Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
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Tue, Jul 31 2007

Government money grows on taxpayers, but the forest may be thinning soon

The idea that we years to go in Iraq is quite depressing. Even more depressing is the fact that the military price tag (in dollars alone, without counting human lives) will continue to climb, while more and more people I know are struggling financially on a personal level. Someone said something to me last week, quite tongue in cheek, that is beginning not to be funny. They were joking that the people on public assistance were actually eating better and driving better cars than the people paying out a lot in taxes. The day may come when we finally have more people in line for aid than we have taxpayers willing and able to pay for it. I have a feeling we're going to see another rebellious, retro-hippie, dropping out generation very soon in America.

posted at: 15:04 | category: /Politics | link to this entry


My blog attention is being dragged about today, partly due to word from a friend that someone we both love was inadvertently a little too close for comfort when it came to the crime scene in this story out of Tennessee. Each of us probably knows of someone who has been the victim of stalking and sometimes violent behavior. We can't understand the mind of someone who would hurt people this way and we can't understand the bizarre survival of one person over another when violence does come into the picture.

As far as I know, the man in the story, who has also been identified in other reports as Roy Lynn Rogers, has not been charged with a killing at this time. It is also my understanding that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has taken over the case.

posted at: 12:27 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Mon, Jul 30 2007

Less fat, weight gain, no less fat doesn't work? Hhhhhmmm...

Once again, Dr. John McDougall takes on the shaky results of a study on breast cancer patients who supposedly ate less fat and ate more fruits and vegetables without seeing significant benefit.

posted at: 11:33 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Second Life: Same as the first?

I haven't ever taken time to check out Second Life, but I once thought that it might be fun to roam in for awhile. I'm not quite sure, however, that Second Life is the same place I'd heard about once upon a time. There's been a crackdown on gambling, a set of guidelines for real IBM employees who use the virtual world and now there are even missionaries attempting to convert all those virtual souls to Catholicism. Second Life even has its share of terrorists.

The fellow who goes by Caliban Karas in Second Life, apparently said in one article that "you can be anything or anyone you want". Well, maybe not. As Dwight Eisenhower once wisely put it, "Things are more like they are today than they have ever been before." Given sufficient time and room to grow, most virtual worlds seem to end up looking a great deal like the everyday world we all have to contend with on a day-to-day basis. I guess I still haven't decided whether that's going to be any fun for me.

posted at: 09:27 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Fri, Jul 27 2007

Failing European ski resort may hint at similar fate for U.S. ski resorts

We don't usually think first of vacationing when we think of the issue of global warming, but a lot of communities depend on the infusion of tourist spending for their local economy. We've been looking at those lovely French Alps this month while the Tour de France plays out and that breathtaking background scenery gives one the urge to pick up the phone and make arrangments to go over there and enjoy the mountains. But that trip to the mountains may mean something a lot different in the future, particularly if the trip includes skiing. Whether we call it global warming or climate adjustment or crazy weather, a small rise in temperatures that has lasted two or three decades could change the face of tourism for a long time to come.

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

Thu, Jul 26 2007

Camping up writer's block on a foggy, foggy day

I have been in the strangest mood all morning. I was drowsy after breakfast, which is completely atypical for me. But I had taken half an antihistamine in an attempt to dry up allergy symptoms and one of the side-effects is drowsiness. I sat here trying to think and make motions on the keyboard in order to produce a witty blog entry, but was thinking that writer's block may be another side-effect of antihistamines.

And then I went and visited Tommy's blog and watched the video he'd linked to, which was a quiet scene from the film Harvey (Yes, the one about a six-foot rabbit.) That was mind-bending enough, but then I read Tommy's blog entry from July 20, in which he describes an eerie overnight stay at his parents' house while they were out of town. His night was full of cats clawing their way up screens, water faucets inexplicably gone dry and things that wandered in and out, making thumps and bumps into the wee hours.

We have a thick marine layer over us on the Central Coast. It may be just another day when very little in the way of unusual events visits us. But it feels like a morning when just about anything bizarre could happen and somehow seem like no surprise at all.

posted at: 10:22 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Wed, Jul 25 2007

Pale Rider with Potato Head?

Now, there's a visual I won't soon forget. Until now, I don't think I've ever seen a writer specifically apply the verses of Revelation to a string of sports scandals. I knew that spectators often took sports very seriously, but this whole Four Horseman analogy shows the depth of emotion that fans experience when their sports heroes fall off the pedestal.

posted at: 08:28 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Tue, Jul 24 2007

Gas line severed after domestic quarrel

I have mixed feelings when I read about people doing these kinds of things. On one hand, it's frustrating to think that people are still determined to operate cars while intoxicated and angry and then even add high speed into an already dangerous mix. On the other hand, I'm always relieved when there are no physical injuries to anyone. If the alleged driver in this case ends up being convicted, I'd like to gently suggest the use of a good pair of Encounter Bats for any upcoming domestic disputes. Not only do they relieve a great deal of stress, but wearing them makes it almost impossible to insert keys into a car's ignition.

posted at: 08:51 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Mon, Jul 23 2007

I'll miss seeing Pete Wilson in my home

We get to know a lot about the news anchor people who visit our homes electronically everyday. We may never shake their hands or talk to them one-on-one, but we almost feel as though they are friends, if not members of the family. A lot of anchors are so folksy that they lose their professional edge, but Pete Wilson had a way of knowing when to lighten the mood and when to deliver the news in fully serious tones. I'll miss his electronic presence, his sincere smile and especially his calm delivery during breaking news that was life changing for many of us. I hope he got as much from his work as we got from him bringing it to us.

posted at: 07:27 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Fri, Jul 20 2007

King of Jordan makes local Harley trip through Central Coast

It turns out that Carmel and Monterey are old stomping grounds for the monarch, who attended the Naval Postgraduate School almost a decade ago.

posted at: 06:48 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Thu, Jul 19 2007

Black and white in topsy-turvy world

Yesterday we witnessed part of a verbal altercation that occured between two men going into a Sears store at a mall and another man driving a white pickup truck parallel to the walkway. We didn't hear what the driver of the truck said, but he started an exchange of "F-you" calls and gestures. One of the men going into the store was dressed in black leather shorts, black top and black boots. His hair was clean looking, flowing and dark, and he had a full beard and mustache and wore sunglasses. His companion was dressed in casual everyday wear. I could be wrong, but my first thought was that the fellow in black probably works in a rock band. He might even make a lot more money than the guy who was driving the pickup. His clothing was not obscene, though it was unusual when compared with that of most visitors to the mall. Until the pickup truck driver began making remarks, the man in black had been simply minding his own business and was going into the store. He would never have even noticed the white pickup or its driver if the driver had not started saying things to the man in black's back. And the man in black didn't respond to the driver of the truck at all until the remarks persisted. He did finally turn and toss back a few rude words of his own.

The man in the truck drove slowly away, still laughing and gesturing backward out his rear window. My first thought was that he might drive his pristine white truck into a parking lot shrub and give himself a well-deserved turn at being the target of laughter. But then I began to wonder why the driver felt a need to harrass the man in black at all. Why would someone go out of their way to get a rise out of a person who hadn't even known they existed in the first place? Are humans so desperate for meaningful interaction and social contact that we see bullying or heckling strangers as rewarding forms of behavior? We're funny and we're pitiful at the same time. I'm glad we have a Hero we can turn to who sees beyond white trucks and black leather shorts.

posted at: 09:31 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Wed, Jul 18 2007

Volunteering at the Fair

Check out the promotional poster for the 2007 Santa Cruz County Fair, scheduled to be held September 11-16. The theme this year is "Barn in the USA".

My spouse and I spent some time last night helping sketch, paint and cut out giant cardboard characters for display. I've worked behind the scenes on many events, but this will be the first time I've gotten involved in preparations for a county fair. The folks on our committee all seem easy to work with and able to have a lot of fun while getting the job done. I know it will get busy and the pace will pick up tremendously (read: frantic scrambling will ensue) as we near the opening, but I'm really looking forward to this experience. As a writer, my creative juices are often called forth in a rather solitary atmosphere. Working with a creative team on very physical projects is a great way to expand my life experience and keep me from becoming a little too solitary. And besides, I'm always promoting festivals, fairs and other events. Now I'll get to work the other side of the net for a change.

posted at: 08:23 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Tue, Jul 17 2007

Red panda caper

The news about Virginia Zoo's red panda escaping for a second time is amusing at first glance. But I'm also wondering if the animal's natural habitat calls for more wide open spaces or if the red panda is perhaps prone to push the edges of its territory in the wild. It could be that what zoo officials are thinking of as particularly clever or disarming may simply be the red panda doing what red pandas are supposed to do. A quick glance at a few online sites featuring red pandas tells me that female pandas usually stick to an area of about a square mile. While this may not seem like much in the wild, a red panda in a zoo may feel restless and need more territory than an institutional exhibit can provide. And let's not forget that zoo workers are always fixing and trimming and tidying up zoo habitats that, in the wild, would be left to carry the scented trails of many different animals. The lady red panda could be venturing out in search of the unique scent of male red pandas that would be unmistakable in the wild.

I'm not against zoos the way some folks are. I believe they hold promise for maintaining our vanishing species and for educating the public. But I do believe that we should try to make a zoo mimic an animal's foraging and territorial aspects whenever possible. We've seen what overcrowding does to the human species. When we can't even handle our own territorial balance we should take extra care not to assume that we know what is best for the animals who rely on us for their daily food and other needs.

On the other hand, the lady red panda from the Virginia Zoo could be doing what even human females have been known to do when they get bored. She could be simply out shopping.

posted at: 07:49 | category: /Science | link to this entry

Mon, Jul 16 2007

Quakes that make the news and quakes that don't

Japan has been rocking and rolling a good bit the last day or two. The second good-sized quake probably made already-compromised structures even more of a hazard to anyone near or inside them.

Though they were smaller in intensity and got less publicity, two quakes rattled Tanzania in the last few days.

Lest we think nobody has fun with earthquakes, the community of Winters, California comes alive with the vibrations of music and other activities, at the annual Earthquake Street Festival coming up next month. Much of Winters' downtown area had to be rebuilt after a quake destroyed several major structures there more than a hundred years ago. The DeVilbiss Hotel, which survived the quake, now houses the popular Buckhorn Steak and Roadhouse. One of the odd things that happens in earthquake-prone areas is that you tend to see this quirky mix of very old buildings that withstood shaking with much newer structures that have replaced the old buildings that didn't fare as well. The old buildings are often gone over with great care and retrofitted to handle any future tremors.

posted at: 12:06 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Sun, Jul 15 2007

You go be martyrs while I hide safely, OK?

I haven't posted anything on Sunday for awhile, but I thought I'd break the pattern today with a comment on the Osama bin Laden video that showed up recently. It's pretty easy for a guy who's been in on the run and in hiding for years to cheer other people on to get out there and make themselves availble as martyrs. If it's so important to be bold and charge right in there toward martyrdom, he's certainly not very good at following his faith to its ultimate end. That whole "path to glory" route he parades before others is apparently based on a theology that goes something like, "Don't do as I do. Do as I tell you."

posted at: 09:53 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Fri, Jul 13 2007

When Waste Management becomes an oxymoron

I've never lived in a neighborhood where there was a garbage collector strike, but I admire Peter Hartlaub for being able to write with humor about the strike going on up in the East Bay.

Santa Cruz county has given up on Waste Management and gone to brand new contract with GreenWaste Recovery. They're so new that they're still getting their web site together, but we have hopes for good service and forward thinking with respect to environmental issues as well as educational and regional opportunities to make waste work for us instead of against us. I haven't met any of the garbage collectors who work for the company, but I'm betting they have a better attitude than the previous workers, who often left debris floating about on collection days. On more than one occasion a worker shoved an emptied cart so hard that it fell backward and was left like that, including a cart that belongs to a neighbor with back problems who was in no condition to wrestle with capsized carts. I had determined that the next time it happened I was going to call and suggest that a true professional would make sure that a cart placed in an upright position when it was full was left in an upright position once it was emptied. Luckily, we soon got word of the new service starting. I'm hoping for a better attitude from these folks, which will beget a better attitude from customers.

posted at: 07:51 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Thu, Jul 12 2007

X-ray of your ankle could become terrorists' plaything

Dirty bombs from hospital X-rays? There does always seem to be some scoundrel hanging around and waiting for a chance to make something destructive of something originially intended for good. The U.S. hospitals have become diligent regarding the storage and disposal of such materials, but I wonder how things are in other countries.

posted at: 08:34 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Wed, Jul 11 2007

Marjorie-Diehl Armstrong

I can see all kinds of lessons in the case(s) involving Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong. A caution against forming stereotypes concerning class valedictorians comes to mind first, followed by the notion that one never knows when one might meet an old classmate on the opposite side of the law.

Other thoughts that come to mind include the fact that having a high IQ and earning multiple graduate degrees are not guarantees against experiencing bipolar disorder or mental illness. Neither do such advantages guarantee safety from abusive people, criminals, violence and incarceration. And in the particular case of Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, there is always one more little favor she asks for and always one more deal she wants to make, as she tries to improve her sad situation by reaching out to the media. Wanting total control over one's own life is probably a demon almost every human has to face. Learning that we can't have total control and learning how to cope with that fact separates people into two or three general groups, one of which is the hellish group that Ms. Armstrong finds herself living in. I'm glad it's not my job to sort these things out, when so many lives and relationships seem to have been destroyed over the course of her intelligent, but unfulfilled, life.

posted at: 11:48 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Tue, Jul 10 2007

Benzodiazepines for dental phobia

My trip to the endodontist is now a memory, with a rather thick amount of haze surrounding the later events of the morning. They prescribed for me a tranquilizer, which worked very well, though I dozed away a great deal of the rest of the day and am still feeling quite hung over this morning. My spouse brought some soft-textured fast food for me about 2 hours after the root canal, when I was safely nested on the sofa at home. I recall eating some of it, but I was so drowsy that he had to prompt me to stay awake to finish the meal.

My usual keen sense of the passing of time was greatly suppressed. Yesterday afternoon seemed extremely short to me, but was in reality as long as any other afternoon.

Under a non-medical situation, the dosage they allowed would be something I would absolutely avoid. The reason I say this is because the substance has a certain hypnotic effect. I've always said I would not be easy to place in a hypnotic state, but I can see that this particular drug would lend a person very susceptible to suggestion. The hypnotic leaning wasn't as long lasting as the drowsiness, but it was definitely a factor.

If you have severe medical/dental phobia and need a lengthy or traumatic-sounding procedure, I would recommend at least asking the dentist or doctor about this drug. But remember that I'm not a doctor. I only write about doctors. I'm really just a writer—a writer who could definitely use an 11am nap.

posted at: 10:53 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Mon, Jul 09 2007

Anxiety vs. not seeing what hit you

Forgive the lack of wit this morning. I'll be under the influence of meds and headed off to a reserved seat at the endodontist's office. It's a tough trip for me, but I know I could be going to worse places. And let's face it. I could have been in the same place this poor fellow was.

Forget lifeguards for the swimmers. Maybe they should have lifeguards for those dangerous trips to the beach porta-potties.

posted at: 09:03 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Fri, Jul 06 2007

On a personal note this first week in July...

We had an unusual 4th of July holiday in that we took our older truck to IKEA to do some shopping. We had a great time buying things and we loaded up to head home. Unbeknownst to us, the truck had been leaking fluid and the clutch seized to work about a block and a half away from the store's parking garage. If it had to happen, it was in at least a relatively safe place. My deft spouse managed to get the truck into a left turn lane that was in a fairly good position for other drivers to just pull in front of us. He set the emergency flashers and called our trusty AAA road service while I motioned traffic past us on the passenger side. Of course, it was July 4th, so AAA road assistance was extremely busy and they ended up using a third-party service to come to our rescue. The driver got our truck up on the flat bed and we all got into the cab of his tow truck and rode more than 50 miles to our place. (Thank goodness we had signed up for that extra mileage the last time we renewed our membership.)

Our driver was personable, friendly and full of great conversation, so the trip went quickly and we were treated to the site of lots of (mostly illegal) fireworks displays through his truck's huge windshield.

When we got home we still had to unload all those boxes of furniture we had loaded in the back of our truck. Our neighbor came over and never even asked what needed to be done. He simply started untying the ropes that secured the load and began pulling boxes off the truck. If you have good neighbors you know what I mean when I say they are priceless gifts.

The next day we had to get up early and prevent our little outside kitty friend from eating or drinking. He had to go to the vet for the day for a biopsy on his nose and a check of his throat (unrelated to the nose issue). He's had a sore nose for some time and the vet has been trying to deal gently with it, but feels that a biopsy is in order, since cats with white fur and light skin on nose areas are susceptible to the same type of skin cancer that humans get on our noses. So Austin came home at the end of the day still a bit loopy and disoriented. We were a bit concerned that he might wander out into the road, since he kept trying to navigate the sidewalk and falling off it. Since I'm allergic to him, he isn't usually allowed inside the house. But on this particular evening, Ron put a soft rug and towel on his lap and sat on the floor just inside the front door and let Austin rest on his lap for awhile. I went to put some things away and when I came back into the room they were both dozing.

It's been quite a week. And next week begins with a bang too, because I go to the endodontist on Monday for a root canal on my infamous crescent-shaped root. I hope your holiday week has been relatively stress-free and fun. And if it hasn't, I hope you've had the blessing of friends and strangers to see you through the stress.

posted at: 13:57 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Thu, Jul 05 2007

More words or more different words?

I always thought the idea that women used more words than men meant that females used a larger vocabulary base. All this time, were we getting statistics on quantity, rather than variety? No wonder I've been confused. I knew that that things such as gossip are popular among both males and females and that the basic difference is the types of words used during gossip. In my experience, men tend to gossip with more action verbs, while women tend to gossip on a more emotional level. And men, based on my experience only, tend to approach gossip as an acceptable way of doing a little male bonding and expanding their circle of friends, while women tend to gossip in reaction to feeling left out of things. It's hard to explain, and not everyone would agree with me, of course. It's worth exploring for fun, if for no other reason.

posted at: 12:07 | category: | link to this entry

Tue, Jul 03 2007

Hot, dry, shaken

This is what an elderly friend of ours, who has since passed away, used to call earthquake weather, which they tell us is a misnomer and that there is no such thing. Nevertheless, we were treated to some small local shakers last week and then yesterday we got a gentle roll for several seconds that turned out to be a 4.3. There were some tiny aftershocks we didn't feel, but now this morning they tell us there were two more light quakes, close to where the others hit. They do appear to have been on or near the San Andreas Fault but that may not mean anything significant. There are many quakes of similar magnitude in various U.S. locations at any given moment.

If you want to go by weather conditions, the place that should shake this week is the Antelope Valley area of the state, which is forecast to have temps as high as 115 degrees in the next 2-3 days. I recall traveling in that area one time and stepping out of the car at a rest stop to a hot wind that made your eyes so dry you could open and close your eyelids after a few seconds.

All this heat is just in time for the July 4 holiday in a year when we've had not nearly enough rain during the last several (so-called) rainy seasons. We're all being cautioned to watch the grills, sparks and open flames. Some local gatherings and park locations are banning all smoking for fear that a stray butt will ignite a hillside into a scene like that straight out of a Hollywood disaster movie.

Wherever you are, I hope you have an enjoyable Independence Day tomorrow. I'll be on the local roads with my spouse, in an old truck that has no air-conditioning. I'll try to just pretend we're reenacting a scene from a Steinbeck novel.

posted at: 10:43 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Mon, Jul 02 2007

A true cold case

I've run across stories on Jodi Huisentruit over a period of years. It's still very strange to me that no one has yet been able to find out what happened to such a high profile person. Supporters of the Iowa news anchor have remained faithful and hopeful that the case will be solved and there's even a web site or two dedicated to her story. I was just reminded that twelve years have now passed with no significant leads and I wanted to point to the case in the hopes that someone running across the information will still be able to help the authorities and give closure of some kind to the family, friends and fans of this woman.

posted at: 09:44 | category: /Miscellaneous | 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!