Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
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Thu, Aug 31 2006

Was Easter Island basically gnawed to death?

Those who cling to carbon-dating as the last word for determining historical timelines often make me nervous. A little displaced carbon-this or carbon-that can throw their calculations off by many centuries. I'm no scientist, but it does seem to me that going back and double-checking accepted theories and past readings would be a wise thing to do before building on those theories and readings as though they were undisputed facts. I've heard for years about how the inhabitants' mishandling of natural resources on Easter Island led to other difficulties and abandonment of the place. But now there's a slightly different tale emerging.

posted at: 14:34 | category: /Science | link to this entry

Wed, Aug 30 2006

Is free public school on the chopping block?

This morning Dan Gillmor mentioned a news story that focused on public schools soliciting extra money from parents. Some of the items kids are already being asked to bring when they head back to school sounds a little excessive to those of us who used to show up with a few things at the beginning of our school year. There are groups who put together backpacks full of supplies for children who might otherwise have a tough time filling their supply list. Parents are banding together in some areas to raise money for basic things such as lunchrooms and gyms. There are supplemental programs that feed children who cannot afford to pay for their breakfast and lunch.

In trying to be all things to all people we may have jeopardized the very core of what education is supposed to mean—choices and chances for success. We're putting kids in school at younger ages so we're supplementing education for more kids in more places for more years. It all sounds good, until the bill comes due for taxpayers and then we still fall short.

In spite of more and more taxes being spent on education we're somehow slowly pricing the children of America right out of their school desks. I don't know how it all got to be this bad and I hope it's not too late to do something about it.

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

Tue, Aug 29 2006

That's a lot of allegeds

Broadcasters, reporters and writers have to be careful about reporting the capture of wanted individuals. The word "alleged" (and its variations) appears more and more in sentences as people try to fall into line with the concept of a person being presumed innocent until proven guilty. Even so, when I saw the stories coming out this morning about the arrest of Warren Jeffs, I wasn't quite ready for so many uses of the word. It's too bad that we don't have more synonyms for "alleged". It's beginning to sound silly when anyone starts talking about a suspect with a list of charges longer than a reticulated giraffe's tail.

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

Mon, Aug 28 2006

Bibim bop is tasty

This post may be of limited interest to those of you who never make it to our little corner of the world. In spite of being filled with Mexican restaurants and taquerias, there is one restaurant dish that another diners come to the town of Watsonville, California to order. And it's not Mexican. You actually go to a local Japanese restaurant, Imura, in order to get it. But it's not Japanese. It't Korean. It's bibim bop—also spelled bi-bim bap, bibimbop, beebimbop, beebimbap, bebimbap. I'm told there are variations of this tasty meal, but Imura brings it to you in a big stone bowl that is so hot they put a plate underneath it. The rice, veggies, and meat or tofu inside are all sizzling and still cooking because the bowl is so hot. The mixture is topped with a soft-fried egg and the dish is served with condiment plates of pickled veggies and a red hot sauce that one should add sparingly at first, until finding out how much heat is acceptable. You get a big spoon with the dish and you use it to mix the ingredients. You mix for several minutes, because the whole thing is much too hot to eat right away and it's also still cooking and self-blending its great flavors.

We had occasion to go to Imura several times in a 3-week period this summer, so servings of bibim bop were brought to our table quite often. While many people wolf down the sushi and the teriyaki at Imura (and those are done very well there) we have had strangers stop at our table more than once to ask what on earth we ordered. If you don't live in this area it would be worth your while to find a restaurant in your area that serves bibim bop. (I'm told that the original version of this dish had a raw egg, so if that thought frightens you, do be certain to ask how the egg is prepared when ordering the dish at some other location.) If you do live in or near California's Santa Cruz County, Imura is located in a Watsonville shopping center "satellite building" at 1994C Main Street, just a short hop off beautiful coastal Highway 1.

posted at: 11:50 | category: /Food | link to this entry

Fri, Aug 25 2006

Plan B isn't the problem

I can never quite understand the reasoning process behind the attempt to control morality by picking apart the details of an issue and legislating them into tinier and tinier pieces. Conservative folks have been adament that there be an age limit to prevent females under age 18 from obtaining Plan B pills without a prescription.

What would prevent adults from buying the pills and sharing them younger teens? Will the parents of teen boys give the pills to their sons so that the sons can give them to prospective partners? Will the fact that older males have the ability to buy Plan B pills make older men more attractive to teen girls?

If we make it illegal for an adult to give the pills to someone under the age of 18 we need a whole new set of details to go with that legislation. The list of details for the ways people will work to get around all this will get longer and longer.

And how long will it be until the parents of a young, pregnant teen want to sue somebody because their daughter was denied a Plan B pill at a pharmacy? Along with all the other human nature equations we have that whole slaphappy lawsuit mentality that has crept into our society.

For those who think doctors won't be sympathetic to a teen girl's situation in all this, think again. I was a teen when birth control pills were just coming into popular use. Quite a number of teen girls were given prescriptions for birth control pills to help regulate their periods or to combat severe menstrual cramps. Many moms truthfully breathed a sigh of relief that the pills would also keep them from worrying about their daughter becoming pregnant if she engaged in sex or was raped.

Humans seem to want a quick fix for everything. But some issues require backing up a few steps in order to get to the real core of an issue. If we spend all our time infighting—when what we all really want is good health and a good life for all these kids—we're going to have to face the fact that teens have sexual urges and that they have the basic body parts to follow through on those urges.

All this talk about the exact moment that pregnancy technically takes place and how some forms of birth control are technically abortions because of this-or-that change in the body and all the constant arguing over the exact moment that new life really begins is just a modern-day smoke-screen on our part, so that we don't have to deal with the real issues. The teens already know this much: adults need to grow up and act like responsible, caring people instead of passing a law for everything we don't have the power to control in other people and for every detail we don't have all the answers to.

posted at: 11:04 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Thu, Aug 24 2006

Cornstarch-based eating utensils

Those petroleum-based plastic forks that clutter our environment might soon be a thing of the past. Now there is a cornstarch compound, being developed by Cereplast, that will break down after its intended use. Tablewear made of this product could be returned to the environment quickly and easily.

The only thing better than that would be a fork you can eat after you use it to eat your salad. Maybe manufacturers could even add flavoring. We could all do casual outdoor place settings and we wouldn't need to set a dessert fork. A lemon-flavored, biodegradable salad fork could serve as both dessert fork—and dessert.

posted at: 12:52 | category: /Science | link to this entry

Wed, Aug 23 2006

Accent on the moo

If it turns out to be true that cows moo with an accent it will be interesting to see if the dairy cows in the Real California Cheese commercials suddenly take on a Valley Girl accent.

I haven't quite figured out how they should do it yet, but a team effort between the Real California Cheese folks and Eastwood Insurance could result in some very entertaining ad spots. But I really don't think I want to hear the Eastwood Insurance Cowboy do the Valley Girl bit.

posted at: 11:01 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Tue, Aug 22 2006

Are we becoming word mills

Writers of Christian manuscripts (and writers of secular manuscripts who just happen to be Christians) will gain a lot of insight from Athol Dickson's post, Haste Makes Waste. The comments below the post add underscoring from several other folks.

We're told that the Lord Himself shaped our planet in a six-day spree of creativity and then chose to follow His work with a Sabbath of reflection and celebration of that work. How can we finite creatures expect to create quality work unless we take time to recharge our creative spark? A tip of the Stetson goes to Faith in Fiction, for the link.

posted at: 08:25 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Mon, Aug 21 2006

New food (to me)

Spam is a nuisance, but now and then I do learn something from it. I found out this morning that there is a fruit called mangosteen. I doubt that most of us will be growing any of it in our California backgrounds. Ihe tree doesn't like temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. But the mangosteen has apparently become one of the darlings of the health food industry, along with noni, which has been touted as a curative for everything from ingrown-toenails to cancer.

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


There's a bit of fussing this morning about documents that contained information on strategic weapons from the Cold War era. The Washington Post reports that some folks have decided to treat formerly public information as classified information.

The trouble with government secrecy is that someone still has to know the secret information and someone still has to document that information, particularly in the event that the information becomes not-so-secret down the road apiece. As global relations become more complicated, more and more documentation is required in order to keep things tidy. As more and more personnel are paid by our tax money to do government work—including the secret work of the intelligence community and the military—more and more people end up having to handle more and more secret paperwork over a period of years. After awhile we end up needing a record of whose hands happen to be on any given document at any given time—a documentation of all the documentation, if you will. It might also be prudent to record which person happens to black out information on any given document and exactly what information they blacked out at any given moment.

Of course, there's always the question of what happens if someone goes and blacks out information that is still available on paper copies that were made of the original before someone blacked it out? There's really no end to this sort of documentation. And none of this really keeps anything truly secret, as we're finding out with the above-mentioned story. Sometimes the only thing a complicated process does is give the political folks something to focus on while the real secrets walk in and out the front door in plain view.

posted at: 08:16 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Fri, Aug 18 2006

Bees love airport

What do jet fuel aroma and lemon-scented cleaner have in common? It seems that they're attracting killer bees to the Tucson International Airport, where the bees also migrate toward the pretty yellow of Southwest's planes.

posted at: 10:49 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Thu, Aug 17 2006

Let them go faster—then use radar to catch them

At first glance, raising the speed limit on an already dangerous section of road might seem ridiculous, but everyone is hoping it will actually give CHP personnel a chance to site more speeders. Buena Vista Drive has been the site of more than one fatal crash. Less serious crashes on that road have inconvenienced many of us when our local electricity has been knocked out by people hitting the power poles because of their neglect to choose the correct speed while navigating sharp curves. I hope the CHP camps out with radar and nabs quite a few of these folks before anyone else has to get killed in order to prove that speed is a major factor in almost all accidents in this neighborhood.

And now all we have to do is find a way to slow down the people speeding on my particular street. There are children practicing their skateboard moves in their driveway very near my house. Many times drivers come by at such a high rate of speed that if one of the children lost control of a skateboard and fell into the road the driver of the car would be unable to avoid hitting them. I'm really hoping that the raising of speed limits on connecting roads will not encourage local speeders to think that it's a license for them to go even faster on these small residential side roads.

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

Wed, Aug 16 2006


There seems to be a flurry of news reports this morning on some research done by a fellow in Hamburg, Germany. He claims that redheaded women in Germany have sex more frequently and have more partners.

The professor has a right to do research, of course, but doesn't this sort of thing perpetuate some already worrisome beliefs in current society? People have a little fun with these studies and forget that some individuals take these things seriously and also take them to the most perverted degree possible.

Also, where were the redheaded men in this study? And why was the study done only on women in the country of Germany? Did the study include women from many races? What about men or women from ethnic groups that rarely exhibit red hair? The social implications of even doing this sort of study are a little disturbing to me. We already live in a society where the expectations of dating have little to do with a person's character and everything to do with a person's ability to provide quick sexual satisfaction. Promiscuity and surface attraction will win out in the short term almost every time. That's certainly not news. I'd like to see someone do a study on which people are most likely to stay by their romantic partner's side through the good times and the bad times of a real relationship and still say they'd choose the same person to be with if they had it all to do again.

I was wondering about something else. Why do we say "redhead" but not "brownhead"? The term "auburn" defines reddish-brown hair and we speak of blondes and brunettes, but we don't seem to have a non-hyphenated English word for someone with red hair.

posted at: 10:52 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Tue, Aug 15 2006

Flying not for sissies

I'm a few days late pointing to it, but Eric over at Fire Ant Gazette showed us a tongue-in-cheek look at what could be a whole new type of urgency in an air terror alert.

Remember when air travel was new, fun and something to look forward to? Then came regulations, de-regulations, cost-cutting measures, rising ticket prices, carry-on limitations, the horrors of 9-11, highjackers, metal detectors, the need for air marshalls and pistol-packing pilots, scaled-back snacks and meals, passenger profiling and the indignities of shoe surveillance and x-ray exhibition. And now the females (and perhaps a few males) among us are having to publicly declare that our bosom is precariously cradled above just enough underwire that one wrong move could cause us to be responsible for puncturing one of the life-saving oxygen masks that drop and dangle in front of us in the event of a fall in cabin pressure. Come to think of it, drop and dangle is a good way to describe what our anatomy will be doing if they decide to ban bras on flights.

posted at: 12:17 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Mon, Aug 14 2006


Reuters had a story yesterday on the easing of flight restrictions, following the foiled attempt of an attack on airliners. It's actually a rather typical news story, with both generalities and specifics.

What really caught my eye was not the story content, but rather the Reuters photo of Michael Chertoff to the left of the web story. Note the photographic centering of Mr. Chertoff's cranium. I had this fleeting flashback of seeing art and icons in which Jesus Christ's head is similarly surrounded by a three-quarter circle of light with rays of one sort or another emanating from the center. You can see some examples of this sort of thing here, here and here. I don't know if anyone else in the blogosphere has commented on this strange picture, but it was just one of those things that made me wonder if the photographer centered Mr. Chertoff's head that way to make an artistic statement, to make a spiritual statement, to center the photo in a mathematically-pleasing way, or to be sarcastic. Of course, it's always possible that it was a complete accident. In any case, it gave me a rather creepy feeling. And it certainly doesn't help that Mr. Chertoff's first name happens to be Michael.

posted at: 09:13 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Fri, Aug 11 2006

Michael Delaney Dowd, August 11, 1925-August 11, 2006

I will miss the gentle, caring spirit that was present in all of the work of Mike Douglas. He was able to balance the wacky world of the Hollywood entertainment industry with faith in his Lord and loyalty to his loved ones. He passed away today, on his 81st birthday. He was a gentleman the likes of which we do not see often enough.

posted at: 10:24 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Bright moon, dark fog

The moon is apparently going to make it too bright to see some of the Perseid meteor shower this year, but I doubt that will be our problem. The fog (marine layer) clamped down on us last night and has not begun to burn off as of 9:30am. If it does that again this evening we won't be seeing much of either the moon or the Perseids.

posted at: 09:42 | category: /Science | link to this entry

Thu, Aug 10 2006

Why one story over another?

I woke to find more than 1800 stories on the terrorist attacks that were apparently being planned for US airliners carrying passengers to the states from the UK. But Google says that stories on the Lamont/Lieberman Senate race and the Israel/Lebanon conflicts were even more popular than the stories on the plans for terrorism in the air.

It's interesting to see how we're encouraged to change our focus on events as news agencies and network/cable channels jockey to hype the most disturbing or terrifying development they can find. Without new developments in any given headline we're certain to see it slip in major news reports. There are probably actual statistics on how long that takes, though I've never looked into it. I do know that Mother Nature usually trumps war. And a California quake trumps an East Coast hurricane. I only know this because I lived here in California when the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake not only interrupted the World Series, but took reporter interest completely away from the aftermath of September's Hurricane Hugo, when the folks back on the East Coast really could have used more news focus as they struggled to rebuild.

It's fairly easy to see that the news, like other things in life, has both a chaotic side and a fairly predictable side, probably because it reflects the duality of our human condition.

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

Wed, Aug 09 2006

Christmas meanderings in August

I always see such lovely craft projects and wish I had more free time on my hands. These blank coasters would be great fun to decorate and give to a hostess at the holidays.

When I was a child it seemed as though we all made so many things at holiday time. One December my mother and I cut up filmy plastic to make shimmery fake snow for a miniature winter scene. The plastic was placed inside a box and the technique was to put pointy scissors into the box and keep snipping the plastic into smaller and smaller pieces. The end effect was lovely. The only problem is that one ends up with sore, blistered fingers from using the scissors for such a long time. We also used newspaper sections and shaped them into tiny squares and rectangles. When covered with seasonal wrapping paper and tied with cord or ribbon, they made great decorations on table tops or beneath Christmas trees.

Christmas often makes us think of decorating mantles and sitting in front of a nice fire. Would you enjoy burning a log made of coffee grounds?

posted at: 15:39 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Tue, Aug 08 2006

50 million

I do wonder how many people read anything the 50 million of us write. And I wonder how many blogs are abandoned after a year or two or how many blogs have had two new posts added in the past six months.

posted at: 11:35 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Mon, Aug 07 2006

Courthouse cleansing/cursing?

Some years ago I met a young woman who was well-traveled and who had spent much of her youth in Central and South America. She sat at a lunch table with me and spoke of Christian people in those regions who sometimes follow a spiritual path that leads them to weave ancient mystical rituals and beliefs right into their Christian practices with perfect comfort. She said it was particularly prevalent among Roman Catholic believers and charismatic Christian groups. It all sounded a bit weird to one like me, who has never been to these places, though I had no reason to doubt her. I tucked the stories into the back of my mind—until I read this morning about the presence of gypsum powder spread around a Salinas courthouse.

posted at: 07:19 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Fri, Aug 04 2006

Seniors are starting up start-ups

The next big start-up company may not come from fresh, young faces, but from people over age 55. I suppose one might call these people Late Bloomer Boomers.

posted at: 14:11 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Thu, Aug 03 2006

Doberman pinscher makes short work of prize teddy bear

I kept hearing sarcastic references to teddy bears yesterday, but I never understood the jokes until I read about how a guard dog named Barney ripping the stuffing out of a Steiff bear that was once owned by Elvis Presley. Barney sounds a little like that other legendary Barney from the little town of Mayberry, who meant well, but who could be a bit of a loose cannon whenever the old green-eyed monster appeared or when he thought someone was in danger and in need of his aid.

While the jokes are great fun, I can't help but think that humans sometimes forget that animals have extreme emotions. A loyal canine, though trained to be professional on duty, is not a machine. Like humans, dogs are very capable of going postal when a situation involves someone they love and trust.

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

Wed, Aug 02 2006

Buyer, beware—and sellers beware too

We've had something of a mystery man in the Santa Cruz area recently. There are a lot of homeless people in California who are also mentally ill. While some of these folks may not pose a physical danger to themselves or others, it can be very emotionally damaging to encounter one of these people when they have exaggerated or delusional thoughts that result in their disturbance of local business and the general order of a neighborhood. In very small towns it becomes easy to know who these folks are and everyone can watch out for them and be aware that they have issues. In areas with fast-growing populations we just don't get a chance to know who all the people living on the streets really are. It becomes much more difficult to know how to handle someone who has a mental disorder that causes them to imagine themselves as doctors or wealthy business owners.

I've been surprised at how businesses are willing to take someone's word about large orders of certain things. What this man did may not be illegal, but because of such behavior I think the time is coming when we'll all have to provide banking or credit information or put down a hefty deposit. Or, we'll at least be required to give a list of references before we go ordering appetizers for 700 people to be delivered at homes we don't even own.

posted at: 10:13 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Tue, Aug 01 2006

Form for Deb's Monthly Review Notify List

September is the start of the fall push for harvest celebrations. And it's early enough that the whole holiday season doesn't get in the way of weekend activities. If you love festivals and you've visited and enjoyed the list of festivals in Deb's Monthly Review, but you haven't yet signed up to be notified when a new issue is uploaded, you can fill out the form to be on the Notify List. You can also use the form to be removed from the list or to let the editor know of a change in your email address. To those few boorish oafs who have been attempting to use the form as a back door to spam the domain, I would ask that you please refrain from such a dishonorable waste of your time—and mine.

posted at: 10:16 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

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Stealin' copy is as bad as horse-thievin'
and cattle rustlin'! Lightning may strike
such varmints when they least expect it!