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

Wed, Oct 31 2007

Firehouse cooks go against the grain with grains

We have a friend who is severely lactose-intolerant and so we spend lots of time looking for dining establishments that she can enjoy. We also hunt down the occasional recipe that might be safe for her to bite into with us. The problem with a lot of meals is that there is a lot of cross-contamination in restaurants when a grill that has been used to cook with butter is then used to cook with no dairy. They're probably not going to scrub every bit of dairy-containing products off the grill. While this might be acceptable for some folks, our friend suffers horrid intestinal symptoms if she eats food prepared on grills that have previously been used to cook with butter or other dairy ingredients. For this reason, her favorite restaurants are vegan, because there is simply no dairy in the establishment to begin with, so nothing gets contaminated. We've gone with her to Millennium in San Francisco, but it's a bit sad that there aren't more everyday hoices for those in her situation.

While doing a bit of food research this morning I surfed my way over to the web site of the vegan firefighters at Station No. 2 in Austin. When one thinks of firefighters cooking one generally envisions bowls of rich meat-laden chili, mounds of fried chicken and pork tenderloin with a rich accompanying sauce. These particular firefighters, who make up only a portion of the entire team, started churning out vegan enchildadas and tofu burgers when at least one of them found out his cholesterol levels and family history may have been about to put him in harm's way.

It's nice to know that there are fire fighters out there who take their health so seriously. After all, who knows when the rest of us might be dependent on them to be at their optimum health we call upon them to help us in an emergency?

posted at: 12:11 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

End of October shaking

I suppose this might be what one would call a retro-post, since I missed posting on Tuesday. We had a little attention-getter last night about 8:05, a 5.6 quake that definitely had some rocking chair motion to it. My spouse and I were in separate rooms, but we both experienced a jolt and noise, then a bit of rocking, then a lull, and then a rebuilding of movement.

It's that rebuilding of movement that will usually send Californians into a doorway, because it often signals a fairly large quake. We had perhaps 15 seconds of shaking, but one's body reacts so strongly that shaking duration almost always feels as though it's longer than it actually is. After the Loma Prieta quake in 1989 there were many of us who imagined more aftershocks than there really were. I suppose it's partly physiological, because a quake can interfere with one's sense of equilibrium. But it's also likely to be a psychological reaction. We humans sometimes shake in response to fear. When shaking is what causes the fear in the first place, it's bound to confuse our sense of self-preservation.

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

Mon, Oct 29 2007

Musing over Black Tuesday on a Monday

Today is the anniversary of Black Tuesday. October 29, 1929, when increasingly large numbers of sell orders in the stock market began to result in what President Herbert Hoover would later term a "depression". The stock market crash wasn't the only thing that caused the Depression, but it certainly held a magnifying glass up to the rest of the financial conditions in the U.S. at that time. Economists still argue about how the crashing might have been avoided, or at least moderated.

The severe drought in the Midwest caused further heartache for Americans. President Roosevelt's New Deal projects put a lot of people to work and encouraged optimism, but a few years later things changed drastically again as World War II took employable men off to serve their country while many women learned industrial jobs here in order to keep things going on the home front.

It might be a big stretch to claim that Black Tuesday was one of the major factors that led up to World War II, but it's true that the financial stresses of the 1930s allowed socialism and facism to creep into many other countries. A lot of our own social programs such as Social Security were born or grew larger in the 1930s. The idea of taxing the rich began to shift into more taxation on middle-income Americans. Excise taxes increased and so did farm subsidies. We didn't fall into the trap of becoming a Communist nation, but we made a definite shift toward making ourselves a nation in which a large number of social programs are now not only accepted, but expected, on the part of many Americans and even on the part of those who sneak in illegally for their piece of the delicious deep-dish pie.

Today, stock market trading is automatically halted if trading losses reach a certain point during any particular day. That might prevent a short-term panic, but what if the long-term financial pressures on Americans keep spiraling downward over a period of months or years. How long can we keep operating on credit cards, real estate speculation and deferred payment on both personal and national levels? I know a lot of people who are having to dip into the money they thought they were saving for old age. As more people do this, more of us will become even more dependent on social programs for health care, housing and food. As long as the economic surface of things seems calm, there is very little incentive to change things. Look at what's been happening with the sub-prime loan market lately. Only a small percentage of mortgages have been affected. And yet the situation has affected other countries' currency as well as our own. What if a large majority of Americans were to become financially strained to the point of not being able to afford basic living needs? Could we see another decade like the 1930s? Or something even worse?

posted at: 09:47 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Fri, Oct 26 2007

Unplanned naps

I was under the influence of antihistamines one night during a Grange meeting and we had all just enjoyed a hearty dinner prior to the meeting. To my embarrassment, I dozed off during some votes on bids that were coming in for meeting hall improvements. I even abstained from one vote because I was concerned that I had not been able to stay awake for the details of that bid.

So, when I heard that Vice President Cheney had been caught napping during a Cabinet meeting, I had some degree of empathy for the man. The problem is that my doze came during a discussion over what color to paint the interior of an old building. The Vice President's doze came during a discussion of a rash of wildfires that killed people, displaced a huge number of Southern California residents, endangered fire and emergency personnel and will bring Federal Aid to our state (which means all American taxpayers must help pay for it). Next time maybe he should just ask the person seated next to him to bump his arm and cough loudly if they see his head start to bobble.

posted at: 09:10 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Thu, Oct 25 2007

On letting one's work speak for itself

I must admit that I share some of Jeffrey Weiss' feelings concerning Dumbledore. If J. K. Rowling isn't planning to write any more about these characters, why does she toss out tidbits that interfere with a reader's sense of ownership of his or her own imagination? The whole tactic seems almost like ego enhancement, as though she fears that her characters have now outshadowed her. It's seems very odd and I simply can't understand how it would endear her to readers.

posted at: 09:47 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Wed, Oct 24 2007

Stress is gaining on all of us

USA Today reports that stress is significant in our lives and that about half of us think our stress has increased in the past 5 years. But the very end of the article was even more telling, after statistics were cited and regional differences were explained. It suggested that some of us are actually proud to be stressed. I know quite a few people who are "stress-seekers". If there's a lull in their schedule or responsibilities they will immediately place themselves in a position to take on even more work or responsibility. And then they'll complain about all the stress they're under. I've wondered whether they do this to avoid actually going after the real dreams in their lives or whether they're just terrified of being still for a few moments.

We all need time to contemplate whether we're headed in the direction we really want to be going. Running at full tilt all the time is an excellent form of avoidance. It may make us look really good to the rest of the world, but in the long term we probably do ourselves a disservice when we refuse to stop and think about our real place and purpose in the universe. Time is short, we tell ourselves, but maybe when time is short it's the very time to slow down and make every move count for something. Or, as someone else once put it—never confuse motion with action.

posted at: 12:33 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Tue, Oct 23 2007

Thinking of fires and those having to flee homes

My heart goes out to all the people directly affected by the fires in Southern California. I hear a lot of rude remarks about the fact that people chose to live in areas prone to fire, but the truth is that none of us is free of fire danger. And as our climate shifts a bit toward increasingly arid conditions in parts of the U.S. we may see more areas prone to fire than we did even five or ten years ago. So I'd suggest that those of you pointing fingers at Southern Californians check your own local almanac statistics before you make too many judgments.

posted at: 10:53 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Mon, Oct 22 2007

You got a license for that blog?

It seems that there are certain people in Italy who would like to tax blogs (and other internet sites). The Council of Ministers already approved a draft law that would put sites under the control of the Communications Authority. Parliament has yet to approve the law, but it's worrisome that there is even such a proposal on the table.

As technology makes it easier for more people on the planet to freely express themselves there are plenty of panicky control-freaks who rise up on their hind legs, ready to quash that free expression. All this sort of smackdown does is make everyone else on the planet wonder what the Italian authorities have to hide and what they're so afraid will happen when topics are open for discussion on blogs and other internet sites. You would think that leaders would learn that, throughout history, book banning has only served to hasten the likelihood that those same books will long outlive any human ruler and will be held up as treasures snatched from the fire. I'm betting that these virtual attempts at free expression will travel the same route. (Tip of the Stetson to Boing Boing for the link.)

posted at: 10:54 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Fri, Oct 19 2007

This guy thinks he can dance—and he's right.

If you've had a long, hard week and you need a pick-me-up or you just want an excuse to smile, turn up your speakers and go watch Snowball dance.

posted at: 08:28 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Thu, Oct 18 2007

Full load

Locals are having a bit of a laugh about the perp in Salinas who ran from police and opted to hide in someone's clothes dryer and got stuck. I wonder how tempting it was for the officer who discovered the man to give him a few quick spins as punishment for leading them on a chase.

posted at: 08:24 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Unhappy kids, confused dog, red-eyed celebrity, rude-sounding rescuers, talking heads, double-talking lawyers...

I've only just begun hearing about the whole issue of Ellen DeGeneres "rehoming&qquot; the little dog she had gotten through Mutts and Moms. I turned on the TV and found video of Ms. DeGeneres crying and pleading with the folks at the rescue agency to let the children have the little dog again. Since then, I've heard and seen some wild remarks that ranged from stupidity to middle-ground to outright hostility.

One thing that raised my hackles a bit were several comments that Ms. DeGeneres was crying "crocodile tears" because she's an actress. Why assume that her behavior was anything but genuine? Just because someone makes a living acting and performing does not mean they have no right to display real emotion.

One cable news commentator was disgusted that this story got so much air time when there are so many serious issues in the world. But aren't the big issues in life often decided in small moments, as individuals make choices in their day-to-day lives? Why is this case less important than the hours this same cable channel devotes to Brittany Spears' antics in public or so many other stories?

Sadly, after several people started out trying to do the right thing, it looks as though it will come down to lawyers and courts, when some communication and understanding would have gone a long way toward solving things. Instead, the little dog has been uprooted once again, in the name of some iron-clad rule and all parties involved are upset, plus we're all being manipulated by the media to take sides. Little Iggy may be just a mutt, but may also turn out to show the best breeding of the lot of us in this lunacy.

posted at: 07:55 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Wed, Oct 17 2007

Owe big back taxes in California? Now we'll all know about you.

If you think to cheat big-time on your taxes in California, you could be publicly exposed. Allowing for a magin of error, or taking into account that some people/corporations on the list could be trying to take care of things at this moment, some of the delinquent amounts are still high attention-getters. I wonder if publishing such a list results in better success at collecting back taxes, particularly when one's name can be readily found on several sites of the internet. It certainly should make for interesting conversation the next time one of the individuals mentioned is confronted by colleagues, church friends or neighbors. Ouch.

posted at: 09:35 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Tue, Oct 16 2007

Self-dentristy in our future too?

I've printed off a copy of the story about some people in Great Britain being so desperate for dental work that they've been extracting their own teeth. I plan to pull the story out and wave it beneath the nose of the next person in America who whines to me about how far behind other countries we are with national health care. We have a lot of problems to solve, but if we think national health care is some sort of panacea we are kidding ourselves in the worst way.

posted at: 17:49 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Mon, Oct 15 2007

What you read was not what I typed

I must apologize for the quality of Friday's posting. I have no idea what happened, other than the fact that a final bit of cutting and pasting proved deadly to a few of my phrases. I often wonder if, in our technological age of easy font choice, spell-checking software and cut-and-paste revisioning, we march right past the best of what writing by hand has to offer.

My personal penmanship rivals that of any physician's prescription pad, so writing to you in longhand is probably not a practical option at this point. Someday I'll prove it by penning a handwritten post. All Hallow's Eve might be a good time.

posted at: 07:48 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Fri, Oct 12 2007

Knights Templar back in the news

Now that the Vatican is publishing those trial documents from the inquiry into the Knights Templar, will all the questions be answered about this mysterious group? Such a trial would concentrated directly on whatever wrongdoings were at issue. There might be glimpses into the more of Templars' lives, but I suspect that the documents will only add curiosity and speculation.

Certain folks now living consider themselves to be modern-day versions of Templars, though their organization's membership is not restricted to Catholics. As details emerge about the original Templars, I wonder if the OSMTH will choose to distance themselves from their forebearers or stand by their affiliation as they cite the original group's ideal of service?

posted at: 15:46 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Thu, Oct 11 2007

September warm? No surprise in California

I never even thought about a warm September negatively affecting retail sales. But I suppose it makes sense to the people who live in parts of the U.S. that have four distinct seasons and who experience a wide swing of temperatures. It's hard to go shopping for knit scarves and wool coats when it suddenly feels more like a day to run around in shorts and flip-flops.

Actually, those of us in California have a lot of traditional department store habits thrust upon us in order to appease customers in colder regions of the country. The JC Penney winter catalog comes out in the summer and tries to tempt us with parkas and toasty turtlenecks. Those make sense if you plan to go skiing in the high country, but for most of us, such garments end up being overkill except for one or two days a year. It's easier for us to dress in layers.

I've learned to buy fans at odd times in order to have them ready for those mild winter days we're apt to have between nippy spells with cold rain. Some local merchants understand the whole California climate thing and do prepare for it with extras. Others still insist on putting the table umbrellas and grills on closeout at the end of August and they miss out on all those folks who would run out and buy a new grill so they could bask in the thought of grilling turkey in late November for all the relatives visiting from back East. If smart retailers study into this someday, they'll find there's a big California market for fans in January and fireplaces in May. It all makes sense if you live in a Mediterranean-style climate.

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

Wed, Oct 10 2007

Dancing toward the gate: A metaphor for excluding or including?

While reading about the upcoming California Indian Conference I was hooked by a particular mention of the Pentecostal church. That denomination, along with other factors, was mentioned as one of the reasons for the dwindling of the traditional dance presentations that were given by Bokeya Pomo Indians. I don't know enough about the history of either the Pentecostal movement or the Bokeya Pomo Indians to know why this might be true. I grew up decades ago in rural Missouri, where the local Pentecostal churches frowned upon dance, though I think they were talking about couples embracing and dancing together. Their own worship services were not free from body movements, because those who rose up to praise "in the Spirit" were often apt to use body movement to accompany ecastatic language. Nowadays, some Pentecostal congregations participate in praise dancing as a regular part of worship, as do other Christian denominations.

I don't know if this type of dance has replaced the Bokeya Pomo Indians traditional dances, or if the article meant to say something else. But I found the statement interesting. When Christian believers work to convert others to their beliefs, they often throw the baby out with the bath water when it comes to encouraging new believers to shed their old skin. It seems to me that we can find ways to preserve some of these arts, not to glorify what we presume to be pagan, but to acknowledge the dignity of certain rituals in their attempts to reach out to God in whatever form they were first initiated. Even within the Christian realm of rituals there are countless forms of variation. Take, for example, Communion. In Roman Catholic circles the symbols for Christ's body and blood are thought to change into the real thing. But even within the body of Roman Catholic believers there have been variations and changes to this whole aspect of worship. And while some Christian denominations use fermented wine as a symbol, others use the unfermented juice. Some bypass this particular issue and use only wafers. My particular favorite denomination, The Seventh-day Adventists, practice foot-washing as a preface to the communion service, noting Christ's example of service and humility.

Religion and culture are both dynamic. Both challenge our intellect and our sensory need for companionship with someone smarter and stronger than we are. While some traditions change slowly, others persist. And we can use these slow-changing traditions and beliefs to better understand one another as generations come and go.

If you've ever studied creation stories from various cultures you'll find many elements that seem to be plucked right from the Book of Genesis. Oral traditions and slow modes of travel meant that many of these stories probably did have their roots in that very telling, but time and personal interpretation have molded them into something the listening group could understand and identify with.

Denying a person's anthropological roots and ethnic background seems to me to be a failing among those of us who tend to think it's our job to make sure that folks get in at that "narrow way". We have a tendency to act like bouncers at the entrance to a private club, warning those we deem to be too pagan or worldly that they'll ruin their chances, while that isn't our job at all. We should be enticing, by the way we live our own lives, as many as possible to rush to the gate, whatever their story is to tell. And if they dance a dance along the way, we should be happy about their gift and their talent toward storytelling and praise. We should be strong enough to listen to their story and watch their dance and see the possibilities behind it all. Who knows? They may even be one dance step ahead of us on that journey through the gate.

posted at: 09:59 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Tue, Oct 09 2007

Panga's back home

I was too busy to put together a proper blog entry earlier today. I hope to appease readers by pointing to a local animal story with a happy ending. Part of the story's end may explain how the wayward tortoise ended up leaving home in the first place. If Panga turns out to be a male, instead of the female the Kirkseys thought they owned, perhaps Panga was simply out looking for a little female companionship.

posted at: 21:19 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Mon, Oct 08 2007

Hackers pervert California site content with porn ads

I didn't try to go to any official state of California web sites last week. If I had, I might have encountered a disruption in service. Someone had hacked into some sites and redirected visitors to porn ads. I'm always hearing how much money the sex industry makes for porn peddlers. I can't help but wonder how much the sex industry costs all of us, financially and otherwise. If these sleazy merchants are going to insist on making their ads so readily available, the least they can do is keep their material away from sites that are often visited by children. This is one instance where I'd be happy to know my tax dollars are at work, going after these thieving hackers with full force. If they're making so much money with their porn, why don't they keep it in their own backyard and away from taxpayer sites?

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

Fri, Oct 05 2007

Underwire bra halts security line

I'll be the first to admit that underwire bras may be one of the meanest inventions anyone ever came up with. On the other hand, it's underwear, folks. If metal detectors can't tell underwear from weapons, it's time to upgrade the detectors. Even if this woman was given options, as some articles indicate, there should be a private place within a few steps of the metal detector for such things to be taken care of. Most of us do not go into federal court buildings for fun. The burden should be upon court employees to make certain that all visitors are treated with respect and courtesy, unless they are making trouble to begin with. If this lady become irate ony after she was treated this way, who can blame her?

Somewhere in all this post-September 11 reaction, we need to find a way to let people conduct their affairs with dignity. Otherwise, we might as well throw up our hands and admit that the terrorists have done a really good job of conquering freedom in America.

posted at: 07:13 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Thu, Oct 04 2007

Chocolate and other fantasy gifts

If you're into blatant commercialism of the holidays, you'll want to know about the new Neiman Marcus Christmas Catalog. If you don't have a hard copy of the catalog you can go to the Neiman Marcus site and click on the link to the online version. (Disable the old popup stopper first.)

I didn't really care for the look of most of the jewelry. I'd rather have the 42-inch crub chain station necklace off their regular site. As for the His-and_Hers Double Portrait in Chocolate, I must say I prefer chocolate I can eat. I recently had some strawberries dipped in E. Guittard chocolate and they were extremely satisfying. And to think, that creamy decadent, dipping stuff came to California all because of the Gold Rush.

posted at: 13:18 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Wed, Oct 03 2007

Purple good news

I haven't read the study itself, but it sounds as though a glass of Concord Grape Juice may be even better for your arteries than a glass of red wine. Here's a link to an abstract of the study. Welch's is having tons of fun bragging about its lovely purple product. And this is great news for anyone who wants the heart-healthy benefits of the grape without any of the adverse effects that the alcohol in wine might bring.

posted at: 09:22 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Tue, Oct 02 2007

Thomas (still) vs. Hill

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has a new book. I haven't read it, but I keep seeing reviews of it that refer to Justice Thomas being angry and sounding as though he's trying to settle an old score. I suppose books are good for that sort of thing, but one hopes a Supreme Court Justice will rise above old scores and become one of those respected and admired wise people who put the whole of life into perspective. Not very many people ever sit where Justice Thomas now sits. It seems to me that he would be especially thankful and humble for his good fortune, now that he has weathered any rough patches he may have encountered along the way. Bitterness in the young is understandable as they lack the life experience with which to put things into context. Bitterness in one's older years is rather sad, a murky cup of dregs warmed over and sipped with indulgent pleasure when one could just as well choose to set it aside and focus instead on the marvel of one's fascinating journey through life.

Professor Anita Hill wrote an answering Op-Ed piece for the New York Times. I admire her for her work and dedication to students. While Justice Thomas sits and helps interpret our Constitution, Professor Hill meets with the young minds who will help shape tomorrow's world as they leave school and begin their careers. Both jobs are admirable. Justice Thomas might appear to be the one with the more venerable position in terms of historical records. But Professor Hill, though she may not be listed in the same records, has not been sidelined. Think of all the young people who will go into the working world having been exposed to her dignity and bravery. I hope, when she is older, she will be joyful and know that she did not speak up in vain all those years ago.

posted at: 08:37 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Mon, Oct 01 2007

Pajaro Valley school officials need to behave like adults

Maybe it's a good sign that area Pajaro Valley school officials are unhappy with the grand jury's report. Education takes a huge bite out of the state's budget. It seems appropriate that we have quite a few watchdog groups, including the grand jury, to investigate how that money is spent.

There seemed to be some criticism that the grand jury gave too much weight to newspaper articles in its research. If that resulted in a report that made school officials unhappy, it should be a signal to them that they are preceived in a negative light by reporters.

In any event, school officials should thank the grand jury for collecting and researching such things, digest the data in a grown-up manner, and then move on to use the information to improve education. Whining about slander only serves to make them look churlish and uncooperative, which is a childish reaction when one is paid with taxpayer money.

posted at: 09:58 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

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Stealin' copy is as bad as horse-thievin'
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