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

Wed, Nov 30 2005

Silly Sales Tax Scenarios Shame Sacramento Suits

As if things didn't already cost too much and taxes didn't keep going up, now it's supposedly up to Californian consumers to keep track of the sales tax we pay and to determine whether we've paid enough sales tax to California for items we've purchased outside the state but which will be used and enjoyed inside the state. The math with which it would take to do this is far beyond my capability. And I think it might be cheaper for me to hire someone to keep track of it all and then deduct the cost of having them do it. I also think that the occasional big ticket items purchased by Californians will be claimed a lot more often now on state tax forms.

And another thing. Do I really want to pay more taxes to hire more bureaucrats to sit around and calculate all this from Sacramento and then also pay more taxes to send a sales tax bounty hunter out to collect $6.40 in sales tax from a pair of boots I might have paid cash for in Oregon? Good luck to the powers that be in making this work on a practical basis.

posted at: 12:00 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Tue, Nov 29 2005

Double Jeopardy For Ample Rears

If you have a big loathing of needles and also have some pounds to shed you might have more incentive after reading the news that too much fat in the buttocks can prevent injected medicines from doing what they need to do. If that isn't enough to make us all put down the fork we can mull over again that part about the need for longer needles.

I wonder if this gets to be less of a problem as one ages and the rear deck tends to sag a bit. I'm still hoping for the day when hypodermic needles will be considered as outdated and barbaric a having a tooth pulled by the local barber.

posted at: 12:09 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Mon, Nov 28 2005

Festivals, Events and Holiday Lights

The December 2005 issue of Deb's Monthly Review is now up for viewing. There are lots of listings for holiday light displays in the U.S. (plus a link to some great Canada listings). Some lights have already been glowing for awhile. Some will be lit soon. Some are commercial ventures or are charitable displays used to raise funds. Some are civic locations, such as courthouses and some are shopping districts, such as Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Some are rumored to be great neighborhoods where lots of homes particpate, though I can't guarantee that they'll all be stringing lights again this year. I'll be updating the light listings throughout the month of December. If you find a great display do let me know. And if you find a display I've listed that seems to have gone dark this year I'd like to know about that too. Unlike Santa, I don't get around to every single spot to check the displays personally. Anyway, check out the listings, load some friends into the car and enjoy looking at the lights this season.

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

Wed, Nov 23 2005

Turkey Day Cometh

There are some great stories going around about the hazards of deep-frying whole turkeys. But I suppose it wouldn't be funny if things really did get out of hand. Certain safety precautions might help, but it seems to me that having to keep someone on fire extinguisher duty could really take the edge off the relaxed holiday mood.

Everyone now says it's not safe to cook a turkey in an oven at a low temperature overnight, but my husband's family apparently did just that for years, and he says no one ever got sick from it. They did turn the oven temperature up once they got up in the morning, in order to brown the bird. Maybe that was the reason they all lived to tell the tale. We baby boomers seem to have spent much of our youth doing things now listed as dangerous, illegal, detrimental to mental health and not listed as covered under health insurance policies.

The Chicago Sun-Times recently suggested a recipe that involves deboning the turkey and marinating it overnight. And I seem to hear more and more about brining the last few years, which proponents claim will produce a more moist turkey. How about brining the turkey and then serving it with gingersnaps, or is that too much like having dessert first?

There's always Drunken Turkey, which seems a little like fruitcake without the batter. For a more grown-up sounding version you could try Wild Turkey Wild Turkey. I guess the alcohol cooks away, which will please some diners and irritate others.

You might venture into the strange world of a Grocery Bag Turkey, though one source cautioned against the dyes and inks present in most grocery bags. If nothing makes you flinch, or if you just want to one-up your dysfunctional family members, tell them you'll be serving Trash Can Turkey this Thanksgiving.

Some might decide not to have turkey but still miss the whole ritual of a bird-shaped entree. Maybe they can find some comfort in Tofu Turkey, complete with stuffing. But I do wonder what one would use for a wishbone?

Whether you have turkey with all the usual trimmings or a vegetarian feast, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving.

posted at: 18:27 | category: /Food | link to this entry

Tue, Nov 22 2005

Topping the FBI's Most Wanted List? Common Sense

It amazes me that we would need to warn people about a bogus FBI email that tells them their email has been monitored. Could anyone actually think the FBI would tip its hand that way if the folks there were checking out our internet usage? I guess some people could think exactly that or else we wouldn't be hearing the news of this warning. I've come to believe that most of the trouble in the world could be prevented by each of us taking a mere 30 seconds to think before we react to anyone or anything—other than an immediate threat to life and limb.

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

Mon, Nov 21 2005

Friend or Faux?

I don't quite understand this things that seems to be breaking out over Jerry Falwell, Liberty Counsel and the Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign involving stores that wish us "Happy Holidays" instead of using the word "Christmas". It reminds me a bit of the fight that ensued when Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore decided to display that monument depicting the Ten Commandments in the state's Supreme Court building. In the same way I don't quite see that monument as the actual, full set of 10 commandments, I don't quite see how defending the December 25th issue is something for Christianity to pick up on as a church/state issue.

Judge Moore's version of the 10 Commandments—though I haven't seen the actual monument— doesn't include the complete 4th commandment. As presented by Judge Moore, his particular set of commandments is likely referring to his belief in the keeping of Sunday, which is the first day of the week. (Judge Moore, you are welcome to correct me if I've misrepresented your beliefs.) The keeping of Sunday in place of the original Sabbath has generally been recognized through history as a sort of nod from Christianity to pagan believers who wanted a day to honor the sun. It was a compromise of sorts. (Some also see it as a day chosen in honor of Christ's resurrection, but it was not commanded to be done.) Would it be worth defending that compromise as the only acceptable Christian choice if one was touting Bible beliefs? It wouldn't make sense to me, but perhaps others would do so.

Along much the same vein we're pretty sure that Jesus wasn't born on December 25th. I think it's fairly commonly understood that observing Christmas on December 25th is the result of yet another sort of nod from Christian folks to pagan folks (who are probably focusing on the celebration of the Winter Solstice that time of year).

Of course, there's no commandment to keep Christmas, but there is one to "remember the Sabbath day". If Jerry Falwell wants folks to boycott a store, wouldn't it make more sense for him to tell people to boycott a store because it sells things every seventh day—every week of the year? At least then he'd be defending a real Christian day which is spoken of specifically in Scripture in the 10 commandments. But maybe I have faulty logic there. Telling people to boycott that day would only make sense if he recognized the seventh-day commandment. If he told folks to boycott stores who sold on Sundays he'd be championing a substitute day (again).

Someone who's done their research can probably document all this much better than me. I'm just trying to figure out why Christian leaders would want to expend so much time and energy on pagan-appeasing misrepresentations of the original events—and why they feel the need to push for boycotting stores that don't have those exact misrepresentation of the real events spelled out and strung across the store.

Completely aside from the specific days and their original meanings, I've always thought that part of wishing someone a Merry Christmas is wishing them the fun of knowing a spirit of grace and wishing them the hope that comes with hearing the of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. A gift is something offered with no expectation of the other person living up to some mark we set for them. If the idea of Christmas is something I want others to catch onto and appreciate I'm going to think long and hard before I boycott the places where they make their living.

Actually, I usually go in and do something nice for hard-working store clerks along about December 24th. And I've had a great time doing it. Jerry Falwell and Liberty Counsel may know something I don't know about the successes of their technique of boycotting—at least on a grand scale. But I know what fun it is to see an exhausted store clerk's eyes fill with tears when you hand her a card that tells her you stood in that long line to let her know what a great job she's doing and that she should take an extra breath or two before moving on to the next customer. One young man told me he couldn't wait to get off work so he could go home and cook dinner for his mom, who was recovering from surgery. He had been slamming things around and frowning until I walked up to the counter and made him look me in the eye for his greeting. When I walked away he started yelling, "Wooo, Merry Christmas! Who's next?" Pretty soon he was causing some smiles of his own with his renewed attitude.

I'm only guessing here, but I really doubt you'll ever get those kinds of fun results from shunning people with a boycott.

posted at: 13:28 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Fri, Nov 18 2005

Disasters Happen—Here Comes One Now

I'm growing more nervous after reading that there is talk of some sort of national system that might be of assistance to insurance companies after disasters, and might also level out the cost of insurance premiums for those who buy homes and property. I understand that insurance is a form of calculated risk that stretches out cost for the insured. But If one purposely chooses to buy or build a home in a slough or an earthquake-prone area should everyone else pay higher premiums so that the one who made the bad choice can enjoy low premiums and be assured that their claim will be paid out nicely when disaster hits?

It's true that disasters happen everywhere. But do we really want the government and the insurance industry putting their heads together over this? Every piece of legislation that comes from this will discourage people from taking responsibility for their own actions. And resentment will only grow toward those who choose precariously-placed homes—whether the occupants live there because of great wealth or great poverty.

posted at: 10:55 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Thu, Nov 17 2005

Kudos to Freedom Post Office 95019

Congratulations to our own local post office in Freedom. We always knew they were one of the best, but now it's official. You'd never see the place on a quick drive through town. It's in an older shopping center, tucked deeply into a small corner space. And it only has a few service windows at its counter. But it's staffed by reliable, friendly people who will help you get your packages sent with a smile. They'll suggest better ways to wrap and address boxes, remind you of new commemorative stamps coming out and alert you right away if the city and zip code you've listed on an outgoing package don't match. When they used to see me coming in with a stack of priority packages from time to time they handed me a roll of wrapping tape to make things go faster for us both on future mailings. They all seem to have a good sense of humor and a healthy dose of common sense. We've seen some of the same people working in there for many years and we just don't hear any complaints about any of them. So I can't say I'm surprised that they rated such high marks.

Some interesting businesses and organizations have post office boxes in Freedom, including:
Watsonville Wetlands Watch
Rumor Mill News
Diamond Organics
Easy Racers
Friends of Buena Vista
Migrant Media

posted at: 08:06 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Wed, Nov 16 2005

New (Very Old) Evidence Found in Surf City Tug of War

In the ongoing controversy over which California city will get to claim the title of Surf City a precedent has been found that favors the city of Santa Cruz. It came in the form of a news item from 1927. This means there are probably some folks in rival city Huntington Beach who will also be digging through old news clipping and other documents in an effort to produce even older evidence that their town should have first dibs on the title.

posted at: 09:29 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Tue, Nov 15 2005

Take My Luggage, Please!

A blog entry at we-make-money-not-art mentions development of a surveillance system that would be able to tell the difference between a suspicious, potentially threatening piece of luggage and a pice of luggage that has been set off to the side while the owner is grabbing some coffee or doing some other task.

I'm all for handling certain issues with technology, but I'd like to add another practical idea that's also passenger-friendly. There should be a place in an airport that serves as a sort of pen for luggage. When two people travel together one can watch the bags while the other makes a trip to the rest room or goes into one of those tiny airport shops. But if a traveler is alone he or she has a dilemna. Luggage pens could be placed at specific points near shopping or rest room areas. They could be staffed by an attendant who gives out claim tickets in order to help prevent people from just walking up and taking someone else's bag. I realize that the purpose of a surveillance system would be to prevent terrorist attacks but it seems to me that airports could help themselves and help travelers at the same time by offering a safer spot to stash a suitcase while a lone traveler dines, shops or takes a bathroom break. In this was common practice a lone piece of luggage in an odd spot would be a lot more conspicuous and could be checked on immediately in case it was a problem.

posted at: 10:17 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Mon, Nov 14 2005

Benefactors Gone Wild

Teens and kids in Kalamazoo, Michigan have a big reason to celebrate. They just found out their college education is paid for. I don't know who the benefactors are but I'm sure they're tickled pink to be able to open doors for these young people. Parents of a middle class income bracket often make too much money for their teens to qualify for scholarships but not enough to be able to afford to pay tuition outright. College is becoming more and more important to a student who hopes to make more than minimum wage during their working years, but the cost of college is often out of reach for a lot of families.

A huge tip of the Stetson goes to those who backed this program. Have fun watching your gift grow for many years to come!

posted at: 07:04 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Fri, Nov 11 2005

One Reason Why Education Will Not Be Fixed With Just a Big Budget

When one's rap sheet is fresher than one's qualifications it would seem odd for that person to serve on a school board. But someone in one California school district ran for a seat on the board and then seemed to drop out of sight during the campaign. Even in his absence he managed to get enough votes to win a seat. However, it's doubtful that he'll be in attendance for the swearing in ceremony later this year because he doesn't get out of the men's prison in Chino until February next year.

And that's not the worst of it. The rest of the school board doesn't know yet how they're going to handle the situation due to the laws regarding registered voters and regarding when and how a convicted felon can run for, and serve, in office. The man's current wife—not the former wife who the man served a separate sentence for abusing a couple of decades ago—thinks they should just let him out of prison so he can serve time on the school board instead of serving it behind bars. I can't quite decide if this would be a reprieve or a form of additional sentence in this particular case.

If this wasn't a real story that affected real children's lives I would think I was reading a pitch for the sequel to Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Throw in a few elements from One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and we've got ourselves the makings of a real blockbuster.

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

Veterans Day Stories and News

Alabama's governor encouraged veteran to wear their uniforms to work today.

This story was in the works for some time, but it makes great reading on this special day. Two California sisters who had not known each other as children found each other when they both joined the Army.

The kids at All Saints School in Denmark, Michigan joined one veteran's children in letting him know how much they appreciate his service.

Oil City, Pennsylvania's Salvation Army office will thank veterans with coffee and the traditional doughnuts that became a tradition during World War I. I hope each of us finds a way to thank a "doughboy" somehow today.

posted at: 10:14 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Thu, Nov 10 2005

I See No Debacle Here

I can't agree with the Los Angeles Times headline that called the results of this last election a debacle. The fact that at least a couple of the propositions under consideration failed by only a few percent means that those who did get out and vote were a good representation of passionate California voters. It also means that all California politicians, and legislators in particular, who may lean heavily one way or the other on those particular propositions, had better wake up and acknowledge the fact that they may not know their voting constituents as well as they thought they did.

This won't be a debacle at all, unless we all make it one. It's a perfect time to learn and process the outcome. Those of us who voted and got our way get an immediate reward, but had better not sit down and get complacent. Those of us who voted and didn't get our way know we have to continue to work harder to support our positions. Those who didn't vote and didn't get their way have to think about the difference they could have made and decide if they'll vote next time. And those who didn't vote and got their way know they could have made the percentages even bigger. Since taxpayers paid big bucks to have this election let's at least get our money's worth in terms of lessons learned in making plans and setting goals for California's future.

posted at: 12:20 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Wed, Nov 09 2005

Taking Shots For At Bird Flu

Corporations who make their profits based largely on food products of the feathered variety are having to prepare for the worst. KFC is ready to roll out a series of TV spots if they have to calm those who are afraid that some bird flu-contaminated chicken poses more of an immediate health risk than the artery-clogging chicken some customers already consume on a daily basis.

Soon we'll be misty-eyed and nostalgic, looking back to a time when we had no need for things like "sentinel chickens". I wonder. If an animal activist group feels sorry for a sentinel chicken and sets it free will this be considered fowl play?

And who knew we could all have been making a killing (if you'll pardon the expression) buying stock in companies that produce sauerkraut and kimchi, both of which have been touted as possible bird flu curatives?

Will Chicken Little and The Little Red Hen be placed on the banned books list? Will people finally stop putting pink flamingoes on lawns?

Maybe children will be treated to gentle public service announcements from Sesame Street's Big Bird. And will tabloids rush to smear cartoon icons such as Looney Tunes star Foghorn Leghorn? Will Disney's beloved Donald Duck choose to go by the single name of Fauntleroy (his middle name)? Will the past controversy of naming sports teams Redskins pale in comparison with the idea of referring to team members as Falcons, Eagles or Ducks? Will children named Robin or Jay become easy targets for schoolyard bullies? Will those Brady Bunch reruns seem even more innocent and playful now when aired opposite the likes of the dark-sounding Partridge Family?

Will aspiring politicians avoid photo opps with once-esteemed Senator Robert Byrd? What about the obvious disadvantage of a politician having a last name like Hatch? And has anybody besides me noticed all the trouble surrounding a certain U.S. representative whose last name just happens to be DeLay?

posted at: 12:04 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Tue, Nov 08 2005

Election Day

Voting is an interesting process that both unites and divides Americans. We fume and pout, we flip and flop. Some of us adhere faithfully to a party line while others of us repeat that old joke about not wanting to belong to any club that would have us.

I'll be working at a polling place today for the third time. I'm learning something new each time—about people, about issues, about dignity and about freedom. Mostly I seem to be reminded again and again that, in spite of all the talk about politics and pork and lobbyists and cronyism, there are still a lot of people working to make America a better place.

posted at: 04:32 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Mon, Nov 07 2005

Tidbits and Odd Thoughts on the Eve of Election Day, November 2005

All Saints Episcopal church in Pasadena, California could lose its tax-exempt status because of a sermon last year that contained an anti-war message. I can't help but wonder what the sermon topic was this year the Sunday before Election Day.

Voters in Texas will be voting on whether to prohibit same-sex marriage. A lot of states seem to be taking up this issue, which always holds just a teeny bit of irony for me. When droves of heterosexual couples began living together without matrimony in recent decades many of them often said, "It's only a piece of paper. What's a piece of paper if you love each other?" Well, it seems that piece of paper has now become a coveted item to a whole other set of folks.

The democrats have already decided when, but not where, to hold their 2008 Democratic National Convention. I can appreciate their wanting to think about the idea of possibly meeting in New Orleans, but part of me can't help but want to remind them that they will be meeting during the height of hurricane season. In the unlikely event that 2008 is as active a season as 2005 I cringe at the thought of the logistics of evacuating whole boatloads of fired-up party delegates.

One future national issue looming on the horizon is the home mortgage interest deduction, considered untouchable for decades and often referred to as a sacred cow. Because of the high cost of housing in California this just might be the sacred cow that breaks the camel's back. Californians are liable to put both donkeys and elephants out to pasture and finally secede from the Union.

posted at: 14:58 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Fri, Nov 04 2005

Yahoo! Travel Trip Planner

The Yahoo! Travel Trip Planner is now being offered (in beta form) and lets you choose ready-made trips or choose to customize your own trips with maps, notes and other goodies. The FAQ will help get you started on learning to create and save up to 100 trips of your own. You can delete old trips later to make room for new adventures. I plan to create some practical trips I might actually go on plus some dream trips I can at least imagine taking.

posted at: 08:38 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Pick A Card

I enjoy creativity exercises and brainstorming so I had great fun playing the Genie Games, which are based on the Free the Genie cards from Idea Champions. Of course, the folks there are hopeful that we'll enjoy the games so much that we'll purchase their full set of cards. I just might do that. The online games are a great way to try out their particular approach to problem solving.

posted at: 07:26 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Thu, Nov 03 2005

There Is No Real Free Lunch Bus Ride

Now that the strike of UTU Local 23 is over, the Metro buses will be giving free rides through November 9. Since the drivers' future wage increases will be tied in to sales tax revenue I'm sure folks on both sides of the issues realized how important it would be good to get bus riders onboard again quickly to make money at jobs and to those shopping centers where we can spend money and increase that sales tax income.

KSBW's web site says all those complimentary rides we accept may cost the district up to $150,000.

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

Wed, Nov 02 2005

I'll Put My Shopping Dollars Into Peace and Quiet

I've been taking an easy day today, so blogging posts have been pushed to the back burner. I did take time to catch up on a bit of recent news. Our own Halloween night was warm, dry and without any negative incidents. We gave out treats to 82 trick-or-treaters of varying ages and sizes. By 8:40 in the evening it was quiet so we took down the decorations and closed the door.

When I took time today to read some of the news from downtown Santa Cruz I was disappointed to learn that they had a lot of violence Halloween night. Alcohol was blamed for much of the trouble, but rival gangs were also in the fray and their idea of a good time appeared to be stabbing people.

The problem with so many downtown street celebrations getting out of hand is that people who might otherwise go downtown and spend money are going to stay away in droves. I hope the drunken crowd and the gangs were at least throwing some money at the downtown businesses because the rest of us don't care to go out to eat and shop in the middle of that kind of madness. It used to be fun to go out and enjoy the costumed crowds and mingle on holidays, but I heard several people say they can definitely think of better ways to celebrate than to "dodge drunks and punks".

posted at: 17:00 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Tue, Nov 01 2005

Novel Phrases

Thanks to Spiegel Online for the link to The New Yorker's comments on Lewis Libby's novel, "The Apprentice". The New Yorker refers to the book as a "right-wing dirty novel". That sounds like a major oxymoron. I haven't read the book so I've no idea exactly what Mr. Libby wrote that could be considered both right-wing and dirty.

It could be that what The New Yorker actually intended to say was that Mr. Libby's story was a dirty novel written by a right-wing person. Perhaps they intended to say it was a right-wing novel written by a dirty person. Or neither. Or both. A well-turned phrase, in any context, is a dangerous thing.

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

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