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




Thu, Mar 31 2005

Collecting The Set

I took a few minutes to play with Google Sets this morning. I gave it "hero", "heroine", "theme", "setting" and "climax" and then clicked on the large set button. It did very well with a large list of terms, including "character", "rising action", "conflict" and "marrator". I tried a list of "knife", "killer", "motive", "clues" and "suspects", but it was unable to help me there. the group of "outlaw", "sheriff", "gunfighter", "jail" and "saloon" returned "sheriff", "jail", "gunfighter" and "coroner". So while it's fun to play with I'm not sure it's quite ready for regular use yet. I hope they'll keep tweaking it for those of us who work with words and also love to play with words.

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



Wed, Mar 30 2005

This Word Game Brought To You By Taxpayer Money

I can't help but wonder how much of the taxpayers' money was used to think up this little word game. And I wonder how long Homeland Security personnel think it will be before everyone figures out that both phrases describe the same basic technology. Do Homeland Security workers think no one reads, watches TV, listens to the radio or accesses the internet?

They would make far better use of their time and our money by using correct terms that are already well-known and explaining how the technology works, and then being clear and precise about the ways in which they plan to use it. People are not so much afraid of RFID technology as much as they are of the misuse of that technology. Using covert pet names is not going to do much to soothe the public's fears, except in the short run. I can't believe officials wouldn't realize that. Of course, if the point is to get the technology in place and then use it, and any future versions of it, in any way they wish, peoples' fears would be very justified. Either way, I fail to see how reinventing terms promotes security or even the illusion of security.



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



Tue, Mar 29 2005

The High School Dropout Who Saved A President

A man who helped save the life of President George H.W. Bush died earlier this month. Although he dropped out of high school, Andrew Toti went back and got his diploma and kept on learning and inventing useful things for the rest of his nearly 90 years of life. Last year Mr. Toti opened the Andrew Toti Museum of Inventions near Modesto, California. I hope someone will keep the museum going.

I would be interested to know why he ever quit school in the first place. I have a feeling a lot of young people who have left school have been some of our brightest and best, but have not had their needs met by traditional classroom teaching. Mr. Toti's success sits alongside that of others who left school early and either completed their education later or used life experience to make an impact on society. Others among that group:

17th president Andrew Johnson
Civil rights activist Rosa Parks
Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert
Newspaper publisher Horace Greeley
Mystery author Agatha Christie
Photographer Ansel Adams
Entertainer Jerry Lewis
Musician Buddy Rich
Actress Sophia Loren
Film director Luc Besson
Author Jane Austen

I don't advocate dropping out of school. I hated sitting in classrooms. But I knew if I could just get that diploma in my hand it would be a stepping stone to other things. I also acquired most of my positive learning experiences outside any classroom. I stayed in school, but I knew I couldn't rely on the local educators to build my world. I haunted our community library, watched TV, roamed in nature, viewed films, listened to adults talk, observed adults at their work, and also corresponded with people in other parts of the world. I had a hunger for knowledge but I really hated school. If you're reading this and you're in school and you hate it, please don't just drop out unless you have a plan and a vision that can't be furthered at all by books and can't be furthered at all by being in your current geographical location. If you can possibly stick it out, stay in school, but keep learning about things on your own. Don't wait for a classroom lecture to turn you on to life. It probably won't happen. It's up to you to make your life what you want it to be. Find an adult somewhere who does what you want to do and ask them to be your mentor. Go to the library, get on the computer, read, ask, observe. If you can't find a mentor locally, write to one. You can find people easily on the internet now.

I don't care what the politicians or the educational experts tell you. Adults have been drawn into so much bureaucracy (read: bureau-crazy) in our society that most teachers have very little time to actually help you with your education. It's up to you now. You can whine about school or you can show them how smart you really are by learning what they don't have time to teach you.

The most important thing for us to remember in any formal education is that we don't teach groups of children anything. We adults may gather children into groups for our convenience, but someone still has to reach into that group to spark learning in the mind of one child at a time. Any other approach wastes their time and ours and is an insult to their intelligence. And when we tell kids that the only way they can ever be successful in life is by sitting through twelve (or more) years of formal classroom procedures we are liars.

posted at: 09:21 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry



Mon, Mar 28 2005

Trails And Tribulation

PBS has a great section on the people and events that shaped the Old West, taken from their series "New Perspectives on The West".

posted at: 10:21 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Borders As Blog

Michelle Malkin and a select group of writers have launched The Immigration Blog. The blog does not take an anti-immigrant stance. It zeroes in on illegal immigrant issues.

posted at: 08:27 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Sun, Mar 27 2005

What Came First? The Incense Or The Egg?

It's an interesting season on our planet. As I write this, it's the day most of us know as Easter Sunday, and the day is full of sunrise services and hunts for colored eggs and cakes shaped like lambs. Easter has always been a strange holiday to me. As a child, it was the time of year when kids in the Roman Catholic school system had to endure a long afternoon of The Stations of the Cross. I always suffered from the incense and other details that the adults somehow must have thought would lead us all to salvation. I ended up feeling bewildered and outside the whole experience. I can still remember counting the stations in my head and choking on the incense and waiting for the end. When people went wild for incense in the height of hippiedom I thought they had gone mad. All the stuff did was close my airways. Incense never had any spiritual significance for me except feeling the need to be rescued before I choked to death.

I usually had a new hat for Easter and sometimes a new dress and shoes. I don't know why, but it was considered a rather important thing then to go shopping for (or have made) a new outfit to wear to church. We colored eggs and had chick-shaped marshmallow candies and always had to have ham and German-style coleslaw and potato salad (made with some of the colored eggs) for late lunch after mass. To this day I have no idea why some people eat ham on Easter Sunday.

Young children probably don't really understand the symbolism of incense and the cross and more than they really understand the symbolism of dyed eggs and big bunnies that leave mysterious baskets full of goodies. I've been told that abstract thinking doesn't kick in for most children until the years just prior to puberty. But as adults we have a tremendous capacity to bring up memories that are associated with strong sensual experiences. The scent of incense causes my chest muscles to constrict. The smooth touch of an egg reminds me of my mother smiling and teaching me how to lift the egg out of the dye. The sight of chocolate-covered egg-shaped marshmallow candies brings to mind my father and I shopping together to find them in cartons. Because of past associations, It would be pretty tough for anyone reading this to convince me that the incense was the correct symbol.

When I hear people discuss the idea of mixing pagan symbols and Christian symbols I'm confused, because this is exactly what Christ did when meeting people. He pointed out anything at hand to let people know their lives could be changed if they would put their future completely into God's hands.

I'm glad that smart adults know that the pleasant experience of an egg hunt together can instill a lot more spirituality than a sermon on the evils of a pagan egg hunt. As the saying goes, religion is better caught than taught.



posted at: 09:56 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry



Fri, Mar 25 2005

Part Of Felon's M.O. Requires B.M.

At least the conniving fellow didn't hide the handcuff key in the book and swallow the razor blade.

posted at: 09:33 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry



Thu, Mar 24 2005

Amuse Yourselves For A Bit

I'm in crunch week to get the April issue of an ezine up, so will put something brief here for your enjoyment until I can concentrate a bit more on blog posts. Go enjoy a game or two of online Jenga while I edit festival and event material. Or, you might want to go out and organize an Easter egg hunt. Then again, you might opt to go download something Easter-related over at Tucows.

posted at: 15:20 | category: /Playing | link to this entry



Wed, Mar 23 2005

Not Quite Like An Actor Turned Director

When a writer takes on the role of editor, he or she has to turn into a lean, mean rejection machine. Just ask John Scalzi. A tip of the Stetson goes to del.icio.us for the link.

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



Door? What door?

I guess those fancy-dancy burglar tool kits don't remind you to just try turning the doorknob before you go breaking into a place the hard way.

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



Tue, Mar 22 2005

California Real Estate Prices May Be Coming To A State Near You

Here's where the U. S. seniors are living. Santa Cruz County in California, where I currently live, is losing seniors to the northern counties of the state where property is cheaper. Some seniors have also run off to nearby Oregon and Washington for the same reason. And Those Californians of any age who opt to buy a home in another state may be causing other Americans to pay more in other states.

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



Mansion Excitement

After some $20 million dollars and more than a decade of effort the Leland Stanford Mansion will likely have a reopening later this spring. The state hopes to use the property as a tool in economic development and as a meeting place for dignitaries from all over the world. I hope they save a few time slots for folks like me who just want to walk through the old building's interior and inhale a bit of historic atmosphere.

posted at: 11:08 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry



Mon, Mar 21 2005

Force Feeding


What an emotional roller coaster we've all been taken on lately with regard to the Terri Schiavo case. People don't know that Ms. Schiavo wants to keep eating. They don't know that she does not want to keep eating. Either she does not have enough brain activity to be able to express her wishes or she does not have the physical means to express her wishes. Or perhaps those surrounding her do not have the ability to understand some limited communication she does give in her present state. Because she never signed a definitive piece of paper stating her wishes one way or another she has become the unwitting center of attention for religious groups, political leaders, medical personnel, sociologists and just plain folks who realize we each could have easily been in her position or in that of her family members.

First of all, I'm a little concerned that people are taking sides in the parents vs. husband area. Some of these folks are pulling up the word "Christian" to say that the parents should have their way. But Christians believe that marriage trumps parental authority in adults. So I'd be a bit cautious before I jumped on this side of such things. The rest of us can't be certain what any of these folks' motives are, any more than we can be certain that Ms. Schiavo would sit up and ask for bread if she could do that. We just don't know.

Some feel it's inhuman to remove the feeding tube that keeps Ms. Schiavo going. I've heard people say that it would be unethical or even immoral of medical personnel to remove the tube. Medical advancements have made it possible to keep a person breathing in situations that would have been unheard of a century ago. If someone had sustained brain damage or brain injury back then, would they have been held down and force-fed by mouth, even if they screamed or choked on the food? I doubt it. Such behavior would have been considered cruel. Because we have the capability to "force-feed" patients now with the help of drips and tubes and other devices, the issue has another whole layer added to it.

We had a family member some years ago who was aged and would not eat. Coaxing, bribing and even scolding produced little results. The family member was offered liquid nutritional supplements by mouth, but still took in less and less nourishment as time went on. As far as we know the family member had not experienced a brain injury and was physically able to put food in their mouth and swallow and digest it. They just didn't feel like eating. Should we have force-fed them at that time? If we had disagreed as family members, what would have happened? Would the courts have stepped in? I don't even like to think about the ramifications that the Terri Schiavo case will have on many families from now on. State courts, national legislators and even President Bush have now become involved in this family's suffering. It's true that those of us now living can make up paperwork to prevent this kind of thing from happening to our own life if we are ever in a position where we can't speak for ourselves. But once the political machine has started its massive grinding, I'm fearful that even that carefully worded piece of paper outlining our wishes could be set aside down the line if some politician decided to go on a crusade because he or she felt that our choice was against their particular brand of ethics or religion. I don't recall a personal medical situation like Ms. Schiavo's ever having brought so many politicians into action before. If they're willing to step into this kind of life-and-death arena, it tells me that other issues involving family conflict and personal freedoms are probably going to be up for grabs in the near future. Politicians seem to feel they have a lot more entitlement to inject themselves into citizens' lives these days. Medical advances may have come a long way in the last hundred years, but human nature is pretty much the same. Forget feeding tubes. What we have to worry about from now on is force-fed politics.

posted at: 09:38 | category: /Politics | link to this entry



Record Companies Just Don't Get It, But Maybe That's A Good Thing

First, a tip of the Stetson to Glenn at Instapundit for the information. If the error I keep getting as "too many connections" is any indication, Ourmedia is a hit. I was able to read about the project a bit more here. This is a volunteer effort, but even music pros are acknowledging that the record company execs are thinking like dinosaurs. Fiona Apple made an album that was never released, but the music is showing up here and there anyway. Is the time coming when all artists will cut out the middle man and go straight to the fans with music and other creative works? I love the idea. I don't need record companies telling me that I should have to listen to whatever music is worthy of their mass marketing and mass production. There are so many talented artists just itching to share their work. If the record companies are not going to help us all enjoy the wide spectrum of sounds and styles being created, I don't feel a bit sorry that the companies will lose out in the future.

posted at: 08:11 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry



Fri, Mar 18 2005

Apple's Growing Moral Dilemna

I've been uneasy ever since the news broke about Apple using the courts to go after web sites who were publishing blog posts that one-upped Apple's announcements of future products. I'd like to underscore the ideas expressed in this weeks's commentary from Peter Burrows at Mac News World. Apple executives have a chance to handle this situation with grace and elegance. If they opt instead to take a bully's stance they run a real risk of coming off as disdainful of the American press and downright hostile to the American arena of free speech. I'm fairly certain neither of those latter positions fits in with the company's mission statement.

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



Friday Catch-Up For News

I've been outside the office a lot the last two days, but there are some news headlines and topics that caught my eye. I'm still catching up on some of the details:

Google Code

Latin American Countries Back Anti-Secession Law

And then there's this little gem of an observation:
Scientists Say Life Expectancy to Drop
That last story mentions the fact that the shorter lives of the up-and-coming generation could keep Social Security solvent for a longer period of time. Several headlines this week mention the shorter life-span theory. If people just keeled over two years earlier than expected it wouldn't be quite such a hard thing to hear about. What's really troubling is that the chronic health woes connected to obesity may affect this generation's quality of life a lot more than the length of their life.

posted at: 09:31 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry



Wed, Mar 16 2005

Ways With Art

Old cigarette machines are being given new life and are being used to promote art at the same time. Meet Art'o'mat.

You've seen baseball trading cards, comic trading cards and others. Now there are Artist Trading Cards. You can see some examples of this type of art here, here and here. A variation is the jam card, which is started by one artist and finished by others in a "round robin" style. One site provides an overview and description of the cards. This work, to be authentic, must be traded or given away, rather than sold. At least, until someone figures out there's a profit in it. For now, it reminds me of mail art and other exchanges that go on.

posted at: 13:30 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry



Tue, Mar 15 2005

Don't Try This At Home Or Anywhere Else

Some folks in the nearby mountain community of Ben Lomond got a lot more than they bargained for when they tried to keep a backyard bonfire going. Just in case anyone else out there might have an old gas tank in a corner, be aware that it does not make safe kindling. It's a bomb waiting to happen. Popular Mechanic's Auto Clinic touched on the explosive nature of these things a couple of years ago when someone wanted to know how to dispose of a vehicle's old tank.



posted at: 09:18 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry



Mon, Mar 14 2005

This Is Your Brain on MRI: Any Questions? You Bet.

The Rabid Librarian led me over to a health-related story from last week. At first glance, the idea that certain MRI scans introduce an antidepressant effect in rats sounds like a great thing. But the electrical activity of the brain is precious stuff. Should we be comfortable with the fairly common use of something that has the potential to have this much effect on our thought processes? Even the basic facts about magnetic resonance imaging tell us that the person undergoing the procedure may experience warmth. This may be caused by the contrast dye that is sometimes used to produce a better image. But it still is an indication that the test is not a casual glance into the body's inner workings. An MRI disturbs the natural movement of the body's protons for a short time. It's the body's attempt to get back to normal function that causes the energy which is measured up by the machine. It's not nearly as uncomfortable as some tests, but anything that interrupts the natural flow of cells in the body has the potential to do harm as well as good.

The University of Wisconsin has been studying what happens to Buddhist monks when they meditate, and has found that there is increased gamma-wave activity in those who are practiced in the art of meditation. Meditation and prayer tend to promote peace of mind and a sense of connection with the rest of the world that gives us an open attitude toward helping others. But this usually happens over a period of time through an individual's free will. The introduction of something artifical, such as drugs, can produce brain changes that are sudden and dramatic, which is why the wiser doctors are often reluctant to prescribe mood-altering drugs to their depressed patients unless other methods have failed. We just don't know enough about how these things really affect the mind's ability to function. While MRI scanning is not a drug, we might want to consider that fact that it could be capable of making the same kinds of sudden changes. Before we cheer that as a breakthrough, I hope we wait until a lot more evidence is in on what the scan does to the brain's ability to maintain an overall healthy balance.

posted at: 11:00 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry



Fri, Mar 11 2005

Cyber Gardening

How about building your own flower for some relaxation?

posted at: 13:34 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry



I Before Me Except After...

Get It Write has a handy Tip of the Week online. This week's tip looks at the use of "I" and "me". As recently as yesterday I misused "I" in a written sentence, and didn't catch the error until the recipient of the sentence copied it back to I in an email.

That last sentence is almost as ridiculous as the one I wrote yesterday.

posted at: 10:23 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Thu, Mar 10 2005

The Meaning Of Things

It's fun to see someone who still has a sense of wonder and a love of learning as they approach their 90th year of life. Charles Townes is the latest recipient of the Templeton Prize. It's a very smart man who realizes that the more of the universe he discovers, the more there is to learn.

posted at: 14:13 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry



Wed, Mar 09 2005

Tsunami Backwash

Last night I had the privilege of listening to an informal report from someone who went with a group of people to the tsunami-damaged area of the planet. She brought back photos of children in orphanages and told of handing out stickers to children who helped the adults clean beaches of debris. The sand is full of glass shards and pieces of clothing that have seams full of wet sand. It will take a long time to make the area attractive to tourists again, and the area depends heavily on tourists for their economy. I won't steal her thunder here, but I do hope she gets a chance to tell her story in a more public way. There was tight security as well-known politicians paid a visit to the area, and she has some interesting things to say about special provisions made during that time, and only during that time. She stayed for 15 days and was exhausted both physically and emotionally, but she says she's going back for more as soon as she can work it out. Since many of us can't go personally, I think it's important that any of you who have sent money know that there are folks still doing a tremendous work over there.

posted at: 07:30 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry



Tue, Mar 08 2005

A Whole New Meaning To Recycled Paper

I often call myself a paperholic because it's tough for me to pass up a new tablet of stationery or a fresh pack of cardstock. But I have to admit I've never heard of bison dung paper until now.

posted at: 17:05 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry



Searched Images Make Great Impromptu Art

Six Meat Buffet gave a nod to the Unpopulist, who mentioned Montage-a-google. Once there, you can do a search for images and then use those images to create a photo montage. I tried searching for "peppers" and got back a really colorful blend.

posted at: 11:25 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry



Mon, Mar 07 2005

Who Will Catch The Next Great Films?

There's a blog for the script writer who wants to know what not to pitch to Hollywood. The claim is that the postings contain actual query letters sent to Tinsel Town. Maybe all the execs need to do is combine two or three of the pitches to end up with a box office bonanza on their hands.

I never understood the concept of pitching scripts anyway. And I'm betting that the growing crop of independent film makers is going to put a crimp in that whole tired dance. Major motion picture studio producers have been seen as near-royalty, while writers have been looked upon as word-flipping whores who have to flash some proverbial skin just to get a chance to pitch their ideas. Sales people are better at pitching than most writers are. Just because we're not all great at sales doesn't mean we don't have a blockbuster script sitting on our lap. If producers are looking for the next big thing they might consider getting off their thrones and hunting down great writers for themselves. The longer they wait to do that, the higher the chance that an indie will scoop up the best scripts. It's not only the pitch that counts. It's the vision in the heart of the catcher.

posted at: 16:09 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Blocking The Aisles

I'm wondering if every grocery store should consider posting something like the city of Alhambra's shopping cart etiquette. Yesterday I started to push my cart into an aisle and had to come to an abrupt stop because a woman was picking out bottles of spices near the end of the aisle. Her behavior would have been fine if she hadn't first managed to stop her cart in such a way that it blocked the middle of the aisle and was set in a half-turn so that it would have taken a great deal of manipulation to get it to one side or the other of the aisle. She continued to read labels while I waited and while another person's cart came to a stop behind me. Now we were jutting out into the area where lines form to check out. When the spice hunter finally looked up and saw me waiting her whole body reacted with a giant twitch that almost made her drop the bottle she finally had in her hand. Her eyes got wider and her jaw dropped as though she'd thought she was the only one in the store. I said nothing, but smiled and waited for her to move. She grabbed the cart and yanked it to one side, so I proceeded to move slightly past her to the items beyong the spices. Just as I reached for a can of broth she shoved her cart forward and nearly knocked me down. I tried to back up, but the person who had been waiting behind me was barreling past us both to make up lost time for her own delay. I was caught in a move that looked like an old disco step. The spice hunter jerked her head toward me again and mumbled something I couldn't understand and then gave one more jerk of the cart as if to move on. Then she stopped again. By this time I was ready to give the command to her to "Sit. Stay." Instead, I pushed my cart to the next aisle and came back to that aisle once I was sure she had left the area. This woman was able-bodied, made eye contact with me several times, clearly heard the noises of other shoppers approaching and had no small children along to distract her. Maybe she'd just gotten back news and was in her own little universe. I have no explanation for her frustrating actions.

Exactly one week before the grocery store incident I was in a Michael's, shopping with a basket instead of a cart. I had gone up and down several aisles and then noticed a sale on rubber stamps, so I tried to browse in that area. There were two or three other people shopping in that section and we crossed back and forth and swapped places without a word and did very well. At the end of the aisle was a group of five women having a visit. They were not browsing merchandise and they were not talking about crafts or store items. They were sharing the good old days and catching up on the latest family news. I looked at the sale items near them as well as I could, and I tried to make eye contact and place myself in such a way that let them know I needed to move on to that area. They turned and looked toward me and never missed a syllable, laughing and talking as though I was nothing more than part of the display shelf. After a good three minutes I moved on to the next aisle, where I listened for things to wind down so I could go back and browse again. They talked for another ten minutes. I browsed the rest of the store and then came back to finish in that aisle.

I salute the city of Alhambra for its bravery in reminding people that shopping shouldn't have to be a contact sport and that we shouldn't have to resort to aisle rage in order to get shoppers to keep an aisle as clear as possible when they are not on the move. This whole incident did make me recall a trip to Arizona some years ago, where I found it amusing that grocery stores had signs instructing folks to check their firearms at the door. I wondered if maybe they knew something I didn't know. Now I'm fairly certain they knew exactly what they were doing.

posted at: 13:15 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry



Sun, Mar 06 2005

Loose Talk And Liberty

Dan Gillmor and others have already commented on the recent trouble of the bloggers who revealed information about future products from Apple Computer. A California judge felt that the sites on which the bloggers write don't qualify the writers as journalists. The obvious slippery slope this type of thing presents has already been noted on Write Lightning and on many other blogs. Pressure against those who report and comment in any public forum may be a wedge to crackdown on the freedom of the average citizen to speak his or her mind without being interrogated or intimidated. If these things begin to be played out in a court of law we're going to see a battle over what free speech is in both written and spoken word.

Although it has no direct bearing on the Apple Computer case, the gag order that affected comedian Jay Leno might sound funny to some, but it's really another free speech issue. This man's work is comedy. Because of circumstances (that he didn't create) that resulted in his being subpoened to testify in a trial, a court order has interrupted his ability to do his job.

Do you want a court to tell you what jokes you can listen to? How about what jokes a comedian can tell his or her audience? Do you want a court to tell you that only some people should be defended as professional journalists while using a yardstick that no longer covers the broad scope of present-day journalism? If you don't speak out for freedom of speech right now, they'll start with the high-profile people. But someday it will be your turn to answer for you associations, your opinions, your whereabouts and your knowledge. First Amendment protection was instituted long before there were online blogs and TV comedy stand-up routines. Let's not lose the principle of these freedoms now by thinking they're only for someone special circumstances. Please let your representatives know how you feel, even if you disagree with my particular take on the matter.

posted at: 20:46 | category: /Politics | link to this entry



Fri, Mar 04 2005

Short Of The Glory Of God

A writer for sfweekly recently allowed some white supremacists the opportunity to attempt to recruit him into the circle. I'm a little surprised that he got as far as he did. I read an article by someone else who wonders if James Mazzone, who was convicted on drug dealing charges and had been part of Aryan Nations, was some sort of informant against that particular group. I guess it's not always paranoia when they really are after you.

A lot of these ideas and stories will be passed around now that there has been so much speculation surrounding the killings of Judge Joan Lefkow's husband and mother. Splinter groups and individuals who identify with the white supremacist movement have made some comments expressing joy at hearing of the deaths of these two people. That sort of thing doesn't help the reputation of the cause for those of us looking at these types of groups from the outside.

White supremacist groups have been blamed for everything from AIDS to 9-11. I rather doubt they actually hold that much real power. But what they do have the ability to do is appeal to white people who feel they haven't gotten a fair shake in life. A lonely, unsuccessful white person who feels disenfranchised by his or her world is an easy mark for someone who encourages blaming trouble on people who chanced to be born into some other race, ethnicity or religious community.

Some of these groups, though not all, point to the teachings of the Bible as a framework for their message and mission. But the Bible doesn't teach white supremacy. Instead, Bible writers remind us that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God". That levels the playing field pretty plainly for any of us who claim to live by the principles of the the Scriptures.

There have been at least three separate times during my life that I was directly affected by white supremacists. All were horribly negative experiences in which their insecurity manifested itself in flattery and then progressed to bullying. At one point I received unsolicited correspondence that insulted a beloved member of my extended family and indicated that I'd better get smart and wise up to how badly the wool was being pulled over my eyes. If these folks were willing to treat me so badly, knowing me to be what they considered an equal as a white person, how much more hateful might they become with someone whose race or other background they thought beneath their own? And how they could think their petty remarks and bullying would endear me to their cause is still a mystery to me. Their behavior toward me was cult-like and disgusting. If that's the best standard they can muster for white supremacy it might explain why they haven't exactly taken charge of the universe yet.



posted at: 15:48 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry



Thu, Mar 03 2005

Forbidden Fruit

When human instincts for creativity and friendship are involved, it's pretty hard for a cold war or decades-old sanctions or any other political machine to stop progress. Food producers and distributors, including a growing number of them in California, are leading the pack to trade with Cuba. Val Prieto has his Babalu blog, in which he recounts memories and tries to give understanding to himself and to those of us who read his words. Artist Ana Mendieta was passed between both countries and found a way to express her loneliness through her art. She passed away some time ago, but her art still reaches out to us.

Even as politicians in Cuba and the U.S. attempt to restrict monetary and social interaction between the two nations there is strong interest on the part of Cubans and Americans to share the many things that make us more alike than different and to explore and learn from the details that are different. This is a drive that neither country's political forces can hold back forever. It's even possible that the sense of taboo the two countries' leaders have attempted to create may actually be upping our curiosity and adding fuel to our desire to be closer to our neighbors. It all makes me think of two sets of panicked parents who don't like each other's family and form a dirty alliance to try to stomp out the budding romance between their teenage offspring.

posted at: 10:19 | category: /Politics | link to this entry



Wed, Mar 02 2005

Sharing Resources

There was an interesting Wired News story on PlanetQuest today. The sharing of computer resources seems to be getting more attention than ever before. Einstein@Home looks for those elusive gravitational waves Albert Einstein talked about. Chess Brain works on getting computers to play chess without humans making direct moves. There are projects that seek math solutions, map genome sequences, hunt down cures for disease, and even render images for animated film sequences. Some even offer to pay for using your computer's time, though you're not likely to find this a source of big money. Since more and more of us are connected to the internet all the time this seems like a great way to share what might otherwise be idle machine time and resources gone to waste.

posted at: 09:27 | category: /Science | link to this entry



Tue, Mar 01 2005

A Search Engine With A Snoop Dogg Slant

You can get a very interesting translation of a web site by going to Gizoogle and entering the full URL of the page you'd like to see translated. A tip of the Stetson goes to One Good Thing.

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



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Stealin' copy is as bad as horse-thievin'
and cattle rustlin'! Lightning may strike
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