Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
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Mon, Aug 31 2009

Hang up and get a clue, please

Our house phone often gets calls from 303-238-5792 and I see that if you do a search on Google with that number there are pages and pages of listings that describe hang-up calls, magazine subscription renewals and repeated complaints of people answering and telling them not to call anymore, only to receive new calls in a few weeks. There's also a Better Business Bureau page with information on NR Collection Agency in the Denver area.

It's interesting how many of these types of calls are made to residences. I doubt very much that all the calls come from one location. There are probably numerous lines hooked into this number with Caller ID simply going back to one number. I'm always hearing that Congress has banned, or is in the process of banning, automated dialers or automated recordings from dialers that call us. But these companies always seem to find a way around the bans. They recruit people to tie into some central line from home or from boiler rooms and the calls go on in some fashion or another. There are calls for charities, calls for magazine subscriptions, calls for lowering mortgage payments, calls for aluminum siding, calls for photograph packages. Many of us have blogged about this issue in the past. I've noticed that the calls only seem to increase with time, despite all this supposed legislation to ban such things.

People often think that the Do Not Call list should protect them but the truth is that the wording on the Do Not Call rule is too loose to be of real use. If you ever did business with or asked a question of anyone who worked for a company, or if you accepted a free sample from a company, or from a subsidiary or parent company of the company involved, or from a company that subsequently bought the company, you are considered fair game for a sales call (or many sales calls). The more we try to ban junk phone calls the more we seem to get.

As a social experiment in social norms, the whole topic is a wonderful study in cat-and-mouse. There are lists of ways to annoy callers. There are techniques written to discourage the callers. There are lists of jokes to play on the callers. Many of us employ answering machines to screen our calls. That last action can have its negative side, but I have proof that it drives the callers somewhat over the edge. Some years ago I suppose one young man got tired of hearing my cheerful outgoing message everytime he called and so he decided to vent a bit. So he waited for the beep and left a disgustinly pornographic, but very cheeful, message for me. (I occasionally wonder if perhaps he eventually vented at the home of the wrong customer, such as a police officer, and got himself arrested.) I know of people who have had their home phone numbers discontinued altogether. They use their cell phones for most calls anyway and seem to receive only junk calls on their home phones. I wonder if that's why the rest of us seem to be getting more calls than ever. It's some sort of sad, bell-shaped curve, isn't it?

posted at: 11:04 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry



Fri, Aug 28 2009

California fire conditions

Well, we have fires in the region again, though they are a bit farther south of us this time. The closest to us at this time (and it is not very close) is the one they are calling one of them the Gloria Fire in southern Monterey County, to the east of the community of Soledad. (This might not be the best weekend to go hiking at the Pinnacles National Monument.) There are also fires further south in the state. For more information you can go to the California Fire News Blog. The site is not associated with Cal Fire, but has excellent updates and information.

It's very warm today and Red Flag Warnings have been issued for much of California, so new fires could break out if humans aren't cautious while nature is giving us hot and dry weather. Things should begin to ease soon as one weather system bumps into another and we get some mild relief. Until then, we've all been advised to take it easy with anything that could spark a new blaze.

The Rancho Palos Verdes area in Southern California has a fire and there are some other fires I'm just learning about. One other good source for information is the Cal Fire Current Information page.

I hope everyone stays safe. We go through something like this occasionally, but it's never redundant to mention how quickly fire can devastate an area and how quickly condtions can change in what might at first seem like a small incident. Many thanks to the brave folks who get out there and save homes, pets, livestock and human lives during these scary times.

posted at: 12:54 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry



Thu, Aug 27 2009

September 2009 Deb's Monthly Reivew

The September 2009 issue of Deb's Monthly Review has been uploaded. There are more than 70 detailed festivals listed, plus other basic listings. There are a lot of things going on in September, so have a look and choose your fun.

posted at: 16:19 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry



Tue, Aug 25 2009

Writer's block that stems from inner conflict

I spent some time talking with a fellow writer today and we spoke of what is commonly called writer's block. I never thought about it before, but the block we experience is often not about writing at all. Instead, it's often a result of some other portion of life that's damming up the creative process while our subsconscious uses energy to work on problems. Writing can be a great way to work through these issues, but only if we begin to walk with honesty and an eye toward the larger purpose of life. Once we know what we're dealing with we can let loose those fictional characters and go at a story with freedom. It's simple. But it's not always easy. And it's tricky. Sometimes the characters begin to form before the issues are settled. The good news is that we can get those characters as momentum to see further ahead on our own journey.

posted at: 23:39 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Wed, Aug 19 2009

Sitting in other places

That title up there looks very regal and could probably be the start to a post with wonderful overtones of metaphor and symbolism. Indeed, it would be a great title for a novel or autobiography. The truth is, however, that I'm resting after a minor medical procedure done earlier this week. I'm going fine, but sitting in my office chair, which is usually comfortable, has become a very non-ergonomic experience for the present. I'll post more entries soon. Meanwhile, enjoy some of the excellent blogs listed on the right side of this page.

posted at: 21:04 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Fri, Aug 14 2009

Fire, aid, rescue and redemption

We have quite a bit of haze in the region today as the wind shifted and the smoke and ash from the Lockheed Fire has come more our direction. They were preparing to declared the County in a State of Emergency today so that federal funds could be accessed in order to help fight the fire and help victims in the aftermath. So it's a day to say thank you to all the Amercian taxpayers out there who are giving up something to help those in need. Our taxpayer system is crazy and overburdened, but being reminded that anyone can have the need for federal help means putting the complaints aside for a moment to experience gratitude.

There was a dramatic video shown on KSBW last night, in which a videographer caught a shot of a rodent of some sort in complete confusion over the approachng wildfire. The poor animal ran right up to the videographer and literally walked around on the man's left shoe. Then, still obviously frantic and confused, it turned and ran right back toward the fire. I felt so bad watching it run back toward the danger. We humans do that to our Creator a lot, don't we? We run from the fire, seeking God's help, only to allow ourselves to get distracted or confused and turn right back into the danger. I'm so glad to know that we're loved and that we're coaxed from danger again and again.

posted at: 15:29 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry



Thu, Aug 13 2009

Catching our breath

Are you old enough to remember playing ball in a vacant lot or riding bikes that had only one speed? Can you recall when portable transistor radios made us feel as though we had been let off a tether? I think of the old wringer washers and I look at the sleek washers we have now with programmable cycles and no separate rinse tub required. We really enjoyed the new technologies that made life easier and more fun. Are we doing the same now? I'm not sure. There are so many new things announced each day that sometimes I feel bombarded. I love the idea of being able to get things done faster or more efficiently, but I miss the fun of having time for a new toy to sink in before something else comes along and is claimed to be the newest, shinest, smartest gadget ever to hit the planet. I need to catch my breath once in awhile. Is it just me?

posted at: 10:31 | category: /Science | link to this entry



Wed, Aug 12 2009

Charity begins at home, but not with a third party

We got a hang-up call tonight from TBS Productions. One web site I went to gives further insight into what such companines do.

Money is hard to come by for just about everyone these days. A lot of us are choosing our charitable contributions even more carefully than we did in the past. Also, these third party outfits interrupt dinner and home activities and I doubt most of the people who make the calls really know where the money goes. The callers may be getting a minimum-wage job, but how much good they're actually doing is questionable.

TBS Productions appears to be headquartered, if their web site is accurate, in Campbell, California, where my spouse and I lived for a number of years. The web site's About page is currently not found. Perhaps they're working on a proper description. That's fine. I hope they tell the whole story. Meanwhile, when I want to help police officers or firefighters send kids to the circus or to soccer camp, I'll call them up myself and offer help. I don't need some other business taking a cut of the hard-earned household money and preventing it from doing the most good it can do.

posted at: 20:04 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry



Tue, Aug 11 2009

Putting it off (and off. and off)

Do you get most-loathed tasks out of the way first or do you push them to the back of the queue? I used to tackle them first, but recently I've found myself turning to that irritating practice known as procrastination. This seems particularly evident when it comes to anything involving housework. Cooking tasks also suffer, unless they are baking-related. Writing tasks win favor, but only if they are writing tasks that do not involve looming deadlines. Is this some form of latent teenage angst or unspent rebellion, left to smoulder until I was past the age of the average mid-life crisis? Is it that curious thing known as aging? Is it late-onset laziness? Whatever the cause, I'd better work on a speedy remedy. We're rapidly approaching the run-up to Labor Day and that means we're getting close to the the beginning of the early holiday season rush. If I don't get a handle on this whole thing soon I'll end up looking for Santa and the elves in all the wrong places along about March 10.

posted at: 15:15 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Mon, Aug 10 2009

Nourishment

If you've done anything to attract birds to your garden, you know they have a lot of habits that are similar, but they can also be completely different from one another. Some eat seed on the ground. Some prefer a hanging feeder. Some will go beneath an overhang to get food and some will only eat out in the open. Flycatchers swoop from perches and nab their breakfast on the wing, while the California towhee forages with a forward jumping and scratching motion. Robins favor bugs, while house finches seek seed. Blue jays seem to be omnivores and can become quite friendly with you if they know you're going to give them raw peanuts in the shell. Hummingbirds sip at flowers or from feeders full of nectar, often hovering in mid-air. There are the larger carrion feeding birds that tend to scavenge and the owls that make a silent grab for food on run. Crows decimate corn crops and ducks dabble in water. They all must eat to survive, but they have many ways of getting nourishment.

Humans remind me of birds when it comes to spiritual nourishment. Sometimes we hurry through prayer or study, sometimes we scratch for meaning or we seek sweet nectar for spiritual energy in beautiful places. Some come after others have found food and take their fill while some hunt down the freshest of morsels. One method doesn't seem to be better than another in nature. Each seems comfortable with his or her style. No nature nugget is perfect, but birds do remind me that nourishment, literal or spiritual, doesn't have to be the same for everyone, or even the same for one, every time.

posted at: 15:16 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry



Fri, Aug 07 2009

What the world does and doesn't know

I was thinking earlier about the news that pitchman Billy Mays' autopsy indicated signs of heart disease and also illegal drug use at some point in his final days of life. People who are considered celebrities in our society have a lot of their private lives opened up more than the average person, even when they die. How many of us would mind the whole world knowing how we lived? What we don't know for certain is why famous people do what they do. What if not only our actions, but the motives for our actions, were made known to everyone? It's easy for us to point to someone else and comment on their lifestyle and their choices, but does everything we do and say contribute to a good life for us and for those we encounter? If we knew the whole world was watching us, would we live our lives any differently? Why or why not?

posted at: 15:56 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry



Thu, Aug 06 2009

New (old) news model for News Corp.?

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.'s company can certainly institute subscription (or other) charges for all their news. It's not illegal. And it's actually very tradtional. But is it timely and prudent? I don't know. We now live in a time when people in the middle of a news event are just as likely to tweet, text or use digital video to be their own news service. Citizen journalism is sometimes sppedier and more accurate than news that comes from respected news feeds. If News Corp. had caught the wave a few years ago they might have been able to ride it for awhile. But they may have waited too long now to really get people to (literally) buy the idea that's it's worth the price of a subscription to have someone else present and filter the news. Are there news outlets online that I'd pay to view? Possibly. But they'd be either niche news markets or very local news markets. And the way people love to gossip, it wouldn't be long before other folks figured out how to filter and present both those markets to others for no charge. For now, I'm just watching all this with curiosity. I will say this. News Corp. made some buzz. Making the news is at least as important as breaking the news.

posted at: 08:01 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry



Wed, Aug 05 2009

Real estate is looking more unreal these days

If almost half of U.S. homeowners will have more owing than the house is worth by 2011, what will that mean when people put homes up for sale? It used to be common to sell a house and make a profit. Are we going to come to the end of that as a nation?

I passed the TV this morning on my way to move some laundry from the washer to the dryer, and I heard a discussion on Fox Business News, in which more than one person seemed to be warning that the next big bubble was going to be in commercial real estate. So what does it mean when something like teachers' pension plans are sinking money into commercial real estate? Minnesota's Twin Cities area may already be looking at a commercial real estate sinkhole, with big box businesses vacating retail space at a fast scramble. Something tells me that we're about to have another wild ride before the current one has even come to a full stop in the station.

posted at: 14:18 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry



Tue, Aug 04 2009

Writing in the bike lane

It's very strange how little inspiration there is on some days when it comes to writing. A true writer knows to write anyway, or to take a few hours to file and do other tasks. Then there are those other days, when one idea seems to ignite off another. I've learned to have a notebook, stack of 3x5 papers or a note window open on the computer monitor at any given moment, because the best ideas often strike while doing something completely utilitarian or even dull. It's as though the mind clears a little bike lane right alongside the main road and sends a few ideas peddling beside the general flow of thoughts. Whatever causes this, I've learned to enjoy it and make use of it as a sort of journaling on the open road.

posted at: 13:02 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Mon, Aug 03 2009

Will health care be like post offices?

As budgets shrink, we may be seeing the end of an era with the U.S. Postal Service. Offices may go the way of the dinosaur. Combining that with the idea of dropping one day of mail delivery per week will probably save a lot of money. But it won't make the service seem any better. I never did understand why the whole thing wasn't ever really allowed to make a profit. If there was to be no profit, why wasn't it all left up to people who could make a profit? Why did the government do it in the first place. That's a little bit of what I start thinking of when I think of the government getting in the middle of health care. The process might bobble along for decades without ever really being financially viable and may never be efficient or encourage true progress. At least in the case of a stamp we don't generally have to be concerned about someone dying. Health care is quite another matter.

posted at: 17:31 | category: /Health and Fitness | 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!