Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
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Mon, Jul 31 2006

2 Monday morning finds

The Huffington Post's newest offering is Eat the Press.

And speaking of eating—we all know that the best thing about a Bush's Best Baked Beans commercial is Duke.

posted at: 10:42 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Fri, Jul 28 2006

No royal blue backpacks—and no red ones either

Every year area volunteers collect school supplies and other materials for kids returning to school who are homeless or are in some other sort of transient or temporary situation. It's a great cause, but I still thought it was a sad state of affairs when I read the list of needs provided by Register-Pajaronian. They can't accept royal blue or red backpacks for the kids because of the gang issues that might arise.

I understand their reasoning. No one helping the kids wants to put them in harm's way. It's just that this is another example of lawless people managing to control the choices of law-abiding people who are trying to do the right thing.

I suppose this will eventually translate into businesses and corporations having to market product color with gang issues in mind. It's amazing to me how a society of people becomes willing to cooperate with criminals with this kind of subtle group mentality, even though most of us would never partner with a criminal on a one-to-one basis. Will we also one day have to take the red and blue crayons out of those 16-color boxes we give the children? How far are we willing to let this sort of gang control go?

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

Thu, Jul 27 2006

A Journaling Bible

jmarkbertrand recently mentioned that Crossway is coming out with an ESV Journaling Bible (New Testament) later this year. If you like to make notes in the margins of your Bible you'll enjoy the format. And those of you who like to alter books and be creative with other types of journals will have a great time personalizing the wide outer page margins.

posted at: 10:25 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Wed, Jul 26 2006

Classic TV shows with a horror twist

A bit earlier I was reading a post Tommy wrote about the old TV show Webster and its influence on his generation. He mentioned a particularly spooky stairway situation that made me think about other shows that have made it onto the air over the years. What would a really dark verson of Hogan's Heroes have been like? What if Gilligan's Island had been inhabited by a tribe of pygmy vampires? What if Ted, from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, had been a zombie? Well, all right. I'll give you that one. But what if Aunt Bea had baked pies all weekend and then had gone to work on Monday mornings as the hanging judge, on The Andy Griffith Show? If Quentin Tarantino had been at the helm as director, would the characters from The Love Boat have spent a lot less of their voyage cavorting on deck and a lot more time being carved up by some mad machinist in a damp, smelly corner of the engine room so their body parts could fetch a pretty penny on the international black market?

And here we thought Twilight Zone was the scariest thing on classic TV...

posted at: 13:31 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Tue, Jul 25 2006

Local Brown Berets show bad manners

I was very disappointed by the Watsonville Brown Berets' behavior last Friday. I used to think of the original Brown Berets as a group of people who worked to increase public safety in cities where there were often not enough police to go around. If this local group's choice to voice their disagreements with Governor Schwarzenegger by heckling his wife is an example of a new Brown Beret mentality, it takes my opinion of them down several notches. Maria Shriver was in Watsonville last Friday to promote the use of food stamp puchases at open markets, where healthful fresh fruits and vegetables are plentiful. Protestors found it distasteful that she would use the issue as what they felt was a photo opportunity to campaign for her husband in an election year.

It's good to remember that, along with being spouse to whoever is the current governor, it's considered quite common, and quite proper, for a state's First Lady to become involved in social causes that promote good health, safety and social welfare among state residents. Gray Davis' wife, Sharon Davis, was active in children's health (and other causes), promoting young peoples' abstinence from alcohol. If a First Lady's work points proudly to her husband's work in the state, should we criticize her or be surprised by her loyalty?

It's also good to remember that our current First Lady is not new to the world of helping people. She's been active in supporting Special Olympics and other programs for many years.

Maria Shriver is a veteran journalist in her own right, so I'm fairly certain she found a way to take last Friday's rudeness in stride. But it's embarrassing to think that she got such a misleading example of California hospitality from the community on the part of a few rude people who took it upon themselves to think to speak for all Watsonville Brown Berets and for the rest of us who live and work in the area.

posted at: 10:44 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Mon, Jul 24 2006

Heat wave

This past weekend was unusually hot here on the Central Coast. The California Rodeo Salinas had its share of overheated particpants and spectators, but there were also plenty of heat-related difficulties at Laguna Seca, where the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix was being held. If you go and read the Monterey County Herald story of the Rodeo you'll understand what I mean when I say that I hope Don "Hollywood" Yates' backside feels much better soon.

Many of the locals stayed close to home and had salads and grilled foods and spent time playing in the sprinklers. But folks further inland were headed toward the beach, so anyone who ventured out onto the roads sat in much heavy traffic before they got where they were going. High temperatures are supposed to be much lower by the end of this week, which sounds wonderful. It's a rare occasion when our local thermometers have to push the mercury high enough to indicate anything more than two digits.

posted at: 10:39 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Fri, Jul 21 2006

Pelham, New York has a cat burglar

Is Willy suffering from OC? Kleptomania? How on earth did Willy get so fascinated with garden gloves? And then there's that whole thing of following the mail carrier around. Do you suppose Willy's hoping to intercept the latest delivery of seed and garden supply catalogs?

posted at: 09:49 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Shady domain name activities afoot?

Techdirt's posting mentioning Chesterton Holdings points to the fact that, just as legitimate business can be compromised in the brick-and-mortar world, it can be perverted in the online world if there is anyone out there bent on being a stinker.

Those of us who write stories or other material often keep our ideas secret until we're ready to put them out there for the world to see. Unlike story titles, which can be duplicated in others' works, a .com domain name has to be one-of-a kind. If anyone doing research on a domain name's availability is making the name vulnerable by having others see what they typed, we have a definite moral, if not legal, battleground coming up. It's issues like these that make me think legislators will be more and more inclined to try to regulate the internet (at least from a US standpoint) and all that goes with it. If people don't choose to play nicely with one another now we'll all probably pay for it later. Inexpensive, easy domain registration may be something we all look fondly back on in the not-too-distant future.

posted at: 08:05 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Thu, Jul 20 2006

Hello, Cupcake

Personalize this Mini Cooper S ad and have some fun with your male friends.

posted at: 16:17 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Should the rapture produce such rapture?

Boing Boing links to Harper's mention of the Rapture Ready/End Times Chat topic, in which people react to recent events involving Israel and Hezbollah. It's more than a little creepy to read, and I thought at first that Harper's had grabbed a handful of wild messages from the middle of a thoughtful discussion.

For desperate people wanting an end to the way things have been for a long time, a sudden rapture is the big ticket out of town.

The trend of our earth home has been a downward spiral, and while I understand the notion that we would probably manage to destroy our planet at some point unless God steps in, I have a lot of alarms going off when Western-thinking Christians think they can begin to understand the complexities of the Middle-East issues, or dare to attempt to explain those issues to the rest of us in such brief, sweeping terms.

I suppose the other thing that is difficult for me is that people who believe in this sort of escapist rapture sometimes believe that there may be a type of second chance for those who are left behind. While I don't share their particular belief, I can see how comforting that sort of thing could be if one was sick of this world and longed for Heaven. The problem is that this kind of thinking could be a slippery slope—at least for me. I'm fairly certain I would be much less likely to focus on helping people others in the immediate here and now. I would tend to place my feet and my heart on my own escape route and would figure that someone else would take care of those who didn't get to make the journey with me.

For my own part, I rather like the way the Bible stories depict Abraham. When Abraham found out that Sodom and Gomorrah would be destroyed, we're told that Abraham pleaded with God Himself to spare the region for the sake of the righteous, reasoning with God in a faithful, bold approach. I suppose that appeals to me because he was willing to put his convictions on the line with God and he wasn't going to concede to the idea of destruction so easily. I like that. I'm the stubborn type myself.

posted at: 15:14 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Wed, Jul 19 2006

Free school lunches for kids may not be such a bargain in the long run

I was a little startled by the news that more than half of our public schoolchildren in California now receive free (or reduced cost) meals at school. The National School Lunch Program has probably helped feed a lot of schoolchildren since it was established in the 1940s, and has been a boon to low-income families.

I would temper that knowledge with the fact that a lot of the current patients fighting heart disease and diabetes are Baby Boomers who grew up eating their school lunches from menus that sprung from The National School Lunch Program. Whether lunch is free, cost-reduced or paid in full by parents, let's hope that future school lunches are progressively more healthful and reflect what we're learning about nutrition. The folks in charge still seem to be pushing dairy products and protein on the students. We don't seem to have a major problem with starvation due to low caloric intake in the US, or a problem with kwashiorkor either. However, cholesterol, heart health and blood glucose levels are all becoming major issues for even the children among us. And I still see a lot of corn dogs, macaroni and cheese and pepperoni pizza on those current menus. If we don't watch what we're doing we'll be giving these kids lunches that might seem like a boost for their school day at first glance, but we might actually be setting them up for a lot of trips to the doctor later in life and we might be putting more of a strain on our already overburdened health care system. Hunger is easily satisfied, in the short term. Eating for the best health requires responsible planning if we aren't all going to pay dearly for it later.

posted at: 11:37 | category: /Food | link to this entry

Tue, Jul 18 2006

Strawberry fields need more pickers, but look at what you get paid

The most interesting aspect of this article from the Register-Pajaronian may be the telling amount of money that strawberry pickers get for their work. They have to be pretty fast and efficient in order to make it worthwhile if they are going to add to that wage with the added bonus per box. Can you see yourself bent over, working 10 hours a day out in full sun?

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

Mon, Jul 17 2006

Long, drawn-out explanation

I've been enjoying the best of the 22006 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest entries. I can't say I liked their choice as top entry, but it was still very good. There were others I liked much more, particulary the ones with puns.

I always intend to send in an entry, until real life gets in the way and I find myself juggling some odd combination of tasks such as research on the origination of left-wing conspiracies, that mad dash through the place with a vacuum that I have convinced myself is housework and the parade of workers on the property who are constructing a sunroom, which was purchased in good faith and which I've found takes much longer to construct than I'd hoped and which I've also found makes the aforementioned housework discouraging since the sawdust rides the coastal marine layer right into the rest of the house and makes itself at home on every flat surface it touches, as though the sawdust is intended as some pithy prologue into the main story of the house into which it intends to add a new chapter of life once the room has been finished.

posted at: 09:39 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Fri, Jul 14 2006

Lake County, Ohio: Quite a few small quakes this year

We get a lot of razzing about earthquakes in California, but I'm always attuned to news of tremors that affect the central regions of our country. I've become so accustomed to the building materials in the West that I flinch at all the brick structures in the Midwest. So the story of 12 small earthquakes in Lake County, Ohio makes me a bit concerned for them. A history of Ohio quakes from the USGS says that an 1884 quake at Lima was felt by workers building the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. That quake, according to the Mercalli Scale of VI, would probably be between a 4.5 and a 5.0 on today's more commonly used Richter Scale. That tells me that a much larger Ohio quake would have the potential to affect a widespread area with major devastation. (The 1811 and 1812 quakes at New Madrid, Missouri also produced motion in Washington, D.C.)

We've had several generations of people come and go in the Midwest, since those quakes occurred. People now living in the area are accustomed to hearing about our California quakes, which seem to have shaking and resulting damage over a relatively small area. (Of course, every quake is different. The 1989 Loma Prieta quake produced damage near its epicenter, less damage further out, but then continued outward to devastate parts of San Franciso and Oakland.)

We have minor shaking on a daily basis out here, but that's not necessarily the case for the Cleveland, Ohio area. If I lived in Lake County I'd at least take on a "heads up" mentality. Scientists can talk about odds all they wish. But, like winning the lottery or being struck by lightning, when a large quake shakes the world under you or someone you love, the odds go right out the window.

You can check out the known faults in Ohio on this map from the Ohio Seismic Network.

posted at: 10:40 | category: /Science | link to this entry

Thu, Jul 13 2006

Women feel stress more than men? So they win? No. We're all losing here

I happen to work long hours sometimes, so the reports saying that men and women respond differently to long working hours caught my eye. If we look back at lifestyles sixty—eighty—a hundred years ago—people were busy, but the social outlets were more plentiful and leisure time was more relaxing. I often hear ministers preach on the evils of social dances, but at least when people went to community dances they interacted with other humans. Communities used to have big suppers where the people shared food and kept up with acquaintances. Church families held picnics and barn-raisings instead of writing checks to some unknown entities who dispatch the money to "the mission field". Now, there's nothing wrong with a mission field—as long as we don't ignore the overworked, stressed-out people right in our own community.

Kids went to school and then played tag or baseball with other neighborhood kids, and the kids who lived on farms helped take care of livestock. Now we put children on a career track almost before they leave the womb. They're driven from home to a baysitter's house, to school, to softball and swimming meets, and finally back home to have a bath and sleep. And the adults taking care of them, whether at home or at school or day care, are all exhausted from their own full schedule. People work feverishly 50 weeks a year and look forward all that time to vacation—often a four-day stay at a theme park where they have to plan which line to be in first so that they can experience all of the seventeen rides before they head home to work and look forward to the next break in a few months.

We're all stressed—men and women, young and old. Rather than start another debate about which gender has it tougher in life, this sort of study would be great if it sparked more interest in finding ways to ease the pressures on both men and women. I'd like to know more about ways we can all help one another through long, busy days. How do we maintain physical and emotional equilibrium? We're tending to live longer lives, but our quality of life seems to become spindly, like a flowering plant in the dog days of summer. If all we do is reach for more coffee, fries and a cupcake, and a cigarette, is it really worth it?

posted at: 20:21 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Wed, Jul 12 2006

The true hopelessness of a terrorist

The terrorist activity on Mumbai's rail system reminds me that terrorists have no true wish to reform the world or make it a better place. Their agendas manifest as sad worlds in which their particular style of killing is endorsed by some clown of a god who would encourage some of his own created children to torture his other created children. Since these people could not possibly rationally expect anyone to be won over to their cause with such a scenario, it can only follow that they would do what they do no matter what the reactions might be. They simply enjoy it. Being too cowardly to admit that they're mean-spirited, they invent a holier-than-thou entitlement and hide behind it. When they get a negative response and further resistance to their tactics they opt to see themselves as persecuted righteous souls. They step up the violence and the cycle repeats itself with no satisfaction available to them except in the form of self-deception. It's a very dead-end sort of delusion and their lack of hope for a real, lasting utopia shows in their increasingly desperate acts.

posted at: 14:43 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Tue, Jul 11 2006

Will we get a bunch of late bloomers from baby boomers?

It's a bit lengthy, but What Kind of Genius Are You? is worth the time to read if you are interested in writing, engineering, art or any other creative process.

The whole idea that some gifted behavior develops later in life for certain people made me remember that life expectancy was fairly short during some centuries. Many potential late-bloomers probably died before they reached the peak of their creative process. With more and more people living into their 80s, 90s and beyond, we might begin to see many new creative works coming from people who would be considered seniors—old, aged, over-the-hill gang members. So if you've been working on achieving your creative goals for more than 3 or 4 decades and no one has yet noticed your efforts, take heart. Your best moments may be coming long after some of the so-called whiz kids have burned their creative candle to a stub.

posted at: 07:34 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Mon, Jul 10 2006

War is hell and let's see—what am I going to do with all these bananas?

I was dashing around this morning in an attempt to juggle an unexpected windfall of ripe bananas from friends, put laundry away and put a letter in the mailbox for the postal carrier to pick up and get the gate opened for some construction workers who were on the way. I tried to pause for a moment and consider a blog entry, but those of you who write in any capacity know that making yourself settle into the correct frame of mind can be tough when the details of the day keep crowding into the creative space in your mind.

I decided to check some news articles in the hope that I could make a transition to writing, just as the workers arrived and began banging materials around and started to saw and drill. I happened to open an article from Peggy Townsend of the Santa Cruz Sentinel, and my details of the day suddenly seemed petty in comparison to the woman she wrote about, a woman in her late 50s who is headed off to serve in Iraq. There's nothing like a grandma-going-to-war story to shock a person into facing the proper perspective of the day.

posted at: 11:06 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Fri, Jul 07 2006

Counting the cost—and the number of tools it will take to count

At least one website invites Californians to put their budget skills to the test by creating a state budget that would apply 5 years into the future. The site, Next Ten, also has fact sheets and other educational tools to help us understand more about what goes into planning for the state's financial needs.

You'll have to disable your pop-up window stopper to take the Budget Challenge. And when it does come up it will maximize the window to fill your monitor screen. There are also PowerPoint presentatins and Word document files here and there on the site. The whole thing is a great idea, but it seems to me that they may be assuming a lot when they say they hope to encourage more of us to get involved to see that budgets can happen with less stress and with better outcomes for future generations. One has to have quite a few different software programs and some skills in navigating all those links to different files. Maybe they're just trying to get us all into the correctly frustrated frame of mind so that we can sympathize with those who make actual budget choices for Californians.

I'm thinking that an actual state budget is formed something a little like this:

All current budget information is first stored/buried deeply inside a myriad of convoluted documents with which lawmakers must contend in order to obtain a clear picture of exactly where the money has been going. This is, of course, next to impossible, because most government spending is also hidden beneath other layers of a myriad of documents, most of which sprang from whatever legislation would have resulted in its demise.

Next, a completely new set of convoluted graphs are created from this data in the form of a very moving presentation that is enhanced with full-color graphics that were created with a computer that is capable of producing beautiful work, but with outdated software, to let everyone know the budget for software got cut last round, that is capable of producing about 4 pixels to the inch. This requires tremendous leaps of faith on the part of whoever interprets the charts.

An attempt is then made to match each color chart with older black-and-white charts, in order to determine which chart produces results that will gain favor with the majority of voters in a majority of districts.

New charts are created. These indicate where money would be of optimum use in the coming year.

After a period of official mourning, the newest charts are then run through a set of statistics that indicate to lawmakers just how far apart the actual needs of the people are from those of special-interest groups and cronies.

Panic ensues. This delicate mix of data is then mashed into a pie chart about the size of the head of a pin.

Lawmakers flog the pie chart until it produces data that stretches into a document that, laid end-to-end, would reach from the Capitol steps in Sacramento to the innermost shrubbery of the White House lawn.

Dehydrated and near complete exhaustion, lawmakers then go on break for a period of days not to exceed that which would invite public wrath and recall elections.

They return, refreshed and eager to nick, if not eliminate, every other district's local pork links, while keeping their own intact.

When the budget has been sufficiently reduced to a set of figures that might possibly be presented on 2 full pallets of recycled paper, lawmakers choose one or more budget points. These points may be used for one or more of the following: to stir up union members, to harrass small businesses, to inflame public sentiment for (or against) one or more perceived minority groups, to facilitate further corporate flight from the state, to incite campus riots or to needle the current governor.

They have 2 choices. They can shove through a budget on-time and run the risk of being told they aren't fully doing their job. Or they can be late with a budget and run the risk of being told they aren't fully doing their job. I think they have a lot more fun and excitement, and feel a lot more important and appreciated, by being late.

posted at: 14:00 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Thu, Jul 06 2006

Googleonia, BoingBoingistan and other online territories

Earlier this week Google Blogoscoped showed us all some ideas for Website Flags.

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

Wed, Jul 05 2006

Waking up

Due to personal tasks and an allergy migraine, I missed a few news stories over the last few days, but I'm catching up. And speaking of catching up—the story of the man waking from the nearly 20-year coma has been especially fun to hear about.

posted at: 16:50 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Mon, Jul 03 2006


It always becomes interesting when modern construction uncovers historical remains, particularly when new construction threatens to obliterate what might be the only record of former lives. It's strange to think that a building one lives in right now could hold archeological interest for future generations. And it's difficult to know which buildings will survive for hundreds of years after a settlement of people moves on or dies out. In our own lifetime we might give significance to our first home, the churches we frequent, a courthouse or a movie star's mansion. But if the corner store or community jail is the only thing left in a community after a hundred years it suddenly takes on new significance for those living at that time.

As an aside, it has always fascinated me the way we humans sometimes treat human remains. We wouldn't generally think of digging up the graves of people buried fifty or a hundred years ago and passing their bones and jewelry around, or putting them on display. But archeologists thrill at the thought of excavating body parts from thousands of years ago. I wonder. Just how far back do we go before it's considered ethical to dig up our human ancestors' femur bones and prop them up for display beneath glass domes at the Museum of Natural History?

posted at: 09:04 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

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