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

Thu, Sep 30 2004

Raiding Radio

After 10 years of operating without an FCC license, but with much support from listeners in the local community, Free Radio Santa Cruz had its equipment confiscated yesterday.

Why on earth does it take so long to get a legitimate license for a low-wattage station (which serves its own community), when commercial radio stations easily get licenses to blast the same Top 40 noise at us, year after year, with plenty of wattage and plenty of clients willing to buy 30-second ads for everything from eggplants to implants? If the public owns the airwaves, why don't we have any say in what we listen to? Obviously, I need to learn more about this whole licensing process. Just who are the real pirates in pirate radio?

You might want to take a look around and see what kinds of stations the FCC deems worthy of a license in your own neighborhood. If you are reading this from outside Santa Cruz County in California, you've probably never heard a broadcast from this little station, but you're still inadvertently responsible for its fate. Your taxpayer money (and mine) helped fund all those FCC guns and U.S. Marshalls in that raid yesterday. But don't fret. The FCC apparently knows how to think globally and act locally. They could be coming soon to a radio station near you. Stay tuned.

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

Wed, Sep 29 2004

Fresno's Chaffee Zoo And Measure Z

The Chaffee Zoo in Fresno is in trouble. It's one of the zoos closest to my own home, so I'm putting in a good word for them. This fall, the residents in that area will vote on Measure Z, the result of which could make or break the zoo's existence. I won't pretend to know the whole story, but from what I understand, members of the Roeding family donated land for a park in Fresno in the early 1900s, and later other land was purchased to enlarge that park. Later the zoo was built. Some of the Roeding family members still living are apparently not in favor of Measure Z, because it could mean that the zoo will have to expand further into the general park acreage that their ancestors donated to be used as free space to be enjoyed by all. The expansion would also probably involve the removal of trees, which would further change the landscape and environment of a place that was supposed to be full of trees.

The Chaffee Zoo is currently on the list of accredited zoos of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA), but that could change if Chaffee can't improve and expand certain areas of the zoo habitat for larger animals.

This is a tough issue. A sales tax would help save the zoo financially, at least for awhile, but it's sad to see the conflict when everyone is simply wanting to be supportive of the right thing.

At least one local company, Pelco, in nearby Clovis, has been supporting the upgrades and maintenance to the zoo. They are backing Measure Z as an added way to keep the zoo going.

While I can understand the Roeding family's reluctance to see their ancestor's gift used in a way that was not originally planned, I can also understand the current Fresno community's desire to keep and maintain the zoo. And in the end, the people who live there will have to pay the most and will see the most change after the election. What I'm going to suggest is that the original donors intended the acres of land to be a haven in which local (and visiting) humans could relax and enjoy the day. If the donors could have a voice right now, would they want to see their donation go toward making a place where the humans who visited the park could also be making a better place for animals, and for their future children? I think they might want to see just that, because philantropists usually have the ability to give with an eye toward opening up the future to hope and its possibilities, even when circumstances change and take things outside the scope of the era in which they live. The gift the Roeding family gave has become so much bigger and more important than even they could have foreseen.

Maybe the current Roedings could be persuaded to be supportive if they could look at the zoo as being part of the park that was purchased land, rather than donated land. I don't know. But I hope everyone will continue to work for what's best for the community of Fresno, and ultimately, for the rest of the planet. If the planned upgrade and basic maintenance of the zoo moved into areas such as water slides and carnival rides, I wouldn't take a very positive view. But the animals are part of our environment, our planet, our home here. It's too late to save some of our precious species, but modern zoos are offering a way to preserve the animal friends we have left. For awhile, and maybe for the rest of earth's existence a zoo may become the only place one can experience some of these creatures, and if the Chaffee Zoo can help keep even one species going for the foreseeable future, and can do it with dignity and a comfortable artificial habitat for that species, I'm all for it. I hope the Roeding family will stay flexible. I don't know any of them, and I don't speak for them, but I can hope.

You and I who live outside the Fresno area won't get to vote on Measure Z. But there are ways to support the zoo, through memberships, memorials and donations. And if you think Measure Z will help more animals in the future, you can visit Save Our Zoo to find out how to help. If you think it's all too far away from where you live, then find your nearest zoo and lend your support there. It's all good.

posted at: 11:47 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

They Wag The Dog But We Just Wag Our Tongues

I am getting really weary of hearing about how the two best-known candidates for U.S. President have this black mark or that gray gap in their decades-old military service records. It's easy to go back and analyze the detailed movements of someone's youth. But drag out your own past for a moment. Who hasn't done things (or left things undone) in the first 25 years of life that might make us seem less than worthy of our present station in life, if those details were pulled up and paraded for all the world to see 20, 30, 40 years later? Would any of us pass this kind of scrutiny? And do we all have detailed records and detailed proof of every movement and every choice we made as young people, with the thought that we might be called upon to explain ourselves at any given moment?

Some might say that it's more important for a U.S. President to have a spotless military service record than for the rest of the world. But the last time I checked the Constitution, the only qualifications listed for the office were: To be a natural born citizen, to be at least 35 years old, and to have been a resident for at least 14 years. Although many of our past Presidents have had a stellar military background, some never served in the military at all. The writers of the Constitution didn't just forget to put that in the requirements. They knew that the office would require many qualities in leadership, and that those who served in the office of President might come from a variety of backgrounds. They purposefully kept the guidelines as broad as possible, so that those who might attain to be President could come from different walks of life. If neither of our two present major candidates had served in the military at all, would some other ancient detail be dragged up and flung in their faces? To what end?

The world is moving at a much faster pace than it has ever moved before. It's tough to keep up with what happened two elections ago, much less several decades ago. The name-calling and mud-slinging might be fun for inexperienced children, but if we're going to demand that our leaders come up to the mark, we'd better be ready to act like adults too, and put our own time and effort into making our country a great place. We don't have a moment to waste. We've got to focus, people. The truth is, for better or for worse, our country usually gets exactly the kind of leadership ability the rest of us attain to.

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

Tue, Sep 28 2004

Political Puppetry

I've never been that much of a fan of South Park, but I've always been a fan of ventriloquists, puppets, dummies and marionettes, so I sat up and took keen notice of the post Boing Boing did on Team America World Police. The story includes characters who are world leaders, and takes place in a world that's in so much trouble that the leaders hire an actor to save the day. The film apparently lets the marionette strings show openly and doesn't try to smooth over the jerks and wobbles in the characters' movements. It's just too bad somebody can't figure out a way to do that with real politicians.

posted at: 17:06 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry


We got the leftover, long, slow swaying here from an earthquake around 10:16 this morning. I guess the Parkfield area finally got another quake. They used to have them almost like clockwork. I hope this one didn't hurt anybody.

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

The Disease That Sprawl Produces

Just as the Santa Cruz Sentinel ran a story on the local Watsonville land grab (and do note their truthful statement that the Buena Vista annexation is being met with "stiff resistance), another set of reports came out. It seems that all this tendency to sprawl is prducing disease. Of course, I'm fairly certain the Watsonville contingent would argue that their plans include stores that the new locals in the high-density housing can walk to. The rest of us will just have to deal with the congestion and noise, and we had better be ready to spend more time on the roads than we do now, with all those thousands of extra people spilling onto Highway 1 in the morning. It sounds to me like what they'd better be planning to build is another hospital for all the non-walking wounded.

posted at: 07:27 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Sun, Sep 26 2004

Ceiling Fan Baseball

Here's a rainy-day game that will last as long as the power doesn't get knocked out.

posted at: 15:44 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Sat, Sep 25 2004

Down Time

We seem to be back up and running. Sometime Thursday morning (two days ago) our DSL service was suddenly interrupted, and we learned there was some problem with Yahoo SBC's connections. Unfortunately, when they got the problem fixed, we still had no service and it took until just a few hours ago for us to get it restored. Their first tier customer service appears to be outsourced now, and while their people are patient and thorough, they had no idea what to do when my husband, who used to work for a modem manufacturer, began speaking to them about things like Redback (or Rback) and DSLAM. They were not authorized to do things such as trace routes, so he had to go through about two hours of steps that had nothing to do with what our problem was, and then finally they transferred him to a second tier person who had the problem fixed within about 2 minutes.

It would be great if these companies would ping their customers' connections after such an outage, so that they would know whose connections were still not working after they think they have fixed the widespread outage. I guess someone, somewhere, decided that wasn't going to be part of customer service. So we went an extra day without service because we did not know that we should have called for some extra step on their end because they had suddenly configured something differently on their end.

Billing owes us 2 days of credit. It won't pay for the frustration and delays in our own work, but they should at least do that much.

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

Thu, Sep 23 2004

Blog Tiers?

Vox Day led me to a post on The Evangelical Outpost, in which a sort of informational hierarchy of new media is presented by Joe Carter, with blogs being represented in the mix as lower tiers. This is followed by the observation that most information tends to trickle down in this hierarchy, with noted exceptions being the recent investigative reporting and material regarding Michelle Malkin and also Dan Rather. I can see how this hierarchy might be a general notion on the part of blog readers, but I have to tell you that a lot of information and communication often begins in Tiers 4-6 and is then distributed to people in Tiers 1 and 2. And beyond. Way beyond. A contact is a contact. (I'm not giving out any names or details though, so please don't ask.)

And if you think no one takes Tiers 4-6 as a serious source of information and media work in general, you haven't looked at the access logs of those who blog from these so-named lower tiers. And I'm not just talking about news media. I'm talking about the military, judicial personnel, business representatives and educators.

It would be downright foolish of those in Tiers 4-6 to blog and tell, but their perceived low status on this version of the media totem pole might just be what keeps them in contact with people in ways those in Tiers 1-3 might be unable to experience.

posted at: 08:32 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Wed, Sep 22 2004

There Are Redskins And Then There Are Redskins: What Does It Mean?

Should the state be able to forbid schools to call their sports teams "Redskins"? Governor Schwarzenegger says no.

I would need to know a lot more about the history of this term than I do now, in order to really take sides. I do find it interesting that the assemblywoman had tried to get this ban with a longer list of forbidden names in the past, and later whittled her list down to the one word. Did the original list have some names that were less offensive, and how does one arrive at such conclusions?

I have heard more than one story on the origin of the term "redskin". One thought is that it was used as a description of basic skin undertone. (I have to say this makes little sense to me. I've met people of other origins with a lot ruddier skin tone than any American Indian I've known.) Another thought is that the term "redskin" was actually a step up from the use of the word "scalps" in the bounty placed on slain American Indians. If that's true, I would think the term "scalps" might also be considered taboo. (Somehow, it doesn't get the same negative reaction.) Or, was "redskin" taken from a term used to refer to the red clay that some American Indians used to paint on their skin? The professional sports team, the Washtington Redskins, has dealt with this issue, as have other teams, communities and businesses.

It's tough to blend folklore and history into the politically correct present without some high emotions on all sides. I do find it admirable that people are talking about the issue, especially in the local settings, and especially with the American Indian citizens' best interests at heart. A law isn't always the answer. A law can't change hearts and it can't change minds. But coming together with good intentions can change everything.

posted at: 14:27 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Tue, Sep 21 2004

Taxpayer Reality Show Casting Call

Ah, how the mighty have fallen. But Cody Cluff is still getting some applause, while politicians are being blamed for the conditions that tempted Mr. Cluff to color outside the lines. Meanwhile, Rebecca Barrantes, who had once been considered for the position Mr. Cluff held, has gone on to create The Sierra Group. I wonder if things would have been different if she had EIDC. I guess now we'll never know. And now the politicians get to save the day by working hard to keep groups such as EIDC honest and hard-working.

I realize that some of what Mr. Cluff spent money on was for personal gratification, but aside from any moral or legal judgments against him, what no one seems to be telling us at this point is whether or not Mr. Cluff's seduction tactics with the film people have resulted in more film work actually being located in the Los Angeles area. And if what the L.A. politicians really wanted was someone to take producers to strip clubs and wine and dine them, the politicians could have cut out Mr. Cluff, who served as the middle man, and they could have courted the producers with their own expense accounts, spending the taxpayers' money themselves, the way they usually do.

But let's not be too negative about the way it worked out. Mr. Cluff will move on to other arenas. And the politicans can certainly market this particular scenario with a whole lot more fingers still pointed at Mr. Cluff than at them. And scandal sells, so they might even get another reality show out of it all. I hear reality shows cost a lot less money to produce and use fewer union actors. I wonder if the L.A. taxpayers feel as though they're getting their money's worth? Somehow, I doubt it. I do know one thing. I miss great movies and great TV. I've had just about all of this reality I can stand.

posted at: 10:45 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Mon, Sep 20 2004

When Old Is New Again

Having attained the half-century mark almost two years ago, I'm still getting used to the idea that part of the way young strangers interact with me now might be based on their perception of me as someone who is to be treated as some fearsome creature who reminds them that their own youth is a temporary condition. I'm always surprised when I receive a little deferential treatment just because I'm now old enough to be someone's grandma. I like to earn respect the hard way. So I'm looking forward to that next phase. I do know there does come a point in aging, where a senior man or woman bursts forth out of this respectable cocoon society has reserved for the average senior. He or she looks around and realizes that the journey to the last part of life is not worthwhile until one lifts those wings and takes a solo flight into territory that would been bewildering the first twenty or thirty years of life. They are taken seriously again, much the way they were as a young person, when anything could be dreamed and anything could be dared. I want that phase to be there for me, but I'll bide my time through this awkward passage. I'm eager though, for the rest of the world to see me, not as some failing caterpillar, but as a fledging butterfly with rip-roaring colors and a flight plan taking me straight into glory. I hope the younger people will catch up to me socially then, and will see me the way I see myself. Granny D is in that soaring stage right now. She earned her wings. She knows it and we know it. And she's wise enough to let us go along for the ride.

posted at: 11:45 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Sun, Sep 19 2004

It's Ready: American Indian History, Culture And Art At The Smithsonian

Tuesday, September 21, is the Grand Opening of the National Museum of the American Indian. I hear the museum will include areas that have been planted to simulate early living conditions. Live demonstations by Indian craftspeople will be a regular feature. The place sounds fabulous, and isn't it about time we had such a great display of our early American residents? I was also glad to hear that people from various tribes have had a hand in the design, including Douglas Blackfoot from Canada. I love his style because he uses simple patterns to create a series of gliding, powerful curves. His buildings create a sense of natural shadow and light that make them look equally at home in both rural and metropolitan settings.

posted at: 14:12 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

With Painful Change Comes Nostalgia

The recent extremist activities involving separatists in Chechnya have apparently evoked familiar gut rumblings of an old nemesis to Democracy. It's been painful to hear about the unrest and violence. It does seem that no country or region ever comes to democracy without violence and bloodshed, and that is a very sad thing. Our own country's history is full of revolution and civil war, so we can hardly stand back and criticize the general population of Russia for wanting respite from violence.

If what we are seeing in Russia in the last few days is the beginning of some old ways, we have to understand that the general populous there has still not seen the true meaning of democracy and freedom. Change is tough for everyone, but when the change doesn't bring the promised reward on a wide enough basis, it becomes a lot easier to revert to the old, familiar way of thinking. The old ways might seem to us to have dished up a very skimpy plate for the Russian people, but if the old way provided the basic needs of food and shelter and the physical protection from insurgents, people might yearn for these things if what they have now seems uncertain and maybe even unattainable without risking their children's lives.

There have been a lot of reports coming to us that tell us Vladimir Putin and other leaders in Russia are pulling away from the idea of free elections, and are instead attempting to revert to old ways that threaten to take us back to a time that brings to mind frightening images of the Cold War. How far does one have to come before an old era can be viewed, not with longing and nostalgia, but with a view balanced by hope of how great things could be in the future? I believe the Russian people have had at least a glimpse of that hope. The era of the Iron Curtain and the Cold War is behind. We've all come too far this time to just slip backward. The world has moved on to other agendas and other visions. No one country can be that completely isolated and insulated anymore. I hope the Russian leaders will realize that, and will make their coming decisions with a desire to encourage Russia's citizens to aspire to true greatness. It's a new day. It's fine to look back. But in the end, nobody will really go back. Not the leaders of Russia, not the people of Russia, and certainly not the rest of us who interact with the Russian people.

posted at: 11:01 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

How Many Words Per Minute Is That?

The site for National Novel Writing Month is launching a new look on October 1.

They'll have new t-shirts, a place for expanded profiles with pictures, and lots more. But the basic idea is still taking the 30 days of November to write a 175-page novel of 50,000 words.

posted at: 08:22 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Sat, Sep 18 2004

A Smattering Of Web Gleanings From This Week

This interesting self-test will help you zero in a bit on what archetypes are calling to you. I like this one because it leaves the possibility open that things could change in the future while still giving you an idea of what media images are affecting you most at present.

Why should books be packed in boxes or stacked on shelves in rooms? Why can't more of them be out there moving around for the benefit of many minds? I guess that's what got some other people thinking, and so, now there is BookCrossing.

We've all heard of the Better Business Bureau, but now there's also the Bad Business Bureau.

Find great copyright-free photos at the Gimp-Savvy photo archive.

Here's an interesting tool to help you brainstorm names for a web site.

posted at: 14:59 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Fri, Sep 17 2004

Kudos To Hurricane Relief Workers

As yet another storm is churning toward the East Coast, Ask Jeeves and the American Red Cross are partnering to help those dealing with the aftermath of this hurricane season.

One of my other favorite disaster relief organizations, ADRA, has been hard at work in Cuba, helping to clean up and to repair damage to homes, schools and agricultural property.

Salvation Army teams have been busy in Florida and are trying to rest and regroup between storms.

Other groups have been busy too. Southern Baptist units are feeding people in shelters and at worker staging areas. Churches themselves have become shelters and staging areas, after many on the coasts had to flee their homes.

Even canine workers have been on alert for extra duty.

I couldn't find one word of bragging on their web site, but I hear from other sources that Knight Transportation is one of many businesses who have helped. They have been donating the use of their refrigerated trucks from the Charlotte, North Carolina area, to get food and supplies to affected areas.

Countless military personnel, law enforcement officers, fire fighters and utility workers have been on overtime and then some. Medical workers are taking extra shifts to care for patients, sometimes with only backup power sources to assist them.

And even though we all kid about the news folks being the last to stand out in the storm (and them loving every minute of it), they really do perform an invaluable service as people huddle around a portable TV or radio to catch bits of information about their neighborhood or their loved ones being affected by these storms.

When this hurricane season is finally over, there's something else we can all do. We can keep giving to organizations that help in disasters, because their resources are going to be stretched to the breaking point. And if we can throw some tourism dollars into the affected areas later on, I'm sure it will be much appreciated.

posted at: 09:00 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Thu, Sep 16 2004

Blog Power

If you doubt the power of blogs in today's world, check this out. Behind the Homefront pointed to news of soldiers with blogs being called on the carpet for their blog posts. My War is still up and running, but this sort of report is very telling. Of course, if a soldier's blog really does present a security risk, the advice to choose words carefully before posting makes sense. Still, common sense says that anytime someone tries to get a writer to pull back on the reins of writing, it means the writing is worrisome, if not downright threatening, for the one putting pressure on the writer. Right or wrong, blogs are commanding a greater-than-ever share of interest in the online world of communication.

posted at: 14:45 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Politics Is Serious Stuff, So Laugh!

I really liked the interview LA Weekly did this week. Nikki Finke spoke with Jay Leno. I've always enjoyed that part of the work comedians do in taking public news stories and running them past a series of funhouse mirrors. These mirrors don't change the news, but instead, they bloat and stretch the stories into loony reflections so that we can bear to look and laugh at it all for a few moments, knowing all the while that we'll have to step outside the fun house and face the real stuff again in a little while.

For some reason, some people get angry when comedians are really good at this.

When political comedy pushes my buttons, I've learned not to get angry at the comedian, but to stop and ask myself why I can't bear to look in the mirrors for a few moments. If I can manage to do this, I usually learn something about my own prejudices and passions. Jay can't reinvent the bad news or pretend it didn't happen. Jay's job, as a comedian, is to just drag me kicking and screaming past those funhouse mirrors in the funniest way possible. I'm just glad he's up for the task.

posted at: 10:11 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Wed, Sep 15 2004

Dante's Monopoly: Directly To Hell

If we are to believe Declan McCullagh from CNET, it could be that in the world of the internet and its related activities, it won't make a lot of difference who is elected president in November.

Unfortunately, I see this with an increasing number of issues. Time and time again, while the candidates and the two major political parties take a few hard-line stances, the question of what types of programs our taxes will be spent on is the only true question. The Republicans tend to want to put more into defense-related programs, and the Democrats tend to want to put more into other things, such as environmental protection. Lobbyists, pork barrel prostitutes, fraternity pals and cronies add their own pet projects into the mix and we get something like a Dante's Monopoly game. Taxpayers have to mortgage the past, pay on the present, and gamble the future just to make it past Go one more time. And it won't change until Americans realize we don't have to vote for one of two people whose platforms are more alike than different.

posted at: 11:21 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Tue, Sep 14 2004

Plenty Of WMDs For Everyone: Just Add Water?

While everybody moans and groans about Iran and North Korea (and everybody else) developing nuclear weaponry, are there really several existing nuclear devices already occupying ocean floors across the planet?

I'm just asking. You see, back where I come from, radioactivity tends to get people a bit agitated. In terms of dollars spent to hunt them down, high levels of existing radioactivity would win out over nonexistent nukes in a Missouri minute. They must have changed the spending rules since I came to live in California, but it makes a huge difference to me. Now I live right next to all that Pacific ocean water, which is a whole lot closer to me than North Korea or Iran. I knew the ocean was powerful and deep, but I didn't realize just how much power was deep under those waves. Somewhere out there, we have what certain levels of intelligence might crpytically call a situation. Or, maybe a whole lot of situations.

Ivan is bearing down on the Gulf Coast, and it might be a horrible storm, and we might not be able to prevent its destruction. But could we prevent other destruction? A Missourian might say, "Show me." But I live in California now. I've learned a thing or two. And I say, "Show me the money."

posted at: 10:39 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Flowing Chocolate

How about this to make your next big gathering memorable?

posted at: 09:30 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Mon, Sep 13 2004

A Hanging Place To Hang Your Coat

Some of us live in bungalows or condos or other cozy spaces that don't always have a defined front entryway. While I might dream of 6-foot tall giraffe sculpture greeting friends at the door and a cavernous closet to hold the coats and purses of guests, the reality is that our front door opens directly into the general living space. Without an architectural miracle, we're not likely to have room for such things in the near future. So I was very intrigued by this coat rack that hangs from the ceiling.

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

A Room With A View Is No Problem At This Inn

Drive-in theatres are disappearing from our landscape, but in Monte Vista, Colorado, the Voice of America reports that the Best Western Movie Manor Motor Inn is bringing people back with its unique location. Most of the rooms at the Inn have a large window, which is not unusual until you find out what the view out that window is. Sound is piped into the rooms, and during the day when a movie's not playing, you have the advantage of being in Colorado's high plains, with the Sangre de Cristo and the San Juan mountains for your viewing pleasure. And when the kids fall asleep watching the family-friendly films, bed is only a step away.

posted at: 08:54 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Santa Cruz County Fair, September 14-19

The Santa Cruz County Fair opens tomorrow. For the past few years, many hands have worked to restore the large Rodgers House, which was once occupied by Esther Steinbeck Rodgers. One archived photo shows author John Steinbeck carving the family turkey at Thanksgiving. The house was moved to the fairgrounds in 1998, and has become a permanent exhibit showcasing the area's agricultural roots. In earlier days, apples were the largest agricultural activity, but in recent decades, strawberry rows have increasingly taken a lot of the area landscape that was once full of orchards.

This year's fair theme is "Miles of Smiles", and I'll be making a special effort to visit the displays of local produce. A good friend spent many hours building a wonderful, scaled-down airplane for the Ag Building. The plane will greet fairgoers from above as it makes a turn, with a certain familiar pilot at the controls. I can't give away any more secrets. You'll just have to go visit and see for yourself.

posted at: 06:48 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Sun, Sep 12 2004

But Seriously, Folks

I hope Hurricane Ivan isn't too horrible to the folks in Cuba. More importantly, if Ivan does decide to give them a bad time, I hope we are among the first to offer help. While political candidates (and their supporters) here argue about who did (or didn't) do this or that during military service in their early careers, and while we Americans all argue about our country's actions in the Middle East, the United States and Cuba still bear many scars from a conflict that goes back more than 40 years. Don't we sound just a wee bit arrogant tossing our opinions back and forth about Iraq when we still don't exchange goods and travel with one of the countries nearest to us? I hope we can all manage to close our mouths for awhile, and shape our busy little fists into open hands that help our neighbors in distress.

posted at: 12:37 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Sat, Sep 11 2004

11 on 11

Following September 11, 2001, many of us were so stunned that we didn't comprehend the true aftermath of the events until much later, when we could begin to separate our feelings from our duties. Today I decided to list a few links to the articles and stories that came later. They are not comprehensive, and might even seem trite to some of you, but all touch on facets of life that we might have glossed over or taken for granted in prior years.

Howard Lutnik's Second Life

Tribute to Bear, Search and Rescue dog

Effects of September 11 on Google

Cinematic Fall Out

Keynote Address from Bill Moyers, October 16, 2001

How Survivors Feel

Labor Effects of September 11

Writings in Reaction

Fundraising Stamp

Other Theories on 9-11-2001

Mysterious 11

posted at: 18:02 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Fri, Sep 10 2004

Match Mail

I've heard of flame mail, but this is ridiculous. I keep wondering why there might be matches lying around in maximum-security prisons. Is it because prisoners and workers smoke? I know that some prisons are trying to ban smoking. Some people think the ban is a great idea, but prisons have run into trouble when they bumped into issues of religious freedom. Of course, advocates of clean air, including those who live or work in prisons, have fiercely fought back to keep smokers at bay. Some folks even think that smoking and crime go together. If that's true, then what about this report? If smoking causes crime, we should have a high percentage of Native American female smokers who turn to crime. Kentuckians should build more prisons to house all those Kentucky smokers. And if we can go ahead and incarcerate Americans until they are 75, only eight percent of them will continue to smoke (and thus commit crimes).

What does it all really mean? I have no idea, but if the person (or persons) who sent the matches through the mail meant to send a message about bans on smoking, I'll bet our state governor wasn't on the list. I hear he indulges in tobacco a bit now and then himself.

posted at: 09:25 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Thu, Sep 09 2004

Empathy For Stunt Pilots

Well, the Genesis probe crash was disappointing, to say the least. Dan Rudert, and first-in-line Cliff Flemming, had to be even more disappointed after training and practicing for so long. But Cliff has an impressive list of film credits, and I hear that Dan was taking time out from his own film work to fly the mission for NASA. Young Top Gun types are nice, but I have to say it's great fun to have a few working cowboys in the over-40 category. And from what I hear, neither of these guys is going to be hanging up his spurs for a long time.

posted at: 08:32 | category: /Science | link to this entry

Wed, Sep 08 2004

Stunt Work for NASA

Since I'm a big fan of helicopters, the snagging of the capsule from Genesis holds great interest for me. I don't know if the stunt pilots will get any suspense-enhancing soundtrack for their work, but this stunt still must feel like the job of a liftime.

posted at: 07:19 | category: /Science | link to this entry

Tue, Sep 07 2004

Is Global Warming An Issue Of Freedom?

Do we really have the ability to slow down global warming? This is a project we might want to sink our efforts and money into right away. I know we've been very busy with the visible war on terror, and rightly so. But when we speak of people fighting and dying for freedom, we sometimes forget just who the enemy is. With apologies to the late Walt Kelly and his spokespossum, Pogo, sometimes the enemy really is us. We often speak of dying for the freedom of others, but would we live for the freedom of others? Our lifestyle choices now could help make a real difference in how freely future generations will be able to move about and make use of water, power and other resources. Maybe we can't completely stop political and religious terrorists, but we can certainly work to control our own runaway use of this planet's resources. If a reward to others justifies the cost of dying, it should merit no less in the cost of living.

posted at: 10:16 | category: /Science | link to this entry

Write Lightning: Celebrity Bail Jumpers Welcome Here

I keep seeing accesses to Write Lightning via searches on Google for "how to jump bail". Sorry, folks. I have no such knowledge. I jump to conclusions once in awhile, but that's the extent of it. Still, since I do enjoy a bit of the Old West, so I suppose I should join in the spirit of the whole game. If you really are looking for a good way to jump bail, I suggest you consult a bounty hunter. They've probably heard and seen every bail jumper tactic there is. Maybe Dog Chapman can help you flee. If not, you'll at least have the pleasure of being caught by one of the best there is. And one of the most well-known. Hey now. If you're going to jump bail, you might as well go with a little panache, and entertain the rest of us. You owe all of us taxpayers at least that much.

posted at: 08:32 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Mon, Sep 06 2004

Who Can Think About Labor With All This Going On?

There have been a lot of wild things going on this Labor Day weekend, not the least of which has been the misery from Hurricane Frances. The storm battered the Bahamas before it sat off the coast of Florida, and then it finally moved through the state. Now everyone is hoping it won't gather strength in the warm gulf waters.

As if Japan's two major earthquakes weren't bad enough, coastal residents were also put on tsunami alert as a result of the shakings.

California's wildfires are nothing new, some might say, but the fires caused Pacific Gas and Electric to reroute electricity on days during a heat wave where temperatures were already approaching three digits and putting a strain on power.

These and other events that have sent rescue workers, volunteers and just plain neighbors and kind people to help. Even when things go wrong, it's great to see people easing suffering and helping others cope during trouble.

In the last few days, the North Ossetian tragedy in Russia has affected me deeply, because it was entirely preventable. The other events I mention here brought out the best of humanity, but the ruthless cruelty to those children in Beslan was sparked by the very worst of humanity. The terrorists are directly responsible for some 300 deaths, and their acts will gain no sympathy for their cause. In the long run, this may ruin their chances of ever getting anything they want. When a group makes it clear that all other people, and especially children, are merely pawns to be used to prove their own superiority, they have fairly well already lost, and have proved themselves, no superior, but raving maniacs with no sense of direction or purpose. Oh, they might manage to kill more people and cause more destruction, but there comes a point when the rest of the planet's inhabitants will stop being just afraid of them, and fear to anger. Unfortunately, when that happens, a lot of people will be mistaken for terrorists and there will be more innocent blood shed. Will the rest of us become like those we are angry at right now? If we do, not only have they lost, but we've lost. Sometimes I envision God finally deciding to step in like the mom who sees her kids fighting, and tells them, "I don't care who started it. I'm putting a stop to it right now."

posted at: 07:56 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Sun, Sep 05 2004

Hurricane Comings And Goings

I keep hearing that the Bermuda High is part of what causes hurricanes to move along the familiar path that so often takes them into Florida and its adjoining states. I wonder if this phenomenon is also part of what feeds all the mysterious talk about the supposed Bermuda Triangle. I doubt very much that meteorologists think the two are connected, but people seem to love a good mystery, so the talk continues.

We heaped a great deal of praise, and rightly so, on firefighters, police, rescue teams and utility workers after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The people who work for Florida Power and Light and the law enforcement folks who patrolled streets long after others had gone to shelter have proved themselves to be heroes during this hurricane.

Once the storm has weakened and folks begin the task of cleaning up its destruction, I hope all the workers get some rest, because all current indications show that, within the next week or two, folks on the East Coast will need to turn their attention to Ivan.

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

Fri, Sep 03 2004

Actual Path Of Hurricane Frances Wider Than It Looks

Sometimes when people talk to me about living in California, they tell me they could never live here because we have earthquakes and wildfires. But no one is exempt from disaster, and when there is a disaster somewhere, it's wise to remember that we are all affected in one way or another. It's also nice to know the neighbors are there for you. I hope everyone will stay safe during Hurrican Frances' reign of terror. If you are not in the hurricane's direct path, and you feel like helping those who are heavily affected, you can always visit the American Red Cross and make a donation. You don't have to give a lot. Did you know that you can donate through a lot of Coinstar locations?
For more on the ways groups and individuals are responding to Hurricane Frances, visit Disaster News Network.

posted at: 10:27 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Thu, Sep 02 2004

Aquariums In New Places

I've always imagined I would enjoy having an aquarium, though I've talked to enough aquarium owners to know that the things take a fair amount of upkeep if you want to keep the inhabitants alive and healthy. But there are a lot of new products that help with that. One product even doles out the fish food for you.

Then there is the matter of the space required to keep an aquarium. I like the idea, and the compact design, of the aquariums you can mount on the wall.

This aquarium is unique, but I can't help but wonder what the fish think when you brush your teeth and spit into the basin.

posted at: 10:22 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Wed, Sep 01 2004

Network Solutions Needs More Time

There seems to be some difficulty with this domain right now. We had registered it with Network Solutions a couple of years ago, and this year we decided to move the registration when it came time for renewal. But we didn't realize that Network Solutions would not let go of the domain registration for 60 days. (Their policy does state such a waiting period on new registrations, but not on transfers when a domain name has expired.)

Of course, we never intended it to come to this. Somehow the request we made for a transfer was not complete by the time the name expired, even though we did it a week or two ahead of time. So, Network Solutions said they would have to hold the expired registration for 60 days. We can't find anything in the agreement that says they would do that if it expired. In fact, their agreement mentions words such as "deactivated" and "deleted" in the event of expiration. We had to pay a fee to them to register the name for another year so that they would release the name (which belongs to us, the customer). It's rather a confusing process that we had not run into before. The Network Solutions customer support people were polite, but firm, on the phone. It isn't their fault that they work for people who hold a domain name hostage. We're not very happy with Network Solutions right now, as one can imagine.

But, success in life does depend on learning from difficuties one enounters. I've been reading more about this whole thing in an effort to prevent future woes, so I've been spending a good deal of time this morning at the ICANN web site. I still don't know if what Network Solutions did is correct procedure, but I do believe it is unfortunate of them to force us to renew for another year with them before we can transfer the registration to another registrar. The whole thing simply got bogged down in process, and now the new registrar, which is SBC Yahoo!, is attempting to do their best to set things in place, but has had some difficulty doing so, because of the holding of the registration by Network Solutions. SBC Yahoo! customer support people have also been very nice on the phone. But we have ended up being charged (by Network Solutions) for another year of registration for a domain which we are going to go ahead and transfer to SBC Yahoo! anyway. And I have a feeling that our other domain names will follow. Is the ill will created by all this worth it to Network Solutions? I wonder. We all know that a dissatisfied customer tends to tell a lot more people about a transaction than a satisfied customer.

I wanted to mention this for anyone considering a transfer. Be sure to do something with your domain name well ahead of the supposed expiration date of your current registration. A few weeks is apparently not time enough for the old registrar (at least in the case of Network Solutions) to get back to you and arrange to release the registration. If we have been inconvenienced, maybe we can at least save someone else a little hassle.

I'm being very polite here. Have you noticed? Thank you. More to come. I guarantee it.

posted at: 09:34 | category: /Miscellaneous | 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!