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

Tue, Jun 28 2005

California Condors Branch Out

Though they aren't the most beautiful bird when sitting still, California condors show their true colors when they take flight. I've been a fan for a long time and have followed efforts to keep the birds from dying out as a species. In addition to building up the numbers in California, humans have now helped introduce the condors to the Grand Canyon.

posted at: 21:04 | category: /Science | link to this entry

Mon, Jun 27 2005

Hard Drive Failure

After a major hardware failure during an attempt to replace a drive for backing up the web server, a lot of posts have been lost. I will update them as soon as I can. Please bear with me while I rebuild the recent touches to this site. I believe we have everything intact up through the middle of April for the time being.

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

Fri, Jun 24 2005

Pennies From Hoarding

If a penny saved is a penny earned, just imagine what happens when you save pennies for 38 years. A Friday tip of the Stetson goes to An American Housewife for the story tip.

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

Thu, Jun 23 2005

Eminent Domain Just Got A Lot More Eminent

I am extremely disappointed that our U.S. Supreme Court (narrowly) voted against homeowners today on the subject of eminent domain.

The idea that business and city development concerns should be considered over individual rights is a dangerous precedent. It's also sadly ironic when you consider how often we have sent troops into other countries to change this very practice, where those with power and with gold had previously been allowed to do with others' property as they wished. This is not a good sign for our communities or for our country's status as a free nation.

It's also ironic that earlier this week the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of a constitutional amendment aimed at forbidding the desecration of the American flag. The flag is a wonderful symbol of our freedoms. But a symbol is only as meaningful as the ideals behind it. If we toss out real individual freedoms with one branch of the government and attempt to force respect for a symbol of freedom with another branch, our nation could become a house divided against itself. I hope that doesn't happen.

posted at: 09:34 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Objectivity Again

A little less than a year ago, after some remarks from Doctor Tom McPhail landed him in hot water with bloggers, I posted something concerning the difficulty that blog-style journalists are having as they attempt to find their place alongside more traditional journalists. A lot of the flack that rises seems to come from the idea that blog writers are often too opinionated to be thought of as true journalist. As a practical matter, a journalist is no more capable of being truly objective than any other human. What often happens in the heat of coverage changes the whole axis of a story. A journalist is often called upon to present material on the spur of a moment that presents an opportunity for readers/listeners/viewers to take part in news as a sort of shared experience. Each person in the making, gathering and receiving of news has previous experiences that color the way he or she processes everything. To deny this seems not only unrealistic, but outright falsehood.

Adam Glenn, over at I, Reporter, wrote recently on the matter of journalistic objectivity. I liked very much what he said about focusing instead on "goals like fairness, context, independence". That's a lot more honest approach. And it's probably one we can all be more comfortable with as we acknowledge our own filters and those of others as the telling of things is passed along in a very human chain.

posted at: 09:00 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Wed, Jun 22 2005

Rodeo Drive Divas, Eat Your Heart Out

Paighton Nicole
My brand new St. Louis cousin,
Paighton Nicole

posted at: 08:03 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Tue, Jun 21 2005

Second Mortgage From (Someone Else's) Hell

When you fill out an application for a second mortgage or home equity loan it's a fairly routine process. What's not so routine is when the person attempting to take out the loan isn't you. It's amazing what lengths some folks will go to when they have the mindset that what's yours ought to be theirs, to do with as they please.

The folks at Identity Theft Resouce Center have some good tips and resources on the whole topic of fraud and identity theft. Among other articles, they include a section on minors. Unfortunately, the types who steal identities include those who use children.

The FBI also devotes a section of their web site to the issues of identity theft. It's a growing problem, particularly now that so many details of our personal financial information are stored in huge databases, by companies that have not been doing their job to protect the very data that they sell to make money from us. To me, their refusing to take responsibility is a form of identity theft in itself. At some point they may find they are to be held accountable right along with the people in the identity theft rings.

posted at: 10:57 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Wholehearted Audience Participation

While the media has been focused on so much of what Muslim extremists do to make life miserable for the rest of the planet's inhabitants, there are whole groups of Muslim people who long for fairness and honor. They may not always be see shouting about it in the streets, but some recognize and acknowledge honor in their own way--one writer saw some of them them stand up and applaud around him during a showing of Kingdom of Heaven in Beirut.
A tip of the Stetson goes to monochrom for the link.

posted at: 09:30 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Mon, Jun 20 2005

Paying Was Never Such Fun

Rumors are flying that Google may soon introduce an online paying feature much like PayPal. Reuters reports the name of the new service will likely be Google Wallet, but I decided they should have something a bit catchier. I didn't check to see if someone already owns these names. If they do, so be it. If not, the task of giving someone your money online via Google's new service could be fun with names like:

PooglePay (good for pet products)
GooPay (sounds a bit French when spoke aloud)
PayGoopaygle (for those tropical vacations)
PayPerGoo (order that special event viewing)
GooBucks (Who's your daddy?)
GucciGoogle (for those high-end purchases)

Disclaimer: All names listed above are for parody purposes and the writer assumes no responsibility for the giggling which might ensue at the mention of any actual, or imagined, company.

posted at: 07:38 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Fri, Jun 17 2005

When The Library Is The Closest Thing To A Home

Here's a thought for writers to consider. When you write, do you have an audience of readers in mind? Maybe you write for children or maybe you think of bored adults who seek a travel adventure. Have you ever considered the idea that many of your readers fit into the category called "homeless"? Maybe you should. There are more and more homeless people spending their days in the library, particularly in Los Angeles County.

posted at: 14:56 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Power To The People

Here's a handy link for anyone thinking of installing solar panels or making other changes in the use of energy in and around the home. It's the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE). You can search for information by incentive type, community, technology, state and other criteria. Get easy loans, find rebates and learn about tax breaks. They also include a list of other resources.

posted at: 11:10 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Wed, Jun 15 2005

Quake Didn't Bring Surge Of Water

I was busy singing in a choral concert last night, and afterwards I attended a farewell dinner for our director. While we were seated in the restaurant we got the news that the California coast had been placed under a tsunami warning following the earthquake that occurred off the state's northern coast. I didn't realize until this morning that people in low-lying areas, further north in Canada, had been evacuated following the warning.

Some think the Santa Cruz-Monterey area of the coast is at more risk from a tsunami associated with a landslide (pdf file) of underwater canyon walls. I haven't studied it all enough to give an educated opinion. But I'm glad others are gathering information and are willing to keep learning about the relationship between earthquakes and tsunamis. These researchers may not get the public recognition that police officers and fire fighters receive, but their findings could end up saving many lives someday.

posted at: 09:03 | category: /Science | link to this entry

Tue, Jun 14 2005

Microsoft Knows: "By The People" Works

Although they're not the first business to do this sort of thing, there's been a lot of name calling and hissing going on over Microsoft cooperating with China's move to block the use of terms such as "human rights" and "democracy" on Microsoft's MSN Spaces. I can understand people's anger and frustration, but I'm also remembering that Microsoft is a company attempting to operate in a world market. Sometimes U.S. based businesses do things differently when distributing their products and services in other countries.

The truth is that we don't live in a world where we get to call all the shots-- morally, monetarily or politically. Does that mean we should refuse to reach out to others under any circumstances except those on our own terms? Would it be better for Microsoft (or any company) to refuse to allow its products to be compromised and end up having them banned from countries where freedoms are limited by governmental concerns?

Humanitarian groups know very well the value of supplying basic needs to people under restrictive conditions. Individuals from these types of organizations have told me how they make allowances for local customs and political factions. Sometimes things have to happen that you and I would not consider ethical or proper. But they happen so that basic needs can be taken care of for those who are suffering and in need.

Microsoft isn't a humanitarian organization. It's a business. But it has tremendous "foot in the door" power all over the planet. I can almost guarantee you that the folks at Microsoft aren't agreeing to censor blogs and other materials to insult the Chinese people. Their products and services, placed in the hands of people allover China, could open doors that no one else has been able to even knock on before.

Remember the history of messages carried from house to house and in small presses in the early days of our own U.S. attempts at independence. If those determined people did it with such limited technology, who are we to assume that the Chinese people don't have what it takes to figure out ways to talk about human rights and promote human rights, without ever using the phrase "human rights"? Let's give them credit for being at least as smart as early American colonists were.

I don't agree with everything Microsoft does all the time. But I have to say that this time they're doing something even our own U.S. government hasn't been able to do. Before we raise our hackles at Microsoft and get all arrogant and snippy, let's first recognize that the tools to begin democracy are being quietly, and openly, passed to the very capable Chinese citizens. Those citizens will know what to do next.

posted at: 07:32 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Mon, Jun 13 2005

A Room With A View

My favorite blog mentor, Eric, posted some nature nuggets, along with a great photo, late last week. There is nothing like nature to give us perspective when we are working hard. I'm so glad Eric decided to share the view after he moved his home office closer to the storm door.

posted at: 07:56 | category: /Science | link to this entry

Fri, Jun 10 2005

How To Stretch Your Wardrobe

As a young teen I once had a gum wrapper chain that was more than 110 feet long. I contemplated trying to make clothing out of it, but eventually passed it along to a younger friend. I looked at rubber bands, but never got very creative with them because they tended to rot with time. I don't know if her creation will rot, but Emma Power decided to use rubber bands for clothing in a very artistic way. And she won an award for her work. I wonder. Since the coat is made of stretchy stuff, is it one-size-fits-all?

posted at: 09:12 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Thu, Jun 09 2005

Unfortunate Terms: Redskins And Greenbacks

The push for a California Racial Mascots Act is on again. The Education Committee voted yesterday to recommend passage by a vote of 8-4 (with a referral back to Appropriations). At the present time there are 5 schools which would be directly affected by AB 13. I watched the committee proceedings on TV for awhile and was impressed by the presentations on both sides of this issue. Sports can really bring out strong emotions in people. It does seem ironic to me that the battle over what to call sports mascots and sports teams in schools is going on at the same time we're seeing school sports programs struggle just to keep going. I certainly don't want to see our American Indian (or any other) population insulted by racist mascots and names. We don't need to do that in order to have fun with school teams. But I hope the powers that be spend at least as much time and taxpayer money to keep school sports going in schools as they do on the issue of team and mascot names and images. I'd really hate to see the kids learn a sad lesson from all this. posted at: 08:51 | category: /Politics | link to this entry 09#6-9-05a

posted at: 08:51 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Wed, Jun 08 2005

Not Bigger Than A Breadbox

The Altoid Tin Million Uses contest intrigues me. I have often looked at these little containers and thought of the possibilities. They usually end up in our recycling bin, but I know that finding a new way to use an object is a much better move than just recycling it. It will be great fun to see what kind of ideas people come up with.

posted at: 11:08 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Tue, Jun 07 2005

Squeezing And Hoping

It's pretty amazing to be living in a time when so many different kinds of news stories come out at about the same time. Some stories remind me that the person who tries to do the right thing is not always rewarded in this life, and that sometimes he or she even suffers for their actions. Violence always seems to make great headlines. Other stories remind me that the worst of human behavior can also bring out the best of human kindness. And sometimes a news story reminds me that the choices I make from day to day are what matter. When the end of life comes it will only matter that I made each day count, no matter how the stopping of those days comes.

I hear from a lot of people who are always hot to remind me that we're living in the "last days". They tick off current events and talk to me about conspiracies and prophecies and ethnic folklore and apocalyptic Bible verses. Some people point to specific news stories and match them up with prophecies they've read. They insist that the story is a sign of "the end". And they often do it with that kind of look a kid gets before a birthday, when he or she examines a wrapped gift and squeezes the package with a gingerly hope that it's going to turn out to hold the very gift they've longed to have, even when the gift-giver has some fun with them by pointing out that the package is kind of a funny shape. They keep testing and hoping and squeezing and trying to make sure that what they hope is inside is really there.

Part of me is usually tempted to remind these folks that many generations of people have thought that theirs was the generation of the "last days". But I know I shouldn't. The faster the media shoves bad news at us, the more we need to feel that a better time is just ahead. If we believe the best is yet to come maybe we can tough out the waiting.

posted at: 09:06 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Mon, Jun 06 2005

Safety First

I noticed a recent flurry of stories online, originating mostly from India media sources. Some of the stories have conflicting information, but all involve an air carrier in India named Jet Airways Ltd. and a U.S. air carrier named Jet Airways, Inc. Their little legal scuffles may be causing a few headaches for our Department of Transportation now that it's been reported that Jet Airways Ltd of India is seeking to sue Jet Airways, Inc. The folks from the India-based company seem to feel that the air carrier in the U.S. has made false claims about Jet Airways, Inc.'s business intentions and those of Jet Airways Ltd. Jet Airways Ltd seems to have collected quite a bit of goodwill from its customers over the years. I really don't know much at all about Jet Airways, Inc. I did find a web site for this Jet Airways Inc., but it doesn't seem to be the company in question at first glance.

I haven't looked into all this in depth, but only choose to mention it because of the preponderance of coverage seeming to come from the India side of the planet. One thing is certain. With words and names like "terrorist", "Dawood Ibrahim" and "Al Queda" being thrown around, the DOT personnel will have to pay attention. I hope the facts get sorted into something everyone can live with. Although it's been a rather low-key quarrel up until now, I think we can expect to hear more from all parties.

posted at: 12:32 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

The Music Of Don Grady

Some days a writer needs a little music to get the words going. It's sometimes difficult to know exactly what to listen to in order to get the right mood for a story or other piece of writing. A lot of times music gets me past a "stuck" part of what I'm writing. At other times, the sound of the music is the actual catalyst for a new piece of writing. This morning I listened to excerpts from some of Don Grady's compositions. It's wonderful how most composers have not only a set of favorite chord progressions or individual note patterns, but an underlying tone that ties everything they write into a sort of emotional theme. What I hear in Don Grady's work is the sure spirit of hope. Always. Even in his darkest musical passages he still manages to let us know that there's something better just around that next bend in the road. And he does it with an enthusiasm that makes me want to be right there when it happens.

posted at: 09:34 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Sun, Jun 05 2005

Don't Pee On My Writing And Then Tell Me It's Raining

Have you been following one of the newest battles brewing in the area of RSS? Richard McManus uncovered the interesting business trend of companies taking RSS feeds and arranging it so that clients could use those feeds to keep placing fresh content on their site.

Hector Jimenez, a developer of one of the other software products, has jumped into the comments section at Mr. McManus' site and has given his input on the whole issue of fair use, copyright and plagiarism as they relate to his money-making venture.

I guess some of us will now have to drop some of our other tasks and take time to look for ways to make it known that we own our writing and we don't like having our words ripped off and compiled into cheap money-making machines for lazy, pseudo webmasters who would rather steal than produce their own content. I'm sure they'll end up making a fast buck or two. But they're not going to get any respect or direct cooperation from me any time soon. I would have much higher opinions of someone who attempted to put quality writers in touch with hard-working webmasters in business and encouraged those webmaster to pay writers a fair price for their writing. In the end, it may all die a natural death. How many times will people seeking content keep going to a place that dumps a bit of blindly aggregated content surrounded by ads when they figure out they can simply use a news aggregator to get material without that extra step? And if those of us who currently present full material via RSS begin to limit that content to a teaser line and a link to our own site, things will become less fun for the searchers and the lazy webmasters.

Some say that syndicating material makes it fair game, but just try to take a syndicated comic strip or advice column from a newspaper and re-distribute it in this same fashion. When they catch you, you'll be in trouble. And that may be to our advantage. The larger news agencies and newspapers may jump in and lead the way in this whole squabble. One way or the other, things will heat up soon, I'm sure.

As an aside, did anyone else notice that at least two of the companies mentioned at Read/Write Web are advertising free lifetime upgrades for their software and are also selling their individual versions of the software for exactly the same price? It looks to me as though some of them are already ripping off each other's marketing concepts. You know what they say about there being no honor among thieves. Maybe that adage will also turn out to be true for those who sell tools to the thieves. Even if it turns out to be legally untouchable, it's a pretty sleazy way to make a living off hard-working writers. If those producing and buying the software don't think it's a big deal to take our work and don't think we work that hard, why aren't they writing their own content instead of taking ours? posted at: 08:35 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry 05#6-5-05a

posted at: 08:35 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Fri, Jun 03 2005

A Few Kitchen Sinks And At Least One Movie Prop

Not far from here, down in Monterey County, at least one garage was storing something other than soiled soccer equipment and boxes of old Christmas decorations. Asian art, a sword used in a movie, jewelry, whirlpool tubs and new windows were among the items the sheriff's department found--all items stolen from construction sites and occupied homes in at least three counties. And the folks at the sheriff's department seem to think they'll find a lot more stolen goods. In the end, the theft ring may have made off with more than a million dollars worth of property.

One local channel, KCBA Fox 35, showed video last night of the suspected ringleader's home in Salinas. Windows in the remodeled home had been replaced with those that looked remarkably like some of the stolen windows stashed in the aforementioned garage.

The authorities have arrested at least 10 people, in addition to the suspected ringleader. I wonder if the alleged thieves had some fantasy of an "Ocean's 11" kind of scenario. Maybe they should have made a movie instead. So far, that's still considered a more honorable profession than burglary. posted at: 08:34 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry 03#6-3-05a

posted at: 08:34 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Thu, Jun 02 2005

Actors And Filmmakers Creating Other Kinds Of Art

I love to read about artsy people who are multi-dimensional. While a lot of people are inhaling sleazy stories written about actor Brad Pitt, I had a lot more fun reading this kind of article.

You might not know who N.N. Williams II is, but he's also done some art under another name. If you were to look closely at his picture and you ever saw the old beach party movies from a few decades ago you might figure out that N.N. Williams II and Aron Kincaid are one and the same.

Daphne Maxwell Reid has her finger in many pies.

Filmmaker David Lynch also designs furniture.

Other actors or filmmakers who spend time in at least two different areas of the arts include Steven Seagal, Jeanne Cooper and Paul Sorvino. It seems as though you really should ask a busy person when you want something to get done. It's nice to know that we can also look to busy actors to design even more kinds of art for us to enjoy. posted at: 12:45 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry 02#6-2-05a

posted at: 12:45 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Wed, Jun 01 2005

Flying Flockers

I love anything to do with helicopters, so I enjoyed Wired News' story of experiments using tiny helicopters and Bluetooth to collect and share information in a flock.
Soon someone will probably take the whole idea and produce a movie about the flying flockers flying amok and combining their knowledge to try to take over the universe. Until then, we'll have to be content with movies like these--full of militant mosquitos and other swarming creatures:

The Swarm
Mimic 2
Mimic 3 - Sentinel
Phase IV

posted at: 11:36 | category: /Science | link to this entry

German Mines Floating Toward Airport In Washington

No, that's not a headline from today's news. It was a claim made by someone to the FBI more than 50 years ago. I stumbled upon the FBI's Electronic Reading Room earlier today and had a great time.

The documents are in .pdf format and some of them are difficult to read because they were scanned from original documents. But it's a great place to dig around and find some historical tidbits, including a huge listing of phone logs from J. Edgar Hoover's office. Some are probably legitimate calls, but many others appear to have been made by inebriated individuals. There were also calls made by folks who had mental difficulties of one kind or another. One woman, for instance, called from Ohio and demanded that the Bureau return her love letters. Other calls involved reports of a hitchhiker who was carrying some fifty different check books around with him, someone posing as a meter reader, a piece of supposedly poisoned pie, and an inquiry as to someone named "Lefty" who had been a bootlegger. That last one might have been a legitimate call, but we'll probably never know. The FBI's memo states that the Bureau had, at that time, files on more than 850 people known as "Lefty". Some names have been marked through in these logs, but many others have been left untouched. Fiction writers may find some really great story starters.

posted at: 10:30 | 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
such varmints when they least expect it!