competition this week for the third time. He's a Santa Cruz "local boy" and he's been surfing almost all his life. He isn't quite six feet tall, but when he rides those steep waves at Maverick's he seems to be on top of the world.

posted at: 14:47 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Fri, Feb 27 2004

The Right Kind Of Child Labor

Today is John Steinbeck's birthday. Although I've always loved California, I remember trying to wade through some of his California-centered work as a teen back in the Midwest, and I would put the books down and feel completely depressed and drained. I just didn't comprehend some of the underlying themes of his writings back then, and I didn't understand why the teachers told us we would be expected to read these books if we ever wanted to get a diploma. If I had read Steinbeck now, after having lived half a century, I think I would have caught on to his tales and appreciated them a lot more. I've come to the conclusion that most formal education is wasted on the young. What children should have is rich experiences in travel and culture and meeting people firsthand. Too often we try to give children the gems we have labored for and we think we are doing them a favor and saving them a lot of hurt and trouble. We get angry and frustrated when they throw our treasures back at us. If only we could understand that our job is simply to accompany them to the edge of life and literature and to help them understand about uncovering layers and about discarding cheap glitter in favor of true gems. Their joy is to dig and to discover.

posted at: 09:01 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Thu, Feb 26 2004

How Not To Sell Me A Sandwich That Isn't Very Good Anyway

I have no idea what the marketing folks at Quiznos Sub were thinking when they produced and began airing their latest commercials. Those strange little puppets with voices that would crack cheap stemware make me reach for the mute button on the remote so quickly I almost hurt myself. What are those critters supposed to be--mutant chipmunks? Hamsters with goiter? And is the bread so crunchy it broke their upper teeth? I have no idea what type of customer this company was trying to attract, but I know I'm not part of the target market. Actually, I tried their food and didn't care for it anyway. Those big sandwiches they show on their site are not indicative of the puny things I got from the local Quizno Sub. I had to hunt for the filling. I like the idea of the toasty bread, but if they're selling toast they should just say so and show us a picture of toast. Where can I go to get one of their plump sandwiches as pictured on the web site?

Maybe they'll actually sell the puppets as a promotion at some point. I'd buy some of those, if only to own a perfect example of scary advertising. But if I want a chain-restaurant sub sandwich, I'm going to Togo's or Subway. And when are we going to get a local place that sells these? The good ones have paper-thin slices of tender steak with grilled bell peppers and onions, and melted cheese that is smoother than silk. And before you bite into one, you have to stuff napkins in your sleeves and hold your elbows up in the air or else you'll be wearing the juices.

Sorry. I really must learn to eat and then blog.

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

Wed, Feb 25 2004

Pay Me To Read Spam--I Dare You

I loathe spam as much as the next person, but if you have a name that includes characters that occur in a certain sequence, you may be greatly inconvenienced when it come to spam filters seeing your name as a forbidden 4-letter word. Mark Lewis talks about the Can Spam Act being a joke to the most dedicated of spammers. And while the law may have formed in the U.S., policing the whole planet presents a bit of difficulty.

I hear that Microsoft talks about a possible future plan that would make spammers have to agree to pony up a few cents in order to be able to send spam to each recipient. While I have no idea how this could possibly be put into practice (without a complete overhaul of the way email works), from a personal standpoint it would ease the burden a lot more if I knew the payment went to the actual recipient--that would be me--instead of to an ISP or some other third party. It would put a new face on the idea some of those online sites touted that claimed you could "get paid to read email".

I'm just dreaming at this point. But if I could actually get three cents for every piece of spam I received, and spam continued to come in at its current level, I could probably pay off the balance of our mortgage in a fairly short time. Ok. Sign me up!

posted at: 10:56 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Tue, Feb 24 2004

Was Jesus A Man's Man?

I love Donald Sensing's recent post on Jesus and masculinity. I once knew a college professor who used to include in his material some thoughts on Jesus as a "take no prisoners" kind of guy. The professor would take us back in his lecture to the scene in the temple where the moneychangers were doing their thing, and he'd describe very theatrically the way Jesus must have come at them with eyes blazing and hands knocking everything off the tables. I used to get a charge out of the way even religion-scoffing male rebels sat forward with new respect for the professor as he set his jaw and told us to imagine the biblical scene. He spoke of the firm line of Jesus' mouth and the way Jesus must have kicked the tables over and scooped up fistfuls of money and flung it into the scoundrels' faces. Dirty Harry looks like a wuss alongside this Jesus.

There's a lot of discussion about Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of the Christ. Is it authentic? Is it art? Should art be authentic? Is it meant to be anti-Semitic--and if it isn't, does it come across that way anyway? Is Jesus' character too weak and is the actor too "pretty", and are the scenes too graphic?

I guess the thing I can bring to a discussion such as this is the observation that it gets people thinking and talking about spiritual stereotypes and expectations, and that's never a bad thing. As the tale is told, all of what we are (male and female, Jew and Gentile,) is a bold reflection of the possibilities of what happens when a Supreme Being opens up the universe for speculation. The story of Jesus walking this earth and dying from the weight of sin has nothing to do with gender or ethnicity or race or class or how much money there is in anyone's pocket. And arguing about who physically put nails into Jesus' hands is just a cowardly way of trying to putting the blame on someone else. The story transcends all details to become the most beautiful example of the Golden Rule ever displayed. To a person, we are part of this story. We each become the reason for the choice Jesus made to blend humanity and divinity and we each become a recipient of Jesus' gift of resurrection. Gender--or ethnicity, or height, or machismo--are just details that make a good story and keep us hot to tell the tale generation after generation. So, go ahead, guys. The next time they try that sensitive male-bonding thing on you at church, knock over some tables and give 'em "that" look. Dirty Harry didn't invent that look. Jesus did.

posted at: 10:51 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Mon, Feb 23 2004

The Illegal Invasion We Have Now Threatens Homeland Security

There's going to be another war. And it isn't in Iraq or Iran (though they may have their share of conflicts). This war is coming to a neighborhood near you--especially if you live in an area where illegal immigrants are living and working and collecting food stamps (or other services). We are going to see horrid racial/ethnic battles over the illegal alien invasion in the United States, especially since a high number of illegal people come over the border through Mexico. Amercian citizens are angry right now. Some two and a half million people have lost their jobs in the last couple of years. They are angry over companies outsourcing their jobs overseas. They are angry over greedy money laundering and theft by corporation managers who already had income in the high six figures. And a growing number are expressing anger over the illegal aliens in this country who continue to pour in and get free services and bring in all their relatives to do the same. This isn't the same as the black/white civil rights issues that came to a head a few decades ago. Americans brought a lot of black workers in as slaves and many of the black citizens who live here now are direct descendants of those first workers who came against their will. Many of the people pouring into the U.S. now are climbing and scratching and sneaking to get in illegally and then taking low-paying jobs and going on welfare to make ends meet. The citizen resistance to these activities is building into resentment and anger, and at some point there is going to be violence. Mark my words. This is not going to be resolved peacefully. And the political leaders are not doing much to help the situation. They've thrown their hands up in the air and resigned themselves to it, and in some cases, have even worked to encourage it. Mike McGarry's recent article in the DenverPost said Bush's immigration proposal is an insult to the American people.

I watched part of the Fox immigration special report last night, and it would be easy to think that this issue is a media-driven one. But I see a lot of local resentment, and I live in a community that is largely Hispanic. The Mexican people who came here (or have been here for generations) and did it legally and have worked and owned land and made a positive difference in this community are as resentful as any "angry white male" at the handing over of U.S. and California services and privileges to illegal mobs. Citizen groups such as Civil Homeland Defense and Ranch Rescue are putting themselves on the front line over illegal immigration. The free-wheeling attitude of illegal workers married to the corresponding employers who are either outsourcing and offshoring higher-paying jobs to other countries or are hiring illegal farm workers at the cheapest rate possible is fermenting a backlash that will bring bloodshed. I can see it in people's eyes when they talk about it. They are angry and they are clenching their fists and getting ready to "do something" if the White House and state leadership won't. And I see neither set of leaders doing much at all. So we can expect trouble. It may not come today or tomorrow, but it will come. Insight On The News asks Do Borders Matter To President Bush? From what I've seen around me lately, it may already be too late to ask.

posted at: 08:27 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Sun, Feb 22 2004

Budget Crisis? State Deficit? No Problem--How About A Little Retreat In Vegas?

No, Silly. The retreat isn't for us. Certain California lawmakers have been using their campaign funds for "niceties". If campaign contributors don't mind the lawmakers spending their donations on choreographers and Vegas trips, I suppose that's their right. The lawmakers should still make every attempt to conduct their activites with integrity, and should use every donated dollar in the most judicious manner. I'm a taxpayer, and I can assure lawmakers that taxpayers certainly do care how our money is spent. If a politician throws around the "loose change" of campaign money, what makes people think he or she won't be just as free with taxpayer money?

posted at: 10:19 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Fri, Feb 20 2004

Valerie Blogs Too?

Is this the future of blog territory? I visited Val's Weblog this morning. So what, you say? Well, for one thing, Val isn't just any old blog writer. Val is also a roboceptionist who greets and gossips, dates low-rider vacuum cleaners and flirts with wet and wild water coolers. She thinks Terminator is a true hero. Valerie's also an aspiring singer, and though we're told she isn't very good at that particular activity, Barbra Streisand is her idol. Valerie is the product of a team effort between Carnegie Mellon's computer science and drama departments. You can check out some videos of Valerie at work. Be forewarned. She can spin that head around like a top, but her facial expressions are a bit--well, robotic. She may aspire to the likes of Barbra Streisand, but she's got Bette Davis eyes.

posted at: 08:41 | category: /Science | link to this entry

Thu, Feb 19 2004

My Date With Super Tuesday Voters

I'll be doing something new March 2, so today I did my training class for being a Santa Cruz County poll worker. The woman presenting the material did a great job, but I'll probably still be confused until I actually go through the procedures a few times on Election Day. I noticed that even seasoned workers were murmuring at all the new rules due to HAVA. I brought home a full packet of information to review. With new rules and 11 different sets of (color-coded) ballots for this election, it's going to be baptism by fire for me.

posted at: 13:27 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Wed, Feb 18 2004

Mothers Making The News

Did you hear about the teen who saw his own picture on a website that featured abducted children? His own mother had fled with him 14 years ago. From what I've been told, about half of all abducted children are taken by a family member, and up to another 25 per cent are abducted by an acquaintance. This teen will have a tough time now as he tries to put together the pieces of his life and defines what family even is.

Speaking of defining family, a local story reminded me that blood relations are not always the best parents. When a local baby llama named Valentine was ignored by its biological mother and fell ill, things looked pretty bad for the little one, until someone named Star unexpectedly took over the role of Mama.

That first story upset me a lot, but reading about Star and Valentine reminded me of the power of parenting by choice. And even when things go very wrong for abused or unwanted kids, there is often a miracle waiting only a few mysterious steps away.

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

Tue, Feb 17 2004

No Anonymity For Child Predators

If you care about kids, and particularly if you have kids, you should check out Perverted-Justice.com, while keeping in mind that some of the language is crude and coarse. These folks will hopefully make pedophiles who use the internet to find new victims think twice before they try to hurt kids. The site is controversial because they publish the perpetrators' phone numbers and other information. Some people feel this is unfair, but I disagree. There's no such thing as an actively private pedophile. If you go after kids, you give up your right to privacy. Let's shine all the light we can on these sewer rats and get them into court, counseling, jail, or whatever it takes to put a stop to their attacks on children. I'm usually somewhat gentle in my blog talk, but I have no patience for this abuse. We need to stop as much of this activitiy as possible. Thanks to TV Barn for the link to the site. If you go to KCTV and click on Investigations you can see more information on the sting operation that Kansas City channel conducted in order to thwart those who prey on kids.

posted at: 11:11 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Mon, Feb 16 2004

How Many Principals Does It Take To Change A Light Bulb?

The upcoming Primary Election here may be overshadowed by the issues of our budget and our debt as a state. Governor Schwarzenegger wants Californians to do some debt consolidation to pay off our existing mess. Former governors tended to ease back on taxes when times looked good, but now we are in dire straits and we are facing budget cuts for the present, as well as a challenge to pay back what we owe (due in part to the dot.com bust of the last few years).

I find it interesting to note that California spends approximately 53 percent of our budget on education. Where does all that money go? I open the door fairly often to kids selling discount cards, candy, magazines and other things to keep the football team, the band and other activities going. I hate to sound off with a "back in my day" kind of speech, but when I went to high school we never heard of such things. We had a car wash and a bake sale to make money for our senior trip, but the school as a whole functioned quite well with everyone working to make it happen. Our principal taught classes when there were no substitute teachers available. Students earned valuable work experience working in the school office and front desk for an hour or two a day. We didn't have 2 vice-principals and assistants for our teachers (except for an occasional student teacher). If the janitor was tied up fixing an emergency leak in a gym shower room, and we needed a light bulb in a classroom, a teacher and a tall student put a new light bulb into place. I'm afraid the biggest thing our kids are currently learning is that "someone else will do it". Indeed, someone else has to do it because a union or an insurance company or a school board said so. We Californians should probably do some heavy homework before we commit to anything down the line in either future budgets or past debt. We have a lot to answer for.

posted at: 06:31 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Fri, Feb 13 2004

Put Down The Tom Clancy Novel And Read This

I'm doing some research for a story, and was led to a couple of web sites with material that caused a few flutters in the old solar plexus. I was a pre-pubescent girl when all this was happening. I do remember being very confused and upset when I saw and heard news reports of growing trouble--particularly since the name of the Missouri town I grew up in was also named Cuba. We were about to make this relatively small island (and its people) off the coast of Florida a political casualty of the Cold War. We were so close to doing deceitful things--things for which we might now attack a country for doing to deceive us. Maybe you've read this material before, but I hadn't. Take special note of the specifics beginning on page 10 of this .pdf document (which is now declassified). If you love to laugh at conspiracy theories of any size or shape, you may come away with a new sense of uneasiness that will give you some solar plexus flutters of your own. This is the stuff that action movies are made of. But this "stuff" was real.

posted at: 07:52 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Thu, Feb 12 2004

No Autopsy Of Dr. Atkins Body?

Did Dr. Atkins die in spite of, or because of, his diet? A lot of this controversy could have been answered by a release of an autopsy report at the time of his death. I would have thought the family would have wanted the triumph of showing his victory in the controversial diet he chose to follow. I would agree that medical records for the average person should remain private as far as reasonably possible, but in a case where a man and his wife have publicly touted (and received profit from) work and teaching in the diet industry, the folks who are following this advice have a right to know the long-term research of Dr. Atkins on his own body. His family could have crowned his life and hard work with a tribute showing that, in spite of his health difficulties from sources other than diet, his body condition reflected the effects of proper eating and clean living. At least one other writer said the same thing. So, was there no autopsy? It sounds as though the family did not allow one. This is unfortunate. I just don't understand it. The knowledge would have helped millions of people who bought Dr. Atkins' products to affirm their choice. But, I do want to look on the bright side. Now folks will have to judge for themselves whether or not they are doing well or harming their body with a high-fat, high-protein way of eating. Just remember--experience is a pass/fail teacher and does not give anyone the benefit of the doubt. No make-up tests. And no grading on the curve. Yum-yum.

posted at: 09:31 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Wed, Feb 11 2004

Could Someone Please Notice The Young Hero?

There are encouraging details we could almost miss in this story on a plan for violence at a California high school. Apparently the reason for actual intervention was because another teen, who was not involved in the threat, went home and told his mother that something was going to happen. The mother then called to get some immediate help for the situation. This child and his mother are absolute heroes, in my opionion. I don't know where everyone else was, but these two (and the officers who followed through on the information) may have prevented another school-related tragedy. Whatever else failed in the school system and in the homes of the teens who were about to become violent, at least one other teen acted responsibly. The student is probably a juvenile, so we may not learn his name, but I hope those who know this kid will praise him (and his mom) for doing the right thing when a lot of others kept looking for someone else to do something until it was almost too late to stop the killing.

posted at: 06:14 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Tue, Feb 10 2004

And Who Would Know Better How To Jump Bail?

I guess this sort of story lawyer skipping bail might be akin to the saying that doctors make the worst patients.

The American Bail Coalition has a page (scroll down when you get there) briefly outlining the bail laws in U.S. states. Note that four states (and Washington, D.C.) no longer allow traditional commercial bail. The same site also has Bounty Hunter Laws. These bail fugitive recovery agents can be as young as 18 in California, but in Georgia they must be at least age 25.

Are arrested lawyers really more likely to jump bail? I don't know, but this sort of thing fuels the fire for all the lawyer jokes out there. So does knowing all about what's illegal make a person more likely to commit illegal acts? Are some acts more evil than others? Are the crimes of lawyers more depraved than those of a gang member or petty thief? Tell society what you think by being part of the search for The Depravity Scale.

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

Mon, Feb 09 2004

Names At Random

It's impossible to visit every blog every day, but I do try to grab moments to visit quite a few that are not on my "frequent" list. I found a great writer link over at Daily Blah. It's the Random Name Generator. You can choose ordinary versions of names for your characters, or you can go for the bizarre by increasing the obscurity factor. I got a Soo Gaulzetti and a Virgilio Mcdermett using a factor of 98. If you're the type of writer who has vivid visual imagery when you see a name, this little toy will be great fun for you.

posted at: 07:53 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Sun, Feb 08 2004

After A Blog Hop Over To Mamamontezz's Place

What is it called when you go to a familiar blog and then click on a blog they link to and then go to that blog and click on a blog they link to? Do we have a name for that? And do we have some sort of Six Degrees of Separation law for this sort of behavior, so that if I click on enough links at enough blog sites I will eventually end up back home? In any event, after clicking from one link to another to another this morning, I eventually ended up at Mamamontezz's blog, where I had a nice look around. I haven't found too many of us over the age of 35 in blogdom, so it was fun to know I'm not the only one who personally remembers certain hisorical events that are ancient history to most bloggers. She does refer to herself as middle-aged in one post, though. I've never been able to figure out exactly when someone is middle-aged. I think it's like being old. The closer to it you become, the farther away you make it look in order to appease your sense of impending doom. Mamamontezz says she's a Hoosier. Maybe Hoosiers are more keenly aware of chronogical age than the rest of us, or perhaps they're just more inclined to be matter-of-fact about the number of years they've been here. Maybe we should should have two ages--a chronological one and one that tells how old we are in Blog Years.

posted at: 11:30 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Fri, Feb 06 2004

Heating Up A Commerical

I was catching up on some reading today, and glanced at Adrants. The piece that caught me off-guard was news of using an old hit song for a familiar (to some) product. That's a common trend these days, but check out the story to see just how the production company proposes to use Ring Of Fire. I do wonder why they want to show a nice sunrise. If one was going to go over the edge with this kind of an ad, a few volcanic eruptions from the Pacific Ring of Fire might be more in order.

posted at: 14:25 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Thu, Feb 05 2004

Flower Power

Not only are they stealing avocados from commercial growers in California, but now we have a gang of flower thieves making off with flowers from homeowners' yards. The cowards have even been known to take plastic plants from gravesites and sell them to other people. I can't offer much hope for the plastic blooms, but scientists are apparently developing some real flowers that are pretty smart these days--even capable of detecting landmines. Maybe researchers will eventually develop a sweet little bluebell that screams like a banshee when threatened by some petal pervert, or maybe a passion vine with tendrils that reach out and dial 911 and put a headlock on the perps until help arrives.

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

Wed, Feb 04 2004

I'm Getting A Feeling Here...It's My B.S. Detector Going Off

I appreciate the common sense and clarity of articles like the three-part one at Insolitology called So, You Wanna Be A Psychic? I've watched some of these so-called psychic folks operate, and it really bothers me that they use loss and grief to entertain. It bothers me even more that people don't educate themselves as a safeguard against being manipulated when they are feeling their most vulnerable.

posted at: 11:31 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Tue, Feb 03 2004

Mind Over Matter, Or Just The Best Partnership?

With all the dumb things going on in the world, it always gives me a boost to know that there are people beating the odds, and Aaron Vandemark is definitely one of those people. I also read recently that one of the choice treatments in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome may be a combination of cognitive-behavior therapy and graded exercise. And I like knowing that people can often treat depression with exercise and not have to rely on just popping a pill. I'm the world's worst at consistency, but I know when I do get on that treadmill or crank the music and get moving and stretching, I get this odd effect. At first I sometimes have a bit of a mental resistance to the whole process. After a few minutes something happens. I begin to realize I'm there because I chose to be and want to be. I can feel my facial expression actually change and my movements become easier and more vigorous. I have a hunch that the very notion of choosing to do something just for me sends a different signal to the old grey matter and makes emotional things happen that probably boost the whole body response. We like to think of the mind and body as separate things, but they really do work together in mysterious ways.

posted at: 09:16 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Mon, Feb 02 2004

Mixing Blog Posts Could "Spell" Disaster

Why can some people talk about a sneeze for 30 seconds and bore you half to death, and yet someone like fellow blogger Big Stupid Tommy can talk about it for 5 minutes and carry it off as a full-blown (pardon the pun) comedy routine?

I must also thank Tommy for the link to this amusing distraction:

Pholph's Scrabble Generator

My Scrabbleİ Score is: 22.
What is your score? Get it here.

At least Tommy didn't go through that sneeze while playing regular Scrabbleİ. Then we'd have a whole new game. Sneezzle?

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

Sun, Feb 01 2004

Press Credential Limbo

I am so glad someone brought this up. A blogger is sometimes viewed as being half a writer, but so are other online journalists at times. I have attempted to obtain credentials using Deb's Monthly Review, and am constantly asked to prove that I work for a publisher. Hi there, credential-granting person. It's me. I am who I work for, and I'll bet I put in at least as many hard hours of work as anyone else you might approve, and I have power to reach a lot more people than some folks you might approve.

The really funny part is that readers of the ezine often look at me as a true professional and even an expert. I am asked for advice and information that much larger "print" publishing houses would probably ignore. And some event coordinators send me information without my having to beg to be considered a professional. It's a very strange dichotomy that exists in the world of journalism. I suppose it will take some time for the old ways to catch up with the new ways. In the meantime, I'll just keep working like the professional that I am. And apparently my busy readers don't give a rat's patootie about your credentials anyway unless it means I can get thorough, timely information to them. If I have to choose between pleasing you and pleasing them, it's an easy choice.

posted at: 05:38 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

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Stealin' copy is as bad as horse-thievin'
and cattle rustlin'! Lightning may strike
such varmints when they least expect it!