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

Mon, Jan 31 2005

Love That Book You Read? Use It To Write Your Own Novel

From Vision: A Resource for Writers, comes a great article on one more way to get started on a novel. It's the workshop article from their latest issue. Lazette Gifford expounds on Using Your Favorite Book As A Guide.

posted at: 09:07 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Banshees, Yecks, And Humbatas

If you write science fiction or horror stories, or you just want to brush up on your knowledge of monsters, you'll enjoy looking through Gareth Long's Encyclopedia of Monsters, Mythical Creatures and Fabulous Beasts.

posted at: 08:59 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

It's Not The Lost City Of Atlantis, And It's Not Mars, But...

It's an island under the sea. And last year it looked as though the Davidson Seamount would soon be part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. You can see the location of Davidson Seamount in relation to the current sanctuary on this page. Special vessels from nearby MBARI have been used to explore the deeply positioned seamount and have helped map the area, and have helped detect environmental conditions and even to discover the existence of animals and whole living systems that were unknown to marine scientists (and all of us) before this.

But now there comes a hint of a hitch. A new memo from the U.S. Interior Department has some scientists and environmental watchdogs on alert. Are they being alarmists? I don't know. But I'm planning to keep tabs on what the government and commercial interests are doing to affect the area. I know that energy sources are important, and I like my furnace and my hair dryer as much as the next person. But if we don't proceed with caution when it comes to energy retrieval we may pay for it with the destruction of places that could vital to future human generations. We're finally beginning to have the technology to study our oceans, and since we live on a planet whose surface area is mostly covered by water, we'd be pretty irresponsible not to study that portion of our world before we go there drilling and doing things we can't undo later. This whole thing will play out in my back yard (so to speak), but it could affect you no matter where you live, especially if you have children or grandchildren. While we're off exploring the possibilities that Mars once had water, we'd better be looking at the worlds of water we still have available to us on our own planet. I notice the Mars exploration leans toward precious water and not toward oil. That should be a hint as to what really matters to us in the sustaining of life.

posted at: 06:53 | category: /Science | link to this entry

Fri, Jan 28 2005

Searching Online: For Some Of Us, Taking It Seriously Is Fun

Earlier this week Clive Thompson made note of the fact that not everyone fits a large percentage of people who took a survey regarding their online activities, and particularly their use of search engines. Clive doesn't fit the profile. Neither do I.

I have to smile when I see how many people only use a search engine "a few times a week". I often have 8-10 copies of a browser running, with searches going in 3 or 4 copies. I use Google quite often, but I also use specialty search engines, meta search engines, more than 5200 bookmarks, mega-list and links pages, news sites, RSS feeds and many other tools that help me reach data. When someone tells me they "did a search, but couldn't find anything" I usually take it as a personal challenge, and I go off hunting on my own. I find that most people just give up too easily, and that a lot of them will plainly admit they have no patience or motivation to spend time do the kind of digging I do on a daily basis.

I used to spend hours with books at brick-and-mortar libraries and still come away with less information than I can glean now with just a few focused searches online. Libraries and book stores still contain a wealth of information. But I hope that soon more people will be willing to jump in and find out what they might be missing by not taking advantage of the sources for information here online.

posted at: 20:04 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Good Reason To Lay Off The Caffeine

Just when I think my week couldn't possible get any more strange, I come across the Ghost Pot Dance.

posted at: 16:17 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Thu, Jan 27 2005

Let's Roll!

I know it's important to advertise one's business in creative ways, but this idea bothers me for some reason. I guess I shouldn't be squeamish. After all, it certainly worked well for the catalog department of Sears, Roebuck and Co.

posted at: 13:32 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Peace As More Than The Absence Of Battle

Marja-Leena Rathje led me to an interesting site on Peaceful Societies. In a world where we hear daily reports of war and other conflicts, it's refreshing to know that some societies don't choose to make societal battling a regular way of life. Peace is usually something most of us see as some elusive factor that can exist only in some future utopian world where nothing goes wrong and everyone is in natural harmony with everyone else. While a utopian world may be out of reach in our current situations, it's still kind of nice to know that there are groups of people out there who see peace as something that is worth attempting to include in everyday life, rather than passing it off to the future. It's a very practical kind of optimism in action that most of us don't really devote much time to.

posted at: 10:24 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Wed, Jan 26 2005

Goodnight, Mr. C.

I haven't said much yet about the death of Johnny Carson, so I thought I would take a moment now to do that. Any of us who ever saw his work have our own take on his contribution to entertainment. I never met him, though I did go once to see "The Tonight Show" taped while he was hosting. It must be a little strange for his family now. They must see that many of us are saying things about him and we didn't even know him. But that's the thing. We didn't know him, and yet, we invited him into our homes on many nights, for quite some time. He was there, through several presidential administrations, political demonstrations and social upheaval and healings. He wove a thread of laughter through our lives that reminded us that the basics don't really change and that we'd all better learn to laugh at ourselves if we expect to make our way through this world. I hope he had some sense of just how good a job he did at making life a little more pleasant for the rest of us.

posted at: 07:38 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Tue, Jan 25 2005


Thanks to a pointer from I Want Media, I now understand more about why so much of the advertising that comes on the radio makes me want to clap my hands over my ears. It's because companies like Mobiltrak are partly responsible for the ads and stations that advertisers choose. Mobiltrak's technology takes advantage of the small amount of "noise" that a car (or other) radio creates during play and helps clients choose stations that might be best for their advertising. I may not be listening to a station that plays what my dear spouse calls "gonad-thumping music", but I'm still likely to have to listen to the screaming ads being geared toward members of that demographic who are riding around in their cars with the radio volume cranked so high that you can see the car's exterior paint vibrating loose from the fiberglass. I don't know what the advertisers think that particular demographic is buying right now, but for the near future, my bet would be on hearing aids.

posted at: 07:50 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Mon, Jan 24 2005

Name Calling At Its Best

Mystic Cowboy grabbed my attention by posting God by any other name. Part of the fun of getting to know someone we would worship is realizing that there's always more to learn about that being. We can't fit one who we would worship into a box or a mold. Even all our collected human glimpses and insights together don't begin to cover the magnificence and true essence of the one we are approaching. Luckily, that doesn't stop us from seeking, which is a great thing, as long as we don't assume that no one else is catching great glimpses and gaining insights of their own.

posted at: 10:20 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Blogging Like We Mean It

While bloggers are notorious for complaining, and while some have gotten into trouble for protecting sources, and have been told our material might result in a lawsuit, most of us would have to admit that we haven't been treated this badly. I suppose it might be tempting for bloggers to develop some sort of persecution complex over all the negative attention that sometimes comes with our online activities. And It would be easy to lose focus on the true merits of maintaining a blog. Would you go risk going to prison or being tortured for your writings? If you thought it was dangerous for you, or your loved ones, for you to blog, would you keep blogging? Would you keep blogging in the same fashion you do now? Would you change what you say, or how you say it?

If we strive to write with integrity, whether we write about local issues or global ones, we should present blogs without embarrassment. After that, if someone gets testy about our writings, we can be fairly certain the issue needed to be aired out and a light shown on it for futher discussion. When people who perceive themselves as powerful get frightened of being discovered they get very angry. They'll try to control and sometimes even eliminate anyone who looks like a barrier to their kingdom building. I'm hoping that honorable bloggers will keep writing, in spite of any threats that come along. Fair, reasonable discussion on any topic is vital if we value the freedom to write. If we just shut up and go away we'll be sorry. And someday a lot of other people might be sorry too.

posted at: 06:44 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Fri, Jan 21 2005

To Kill A Mocking Bird, Or Maybe A Kiwi

There's been an interesting legal issue over the domain name www.KIWI.com. These types of disputes are bound to come up more often now that so many individuals, small businesses, charitable organizations and larger corporations are trying to find ways to live together in cyberspace. I never even knew that Sara Lee products and Kiwi shoe products could be traced to the same basic corporate structure. Unfortunately, now I do know that because I know that there was some negative publicity concerning at least one of these brands.

The internet is beginning to be a difficult place for those of us who work with words. It's getting to be tough to speak clearly and effectively. Increasingly, there seems to be someone waiting at every turn, ready and willing to accuse us of putting words together in groups they feel they have the right to keep as their own. And since there are a limited number of words in (at least) English, we're all bound to be using the same phrases as someone else, at some point. It's going to happen. And we'd better grow up and learn to accept it.

This is where the idea of branding presents a challenge to those of you who are marketers. Some of our thoughts and associations are so broad that we don't always think of the automatic associations between companies and products. And no amount of pressure on the part of marketers is going to change that for us. Branding has its place. But give me a marketer who doesn't hinge every campaign idea on traditional branding and is willing to go for the more unusual association, even if it appears to be some time warp from a company's past. I'll sit up and take notice of what they have to say, as long as they don't lie to me about the company's intent. And an inclusive attitude could go a long way toward making me think better of a company, even if I've heard some bad press about it in the past. I can't help but wonder if the two corporate entities mentioned in the above press release could have had a little fun with this whole thing, by each one cross-linking to the other's site and joking about the web site visitors having accessed the wrong sort of Kiwi. I wonder if anyone ever even thought of trying that approach before leaping headlong into the lap of the nearest legal counsel for some heavy-handedness. No one's likely to tell me, but I hope that at least some future disputes will be handled with more tact, warmth and creativity. It's much for fun to laugh with you than at you.

posted at: 10:35 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Thu, Jan 20 2005

It Does Not Taste Like Chicken, But...

If you're tired of rubber chicken dinners on flights you might see if you can get a vegetarian meal the next time you fly.

posted at: 13:16 | category: /Food | link to this entry

Listing Online

Journalisimo guided me to Ta-da List, where you can make up to 10 lists and then share them with selected people or with the entire online population. Lists are a great way to jump-start writers. You can list places, character traits, article ideas and other things. If you want more than 10 to be there, you'll need to upgrade to Basecamp, which starts at $12.00 per month, but also includes other organizational and sharing features.

I think I lean toward the same side as the folks at Journalisimo on this particular topic, since I tend to use their rather analog approach to list-making. I usually write lists on pieces of paper and then keep the lists private until they either become accomplished tasks or until I've kept them so long that they're outdated and would require so much revision that I end up making a whole new list. But I'm still thinking about Ta-da List. It might be a useful tool at some point in case I ever create a list that I really want the rest of the world to see.

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

When Harry Meets Board

A tip of the Stetson goes to Blog Business World for the news that there is now a Professional Blogger's Association, complete with a bona fide Board of Directors.

Does this very official step mean that people will finally refrain from referring to all blogs as a "cute little hobby"? And what will happen to those of us who use blogging as a kind of sidecar outlet to our professional lives, though we may not be paid to produce the actual blog entries? I guess we're left out in the cold again, and will be looked at askance from all sides like Harry Birch was in "The Spy". James Fenimore Cooper really knew how to kick up the dust and still command for himself a certain admiration and respect. I only hope to do half as well.

posted at: 07:55 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Wed, Jan 19 2005

Education: Should The Party(ing) Be Over?

I read an interesting bit from Stefan Schumacher in the Daily Trojan. Stefan notes the ease with which many college-age people live their young lives as though the whole process is one long party, and he thinks maybe they all need to do some growing up.

Maybe we should make it harder to attend institutions of higher learning. I don't think it needs to be more expensive. It's already very expensive. That isn't deterring some students from choosing leisure over learning. Maybe the entrance to college should be based more on a young person's ability to be a real participant in his or her own learning process.

There must be a few creative solutions to this whole dilemna. How about a system in which a young person could only receive a certain percentage of his or her college funding from relatives, and would have to earn a portion of their tuition or would have to get some sort of corporate sponsor(s) by making a presentation to prove their case as a serious student? I don't know if it would make a real difference. I do know that all the young people I've known who had to work full-time to attend college had no time or inclination to party away their education.

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

Tue, Jan 18 2005

Which Chocolate Is The Right Chocolate?

If you are wondering what to get for your favorite chocoholics this coming Valentine's Day, you might check to see if they're registered with ACME Chocolate Registry. It's a nice idea. I think I'd add a section for those who need sugar-free treats and I might add a sections for favorite famous brand names such as Hershey's and specific chocolate treats, such as the wonderful Fannie May Pixies.

posted at: 14:24 | category: /Food | link to this entry

Bringing 'Em Back Alive

Local marine scientists hope to use a spring-loaded trap to capture deep-sea creatures alive, for further study.

posted at: 07:31 | category: /Science | link to this entry

Mon, Jan 17 2005

Plugged Up

By way of L.A. Observed, I read that LAPD Wife wasn't allowed to purchase both Sudafed and Nyquil during a recent trip to Costco. I've seen drain cleaner and antifreeze in stores that sold Sudafed, and I hear those have both been used to cook illegal meth. I wonder if you can buy Sudafed and drain cleaner on the same visit to a store. Heaven forbid my needing to clear out my sinuses and my kitchen sink pipes at the same time.

posted at: 14:00 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Free Slant, Paid Bias: Learn The Bigger Lesson

If a blogger takes money from a politician for writing positive things about the politician and/or that politician's favorite programs it would seem to me that disclosing that fact in one's blog would be the decent thing to do. I'm not too worried about whether a blog is liberal, conservative, libertarian or something else altogether. Bloggers are as human as any other media types and we bring to our writing a bias and a voice that has developed from our particular backgrounds, education and experiences. But I do like to know that what I read in a blog has been crafted from the blogger's mind and heart if the blog has been characterized in that fashion. I would feel cheated if I found out that one of my favorite bloggers had secretly been paid to write pro-political material and had not informed us of that fact. If he or she openly admitted it from the beginning on the blog that would be better because I would have known that what I was reading was sometimes tinted with the color of money.

The good thing to come from the recent controversy of bloggers being paid to say nice things is that light is being shown on other areas of news and editorial writing. When people criticize the slant of a newspaper (or other medium) it lets me know they're at least aware of political (and other) influences and how people (including writers and editors) bring one slant or another to their work whether they're paid to do so or not. If readers and viewers swallow every news story or blog post without doing their own searching and thinking they're going to be an easy mark. If I write some scathing piece on the evils of (for instance) left-wing entitlements, and you, the reader/viewer, already have a heavy bias against left-wing entitlements, I'm going to be able to pull the wool over your eyes pretty quickly if you really want to believe what I say and you don't go out and do your own homework on the subject. I don't think we have to be paranoid about everything we read, but we're wise if we take it all with a grain of proverbial salt.

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

Sat, Jan 15 2005

Simply Irresistible

Is this the real reason why openly homosexual people have not been accepted into the U.S. military? It might be too easy to confuse them with the enemy soldiers? Or they might even attract the affections of enemy soldiers?

posted at: 13:32 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Good Stereotype/Bad Stereotype

I can understand the nervousness over the unknown depiction of albino characters in the upcoming "The Da Vinci Code" because albino characters have gotten some pretty tacky treatment in the past. In the case of this film it may all hinge on how closely the movie parallels the novel. I do know one thing. I have tremendous respect for Ron Howard's work as a director. The man has powerful instincts and works with an eye toward integrity in his films. He will do what's best for the presentation of the story as a whole. Besides, there are times when the seemingly negative traditions of stereotyping can work in a story's favor. I have no doubt that Ron Howard himself has been stereotyped a time or two. Most of us have been stereotyped at one time or another, for something. Ron just might take the albino stereotype and bring from himself something we can all identify with. It's easy to present an all-good or all-evil character. The greater challenge is to present a character who calls to the evil and the good in all of us and can represent the struggles we face in our own choices. I have a feeling whatever Ron Howard does with this film, we'll all come away impressed.

posted at: 09:53 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Fri, Jan 14 2005

One Enchanted Evening Does Not A President Make

Well, let's see. Some folks think the inaugural festivities should be toned down out of respect for the military personnel and their families. Some think there should be no prayer during the inaugural ceremony. Some folks are afraid that the corporations giving big bucks to make the inaugural happen are going to get preferential treatment later. Some think the show must go on to show the world that we are unified and standing behind our present administration.

As for me, I'm much more concerned about what goes on between inaugural addresses. I'm a lot more concerned about the everyday spiritual fortitude of politicians than I am about the public prayer they may or may not participate in on inaugural day. If they want to munch a little caviar and have a dance or two at the ball, that's fine with me, as long as they don't dance around the issues when the night is over and it's time to get down to work for the next few years.

posted at: 14:05 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Thu, Jan 13 2005

A Ceiling Of Sky

Why settle for a plain old painted ceiling when you could have something that looks like the sky? Some of the systems can be built with dimmers and you can get beautiful virtual window views.

posted at: 12:34 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Killer Fog

Dense fog brought with it fatalities in Michigan this week. We sometimes get similar conditions and the resulting pile-ups on I-5 here in California. Even Back in 1942 the military was trying to beat the problem of fog, mainly for pilots. Today there are studies going on to find out how to disperse fog at airports. People have tried heat, cold, microwaves, water sprays, ice and even lasers to try to get fog out of the way at airports. But I think we're still waiting for a system that works really well on roadways. There are at least visibility warning systems in use in California and other states. Utah seems to have had some luck with using carbon dioxide at airports. Would this work on roadways?

Sometimes a CHP driver will use his or her car as a pace car to slow traffic on highways in hazardous conditions. If patrol cars or other vehicles could be equipped with effective fog disperal devices on well-known fog corridors it might be a double-whammy to fog that could save more lives.

When scientists have tried to measure drivers' perception of speed during foggy conditions the results are mixed. It still might not be a bad idea to back off that accelerator. The CHP lists a few other simple recommendations.

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

Displaying Collectibles Without Damaging Them

If you collect figurines, models or other objects and you want to display them attractively, you might use a case, which is fine, until you learn that you could damage your collectibles. Even wood in display cases can out-gas and damage the contents. And then there's the glue and the plastic and fabric to consider. Here's a page that has some great information on how the lining and fabrics used near the objects in cases and drawers can affect the objects. I've linked directly to that page, but will also give you their starting page, in case you want to learn more about displaying and storing your collections. They also have instructions on a quicker way to make faux-finish wallpaper. It's a nice site to dig around in. The information is helpful, straight-forward and easy to understand.

posted at: 07:30 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Wed, Jan 12 2005

The Body

Alan over at A Different Perspecive had a blog entry on physical worship that made me think of all the times I've gone to worship services where the congregation was asked not to applaud after special music or other artsy events. I've always been bothered by that sort of thing. It seems like a direct attempt to supress the spirit of thankfulness that goes with a spiritual experience, especially the experience of those who attend a Christian service. We even speak of the Church as a Body.

I do like the way Seventh-day Adventists perceive the "soul" as not just some ethereal essence, but as the whole of a person. But sometimes Adventist churches too, stifle the outpouring of praise that might include clapping or lifting of hands. The one body position that seems to be acceptable is a bowed head with closed eyes and folded hands. I suppose one might see this as a form of reverence, but if we see God as a Father, won't we also want to let Him know we're happy to be in His presence? I suppose there's a fine line to be drawn if we don't want worship services to turn into noisy free-for-alls, but it shouldn't become an issue of crowd control to the point where we encourage people to refuse expressions of emotion and to maintain an outward posture of neutrality when they want to participate in the service. That kind of covering over is one of the marks of a very dysfunctional family.

posted at: 11:36 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

The Da Vinci Ride

Sharan Newman writes medieval mysteries. She also decided to check the facts in The Da Vinci Code. Her resulting book, The Real History Behind the Da Vinci Code, lets the reader both enjoy the story and find out what details were probably a creative enhancement on the part of author Dan Brown.

A Mix of fact and fancy is what makes historical fiction fun. We readers know we're being taken for a spin in a rather quirky time machine. We're going to hear a few clunks and feel a few bumps on the along. It's the little additions of things that aren't quite factual that spark our own sense of exploration. And I hear that one of my favorite directors will soon be bringing this tale to us on the big screen. I can't wait to get strapped in for the ride.

posted at: 07:29 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Tue, Jan 11 2005

Contest: Design A T-Shirt or Tee-Shirt or...

You have until February 1 to get your T-Shirt design to Threadless.com. If you don't feel creative you can just buy others' designs.

Do you prefer the spelling T-shirt, tee shirt or some other variation, such as t-shirt, tee-shirt or Tee-shirt?

posted at: 09:14 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Sweeping Second Hand Included

Chloe over at Watermelon Punch has a nifty new analog clock on her blog site. You can change the rim color and time zone if you decide to rent a clock of your own.

posted at: 07:11 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Music As Crowd Control

I loved the article and comments about the way businesses and commercial spaces use classical music to disperse crowds. It helps to point out the sheer power of music in society. I can recall thinking as a child that I didn't like classical music very much at all until my mother sat down with me and we watched a few movies together. She helped me focus on the music as scene enhancement. I realized that I did like certain classical music when I saw it serve a purpose and saw it as an enhancement to the literal, and figurative, big picture. There are times now when I can be walking in nature or watching a crowd move through an airport and I hear a musical score in my mind. I'm almost convinced that we could hear music all the time if we would bring ourselves to be open enough to listen.

Still, it's pretty sad to hear that some see classical music as a tool to be used to drive away exuberant youth. Every generation has its own version of music that grates against the ears of parents. Maybe the older folks feel as though they're fighting back. My hope is that more adults figure out how to make classical music work for kids instead of against them.

posted at: 07:02 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Mon, Jan 10 2005

Get Out The Magnifying Glass

Geek News Central wisely reminded all of us blogging types to read the fine print when we are thinking of creating an alliance with some third party. It's bad enough that some of us are plagued with comment spam, referral spam and other intrusions without going and unwittingly signing up for something that sticks its nose into our business and that of our readers.

posted at: 16:29 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Small Business: Looking For An Oasis?

If you want to start a small business and you don't mind relocating, you might check the American City Business Journals list of friendly places for entrepreneurs. The report includes cities of small, medium and large populations.

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

Goal! And Now They Can Prove It!

Technology is changing the world of sports in yet another way. We-make-money-not-art points to news of a wireless ball and player system for soccer.

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

If We're So Smart, Why Are We So Fat And Stupid?

If our American little ones are showing increased obesity, I can't help but wonder if the causes are a combination of factors. Those of us born after World War II have grown up in a world full of fever-pitch media that includes daily news footage of starving and malnourished people all over the world. We've also grown up with the idea that thin is beautiful, healthy and desirable in both juveniles and adults. Food is nourishment, but it's also pleasurable, and an abundance of food, or a lack of food, sends a very powerful message to human minds and brains. It would be an understatement to say that most of us now living who grew up in the United States have gotten a lot of mixed messages when it comes to food and body image.

As a child, I heard a lot of discussion about putting a little cereal in babies' bottles as a way to introduce the wee ones to something other than the cows' milk they were drinking. When a baby cried a lot, an older, more experienced mom would often tell a younger mom that the baby receiving only bottles of cows' milk was hungry and should be given cereal, even as early as 6-8 weeks of age. Now I'm wondering if babies are hungry because cows' milk isn't the best food for humans. A lot of babies get formula, but the verdict is still out on whether or not that does the trick. And I see that doctors still can't agree on what to tell parents about introducing cereal and solid foods into a little one's diet. Again, we have mixed messages about what is, and isn't, the right way to eat and the right way to feed a child.

The four major food groups were once touted as a healthy guide to eating. Now we have a food pyramid. Weight loss experts can't agree on the amount of fat, protein or carbohydrates that's best for humans. Should we all have to be professional nutritionists to figure out what foods to eat and what foods to feed children in our society? We have more food science information now than at any time in history. And yet, we're told that an increasing number of adults, children and toddlers are obese and are experiencing diabetes and other complications because of excess weight.

If you don't get enough to eat, or the right foods to eat, you can starve to death. If you eat too much, or eat the wrong foods, or eat too many times you can become obese and die from obesity's complications. Logic might tell us that eating just the right amount of just the right foods at just the right times would be the ticket to health for both young and old. But since no one can agree on just what the right foods, right amounts or right times should be, we continue to get those mixed messages. And now we seem to be heaping guilt on parents who try to do the best they can for their children with the conflicting data that's out there from the scientific, medical and food production experts. If the experts won't agree on what to do, how in the world do we expect parents to do any more?

In the meantime, all the experts seem to make money off food, or the lack of food. Pharmaceutical companies, health professionals, weight loss specialists, gymnasiums, low-calorie food processors and fitness gurus all seem to be willing to take our money to tell us their version of the truth, or to sell us surgery or drugs when we don't get relief from any of the other versions of the truth.

If there's no one answer for the problem of obesity, why don't they just come out and say that? At least then we could be like the folks who utilize the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. We could take simple steps to do the best we can and we could trust in a Higher Power. I guess that's just not going to happen though. There's simply no money in that sort of thing.

posted at: 08:30 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Sat, Jan 08 2005

Killer Kitchen

Has anyone heard from blogger Eric over at WIDE Eyed Insolence lately? His most recent post, which was almost 3 weeks ago, left some of us wondering if he ought to remodel his kitchen before he ends up in traction.

posted at: 15:49 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Fri, Jan 07 2005

Mapping A Drive

The idea of using MapQuest on mobile phones sounds great at first. But I'm a little concerned that drivers will be more distracted by their cell phones than they are now.

A couple of weeks ago we spied a driver who was trying to shave with one hand and hold his cell phone with the other. He was making an attempt to control the steering wheel with one elbow until he dropped the electric razor and bent down to retrieve it. His car slowed to 30 miles per hour in the fast lane as other drivers roared around him with a series of one-digit salutes. I can only imagine what might have happened if he'd been trying to look at a map on his cell phone while he removed facial hair and drove.

Right now freeways are posted with signs that forbid stopping and sitting on the side of the road. I'd like to propose a deliberate creation of safety turnouts on freeways, so that the lost drivers, or multi-tasking drivers, can pull over and get their act together without endangering other folks on the roads.

posted at: 08:52 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Nicely Nerdy

According to one test, I'm not as nerdy as Jon over at San Diego Soliloquies, but I'm more nerdy than some might believe.
I am nerdier than 46% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

The most difficult part of taking the test was not correcting the spelling errors. That, and admitting how very little math I studied in school. I've always said that Einstein would have passed on as a much younger man if he'd tried to teach math to me. Math is only logical to some of you. The rest of us see it as something to be avoided through the use of teacher manipulation, sleight-of-hand, charm or downright mind-control of the one trying to force us to accept math as part of our destiny. It's the one thing that holds me back from being on a level with the truly nerdy people. The trick is to be like this and still mix with, and gain the respect of, the true nerds of this world. It's an art, and it's one we lightweights take very seriously.

posted at: 08:26 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Thu, Jan 06 2005

1989 Quake? No Problem. Tiny Little Cigarette? Big Problem.

A historic building in downtown Watsonville still stood after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake destroyed other buildings. But the 94-year old structure was gutted by fire from a single burning cigarette.

posted at: 07:25 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Design That Pops

The 2004 results are in. Rick Dean's entry won the DWR Champagne Chair Contest. The folks at Design Within Reach will be showing us more of the miniature chairs soon. Entries come from all over the world and are fashioned from champagne bottle elements such as wires and corks.

posted at: 04:47 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Wed, Jan 05 2005

Meeting Or Manipulation?

I always have a tough time in meetings and will generally come away from one feeling frustrated and unfulfilled. So I appreciated an online article, in which a balanced approach was explored as a way of making meetings count for something. I'm definitely drawn to the idea of taking more time for brainstorming, focusing on the big picture, and creating a comfortable environment where everyone can contribute. Sometimes the people who are most quiet in meetings have some of the best ideas, but are reluctant to speak up when one or two personalities dominate a discussion or agenda. Very often these dominant people think of themselves as good leaders, when in actuality they are holding back the progress of the whole group.

I encountered one of these manipulative types of meeting leaders awhile back, and when some of us mentioned that the shy or quiet people in the group rarely put forth any verbal input, the leader tried to appease us by inviting written, anonymous input by way of a survey. The problem is that a person who is not comfortable unless he or she is "in charge" will still tend to use such input to advance his or her own agendas and positions. By the time the survey was discussed, the leader managed to sum everything up in such a way that things were brought right back around to the leader's pet positions.

There are companies who make a business of teaching other business people how to run great meetings. In spite of this, I rarely encounter a person who is so good at running a meeting that I can't wait to get there and see what great things are going to happen. Those of us with lively imaginations like to hope for a meeting that launches new opportunities and gives us a sense of adventure or accomplishment. How do we cope with folks whose style is to lead with an iron fist, and especially when they go through the motions of being open to the views of others, only to revert to their manipulative behavior when they perceive a loss of control?

posted at: 14:51 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Interesting Application Of Guidelines

Amvona.com has an affiliate program in which they mention the right to refuse any web sites that (among other things) incorporate materials that infringe on any copyright, trademark or other intellectual property rights. Now they're being confronted by a local Watsonville company regarding those same issues.

posted at: 06:26 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Tue, Jan 04 2005


Eric's Fire Ant Gazette led me over to this 2005 Color Forecast. I was delighted to see all that purple. Purple is one of those colors that can be majestic or funny, depending on its placement and context. Purple is also a peak between red and blue, so it takes on either warm or cool undertones. If red is dynamic and blue is calm, purple is the negotiating table where things get together and really start to happen. Purple gives us the last hint of light before nightfall and the last trace of dark before dawn. The afterglow of the plasma volts we call lightning leave purple dancing on our retinas so we'll remember the power of a storm. So bring on the passionate plum and lofty lavender, dusty violet and velvet eggplant. For those who need to be told what color the universe is, purple is back. For the rest of us, it never left our sight.

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

Maybe mOne Should Go Fish

It would be interesting to know exactly where all of these advertisers are putting there money at the present time. I was particulary fascinated by the quote from (North American) CEO John Montgomery of mOne. Isn't it the job of marketing people to turn perceived risk into opportunity? Mr. Montgomery is a CEO, and I'm not. But unless I missed something important, the bottom line of marketing is to get the product or service to as many satisfied end users as possible. If mOne chooses to coddle their clients and not bring them up to speed on what people are reading online, I'll be very surprised. If the most controversial blogs have the largest readership, wouldn't it be smart to find blogs that introduce the elements of controversy and then find out if it's the controversial aspect, or something else, that actually attracts readers? It could be the writer's persuasive, or provocative style that brings viewers to the site. Do marketing people really want to miss all this simply because a blog doesn't focus on fishing or tennis? There's an expanding market for mOne to break into if they open their eyes and consider the possibilities. Maybe they will. And if not, someone, somewhere, is going to figure out that where there is risk, there is reward not far behind.

posted at: 06:41 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Mon, Jan 03 2005

Would You Like (A Dose Of) Fries With That?

I noticed a couple of recent stories concerning fast food in hospitals. I'm surprised that those who make financial decisions for hospitals feel that fast food is a good way to handle things. Then again, a person recovering from quadruple bypass surgery might heal and go away if he or she stopped eating all that high-fat food, so maybe the hospitals are just angling for repeat business.

posted at: 08:59 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Sun, Jan 02 2005

Gift Cards As Commodities

In post-holiday get-togethers people used to get rid of undesirable Christmas gifts with a white elephant gift exchange. I guess it was inevitable that someone would figure out a way to exchange unwanted gift cards.

I guess we've come full circle on the commercialization of holiday fun. Not only do people spend big bucks buying gifts that people don't need or want, but now the gift recipient can take the concept a step further by selling or trading the value of the unwanted gift.

Remember the story of the gold, frankincense and myrrh that were brought to baby Jesus as gifts? I've often wondered whatever happened to them. They really aren't mentioned in any subsequent Bible stories, so we don't know if the family kept them or sold them, or if they gave them to someone else later. The significance of the gifts must have been in the giving, and not in what happened to the gifts later. Maybe that's the way it should be.

So then why does the swapping and selling of gift cards bother me? Maybe it's the hot-potato feeling of it all. The time on many gift cards tends to run out, so in order to make it worthwhile, the person getting rid of the card needs to get it to someone who will use it in a relatively short period of time. In other words, not only will the recipient not like my choice of gift card, but they'll be in a fever to pass it off to someone else as soon as possible. I like the idea of gift-giving as something to be savored and enjoyed by both giver and recipient.

This new sort of exchange with strangers makes me feel as though my time choosing a gift might as well have been spent on the stranger who will end up with the gift very shortly, and who will appreciate its actual value instead of its trading value. So I'm thinking that maybe I should just bypass the middle man from now on and get the gift to a stranger, the way those men gave their gold, frankincense and myrrh. We don't call them the three wise men for nothing.

posted at: 08:28 | 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!