Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
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Fri, Jul 31 2009

How to win at writing (and just about anything else)

Part of being a writer is setting aside the day's little (and big) annoyances, interruptions and inconveniences in order to focus on ideas and convey them to others in a reasonable manner. Being a professional is probably twenty percent stubborness in the face of adversity and opposing forces. The other eighty percent is mental focus, which generally sifts down to stubborness in the face of adversity and opposing forces.

posted at: 12:13 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Thu, Jul 30 2009

Step away from the keyboard, lady

I've done something strange to a muscle in my back near the shoulder blade area. It isn't anything major in the way of injury, but it's nagging me in spasm mode, and I've been using chairs I don't usually use today. Therefore, I intend to get away desks with keyboards and relax a bit with a heating pad for the offending muscle. I'll try to be a bit more interesting on the morrow. I can afford to pamper myself, because I've just met the deadline for the August magazine. (See previous post.)

posted at: 18:06 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry



Wed, Jul 29 2009

August 2009 Deb's Monthly Review

The August 2009 edition of Deb's Monthly Review is now online. Grab a beverage and plot your strategy as you seek out lawn mower races, watermelon seed spitting contests, talent contests, Civil War encampments and munchies that range from chicken kabobs and nachos to cotton candy and deep-fried Oreos.

posted at: 21:17 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry



Tue, Jul 28 2009

Ocean as grace

After a morning of work I was very politely kidnapped by some great friends and spent time enjoying our beautiful Central California Coast in the Monterey area. Many find comfort in still pools of water, but the constantly changing surf of the ocean has always meant more to me. Its movements remind me that every moment we have is fleeting and precious. The surf rushing in and out on the shore is also a reminder that our lives can be washed clean of the past at any given moment. We don't have to wait even one day to begin anew. Life is brand new every second.

posted at: 22:44 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry



Fri, Jul 24 2009

CT scans

If you've ever had a CT scan, then you're aware that it is a relatively minimally invasive procedure, as these things go. The only poke is an intravenous site, and that's done only if you're test is being done with the contrast solution. The preparation can be a nuisance if you're required to drink the barium solution, because it causes some of us to respond with diarrhea. For those of you who may be having a scan soon, let me walk you through my recent comedy of errors.

Yesterday I was scheduled for an early morning scan, so I began drinking my pina colada flavored barium at bedtime. All went fairly well until my spouse and I arrived at the medical center. I know from prior visits that it's not a good idea for me to wait in the outer waiting area, so I asked to be buzzed through the doors into the waiting area next to a restroom. I was presented with a form to fill out and two more cups of barium to drink. While I was balancing all these items I managed to spill most of one cup of the liquid down my pants leg and onto the form I had just filled out. My spouse and I raided the towel shelf and cleaned up what we could and asked for new barium and a new form. Eventually the barium was doing its trick with my intestines and I made a rather rapid move toward the bathroom, not realizing that the floor was damp just outside the door. I did some maneuvers that kept me from falling down and that would have had So You Think You Can Dance fans giving me a standing ovation. I do believe my spouse grew a few new gray hairs, but he kept his outward composure.

The scan itself was fairly uneventful. It took only two different people to get a vein willing to accept the contrast solution. It's common for my fitful veins to go through three or four people before one vein will cooperate. (I'm just a tough case in that department.) My only task after that was to lie still and hold my breath for a few seconds a couple of different times. For those of you facing such a scan, if you happen to be claustrophobic, the machine is great. It's a bit like a large doughnut, covereing only a small portion of your body. And it doesn't clank and carry on the way an MRI machine does. So if there's a CT scan in your near future, take it from a fraidy cat like me. You'll do very well, as long as you keep a grip on your last cup or two of barium and as long as you make any trips to the rest room in safe strides. Oh, and bring an extra set of clothes with you when you go for the test. Whether it's a case of severe diarrhea or messy barium spills, it's worth the piece of mind to be ready for a wardrobe change before you head back out to face the world again.

posted at: 10:25 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry



Wed, Jul 22 2009

ADD and me. And you.

Some days I feel almost as though I have ADD. I've never been diagnosed with ADD, but some days there are so many things on the to-do list that I end up giving a little attention to a lot of things, rather than giving a lot of attention to a few things. I rattled off a list of current projects to someone a few weeks ago and watched their eyes widen. They told me that they'd never be able to handle that many things at once and that they were a one-thing-at-a-time kind of person. While this sounds plausible, I caught them about three minutes later talking, planning a trip, eating and watching a man cross a parking lot, all at the same time. I didn't point it out to them because I knew they would have denied it, but they were definitely multi-tasking. It's just that they were doing it quietly and that their processes were showing in more reflective ways, while the multi-tasking I do often involves more physical action.

There are certain things I do not do well with other things. Cooking, for instance. I can't chop vegetables and chew at the same time. I can't pay bills and sing at the same time. My range tends to run to the type of work that involves starting simmering soup, starting a load of laundry, having lunch and catching up on Twitter posts at the same time.

Some days are just fragmented, when tasks build up and I find myself unable to finish any one of them without starting three more. And then I end up staring out the window for twenty minutes and wondering where the time went. I think this must be some form of ADD, though I do not have a medical background and have no medical basis for calling it ADD. Perhaps it's age-related ADD, though I'd been given to think that as one ages tasks became slower and concentration tends to funnel into simpler tasks. This has not happened for me and I have little hope of ever funneling my concentration into a whole day of, for instance, dusting. I mean no disrespect to those of you who deal with, or who have a family member suffering from, diagnosed ADD. I simply think that some of us have it whether we've been told so by a doctor or not. It's a condition we just live with, like broad-set eyes or big feet. There are more of you out there just like me. Just admit it. You'll feel better. And so will I. Now, where was I?

posted at: 13:46 | category: /Playing | link to this entry



Mon, Jul 20 2009

Did Charter fail us? Did the government's FCC? Did both?

We had DirecTV installed yesterday. We tried to get what we wanted from the local Charter cable company, but we needed static IP addresses and they could not (or would not) provide those with our cable TV service, even if we had upgraded to digital cable. They spoke several times of the possibility of offering a bare-bones basic service at some point, so we held on for years, hoping we'd at least be able to subscribe to that and have our local channels for news and just use our existing AT&T internet service provider for internet access. When word came that Charter might be looking at bankruptcy proceedings, our hopes began to fade. Recently we learned that their contract negotiations with area localities were not looking good. So we finally called DirecTV and set up an appointment for installation. Meanwhile, Charter has begged and pleaded for us to order their digital service, which simply won't meet our needs. And they've taken more and more channels away from the current basic service. That means they'll be getting a call in the next couple of days from us.

It's very difficult when you are a consumer who doesn't fit the majority demographic of the locale in which you live. I wish the whole law on utility monopoly addressed that sort of thing, but we simply don't get to choose certain paths because of existing law. When competition leads in society, companies are able to excel at what they do for customers. At least we do have the choice of satellite service now, for a price that will, even after the introductory offer, give us a lot more of what we want when we sit down to watch TV. We would have loved to give struggling company Charter our business. We tried. But they could not (or would not) meet our needs. So, we're moving on, now that we have the chance and now that we know they will probably never be able to meet our needs. It isn't any one particular person's fault. But it's unfortunate that a company can't vary its business model to meet more than the average customer's wishes. If that comes down to being a government bureaucratic issue, I'm more determined than ever that we should have less government interference in our commerce in this country.

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



Fri, Jul 17 2009

The post that never was

I thought yesterday went a little too smoothly. I forgot to post a blog entry. Blogging is a habit, so I'm not sure what happened. I had a professional dental cleaning this week and then had to get back on a fierce track for flossing regularly. Perhaps my mind was so focused on that habit that another habit got pushed to the back burner. And this makes me wonder how much room we have in our busy minds for all these good habits we are trying to cultivate. The other mystery is that I didn't see the reminder to post a blog entry on my trusty to-do list. I was with other people a great deal of the day, so maybe my social skills overrode my solitary skills. Fortunately, the complete rationalization of that process has resulted in this blog post for a Friday. They say that art is anything you can get away with. Allow me to paraphrase. Writing is anything you can let your mind convince you to get away with.

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



Wed, Jul 15 2009

Did the dotcom bust kill the California budget?

Douglas Rushkoff makes some valid points in How the Tech Boom Terminated California's Economy. I would offer a couple of other factors that hastened the difficulty.

Mounting numbers of immigrants have changed the California economy a great deal. Workers were willing to take low paying jobs in agricultural, industry and hospitality. Families and friends joined money to buy homes. We knew of more than one group of people using multiple incomes to buy second and third homes to develop into nursing homes, even as home prices soared. Emergency rooms became crowded with many new residents who had little or no medical insurance. Increasong numbers of immigrant children began to attend public schools just as the cost of administration and insurance in public schools was rising rapidly. Roughly half our budget goes to education, which should tell us that the cost of education must have something to do with our budgetary difficulties as a state.

I'm not anti-immigrant. But if we want real improvement we have to look the facts. If many of the immigrants coming into a state are in a lower income bracket, the state is going to collect less in taxes from those residents while the burden to educate and take care of health and employment for residents seems only to rise. Our policies and laws have encouraged that situation. If that's the way we want things, then we'd better get used to the idea that we're all going to have to pony up with more taxes to make ends meet. If we don't like the trend, then we'd better get used to the idea that we're not going to be able to have our cake and eat it too. That's going to mean hard choices, whether you're a dotcom survivor, a recent college graduate, a brand new immigrant or a retiree. Look around. We know a little more now about how we got into this fix. The question now is, do we want to keep going down the same path that got us into the fix or will we make do with less? Without changing major policies and laws, we can't afford that 4-layer-cake-with-frosting-for-everyone budget for even one more year.

posted at: 05:20 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry



Tue, Jul 14 2009

Add to your favorite blog list today

I'll be quite a bit of work away from this keyboard today, so I invite you to enjoy entries from the fine blogs listed on the right side of this page. And do some hunting for new material. Yesterday I found a great naturalist blog I'd had no idea existed. It's the Adirondack Naturalist. You'll find great photos there, along with great information.

posted at: 06:59 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry



Mon, Jul 13 2009

Debt: A partisan affair?

I know that many Republicans are pushed at President Obama's work thus far, but I couldn't help but notice that one of the people profiled in Americans less stressed about debt, poll shows was now paying down debt that had, I presume, amassed during the last administration or two. I can understand all the fear and trepidation about socialism, but if people were getting into big debt the last decade or so, it's a good thing that folks have now put a focus on paying down that debt and on setting aside savings. If we're honest with ourselves, looking at our personal debt being sky-high is not much of a positive point for having had a Republican in the White House. It's another example to me that many Americans tend to see things through partisan lenses, rather than taking responsibility for their own personal choices. None of us should have been living drastically above our means. If Americans are working to remedy that debt now, it's a good thing. Can folks at least admit this is happening while a politician of that other major party is in the White House?

posted at: 14:03 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry



Fri, Jul 10 2009

Is society thinking we can manipulate God?

I read the headline: Questions swirl around Ensign family payments. I noted one particular quote from the article.

"When you have an affair with someone in your office who is married to someone else in your office and then you fire them both -- and then on top of it you have your rich parents come in and pay them off, I think it's hard to imagine a situation that is more embarrassing."

Just that one statement shows how destruction spreads when this sort of thing happens in even one family. And lately, there's been one story after another for politicians straying from their vows. Even as major politicians spoke of family values, society as a whole seemed to stray more and more from the idea of family values. And unfortunately, some of those major politicians seem to be leading the pack right down the wrong path.

People complain that society has pushed God out of government, but from where I sit, the more we try to push God into government, the bigger and more numerous society's problems become and the more glaring the hypocrisy becomes. Do we really think God pops in and out of our government? Are we looking at God as some spiritual spigot we can turn on and off to wash down our human laws in the hope of making the whole of society worthy of His blessings?

posted at: 13:02 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry



Thu, Jul 09 2009

Paper, paper everywhere and not a sheet left blank

My browser crashed today, so it was time to back things up and restart my computer. In the meantime, I got to work on some decluttering of the office area. I have a long way to go, but there are less sliding stacks of printouts on the table behind me. I filed some papers, which is a loathsome job to me. I gathered other printouts that need to be snail-mailed to a fellow writer and I corraled some address and phone number changes that were on small pieces of paper so that I can enter those into the computer. Now things are up and running again with the computer, so it's time to get those numbers entered and get back to research and writing. One nice thing about computer applications crashing is that it gives us time to regress to the days of yesteryear, when paper was king and writers looked a lot more stereotypical in their offices, with books and typing paper and stacks of 3x5s all over the room, gathering thick dust faster than you can change a typewriter ribbon. With that in mind, let me say that nostalgia is a fleeting pleasure best left to odd moments between healthy doses of the present.

posted at: 14:51 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Wed, Jul 08 2009

On knot writing

The kitchen calls, the outdoors calls, shopping calls, naps call. Work is the least of my concentrations today. Words are all around me, but they're knotted in my mind and few of them are making their way from the mind to the fingertips and onto the keyboard. I'm about ready to forbid myself to write the rest of the week and see if my own reverse psychology works on myself...

posted at: 12:50 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Mon, Jul 06 2009

Smelling smoke again

I've been trying to sit and do some writing today, but life seems to be working against such things. And now I'm monitoring a fire situation in our general area. A little more than a year ago we had evacuations in our area because of a wildfire, so even though I know this fire is farther away (on the ocean side of the highway), it's unnerving to hear of it. Today time I was at least able to phone my spouse at his work and let him know things are good in our neighborhood at this time. The tension for us last year was in not being able to get home for two hours and wondering the whole time what we would find when we got here. We crawled along with emergency vehicles raising dust on the shoulder as they tried to make their way through to the fire area and we were only allowed into our neighborhood when we let the police know we had animals to rescue. (We still had our cat at that time and we were keeping an eye on the neighbor's two cats as well.)

I've closed the windows for now, to keep the drifting smoke outdoors. But the first breath I took that brought smoke to my nostrils made the hair on back of my neck stand up. It's not quite Pavlovian, but it does bring back eerie feelings.

posted at: 15:54 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry



Fri, Jul 03 2009

Maybe the next silver shoes will go from ruby slippers to gold boots

I hadn't realized how The Wizard of Oz is seen by some as a political statement or as occult material. I guess that's what makes classic literature classic. The themes that get repeated in history are so universal that a good writer's words can be seen as the basis for almost any conflict or philosophy that exists on the planet. The Wiz came along to reflect its own times and emphasis and recently we received a newer version, called . When people argue over the meaning of this or that story they are saying that the story has staying power. And they are giving the story more power. Some readers love this. Some readers are just happy to enjoy a good read.

posted at: 11:35 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Thu, Jul 02 2009

Uncommon ways

"When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world." That's a quote from George Washington Carver, who was born in my old home state of Missouri. The man was a genius, from what I've been told. He dabbled in gardening and moved on to agriculture and medicinal products. People tend to associate him with peanuts, but he also worked with sweet potatoes, pecans, cornstalks and palmetto roots. He made dye and paint from soybeans and worked on a synthetic rubber using goldenrod plants. I love the aforementioned quote from him because it seemed to be his own life philosophy. If ever a person lived life by looking at things from every angle and trying every angle, it was Mr. Carver. When I come up against a bunch of people who have the "We've always done it this way" mentality, I think of Mr. Carver, who turned down a six-figure income in order to learn and develop uncommon ways of using common things. It's always fun to think of solutions to problems. And sometimes it's great to just think of solutions even when problems haven't been defined as problems. Writers get to do a lot of that when we work. It's a privilege. And it's great fun.

posted at: 16:22 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Wed, Jul 01 2009

One tiny corner of a story of the buried difficulties with our state budget

In the midst of all the other fiscal lunacy going on in California, I ran across a story at the Chico Enterprise Record web site, involving houseboat owners at Bidwell Canyon Marina in Oroville. I went and had a look at the Bidwell Marina site, but there doesn't seem to be any news of evictions or contracts or anything else. If 900 boaters are being told to leave, I would want to know that before I got myself too entrenched in any plans at all at the marina.

I'm wondering how many other dramas are being played out at various parks and recreation areas all over the state. I hate to see the National Park Service take over, which is something that has been talked about lately. States seem to have fewer and fewer options apart from the federal umbrella as it is. I'd like to see as much state power left to states as is reasonably possible.

posted at: 16:58 | 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!