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

Thu, Jul 31 2008

Security is more about people than checking badges, monitoring access and restrictive passwords.

Being married to a man who has worked in several technology and engineering jobs in the last few decades has taught me that most companies spend a lot of time monitoring how much work employees do as opposed to how much security employees provide. There are exceptions, of course. But I have noticed how easy it is to interact with folks who work in high-tech positions. Many are eager to share their knowledge and many work such long hours that they welcome a chance to chat. They also tend to assume that the spouse of an engineer has a lot of understanding about high-tech topics and already knows all about the politics of a company. For most positions this would present little security risk. But if you work in certain industries you could be inadvertently be speaking to a non-technically proficient person while others with ill motives are hanging on every word.

And it isn't always about technology. When there is a high concentration of workplaces in a given neighborhood, all one would have to do is go to lunch at one of a few cafes and keep one's ears open to know a lot about office politics. It's very common for people to get together with colleagues (or former colleagues from other nearby workplaces) and have a gripe session over their sandwiches. I've always thought that the high-tech sector is a lot like Hollywood when it comes to the tendency to work with the same people again and again. That boss you pick apart at lunch today could be the boss you have to face again at another company a few years down the road. Everybody knows somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody. This can work for or against a worker in any job, but particularly in Hollywood and in Silicon Valley (or similar high-tech neighborhoods), where jobs are often tied to one's social and former work connections.

Johnny Long refers to a lot of this type of behavior in his book, No Tech Hacking: A Guide to Social Engineering, Dumpster Diving, and Shoulder Surfing . I noted that reviewers at Amazon pointed out sections of the book that seem to contradict other sections and put the reader at a loss as to what to actually do in certain situations. But isn't that the point of such discussions? While companies and individual workers are busy trying to cover one security issue, two or three other issues are creeping up on them in the most unexpected places.

posted at: 08:19 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Wed, Jul 30 2008

A vote for offshore drilling may be a vote against our planet's future

I guess I'm in the minority when it comes to opinions on drilling for oil off U.S. shores. Maybe it's because I live in a state with a coastline that would be heavily impacted. I've always loved California for its natural beauty and I am very concerned about the environmental and aesthetic impact on our state.

On the other hand, if it really will take many years for drilling to become a reality and return real oil, maybe it won't be so bad. At any rate, it makes me glad that I didn't have children who would have to live with oil spills and other coastal disasters that might come because of drilling off our shores.

I can understand how President Bush wants to see Congress vote to open up the coastline to drilling during an election year. It makes perfect political sense. But soon he will leave the White House and others will have to deal with this issue. And it's his grandchildren and great grandchildren who will live in future years to see what this brings. I wonder if they'll think that we were a selfish generation who were bad stewards of this planet?

posted at: 18:47 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Tue, Jul 29 2008

Flight for the flightless?

The day got away from me with inside duties, a bit of yard work and a friend having a medical scan. I do have a smile for you. Please go watch Flying Lessons on Flixxy.com and enjoy yourself.

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

Mon, Jul 28 2008

Summer weekend fun in Santa Cruz County

Yesterday morning we spent some time at the Antiques Street Faire in Moss Landing. There was a good crowd, in spite of the heavy marine layer and misty conditions. In addition to the outside booths, several of the antique stores opened early to let folks in for a browse. We saw everything from furniture to garden sculptures to old kitchen implements and vintage postcards. We didn't make it to the Gilroy Garlic Festival, which was also held this past weekend and where band Sha-Boom performed its farewell concert. One of these years we'll make it to that event, but I have to admit that I deal with a blanket of fog and a cool mist better than I can bear the heat and intense sun that come to Gilroy on most summer days.

Runners had a great weekend with the annual Wharf to Wharf Race. And next weekend the Monterey Bay Strawberry Festival returns to Ramsey Park, with a brand new festival coordinator and lots of familiar Watsonville strawberries.

posted at: 08:17 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Fri, Jul 25 2008

Wite Out abuse

I just bought some Bic Wite Out Correction Tape. Wite Out has traditionally been in liquid form, but I have to admit I never thought about someone using the fluid as an alcohol chaser. And it's flammable? It's a good thing the fellow didn't decide to follow up his arrest with a cigarette.

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

Wed, Jul 23 2008

How to ask for help at Disneyland

I listened to a heartwarming story this morning, given by a mom I met when she was still a young teen and her dad was our pastor at another church in California. If you have a few minutes and you want your inspiration for the day, take time to hear about how Sheri's young daughter was lost and found at The Happiest Place on Earth.

posted at: 11:50 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Tue, Jul 22 2008

Where's the real, raw onion (and the Angus Burger)?

I rarely eat anything from Burger King. Last night we were exhausted after working and running errands and we decided to go get an Angus Burger, only to be told that Burger King no longer carries that product. Instead, we were encouraged to get a Steakhouse Burger glopped with cheese and bacon and some things poking out that were definitely not flavorful raw onion. There are apparently also versions with Ranch dressing or mayonnaise, the last of which makes me shudder when it's combined with a burger of any kind.

I hear rumors that what Burger King hoped to attract with the Steakhouse Burger were males, aged 18-34. On our trip through the drive-through last night, I didn't look around to see how many of those males were buying Steak Burgers. I wonder what Burger King executives think happen once a male turns 35 or when a customer is 55 and female? Do we not matter? I'd venture to say that we have as much, if not more, disposable income than a 34-year-old male. But, perhaps not. If they, in their wisdom, have deemed that our tastes are not worthy of their menu board, I'll concede. It's back to Taco Bell for me. I know what Taco Bell has, and if they don't currently have it, they will combine ingredients and make it for me anyway.

I hope someone tells the folks at Burger King headquarters that it isn't always about how fast the food flies out the window. It's also about favorite choices and customer service. If a company opts to keep whipping up a frenzy with new menu selections in order to draw in a whole new crowd, they also risk losing a portion of the old crowd. Youth is fickle, but older customers have memories like elephants and we know what we like. There are a lot of us around, but many will say nothing like what I'm saying here. They'll simply vote with their pocketbooks and go away.

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

Mon, Jul 21 2008

Could IUDs and birth control pills ultimately be defined as abortion tools?

I've been reading a rash of articles this morning on some draft proposal from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that supposedly would result in limiting contraceptive choices by narrowing the definition of what termination of pregnancy is. It sounds as though the proposal might end up inadvertently (or perhaps, purposely) denying IUDs and birth control pills to women, since these prevent implantation of an already fertilized egg.

There are so many rumors flying around that I can't quite tell at this point just how legitimate this news is. I rarely comment on contraceptive issues because they hit home so hard for most people that I know I will not change others' minds on these topics. But I do hope everyone gets out there and gets an education on what is going on with this issue.

posted at: 12:39 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Squeeze-backs cheat viewers

I would like to go on record as being completely opposed to the practice of squeezing end credits of a film or TV show being broadcast over network or cable channels. I like to read the credits, whether I've paid for a movie ticket or whether I've paid for my cable access for the month. I can't count how many times I've waited at the end of a film broadcast to read names and then been angered by the channel or network shoving the end credits to one side and making them so tiny that it's impossible to glean anything at all from them. If they're going to insist on doing this, they might as well stop showing them at all.

I really dislike like the whole practice of squeeze-backs. I want to know who did the behind-the-scenes work and I want to read the song credits and other tidbits at the end. This work is just as interesting and important as the work of directors and actors. If I'm in the minority in my preferences, so be it. But I wanted to speak my piece.

posted at: 08:09 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Thu, Jul 17 2008

Dolls and little girls

The whole Mattel Inc. vs. MGA case concerning the Bratz dolls is interesting. I recall being given baby dolls as a little girl and then I figured out how much work that sort of fake baby could be with diapers and all the undershirts and other items one drags around if one wants to play Mommy. I quickly moved toward the fun of Barbie and her fashions. We didn't have Bratz dolls available to us at that time, though Skipper and Betsy McCall were around as dolls for the younger set.

The whole baby doll wardrobe and its world of fake milk and dirty diapers was not so much play to me as a hint at the work grown-ups did. I can't say I'm really in love with the image of Bratz dolls, but long as they don't drag around their own version of babies, I suppose they are a viable alternative to the unrealistic proportions of a Barbie doll.

posted at: 21:41 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Wed, Jul 16 2008

Local Hawaiian music station back on air

It's nice to know that our little local Hawaiian music station is back on the air. The station has become quite popular since going on the air back in 2004. The electricity was shut off during the fire, but the station is once again playing old Hawaiian tunes at FM104.7 (It's a low power station, so you might not hear much unless you live in the local area.)

I'm told that the llama shown being rescued on this video belongs to the Kost family, who run the station. They were out of town at the time of the fire, but rescuers saved all their pets. In spite of the losses that day, we continue to hear stories of caring neighbors, brave rescuers and heroic firefighters who saved lives and property during the Trabing fire on June 20.

posted at: 07:54 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Tue, Jul 15 2008

Imaginary wealth?

With people like Thomas Jenkins testifying before Congress, we should worry. "Imaginary wealth" is most of what got us into this economic madness in the first place.

posted at: 09:54 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Thu, Jul 10 2008

It's a free country, but...

I suppose people like to get busy promoting their causes now and then, but I dislike having things shoved down my throat. And if white supremacists put fliers on car windshields, how did they know they were putting the fliers on car windshields that belong only to white people? If they've been watching the neighborhood to see exactly who lives there, it begins to sound a bit creepier than just flier distribution sounds. It's hard to believe folks have nothing better to do than to stalk a neighborhood in order to promote their pet cause. All they probably did was to make a lot of nervous residents in those neighborhoods they targeted, even if their distribution was not based on profiling those residents. I fail to see how the young men think that this behavior will gain them friends, particularly when they slip in and slip out, like thieves in the darkness. In the end, these sorts of actions never seem to hold up to reason and logic anyway, so I hope the whole matter will be soon forgotten

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

Wed, Jul 09 2008

Burglar cleans up (too)

I just read that one home in Palo Alto, California has been hit by one or more burglars four times in the last three weeks. The intruder also seems to have cleaned up the place on at least one occasion.

I'm afraid I don't live in a posh neighborhood with lots of goodies to steal, but if I give them my address and promise to leave an old toaster and a bit of a tip, do you think they'll come and do up the dishes and vacuum a bit?

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

Engadget ads

Am I the only one who is having trouble loading articles from Engadget? It seems that their ads don't load properly and my browser just hangs, so I'm not getting to read their material.

Actually, this is not a problem exclusive to the Engadget site. I often go to sites and find that their ads "break" the rest of their content when loading a full page of material. I'm not against having ads on sites at all. I do it with some of my own pages. But when ads take so long to load that they interfere with the rest of your content, it might be a good time to take another look at the underlying code.

posted at: 09:23 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Tue, Jul 08 2008

Here we go again with heat

I hope the current heat wave feeds no fires, and my heart goes out to those fighting blazes in the already hot temperatures. We in the coastal areas will fare far better than those located inland. Modesto temperatures are forecast to rise to the 110 degree mark tomorrow and Thursday.

posted at: 08:55 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Mon, Jul 07 2008

Older, mostly Caucasian consumers blend with younger, more ethnically diverse consumers

Advertising Age tells us that the consumer population in American is getting older and more diverse in terms of race and ethnicity. It's going to be an interesting time for businesses who want to appeal to both Baby Boomers and the younger crowd. Add to that the increasing demand for "green" products and services and you have a royal challenge for businesses who want to stay solvent in the next decade or two. Something as simple as carrot consumption changes when data is compared among, ethnic, racial and economic groups.

posted at: 12:05 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Fri, Jul 04 2008

On Independence Day, 2008

Well, we have many fires burning in The Golden State today, and many fireworks shows have been cancelled due to the high danger of new fires, but the celebration of American goes on with parades, picnics, cookouts and other fun. I'd like to wish each of you a Happy 4th of July. A special high-five and a tip of the old Stetson hat goes to those in military service, their families, and to the personnel and families of those working in law enforcement and in fire and rescue. These folks put their lives on the line every day so that the rest of us can enjoy our country's bounty even more. Independence Day is not only about independence, but about the dependence we have on one another as we share this great country's burdens and riches.

posted at: 10:40 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Wed, Jul 02 2008

A rather limp blog entry

This was a trying day, a tiring day. It began early and is not yet finished. I often think of the promise of Heaven, where a person will be as awake and energetic twelve hours into the day as they were at the day's beginning. If this life is a glimpse into that time, it's good to think that tonight's fatigue reminds me just how magnificent lack of fatigue will be.

posted at: 21:02 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Tue, Jul 01 2008

Seven at once?

Seven Pittsburgh area weekly newspapers will cease publication within the next week. That's a lot of papers to lose at once, even if they're only regional variations of the main paper. The local Pennysaver will be expanded, which is nice, I suppose. I'm rather alarmed at the recent tendency for local papers to print less local news and more national news. It's making them all too much alike. But now it seems that more local papers are going away altogether. I read that a couple of newspapers in the state of Illinois have given up on Monday editions. Is this a trend? Can Tuesday and Wednesday be far behind?

posted at: 12:26 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

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