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

Tue, Jan 31 2006

Insulting Companies A Job For The FBI?

I had never heard of StarForce until I saw a post about the company on Boing Boing. There's a list of possible games using the software here. I don't buy or play any of those. I'm more content with other game activities that don't involve such difficulties. But I always frown a bit when the first thing I ever hear about a company is negative. And the first thing I've heard about StarForce is that they're supposedly contacting the FBI over an insult. I'm puzzled that the FBI would even get involved in such things with people like Osama bin Laden still on the Most Wanted list. Our tax dollars certainly do get channeled into some interesting places.

I hope the folks at StarForce will at least take time to understand that the rush of negative feedback means that some game users are—correctly or incorrectly—perceiving some sort of threat from the use of StarForce products and will work toward making their products something end-users can utilize as an asset, rather than a liability. It's always reassuring to see marketing and public relations departments have a budget at least as large as that of the legal department. It shows me a spirit of goodwill on the part of a company.

posted at: 12:01 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Mon, Jan 30 2006

Chairs After Toasts

One of my favorite companies is showing off some of the best of the entries from the DWR Holiday Champagen Chair Contest. And while you're at the Design Within Reach site have a look the Gehry Cloud 32 Lamp or the Bingo Pouf, which doubles as a bed or table.

posted at: 11:59 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Is It A Muddy Tunnel We've All Gotten Ourselves Into?

Well, I suppose we'll all soon be seeing pictures from the smugglers' tunnel. While tourists from America have been traveling to Tijuana to buy tequila and cheap sombreros the drug runners have figured out how to get the really big bucks flowing from Americans.

When I read things like this, I wonder if it's even possible for there to be a legitimate economic exchange between Mexico and the United States in the foreseeable future. Through NAFTA, we seem to have joined hands with the legitimate side of Mexico's commerce. But have we also unwittingly signed ourselves into a tryst that joins the seamier side of commerce on both sides of the border? And at what cost? After thirteen years of NAFTA I'm ready for at least one really rousing success story. The tunnels between ready users and willing suppliers are at least one sure sign that certain things haven't changed for the better. I was thinking the backers of NAFTA had something a whole lot more uplifting in mind when they began selling the idea of an integrated, nonrestricted market with the neighbors. At this point I've become more than a little concerned that NAFTA also makes it tougher for all of us to champion honorable trade without giving free rein to criminals in just that many more nonrestricted locations.

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

Fri, Jan 27 2006

It's About More Than A Book

I don't suppose there would be all this speculation about the motivation behind Oprah Winfrey's attitude toward James Frey and his book publisher if she wasn't in a position of power and considerable influence and if she had not worked hard to attain a financial empire of her own. The fact is that, at one time or another, we've each trusted and admired some person and then found out that the person deceived us. They might have been afraid or insecure or neurotic or a pathological liar. But we wanted to believe them and have something good come from that trust, and sometimes we still seek that good thing long after we've had to admit that our trust in them was misplaced. Our own confidence takes a hit as we attempt to regain our equilibrium and get on with life. We question our own judgment in allowing this person to dupe us and to steal the best of what we have to give as a supportive human being. Getting over it is a process much like grief. We grieve for what we thought we shared with this person and we search for ways to validate our own choice to have trusted them in the first place. No one likes to be made a fool of.

The difference for Ms. Winfrey's situation is that her support of the person was very public and carried over into her business life. That probably magnifies her own embarrassment as she realizes the rippling implications of her misplaced trust.

I would still maintain that, as adults, erring on the side of trust takes us farther in life than being overly self-protective and distrusting. As for the author in this particular case, all I can reason is that there comes that moment when we each have to look into a mirror and accept the core of who we really are. In those moments I'd much rather be looking into the eyes of the one who was lied to than the one who did the lying.

posted at: 07:01 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Thu, Jan 26 2006

Hector's: You Can't Franchise This Stuff

I noticed that Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. is having a great time with its public stock. With all the Mexican restaurants we have in the Watsonville area, I'm surprised there isn't a Chipotle here yet. The closest one I seem to be able to find is in Monterey. Maybe the folks who do such things feel we're already saturated with Mexican cuisine, but that didn't stop Maui Tacos from coming to town.

Just in case you ever find yourself traveling on Highway 1 near the town of Watsonville, California, and you want a good burrito or tender carnitas, take the Airport Boulevard exit and head inland, straight to 301 Airport Boulevard—home of Hector's Mexican Bakery. Sometimes they roast chickens on huge grills outdoors and send out aromatic smoke that calls anyone within a half-mile to near madness with desire for just one little taste.

You must go with much hunger and not squeal like a thin schoolgirl when you see the juicy portions. And do leave the fat calculator out of sight, unless you don't mind looking like the clueless tourist you probably are. You won't see fancy menus or coordinated colors. The building's exterior looks like a dark little market out of a John Steinbeck novel, sitting on a bare-bones lot so forlorn that it's seedy-looking if you're accustomed to drive-through establishments with corporate-approved shrubbery. But you'll get tasty food at good prices, with no apologies—and none necessary, thank you.

We've met people in some very upscale settings who knew all about Hector's. The place may not be in a league with Maui Tacos or Chipotle, but to those who've eaten there, it's a commodity not to be taken lightly.

posted at: 11:55 | category: /Food | link to this entry

Wed, Jan 25 2006

Hats Do More Than Sit On Heads

Somebody mentioned a capuchon (in connection with Mardi Gras) this morning and I thought I knew what one was, but I had to look for a photo to be sure. I was thinking of something a wee bit more in the style of a jester hat, but after I saw an illustration of the capuchon I recalled having seen them before.

It seems as though anything humans use for practical reasons eventually also makes its way into decorative forms. Hats are no exception and many hats are also used to identify someone's job or their affiliation with a school or other organization. Hats can identify someone as a fan of a sports team or as part of a special event. During election years, even though no one wears one, we still talk about a candidate "tossing his hat into the ring".

There are even hats and headcoverings that have tremendous religious connotations. I think of a Bishop's hat or the veil-style head coverings that Roman Catholic nuns have traditionally worn.

And I always have plenty of questions when it comes to hats. Why have nurses traditionally been presented with a special starched cap, but not doctors? Why was it considered an acceptable 1960s substitute when a Catholic schoolgirl, having forgotten her headscarf, pinned a facial tissue to her hair with a bobby pin and went merrily into mass with a clean heart? And when did wearing hats to church become passe? I've wondered if a Muslim woman could wear her chador or roosari beneath another hat, or on top of another hat—or if these variations would be considered sacrilegious by her particular religion.

You've probably heard of a pillbox, a sombrero, a watch cap and a toque. But have you ever heard of a tagal, a leghorn or an a shu? I found a great list of hat definitions.

posted at: 10:24 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Denver Bronco Ethnicity?

I would agree with Kimberly that the teacher who targeted a high school student for wearing a Denver Broncos jersey used extremely bad judgment on several counts.

I once knew of a teacher who used Shirley Jackson's short story, The Lottery, as a teaching aid in a literature class. Each student, on one particular spring morning, had to take a piece of paper from a box as they entered class, with the brief explanation given that someone was in trouble and that one paper would have a black mark on it, a mark that was random and represented forthcoming punishment for one person, but that the whole group had to particpate in the selection and punishment. There were lots of nervous giggles and comments but each student took their paper and went to their seat. When attendance had been taken there was a discussion about how the students felt about the idea that they, or someone next to them, might be in trouble. Though most had figured out that it was a class exercise of some sort they still said they had felt uneasy about showing—or not showing—the paper they had drawn and they talked about wanting to see what other students had drawn. They discussed the mixed feelings of relief for themselves and of sympathy for whoever might have gotten the marked paper. As things progressed into the discussion and the students asked for details, the teacher pushed the point that no one had claimed to hold the marked paper. With more giggling and comments they basically told her they didn't believe anyone got a marked paper and that it had been a setup. She told them they were wrong. Someone in the room held a marked paper. Finally, she held up the one marked paper, which she had taken for herself. Of course, she had planned this the whole time, and so the discussion continued with the short story and the idea of someone taking on guilt and punishment for others.

This exercise took place in a Christian school setting, so the teacher was free to draw on the story's impact to point the students' thoughts to Christ, and she talked about Him taking on the guilt of each person. The whole exercise was effective without singling out any one student for ridicule or embarrassment.

I wish Mr. Kelly had been similarly creative in his use of object lessons. Two more things really bother me about the story Kimberley's blog points to. The first is that this teacher, if quoted correctly, seemed to think it was all "silly fun". The second is that this happened during an exam. It's great that Mr. Kelly wants his students to understand the class principles, but his lack of empathy for his students is a little frightening. His lack of professionalism on the day of a midterm exam disgusts me. I'm really hoping this incident has been blown out of proportion by media, because if it really happened the way it's been reported the man gives a bad name to caring teachers who inspire their students and yet seldom make headlines.

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

Tue, Jan 24 2006

Where Is The Glory? Where Is The Honor? And Where Are The Big Bucks?

The case against Jeanson James Ancheta (and probably others, in time) is more than unnerving when one considers the fact that military computer systems were used in the hacking. Not only could military computers be compromised by the hordes of people doing this sort of thing, but the computers could also be tied up with senseless tasks that would make them powerless when we might need them for national security. It's sad to me that these young people care no more for their own country than this. It almost strikes me as a very juvenile form of treason.

The article I read also mentioned that Mr. Ancheta has a public defender as an attorney. I'm more than a wee bit confused by that. If this sort of crime is supposed to be so profitable I do wonder why the accused can't afford to hire his own lawyer.

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

Mon, Jan 23 2006

West Wing Winds Down

I'm a little sad to hear of the cancellation of West Wing, but I'm satsified that the show covered a lot of issues in ways that only a fictionalized show could have done. I think it was probably therapeutic for us to have West Wing running at the same time we've had to deal with real terror threats, lobbyist scandals, natural disasters (and the accompanying finger-pointing) and other real issues that stressed Americans and threatened to divide us against ourselves. The storylines of West Wing helped to underscore the need to feel free to disagree with one another in details, but to keep working together toward maintaining the original principles and freedoms that made our country unique and inviting in the first place.

posted at: 08:50 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Fri, Jan 20 2006

Good Weather for Ramen

We've had some relatively cold evenings here on the Central California Coast lately. Some of us were talking about good cold weather foods and the topic of Ramen came up in the discussion—that cheap, pre-packaged food that seems to keep busy, nearly-broke students from starving. We all had our favorite ways to eat those comforting noodles. My own variation is to break the noodles into several pieces and to use about half the water that the package calls for in the directions, because I don't want soup. I want noodles. Some folks mentioned that you could cut the sodium content of the stuff by using only half a flavor packet per package of noodles. And then things turned a little strange, with talk of adding this or that odd ingredient to a package of noodles. I got curious, so I went digging on the internet for more possibilities. Some of the ones I found will add a lot more fat grams to the already high-fat noodles. But if you ate Ramen on a daily basis the many variations would keep you from burning out on the stuff.

Links to Ramen recipes:
from Naruto Fever
from CollegeNews
Shabbat Ramen
Matt Fischer's Ramen blog
Chicken Hollandaise Ramen
If that last one isn't highbrow enough for you, a cookbook might be in order. How about
The Book of Ramen
Everybody Loves Ramen
101 Things to Do with Ramen Noodles

posted at: 09:09 | category: /Food | link to this entry

Can I Sit Next to You?

If you fly commercially a lot and often end seated next to people you'd rather not be in close quarters with for hours on end, you might entertain thoughts of using a service like AirTroductions. The service isn't only a dating service. They'll help you find ride sharing, business networking partners and other contacts. And if you want to sit next to someone who will just be quiet and let you read or sleep they'll help you with that. Right now their database of travelers is under 5000, but more folks are signing up every day.

posted at: 06:33 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Thu, Jan 19 2006

Super Bowl Incidentals

The Aaron and Aretha Super Bowl duet on February 5 should be fun. With Stevie Wonder doing the pregame show and the Rolling Stones being featured at Halftime I'm wondering if much of the music this year is a bid for older viewers to tune in.

As an aside, why are at least 3 upcoming Super Bowl games being played in Florida? I don't have anything against Florida, but it would be nice to spread the fun around a bit. And the money.

Speaking of money, lots of TV manufacturers are hoping for a nice slice of the pie. It would be fun to know exactly how much spending a Super Bowl game really does generate. In addition to all the travel, ticket sales, entertainment and advertising that goes on, there's all that food.

posted at: 10:31 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Wed, Jan 18 2006

Blogger Code Taking a Back Seat to Herding Cats?

Ron Yeany, of the Leather Egg blog, decided the blogging world needed a code—not a code of ethics, but just a blogger code. I do hope Ron didn't get lost in all that code. His most recent blog post seems to have been back in October of last year, when he had become a foster parent to five cats. I have a feeling they've been taking up a lot of his time since then. Having succumbed to the allure of a feral feline or two myself, I can understand how herding cats can take precedence over things like blogger code.

posted at: 10:35 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

There's a Lot of Truth in Fiction (and Vice Versa)

I love the Chicago Tribune's heading from Cristi Kempf's Personals column: Winfry club prompts new genre: Friction. I can only imagine the disclaimers that writers and publishers will have to come up with in the future as we move into an era where we have blatant mash-ups between fiction and non-fiction. And bookstores will need to come up with a name for the new sections of the written word—Faction? Enbellishments? Tabloid Non-fiction?

This particular Tribune's column focused specifically on Oprah Winfrey's recent book club pick Night, by Elie Wiesel.

posted at: 06:27 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Tue, Jan 17 2006

Life Is a Gas

Niche blogs might seem to have limited appeal, but at one time or another we've all had experience with the subject matter of TRAFON. Bill Downs' blog is breaking ground as he dares to talk frankly about breaking wind. A hearty tip of the Stetson goes to the Improbable Research blog for the link.

posted at: 07:22 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Mon, Jan 16 2006

Shot Who?

In helping my spouse's family do genealogical research I've come across many old newspaper errors and misprints. I wonder how a historical error of this magnitude will show up in existing archives decades from now, and will make a way into a student's term paper or a family history album.

posted at: 10:06 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Write Lightning/Write Lightnin'

Enter a web address into the given form. The form will return the page as translated from English into Cumbrian by the Babel Sheep Cumbrinator. And being the excellent tool it is, it will also translate Cumbrian into English.

posted at: 09:35 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Visual Pun Stings Artist

BARISTA nipped a copy of the art in question, since artist Don Stewart has decided to gracefully discontinue distribution and sales of at least one clever drawing he created. The composite piece consisted of skillfully placed images of insects in the shape of a popular vehicle. Trademark issues reared their heads from a corporate nest full of compound-eyed legal personnel and Mr. Stewart ultimately decided to be a good sport. You can still see lots of great composite art on Mr. Stewart's web site, including a saddle and a snakeskin boot. It would be nice if Mr. Stewart could work something out with several manufacturers. It would be fun to see what he could do with caterpillars.

posted at: 09:11 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Sun, Jan 15 2006

Writers' Clash Points to Bigger Problems

I won't pretend to know the whole history of the conflict between science writers Tim Lambert and Michael Fumento, but the severing of Mr. Fumento's working relationship with Scripps Howard News Service would indicate to me that this is based on more than just a clash of writers' egos.

The issue concerning Mr. Fumento and Scripps Howard News Service is really unfortunate—mostly for the bad taste it gives readers who already have plenty of misgivings about those of us who write and report on any given topic. No human can manage to be free of bias and opinion. Fortunately, most of us do read material with that in mind. But we've seen more than one instance lately of writers getting their hands on large sums of money and then writing positive things about the source of that funding without admitting that their stance could be at least partially influenced by monetary considerations.

I don't know either of the two gentlemen personally, but it saddens me to think that the time spent on all this could have gone to better things. Our personal and professional contacts are precious. And without pointing a finger at anyone else in this particular situation, I'm seeing that it's more than easy to lose the respect of news agencies, other professionals and valued news readers in one fell swoop. It's an increasing challenge to stay above reproach in the media of today. But it's also essential that we each keep trying to meet that challenge.

posted at: 07:31 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Fri, Jan 13 2006

If He's Told Us Once...

I don't make it over to Wonkette very often, but I happened to go by this afternoon and found that the blog linked to a site that's taking bets on several political moves, including the number of times certain phrases might be used in the upcoming State of the Union address.

Writers tend to be extremely conscious of how many times we use a word or phrase in a piece of work. We often take as much, or more, time to think about word rhythms and the way a group of words acts together as we do with the mechanics of placement. The flow and phrasing of words in a piece of writing can heighten a mood, slow a scene or even serve to underscore the general theme of a piece. When the reader takes in the words, he or she forms a relationship with the writer's words in a very subtle, but powerful, recognition of these things. It may not be so conscious that we stop reading and think about it, but it's there. And it's probably a large part of what makes many of us tend to favor certain authors over others.

Words heard in a speech are probably processed in different ways by a listener than by those read silently when curled up with a book on a rainy afternoon. Our listening brain may grab certain phrases the way one might grab food solids in a kitchen strainer. We might let the whole speech flow through, but we might filter most words and give more attention and weight to a few striking phrases. What we catch in that strainer depends depends a lot on our own background, experience and biases. And it also depends a lot on our previous perceptions of, and relationship to, the speaker.

I've always wondered if speech writers, and those who deliver speeches, pay much attention to how often a phrase is used in a speech. There are certain things that are better repeated in order to drive home a point. But other things are best said only once, so that they stand out from the rest of the speech and will be more likely to be remembered and repeated in the future. Some of these phrases are often more general terms that apply in many situations and will stand the test of time as future generations hear them. But some terms are very specific to their time. Though they may be powerful at first delivery they may be more easily misinterpreted and taken out of context as time goes on. The very clever twist in such words that gave them a first catching in our mind's "strainer" could also be what limits their ability to impress upon listeners the value of the ideas those words represent.

The farther we listeners get past any given speech, the less of that speech sticks in our mind. We tend to remember key words and phrases. The tough part is that the one giving the speech has no real power over what the rest of us do with those words and phrases. He or she may be serious and passionate about what they say. But while some words go on to inspire people for several generations other words will end up becoming ludricrous and pathetic. It all reminds me a bit of those hanging chads—tiny bits of things that became a powerful, but laughable, symbol of our inability to maintain the dignity and honor of voting in America.

posted at: 14:46 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Can We Talk to the Gecco Now?

I thought it was just me, but now I know I'm not the only one who felt uneasy after hearing the sound in recent Geico commercials. Eric of Fire Ant Gazette expressed his own misgivings earlier this week.

I rather liked the first voice they gave the little spokesgecco, but there is just something eerie with the current voice, including the accent. The whole thing makes me picture an aging lounge singer trying to do an imitation of Crocdile Dundee. I certainly don't want to see any voice talent go without work, but this was just not a good casting decision. If this is what the new gecco voice is, I'd rather the little guy would just keep silent and look wise.

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

Thu, Jan 12 2006

Drivers Make the News

Illegal drivers of one kind or another are popular news items this week. Even Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger took a bit of flack from the press after his traffic accident. He was apparently driving a motorcycle and sidecar without having a motorcycle license, though police agencies do seem to disagree on the legality of the situation. The law may not have been clear concerning vehicles equipped with sidecars. Hopefully, Governor Schwarzenegger will use his own confusion to promote road safety and to encourage all drivers to stay current on state laws regarding the operation of motorized vehicles of all kinds. And if the sidecar issue is a source of confusion we can only hope that legislators recognize a need to clarify things.

posted at: 08:52 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Wed, Jan 11 2006

A Birder's Eye View of Iraq

We don't see many details about the natural beauty of Iraq, but at least one man has decided to share with us all his discoveries of Iraqi birds (and other wildlife) at Birding Babylon.

posted at: 14:23 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

The Music That Stole My Morning

Lesson for a working Wednesday: When doing research for writing do not allow yourself to be dragged into quirky side trips like the one this writer took to WFMU's On The Download earlier today. There are MP3s there that will delight, amuse, irritate or confuse—and could lead to a powerful hunger for more bad taste, hitherto unknown. You have been warned. But do go and listen to just one.

posted at: 11:54 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Tue, Jan 10 2006

Fast-draw Communication

At first glance, and taken out of context, it all looks a bit like some electronics diagram gone awry, but it's actually Blissymbolics.

posted at: 11:39 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Scotts Valley Neighborhood Gets Nasty Surprise

Some commuters, including that of a friend, arrived in Scotts Valley this morning only to be given a detour while a bomb squad removed and safely detonated an explosive device from a shopping area. My friend's exasperated comment was, "Why can't people just call in sick!?"

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

Book Searches and Free Reads

Late last month Steve Rubel had a post on reading hacks and things via the Google Book Search. The comments below his post are certainly interesting, particularly the one pointing out that many of us read things for free in the brick-and-mortar libraries all the time. Before the days of easy access to an internet I spent many hours in a library reference section gleaning facts that are now readily available for free online, and I did it mainly because I didn't want to pay the three-figure prices charged for highly specialized reference books that would be completely outdated in a year.

I've also bought books, read them, and then donated them to brick-and-mortar libraries. Though this probably allowed many more people to read the book for free I may have cost the author royalites he or she was counting on. Was I helping readers or hurting writers? These kinds of moral dilemnas make it tough to do the right thing sometimes, particularly when I've found myself sitting on both sides of the conflict.

posted at: 07:57 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Mon, Jan 09 2006

The Book of Daniel

I got a chance to view NBC's The Book of Daniel this past weekend and I have to say I was not nearly as turned off by the presentation as I'd expected to be. There were folks practically foaming at the mouth with anger before the show even aired, so I suppose I thought they knew something about the project that I didn't know. I expected sacrilege of a most-hellish nature, but was met with a dysfunctional bunch of characters I think we can all say reminded us of people we've known in real life.

I'm not an Episcopalian, but I thought, as an outsider to that denomination, that they did a reasonable job of representing basic Episcopalian beliefs. The show is entertainment and was not intended to be an evangelical tool, from what I've read. One article in particular caught my eye, in which Jack Kenny spoke about the background of the show's premise. Whatever the other issues might be for Christians, I was extremely attracted to the idea that the character of Jesus does not ride pastor Daniel's shoulder with a whip and chair and is not even supposed to be Jesus at all. He's actually a sort of prayer in Daniel's imagination. The pastor invents conversations with a Saviour he hopes is as friendly and forgiving as Daniel and his fellow pastors have been preaching that He is.

I suppose if one watched the show with an eye toward catching them all at something bad there were plenty of opportunities to do that. But it concerns me that maybe this is also the way people sometimes see God—waiting to catch them at something bad. In our haste to make any portrayal of Jesus as holy and above reproach we sometimes forget that the real Jesus has a reputation for walking among humans to blow away all the tainted misconceptions they already had about a loving God.

With all the tawdry things we see in entertainment and in real life these days I'd say that this show was one of the least offensive things I've come across lately.

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

Fri, Jan 06 2006

The Outcome is Ironic and Maybe the Irony is the Outcome

I was reading a Slashdot blurb awhile ago, and below it were several responses, many of which included the phrase "invasion of privacy". For some unknown reason I kept seeing the phrase as reading "invasion of piracy". I think that might be an oxymoron that meets itself coming back.

As for the original issue brought up in the Slashdot piece, it never ceases to amuse me that there is always someone expecting to make money off our daily comings and goings, our circle of contacts, our color preferences and our purchasing histories. What I can't decide is whether we've fed into it with our Wish Lists, 100 Things About Me lists, online resumes, photo sharing and other information we toss out to anyone who comes across our name. Maybe artist Andy Warhol was correct in saying that someday "everyone will be world-famous for fifteen mintues". What we can't really be certain of is how much of that fame might be based on our own need for attention and recognition. Is Pandora's Box open in spite of us or because of us? And never mind the question of who's watching the watchers. It seems we're all participating in some subject-turned-voyeur-turned-subject experiment. Come to think of it, maybe it is, after all, an invasion of piracy.

posted at: 09:47 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Free Market Economics as Seen by Evangelicals

This morning one link led to another, which led to another. I found myself reading a fascinating piece on how our current economic climate may be partially based on the morals of folks from a few generations ago. The Poor people who were in debt and were once put into workhouses may have been a sacrifice to an ideal that never really existed in the first place, except in the minds of evangelical-minded economists.
The market is a complete solution, the market is a partial solution—both statements were affirmed at the same time. And the only way to hold together these incommensurable views is through a leap of faith.

You can view the full article here.

Is our so-called free market based on a spiritual dichotomy that says works cannot save but faith without works is dead? If so, it may explain the dominance of the two-party political system we seem to keep clinging to. It might also help to explain the widening spread between how the very poor live and the very rich live—and how more and more middle class folks seem poised to slip into one of those extremes any moment now.

posted at: 08:45 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Thu, Jan 05 2006

Sears Clothing

I see that Sears store sales were down during the last couple of months. If much of the problem was a cool reaction by customers to clothing I'm not surprised. I used to shop from Sears catalogs a lot when I lived in a small Midwest town where we had few brick-and-mortar stores. Then, as time went on, it seemed to me that Sears paid less attention to clothing, even though they had some good classic looks that weren't too trendy and they offered a lot of things in Tall sizes and in larger sizes for both men and women. I even wrote to them when they stopped having much in the way of these special sizes, since I had people in my family who had benefited greatly from the expanded size offerings over a period of years. I'm wondering if a lot of people my age and older remember some of this too, and have just never regained their confidence in Sears' clothing lines. Young people are not as likely to shop at Sears. They have plenty of other clothing stores that appeal to the more trendy fashion tastes. If you're a woman over 50 and you want a new outfit you have very limited choices these days if you're not willing to go with things like skimpy little bare-midriff tops and flirty little skirts.

I'd love to see Sears return to something like their former catalog sales, perhaps with an updated eye toward web shoppers (with an online catalog) and also Baby Boomer shoppers who are ready to spend but who are too experienced to fall for those 6-month clothing trends. Come on, folks at Sears. Give us a line of clothing that's durable, wash-and-wear and classic in style. Have a wide range of sizes for those classic styles that people, particularly women, return to again and again. Take the time to describe clothing dimensions with lengths for those of us who are extra-short or extra-tall. Adopt an easy return policy for items that don't turn out to be quite right. And have a little sale now and then. At some point you stopped promoting sales and talked about everyday low prices. But let's face it. People just like a sale now and then. So give us a few.

These might be old-fashioned practices but they mean quality products and quality customer service to a lot of us. We're out here. But if you continue to forget about us we're likely to continue forgetting about you when it's time to shop.

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

Tue, Jan 03 2006

Multi-Page Stories Surrounded by Ads

This morning Techdirt pointed to a piece on the habit of sites putting part of a news story on a page with many ads and then forcing the reader to click for new pages (with more ads) in order to read the rest of the story. I've run across these sites several times and I doubt very much that they're fooling anyone with their tactic. Printed magazines, newspapers and newsletters have used the phrase "continued on page such-and-such" for a long time, but that was due to the actual logistics of making content fit to a set number of pages and columns. If webmasters think they're fooling people with this sort of thing then they must be aiming their news (and their ads) for what they believe to be a very naive audience. That concept bothers me much more than just the thought of viewing ads to help pay the bills.

I suspect this is also a way for sites to claim a higher number of clicks to advertisers. They may also believe that a reader is more willing to wait for three shorter, separate pages to load than to wait for one longer page. If it's a gamble they're willing to take that's their choice. I doubt the experiment will pay off in the long run.

posted at: 07:03 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Sun, Jan 01 2006

Second(s) Guessing

It looks as though we humans are adding a leap second as we pass into the year 2006. It's curious to see how astronomic time and atomic time advocates make their case to add or not to add.

I rather like the way that our tick-tock sort of representation of time doesn't begin to cover the ebb and flow of time and space. And I rather like the idea that we can't use our little equations and formulas to perfectly define both the universe we see and the universe out there beyond our current vision. These sorts of dichotomies serve well to remind us that we always have something to learn. It's a wise and fun-loving Creator who would make matter and time act in such a way that it fuels the insatiable curiosity of His children.

posted at: 08:59 | category: /Science | link to this entry

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