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

Mon, Feb 28 2005

Locals (And Their Money) Commute Elsewhere To Work, Shop And Dine

Yesterday was a shopping day spent in the rapidly expanding city of Gilroy, California. Large, flat acreage is being turned into a sea of big box stores and shopping complexes. The town already hosts the famous outlet center at Highway 101 and Leavesley Road. There are almost 150 stores there now, and while you won't find every item a bargain, you can find some great deals if you're willing to take time to look for them.

Though I neglected to note the name of the place, we had a late lunch at a brand new no-frills noodle house with seating planned for growing crowds of shoppers. While we were driving between Lowes and another couple of "big box" stores we noticed the construction of a Mimi's Cafe. We used to frequent one of those in another area. They have comforting and hearty bowls of French Onion Soup and lots of other goodies.

It seems that there is a bit of a push on to put some of those big box stores in the northern part of Monterey County. This area of Santa Cruz County has been doing a lot of building of housing, but they have sadly fallen behind in taking large areas of land to provide space for jobs in factories, offices, retail stores, restaurants and other workplaces. I hope we don't end up with nothing but an affordable housing bedroom community with twenty-four hour traffic as people pass through town to spend their money on other things in other places. Gilroy is building housing, but it's also planning local workplaces for those who will live in those houses. When you have to also factor in things such as mountain ranges, sensitive environmental areas and the obvious boundary of the Pacific Ocean, it's a real challenge for area city planners to find a good balance of homes, workplaces and services.

posted at: 15:16 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Sat, Feb 26 2005


I moved away from the Midwest a long time ago, and I don't really remember ever hearing of the BTK serial killer until this past week. Since a serial killer is basically a narcissist, I found that the parallels drawn between serial killers and terrorists in this article made a lot of sense. Mr. Hutchinson indicates that neither terrorists nor serial killers can be rehabilited to the point where they can view the world around them as anything other than a place to be manipulated to feed their endless sense of need for recognition. He does more than hint that the only way to deal with them is to remove them from society. Of course, they'll die someday anyway. That fate is universal, and even a complete narcissist can't escape it. But society's choice to eliminate a serial killer or a terrorist seems to give the rest of society a false sense that the good people have done something to stop evil.

The truth is that one terrorist, or serial killer, is a lot like the next. And when we eliminate the ones we have among us now, another one will come along to take their place. The little details of their methods might vary from those of BTK, but their choice to kill will still be there. If we're completely honest about it, society's collective elimination of a serial killer carries a disturbing tinge of serial killing in itself, especially if we experience a sense of satisfaction or release from that elimination and know that we'll have to kill again later on. I hope that thought scares us at least as much as the idea of a serial killer among us.

posted at: 08:44 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Fri, Feb 25 2005

Call For Postcard Art

(Illinois) Lake County Discovery Museum's Curt Teich Postcard Archives is calling for postcard-size art entries. For more information, go to the site and click on the link to the competition details. See some past winners here. The deadline for 2005 is August 1.

posted at: 15:37 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Wine Tasting On State Roads

One of my other uses of writing time is in the area of event and festival promotion, so I was intrigued by the news that the mountain community of Boulder Creek may not be able to do the usual thing at its Boulder Creek Art, Wine and Music Festival this year. The art is not the problem. The music is not the problem. Guess what's left. The event is usually held on a cordoned-off area of Highway 9, which happens to run right through the little community. But Highway 9 is a state-owned road, and the idea of folks wandering up and down a state-owned road while sipping alcohol is an activity that Caltrans fears is a state liability issue.

The event also uses the traffic control services of the CHP, another state-funded agency. These are the officers we generally pay to help keep alcohol and roads as far apart as possible.

It's an interesting dilemna. If teens sectioned off a state road and then had a keg party we'd all be ready to pounce like tigers. But isn't this basically what the adults want to do? Should we be using state money to help assist wine drinking right on state highways, even if the wine-sippers are walking and aren't operating a vehicle? I wonder how many other communities are going to have to face this issue soon.

posted at: 08:25 | category: | link to this entry

Thu, Feb 24 2005

If You Make Money Off My Information You Should Be Responsible Enough To Tell Me That

And so the lawsuits begin against ChoicePoint. I hope this will at least bring attention to the fact that there are people who make money off our spending habits and our private information, even though we have never given them permission to do so. Choicepoint says on its site that they are calling for a "national discussion on how to ensure information is used responsbibly to ensure the positive benefits of information use are preserved and the illegal uses of data are severely punished". I believe if a company stores or retrieves information about me they should notify me of that fact, particularly if other people are paying them to do so. Choicepoint says it provides these products and services. That's a fairly broad range of opportunity for those who have less-than-stellar motives to misuse the information.

I loathe the idea of another law being enacted for all this. A law isn't going to fix the fact that the very kind of company that sets up services to do "background checks" was itself outwitted by criminals. I hope Choicepoint, and other corporations like it, won't pass the buck on this. They chose to place themselves in the business of making money off information, and now they need to take responsibility for that. The public didn't ask to be in their moneymaking database in the first place. At least this whole debaucle sheds light on that particular fact.

posted at: 15:09 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Wed, Feb 23 2005

Tue, Feb 22 2005

Global Warming: Did The Devil Make Us Do It?

While California experiences excess rain places like Washington state are making plans for handling drought. Our island neighbors in Cuba are also facing severe drought. I don't know if the increase in carbon dioxide is a major factor in our climate as some sources indicate, but wide swings in climate conditions are not really new. While some are working through strictly scientific means to find answers, I see that other folks are taking a more spiritual route. If organizations like Creation Care are correct in their placement of the problem, it would add an important dimension to the whole discussion of how to approach global warming.

posted at: 10:34 | category: /Science | link to this entry

Mon, Feb 21 2005

Unofficial Flu Report

Our house is being visited by influenza, and depending on how the next couple of days go, postings here may be minimal. My husband has been suffering since Friday night and I'm nursing a weird headache that I hope turns out to be only a headache and not the start of something vile. I do have one tip for those of you in the grip of flu symptoms. If your stomach can't keep down pain pills due to nausea, do try the Alka-Seltzer Plus line of products. The fizzy liquid seems to be a good vehicle to keep the medicine inside long enough to do its job of relieving the aches.

posted at: 09:47 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Sun, Feb 20 2005

Lack Of Posts Due To Local Accident

The lack of postings on Friday was not due to negligence. Early that morning there was an accident on a very curved road near us that resulted in an all-day power outage while utility workers repaired extensive damage from the accident. The vehicle snapped a utility pole in two and knocked a fire hydrant from its base. When I heard the noise and saw a flash I looked out the office window and saw the geyser from the fire hydrant shooting into the air, and then I realized that the utility pole, and its attached lines, were literally bouncing up and down over the roof of a nearby house. A neighbor and I both went to check on the driver. I won't go into too many details except to say that one very frightened young man was walking around and knew he would be having to deal with the police. That was bad enough, but he knew he was also going to have to answer to his mother.

A local paper reported the story, but do let me note that at least three of the details in the story conflict with information I knew of that day. But do take a look at the photo from the story. If you notice the pole beyond the broken pole, imagine looking further to the right of the view. Just off that photo sits the curve that has been the site of many car crashes on that road. Speed is almost always a factor. My husband frequently travels Buena Vista Drive during his work commute and he insists on traveling near the speed limit. But he's often followed by other drivers who are impatient to go faster and who tailgate and pass him at high rates of speed. Many barely miss oncoming cars on the twisty two-lane road.

Buena Vista Drive is also a connector with Highway 1, and would be the main entrance for a future planned development that has been in the works by the city of Watsonville in their attempts to expand their borders and give their residents more housing choices. I've mentioned before that many residents in our area, who were never allowed to vote on the issue, have fought against the development, and we continue to do so. If the city actually thinks it can pack thousands more people into the Buena Vista area, it had better be figuring a very down=to-earth, very major reconstruction of Buena Vista Drive into its little fantasy. The addition of hundreds of cars a day on that tangle of curves is going to require straighter lanes, and more than the two existing lanes that currently carry what traffic we have in the area now.

It was quiet here last Friday, because residents near the accident couldn't run clothes washers, watch TV, or run vaccuum cleaners. I did see one huge benefit to the whole incident. Our entire block was marked off while PG&E workers restored power and while the accident was being investigated. No one was able to do the usual racing up and down on our own road that day. I really enjoyed that part of it all.

posted at: 06:12 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Thu, Feb 17 2005

How To Keep Our Blog Out Of Others' Faces

This morning a tip of the Stetson goes to Big Stupid Tommy for leading me over to Chris Lynch's blog, A Large Regular, where Chris takes exception to Mark Cuban's recent blog post with a post of his own, entitled Bloggers are not the "New Paparazzi". Here's the link to the original piece on Mark Cuban's blog, and the resulting comments to that post.

Both Mr. Lynch and Mr. Cuban make interesting points. But I can't agree with the premise that bloggers, political or otherwise, are the literary equal of paparazzi. For one thing, politicians are paid with public money and so anyone in the public, including a blogger, has the right to express their feelings on what politicians do with that money. Paparazzi (excepting any unforeseen scandals) are not generally paid with taxpayer money. They inject themselves into personal situations with little disrespect for everyone concerned, including themselves.

Of course, this isn't a new argument. A little less than two years ago, there was another rash of this sort of thing. Bloggers bristled at being compared to the "19th century cranks" who self-published material on science, politics and other matters relevant to society at that time. I would maintain that there have always been people who dispatched information in ways that were under the radar of the mainstream of society. Some, like Mark Twain, become heroes and literary giants to subsequent generations. But in his day, Mark Twain was part of a group looked down on by traditional publishers. He sold his work by subscription and wasn't considered a great literary find by those who thought themselves above such selling methods.

Those of us who care enough to post our words in blogs might read Mr. Cuban's post and bristle. But another of his posts talks about the ability to sell. He gives a great description of what makes a great salesperson. I would maintain that the best bloggers, the ones who will still be respected after technology brings the next big thing, are those who follow his selling advice, and who think of their writing as putting them "close to helping someone" and who concentrate on being a person the customer trusts. He says to "put in the effort" and "care". If we do all that, we won't be acting like paparazzi at all. We'll treat with respect those whose names we mention in our posts and also those who read what we write, even if we shine a little light in a few dark corners and it ruffles feathers. Of course, doing this won't necessarily gain us the respect we might think we deserve. Mark Twain said it rather well in "A Tramp Abroad":
When an honest writer discovers an imposition it is his simple duty to strip it bare and hurl it down from its place of honor, no matter who suffers by it; any other course would render him unworthy of the public confidence.
Mark Cuban, shake virtual hands with Mark Twain. You two might have a lot more in common with each other than any of us might have thought at first glance.

posted at: 08:01 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Wed, Feb 16 2005

If It's All About Me, Where Do The Rest Of You Fit In?

At first glance, an article on the use of the word 'evil' in forensic science and an article called Opening Up to Happiness didn't seem to have much in common, particularly since one mentioned Satan and the other mentioned Buddha. But after reading them both, I realized that the same thing that prevents our own happiness is often the same thing that causes unhappiness in others. The selfish focus on self, whether due to early childhood abuse or early childhood permissiveness, robs many of us of the ability to experience empathy for others. Whether one is an attention-seeking narcissist or a person completely lacking self-worth, the end result is usually the same. The two extremes are both rooted in a self-centered fixation on one's place and importance in the universe. Both extremes can destroy both the self, and others we come into contact with.

Seeking a higher plane, or a higher power, isn't enough to change things unless we're also willing to give up our own distorted sense of self. It's only then that we can see others as genuine equals without placing them on a pedestal or subordinating their position as fellow humans. I guess fully practicing the Golden Rule is probably the best happiness habit we can cultivate.

posted at: 14:24 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Got Your Gas Masks Ready?

I was very disappointed that the federal appeals court ruled against the reporters who would not reveal their sources in the Valerie Plame case. I hope the general public will get behind reporters who bring them news. Those who report what's happening are very likely to be the First Amendment rights equivalent of the caged canaries placed in coal mines in earlier times. If journalists get taken down, it should be a warning sign to the rest of the citizenry that they could be the next ones pressured to reveal all sorts of information. We should all support the freedom of the press now, or be ready to live with the consequences later.

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

Tue, Feb 15 2005

Gripping The Present Along With That Long Iron

Interesting side stories come out of events at Pebble Beach. A lot of people with parents who were hard taskmasters will identify with the family dynamics that preceded the current career of Sean O'Hair. The good news seems to be that he's learning to own his own life. Whether he chooses to talk about his past or not, he'll become a role model to some other young adults who are trying to figure out how to put their own regimented past into perspective. I hope he finds great joy in that as he takes his rightful place alongside the golf pros.

posted at: 07:41 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Mon, Feb 14 2005

Like Freedom? Allow More, Not Fewer, Active Photographers In Public

With a tip of the Stetson to Dan Gillmor for the pointer, I give you further proof that journalists, and others who care about basic freedoms, need to take a firm stand as tax-paying citizens and refuse to be treated like the very terrorists our officials claim they seek to weed out. The fact that a photojournalist was told he could not take photographs at a Muni platform should raise a red flag in front of everyone who hears about it. I would love it if a photographer clicked away near me at a Muni Station. The more public participation we have in documenting public groups of people, the less we have to rely on a few officials who attempt to control situations, and the better chance we have of discouraging terrorists from doing anything vicious.

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

Open Book(mark) Math Exercise

I loved the bookmark sharing proposed by Fire Ant Gazette, in which one begins at the bottom of one's browser bookmarks and counts up to every fourth entry until one has five links to share. I had to do a bit of extra gleaning to complete the task, because I found that one of the bookmarks I landed on had actually gone away. And a few of my bookmark folders are empty at the moment. So I kept using the base number of four, and continued counting until I could find a folder with four links in it. Eventually it all worked out to this list:

1. Writing-World.com (Writing Tips for Writers Around the World)
2. Cowboy WebRing (List of sites spotlighting cowboys, horses and legends)
3. Frogstar (Big .wav Archive)
4. Friends of Fall Creek Falls State Park, Inc. (Run by folks who want to preserve the park. My husband and I exchanged our wedding vows there, almost 30 years ago.)
5. Pier 1 Imports: Clearance (I like their merchandise and I also like a bargain).

posted at: 09:28 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Sun, Feb 13 2005

Interactive Wide-Screen Kung Fu

Somehow I've missed this one up until now. Select a movie mood and choose some moves. Then record and playback the sequence with I Know Where Bruce Lee Lives. A tip of the Stetson goes to pvtv.org posting the link.

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

Fri, Feb 11 2005

Something Completely Different? Maybe Not That Different

Wil Wheaton gave us a roller coaster ride of a blog post on Monday of this week. I enjoyed it for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was the realization that no matter how different we all are in life, we're often more alike than we are different. He and I grew up in different times, in different places, in different generations. His first-person writing contains a whole lot more slang and profanity than mine usually does, and we generally cover very different aspects of life. But I loved the way that particular post of his covered his activities that day with a sort of "best of times, worst of times" view in which anxiety, dread, frustration and fear all got mixed in with a dose of the zest for living that makes each of us keep going for another round of whatever the next day has to offer.

posted at: 13:50 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Thu, Feb 10 2005

Thanks, Mr. Murray

The city of Salinas has had such a tough time with its budget that they were planning to close their libraries. Thanks to the kind heart of Bill Murray, the city got some better press this week. They've taken a lot of ridicule since they issued the news that they would reluctantly have to close all three branches of the public library system. During the 3M Celebrity Challenge for charity, Mr. Murray decided to donate his portion of winnings to Rally Salinas!, which is the campaign that is heading the drive to raise money for the libraries. With all the dirt we see dished up on folks who happen to be in the public eye, it's nice to know that the positive celebrity stories still make it to the top of the headlines once in awhile, at least on a local basis. Mr. Murray will go on to do other tasks, but he's leaving behind a legacy that will make locals save a warm spot in their hearts, just for him. You can read more about the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am at this site.

On a lighter note, I wonder if that down-and-dirty creature who's been dong the Gopher's Blog will ease up on Bill Murray now.

posted at: 14:21 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Another Round Of The Drivers Licenses For Illegal Aliens Issue

I'm afraid the mayor of Watsonville is not thinking clearly. Illegal aliens are just that: illegal. Giving them a license to drive cheapens the process for those who have obeyed the law. But I can understand how the politicians are willing to go for the majority vote. I applaud Judy Doering-Nelsen and Dale Skillicorn for their interpretation of the situation of the problem from the true standpoint of lack of federal support. We have a lot of laws designed to make our roads safe already. Making it easier for criminals to get a driver's license is not going to cause people to suddenly obey more traffic laws than they do now.

posted at: 14:01 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

How To Expose Your Own Book And Publisher Without Really Trying

There's a press release you should read if you're contemplating having some of your writings presented by certain publishing houses that operate as, or very nearly as, vanity publishing houses. The press release tells the tale of a book called "Atlanta Nights" by one Travis Tea. You can read more about the actual contributors on the Cold Ground blog. You can download a copy (and read fabulous one-liner reviews full of double meanings) at Embiid Publishing

I have always had mixed feelings about vanity publishing. If someone is determined to have their book in print, and is thwarted at every turn by publishers who demand that authors submit their work through an agent, the world is going to lack some really great books. If an author is willing to pay to have their work published and printed in book form, I believe there should be a market for that. But it should be plainly stated that the arrangment requires that you pay them to publish. And a word to the wise: if you pay to be published, you should still have your work checked by someone who can catch glaring spelling and grammatical errors. The collective of Travis Tea did a great job (and had a lot of fun) with their covert operation. The lesson for writers is to not let the thrill of having work published get in the way of diligence in the practical matters.

Any proceeds from "Atlanta Nights" will be going to SFWA. The SFWA site has specific information regarding the publisher involved in this particular sting.

posted at: 06:29 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Wed, Feb 09 2005

One Of Their Own, But Not Really

LAPD Wife reminds us of the good sense to call local law enforcement if you come home and find your door standing wide open or if other things seem unexpectedly out of place. Her story reminded me of a case we followed up in the San Jose area when we lived in Santa Clara County. It seems that an alarm kept going off in one particular neighborhood, and one particular cop kept getting to the scene first and declaring it a false alarm. Unfortunately, it turned out that he was entering the home and stealing from the inhabitants, who were conveniently never at home when the alarm sounded. Someone finally got wise to the pattern and he got caught by members of his own force. It was unfortunate, because the crooked cop's actions did not truly reflect the goodness of the area police officers in general.

posted at: 13:48 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Tue, Feb 08 2005

Some Of My Dog-Eared Books

I have a few books I turn to again and again in writing. One of them is Everyday Life in the 1800s: A Guide for Writers, Students & Historians (Writer's Guides to Everyday Life). It describes typical furniture, slang, foods, medical practices, notes on the Civil War and the Old West and more.

Another valuable title is Plots Unlimited. It isn't a perfect book, and it can be tough to navigate if you try to follow their instructions, but if you sit down with it and just read a few entries and let your mind begin to wander into some variables, you can get some great ideas.

A little gem called How to Write A Movie in 21 Days is useful whether you're thinking movie, novel or short story. It asks you pointed questions, such as "Did the villain scare you?" It makes you zero in on your purpose and think in terms of rich visualization when presenting a story.

posted at: 16:19 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Publicity: Tell Everybody, Every Way You Can

For reasons I'm not goint into, I want to say that this is a good tip sheet for those who are promoting events and news. The part about networking is especially noteworthy. I continue to be amazed at the seemingly smart people who don't utilize publicity, especially free publicity. Don't assume that free means inexperienced or inept. When it comes to networking, meet everybody on the planet you can. Everybody knows somebody who knows somebody. You might be one or two people away from a really good contact, and you might miss that contact if you never take time to do your homework. It's amazing how many people will assist you if you treat them with respect and courtesy, and if you inform them of your event in a timely manner.

posted at: 15:06 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Do-Overs For Marriage

I was originally born into a family that was Roman Catholic by tradition, though I only saw my own father in a church twice. I never understood the concept (along with many others) of nullifying marriage. I'm not really surprised to read that the Church has been working to reconfigure the details regarding such practices, and that the number of requests for marriage annulments is increasing. Look at some of the questions people have about the whole process. It sounds like a dance between the IRS and a taxpayer, with the one trying to find a loophole and the other compressing a maze of instructions into something that can never be understood by the average user anyway. And all this talk of judges and tribunals makes the hairs on back of my neck stand on end.

And what about those who don't want an annulment and are essentially forced into one anyway, especially when the other spouse gets the annulment so that he or she can marry someone else? What kind of message does that send to the children of the original couple? PBS took a look at that problem at one point. In some circles, being the child of an anulled marriage could hold more stigma than being a child of a marriage that ended in divorce. It's a convoluted issue, and one that many in the outside world view with pity and ridicule.

posted at: 07:41 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Mon, Feb 07 2005

CSI, Teddy-style

What would you do if you arrived at a class you'd been attending and found police tape over the door of the classroom? When that happened to a class of first graders in the Midwest they got right to work to solve the crime.

posted at: 08:20 | category: /Science | link to this entry

Blogger Stoops To New Low With Pebble Beach Coverage

Unless you live in this area you don't think much about it. But those of us who inhabit the coastal area of Central California know it well. The trailers and equipment descend on Pebble Beach, just south of us. The pro golfers wander in with the celebrity players and the tourists wander in to catch glimpses of any or all of them. Volunteers are in abundance to keep everyone happy and under control. Most of us avoid our favorite restaurants until they all go home. And most of them do go home, eventually. But this year, something has changed. We seem to have acquired a new presence at the AT&T Pro-Am. He's a scruffy-looking fellow and he claims to have some sort of edge over the others who cover this annual event. He seems to have some grudge against the film industry and refers to casting directors as being sadistic sorts. He also had the audacity to call actor Bill Murray a nutball. This guy doesn't sound very together himself, with his putdowns and bad attitude. And who runs around in a fur coat in California? You might see him if you come to Pebble Beach, though I doubt it. He's covering the action in stealth mode. And when he gets the dirt on the whole thing, you can read about it on his very own blog.

posted at: 06:17 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Sun, Feb 06 2005

Baby Formula: Future Controlled Substance

First we heard about baby formula being used to dilute drugs. Now come even darker tales of a black market for baby formula.

If you're really concerned about the quality and safety of baby formula you buy off the store shelf, at least one brand, Enfamil, offers an online store for convenience, though I don't think they did that because of store thieves.

In the future, maybe more grocery stores and pharmacies will opt to keep baby formula behind the counter with the prescription drugs and cigarettes. In the meantime, if you see any cans of the stuff that don't look right, or that are being passed or handled in ways that look suspicious, you might want to contact the FDA Complaint Coordinator for your area. If the situation has to do with a small, independent store, I wouldn't advise contacting the store owner first, because he or she may have been a willing party to the black market transactions.

posted at: 10:01 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Fri, Feb 04 2005

A Few Interesting Products

Here's one for those of you working on graduation parties, bridal showers and other spring events. How about some personalized Photofetti to scatter on the tables?

Write Lightning's companion theme is the Old West, so how could I not notice these great tooled leather look pillar candles from Candle Bay?

Need some nifty phone pouches, handsets, tools and other goodies? Try Mike Sandman. While you're there, check out the shop birds.

posted at: 09:49 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Thu, Feb 03 2005

New Online Look At Images And How They Come To Be

A tip of the Stetson to Superhero Journal for the pointer to MakingRoom. Viewing the slideshows of photographers' works makes me want to grab a camera and get out there and hunt down a few golden moments of my own. Each of the featured artists has a different style and vision, and there are accompanying interviews that let us have a taste of insight as to what makes each one stop and try to capture a particular piece of life. Do have a gander.

posted at: 08:57 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Wed, Feb 02 2005

Sizing Up Life In The Country

The Progressive Farmer recently chose the Best Places to Live in Rural America. Freedom, California doesn't appear to be on the list. Maybe that's because we're fast becoming less rural and more like a bedroom community. Actually, nothing in Santa Cruz County or Monterey County was chosen. Of course, if everyone goes running to the 10 best places on that list, those places won't be rural for very long either. A few years ago a lot of Californians headed off to Colorado because homes were less expensive there and things seemed less crowded. Now that so many people had the same idea, it's gotten a lot more crowded there, and the demand for housing ran the prices up quite a bit. So when people from here start running off to Fauquier County, Virginia and Oconee County, Georgia, I hope they make sure they really want to be there. They can have my acre there. I'd just like to have their lot here.

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

You Don't Know Jacksonville

A lot of people are acting as though Super Bowl XXXIX will put Jacksonville, Florida on the map, so writers like Steve Powers and Pete Priso have been doing some articles to help balance the negativity. My husband and I lived in Jacksonville for a brief period of time about three decades ago, and I can tell you that the place has an atmosphere all its own. There's a lot of quiet "old money" flowing right alongside that St. John's River. Behind the doors of many well-maintained homes you can find front entryways full of antiques that have been passed down from previous generations.

Gardening, at least when we were there, was considered an art, and when my husband and I were the "new kids on the block" we inadvertently gained sudden acceptance from the other residents on the street by doing something they hadn't seen any of the previous occupants of the stately old house do. We pulled weeds. The landlord's hired gardeners had done a shoddy job, so we went out in the front yard and trimmed and picked up after them. People came out from behind locked doors to greet us and to get to know us. They invited us to sit with them on their porches in the evenings. It taught me a lesson I've never forgotten. When you want to get to know a new group of people, take time to notice what they consider to be important. Then add something to the neighborhood in your own unique way.

For those who rush into Jacksonville for Super Bowl XXXIX, Jacksonville might look like some misfit of a Southern Florida place, but when the press and the fans and the teams leave town for the next big thing, the residents of Jacksonville will smile and know that the brief presence of so many visitors didn't change the things that residents know make their town special. The kinds of things tourists can't see in one weekend are the very things that already put Jacksonville on the map a long time ago. If you really want to make an impression on Jacksonville, I'd suggest you pick up after yourselves before you leave town.

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

Tue, Feb 01 2005

Topless Female Sunbathers: Register As Sex Offenders?

We've already had moral questions regarding topless sunbathing. What I didn't know is that there are growing legal issues on the subject that are affecting other legal issues such as Megan's Law. Surely grown-ups can do the right thing and work this out. I'd hate to see it turn into a cheap media toy that takes the focus off keeping children safe.

posted at: 09:52 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

All Your Base Are Belong...

I don't usually make fun of people who are ESL, because I don't speak any other languages fluently. But I do believe that spam spewers are fair game because they interrupted my day with their drivel. So I loved this mix of ethnic expressions and bad grammar that appeared in my email box yesterday. (My snide comments are in red italics.)
Dear sir (You had a 50/50 chance, and you failed)
Top of the day to you, (Well, I am part Irish.)
My Names are Dr. Kevin Maxwell. (So, that's three names, right? Dr., Kevin and Maxwell?)
I want to solicit for your assistance to become (are you being paid by the word to write this?) my representative overseas. (I'd love to travel overseas. Please send round-trip tickets for myself and a traveling companion.) Payments will be made through you for the services i have rendered. (In God we trust. All others pay cash. My traveling companion will hold both your kneecaps as collateral in case you go back on the promise of payment you just made to me in this email.)
There was more to the email, but I think the spammer and I have both had enough fun with each other for one day.

posted at: 08:53 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

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Stealin' copy is as bad as horse-thievin'
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