Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
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Mon, Dec 24 2007

A dromedary for Christmas

Where do all those nativity scene animals go when they're not playing their parts at the local church or other venue? Many live with farmers the rest of the year.

We live in a neighborhood of sized-alike lots and intermittent sidewalks. But not far up the road on Buenva Vista there are crops growing and properties large enough for horses and cattle. Yesterday we had gone out to do some holiday-related errands and I noticed something strange among the usual herd of horses in one of the fenced, hilltop grazing areas. The animal was similar in color to some of the horses, but it had a broader-shaped head and a decided hump on its back. A double-take later, I realized it was a camel. Now, you must understand that I'm not known for having great eyesight, so I think my spouse thought I was just hallucinating on a sunny December 23rd day. But as he slowed for the stop sign at the bottom of the hill he managed to take a quick look back and he saw the camel with his own eyes. When we returned from our errands a few hours later the camel was lying down amidst the horses. I don't know if he (or she) is there for the holidays or is going to be a permanent resident, but the whole scene pumped a lovely dose of Middle Eastern authenticity into our California Christmas.

I love animals and so I've always loved the idea that the baby Jesus probably had a few domesticated animals among his first friends when He came to be with us. These gently, playful beings have a way of softening our hearts and giving us lessons in a type of basic trust that is sometimes on more solid ground than that with other humans. And animals help to teach us that willing service can be the ultimate gift.

I'll be busy with other tasks the rest of this week, so the blog will be quiet for a few days. May you and yours enjoy all the best this season has to offer. And don't be surprised if you spot an unexpected camel or two. After all, 'tis the season.

posted at: 06:51 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Fri, Dec 21 2007

How to make rich eggnog

wikiHow has a guide on making eggnog. For those of us who don't pour that much booze into things and for those of us who yearn for an eggnog that is thick and rich instead of watery and stinging with bourbon, and for those of us who pressed for time during this holiday season, here's a tip. Get the very best brand of eggnog in the carton that you can find. Put it in a blender with scoops of the best French Vanilla ice cream you can find. Blend to desired texture. You can certainly still add alcohol or grated nutmeg or whatever else you like, but plan on the this eggnog being thick and rich and coating the glass (and your insides) like a true holiday milkshake. We only drink this concotion once a year so a feeling of indulgence is key to its enjoyment. Whip up a glass of this for Santa if you like. He'll be glad you did.

posted at: 12:22 | category: /Food | link to this entry

Simple, inexpensive light tent

If need good photos for things you sell on Ebay or if you just want to document a collection of items that you own, check out a set of instructions for a really useful D.I.Y. Light Tent.

I'm already thinking about this as something one could modify for miniature displays. Due to time constraints, I didn't get the Christmas village put out on display this year, but I've thought about showcasing just one or two of the buildings or creating a small scene. While a shadowbox version is often used for miniature scenes, a lighted box (or tent) would show off a miniature's details even better.

posted at: 11:22 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Thu, Dec 20 2007

Would celebrity parents make publishers a lot of money writing books on parenting? Probably.

This is one of very few posts you will ever read here that refers to Britney Spears. The news that Ms. Spears' younger sister, Jamie Lynne, is about to become a teen mom was not what surprised me. What surprised me was that Lynn Spears, mother to both Britney and Jamie Lynn, had been planning to put out a book on parenting.

The book's release has apparently been put on hold, which is also not much of a surprise. I can't imagine why anyone would want such a book as a parenting guide, though they might enjoy reading it for sheer voyeuristic purposes. My spouse suggested that the publisher should have gone ahead with the original release plans and have touted the book as one of those stories that could serve as a bad example. The book might prevent similar family train wrecks in other homes across the planet if parents avoided the book's peculiar brand of insight with the same ferver they might use to avoid an onslaught of hemorrhagic fever.

I don't know any of the folks in that family personally and I wish them no harm. I do know that celebrity status does not give automatic entry into the world of common sense and expertise in raising children. There are a lot of relatively unknown parents out there who could write a superb book on parenting. Let's see some publishers who have the courage to look at selling real, successful parenting skills instead of just capitalizing on the fame and notoriety of a celebrity family.

posted at: 07:30 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Wed, Dec 19 2007

Top Ten Stupid (Male) Criminals

Neatorama has presented us with its list of Top Ten Stupid Criminals of 2007. Of course, there's still more than a week left for those who might covet a place among the winners. For some reason all the top picks seem to be male suspects. Are women who commit crimes considered smarter than men who commit crimes? Or do women simply choose more subtle crimes that attract less public ridicule? Perhap this is a statistical phenomenon reflected in the fact that there are more male criminals on record at almost any given time. Or is it all really what one friend used to call a "Bubba complex", in which a certain portion of the male population does everything in a big way, whether it's playing wild air guitar all alone for the fun of it or choosing to highjack a truck crane parked on the rim of an active volcano? I have no real answer. But I do wonder about these things.

posted at: 07:05 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Tue, Dec 18 2007

More homes on market but prices keep going up?

At first I couldn't figure out how the median home price was still rising in Santa Cruz County while home sales are slower. But it does make sense that when most of the homes sold are in the higher-priced range that it will drive up the statistics. And one must remember that it doesn't really matter what an owner asks for a home. It's what it actually sells for that makes the real numbers.

posted at: 09:06 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Mon, Dec 17 2007

Hope for individuals amongst the crowd

The weekend fundraising by the Ron Paul campaign shows that people are ready to put up their money when they think they see real change on the horizon. What I want to know now is how the big business backers will react to this grass-roots kind of surge when it comes to Ron Paul's Libertarian leanings. Getting government out of businesses is actually the best thing in the long run, but big business has become so dependent on pork that I can't help but think that there might be some deep-seated resistance to a change in the kind of policies that have developed over the last few decades. Government handouts (or bailouts) and government regulation seem to go hand-in-hand. Learning to live with less of both those things may be a real challenge for those accustomed to the idea of government having a say in so much of what was once just transactions between negotiating parties.

As an aside, late-night talk show host David Letterman is working on some negotiations of his own with writers and that the union may be looking to do more of the same with other producers. I don't know what it means for the whole union in general, but I have to say that I find it refreshing that union members seem to be taking more of an active role in their organization, instead of just relying on union executives to take care of them. Maybe this is another signal that we're moving into a new era for industry in the U.S.

While President Bush's approval ratings have gone down recently, it may be that Americans have been quietly gathering their wits about them. An honest look at the difference between the way things are and the way we'd like them to be is often the best time for us to stand up as individuals and make a difference instead of expecting politicians, union executives, big business or any other powerful group to take care of us.

posted at: 08:31 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Fri, Dec 14 2007

The wisest gift of the season

This has been one of those weeks when I'm hearing about too many people sick or having surgery. I've had to put down the decorations and pick up the note cards to let them know I'm thinking of them. It's never fun to be ill, but it seems especially difficult at holiday time. And the rest of us sometimes get caught up in the activity and whirlwind of shopping and decorating and socializing while some folks are barely able to make it through the day. If you know someone who is having a tough time this season I hope you find a way to let them know you're there for them. The Wise Men may have brought physical gifts to Jesus, but they also brought their hearts. There is no better gift of the season than caring for others. And the spiritual return on such an investment is absolutely priceless.

posted at: 08:32 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Thu, Dec 13 2007

A spell of silliness

Did you ever wake up in a silly mood and find it difficult to concentrate on anything serious? That would be me today. Instead of fighting it I've decided to spread it like a virus. I attempted to put a silly picture here, but it broke my blog style. So, please go check out the link of the spelling kitty. And smile. Or else.

posted at: 07:07 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Wed, Dec 12 2007

Now he tells us?

If Alan Greenspan felt that the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis was an accident waiting to happen, I wonder why he didn't loudly warn us all during his nearly twenty-year stint as Federal Reserve Chairman?

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

Tue, Dec 11 2007

Reindeer cows

The magic of the season is upon us. I'd heard once before that Santa's reindeer were probably female. One recent article confirms this. I wonder if they kid Santa about never stopping to ask for directions...

posted at: 11:43 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Mon, Dec 10 2007

Fewer Christmas parties? Or just more parties later?

I suppose it isn't unexpected news that companies have cut back on holiday bonuses and parties this year. But I know of at least one or two companies that have simply postponed their party until after the holiday crunch. Some companies have become sensitive to the notion that not everyone celebrates the religious holiday of Christmas and have opted to have a party that shows appreciation for employees in general. I doubt that the statistics in the article reflect this sort of corporate thinking.

posted at: 19:10 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Fri, Dec 07 2007

Judge gives temporary favorable ruling to Friends of Buena Vista advocates

Those of us in favor of moving with extreme caution when it comes to development in the Buena Vista area got some good news this week. To be truthful, it has stayed "stuck in our craws" that many of the current area residents who would be most impacted by the city's proposed development were never allowed to vote on Measure U, which propelled their annexation plans. That created bad blood from the very beginning and the situation has only become more tense with time.

posted at: 09:40 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Thu, Dec 06 2007

Medicare fraud makes criminals of some patients, leaves others without care

I'm not on Medicare, but I know plenty of folks who use it. It's disturbing to read about the scams and fraud going on in the system. Some of the specific incidences involove infusion therapy for HIV patients and Scooter Store claims. Needy patients are often recruited into the fraudulent activities, even if it means they don't get the real treatment they need.

Much of the trouble seems to come from Florida, particularly South Florida, and has apparently become a favored white collar form of crime for former drug runners. It's pretty amazing when criminals abandon the illegal stuff in favor of making more money through legitimate drugs and services. In the meantime, I watch my older friends struggle to get this or that procedure or medication approved by Medicare while they sweat over their very limited household budgets to figure out how to make ends meet. I know the system didn't become corrupt overnight. But something has gone badly wrong when this much corruption happens on a daily basis. I'm not sure what we'll do to fix it now. Maybe things will have to get a lot worse before they get better.

posted at: 06:52 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Wed, Dec 05 2007

Informal like everyone else?

The advice to be less formal in one's writing is a good point, but I disagree that a certain amount of formal writing has no place in new media. Trying too much to sound casual and conversational could backfire if all you do is end up losing your own voice and sounding like everyone else. It's important to be true to your own way of storytelling. Listen to your heart and respect your audience rather than to try to fit in with the popular vernacular of the day. Yes, I said "vernacular". If that's too college for you then you may be reading the wrong blog.

posted at: 18:26 | category: | link to this entry

Tue, Dec 04 2007

Holiday Lights

Today I'm busy at work on the Christmas Lights list, which includes both large commercial displays and residential displays. It takes awhile to verify the listings, so I've marked the updated ones with a red asterisk. If you've seen great Christmas lights in your neighborhood, do let me know them and I'll happily add them to the list.

posted at: 09:52 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Mon, Dec 03 2007

The housing bailout rewards greed and irresponsibility

I have to admit that I agree with many of the comments regarding Michelle Malkin's post on the subprime adjustable rate mortgage bailout. I don't want to see anyone just lose their home, but for the folks who bought more house than they could actually afford on the greedy hope that housing prices would continue to skyrocket, it's tough to watch them just get a handout. Many of us went without buying a home for many years, buying only once we could scrape together a down payment and could qualify for a fixed rate mortgage. I've heard several homeowners who did the responsible thing ask, "Why shouldn't I get a break on my mortgage payment? I've never missed a payment and have done the right thing and I get no help whatsoever?" I agree.

To tell the truth, I'm having a tough battle with resentment today, as the politicians rush in to reward bad behavior and just ignore the rest of us who have sacrificed other purchases and maintained a tight budget in order to remain honest and faithful in paying for our homes. Where's our reward for doing the right thing?

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

We might not exactly be the next Katrina, but we could be headed for a disaster

I don't think most people realize how dependent Americans are on the major farming regions of California. When you get into a room with farmers here and you listen to their conversations, the talk inevitably works its way around to the matter of water and what to do about the growing fragility of the water supply in our state. If large portions of our state's farmlands were compromised by flooding, salt water intrusion or drought it could affect the food supply all over the U.S. You can read a bit more about the dilemnas facing Californians (and you hungry consumers in other states) at California Water Crisis. I just hope we can resolve at least some of the issues before anything major affects our farmers and their crops.

posted at: 06:36 | 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!