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

Fri, Apr 29 2005

Can You Feel The Love?

It's a shame to have to say it, but don't believe everything you hear in or around a church. Some of the best scams are played out by people masking themselves as mission-minded do-gooders. One unscrupulous duo is zeroing in on Spanish-speaking immigrants in the California Central Valley. New immigrants may be unsure of this country's laws and may not yet be fluent enough in English to research the claims of scam artists.

Some of these con artists rely on the trust factor of church congregations and other closely-knit groups to actually propel the scam forward. It's called "affinity fraud". You can speak excellent English and still end up a victim.

posted at: 15:54 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Selling Ads In Pajamas

No, wait. Selling ads while they wear pajamas. No, that doesn't quite make it clear either. Well, while I work on this sentence structure you can go and read for yourself about how Roger L. Simon and others are starting a new blog business. The post of all this was interesting, but what really kept me glued to the page was the lively comments left there. I do wish the group great success. Blogs are proving to be a wonderful microcosm of modern society. We end up with entrepreneurs, critics, wannabes, cliques and even the occasional proverbial village idiot. If Pajamas Media can forge ahead through all that and still make a buck and still have some fun, then my Stetson's off to them.

posted at: 13:03 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Thu, Apr 28 2005


The Rabid Librarian pointed the way to a game in which you try to guess what keyword placed into Google has brought up a particular set of images. Guess-the-Google is fun, but I found that the countdown began before some of the sets of images loaded. I was seeing an old set of images for a few seconds on some of the tries, and was left a bit confused. It's still a fun diversion and reminds me a bit of playing Hangman sans the dead body. posted at: 09:40 | category: /Playing | link to this entry 28#4-28-05a

posted at: 09:40 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Wed, Apr 27 2005

Tweedledum and Tweedletoad?

The stories about exploding toads seem to coming from many news sources the last couple of days. There are plenty of puns and jokes, but underneath it all I think most of us are uneasy about the whole thing. We've been hearing for some time that frogs and toads are sensitive to environmental changes that could soon be hurting humans. I suppose exploding toads are as easy to laugh at as any other thing that scares us.

posted at: 12:03 | category: /Science | link to this entry

Tue, Apr 26 2005

Deadly Fire At Southern Adventist University

I got sad news this morning when I found out that a fire at Thatcher Hall on the Southern Adventist University in Tennessee killed a student. Thatcher was my only home in the world for awhile back in the 1970s. There was a kitchenette in each wing, making two per floor. Each contained cooking and laundry facilities. I never lived on the third floor, but I was always bothered by the fact that the windows in the building could not be opened and would have had to be broken out in the event of fire. The building's exterior is typical of that area's heavy use of brick and columns. These views show a bit of dorm room interiors, with a peek of a window.

It's one of the most beautiful college campuses in the world, with a backdrop of lush mountains and a general feeling of peace about it. My heart goes out to the folks there this morning.

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

Mon, Apr 25 2005

With Apologies To The True Rappers Out There: Prevention Of Deflection Does Not Constitute
Most articles I've seen on the new bankruptcy laws concentrate on the effects of the laws when it comes to overextended credit, particularly the use of credit cards. Rob over at Gut Rumbles offers another take on the type of debt that might be getting a lot of people into trouble.

There is a PDF file showing bankruptcy statistics for the fourth quarter of 2004. Whatever is causing the filings, the folks in the South and the Midwest made up a significant portion of the numbers. I honestly thought I'd see more claims from California because of the high cost of home ownership here.

I wonder if anyone is compiling more of the type of data Rob spoke of in his posting. It might help us all in the future to know know what the real crunch is that brings most people to file. If our legislators have spent nearly a decade's worth of time (not to mention the tax money) studying this whole issue the least they can do is spend a little time helping taxpayers figure out how to avoid being in the position of having to file in the first place.

posted at: 10:59 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Fri, Apr 22 2005

Could Popcorn Be The New Politically Correct Snack?

We used to call them "old maids" when it wasn't so politically incorrect to do that. Now researchers think they know what causes them. If they really can make better popcorn we might never see an old maid again. Will this finally make popcorn a dead issue for feminists?

posted at: 09:41 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

A Slice Of Biblical Pi And A Mystery

Math frustrates me terribly, but people like Elizabeth Stapel use it to figure out all kinds of things. Purplemath took a look at the measurement we call "pi" and how close it is to the specifications for at least one item from the Old Testament.

Along with the references to biblical measurements I noticed the mention of the dye royal purple and its origins. I haven't had time to go and research it yet, but if this dye was obtained from mollusks of some sort, wouldn't it mean that the dye was technically from an unclean source? It's strange to think that this would have been used among Jewish people at that time, when there was detailed instruction to avoid the unclean when it came to sacred places. It's certainly something to look up later when I have time to study in depth.

posted at: 01:36 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Thu, Apr 21 2005

The Rapid Call

Joe Gandelman over at The Moderate Voice commented on Karl Rove's recent remarks regarding media reporting. Mr. Rove apparently compared current news reporting to horse racing when he spoke of the "shrill and rapid call of the track announcer".

Mr. Rove's original comments struck a certain chord with me, because I recently posted an entry about the way citizens can become informed about politicians' actions and stances almost immediately now. News media personnel have traditionally competed for "the scoop" in getting a share of the audience. Print media strive to be the first with a story. Radio and TV introduced the the concept of "breaking in" with news flashes.

With the internet, PDAs and cell phones we can now have instant interactive news. If the haste to be first in print, radio and TV seemed competitive, just imagine the possiblities when it comes to instant access and notification based on the preferences of the one seeking news. As more people find their way online the speed of reporting will likely get more frantic. This doesn't insure accuracy but it does please those who want their news and want it right now.

This sort of thing is tough for politicians, who rely heavily on aides, cabinet personnel, committees, cronies, lobbyists and other channels of communication that may take time to filter in to them. The positions they take are usually not based on instant information. But the reactions of constituents and critics are going to be greatly influenced by that "rapid call", whether politicians accept it or not. The horse race pace in the dissemination of both correct and incorrect news is going to make it increasingly tough for politicians to maintain a dynamic image on a steady political platform. The challenge will be staying flexible in the face of rapid change without seeming to flip-flop on the issues and to remain sure in priciple without looking obstinate and out of touch. That rapid call could put a lot of politicians out to pasture before they can even get out of the gate.

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

Wed, Apr 20 2005

Google Knows Where Old Searches Go

I think the idea of Google providing one's search query history should be really helpful. There have been a number of times I've found great results after careful key word selection but then was unable to remember what I typed later when I tried to continue my search or tried to go back to the same sites Google returned on my previous visit.

posted at: 16:20 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Tue, Apr 19 2005

Food Pyramid Gets A Facelift

Well, it's here. Since we seemed to only get fatter under the guidelines of the old food pyramid, the USDA is now presenting us with a new one. The site is very popular because it's new and shiny, so I wasn't able to take a look at their "Inside the Pyramid" section yet. I suspect they're still tweaking details, because I got at least one page with raw HTML showing. Individual food links make use of pop-up pages, which most of us will have to unblock in order to view them properly.

I suspect there is still way too much biased input from the powerful industries that bring us meat, refined flour and sugar, and dairy and egg products. But it's a good idea to at least get people thinking and talking about food and exercise. I especially like the image of the human figure ascending the stairs of the pyramid. Most of us would benefit from a lot more physical activity.

I hope it all brings us better health. I've been waiting for the Brown Rice pop-up page to load while I type this post, but I think it failed somewhere along the way. I'll just have to go back later when people get bored with the whole thing and they go hunting for the next new and shiny diet craze.

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

Mon, Apr 18 2005

Is The President Soft On Caffeine?

One writer of one article on The Minuteman Project web site describes people close to the Mexican border as believing that President Bush has betrayed them. I doubt that's exactly what people meant in practical terms. Politicians, and particularly presidents, are extremely insulated now from what goes on in everyday life in any given sector of the country. Most of them have come up through the ranks of other political positions, so they've spent years surrounded by advisors, security personnel and aides. Even the actors who have gone into politics are usually of enough celebrity status that they have ceased to rub elbows with the general public because of safety or for other practical reasons. When someone from the White House does get out and talk to a private citizen in some small town it's usually only after careful screening and scrutiny of that person's lifestyle and background by a whole team of experts. It's almost impossible for someone in a high office to have open, spontaneous access to most of us. When a president, governor or other elected high official does get information about a situation, he or she has to be careful to react in just the right way.

Let's suppose for a moment that a president has always taken a soft position on allowing caffeinated soft drinks on airplanes, even though we all know that caffeine is a substance that does affect people. Caffeine has been extremely commonplace and popular on planes (and everywhere else). If news reaches a president that someone has gotten pumped up on caffeinated soft drinks on a flight and terrorized the other passengers and the crew the president is faced with some important decisions. Should he or she call for an immediate ban on caffeinated soft drinks on all flights? Should the ban apply to coffee that has not been decaffeinated? Should every person carrying painkillers that contain caffeine be checked for signs of abuse and even have their pill confiscated? What about the pilot(s) and crew? Should they be forbidden coffee and other caffeinated beverages? If a president comes down hard on the side of banning caffeine on all flights he or she is going to have to deal with a lot of public rebellion and resistance. A lot of people like their caffeine and have legitimate use for it. It makes their lives easier and even more pleasant at times. And wouldn't a passenger rather know that their pilot, who perhaps suffers from severe insomnia, had a couple of double espressos before take-off than to think he or she might doze off at the controls?

A president could just stay soft on caffeine and push to allow any and all forms of the substance to be brought on board and consumed. He or she could form a task force to study the effects of caffeine on crew and passengers and could delay an active decision on a position for years to come. A president could even ignore the whole issue or just declare it not an issue at all. No matter what the president decides to do, or not do, he or she is going to take flack from the public, from members of opposing political parties and from anyone who has anything to do with the manufacture and use of caffeine. If a president takes a hard line on caffeine a lot of people might work against all the other president's policies. Members of opposing political parties who like their caffeine on flights might actually side with the president. The press uses caffeine extensively to stay alert so they can be ready to cover the president's every move. Soda manufacturers in New York and coffee growers in Columbia will be ready to fight for the free use of caffeine on every flight. Once caffeine is banned on all flights people could fear that caffeine will be banned from school, the workplace and even become an illegal substance in a car. Open container laws could go into effect. An open can of soda could get you ten years to life.

I'm exaggerating, of course. The point is that whatever a politican decides to do about an issue will bring consequences to many. But if a politician decided to take a hard line on an issue that has been ignored (or even encouraged) for so long by so many he could end up causing a whole lot more harm than good.

Caffeine isn't illegal. What I don't understand, and maybe what citizens along the border don't understand, is why activity that is actually currently illegal is allowed to go on without a hard line, particularly in the light of 9-11. Going to a hard line position on illegal entry could mean the extreme of shooting down eight-year-old kids and mothers with babies in their arms. I don't think any reasonable human being wants to see that. In the meantime, what do we do about drug smuggling, people smuggling, extortion and the resulting crimes on this side of the border?

The events of 9-11 were easy for all of us to get riled up over. We saw a single incident that killed people and terrorized those who survived. We have watched some of those recorded events played over and over. They pull at our gut and make us want to do something. President Bush did do something. He took a hard line. Some of us agreed with his particular arena of choice and some did not. But we all agreed that something must be done. The issue of the illegal use of our borders is no less an issue of security, but the enemy can't be trimmed down to a few individuals the way it was with 9-11. Fingers are going to point in many directions if we try to secure our borders to Mexico. It's going to be a tough task that isn't fought in a venue on the other side of the planet. It's going to mean tough choices right here at home. I think President Bush knows that. And he knows American opinion has been greatly polarized over the decisions he made concerning 9-11. Nevertheless, he is our president. We all think he needs to take a stand. That's what presidents do, isn't it? They take a stand and then they deal with the consequences. They deal with the opinion polls, the legislators, the press and all the foreign and domestic issues that come up as a result of their decision.

For presidents in the past, a decision could take years to have a result. If a president took a position back East and people in the heartland reacted negatively he wouldn't even know about it for a long time. The whole time frame would look like a slow-motion replay to us. If a president makes a decision now, from that same insulated position, the reaction is instantaneous in some cases.

So the playing field has been leveled in terms of instant information, but the insulation factor is still there for a president who is surrounded by assistants and lawyers and party affiliates. The choices we would make as private citizens are not really available to President Bush. He can't see things from our perspective. I don't think that's betrayal. But I do think it means that he must deal with the fact that those of us who do see things in the instant, everyday, private-citizen kind of way are not going to be satisfied with his seemingly slow approach when we expect him to to "do something". We've created a political system whereby our representative form of government just won't allow that sort of thing. It worked well when the country was just beginning. News took weeks to reach people. The private citizen was just as insulated from a president as a president was from the private citizen. Now, for better or for worse, we see things in ways President Bush can't see them. We know it and he knows it. It's changing the face of America. And it's changed the way we perceive our elected officials. I'm not sure President Bush can decide what to do about illegal border crossings any more than he can decide what to do about caffeine on planes. He's not betraying us. He's just wearing the face of what our entire political system has become.

posted at: 09:06 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Sun, Apr 17 2005

Sign (Ka-Ching) My (Ka-Ching) Petition (Ka-Ching)

A tip of the Stetson to Rough & Tumble for the link to a very telling article. I had no idea folks who gather signatures for ballot initiatives could be making up to $100,000 a year.

posted at: 13:51 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Fri, Apr 15 2005

The Metal Makes The Man

These tin men are very charming. Maybe the good citizens of the community can get together and pressure a change in the zoning and signage laws. And even if they can't, Charles Pudenz and Smith's Body Shop have gotten some great publicity from all this. I hope Mr. Pudenz gets orders for his tin men from everywhere.

posted at: 11:01 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Over Here, Please

If advertisers use consumer tagging as a way to listen to what consumers want it's great. The problem I have with most advertising and with most consumer issues is that the majority rules in terms of what gets produced and what gets advertised. I find it increasingly difficult to walk into a store and buy electronics and housewares that suit my taste and lifestyle. The internet has opened things up in this respect and has allowed cottage industries and artists to sell their wares and services almost as easily as the run-of-the-mill big box stores can. I just hope the whole online tagvertising phenomenon will reflect this diversity and not wash out to the mass production focus that seems to drive the available selection of most current consumer goods. I still live in hope that manufacturers and advertisers will quit peddling every single thing to the 14-year old mind and will save some of their focus and energy for the more seasoned consumer who has smart money to spend and will part with more of it quickly when companies become more interested in presenting true quality than in making something a different color every year. We're not the majority, but we're out here. If you cater to us we'll reward you handsomely. And we'll give you the best advertisement there is--word of mouth endorsement from a satisfied buyer.

posted at: 05:29 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Thu, Apr 14 2005

Even The Props Department Would Laugh At This List

This whole true crime situation sounds just a teeny bit like a script synopsis for an old Barney Miller episode.

posted at: 14:36 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Wed, Apr 13 2005

Plural And Singular Gender-Inclusive God And Country

I recently tried to explain to someone who speaks ESL that "The United States" should be used with verbs that are singular rather than plural. Then I tried to explain that the generic term "the states" should be used with verbs that are plural rather than singular. This is not as simple to do as one might think. We have a lot of situations in English that can be confusing. We know better than to to say, "The news are interesting," but to someone who sees "news" as plural that might sound perfectly correct. If we said, "Everyone are happy," we would realize our error, but to someone learning English it might be a very logical statement.

I see that I'm not the only one who has struggled to explain such things. The whole "collective" issue has been big trouble for some time. It becomes even worse when we try to explain our origins by referring to the Creator. I don't speak Hebrew, but I'm told that the original Hebrew text of the Old Testament documents could also be confusing in translation. God is referred to as both singular and plural, depending on the context of the Creator's influence in the story being presented.

To make matters even worse, many other languages put a gender spin on almost every noun. We've all heard people refer to The United States as "she". This is a singular pronoun used for the collective term, which would be consistent with the first situation I mentioned at the beginning of this post. But while the rest of the world has been happily placing feminine and masculine articles and pronouns next to nouns the folks in our country have been trying to de-gender the English language by replacing words such as "firemen" with terms like "fire fighters". I have no idea what feminists in other countries are doing about that whole issue. There are some articles that apply to both masculine and feminine nouns, but incorporating those into everyday language may take several generations.

Modern English speakers have even attempted to make the Creator sound more politically correct to humans by sometimes referring to God as "She" (even though the New Testament usually used "He" to refer to Christ and "She" to refer to the bride, which is typically understood to be New Jerusalem and is saddle-bagged by plenty of conflicting interpretations in itself).

Most English-speaking Christians (and perhaps others) would generally believe that God can have both male and female qualities and would generally agree that Christ is part of the plurality of God while still maintaining a separate identity. But Christians rarely refer to Christ as "She". As far as English goes, those of us who choose to accept the concept of God as both singular and plural should have little trouble accepting God as both male and female, but we also realize that practicality makes it very confusing to put together a sentence such as "We love God because She have done great things." We might keep the verb singular whether we are referring to God as male, female, both male and female, plural, singular or both plural and singular. Not all English-speaking people are Christians and not all Christian people speak English, but if we're going to insist that people speak in sentences we need to at least be aware that the subject may very well come up as a source of further confusion for one who is learning English and is trying to reconcile the use of nouns, pronouns and verbs.

To take the religious aspect of plurality and gender a bit further could probably get us into trouble. There is a faction in The United States that would love to define marriage from a civil standpoint by using traditional Christian definitions. If Christians think of God as both male and female (and a whole lot more, of course), and if we think of God as both singular and collective (and a whole lot more, of course), how are we going to justify that whole "one man and one woman" thing? Folks who insist on using the precepts of a Christian God as the basis for law in America might just get swept into a corner with their own linguistic broom once the courts get hold of the whole topic. Any well-read judge or lawyer could use select Bible verses to advocate plural marriage, gay marriage and probably a whole lot of other things. Do we really want to even open a door to that kind of a Constitutional quagmire?

And If I haven't caused you enough consternation for one day, think about this: If The United States has decided feminine associations how is it that we ended up with an Uncle Sam instead of an Aunt Samantha?

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

Tue, Apr 12 2005


You wouldn't believe the browsing path I took to get there, but go enjoy an online glimpse into the art of Richard and Camilla Shaffer.

posted at: 07:54 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Mon, Apr 11 2005

Neighbors Reporting The News

Have you ever read a story in the newspaper that you knew had some incorrect information because you were there when the story happened? That happened to me recently. I walked to an one-car accident near my home and spoke to the driver. The actual reporter did not arrive until an hour later, and when the story appeared in the paper a number of facts were incorrect, including the direction in which the vehicle was traveling. I know my neighborhood a lot better than that reporter knows it. This isn't the first story I've read that had errors. It really makes me wonder how much of what is reported to us day after day is full of mistakes and misinformation.

News, as reported to us by others, has largely been a convenient service that we've all used because we can't all be in every place. It's been easier to sit down once or twice a day and catch up on the day's happenings after a wire service or small group of reporters and editors gathered all the little bits and pieces into a digest of what's been happening while we were busy making a living and getting kids' braces adjusted. But the news isn't just what happens somewhere else. Some news affects us greatly, and I'm a little surprised that more of us haven't demanded more control over what we see and hear.

It's been changing the past few decades. It's been slow change, but the changes have brought more and more people into the process of reporting. Talk radio began to pull in listeners as part of the news programming. Commuters have been given a special number to call on their cell phones to let stations know about traffic accidents. C-Span and other cable TV networks have added caller input. But newsprint, and even newspaper sites online, have been made up largely of content that was handed down to the reader by editors and reporters hired by the papers.

With blogs, camera phones and cell phones readily available and in use by growing numbers of the public, newspapers are going to have to understand that the public isn't as dependent on their editorial content as we used to be. And many of us are not content with having a letter to the editor be our only chance at input into the news.

One outfit is trying to take reporting to the next level and make the local news not only for the local people and about the local people, but by the local people. Bluffton Today is incorporating blogs, readers' photos, reader forums and more. While some papers are trying to figure out how to start charging for online content this bunch of savvy people has figured out that readers would much rather be an active part of news reporting. A hearty tip of the Stetson goes to CyberJournalist for the link.

posted at: 08:13 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Fri, Apr 08 2005

Organization Is The Enemy

Organized people have it easy. They always have a system for everything. They either don't have many things to organize or they have lots of room to make little receptacles for all their things. Sometimes they pay someone else to clean and organize for them. Many of them have tidy lives that include no messy hobbies or creative brainstorming corners.

I've never been naturally organized. As a child I had no one place to keep my things and I think it did something to my brain processes. Clutter and scattered resources somehow became a thing of comfort and familiarity. I must confess that I even see organization as a waste of time for some areas of life. I know people who spend so much time cleaning and organizing their hobby and work materials that they rarely complete any projects or do anything fun with all their stuff. For them, the sorting of the stuff seems to be comforting in itself.

The funny thing is that I can often find a paper in a crowded stack faster than I can if I put it into a color-coded or alphabatized file. I end up forgetting if blue is for business or recipes--or if I filed "Cruising to Alaska" under "A" for Alaska or "C" for Cruising.
This also makes blog postings difficult. There are times when a blog post would fit under 2 or 3 different categories. I have to choose one, which is another form of torture for those of us who are organizationally challenged. As soon as I pick one category I wonder if the other choice would have been better.

Whenever Friday comes along I never feel as though I've accomplished all I wanted to do in a given week. But if I've created art or enjoyed the art and work of others I get a much bigger sense of satisfaction than I do if I've cleaned out all the closets. I just can't seem to equate de-cluttering and sorting with the unique lift that the creative process gives me.

Today's Friday tasks include laundry, vacuuming the bedroom, spending an hour verifying information on festivals for the May Review, rubber stamping a decorative bookmark and cooking dinner. I guess I could agonize over it all. I could berate myself for not being the organized type who leaps up and not only vacuums with precision, but wipes down the vacuum when finished and drops that soiled wipe cloth right into one of those loads of laundry. But the hard truth is that I can't even remember where I put the cleaning cloths the last time I got too big for my britches and decided to try to reform and get organized. Maybe I'll just have a quick look for those cloths near the rubber stamps. I have to pass those on the way to get the vacuum cleaner anyway.

posted at: 11:27 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Thu, Apr 07 2005

Good, Bad And Indifferent

If there is no such thing as bad publicity for white supremacists then Matthew Hale should be thrilled. I wasn't there to cover it in person, so I've relied on reading the news from other journalists regarding his sentencing. I read in one story that he thought he should get no more than eight years of prison time after no crime was committed. If no crime was committed why would there be any jail time at all?

Other stories reported that Hale thought a conversation he had with FBI informant Tony Evola, in which Mr. Evola asked if they were going to "exterminate the rat", referred to a Jewish lawyer rather than to the judge. Does that mean he was not adverse to the idea of killing a lawyer rather than a judge? I hear a lot of rude jokes about killing all the lawyers, but if the man was interested in discouraging the taking of a human life it would seem that he gave very little indication of it in that particular conversation.

At least one news source said that Matthew Hale wiped away tears. Well, the idea that whole races of people are inferior beings is pretty sad, especially when you think about the way the so-called superior beings have been acting.

One newspaper said that Hale had once advocated that his followers take the law into their own hands. I guess he didn't read the whole law then. But he must have read a lot of it, since he studied law for so long.

As far as publicity goes, maybe the Washington Times carried the most telling article of all, not in its content, but in its placement. Hale's sentencing story appeared in a brief listing, barely edging out a couple of elephants on the move from Detroit to California.

Freedom of the press is a wonderful thing.

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

Wed, Apr 06 2005

Cleaned-Out Refrigerators That Don't Hold Enough Vegetables

I hear that this is National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Week. I have no problem with the idea of cleaning out a refrigerator. My main gripe is that most refrigerators are designed to hold beverages, covered square containers and meat. I have been looking at refrigerators for some time now, and I have yet to see any that devote a generous amount of space to the vegetable bins. We use a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables in this house, and I can tell that the people who design refrigerators must think most people keep two carrots and a bell pepper in the vegetable bin. When I come home with a head of cabbage, a bunch of celery, a bag of carrots, a head of lettuce, bell peppers, green onions, mushrooms, radishes and spinach I'm faced with the puzzle of how to fit all those different shapes into the bins. I end up piling things on the shelves and then catching them as they fall out when I open the refrigerator door.

I vote for a refrigerator with a little less space for gallon jugs of milk (which we never buy) and a whole lot more space for fresh produce.

posted at: 11:11 | category: /Food | link to this entry

Tue, Apr 05 2005

New Buddy System

I knew that some folks like finding the goodies that have been discarded by businesses and others. Now it looks as though dumpster diving has become a group activity.

posted at: 10:26 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Mon, Apr 04 2005

Job History As Story

A tip of the Stetson goes to Dan over at Get That Job! for a pointer to an article at Hot Jobs written by Liz Ryan of Business Week Online. Ryan suggests that job seekers consider making their resume read a bit more like a story.

I started thinking that this might also be a good jumping-off place when introducing a new fictional character into a story or when trying to get to know a character's mindset a little better. I often use the technique of "interviewing" a character, but I've never had a character write his or her own resume. That particular technique would allow a peek into how the character portrays his or her past accomplishments.

That being said, Get That Job! is not intended as fiction. Dan focuses on real job-hunting tips for real job seekers. I recommend his blog even to those of you who are currently working. A better job could be just around the corner.

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

Sun, Apr 03 2005

Correspondence And Universities Also Lead Learners To Democracy, Or Did I Miss Something?

I hope someone can help this woman get books to Iraq. The story underscores the hidden costs of war and insurgency. If we're going to commit our resources to step into such situations we need to be grown-ups about it and help set things back in order. It should not be forbidden to send mail and contribute educational materials to a country when we claim to be guiding that country's inhabitants toward democracy. It's too much like the old forked tongue analogy.

posted at: 11:24 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Fluttering By

We've been enjoying the sight of these little beauties for several days. At times there have been batches of a dozen or more winging their way through the neighborhood. Thinking them might be monarchs is understandable because we live not far from where at least two significant groups of monarchs spend the winter, Natural Bridges State Beach and Pacific Grove.

posted at: 08:56 | category: /Science | link to this entry

Sat, Apr 02 2005

Search Engine Gaming And Other Gambles

Earlier this week there was a lot of commotion about WordPress and the controversy over its hosting of third-party articles that manipulated rankings at search engines like Google. Many of the comments I've read seem to be angry ones directed at either Wordpress or at Google, who apparently removed WordPress from its index after the gaming was discovered.
What confuses me is the idea that the manipulation was possibly an experiment. If that's true, why not approach the folks at Google first and tell them you'd like to try such a thing to see what happens, rather than leave them out of the loop? (I always wonder the same thing about people who try to hack into big corporate sites to prove it can be done so that they can help the company. Maybe I'm just dense.) Google seems to me to be full of people who love to try new things and use search engine techniques to present information in as many ways as possible. It's just unfortunate that WordPress and Google couldn't get together ahead of time and do the experiment together. I'm still reading about what happened, but as far as I can tell right now, Google was an unwitting participant in the whole matter. If one tries to use Google to manipulate Google's users without Google's knowledge or consent, why should we be surprised when Google withdraws its support?

One of the ideas set forth in an article on Wired News earlier this month is that links are "bought and sold" all the time. Search engine optimizers seek to spike a company's search engine rankings by using keywords, linking popularity and other methods. When someone criticizes the SEOs, they say they are just using Google's parameters to make life better for the SEO's clients. Is this acceptable to most users of internet search engines? Is a company who does this as a business less culpable than an open source blog software site? And why do people blame Google first, rather than blame those who seek to take advantage of the technology that Google uses to present information freely to the average user?

When I sit down to do a search using a search engine, I am most interested in research and not in sales. If I thought all search engines existed merely to funnel my attention to "stores" I would use search engines much less. When I do want to look for something commercial I can usually find it without much trouble. It's the sites who mask themselves as content-rich sites but offer little more than ads that annoy me. When I run across those I leave. Ads don't bother me in themselves. Leading me to believe I've come across a lot of information and then flooding me with ads bothers me a lot. Google has been pretty successful at presenting both commercial and non-commercial results, at least in my experience. I'm happy to let them do that, but they can do that best if those who create web sites maintain some sense of integrity.

I'm not familiar with Wordpress, but the software seems to be enjoyed by quite a few people. I can see the polarization of anger with this incident masking a lot of bigger issues. If search engines simply blacklist sites that present a mixed message we might lose important information in the future if someone uses third-party content without realizing it has search engine gaming as part of its content. Will these sites then be caught in the middle and be banished from search engines, or be relegated to some lower level of the internet? Then we begin to create an internet caste system. Do we want that? We'd might have to decide, once we start placing blame here and there.

The folks at Google are constantly learning and finding new ways to make searches better. Because of all this arguing surrounding search engine manipulation by third parties, I'm wondering if Google will someday split its results into completely separate commercial and non-commercial sections, or will even develop another whole search engine site that returns non-commercial results for those of us who use the internet as a giant reference desk. I doubt such a site could be free to use unless Google used the commercial side of things to help pay for the non-commercial results. And someone would have to determine what non-commercial means and then figure out how to filter out sites that tried to sneak in linking and ads. Wait a minute. Isn't that what started all this trouble in the first place?

posted at: 17:34 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Fri, Apr 01 2005

Trust And Love

It's nice to hear that, although feelings of trust and love are closely related in brain activity, love seems to be more complicated than trust. I wonder if we're wired that way because we can receive love as infants long before we can even understand what it is. The ability to trust is usually based on a history of dealings with another human being, but love can be given and received without such history. We sometimes think of loving and trusting as making us vulnerable to hurt, but it's also true that those who learn to learn to use love and trust together wisely are powerful people who can accomplish things the rest of the world can only dream of.

posted at: 06:45 | category: /Science | link to this entry

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