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

Fri, Jun 29 2007

Lemmings for Farfour

The logic of this whole Farfour mouse character escapes me. If they chose to have (the character of) the Israeli official kill him off, doesn't that mean he's dead and can no longer teach or lead anyone to glory? Is the message for the children to let other people beat them to death, and if so, what's the point of continuing to live one more minute? Why not just ask someone you perceive as an enemy to beat you to death right now? You'll be martyred, right? But you'll never see Islamic rule here on earth. In fact, there won't be anyone left on the planet but the very people you all didn't want ruling the planet in the first place, because you'll have all gotten yourselves beaten to death. Because you wouldn't give up your land. To the enemy. Who will now take the land anyway and you'll be dead. Whose side are these goofy programming officials on over there, anyway?

I obviously missed some really big points of logic in this whole tale of woe. And by the way—what will the poor little kids—if they don't go out and get themselves beaten to death—think when they see the real Mickey Mouse running around smiling and happy and surrounded by smiling boys and girls? Will they think Farfour screwed up his martyrdom and had to come back to earth to start over again? All I can believe at this point is that these poor little children who watched Farfour get beaten to death have been brainwashed and abused by some adults they should have been able to trust for safety and love.

posted at: 13:44 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Invasive plants

I was surprised to learn how many plants we commonly see in California are considered invasive. We had two patches of pennyroyal in our back yard that were very popular with visitors because of the heady scent they released whenever someone stepped on the plants. (They have since been covered over by a deck.)

I did know about eucalyptus trees, which are a common site along many highways and back roads here. Their leaves release a rather pungent scent when bruised, which happens a lot when large trucks come through and brush against the cascading limbs.

Yellow oxalis is a particular nuisance during the winter months, which comprise our rainy season. the plants grow with abandon while they are well-watered.

Nasturtiums pop up now and then in flower gardens. I had no idea they were considered invasive. I do know that a particular area restaurant often uses the flowers as part of its dessert presentation, since the blossoms are entirely edible. Bermuda grass is rampant in yards here. It loves heat and water, so it's not very active in the cool winters, but when you water the lawn during the summer the bermuda will thrive and snake its way through gravel, across pavement and beneath home siding.

Oleander? Iceplant? These have been commonly planted by highway workers in highway meridians and freeway embankments all over the state. It should be interesting to control or eradicate many of these plants. They've become familiar to us all and are even great favorites among garderners and hikers.

posted at: 09:17 | category: /Science | link to this entry

Thu, Jun 28 2007

Sometimes guns point back at shooters

You probably heard about the man in Florida who said he woke up with a headache and then found out he'd been shot by his wife. After reading more of the story, the whole case sounds like one big headache.

But that's not nearly as embarrassing as the L.A. firearms instructor who accidentally wounded one of his colleagues during a training exercise.

No one died in either of these incidents, but my spouse does have a tongue-in-cheek way of reminding me that this sort of thing narrows down future candidates for gene pool thinning

posted at: 14:27 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Wed, Jun 27 2007

Memories can make us react physically

The idea that one's heart could react on the anniversary of some traumatic event doesn't really surprise me. Some years ago I read of a woman who woke up one day in a really bad mood and proceeded through her day with a series of unexplained crying jags, feelings of despair and sadness and lack of energy or motivation. When something later in the day prompted her to look at a calendar, she realized that it had been three or four years to the day since her mother had died. She hadn't been the type of person to dwell on these sorts of things and note each anniversary with memories and a pity-party type of day, so she was astonished at her mind and body's ability to react in such a fashion.

How often have we picked up a phone to call a friend or loved one and found out they were calling us at the same time? Some of these moments can be explained away as coincidence, or the hearing of a news story that prompts shared memories with friends to come to the surface. But sometimes there is no real logical explanation that we can use. Time and events are recorded by our minds and the emotions that accompany events may somehow be imprinted on us in ways scientists haven't yet learned how to identify or measure. I'm thinking of that passage from Psalm 139 that speaks of praising God because "I am fearfully and wonderfully made". The more we find out about the human condition, the more we can see the outright precision and grandeur with which we were created. If you need a boost for self-esteem, think about that.

posted at: 10:51 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Follow the money, if you can

I keep looking at news headlines, articles and blog entries this morning. I know something is wrong. Finally, I've realized what it is. After reading for months about Iran's supposed efforts to install centrifuges for uranium enrichment I am suddenly reading that the country is rationing gas, because it doesn't have enough refineries of its own and has to import gas. To compound my confusion, I'm reading that Iran already subsidizes the cost of gasoline to its inhabitants, so that they only pay about eleven cents per liter. If Iran has money to enrich uranium and money to subsidize gas for Iranians, why don't they have money to build some refineries? My astonishment may be arrogant-sounding, but it is geniune. What on earth are they thinking?

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

Tue, Jun 26 2007

A more attractive workspace

My workspace is a bit disordered today because we're having some work done. The warm California sun has been playing havoc with the westward facing outer wall, so we're giving in and having the original redwood siding on that wall replaced with vinyl. We also had the two original windows in this room replaced with vinyl ones. The old windows were certainly charming in their own way, but the double-hung mechanisms had gotten so old that we were afraid to open them for fear we wouldn't be able to close them again. These will be much nicer. After the sun heats the room up while I write during the day I'll be able to open the westward facing window and welcome in the cool evening breeze that brings direct ocean refreshment from about a mile away. It's nice to have atmosphere in a room where you write, but there's also a lot to be said for comfort that frees the mind to go wherever it needs to go.

posted at: 10:12 | category: | link to this entry

Mon, Jun 25 2007

Can pirates become penitents?

Why would someone boast of never being caught at illegal activities? If Hew Raymond Griffiths was smart enough to crack copyrighted software and make money off pirated copies, why wasn't he smart enough to realize that there's always someone coming along behind who is just as smart and perhaps, even smarter?

DrinkOrDie? Bandido? Those are silly names for a man now immersed in his fortieth decade. When I started to read the story I think I was expecting a much younger profile to emerge. It reminds me a bit of reading about taggers and expecting to see little kids apprehended, but then finding out the tagging was done by men in their 20s and 30s. I guess this whole mindset proves that growing older has nothing to do with real maturity and responsibility. It's a real waste of intellect and personal drive, when these folks could probably have made the world a better place. I hope they still decide to do that, at some point.

posted at: 08:18 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Fri, Jun 22 2007

Suspected wild driver in ICU

The Santa Cruz Sentinel has a follow-up story regarding the vehicle that drove into a house on Wednesday. The article mentions only basic criminal charges. I'm wondering whether the homewowners will also bring a suit against the driver. A judge who believed in restitution would have the driver, if convicted, out there hauling dirt for that lady's flower bed, once he has been restored to good health. It's a huge blessing that no one was in the house at the time of the impact.

posted at: 06:46 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Thu, Jun 21 2007

Who was it?

If there is really a skull and it was used in Skull and Bones, but was not the skull of Geronimo, whose skull was it? It belonged to someone's family member or friend. We have a tomb in remembrance of unknown soldiers that we treat with great reverence. It's sad to me that some anonymous person's remains might have been part of some fraternity prank, just because they had been buried in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Humans often have strange value systems when it comes to the remains of the dead. Most people would never think of digging up Aunt Carol a few years after her death (except for criminal investigations or medical research), but if she's been gone for a thousand years she becomes free game for archeologists. Of course, Aunt Carol was likely laid to rest in a casket. If someone digs up the skeletal remains of a body in the raw ground, the death could have been long ago. Or, it could have been someone who died alone in the wilderness, or who was murdered and hastily covered over with dirt. In any event, if there is a skull, it belonged, at some point, to a living, breathing person who didn't ask to be part of a fraternity joke for some good old boys.

posted at: 11:28 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Wed, Jun 20 2007

Fleeing driver ran car into house

A high speed chase off Highway 1 into the Capitola/Hill Street area of Capitola seems to have escalated into a house fire. The car apparently crashed into the house, which doesn't sound as though it fare too well, once the fire started. It never ceases to amaze me how people with no thought for anyone else's welfare speed hither and thither and endanger the lives of everyone around them. I suppose the good news is that the courts will have multiple charges on which to hold the suspect(s), though that's probably not very comforting to the folks whose house was set ablaze.

posted at: 12:11 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Google creating a happy hour?

Google seems to have acquired another toy to go with a toy they recently bought. Shall we dub this new combination a Zen and Tonic?

posted at: 10:14 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Tue, Jun 19 2007

Name that chip

Do you think most product names are silly? Now you have the chance to name a product and you get to name it based on your experience with the product itself. The catch is that you'll have to buy the product once in order to do that properly, which is a smart bit of marketing on the manufacturer's part. Taste the new X-13D Doritos product and then tell them what you think it should be called. A tip of the Stetson goes to Brand Autopsy for the link.

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

Mon, Jun 18 2007

Helping kids learn about money

Kids probably learn best about money by observing how parents handle money. But if you feel you need some extra help along the way, the National Endowment for Financial Education has a great site called Simple steps to raising a money-smart child. There are ideas for use with children as young as age 2.

I keep meeting people who tell me they never learned about money because their parents took care of all the household tasks and never talked to them about what was going on. Some of these folks tell me they're one paycheck away from financial disaster. I can understand not wanting to put the burden of financial woes on kids too early, but a lot of these adults I meet now tell me they have no self-discipline when it comes to savings or shopping wisely because they never developed the habits and skills as a child. You can learn to do these things as an adult if you work hard at it, but why not give kids as much help as possible in order to encourage them to be successful financially long after parents have passed away?

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

Fri, Jun 15 2007

Off to see the wizard, er...endodontist

By the time most of you read this I'll know whether or not I'm scheduled for a root canal. The good news is that I'm not in pain. The bad news is that the dentist thinks that the odd, phantom pain I had a few years ago was the result of the root dying. The small pocket of infection may still be there, lurking in the bone beneath the affected tooth. And x-rays show a crazy little hook to the end of the root that makes the regular dentist loathe to tackle it. So I'm off to the endodontist for a consultation.

Even on the worst of days, writing is more fun than visiting dentists. The only thing I can do is turn this experience into material for future writing, much the way I use the experience of being summoned for jury duty. Oh dear. I hope I haven't sent you all into depression with this post. Write something positive today, won't you? It might help restore equilibrium to the blogosphere.

posted at: 06:47 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Thu, Jun 14 2007

Ready music to give you just the right mood for writing

I'm always looking for ways to get steeped in my writing and music is one of the best tools I've found. How about a little BB King and Eric Clapton for that bluesy scene you're writing? Maybe you could use a little something to put you in the mood to describe that little French restaurant? Maybe you just have writer's cramp and need to take a break, get out of your chair and dance for a few minutes. Take a trip over to Musicovery interactive webRadio. If you hear a song you love, you can buy it right on the spot. The beast seems to be in beta right now, so there's no telling what the future will bring. For now, it's a handy little web page. A tip of the Stetson goes to Search Engine Lowdown for the link.

posted at: 09:55 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Wed, Jun 13 2007

Flipping houses is nothing new. Flipping one's life? That might be something to write home about.

When is a writer not a writer? Perhaps, when he's been referred to as the world's most hated blogger, yet still insists on writing about his failures as a real estate mogul and insists that he's a viable book writer while living off other people's kindness and while looking over his shoulder at his enemies, his creditors and maybe even his prosecutors.

There's certainly nothing wrong with having hutzpah or with wanting to be a financial success. But other journalists have written of Casey Serin's deceptive behavior and he has answered by putting links to such articles on his blog. His latest blog entry, dated June 11, refers to him now trying to make an honest buck. The entry is accompanied by a photo of Mr. Serin sitting behind the wheel of a car with a Starbucks cup in his hand. It all smacks a bit too much of any publicity being good publicity. But one still has to live with one's choices as a human being.

Is this young man sorry for what he did? Is it too late for him to convince people that he wants to go straight? I don't know. He's gotten his publicity. He's probably young enough to start over and may even be able to get people to forgive his greed and dishonesty someday. But if he can't do that, and if it gets hard for him to make a living otherwise, it will probably always be a huge temptation to him to capitalize on his own past full of greed and dishonesty. The kind of life he creates for himself and his family may depend on his willingness to look in the mirror and choose true integrity—for the long haul. If he does, I hope he'll choose to write about that journey, rather than give us lengthy descriptions of his shady real estate dealings.

posted at: 08:12 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Tue, Jun 12 2007

Check out some other blogs

I'll be doing research away from the home computer much of the day, so I hope you'll enjoy exploring some of the excellent blogs listed on the right side of this page.

posted at: 07:19 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Mon, Jun 11 2007

Stop laughing and start building

This past weekend I caught a bit of video on TV depicting The Solar Tower. The first one is planned for Australia, but it sounds as though they're also looking at other locations, including a possible site in Texas. I hope we see more of this kind of innovation.

I'm still disappointed that car manufacturers have not done more to develop non-fossil fuel burning vehicles. There are at least some people looking at other alternatives. the Panasonic World Solar Challenge is coming up this fall.

I guess there just hasn't been a big enough incentive for car makers to get serious about it all. They want to be able to sell many of one kind of car. Consumers want either cheap transportation or powerful, sexy transportation. Or both. Safety has to be figured in. Lawsuit and regulatory issues have made it nearly impossible to build cars economincally in our country. The rising cost of health care and other benefits have made it tough for management and unions to come together to produce vehicles with an eye toward innovation. And just about the time manufacturers churned out all those big SUVs the public was demanding, political and social pressures mounted to scale down our gas consumption and reduce our reliance on oil. If car manufacturers started a serious roll-out of solar (or any other alternative fuel) cars on this very day, it would still take years for the move to make a real difference in our environment and in our political when it comes to big oil-producing countries. I'm just not convinced that major U.S. car manufacturers can really do anything fast enough to help now. The solutions are going to have to come from independent manufacturers or other countries. I hope there are enough people with the freedom to produce the solutions we need. And I hope there are politicians out there with enough intelligence to get out of the way and let them develop ideas that can appeal to Americans who do want an alternative to the current type of car. You folks who make cars can laugh at solar cars all you wish. Have a good laugh and get it out of your system. But then, let's see your better idea on the production line ASAP.

posted at: 11:38 | category: /Science | link to this entry

Fri, Jun 08 2007

Shannon dognapped, perpetrators on the run

Is dognapping a terrorist act? It could be. Shannon was stolen after someone broke into a locked garage in Boulder Creek, California. A sticker was left at the scene by the dognappers. The Animal Legal Defense Fund, who produces the stickers, says that they do not condone such illegal behavior. The sticker could have been purchased and left by someone outside the organization.

The dognappers appear to be rogue radical activists who left behind a trail of clues and may have even been spotted by neighbors as they did their evil deed. They probably stole away with Shannon just as her owner was being picked up at the airport by the very person who had been caring for Shannon during the time her owner was away. Shannon has been implanted with a microchip and appears to be a well-loved, healthy golden retriever.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel recently carried an article on Shannon's plight and the news of her disappearance has been picked up by other news outlets, probably because of the terrorism angle. It's rather ironic that the dognappers, who may have mistakenly thought they were being helpful, may have hurt the cause of animal welfare with their knee-jerk tactics. And now they may have made such cases more likely to be prosecuted as terrorist acts. They got attention with their sloppy execution and vigilante mindset, but the attention isn't going to make them look like heroes anytime soon. And if they don't produce that dog in good condition, they could wind up being hit with a few animal welfare charges of their own. As a wise, older friend of mine would have opined, "Way to go, Numbnuts."

posted at: 07:40 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Thu, Jun 07 2007


The Reuters headline read: Spanish nuns show hops are good for you. What this writer's mind pictured was something like the nuns playing volleyball in a photo that accompanied a Time article.

What can I say? I've never been a beer drinker. Apparently, I'm also not a beer thinker.

posted at: 11:36 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

From coffee to blob, from morning to midnight

It's been one of those mornings. I turned on the coffeemaker without having set the basket in place and ended up with very hot water splashing directly into the carafe and everywhere else.

Things eventually settled into a ragged sort of rhythm for me, but then I ran across The Blob. I'm wondering how many of us live near these kinds of monsters that could soon be killing whole populations. We're all running around discussing global warming while Mother Earth is experiencing an undercover toxic reflux from generations of industrial waste.

I suppose part of the reason it bothered me so much to read about The Blob is that I had some leftover angst from having had the coffeemaker quietly eject water all over the place while I was in another room thinking it was making coffee as usual. By the time I realized what had happened, I had to cool the machine for a minute by turning it off, refill its reservoir with fresh water, put the coffee filter in place and begin the process all over again. We may not get a chance to start over when it comes to toxins like The Blob.

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

Wed, Jun 06 2007

Soaking up literature

There's apparently more than one way to get young students to reach their reading goals. The article includes a photo of the principal on the roof in her Spongebob Squarepants costume.

posted at: 10:02 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Tue, Jun 05 2007

The spelling stands

My trusty spell-checking efforts missed the last word of my last post. However, given the nature of the effects I was speaking of, I stand by psychodelic after all.

posted at: 15:25 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Olympic logo causing seizures?

Can your epilepsy act up when you view the animated 2012 Olympic logo? If so, that's a bit scary. I don't have have epileptic seizures from such things, but I've always been hyper-sensitive to strobe lights or that vague strobing effect one gets when looking at a long column of trees from a rapidly moving car. If I persist in staring at it I tend to become agitated, almost to the point of feeling anger. It's always been rather disconcerting when the feeling comes on, so maybe folks like me should also avoid staring at the Olympic logo.

If you dare, go to the Telegraph site and click on the link (disable your pop-up prevention) for a look. I don't like the logo, but I can't say that it makes me ill. It certainly doesn't conjure up any sort of majestic feelings or come across as art that will appeal to a wide audience. It looks a bit like an old MTV promo, gone pyschodelic.

posted at: 12:04 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Mon, Jun 04 2007

Taco Bell: Stop rushing customers through the drive-through window!

Since I get an error every time I try to go through the lengthy form on the official Taco Bell web site I'm going to continue with a bit of a rant on this blog instead. For the last several months, or perhaps a bit longer, we've had this strange experience when we use the drive-through service at our closest Taco Bell restaurant. I don't blame the local workers, because it's obvious that this policy did not originate with them. The workers at the service window have apparently been put on some sort of timer that begins ticking off when a customer pulls up to the window. Several times we've been asked politely to back up, once we were already at the window. (No one was behind us.) The first time we laughed with the young woman who apologized for having to ask. The second time we asked what the reason was and were told that they're being timed each time they serve a customer. This happened once again several days ago. It's mildy annoying, but not severely annoying. What has become a definite issue is the bum's rush we get after we receive our bag of food and our drinks. If we stop to put straws in the drinks, put change away or double-check for sauce or inspect the contents of the bag, we get a barrage of "Thank you-everything-okay? Thank-you-for-choosing-Taco-Bell-thank-you-could-you-please-drive-forward- because-i'm-on-a-timer-thank-you-thank-you". The poor worker is obviously under duress because we have not hit the gas and sped away. Being asked to back up because the system is idiotic is one thing. Being asked to rush away is quite another. Fast food means the restaurant, not the customer, moves fast. My spouse nearly lost his temper this time, but he knew the poor young person at the window was under the gun and that it would have done no good to fuss at him. I think there might be a visit with a manager soon, though I suspect that this unfortunate policy came from someone a bit higher-up in the corporate hierarchy. If that person happens to stop by this blog, this message is for you: The policy is annoying, inefficient, stressful for the worker and (worst of all) stressful for the paying customer. We've done business with that particular Taco Bell for many years, but if this keeps up, we're going to be thinking way outside the bun and moving along to other restaurants who don't rush us through the process.

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

Cancer, coma, pneumonia, awake

A lot of sites seem to be carrying the story of the man who woke fully from a come after 19 years. The waking is remarkable, but I noted one other detail in the man's case story that intrigued me. On top of everything else, doctors had apparently told Mr. Grzebska's wife that he had brain cancer. Yet he's alive today. It would be interesting to know what progression, if any, the cancer made during his 19-year coma and whether or not his waking state will change the course of the disease. I'm hoping there will be some follow-up information on this man's very odd medical history.

posted at: 07:47 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Fri, Jun 01 2007

Let it be public record

In a former day, when political secrets were much better kept, the issue over records of entry and exit logs might not have drawn such attention. But we live in a world where the untimely revelation of certain secrets has gotten a lot of politicians into hot water of one type or another. Destroying records does not seem prudent in the current political atmosphere. It raises questions of propriety and conduct in the professional lives of our highest officials, who are paid their salaries by taxpayers and who should adopt an attitude that holds them accountable to taxpayers. Anything shy of this comes across as self-serving and shady.

I don't think anyone is demanding a detailed report of all that is discussed. Records of that could certainly be kept secret. Destroying the records altogether is like trying to erase a trail of history. Why would we approve of that if we want to encourage honesty and integrity? It would make no sense in either principle or practicality. It can only serve a purpose in a political sense. And American taxpayers have no legal or ethical obligation to serve the political purposes of officials.

Even if a list is destroyed (or kept secret), let's remember that the ones doing the entering and exiting, and anyone who assists them in such, know of their actions. If they decide to talk about it later, it could end up looking very bad. If a record is kept, there's no doubt as to who did the coming and going. And as long as two or more people know something happened, there's really no secret anyway if one of them ever decides to talk. Didn't we just go through all this with the Valerie Plame case? It seems to me that the best thing would be a bright light from the start, so that no one can spring a list of names on anyone down the line.

posted at: 10:23 | category: /Politics | 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!