Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
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Wed, May 31 2006

Video game portrays "Left Behind" theology

My own personal belief system does not include the scenario presented by the "Left Behind" series of stories. And so, I was fascinated to learn that there will soon be an action-filled video game based on the supposed post-rapture evangelization of our planet. The game is entitled "Left Behind: Eternal Forces". If what this article says is true, the game will include the chance to take up arms and blow away those individuals who do not accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. (Apparently, you can also choose to take similarly violent steps against Christians, if you decide to play on the side of the Antichrist.)

Marketers expect the video game to fly off the shelves once it's released later this year. For some reason, marketers expect it to sell particularly well to megachurch-goers. The megachurches I've visited seemed to be more focused on praise music and picnics. But perhaps diligent marketers have caught a hint of some subcutaneous itching in megachurch-goers that they feel they can successfully scratch with this role-playing product.

History shows that periods of what we call "spiritual awakening" or "spiritual revival"often accompany times of extreme upheaval and political change. Are militant, religious-based video games simply a reflection of how society currently handles all sorts of conflict? Or are they instead a manifestation of what Matthew 24 refers to as "wars and rumors of wars"? I guess we'll find out in the coming months.

(A tip of the Stetson goes to Boing Boing for the link.)

posted at: 09:10 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Tue, May 30 2006

Well—he knows how to spell "Million"

This morning marks the first time I've noticed a "Nigerian Scam" letter that went quite like this:
Hey Buddy,
This is Sgt Lee Boyd, I am a soldier And photo journalist, serving in the military .I am with the 248th Engineer corp. in the National Guard. I am writing this message from Ar-ramadi in Iraq.
We hit Iraq May 2003 and have moved around a few times building up f.o.b. around the western side of the country as well as missions into Bagdad.With attacks by insurgents everyday and car bombs, We Managed to move funds belonging to Saddam Hussein Family. The total amount is US$25 Million dollars in cash, mostly 100 dollar bills. We want to move this money out of Iraqi. No strings attached, just help us receive it, Iraq is a war zone although partially ended. We plan on using diplomatic courier to ship the money out in one large silver box, using diplomatic immunity. If you are interested I will send you the full details, when you receive this letter signifying your interest including your most confidential telephone/fax numbers for quick response also your contact details.
Sgt. Lee Boyd

The crowning touches were the email address with a .es extension on it and a bottom line in Spanish with a link back to a site at www.terra.es.

I'm sure Saddam Hussein would be thrilled to know that his legend is growing and turning into something like a one-line description of a Movie of the Week. I do doubt that we'll have to worry about this sort of spammer for very long. As a friend of mine would put it, they will thin their own gene pool for us.

posted at: 07:47 | category: | link to this entry

Fri, May 26 2006

Better molester entrapment than victim entrapment

Did anyone else see Dateline's "To Catch a Predator" a few evenings ago? It was really disheartening to know that the men who showed up on camera included teachers, doctors, firefighters and members of the clergy. The Riverside County Sheriff's Department opted to post photos online of those charged with felonies. I wonder how many people saw the show or will see the photos online and will realize that one of these fellows lives just up the street.

I would imagine that some of those shown were molested as youngsters themselves. They probably thought they could grow up and help society's children by choosing professions that would be protective and helpful. But if they didn't get any help and healing for their own injury, the likelihood of their becoming child molesters themselves only increased when they were put in situations where the opportunities to molest were that much easier to attempt as authority figures.

I've been an admirer of the work of Perverted Justice for some time. We need to be reminded that most of us live in a neighborhood where there are one or more convicted sex offenders. Read Chris Hansen's blog, in which he tells us that many kids who have been approached in an inappropriate way do not tell their parents. That means that a lot of kids are trying to deal with these predators on their own. So the more people who can stop the predators first, the better. For those who claim that it's entrapment, let them come up with a better way to protect kids. Until then, let's support those who would intercept these dangerous adults before they ever get a chance to follow through on their compulsion to hurt even one child.

posted at: 09:34 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Thu, May 25 2006

This week is full and crowded—and so will our neighborhood be, too soon...

There's a lot going on locally this week, but I've been busy getting a new issue of the Review ready, so comments may be unintentionally terse—except in the case of the case of the Watsonville City Council's adoption of Vista 2030. My comments will be intentional. Those who gain from this action will be those who will line their pockets with the proceeds from the development. It's a very bad plan, and someday those who are helping to put it into place will see that. Unfortunately, they will already have lost valuable area resources and talent, as many residents move away to other areas with more opportunities for professional careers and leave Watsonville to become a low-income, high-density bedroom community with few jobs to offer except in stores, restaurants and a few service businesses. When the city planners elected to think of housing more than jobs, they lost their chance to use larger land tracts to attract employers who could raise the quality of life in the area with wages and career advancements. And I can't help by wonder how many of those who profit from the development will actually opt to live in one of those substandard, low-income, cookie-cutter houses that will be positioned so closely together that one can hear the neighbors shower and flush. Very few of them, I'd venture to guess.

On a much happier note, our 42nd Annual Watsonville Fly-In and Air Show is this weekend. Here in the Buena Vista neighborhood they buzz our back yards and rattle our windows as they salute the military and rescue heroes of the air. Cheers to them. I hope the pilots use that crosswind runway (which some might call a toothache) every chance they get, to rattle the back molars of the ones responsible for foisting their General Plan off on us and ruining the unique character of the Buena Vista neighborhood.

posted at: 12:31 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Wed, May 24 2006

Emma Daugherty Banister

Today is the birthdate of John Riley Banister, who was born in my old home state of Missouri, in 1854. John had a colorful life himself, but upon his death he inadvertently bestowed a great honor on his surviving wife, Emma. She took over his job as sheriff and became the first female in the US recorded as holding that particular title. Emma was also a busy mom, did the general office work for John when he was sheriff, taught school and dealt in real estate. It's nice to know that there really were some choice American female role models long before what we all began calling "Women's Lib".

posted at: 15:18 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Tue, May 23 2006

A warning or a promise?

Someone forwarded a prophecy to me via email, and I suppose we're now in the window of possibilities, for those who choose to pay attention to such things. Of course, the alert exercise that Mr. Julien speaks of will not be taking place anywhere near the Atlantic Ocean, where he predicts the actual strike to occur, but will instead be operating under the title of Pacific Peril, and will take place at Camp Rilea in Oregon.

I suppose one could presume that those conducting the exercise take no stock in Mr. Julien's prediction. Of course, one could also presume that those conducting the exercise are taking his prediction very seriously and have purposely planned to be nowhere near the Atlantic Ocean for the next few days, as in—the tsunami is coming—look busy!

Mr. Julien isn't alone in his predictions. CBN founder Pat Robertson recently spoke of the possibility of a tsunami on the West Coast. I don't think he included the extraterrestrial element in his prophecy, but I haven't heard him exclude it either, so I'm not certain which way his prophetical antennae are pointing for further guidance.

I've never been able to quite tell the difference between run-of-the-mill catastrophes and eschatological catastrophes. If the Bible was written for both believers and non-believers, as I think it was, it would seem to me that there might be a danger in believers delivering up "the end is near" comments over every natural disaster. The Bible seems to speak of these things as a matter of course and progression after The Fall, rather than some sudden, unholy heaving of the balance of nature. I think this is where Christians, and other spiritual-minded people, get into trouble with scientists and with non-believers. We come across like bratty children, crying wolf every few minutes, rather than seeing disasters as opportunities to remember that the real task, for most of us, is not to predict earthquakes and other calamities, but to expect them as part of a sinful world, and to show compassion to fellow humans affected by such disasters. This business of us running about giving sermons to humans to either clean up their act or get zapped by an increasingly pissed-off Creator hardly gives God credit for knowing the end from the beginning. And if we believers really want to encourage non-believers to see the Bible as good news, we'll remember that we're all vulnerable to injury, illness and death. The difference should be that believers choose to recognize disasters as opportunities to receive, and to reflect, God's character. It's not the apocalypse that matters. It's the paradox of love that transcends it.

posted at: 12:09 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Mon, May 22 2006

And it takes less paperboard to make one

It's round on the bottom, wider and more asymetrical toward the top, and includes an easily accessible capped spout that will keep Mom from telling you not to drink out of the carton. You'll be taking the whole thing with you anyway when you leave the house, because it fits right in your car cupholder. It's an iCone from Elopak.

posted at: 12:38 | category: /Food | link to this entry

Thu, May 18 2006

On a busy Thursday...

This week Election Class and other schedule stuffings are catching up with me, so there will be no blog posts until Monday. You may enjoy browsing some of the other fine blogs listed on the right of this page. And go out there and find a new blog or two. There are many new good ones created daily.

Remember to thank a soldier this Saturday, May 20, which is Armed Forces Day. We wouldn't have a lot of our freedoms if it wasn't for these dedicated folks.

posted at: 11:04 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Wed, May 17 2006

Bed Bugs? No, Bed Books

I think I have found what might be a good excuse for some of you to call in sick, take to your bed, and read. Snuggle up with the likes of Sherlock Holmes or Frankenstein. They even have a KJV of the New Testament. It's a good thing they have computers to do all that work. Reading the sideways copy might be easier on the neck, but writing one of these tomes by hand would bring on a terrible, new meaning to the term "writer's cramp".

posted at: 07:33 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Tue, May 16 2006

"Ice water" is no longer an oxymoron

I always think of friction creating heat, but in this case, a particular kind of friction turns room temperature water into ice. It does play with one's old physics notions a bit, doesn't it?

A warm tip of the Stetson goes to Minding the Planet for the pointer.

posted at: 13:32 | category: /Science | link to this entry

Mon, May 15 2006

Lawns with jugs

I often take walks in our neighborhood, venturing now and then to a section of streets that are tucked in opposite a nearby elementary school. Other than varying my basic route I find little to do to pass the time except look at things. On occasion I play pedestrian games in which I count cats, dogs, or the number of driveways with cars sitting in them. At some point I began to notice milk jugs sitting at equally spaced intervals on a front lawns of a home, each jug partially filled with water and capped. I brought up the topic with an older friend one day. He said that all he had heard was that the jugs of water discouraged cats from using a well-manicured lawn as a kitty latrine. He was in doubt as to the wisdom of believing such a thing would work.

Then I ran across a note on The Straight Dope, in which the jugs are mentioned as a dog deterrent. Even if the treatment doesn't work, I feel better knowing it's an animal-related thing. I was getting nervous when I took walks and the phenomenon seemed to be spreading from lawn to lawn on one particular street. I had envisioned some idol-inspired offering to a group of dehydrated space aliens, complete with a command to get out there and make believers out of the neighbors.

posted at: 15:32 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Sun, May 14 2006

Huntington Beach gets bragging rights—but it's okay

It seems that the title "Surf City USA" has finally been granted to Huntington Beach, in the form of trademarked registration numbers. I do find it rather telling that most Santa Cruz County locals seem to be taking it all in stride now. The sly smiles and knowing looks display what no trademark can. Huntington Beach may now claim its title with pomp and circumstance. Merchants can sell beach bags and hats to the thousands of tourists who will flock to their doors for a souvenir from beautifu, sunny Surf City USA. They'll rake in the dollars and the city will benefit from the sales tax and recognition as they print their brochures and produce promotional videos full of fun, sun and beautiful people surfing in the latest swimwear. It's going to be a great thing for Huntington Beach.

Santa Cruz area surfers know what they have, and so do other locals. The waves here are full of wet-suited, sometimes politically incorrect, gutsy surfers who come to the early morning gathering not because of, but in spite of, tourist boards and tax revenues. If you catch a glimpse of them on most mornings, you almost feel like a voyeur. They are not pop-culture surfers posing for your vacation camera. They would be on those waves if we didn't watch at all. They might even be having more fun if we weren't watching.

The benefits of the rogue reputation that the Santa Cruz surfers have acquired over time will stand up very nicely against the colorful beach bags with logos from Surf City USA. Surfers know what it is to be here. The stories that come out of Santa Cruz beaches aren't always pretty and they're not always touted on some glossy brochure. But they're real.

Tourists who flock to Huntington Beach will probably get just what they want. But so will Santa Cruz locals and Santa Cruz surfers. A little friendly ongoing rivalry would have been fun, but the pronouncement of Huntington Beach as Surf City USA may actually underscore Santa Cruz significance. No one would ever really be able to capture this area's spirit by silkscreening logos onto water bottles and fanny packs.

posted at: 10:13 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Fri, May 12 2006

Handling the forecast

Need to know if you should take your umbrella with you today? Why not consult the umbrella itself?

posted at: 11:32 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Steeple decision forces private school out

I've heard of church steeples being used to house cell transmitters before, but until now, I've never seen a church steeple/cell tower issue close a school. That's exactly what's happening in Santa Cruz.

At least now the school administrator knows that there was already a concealed cell tower on the church, aside from the newer, taller one being planned. If they had known about it before they moved in they could have avoided the High Street property in the first place, since the whole issue of electromagnetic radiation is a hot potato in their curriculum philosophy.

When a church congregation remodels and adds rooms and raises roofs (or builds a new steeple) it can get building permits and neighbors can clearly see any outside structures going up. But what about structures that conceal technological features such as cell towers and radio transmitters? Should churches notify neighbors before installing new technology? And should this information be made readily available to those who subsequently move into the neighborhood? It's a tough call, particularly when the technology being installed is something that has not actually been proven to be harmful.

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

Thu, May 11 2006

Ron Howard and The Da Vinci Code

I enjoy Ron Howard's work and have great respect for his directorial choices in film work. So I really enjoyed reading the interview with him from the Philippine Daily Inquirer. I love his choice of not insulting the intelligence of the audience with his films and of presenting a story in such a way that those who view the upcoming "The Da Vinci Code" might question their own biases and prior feelings in the face of any evidence and folklore that the story's characters also bump up against.

God's working in nature and history sometimes soothes us, but His divine creativity is just as likely to make us squirm in our skin. And He does it all while maintaining a sense of our royal place in His kingdom. The ideal result is that we never become complacent or lazy in our approach to life and all that it has to offer. Wise human artists, including storytellers, will seek to emulate this model, not to be destructive in the product, but to be inspirational in the process.

posted at: 10:49 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Pad Thai and a whole lot more

We've been to Thai restaurant Sawasdee in nearby Soquel twice in recent weeks. We've been pleased both times and we plan to go back and try more of their dishes. The ingredients are so fresh that you find yourself nibbling the garnishes off the serving platter and using the sides of rice to soak up the last drops of curry and other sauces. The spring rolls are tender and light. Sometimes sweet and sour sauces are too vinegar-centric for me, but the sauce that comes with the spring rolls is so subtle and interesting that I kept spooning it onto the plate and tasting it again and again to try to figure out what they did to balance it so well.

They are generous with fresh herbs and colorful vegetables. My spouse wanted to try the Pineapple Fried Rice without the prawns and he got no protest, which enforced my notion that things are very freshly prepared. Most dishes, by default, are mild to warm in the spicy department, but if you crave an inferno of a serving they will certainly accommodate you. If you lean to the carnivore side of dining they have plenty of dishes with meat and seafood, but if you prefer vegetarian plates you won't go away hungry at all. My Green Curry was delicious and I plan to try the Pumpkin Red Curry next time.

If you try to be timid by ordering a safe-sounding Pad Thai you should be ready to defend your decision. The staff loves to entice you into trying new flavors. Let them.

Did I mention the Deep-fried Coconut Ice Cream? Save room for it, if you can.

Sawasdee is a keeper on my list of favorite local restaurants. If you want to give them a try they're located at 5050 Soquel Drive in Soquel, California. For all of you reading this from other locations, I do apologize for making you salivate, but do plan to enjoy the tastes of Sawasdee if you ever make it to Santa Cruz County.

posted at: 10:03 | category: /Food | link to this entry

Wed, May 10 2006

Driving home the point

I loved Chan Lowe's political cartoon, which shows how at least one family finds out how much gas costs. We used to live in an apartment complex near a young man who had an evening habit that was almost a ritual. He drove home, had dinner with his family, then drove about three blocks to the grocery store and came home with a pack of cigarettes. One night he was chatting with us and excused himself so he could get to the store before it closed. I decided to just ask him why he didn't buy a whole carton of smokes at a time. "I'm trying to quit," he said as he drove away. To this day I'm not certain whether he meant he wanted to quit driving or quit smoking.

posted at: 15:02 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Suspicious package too close to propane

My spouse's commute takes him to the city of Scotts Valley these days. This morning's drive was interrupted for many commuters when police cleared the streets near the Shell gas station at Mount Herman Road, just off Highway 17. Someone had apparently put a box on top of some propane tanks, so the bomb squad was called in to investigate. It sounds as though the box turned out to be empty, but caution has become the word of the day now whenever such an item seems out of place or suspicious.

Sparky is our county's trusty bomb robot. I hate the fact that they have to use one at all, but it's nice to know that Sparky makes a potentially dangerous task a lot safer for sheriff department personnel. And I'm glad the commute on Highway 17 was only snarled and not interrupted with something more catastrophic. Going to work is getting a little to exciting in all the wrong ways lately.

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

Tue, May 09 2006

Trails and tribulations

The buddy system has always been recommended for swimmers. Maybe it's time to utilize a buddy system for folks who go mountain biking in rugged areas like Nisene Marks State Park. It's understandable that one man who got lost wanted to duck publicity, but I hope park personnel at least got the details of what led to his mishap so that they can make sure all trails are clearly marked.

It's good to know that the story came with a happy ending and that the man is safely back at home. I'd venture to guess that his wife will get him a GPS device before his next trip into the woods. I wonder if OnStar has any plans to equip mountain bikes with its technology?

I must say that if you're going to get lost while mountain biking, Nisene Parks is a magnificent place to do so.

posted at: 08:00 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Mon, May 08 2006

I almost didn't notice...

Last week J. Michael Rivera spotted a car from the National Security Agency in nearby Salinas. Wait a minute. Nacional?

posted at: 11:15 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Fri, May 05 2006


Beginning in January all books will be required to have 13-digit ISBNs. If you're trying to keep up with the Joneses you shouldn't go and re-order all your recently-purchased books that have those old-fashioned 10-digit ISBNs. You can find out their new numbers by using the handy online converter. And if you want to know a little more about how all this works without having to become a full-fledged librarian you can get some information through an online brochure called ISBN-13 for Dummies (PDF).

posted at: 12:47 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Cinco de Mayo and the American Civil War

I enjoyed reading the two different views of Cinco de Mayo at the Californian web site this morning. While reading Beatrice Hernandez' thoughts about the possible connection between Mexico's victory and the Union victory in our own American Civil War I began to wonder. We have D-Day and Armistice Day, but we seem to have no one day set aside that celebrates the end of a very complicated and bitter conflict that set brother against brother and forced individual states into allegiance to either the North or the South. The Civil War wasn't about an outside invasion. It was a division of our own country's loyalties. If there's any conflict whose end we should be celebrating in the US on at least one day of the year, The Civil War would seem to be a primary choice.

We do have Juneteenth (Emancipation Day) on June 19. But most communities hardly pause to remember its significance, with the exception of a few isolated festivals and ethnic events, most of which focus solely on the end of the slavery of African Americans. Last year President Bush put out a special greeting on the occasion of the 140th anniversary of Juneteenth. Many of us never even noticed.

Is it simply easier for us to focus on an event from a neighboring country than to focus on what happened in our own country's history? I don't know. But I do wonder why we'll find a Cinco de Mayo celebration in so many American cities this weekend and so few celebrations on June 19. The psychological (and social) implications are pretty fascinating to consider.

posted at: 10:45 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Thu, May 04 2006

Move over, Charles Ingalls. Here we come!

We have our applications filled out. This evening my spouse and I will be joining the Aptos Chapter of the California State Grange. We aren't farmers, but that seems to be no problem in joining the Grange, which started out as an agricultural organization.

Though I had heard mentions of the organization all my life, my first real knowledge of the National Grange was gleaned from a TV episode of "Little House on the Prairie", in which Charles Ingalls attends a state Grange meeting. While the story heightened my awareness, it also reinforced my notion that it was all intended for farmers and not for folks like me.

Little did I know that today's National Grange boasts more than 300,000 members and that they come from all walks of life. Local chapters focus on things such as scholarships for young people and quality of life issues in the community. The organization even maintains a heavy lobby presence in Washington, D.C. Activities on local levels include fundraising through pancake breakfasts, arts and crafts opportunities for all ages, dictionary distribution to students, cooking classes, sports and recreational athletic events, horticultural workshops, public speaking opportunities, safety and health screenings and a whole lot more.

It will be fascinating to learn about it all and be a part of something so multi-faceted. If you still think that Grange is only for people who make their living by farming you can still get into the 21st Century with me. Look up your own local Grange chapter and get in on the fun.

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

Wed, May 03 2006

Dan Gillmor at Backfence

Dan Gillmor's Bayosphere has gone through some transitions lately. You can read his new postings at his new home at Backfence. Dan's been changing online homes a lot the past couple of years, but he's still bringing us great items.

posted at: 08:32 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Tue, May 02 2006

New public TV channel

Two of the Bay Area's public broadcast stations are getting together to cut costs and provide even better programming for the Central Coast. KQED and KTEH will soon become Northern California Public Broadcasting (NCPB). I like this idea a lot. It has always been tough when the pledge time comes up for viewers. We've had to divide our loyalties—and our donations—in order to support both stations. Now viewers can focus their support and giving will be simplified. Hopefully, programming will be better than ever.

posted at: 11:23 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Mon, May 01 2006

The bed we've made and the bed we're going to have to make

At least one radio personality made the point that silence might have made a larger impact, and that some sectors of the work force will actually make more money today as they clean up after the folks who take to the streets.

One thing is certain. We didn't get into this mess overnight and we aren't going to solve all the problems overnight either. I hope the folks in the streets find some satisfaction from their activities today. But I'll be honest to say that I'm stumped as to why it's so difficult for them to get a guest worker status (for those who are actually seeking guest worker status). That's the part that I hope changes. We have to get tough with law breakers who stay here illegally, but we also need to find a way to allow people who want to be honest to work here. And we have to pressure employers to pay those workers a wage that is fair.

If that last one means we pay more for goods and services, then so be it. i have a feeling that a lot of people will go for the other changes, but not for higher wages for immigrants who have been paid so little here in the past. When a meal out or a motel room goes up in price because employers must pay minimum wages someday, folks will be ready to remounce their hard line on better wages in favor of really low prices. I look for a lot more restaurants to ask customers to bus their own tables and for some low-priced and mid-line hotels and motels to ask guests to exchange their wet towels at the front desk and to make their own beds during their stay.

posted at: 13:10 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

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