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




Tue, Nov 30 2004

When These Worlds Collide It's A Lot Of Fun

I found a lovely place where the world of science and the world of science fiction do a happy handshake. If you write science fiction or you just want to stretch the scientific side of your brain, check out Technovelgy.com.

posted at: 07:33 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Mon, Nov 29 2004

Heading 'Em off At The Pass

You can see if someone is rustling content off your web site with Copyscape.

posted at: 17:55 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



The Return Exchange: No. No Thank You, But No

I was not happy to read about the trend toward tracking returned merchandise. At the very least, the software used by these stores should also note the total dollar amount of the purchaser's transactions. If I've spent $800 at a store in the last year, but I had to return 10 items that were the wrong size, or were defective, I don't want my name going into some database that could eventually be subscribed to by credit agencies and could affect my credit rating. I try to shop with integrity, and nothing makes me more angry than an assumption that I have criminal motives. If Home Depot and Lowe's want my business from now on, they had better be willing to assure me that my purchases will result in no negative information about me being placed in some database in the event that I might need to return the merchandise. Period. If they can't do that, I will find other places to buy what I need. And I've already spoken with at least six other consumers who feel the same way. The Return Exchange salesforce may be very pleased with their hot new software, but if retailers don't want a drop in sales, they had better be doing some PR damage control, and had better be quick about it.

posted at: 09:35 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry



Sat, Nov 27 2004

A Candle In The Window

I'm working hard to ready the December 2004 issue of Deb's Monthly Review, so have not had much time to post blog entries. For those of you who are looking at holiday lighting tasks right now, take a look at these Sillites Electric Window Candles, which plug right into a windowsill. We don't have windowsills in our house, but these clever lights make me wish we did.

posted at: 14:49 | category: /Playing | link to this entry



Wed, Nov 24 2004

Thank Heaven For Small Favors

Well, it is Thanksgiving week. One thing we can all be thankful for is that spectator John Green allegedly threw that cup of beer instead of drinking it down and then getting behind the wheel of a car. And we can be thankful the battling athletes hadn't been drinking at all, or else their judgment might have been further impaired in the whole matter.

posted at: 09:11 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry



Tue, Nov 23 2004

A Dollar Buys A Whole Lot More Than It Used To

I think both Eric and Shrode are headed down the right path with their thoughts on winning the lottery. I've met quite a few people who think all their problems would be over if they just had a few million dollars. But, to a person, the folks who have insisted on that have been unable to handle the little bit of money they have. If they get a windfall of even a few hundred dollars it's gone in no time. Their plan for savings is to save money after everyone and everything else is paid, and there is always someone else, or something else, to be paid. So they never have much in savings. Those dollars they hand over for a lottery ticket represent the fantasy of exchanging a dollar for a few million dollars. But the likelihood is that they'll go home and keep making the same kinds of choices they made before they bought the ticket. They don't think the way a "rich" person does, so they never take steps to really attract the kind of monetary wealth they daydream about.

I've bought a few lottery tickets over the years, very sporadically, and In total I've probably spent less than thirty dollars on tickets. But I knew each time I bought one that I had a chance of winning. So I've never played casually. I've thought about the immediate and long-term choices I would have to make if the winning amount came to me. Of course, the odds of winning are astronomical, but for those who win, odds go out the window. So planning to win is as essential as playing.

Maybe the problem with most folks who play the lottery is that they gamble away that dollar for a ticket with more positive thinking than they give to their everyday choices in life. It's much easier and less painful for them to fantasize over beating the astronomical chances of winning the lottery than it is to do the work of making real changes in their life habits and choices and to risk the disappointment of failing.

If life seems to be handing us lemons over and over, there may be a reason. The choices we make from day to day affect our circumstances a whole lot more than the choice we make to hand over a dollar for a lottery ticket. If I ever find myself thinking the gamble of a dollar will solve all my problems, then I haven't yet begun to contemplate the real cost of playing, and I haven't yet become willing to make the day-to-day choices that could make my life better with or without a few extra million dollars.

Sure, it's fun to play. But I have a challenge for you. If you want a real thrill, take out a dollar bill right now. Cut a piece of blank paper roughly the size of that dollar. On one side of that blank sheet of paper, fill the white space with a list of things you like about yourself. Turn the paper over and write down all the steps you could take to be good to yourself right now and improve your life without spending those few million dollars you might win in a lotter. They must be steps within your reach right now, no matter how small they seem. Wrap the paper around that dollar and carry it with you. Read the steps every day and make a conscious choice to do them or not, but don't buy one more lottery ticket until you take at least one of those steps. Check the list every time you want to buy another ticket. If you cross off all the steps at some point, start another sheet of paper. And don't forget to use the other side of that new paper to write down what you like about yourself as you are right that minute. By concentrating on the reality of the power you have right now you might find out just how very rich you are and how much of your destiny you hold right in your hands. And no tax man or bill collector can take that kind of worth away from you. Pretty good odds.

posted at: 09:08 | category: /Playing | link to this entry



Mon, Nov 22 2004

A Penny Saved

I love this story of the Santa Cruz area Comerica Bank branch manager. She found a coin collection and has been tracking down the son of the original owner. It's the most personal service I've seen a bank give in a long time. It's nice to know there are good people like Bonnie Weaver who still willing to go the extra mile. And I'd guess she's having a lot of fun doing it.

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



Fri, Nov 19 2004

Angst And Immersion: And We Can't Wait For More

Earlier this week Pauly D took us on an imaginary eavesdropping trip so that we could listen in to Screenwriter Angst in L.A.. And Steve, over at onepotmeal, took us along as he threw himself into a story immersion.

Writing is hard work at times. A lot of people think they can be writers until they find out that writing sometimes means going all by yourself into a room to write, shutting everyone else out and still somehow managing to stay interesting. In that room, alone, you'll go into places in your mind that would make most people recoil.

Other people may ridicule your lack of a "real" job. You'll prostitute yourself as an artist. You'll write things you don't get paid for in order to get jobs to write things you will get paid for. And you'll go back to that room again and again, of your own free will, because you know it has to be done. And even though you suffer angst and even though you know you could lose your grip on reality in the immersion of story, you know that reality and truth are not one and the same. The world is full of reality, and people are sick of it. And reality is only one person's perception over another anyway. Truth, though rarely seen, is the real stuff of the universe, and the writer in you finds absolute joy in digging through all the terrifying layers of reality in order to get at the stuff of truth and share it with those who read what you write.

posted at: 10:46 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



My Virtual Red Kettle

The story that Target stores won't be having kettles and bell ringers from The Salvation Army was disappointing to me. The Salvation Army helps people from every walk of life and they've done so for a very long time.

To be truthful, I don't think Target's decision would bother me nearly so much if I wasn't already disgusted with the local Target store. When Target stores first opened back in the 1980s they were clean and bright and full of energetic employees eager to serve. The merchandise was fresh and displayed attractively. When I go into the local Target store here, I can hardly find anyone to speak enough English to help me. I wanted a heating pad one day and I went to 3 different people asking where I might find one. Two people sent me to the wrong part of the store and the third person couldn't understand what a heating pad was and I didn't speak enough Spanish to get my point across in that language. I left her standing near a cash register. She made no effort to ask anyone else to help me. I walked the aisles, frustrated and angry, until I spied a young man who looked as though he knew where he was headed. I stopped him and asked if he had any idea where I might find a heating pad. He smiled and told me he was from a store in another area of the state, but that he would try to help me. He walked with me to the (correct) department and stayed with me until he was sure I was in the right section. I thanked him and told him I wished he would come and work at the local store.

I love the Target commecials on TV. They're cheeful and upbeat and full of color. In fact, they're full of red, which is great, and it would be fun to associate that red with the red kettles of The Salvation Army. But I guess we won't be doing that.

I'm not asking anyone to boycott Target stores. Spend your money wherever you like. The reason I'm writing this is to ask everyone to consider the possibility of thinking of this blog posting as a kind of virtual red kettle. I'm not a member or employee of the Salvation Army. I don't speak for them. They don't even know I'm writing this. But I'm asking those of you who read this to consider making a small donation to them this holiday season. After all, you and I both know that if you were shopping in a Target store and a tornado came along and destroyed the building and you were trapped, and the employees of that store were trapped, the Salvation Army folks would be among the first on the scene to lend a hand.

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



Thu, Nov 18 2004

They'll Get You And Your Little Blog Too

Well, maybe not. After all the talk about blogs not being real journalism, it seems that the monster media companies are beginning to see the possibilities in these little gems. Some companies are even beginning to buy blogs.

The internet has given easy access to people who might never have been hired to participate in traditional media. Many writers have gotten attention they could never have gotten by sending queries to overworked editors. In recent years many publishing companies have begun to accept manuscripts only from agents. So writers have found themselves pitching not only to editors, but to agents, in an effort to get their words into print. Now writers have figured out that they can simply bypass a lot of these barriers by getting online and uploading their work for all to see.

The problem with big media buying up blogs from all the many hard-working bloggers is the mistaken idea that this will make everyone richer and happier. But it's the minds behind blogs that make them a worthwhile investment. Media buyers may be able to corner the market on popular blog names, but that still won't give them the original voice and talent of the minds that created the blogs and maintained a faithful readership. If bloggers start seeing dollar signs and start selling their blogs, they might get richer, in dollars, but they won't necessarily get the satisfaction of being recognized as writers. So I hope they don't rush to sell out too soon. And I hope the major media companies wise up to the real genius behind blogs and start paying writers for good work instead of just trying to buy their blog names.

posted at: 09:20 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Wed, Nov 17 2004

Art Pauses

Bloggers are a talented bunch. Beverly Tang launched her own line of jewelry earlier this month. Her work sports a clean design that is both soft and powerful at the same time. She makes great use of sterling silver and other metals. Have a look.

As a child I spent a lot of time on car trips between St. Louis and my little home town in Crawford County, and many of the trips were at night. The glow of neon signs along the way became like mile-markers for me and to this day I find myself unable to pass a neon sign without stopping to enjoy it. Now neon enhances more spaces than ever before.

If you've ever experienced the effect of light passing through stained glass windows you might be very moved by the lightpaintings of Stephen Knapp. Risen Blue is one of my favorites from his online gallery.

posted at: 09:08 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry



Tue, Nov 16 2004

Shin Splints

I had too much to do to get on the treadmill this morning and walk going nowhere, so I took a look at a clock and spent 35 minutes doing some clutter control around the house. I emptied wastebaskets, carried dirty laundry to the washer, took stacks of paper to the recycle bag and did other small tasks that probably didn't provide a lot of calorie-burning activity, but which still gave me a good sustained 35 minutes of activity. Unfortunately, I did it all in house slippers, and I must have misused some leg muscles, because I'm paying for it with shin splints.

There's something maddening about shin splints. The pain makes you frustrated. You meant well with all that motion, but in your attempt to sustain healthy activity you somehow managed to overbalance the upper portion and put unintended stress on the lower portion of the structure, which is the part that has to manage the final weight of things. You don't realize until later how much it hurts. And then it's too late to take back the steps that led you to the discomfort. All you can do is try to take it easy and hope the shooting pains don't last too long.

I could say much the same thing about the growing number of post-election cabinet changes.

posted at: 11:27 | category: | link to this entry



Mon, Nov 15 2004

Great American Smokeout Coming This Week

I don't have first-hand knowledge of cigarette addiction, because I only smoked passively the first 5 or 6 years of my life until my father quit cigarettes. By that time he had smoked for many decades and, unfortunately, he was already developing emphysema, though he didn't know that when he quit. He didn't give up tobacco entirely when he stopped smoking. Instead, he became a devout user of Day's Work chewing tobacco. Whenever he was presented with a social situation in which a spitoon would have been inappropriate or inconvenient, he would roll 2 sticks of chewing gum together into a tight spiral and hold the wad of gum in his cheek. He said it helped just to have something in his mouth.

I once talked to a young man who had been to rehab for all sorts of substance abuse, and he told me that beating cigarettes had been the most difficult battle of all, and the one thing he fought long after he had left rehab. We don't really think of the material in cigarettes as mind-altering in the same sense that alcohol or LSD might be, but it sounds as though science is finding that smoking could be making changes in the body that are associated with panic attacks. If this is true, it might mean they will find new ways of helping those who want to quit be more successful. While many of us have never personally experienced a "nicotine fit", we'll still be sending out good vibes to those who smoke and who choose to participate in the Great American Smokeout this coming Thursday, November 18.

posted at: 07:41 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry



Sun, Nov 14 2004

Does That Mannequin Make My Butt Look Big?

It looks as though a new fashion trend for mannequins, and maybe also for the female human form, is for bigger butts. Actually, I've never heard anyone complain about a woman's big butt as long as she had a small waist and a large bust to go with it. Remember all that talk about Marilyn Monroe having had a Size 12 or Size 14 figure? Several people have debunked that myth. The woman had a small waist, so if we're looking to Marilyn to justify our big stomachs, we're kidding ourselves.

posted at: 07:42 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry



Fri, Nov 12 2004

In The Complaint Department

So which one do you think people have fussed more about this week-- life interrupting art or art interrupting life?

posted at: 10:47 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry



The Doughnut Caper

Well, I guess some person (or persons) figured out that cops like sweets, and that if you like sweets too you can score a few doughnuts if you get to the courthouse before the cops do. This might be a crime easily discouraged if, instead of stacking those flashy pink boxes, they left empty boxes in the usual place and then hid the doughnuts in a carton marked "Tax Forms" (or something equally distasteful). Or maybe the deputies could stage a stake-out with the pink boxes in full fiew. To obtain real job satisfaction they could sit back and wait for the crooks to dive in and start chowing down on those fresh treats. Then the deputies could step out and wiggle a frosty milk carton at the sticky-fingered thieves.

You just can't beat the drama of true crime.

posted at: 10:29 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry



Thu, Nov 11 2004

VUMS: Elite Group

Since today is Veterans Day I looked for some online material, and came across an article featuring several veterans who began their military service very early in life when they managed to enlist underage.

posted at: 11:37 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry



Ted Knows Stuff And He Shares

One of the nice things about being a writer is that I get to know a lot of people who are a lot smarter than I am and who carry a lot of knowledge they dispense to the research junkies of the world. If you need to know things like where to find free software for DOS, or how to build a firewall, Ted's your man. He stockpiles a zillion resources and shares them freely online. Some of us need people like Ted to clue us in so we'll know that a bunch of high-tech types huddled in the corner talking about Snort are definitely looking to score. But they're seeking help for their networks--not their noses. Check out Teds Tech Site.

posted at: 07:29 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Wed, Nov 10 2004

Male Bashing In Advertising

I haven't yet seen the TV commercial for Verizon that features a father being discouraged from helping his daughter at the computer while she does her homework, but hearing that the commercial was upsetting some of the dads of America didn't surprise me. I've been noticing for some time that many commercials are written in such a way as to make the male characters who appear in them to be considerably less than average in intelligence. When Radio Shack did its series of commercials with Howie Long and Teri Hatcher I was completely put off by the way they had her interact with him. In one particular episode of sparring she actually reached out and cuffed him on the front of his coat with the back of her hand. They would never have aired such an ad if he had hit her. The little pop she gave him was presented in a playful manner, but it still had an undertone to it that said it was all right for a woman to haul off and smack a guy if she thought he was acting in an inferior manner. I never wrote to the company, but I loathed that whole series of commercials. In a few later ads, I saw Howie Long appear in them alone and I didn't miss one bit the character Teri Hatcher had portrayed.

That isn't the only example of male bashing I've seen in commercials either. Taco Bell has presented little scenarios in which young males are portrayed as some version of cavemen in jeans, who bolt down their fast food while they drool over an office-attired female who sits in a superior manner with a shoulder turned toward them.

Years ago I recall watching Sonny and Cher on TV while they did their patter of jokes in which Sonny always took the part of a devoted, but dumb, male foil while Cher popped off put-downs at him. I was uncomfortable at the laughs they got, and remember thinking at the time that this sort of thing might come back to bite someone in the butt. When they divorced later I wondered if people remembered all the belittling jokes. And sadly, the trend toward male bashing has only gotten worse, and is especially evident in advertising, where it's combined with humor and sarcasm and fed to us all in the living room on TV. It's a free country, and companies certainly have the right to produce any sort of commercials they like, as long as they keep it all legal. I just wish more of their advertising people would choose to take the high road. And I wish they understood, and would advertise to, women who like our men to be thinking, caring individuals who do their best and who challenge us to do likewise. Anyone want to sell me tacos and computers with that kind of an ad campaign? I'll be waiting with wallet in hand.

posted at: 07:47 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry



Tue, Nov 09 2004

Food Gifts

I love the holiday season, but the commercialization of the holidays has gotten worse and worse, and the bite it takes out of everyone's budget seems to be causing everyone severe post-holiday stress the last few years. We've decided to attempt to make a few Christmas treats as gifts this year, so I've been hunting for some recipes for things that can mixed up or baked in the kitchen. I may take a closer look at Gifts from the Kitchen for Dummies, or maybe Favorite Brand Names: Gifts from the Christmas Kitchen. If I can't find time to bake, I might resort to combining ingredients together in a creative package so I can give the gift of soup mixes. The Soup Mix Gourmet might be a good source for these. It's rough when you have very little time to bake and have even less time to sit around and dig for recipes. Maybe if I start this week I can be relaxing while the rest of you are tearing around and shopping for expensive knick-knacks in December. One nice thing about giving food at the holidays is that the recipient doesn't have to find a place to display it. They can just eat it.

posted at: 16:45 | category: /Food | link to this entry



Berlin Wall

15 years ago a bit of miscommunication on the part of East Germany officials led to a massive migration. While the original intention seems to have been to work on easing restrictions at the borders, thousands of people took the news as an invitation to show up and pass freely through the Berlin Wall. And the border guards let them through without a fight. It was practically a done deed before anyone had time to think about it.

The growing pains of Germany are still taking their toll. The people enjoy the freedom, but they also long for more security in their daily lives.

I think the reason November 9, 1989 stands out in our minds is because it was such a sudden and dramatic turn in a very visible way. We get excited when we see gates opened or statues toppled, and see people celebrating their brand new freedom. But the few moments of a tidal wave always demand a slow process of cleaning up and rebuilding. The real changes come slowly, long after the initial event.

posted at: 10:20 | category: /Politics | link to this entry



Mon, Nov 08 2004

Is He Still Just A Man Without A Country?

I've been wondering for days what kind of political spinning there would be if Yasser Arafat does not survive his illness. Blogger Sha! talked about several factors in Mr. Arafat's current position, which started me thinking. You'll pardon a writer's mind for a moment, while I imagine what would happen if an announcement came that Mr. A. had died, when in fact the whole thing had actually been a vehicle to get the leader out of a volatile region where he might otherwise have come to a violent end, the aftermath of which might be a conflict that rings with eschatological proportions.

Still, it would be hard to imagine Mr. Arafat leaving the land he loved for such a reason. I can more likely believe that he would go knowing he could accomplish something by leaving that he could never have accomplish by staying. He's always been a brazen guy with a cause. Sneaking off and pretending to be on his deathbed while he seeks some sort of geriatric asylum doesn't seem to be his style.

Whatever happens now, his opponents are actually the ones in the more precarious position, in some ways. If he rises like some Phoenix from the ashes to lead again, any negotiations will be on a new level. If he does not survive, his opponents are still going to be off-balance while they learn the stance of any new leader. If he survives, but doesn't have the good health it takes to lead, he could still inject a lot of influence in future dealings with Israeli and other world leaders.

From what I understand, the data conflicts when it comes to Yassir Arafat's birthplace. Some say it was in Cairo and some say it was in Jerusalem. It sounds as though there may be at least that much confusion about his placement now, speaking both geographically and politically.

posted at: 10:05 | category: /Politics | link to this entry



Sun, Nov 07 2004

Open Water Revisited

Friends Lynda and Michael, who got left behind on a scuba diving trip, can be seen on The Jane Pauley Show tomorrow, November 8. For your local viewing time, check here. Lynda and Michael have told their story quite a few times, and they maintain a web site called Left At Sea.

posted at: 20:22 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry



Fri, Nov 05 2004

Jumping Off

It's been a long week and we Americans are digesting the aftermath of an election that dwarfed almost every other national story for the last few months. Some of us got a lot of what we wanted this week and some of us are sorely disappointed. Elizabeth Edwards' choice to wait until after the election to tell us that she is battling cancer underscored everyone's wish to get the election over and done with so that we could all get on with what needs to be done.

In putting all this into perspective, I happened upon one little news item out of the central coast of California today. A wild condor that hatched earlier this year took its first flight as a completely wild bird this fall, and is the first truly wild condor to do that in more than two decades.

The young condor has no idea of its significance to humans, or that we've all been willing the species to survive and prosper. The condor is merely doing what it was born to do, whether anyone is watching or not. I think maybe we humans are like that, sometimes. Circumstances and the history that came before us dictate our jumping off place, and we may draw a crowd as we go about the business of just being human. Some people admire our efforts and other people will make fun of us with our every attempt. Humans are tempted to get discouraged when we're ridiculed and to puff up and get proud when we're cheered on. But every now and then I come across wise humans who, like the condors, ignore all that exterior hype and just do what they're born to do.

posted at: 15:34 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry



Thu, Nov 04 2004

More Electronic Voting Woes: UniLect Corporation

After their votes being lost November 2 we'll probably be able to add several thousand angry voters in North Carolina to those pesky "pounders and screamers" Jack Gerbel, UniLect company president, seems to have had such harsh words for.

posted at: 16:42 | category: /Politics | link to this entry



Humbled?

The breaking news stance that some bloggers adopted on November 2 might cause a few of them to eat a little humble pie, but my guess is that the majority of bloggers wouldn't have done their reporting any other way. Traditional media reporting was a bit more tame this year after past criticism that media announced election winners too quickly, sometimes getting results very wrong. Now I'm wondering if the attention blogs got for doing the same thing in this election will result in traditional media jumping back into the game next time. And humble pie isn't too hard to swallow when that next urge to get a scoop makes it an a la mode kind of experience.

posted at: 10:47 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



A Computer Purchase That Helps You And Also Helps Seniors

If you're shopping for used computers and components in Santa Cruz County and are on a limited budget or you just want to spend your money where it will do some good for someone else, check out Computer Outfitters. The store is run by the volunteers of California Grey Bears, an organization which assists seniors. They get fresh merchandise in almost every weekday, and both personnel and prices are friendly. The store is located at 2710 Chanticleer Avenue in Santa Cruz and is open 9a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Just look for the blue building on the property. While you're there, ask them to tell you more about all the great things the California Grey Bears do in the community. If you have questions you can call 831-479-1055.

posted at: 09:53 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry



Ashcroft Passing The Torch?

All I can think of to say is that we're exhausted too, Mr. Ashcroft. We're exhausted too.

posted at: 09:36 | category: /Politics | link to this entry



Wed, Nov 03 2004

Free Speech, Except For Celebrities?

I needed to put in my two cents' worth concerning a bit of buzz about the supposed fairly new blog of someone in the entertainment industry. Gossip maintains that the famous person is posting political writings without mentioning their own name or their "celebrity" status. I've read several snippy comments from folks who have a definite negative attitude when it comes to someone they call a celebrity expressing political views. Unfortunately, these are some of the same citizens who would fiercely defend the right of free speech in America. It's that same old mirror we've each bumped into when attempting to put our principles into practice. Can we walk the walk as well as talk the talk?

I don't know whether the blog in question is written by a celebrity or by a person who is not so well known. We're all celebrities in our own sphere of influence anyway. It's all relative. What I do know is that free speech has to be for each of us, or it isn't really very free. If you don't like someone's blog you can just move on to another. But saying that a person should just "shut up" and that he or she has no business voicing political opinions because he or she happens to be a little more famous than the speaker says a whole lot more about the speaker's lack of character than it does that of the "celebrity" in question.

posted at: 17:26 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



After The Polls Closed

I'm sure the exact procedure for closing the polls varies from place to place, but I wanted to say this about my experience at our polling place. After the polls closed last night, we had to follow a checklist that instructed us on how to pack all the used and unused election materials and how to prepare the ballots for return to the election office. The ballots have to be removed from the ballot box, stacked and turned a certain way and then packed into a simple, oblong cardboard box.

That doesn't sound very exciting after all the excitement. The voters had all gone home to dinner and were probably watching election return coverage on TV. The door to our polling place had been locked. It was a rather small room at an elementary school, and at times the noise level had been so high that we'd been using sign language to communicate with one another. The line of voters had been backed up out the door several times throughout the day. We'd heard many different accents and we'd seen many different facial features. We had answered some questions a hundred times. People of varying ages and sizes and ethnic backgrounds had come and gone. We'd been so busy that all we had for dinner was a shared bag of Fritos and a shared package of Oreo cookies.

But then things got quiet, as we sat around a table. The box of ballots was packed. I experienced something I think I would describe as introspective patriotism, as we each signed our names on a long strip of white adhesive tape and then watched our local inspector wrap that same tape around the oblong box to seal it with those ballots that represented hundreds of precious individuals' choices.

Democracy may not work perfectly every time, at every level, every day. But late last night I think those of us in that quiet room knew we'd each had a chance to spend one day working to advance Democracy for one district of participating voters. Did I mention that yesterday was also my birthday? I had quite a different kind of birthday, eating Fritos and Oreo cookies and helping voters vote. The gift was living in a free country where I could choose to do just that.

posted at: 10:58 | category: /Politics | link to this entry



Mon, Nov 01 2004

Lawyers On Election Day

Although I don't fit the exact profile of a typical poll worker put forth in this article, I can't help but note that poll workers, who will work more than 12 hours tomorrow, will be paid a sum for the whole day that is less than most of those poll-watching lawyers get for one hour in their legal work.

posted at: 08:52 | category: /Politics | 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!