Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
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Mon, Dec 26 2005

Lights and Festivals

The January 2006 issue of Deb's Monthly Review is up for viewing. If you're still looking for those listings of holiday light displays you can go to the archived December 2005 issue. January isn't as full of U.S. festivals as many other months and that's probably because folks are winding down a bit after the big holiday season. But there are some events going on all across the country in January so quite a few of those are mentioned in detail, along with brief listings of other festivals and some non-festival events. And subscribers to the Notify note get even more information. Now it's time for a breather, so blog posts will be minimal the rest of this week.

posted at: 11:34 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Sat, Dec 24 2005

Christmas Thoughts

Mamamontezz had a great post earlier this month, on being Santa's Helper. The best part of the story is that anyone, anywhere, anytime can play at this game. The idea of doing good deeds in secret is a joy that crosses cultural, religious and political lines and gives us all a sense of the pleasure of giving. I always end up thinking of Christ's example with the woman at the well. He didn't walk up to her and start preaching to her. He asked her to share first, and he asked her to share something that was a basic, human need. It opened the door to a conversation that would change her life forever.

One of my favorite artistic images is one of Santa, who has removed his festive red hat and kneels beside baby Jesus' manger with his head bowed. Kids often think of Santa as a pretty powerful and loving guy, but it's nice to know that even someone like Santa knows where true love begins and ends. Peace and Merry Christmas, everyone.

posted at: 21:50 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Fri, Dec 23 2005

What If We Gave a BIrthday Party and Nobody Came?

If all the people fussing over whether to call it holiday-this or Christmas-that were put up against the story of a community's generosity to a road sweeper maybe there would be silence.

And how about the child who noticed someone in need and looked around her and then tried to do her best to make their day better?

Whether you want to call it a holiday tree or a Christmas tree, a group of nice people made sure some families in Paso Robles, California got to have one.

I want to take a minute to recognize all the hard-working folks at post offices who help make sure the letters that children send to Santa get delivered and answered. I know of one local Santa helper who went the extra mile when he learned that one little boy's letter may have been a bit delayed in the busy December rush.

While politicians and preachers and rent-a-mobs rant and rave about what we ought to call it and what we ought to say and do to fall into line with it there are people who quietly go about the task of easing one another's burdens and recognizing the dignity in every human life they encounter all year long. I don't hear them complaining and arguing. They seem to have already figured out what it's all really about.

Christians have the best reason of all to celebrate without condemning others' views. The Christ Child we honor could have begun His human life in a palace with trumpet fanfares and banners hanging all around town. But what we read is that His family placed Him in a manger near animals. While it's possible that we've romanticized the details we can be fairly certain that the level of attention given to the event was miniscule in most circles. Any negative reactions were only on the part of those who feared their own lofty positions would be in jeopardy if Jesus came to rule Israel. Many didn't understand the kind of kingdom He had. Many still don't understand. Those of us who claim to follow Him should know better than to use this season as an excuse to condemn and judge others. If Jesus' kingdom begins in humble hearts then we should look at others' greetings and traditions as their way of reaching out to partake with us in this Great Gift.

I hope each of you enjoys a spirit of giving and acceptance this season.

posted at: 11:53 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Thu, Dec 22 2005

Is a Church School a Business?

One California lawsuit could result in an interesting precedent regarding church-operated high schools and how much leeway they have in accepting and keeping students whose lifestyle or beliefs may not match the church schools list of acceptable behavior or beliefs.

Particularly interesting to me is the fact that the students' attorney refers to the church school as a fee-taking institution, and as such, a business, which has no right to discriminate with regard to sexual orientation. I'm thinking this sort of classification could cause church schools to be more careful in how they charge tuition, since they are generally not thought of as being profitable in a business sense. Depending on how this case comes out, churches that operate schools may find themselves having to prove they are not businesses. And if they can't do that they may be facing some tough decisions when it comes to school policy. If a church school can't screen students based on its church's beliefs then the school could become a liability to its own church organization. This will be a case worth watching.

posted at: 09:07 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Wed, Dec 21 2005

Rum (and other) Revisionist History

I've been hearing a lot of remarks lately about people revising the recent history of events in Iraq and other areas of the Middle East. I find it rather amusing, since most of the history we study today is revisionist history in one way or another. The passage of time itself seems to change the way we view past acts.

There was a documentary on TV last night that chronicled the production of refined sugar and molasses in the Caribbean, Hawaii and other places with optimum climates. What stood out (other than the fact that sugar takes some real work to make) for me was a brief segment of the show which pointed out that our modern fixation on the Boston Tea Party is a recent phenomenon, and that the American Revolution was as much about molasses and run as anything else on the minds of the patriots.

Neither my elementary nor my high school history textbooks had much to say about rum's role in our nation's formation. I find it interesting that more is being said about it now in 2005. It makes me wonder if history writing, like fiction writing, is a lot more about the times in which we live than about the incidents themselves.

posted at: 07:13 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Tue, Dec 20 2005

Helping America Vote Is More Than Passing Laws

It would be helpful if more politicians recognized the fact that simply passing laws, including the Help America Vote Act, does not guarantee success. Once they spend their time debating and posturing they seem to cast their votes and then move on to whatever other hot topics will garner attention. Meanwhile, people on a local level are left to contend with the practical aspects that will transform the legislators' speeches into something that something that actually does help America vote.

Attorney General Bill Lockyer decided to have the state sue Santa Cruz County over voter access earlier this year. I hope he will get behind us now in a practical way and use his department to help pave the way for usable equipment that will enable disabled, and other, voters to cast their ballots fairly. There are a lot of things that occur at polling places that make it difficult for voters that Mr. Lockyer never sees. I've worked as an elections clerk at a polling place that happens to be a school. In the past we've had to deal with pranks and vandalism on the part of students and so we've had to delay the placement of items in certain locations until the students are in class for the day, even though the Help America Vote Act contains detailed rules about notices and signs. Next year we won't be able to use that particular location at all because we have no electricity in the room made available to us and we'll need that electricity for the voting machines. A given property only receives about twenty-five dollars for the use of its space as a polling place and it's becoming more difficult to get those spaces when one considers the inconvenience and cost to property owners and managers. I hope Mr. Lockyer will concentrate on practical matters such as this in the future and will work to encourage and assist counties in their search for suitable locations as polling places. Everyone works long hours here to make voting accessible and fair. It's very discouraging when elected officials assume they have enough knowledge from their warm, well-lit offices to tell us all how to get the work done where the rubber meets the road—and then file lawsuits when things don't happen a certain way. Will you choose to give us some practical assistance, Mr. Lockyer, so that we can actually Help America Vote—particularly Americans in Santa Cruz County?

posted at: 08:45 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Mon, Dec 19 2005

Immigration (and Migrant) Policies

Washington, D.C. area pastor Parrish Jones makes sense in his recent remarks on distinguishing between migrants and immigrants. We can certainly find ways to treat legal workers with respect and dignity while reserving certain privileges only for those who maintain long-term residency and the most privileges for those who seek permanent citizenship in our country. We could document legitimate migrant workers and encourage their participation in a working America while still maintaining a consistent border policy that screens out criminals and obvious terrorists.

Once in place, however, any such policies should also be consistently enforced. Migrant workers who choose to violate our laws should not be given free rein to profit by that choice. We should also encourage Mexico and Canada to mirror such policies. And we should support border countries' efforts to provide a wealth of higher-paying jobs within their own boundaries so that we don't continue to act like some uppity rich uncle who feels sorry for the poor people who live across the tracks. That whole posture ends up demeaning everyone in the long run.

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

Fri, Dec 16 2005

No Votes Mean Yes for a Freer Society

I'm very glad to see that those who claim to represent our interests will not have a quick win when it comes to renewing the Patriot Act.

And to answer Senator Majority Leader Bill Frist: I'd much rather live in fear of terrorists than in fear of my own country's courts, legislative bodies, executive administration and intelligence personnel.

posted at: 10:30 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Thu, Dec 15 2005

Baseball, Cuba, and the American Way

If we have learned nothing else in foreign relations we should have learned that the longest-lasting freedoms come when they are born, not solely from outside influences, but from a sincere, internal joining together of citizens who want to better themselves and their country. Our own nation has struggled through many devisive issues and we know that our administration's policies work best when grounded by a swell of public support.

I was very pleased to read that U.S. Representative Jose Serrano of New York had expressed his hope that a baseball team from Cuba would be allowed to play in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Like baseball, politics has its share of strengths and weaknesses in both the U.S. and in Cuba. If diplomat Michael Parmly is correct in his belief that Cuba's citizens are on the brink of finding their own way to a freer society we should fling open the doors and let in all the light we can to them. Let them see for themselves the possibilities open to them in the future. Baseball games may accomplish that a whole lot faster than the whole outdated embargo we've been clinging to for too long. It's time for us to stop acting like those narcissistic, overly-controlling Little League parents who cheapen the game with their tantrums and pouting. Come on, current adminstration. Let's do it. Let's play ball.

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

Wed, Dec 14 2005

Keeping The Diebold Record and the Check Register Open

As the news of CEO Walden O'Dell leaving Diebold comes to us, I'm hoping that the company will seek to maintain a clean record, present quality products and become a strong competitor in e-voting. Voting is a very basic privilege. While America is busy helping citizens in other countries, such as Iraq, to vote for honest leadership we need to be sure our own methods of voting and tallying are as accurate and fair as possible. Mr. O'Dell publicly displayed openly partisan associations in the past and his leaving Diebold now is a good indication that he recognizes the fact that his actions could have exacerbated Diebold's recent bad press.

I do not, however, agree with any company, including Diebold, forbidding its employees, including executive officers, from making political contributions. Personal contributions, like voting, should be a matter of choice and should be unencumbered by company interests or company pressure. Besides—personal contributions are a matter of public record and are quite a different matter from making private remarks to hungry politicians and holding private fundraisers with elite guest lists. Personally, I'd like to know exactly which candidates and issues all company executives are willing to pull out their own checkbooks for. Let them write all the checks they want so that the rest of the company personnel and the American taxpayers have a pretty good idea where their true interests lie.

posted at: 16:21 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Looking Like Famous People

Several people had a link to interesting pictures of celebrities without makeup. There are more here. These are usually female celebrities, but the occasional painted peacock sometimes makes the list. It's interesting how different people look when their eyes are lined, their brows darkened and other features are either enhanced or played down. Maybe that's how we get the whole celebrities separated at birth idea. I must say I don't quite agree with some of those comparisons. George Clooney does not remind me of Cary Grant in the least, but maybe that's because the way they carry themselves and speak on film seem very different to me.

I once knew a young man with light features who looked so much like Donny Osmond that some of us threatened to tackle him and dye his hair and eyebrows so we could take a comparison photo. And then there's the matter of voices. Each of us supposedly has a unique voice or voice print. I used to fill in as a receptionist at an office frequented by a client who sounded so much like actor Jack Nicholson that I always had to look at his face just to do a double-check.

Some people look so much like celebrities that they make a career out of it. Check out the lookalikes for Yul Brynner, Queen Elizabeth and Clint Eastwood. And while I'm sure it carries mixed blessings, there are those who manage to make a great living looking like Bill Clinton or George Bush.

posted at: 10:37 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Tue, Dec 13 2005


Tonight our local Bayside Community Chorus sings for the residents of Valley Heights senior community. You can catch a glimpse of the grand piano on the lower left of the home page of their site. What doesn't show is the magnificent Christmas tree that sits in front of the two-story high window, just to the left of the piano. I would go every year, not only to see the folks and sing for them and with them, but to admire that tree. The massive fireplace and open balcony that looks down on the room gives residents a chance to check out the action before they come down and join us. It's just a great holiday venue for entertaining.

posted at: 08:43 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Mon, Dec 12 2005

Dropping a Left Shoulder—and a Hint?

Chuck, over at Just Thoughts, thinks he has a tip on body language for us when it comes to President Bush and matters of truth. I wonder if this sort of thing is covered in Neuro-Linguistic Programming for Dummies. I suppose it could be a sign of stress, rather than a sign of dishonesty. Or both. Or neither.

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

This Joke's on All of Us

The case of Brian Chase underscores the reason I don't really like participating in group blogs and sites that allow input from several people when that input might appear to be from experts when viewed by the casual online reader. I like Wikipedia for what it is, but I would never take its information as the bottom line in any serious research project. They are a great starting point for general information, and I think what they present is a fine addition to the internet, as long as we recognize that those who present material there might not be experts in any given field of knowledge. I hope Wikipedia stays in the mix and doesn't give up over one person's very bad judgement.

The really sad thing is that, while Brian Chase's actions have alerted many to the pitfalls of trusting this sort of group information as completely factual, his choice to play his joke in this very public way may now result in a sense of urgency that there be more controls and censorship of online material in general—not to mention the class action law suits that will come out of this and may create a precedence that spoils the fun for many who have no ill intentions at all. I hope it was worth it to him because the rest of us are going to pay for his joke a hundred times over.

There's also a good lesson to learn from this whole situation. Before we play a joke on someone we need to be sure we're willing to be responsible for any and all unknown factors that may play into our actions. If we have any doubts we should find another way to have our fun.

posted at: 08:19 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Sun, Dec 11 2005

Get a Cold—Show an ID and Sign the Book— or Suffer

Dan Gillmor went and got my dander up. I'm not angry at Dan himself, but at political personalities such as Diane Feinstein of California and Jim Talent of Missouri, who are pushing to make it more inconvenient for you and I to purchase cold remedies because they actually believe making our lives more burdened will curb the tide of illegal meth manufacturers. I see that Tim Hammonds, of the Food Marketing Institute, was also mentioned in the article from the San Francisco Chronicle. I've already begun voicing my opinion to some of these folks and I'll be keeping a list of those who favor this legislation. I hope you'll let them know how you feel, even if you disagree with my views.

posted at: 08:54 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Sat, Dec 10 2005

Panda Fun

Baby panda Tai Shan is wowing the crowds. Have a peek via live cam. He does catch some naps but I was surprised at how active he is when he's awake—a typically playful baby mammal.

posted at: 06:19 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Fri, Dec 09 2005

Carson Williams Turns Lights Off

To everyone coming to this blog via a search for Carson Williams, it seems that he's decided to turn off his light display, which featured a holiday light show synchronized with music. It sounds as though safety became an issue when the street got clogged with eager viewers. News of the display spread like wildfire after TV shows interviewed Mr. Williams and videos of the show were shared online. I hope he's still glad he did all that work and shared his great display with others.

posted at: 13:54 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Identification and Passengers

In reference to showing identification before boarding a plane: If Justice Department attorney Joshua Waldman is quoted correctly then he believes that "the requirement promotes the right to travel by protecting everyone's safety." I would like to voice my disagreement with the gentleman's stance. A person could live as a model citizen for many years, go absolutely mad one day and then board a plane with the express intent of causing death and destruction. The mere presentation of an ID will never prevent mental illness, despair or suicide. Nor will it prevent people from willfully establishing a respectable lifestyle for decades in preparation for one last act of suicidal terror. If they intend to keep foisting this sort of ritual on travelers they should at least come up with some better reasons than this.

posted at: 08:29 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Thu, Dec 08 2005

Patriot Act Not Friendly To Patriots

I'm neither a Democrat nor a Republican, but I am a patriot, and I will happily support the ranks of "obstructionists" when it comes to renewal of the ill-named Patriot Act.

posted at: 11:10 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Wed, Dec 07 2005

Hypothetical Lights of the Season

I'm still at work updating the list of good places to see Christmas lights, which is listed beneath the festivals in the December 2005 Deb's Monthly Review. But I guess there is one Texas location I'll be leaving off the list, due to all of Eric's hypothetical updates to his Christmas light display. I'm sorry he had so much frustration but I'm very glad he chronicled it for the rest of us to have a giggle over. I can also empathize with his issues. Last year we had to unfasten and check a whole section of lights (which were supposed to burn out only one light at a time) on a tree-shaped powder-coated frame. We finally found the culprit and then had to figure out how to refasten the lights back to the frame in their proper position, which was trickier than it sounds. I gained newly-found appreciation for the reasons manufacturers charge what they do for those pre-lighted shapes.

That phrase "one light at a time" always makes me think of the song "One Day at a Time". Maybe we could take a bit of poetic license (with apologies to Marijohn Wilkin, whose work I greatly respect) and make that first verse go something a bit like this:
Christmas is coming,
And here I stand.
Help me to the eaves, the roof and the trees
To string all I can.
Show me the ladder that I have to climb.
And Lord, for my sake, teach me to take
One bulb at a time

posted at: 08:22 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Tue, Dec 06 2005

Cookie Exchanges

Some of us were discussing how little time we have to do all the extra holiday things that are fun and that we wished we could bake or sample more kinds of treats without spending days in the kitchen. I've never participated in a cookie exchange but I've heard a lot about them and they do sound as though they could be a practical way to get a wider selection of cookies and have a little social fun at the same time. Everyone bakes a bunch of one kind of cookie and then the bakers gather together and each take home several different kinds of cookies. Some folks apparently have a lot of ideas on how the exchange should be done. I doubt very much I'd ever exclude guys from an exchange. Some of the best bakers I've ever met were men.

At least one baker feels the chocolate chip variety of cookie should be left out of an exchange. Another feels that one batch of chocolate chip cookies will be fine as long as no one else bakes them. I suppose it would make sense to have some sort of list so that everybody didn't make the same spritz cookies or brownies or gingerbread men.

Exchanges can apparently be expanded to include stories and recipe booklets, but I'm thinking that this might snowball into one of those things that would end up taking lots of time and might defeat the purpose of easing the task of making so many things during December.

I did hear of one exchange several years ago that really sparked my interest. A group of church members who participated made a pact to make one extra dozen of whatever cookie they brought. The extra dozen from each baker was used to make cookie packs for holiday treat baskets for folks who were members of the same church but who weren't able to bake anymore. That would make a cookie exchange even more appealing to me.

It's too late to get things going for this season. Maybe next year.

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

Mon, Dec 05 2005

Christmas Lights With that Extra Something

I received a link to a great Christmas light display video a few days ago and finally had time to go off in search of its origin. I ended up at Snopes.com, where they were kind enough to give us the details. They also included a link to yet another great display video. These light shows are apparently the work of one Carson Williams in Mason, Ohio, whose house is apparently located somewhere on Winding Creek Court. The videos are great fun but I'm sure they don't do justice to the real thing. I hear the family's display is going to be featured on several TV shows and may also be the setting for an upcoming commercial or two. It's nice to see people do something positive and get attention for their efforts.

posted at: 09:05 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Sun, Dec 04 2005

Having Our Cake, But Only When We're Hungry

It seems like only common sense to eat when hungry, but maybe we've been doing something else. Eating what he wants and eating only when hungry seems to have done the trick for at least one man. I do know that a lot of people struggle to know when they are physically hungry and they also struggle to know when they are full. I confess that I've eaten, at times, to the point where feeling "full" meant feeled overly-stuffed. I'm thinking that many of us have spent so many years believing that full means stuffed that we have a hard time knowing what full is actually supposed to feel like. It's simply easier to recognize that overly-stuffed feeling than to aim for something between empty and stuffed.

Tuning into one's own body works well for so many things. I guess we're all just focused on so many other tasks and activities that we don't take time to take care of ourselves this way. Tuning in becomes especially important at holiday time, when every doorway one steps through seems to lead to snacks and goodie plates and whole buffets laid out with every kind of treat there is. I usually lose weight during the holidays because there is so much everywhere that I get overwhelmed and can't decide what, or how much, to eat. So there may be something to this Intuitive Eating philosophy, if it means that embracing abundance can result in reasonable choices.

posted at: 15:12 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Fri, Dec 02 2005

Why Do Malls Come in Only One Flavor?

Yesterday we took a rare trip to a mall in the San Jose area. Malls in recent years have had a tendency to hold stores that are much the same from place to place, which greatly lessens the whole mall appeal for me. What was nice yesterday was that we had our first major storm of the wet season, so once inside, a mall was preferable to outside stores as a shopping venue.

We opted out of the Santana Row stores I had been hoping to explore, because the storm winds were so strong that the open spaces between stores would have meant getting miserably wet and having to battle to keep purchases dry. We did drive through the area and noticed very few cars in the covered parking, which is located some distance from store entrances. If they can cover parking why can't they cover the walking path from store to store?

Crate and Barrel used to be in the mall but moved when Santana Row was built. They probably love the extra room they have and I'm sure it's a great store, but it just wasn't worth the hassle to me in this particular case.

. I've discussed the whole mall mentality with friends several times and we all seem to agree that the lack of unique stores from one mall to another keeps us away most of the time. But malls seem to flourish and grow anyway. I can only surmise that they are attempting to appeal to some other demographic group, particularly after seeing more than one store chain follow the lead of Abercrombie & Fitch by having one store for grown-ups and one for kids. (Ann Taylor actually had 3 different stores in this particular mall, the logic of which escapes me.) I think I'll go back to shopping online now&mdashwhere I can find unique items from all over the planet.

posted at: 08:43 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

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