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

Fri, Apr 30 2004

Spam In Your Face (And In The Way Of Their Own Content)

Screen Spam is bad enough as a concept. What really makes it annoying is that the spam often covers other vital information on a site and prevents me from finding out about the company's products. What good is such advertising if it blocks me from seeing what the original site was intended to present? I've also had these little beasties play havoc with a browser's ability to render the browser window properly. Sometimes the whole thing just freezes. I usually just give up and close that particular browser window altogether. I suppose the advertisers--and the original site owners and designers--think they've gotten one more successful view, but all they've really succeeding in doing is to send me packing without seeing either their own company's goodies or those of the advertising third party. I'm annoyed and resentful. Is that what they wanted? If so, they've done a great job.

I won't buy anything presented to me in this manner, and I'll jot down the brand names and let the companies know it. If the rest of you don't buy either, they may eventually get the message.

posted at: 11:58 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Younger Than Jesse Ventura--Older Than Bill Gates

If you go here and put your birthdate into the prompt box, you'll get back an interesting set of statistics. I was born somewhere between Jesse Ventura and Bill Gates, which could just explain a lot of my quirks and interests in life, if I chose to see it that way. For the writers out there, this has great story potential. Put yourself into an alternate universe.

posted at: 10:01 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Thu, Apr 29 2004

Oil And Water In The Mix Again

I really hated to hear about the leak from the oil pipeline. But I hope this provides a warning to check and double-check all the safety and containment measures in place to prevent future trouble. It's been fifteen years now since the oil tanker Exxon Valdez spilled eleven million gallons of crude oil, and the Alaskan coastline (and the rest of our planet, by default) is still in recovery. It makes me angry to read things like this and this. I'd like to think such a series of events would never happen again, but oil is at the core of many industries and daily activities, which means it represents tremendous wealth, and its rapid delivery wields a lot of influence over those who share in that wealth. We can talk about the cost of oil leaks and oil spills all day long, but the real cost to our environment and our own human ability to live and work may be a cost we can never fully recover, so we'd better make sure we get a handle on preventing these kinds of incidents whenever and wherever possible.

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

I Want More Cock & Bull!

With the recent heat wave we had here, I've been craving a beverage I used to enjoy and have had trouble locating lately. Although it's called beer, Cock 'n Bull Ginger Beer is a ginger ale that's long on gingery flavor and not overly sweet like most ginger ales I've tasted. The big problem is finding the stuff. I used to get it at the Beverages & More store up in San Jose, but they always seem to be out of it now when I get up that way, and I see that the online store is also currently out of stock. Either they aren't making enough of the stuff, or too many people besides myself have discovered its spicy goodness.

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

Wed, Apr 28 2004

Real Fiction Calls For Real Talk

I always have an interesting time handling the more earthy bits of dialogue and prose in a fictional story, so I appreciated Faith in Fiction's discussion of such things. It's always tough to figure out how to incorporate words and actions appropriate to a character and setting that are neither gratuitous in range and frequency, nor are conspicuously whitewashed and censored in tone. An extreme position of one or the other could cause me to lose either the story or the reader. Neither of those ideas smacks of integrity or a sense of true success. Either extreme could result in this writer selling out in favor of false standards, or, bluntly put, lying. And I've grown to realize that I'd rather make a mistake trying for truth than to cheat with an outright lie.

posted at: 18:21 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

The Very Helpful Memes List

I've just added the Memes List from I Am Pariah to the Writers Resources list. It's a quick fill-in for bloggers who need something to fill space once in awhile when non-cyberspace living prevents extensive browsing for topics on which to comment.

posted at: 10:40 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Tue, Apr 27 2004

Eighteen Years Of Silence

Thanks to Grunt Doc for a link reminding us last month that the evacuation of people in Chernobyl was eighteen years ago, just about this time in April. There's nothing I can say that won't be better said by the photograhs and brief comments of a woman named Elena who rides her motorcycle and takes pictures and radiation readings of the Ghost Town. At first I imagined voices and sounds and music while I looked at the pictures, but Elena tells us the place is maddeningly quiet. My mind persists in wanting to add a soundtrack to the ruins. We tend to think of pain and destruction as being loud and boisterous. Even the worst place of all--Hell--is usually portrayed as loud and full of screams and wicked laughter. But view these pictures of just how void and quiet Hell really is.

posted at: 11:26 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Growing Pains And Flags

If you ignore a few typos, you can read the really real story of the real new flag of Iraq, and how it came to be. Of course, they're having a bit of fun with us, but maybe the new Iraqi flag really doesn't mean very anyway--at least in its present form. It's coming from people approved by the U.S. government, and we can't even get the story of our own first flag right half the time. They'll have to find their own flag, eventually.

It's always been kind of fun to think about Betsy Ross having sewn a flag for the U.S. She learned a trade, raised 7 children, became a Fighting Quaker, ran a business and outlived 3 husbands. Her spunk and endurance make us want to believe that her life underscored the spirit of America. Maybe that's why legends of her flag-making persist.

The American flag has undergone some changes, the most recent one coming only about 7 years after I was born. It may change again. The flag is just a symbol of what makes us a nation of individuals, living and working side-by-side, uniting for common purpose as neighbors. The neighborhood has just grown a bit bigger in the past few hundred years.

There's a lot of flack about the colors and content of the flag being designed for Iraq. But who's to say? In another couple of hundred years their flag may change a lot, and their culture may find a Betsy Ross of its own--a common citizen whose strength and ideals represent the country's rising from the ashes better than a bunch of United States-approved temporary leaders could ever do. They'll figure it out if we give them some time. Someday their flag will truly represent what they become, and that's where the real story and triumph could be. None of us can predict what that flag will look like. And maybe that's the way it should be.

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

Mon, Apr 26 2004

Shake It Up, Baby

I've been so busy getting the Review ready that I haven't taken time to blog. Crunch week, when I try to get the work finished and uploaded, tends to be a stressful time. Maybe I should spend some time investigating trembling therapy.

Shaking is good, eh? Is anybody besides me old enough to remember a dance called "The Dog"? Who knew it was just plain therapy when the songs reminded everyone to "shake your booty"?

posted at: 12:21 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Fri, Apr 23 2004

On Slicing Establishment Hypocrisy To Ribbons

Through the comments over at The Morning Improv I was led to read the tale of a short story gone wrong at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. I came to the story a bit late, but I see that other bloggers have attempted to understand the whole issue better and report on more recent developments.

I will in no way claim to know all about what happened. But I do fault this particular institution in a couple of ways. First of all, I've read some of Jan Richman's work, and I'm sure they knew they were hiring an instructor who wins awards for her work--work not exactly old-fashioned and covered over with Victorian lace--unless it's the type of lace leading to something more daring. She hits things head-on and does not apologize for her version of plain writing. And if the school feels it should be approving teaching materials it should not preface that by firing a teacher for violating a (hithertofore) unclear policy that they have only now decided to sharpen and maintain.

My second point--again, given with very limited knowledge of the situation--is that in spite of this instructor's own lack of aversion to edgy literature, she had the guts and decency to step forward when concerned that a particular student writer was perhaps in trouble and too far over the edge for social safety.

Richman would no doubt see me as a Pollyanna (and that's all right--it's a nickname I know very well). Our styles and content tend to be very different. But I'm sorely disturbed by this whole idea of making teachers take the hit when the administration fails to do its job. And whether Richman's student turns out to be a serial killer or the next Quentin Tarantino, I'm glad she came forward and put her job on the line out of concern. We Pollyannas may be nice, but we do know when to put on the gloves and join a fellow writer in battling powerful dragons.

posted at: 13:13 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Lost Honor In Photos?

I had no idea this sort of thing was a problem. I've often seen single coffins of military war heroes unloaded from planes, but I guess sometime back around 1991, someone decided it was a bad idea to have photos like the ones Tami Silicio took. As a personal note, I saw nothing inappropriate or distasteful in the photos as shown on the internet. War itself is distasteful. The photos are a sobering reminder of that. The Pentagon (and others) can handle this matter with a great deal of sensitivity and grace, or they can turn it into something that really would dishonor our fallen military personnel.

posted at: 08:18 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Thu, Apr 22 2004

Blog Writers: Coal For Future Diamonds?

Good for Eric for bringing up a great topic yesterday when he encouraged us all to think about what people will be doing with technology in about a hundred years, and why reserving that domain name you have now as a long-term commitment might not be the bargain it seems to be at first thought.

But, Eric, what if you exit this life and your blog (now known only to some of us) becomes even more well-known and you attain some sort of posthumous fame--or, better yet--infamy? Even if technology changes, don't you want to leave all possibility for future greatness for your loved ones? Uh--wait a minute. Can you do that? There's a question for the financial advisors and copyright attorneys out there. Can people bequeath a domain name and its use to someone else?

I have a bone to pick with Eric. He's always saying he's not a real writer. I have no idea what the man's talking about. He's as real as they come. He writes, and he asks a lot of "what if" kinds of questions, fully admitting he doesn't know all the answers. He writes, and he makes the rest of us think about what he's written. That's a writer. Maybe what Eric means is that he doesn't make a decent living by what he writes. Neither do most of us. Ah, but notice he writes anyway. He's just like the rest of us keyboard jockeys.

posted at: 09:39 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Wed, Apr 21 2004

Yum: Hot Cereal Lumps

While making breakfast the other morning, I was reading the back of the Cream of Wheat box, and noticed something funny on the lower portion. For those who don't want their cereal nice and creamy, the box gave clear instructions for how to get lumpy Cream of Wheat. I guess marketing decided to make a bug into a feature. But maybe some folks really do like chewing lumps of the stuff. It could be a little like Cream of Wheat gnocchi, served with freshly grated Romano cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. Oh well. I guess breakfast is anything you can get away with as long as somebody will still eat it.

posted at: 16:34 | category: /Food | link to this entry

Only The Names Have Been Changed

Does the shake-up at ABC mean we'll be seeing better things to come? Who knows? Someone wrote about similar shake-ups just ten years ago.

I've never been fully able to grasp the concept of co-chairing anything. In the end, the buck has to stop somewhere, at one desk, with one person. But then again, I don't own or run any of these entertainment companies. I'm sure the media moguls know much more about such things than I do. Maybe.

It does seem that the "Big Three" networks have never really had the same edge since satellite and cable broadcasts became available. The networks have been restricted in many ways, with the airwave regulations never seeming able to keep up with the new ground and new players.

It's tough to separate entertainment from politics, and I always end up wondering how much of this executive dumping has to do with vision, how much has to do with creative differences, and how much has to do with the bottom line. ABC has brought us everything from Happy Days to Roots to NFL Monday Night Football. While some of its programming choices seemed adventurous at the time, many shows have come and gone with no real sense of what the network is aiming for in the way of entertainment philosophy or a trend in content. When something works, they do the same sort of spin-offs, guest-host crossover and pilot rehashing everyone else seems to do. The viewing public rarely bites on a replay of success, and when it does no one seems to know whether it was a mass hysteria of nostalgia or a sign of a shift in viewer interest. The rules for those being entertained are that there are no rules. Loyalties are won and lost on a single character's good lucks or a theme song that makes us remember our first childhood crush. We claim to be open to enlightened programs, but we seem to choose programs that make us feel a certain way, and no executive can predict what will make enough individual viewers feel good enough to create a hit.

If there are only so many basic plots, both in stories and in corporate overhauls, then we can figure on more executive shuffling in the next few years. Each time we hope for something better. But the American public will get the programming it tunes in to and the programming that sponsors buy into. While corporate entertainment executives would seem to be key players in all this, I have a feeling that, on some level, they become merely bit players who are interchangeable in the world we loosely call "show business".

posted at: 11:04 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Tue, Apr 20 2004

Stretch Those Muscles, Relax Those Muscles: Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

I can identify with the need to stretch. I used to be fairly flexible, and now I find that I have to work at it to maintain the same level of flexibility. The aformentioned article didn't do much for my particular areas, though. I tend to have trouble in the neck and shoulders. Maybe the neck stretch in this article would help. Or these shoulder stretches. Writers tend to be far too sedentary, and sitting is just not the best posture when you already have neck and shoulder tension. There are days when I think we should just put muscle relaxants in the water supply and be done with it. Of course, there are a lot of muscles that could relax at the wrong time. And if even one of these relaxed at the wrong time, you might be reading some realy fnny wds frmm ush wriiiiiterrshh.

posted at: 11:32 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Mon, Apr 19 2004

A Decongestant For The Writing Mind

I found a site with a nice, quick way to free up the old grey matter with a mere 60 seconds of word association. Check out oneword. After you post your thoughts you can read what others have written. I like the way this sort of exercise jogs other parts of the brain into action. We all have a bout with word constipation now and then, and this way of writing reminds me that the word is not the enemy, and the perfect word doesn't always have to be the most difficult one to find. Sometimes the perfect word is the one that frees me to write all the others around it. I have a crumpled piece of paper that floats around my computer area and sometimes ends up on my corkboard here to my left. It's for those inevitable moments when I crawl into a dead-end passage in my mind and get stuck trying to make the perfect sentence or phrase and end up writing nothing for long periods of time. It reads simply:

Don't think--write.

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

Sun, Apr 18 2004

Everyone Wants A Piece Of Beautiful Big Sur

Everyone seems to be arguing (again/still) about who should live in and/or manage the Big Sur area of our California coast. What I don't understand is how homeowners and developers are being squeezed out of housing by increasing restrictions, and yet immigrants working for low wages still manage to live in the area--which is part of the material reported in this article in the Monterey Herald. If they are restricting mansions on the cliffs, why are they allowing crowded trailer parks at the same time? Since I'm not a resident there, I suppose my knowledge is limited to what I read and here from others.

Big Sur will always be an area filled with fierce feelings. It's a beautiful and unique section of our planet, and the struggle to balance making it accessible to visitors and usable by homeowners and developers has to be underscored with a lean to keeping the place environmentally sound.

You can read more on Big Sur's history and issues here, and can see some of the work being done to preserve the natural resources of Big Sur at Big Sur Land Trust.

posted at: 10:42 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Fri, Apr 16 2004

It's Not All About Money, Is It Mr. T?

You could see the light in Bill Rancic's eyes last night as he chose to head the Chicago project, after being hired by Donald Trump on the finale of The Apprentice. I enjoyed last night's installment the most, not because we found out who The Apprentice would be, but because Donald Trump himself showed more of his own personality than he did on the other shows. You know, this man could sit on the family fortune and be a poor little rich boy, but instead he takes the money out there and makes it work, not only for himself, but for others. And I'll bet he learned things (including about himself) from doing this show that he never would have learned in any other way. He may be privileged, but he refuses to sit still, and no matter how unconventional or controversial we may think his moves are, he finds way to push and challenge others, and more importantly, himself. I think he saw wonderful potential in Kwame, but he knew that Bill had made his own money. I think, in spite of all Trump's riches, The Donald chose the man he felt he could not have been himself, because he was born into wealth, but who he knew he would have been the most like if he had been born in a lower or middle class situation. With those two little words, "You're Hired," Trump showed us more about how he would have played the game if he'd been on the other side of the table in the board room.

posted at: 09:15 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Thu, Apr 15 2004

Relief But Not Joy

Donald Bouchat was killed by police yesterday. It's nothing to celebrate. I understand the man had at least one child. What a sad legacy to leave one's family--a life of burglary and violence, including his own violent death.

posted at: 08:39 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Wed, Apr 14 2004

Home Invasion By One Of Mother Nature's Own

Not to make light of the more serious activities of the police--but--I did find a great story of how one cop spent an Easter Sunday back in 2000.

posted at: 11:33 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Telling Time With Bouchat

They are still looking for the man who shot a CHP officer in Watsonville this past weekend. It sounds as though the guy was a model employee before his latest dumb move. Of course, what better way to learn a building's layout and take note of alarm system wiring than to go from one place to another, cleaning carpets? I liked the way they said he was always on time for work.

I can just see the description and warning: "This man is considered armed and dangerous...and very, very punctual." Admirable, to be sure. So is he smart enough to know that time is no longer on his side?

posted at: 10:44 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Tue, Apr 13 2004

The Constitution In Action

I'm still confused. Did Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia order a deputy U.S. marshal to seize the tapes of two journalists in Mississippi, or did he not? And how do you erase tapes that aren't tapes? Or was only one journalist using tapes and the other using digital hardware to record? (I believe that's what has been established in more recent stories). And, as the deputy marshal's boss, Nehemiah Flowers suggested, could such an obvious move to prevent journalists from doing their work really have been handled with "a little more finesse"? I'm not sure how that could happen, since we do have freedom of the press in this country. If a sensitive guy like Justice Scalia doesn't like his public remarks recorded for posterity, that says a lot to me about how stuff rolls downlhill. If the guy doesn't like to be recorded, why is he giving speeches in front of crowds? The two journalists weren't doing anything but their job. Everybody else involved in this fray needs a good clue, and that begins with Justice Scalia. Maybe he should just stay home and send in a clone next time, especially if he's planning to talk about the ideals of our U.S. Constitution. On the other hand, the students at that school certainly learned a lot more about the Constitution now that there's a public outcry defending it. In the end, maybe this flurry of power-grabbing wasn't such a bad thing to have happened.

I've noticed that sometimes, rather than jumping on a story and writing, it's fun to just sit back and wait until a whole lot of other people pounce on an event like this one and dash off editorials and stories full of facts and opinions. Then I watch the verbal pummeling begin. When all the flaming settles down a bit, the recurring truth generally rises to the top. I'll bet Denise Grones and Antoinette Konz will never forget this incident and will never again allow themselves to be bullied into giving up their journalistic responsibility and rights. Their future stories will ride atop an undercurrent of personally tried-and-tested freedom of the press for the rest of their careers. It's nice to know that when even a U.S. Supreme Court kind of guy screws up that Americans (including journalists) everywhere can be heard standing up for the principles of the Constitution. It says a lot about how really privileged we are to be Americans.

posted at: 09:17 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Mon, Apr 12 2004

We Should All Get Mad When Someone Shoots A Cop

We had a little of the wrong kind of excitement in our community this past weekend. Even our area streets, which are outside the Watsonville city limits (and another freeway exit north of the incident area), were heavily patrolled Saturday and Saturday night, as police tried to pick up signs of where the shooting suspect had gone. As far as I know, he hasn't been found, but I'm delighted to know the injured officer is recovering nicely. This was a bad weekend for cops in California. SFPD Officer Isaac Espinoza was fatally wounded in a shooting this past Saturday night and another officer at the scene was injured.

We owe our law enforcement officers a lot of thanks and respect for all they do. It's one of those jobs that can never be just a job, and though we all run across a power-happy cop now and then, the majority of them are good-hearted people who want to make a real difference in our communities. The California Highway Patrol does a wonderful job here, working to keep the highways safe, and also assisting local police departments when they need extra coverage. And most of the time we hear very little about their everyday efforts. But we need to remember they put their lives on the line each day to help the rest of us have safer lives.

posted at: 08:31 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Sat, Apr 10 2004

It May Have Been Plagiarism, But I Found Some Cool Stuff Because Of It

Well, I'm sorry some guy decided to cut and paste whole sections of another author's article and send it in to a local newspaper and cause a bit of an uproar. I do see that the borrower has apologized and that the original author, Al Valdez, has been notified of the Register-Pajaronian's error in printing the material as someone else's. So that the intent of the true author's writings doesn't get lost in the fray, the RP pointed to the original work on the NAGIA web site. It's a well-written piece on the history of Hispanic gangs.

Have you been to the site which focuses on all kinds of street gangs? I love the Homies. It's too bad they were mistaken for little trouble-makers. It looks as though they've redeemed themselves now though, and will hopefully be seen as a series of "character figures" depicting a portion of recent-day history in Hispanic culture in North America. I have some mice figurines, so the Hood Rats are especially appealing to me.

posted at: 11:05 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Fri, Apr 09 2004

Driven To Distraction

For those of you who think the whole FCC crackdown on fines for certain words and pictures on the public airwaves will hush people like Howard Stern, be aware that Stern's site (which is really busy right now) has links to articles such as this one, and this one. When you try to muzzle free speech--including free speech you might not approve of and might even call "indecent", you invite a whole flock of people to run over and notice the one whose indecent speech is being repressed. Whether you like Howard Stern's racy material or not, you have to admit that he certainly knows how to use his material to influence others politically.

Those who fall all over themselves to condemn Stern's use of bathroom humor and skin shows are so focused on those issues that they fail to notice that a lot of other people are aligning themselves with Stern's free speech and anti-Bush stances. They're certainly doing a good job of putting Stern in his place. It looks to me like they've got him right where he wants them.

posted at: 10:14 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Wed, Apr 07 2004

Reporting Religious News That Shocks: Cause Or Effect?

The story of the murder suspect who took a Biblical passage in a very literal sense made me cringe. Of course, we don't see very many news reports of people who live everyday lives using Biblical passages just fine, without murdering people and mutilating themselves. I'd like to think the fact that these are exceptions is what makes them news, and that the rest of the folks who espouse Christianity do so with dignity and caring, even though they never make it to the front page, or the oddity page.

posted at: 10:32 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Eudora's Vanishing Act

My Eudora email program went insane yesterday. I often have several instances of Internet Explorer running while I'm doing searches, and one of them declared an error and when I gave it the yes to send its report to Microsoft, not only did the browser window close, but Eudora vanished along with it. I tried to restart Eudora, and it attempted to rebuild its table of contents, but vanished again. I finally had to update to Eudora 6.1, which will hopefully be more stable. In any case, my attention to blog entries was overshadowed by my attempts to get the whole thing going again. It's amazing how much time we all spend on maintaining our email now, when we hardly thought of such things not very many years ago. I suppose the same could also be said of blogging.

posted at: 08:11 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Mon, Apr 05 2004

All Chairs Lead To Work

Sitting is one of those things writers do quite often, and sometimes for extended periods of time. So maybe we tend to notice chairs more than the average person because of that. My office chair is suitable most of the time, but I also enjoy a good stretch on a big sectional sofa, and sometimes when writing by hand I prop on the bed with a few pillows and a cup of hot chocolate, and let the mind have a little visit with leisure. The danger of that last one is succumbing to that muse know as The Sandman in the midst of inspiration. Some would argue that being too comfortable in any seat might cause writers to produce less material. But there's the matter of balance. I think if your tushie gets too tired and numb, the flow of blood to the brain is decreased. For me, a modest amount of comfort matters a great deal when I want to produce quality work.

If I wrote sports articles, I might follow this woman's lead, and sit in a chair made of skis. For a lively exchange of dialog between two fictional characters, I might like a chair like this reversible one. I could sit on one side and then the switch to the other and change my point-of-view as I changed the chair's position.

For science fiction or futuristic scenes, I could settle into one of the seats on this page. The bubble chair would also work well in futuristic stories, or in any scene where one wished to think about being suspended in space.

I'm not sure what type of article or what story scene would be suitable to write while using a chair from Splash Furniture, but they are so different and beautiful that I'm sure sitting in one would inspire me.

Of course, no chair makes a writer. What makes a writer is writing no matter how worn and drab the writer's chair might be. Back to work.

posted at: 14:39 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Trades, Chips, Promises: It's All The Same

Well, I know the search engines involved are simply reacting to U.S. pressure, but this seems a bit silly to me. If the Feds want to get rid of gambling ads, they ought to start right here at home, and they ought to start with ads for stocks, which we know are the biggest gamble of all. Just where do they think the term Blue Chip came from?

Once they ban all stock trading, they can move on to prohibiting political campaign ads, which are worse than gambling. At least in gambling we have a chance (however slim) of getting something. In political campaigns we get promised everything and not only do we not get it--we have to listen to the opposing side remind us of that fact over and over. It's not even as virtuous as gambling. It's false advertising coupled with added harrassment.

posted at: 08:21 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Sun, Apr 04 2004

Milk, Milk, The Wonderful Drink...

I have a great affection for the literature and history of the American Old West. Tales of cattle barons, railroad executives, outlaws and lawmen make a relatively short period of time in U. S. history burst with drama.

In present-day 2004, when the term branding rarely refers to a hot iron being applied to tender flesh (except perhaps during tax season) terms like stagecoach robbers and cattle-rustlers are rarely heard. But, lest you think the drama has gone completely out of cattle ranching and dairy farming, let me give you a recipe that mixes up the modern-day equivalent of a range war. You take one part dairy industry, one-part bean industry, and throw a little "government agency" into the mix, and you've got a bull by the horns. This tale even has a little modern-day R-rated talk to spice up the plot. We've got mammary glands at the heart of the matter here, folks. Honest-to-goodness, full-swinging milk jugs.

And therein lies the problem. It seems the dairy farmers don't like the idea that the soybean industry is referring to the liquid produced from soybeans as "milk". The dairy farmers want the FDA to force the soybean folks to use some other word besides "milk" on their food product labels.

I guess they think we poor folk will confuse the liquid stuff that comes from dairy cows' mammary glands with the liquid stuff that comes from soybean processing. They may have a point. They've confused us a bit themselves. The highly popular "Got Milk?" slogan encourages the use of cow's milk, but there are other kinds of milk--goat milk, sheep milk, buffalo milk and rat milk (which has lots more protein than cow's milk). Should we demand that the dairy industry define their milk product as (for instance) Genuine Dairy Holstein Milk?

And how do we know those happy California cows we see on TV are really Holsteins? What if they're imposters--just a bunch of busty buffalo babes wearing Holstein hides?

I say shame on the dairy folks. How can an industry that puts out products with names like Cheez Whiz fuss about anybody else's choice of package wording? Would a soybean whiz? I think not.

posted at: 15:40 | category: /Food | link to this entry

Sat, Apr 03 2004

One Less Hanging In Mississippi

When the mayor of Walls, Mississippi planned to add a hanging plaque of the Ten Commandments to the city hall (after the recent Alabama battle over the Ten Commandments monument), I'm sure he had every intention of showing the rest of the world how it's done, and the media showed up to record the town's defiant act. There was just one problem.

I mean no disrespect to the citizens there, but I'm wondering if the little town has a history of such mayoral blunders, and perhaps even got its name as a reminder--though that did no good in this case. It must really hurt the mayor's pride to admit that, in a town named Walls, he forgot to make sure he had something to put up on a wall.

posted at: 09:55 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Fri, Apr 02 2004

Literary Lox And Speaking Cockney Vera Wang

If you like a little alternative literature and music thrown into your blog list, have a look at the NewPages Weblog. The main page includes links to literary magazines and other resources for writers.

If you're in a semi-literary mood, and you have a humorous story about food (no, I wasn't trying to rhyme that), you could win $50 in the Food Is Fun Contest at Food Writing. You'll need to pay a $2 entry fee, but these days that's cheaper than a Shot 'a Mocchiata Strata (I was trying to rhyme that) at your favorite coffee bar.

That's enough planned and unplanned rhyming for one day. If you happen to like rhyming things, and especially rhyming them in unusual ways, you might have fun with Cockney Rhyming Slang. Just type in some text, and Uncle Fred will translate it for you.

posted at: 12:48 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Thu, Apr 01 2004

Ghosting Around

I found a nice site listing a bunch of ghost towns. I still remember passing along the low-lying town of Times Beach in Missouri, years before it was evacuated because of dioxin contamination. The true effects of dioxin are still debated among scientists, and more recent sources of the stuff have are said to have been anything from forest fires to Beanie Baby stuffing.

Towns become ghost towns for all kinds of reasons, I guess--natural disaster, famine, loss of the ability to make a living, environmental contamination, drought--and maybe other reasons. What I notice is that they all seem to develop bigger-than-life reputations that follow in their wake, especially towns associated with the Gold Rush era and the Old West.

Fiddletown is one great example of an American ghost town. From the web site's description, it sounds as though Fiddletown was to wagons what West Coast Choppers is to motorcycles today. And appropriately, the guy who runs the West Coast Choppers is named Jesse James.

posted at: 14:15 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

CSS Is Fooling Me

I'm beating my literal head against a virtual wall today in the process of studying some CSS. I'm trying to figure out floats, and while this page has a wealth of information, it also serves to confuse someone like me. There seem to be so many more things you can break using CSS. What worries me is that I'll get half of this figured out and then some navel-gazing little group of experts will come up with another whole way of doing things, and shoot the learning curve into a big black hole. That really sucks.

Pun intended--after all, it is April 1.

posted at: 09:34 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

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Stealin' copy is as bad as horse-thievin'
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