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

Fri, Oct 30 2009

Sun-hogging priorities and priorities that never take hold

Every week has its challenges. I'm reminded of those roll-out carpets of flower seeds we used to see sold in magazines. You could unroll the carpet of seeds out and have a long patch of all kinds of wildflowers. The only problem is that some seeds make short flowers and some make taller flowers, with no way to know which plant is going to grow tall and get in the way of some other flower. And some seeds never germinate at all. In spite of one's attempt to make a nice flower bed with some degree of planning, it's still going to be a surprise as to what grows up and takes priority over other items. With a smile, I can say that this week life has been a seed carpet.

posted at: 15:14 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Wed, Oct 28 2009

November issue of Deb's Monthly Review

The current issue of Deb's Monthly Review is now up for reading. I sent some fun extras to the folks who subscribe to the Notify Note, but you can find lots of festival fun at the web site.

posted at: 21:22 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Subconscious, back-of-the-mind, simmering, dammed-up writing

When you can't get to fiction writing because you're too busy with other writing and putting out fires, so to speak, it's difficult to keep the momentum going on a fictional piece. I'm trying my best to keep up the excitement for a piece or two by making a few notes and thinking about the projects while I wash dishes. (One actual advantage of living in a house without a dishwasher appliance is that you get to think while you do dishes yourself.)

I'm wondering how many things slip by when we could be giving them subconscious attention. How often do we go to bed with some problem or project on our minds, only to wake with a solution after our dreaming minds have worked on it for a few hours? Have you ever had your best writing ideas while shampooing your hair (when you can't write them on paper, of course)? Sometimes the best way to write when you know you can't actually write is to just carry the project in your mind as you go about other tasks. Trust me. At this point I'm preaching to me more than I am to the rest of you.

posted at: 09:13 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Fri, Oct 23 2009

Frivolous Friday

Let's end this week with a little levity. Check these sites for a smile:

This is why you're fat
Item Not As Described
CrapCo Corporate Advisor
Upside Down Dogs

Have a light weekend and share some smiles.

posted at: 16:30 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Thu, Oct 22 2009

A government agency should not do a parent's job

I do not agree with the approach that Truthful Media has taken to the FCC. Kids know there is advertising almost everywhere these days. If parents haven't taught them that there is little the FCC or any other government agency can do to change that. I was a kid once and I knew that the products on TV and in movies could be real products that cost real money and that they could be there because they did something for the film (and vice versa). Kids now are much more sophisticated that I was. Believe me. They know a product when they see one. If parents don't yet know, that's another whole issue.

The entertainment industry is a business. It's a creative industry, but it's an industry. How about teaching kids that information and then let government agencies do the business of taking care of the basics of what our taxpayer money is there to pay them to do?

posted at: 17:38 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Wed, Oct 21 2009

Someone may be scamming Mybillingservices.com--and also the rest of us

Folks, read your phone bills carefully. A charge from a third-party company was appearing on our monthly AT&T bill. When my spouse checked on the whole thing, it turned out that the transaction traced back to something at www.mybillingservices.com. In fact, there appear to be so many angry customers that there is a separate domain, www.cancelmyvm.com to use to cancel. The email given by whoever did the dirty deed was not my spouse's email, nor was it mine. All the person needs to set up the account is your address and phone number and then they provide whatever email address they wish. So you don't even get the confirmation.

My spouse is working with AT&T to prevent future issues, but AT&T personnal are having a hard time themselves with this scam. The customer service representative says that there have been millions of complaints. Most all these bogus services seem to have to do with an internet voice mail charge. If you see a similar charge on your phone bill, call the folks at the charging company and call your phone service provider.

posted at: 17:33 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Tue, Oct 20 2009

A new leap of faith?

The decision of the Vatican to work to bring in Anglicans has puzzled me. I do recall being told as a child that the ultimate purpose of the Roman Catholic Church was to make everyone a Catholic, even after the Second Vatican Council. I was told that it was a purpose that had never changed and would never change in the future. But maybe things really have changed since then. A true clasp across such a chasm could be a momentous occasion. My lingering concern is that a chasm, by its very nature, has no middle ground. Even if they reach for each other with the best of intentions, one party must be completely pulled to other's side or both will fail and fall in the process. I hope things can work out for those searching to do the right thing.

posted at: 18:06 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Mon, Oct 19 2009

No, and nothing but no

I just deleted a whole blog post on health care reform because my emotions are too high to make my point in one or two paragraphs. For now I will just say that I will not support any form of government-run plan, including any of the ones House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has come up with recently. Each suggestion for reform becomes more ludicrous than the last, including the notion that people should be fined for not buying health care. If that's their best idea for reform then they are making the best case for why they shouldn't be doing this at all. I will not support government-run health care. And I will not vote for any politician who does. I can't tell the rest of you what to do. But I hope you will at least study the history of health care, the history of other government-run programs and consider the chances for success if the government makes your health care decisions for you.

posted at: 15:18 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Fri, Oct 16 2009

Chili as transitional food

We made a batch of chili yesterday to accommodate a friend who has lots of trouble eating foods that contain any dairy products. Chili is a great dish to work with. To minimize any other problems we also made the chili vegetarian, so we worked with a ready-made product that mimics the texture of browned ground beef. If you're on the cusp of trying a vegetarian diet, chili is perfect to experiment with because there are so many herbs and spices in it that you won't miss the real ground beef. (I say this realizing that some folks use shredded/chopped ground beef or turkey or other meat products.) Curry dishes also lend themselves well to a vegetarian treatment. If you're feeding a "mixed" crowd, the stronger-flavored dishes are your best bet for making carnivores and vegetarians/vegans all have happy taste buds.

I would be happy to share the recipe for chili, but the truth is that there is no recipe. We have favorite things we put into the pot, but we don't measure. It's probably never the same any two times we make it. The best advice I can give you is to choose a recipe you already like and slowly change it to meet the needs of your vegetarian friends/family. I hear that there is a big issue with cocoa powder, because the regulation of foreign matter is not strict. If that isn't a problem for you, add a tablespoon or two of cocoa powder to your chili. It will give it a great undertone of richness that you probably won't get any other way. The other preference we have is lots of canned, diced tomatoes. Just get out a pot and start playing. Eat the experiments in a bowl or layered in haystacks, the way we did last night. Enjoy.

posted at: 11:54 | category: /Food | link to this entry

Thu, Oct 15 2009

Up, up and away and then off the reporters and anchors go

Well, the news incident involving the little boy that was, as it turns out, not in the balloon that traveled more than 50 miles, points out how riveting such a story can be. And it points out how people will jump on such a story to report and discuss, even when they aren't news professionals. Wars, rumors of wars, tales of financial ruin and health care reform spats all took a back seat for a couple of hours while this story played out all over the U.S. News broadcasters were trying to keep up the drama even after no boy was found inside the balloon. They mentioned alleged reports of something haven fallen from the balloon and speculated on the possibility that the child had fallen. It's frustrating to watch breaking news anymore. As soon as one door closes in a breaking story the newscasters turn immediately to all the scariest possibilities that are left. No one seems willing to just hush and air the video. I'm surprised there isn't intense music accompanying the video. (Maybe I shouldn't give them ideas.)

posted at: 15:42 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Wed, Oct 14 2009

Boos and cheers as group definition

The Dow crossing 10,000 made me giggle, mostly because the folks on the exchange floor were hooting and hollering and booing and carrying on with more enthusiasm than I've seen about such things in quite awhile. Booing and cheering seem to be large part of the human experience for anyone who has a voice. People often cry quietly and they often express anger in silence, but when people have something to deride or something to celebrate they rarely do it without some noise, including vocalizations of one kind or another. It happens at graduations, in congressional sessions, at sporting events, in business meetings, in churches, at fireworks displays, concerts and at many other gatherings.

I realize now how much I have missed that lately. People have seemed somewhat subdued during the recent economic turndown. I heard a glimpse of something a tiny bit nostalgic when the traders on the floor began to yell and howl and boo and express themselves with abandon. We humans probably should engage in that sort of group noise more often. There's something familiar about it, either a sort of collective cry of dismay or a remembered praise for something bigger than we are. It's our way of injecting our individuality into the moment and coming together to agree on something, or someone, affecting us deeply at a particular moment in time.

posted at: 12:01 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Tue, Oct 13 2009

With apologies to Mad Max

I think about this sort of thing whenever we have weather that threatens to bring power outages. When access to the internet is down I tend to go back to pen and paper or books or magazines for resources, work research and even recreation. I might need to come up with a light source at night, but I can still use and enjoy a newspaper or book without benefit of power or data line. It's at these times I'm reminded how Freedom of the Press was created before we relied so heavily on electronic means of sending and receiving information. In the event of some attack or natural disaster, as long as a book or newspaper hasn't been physically destroyed, that book or newspaper can be used again and again. What happens in the event of an attack or natural disaster that takes us "off the grid"? We can keep a generator around for some things, but information would move slowly.

And then there are the political implications of translating Freedom of the Press from print into phone and internet delivery. It's a lot easier for someone to shut down or control online newspapers and cell phone service than it is to shut down or control every mechanical printing press in every corner of the country. I watch the arguments concerning online content and I can't help but wonder if new media, wonderful as it is, could actually put us in danger of eventual lack of freedom of the press in the event of terrorism, anarchy or empirical political interests. People who talk about the danger of losing our printed news talk about the monetary reasons for the possible demise of print media, but I rarely hear anyone talk about the political implications for having most, or all, news come to us through electronic means. In the event of some major interruption, I'd hate to think that news, information and truth could become even more scarce than the gas and fresh water in the Mad Max scenarios of the movies.

posted at: 08:47 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Mon, Oct 12 2009

What sweet potatoes and stocks have to do with the Nobel Peace Prize

Things I researched today in the course of working and doing personal correspondence:

Heart rhythms
History of the Nobel Peace Prize
Columbus Day
Various stocks
Sweet potato recipes
I always look at lists or strange juxtapositions of things as an opportunity to think of some story ideas. Today's hodge-podge holds excellent possibilities.

posted at: 17:39 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Thu, Oct 08 2009

Some days are meant to change

Have you ever had one of those days when you start with a short list of things to do, begin innocently to do those things and end up taking so much time on one thing that the rest of the day changes into a day full of a whole other set of tasks? And then, when you get to the end of the day you know that things went just as they should have gone? To-do lists are important, but sometimes it's best to look at them as a guidebook and not a bible.

posted at: 23:16 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Wed, Oct 07 2009

Scant offerings for holiday shopping?

I don't know all the details of how retailing works in brick and mortar stores, but I can see that many dropped the ball on inventory. I know we've just been through a big economic downturn, but people are going to the stores now. I've been out there and have seen them. And they want to buy. Not only is there low shelf inventory, but in some cases there are big holes in the merchandise offerings. I suspect that any low figures we get from this year's holiday season are going to reflect that. The figures may say that people don't spend, but I see people ready to spend and finding little out there worth buying. A few smart shoppers have watched for seasonal merchandise and have snapped it up in large quantities. The rest of us are going to find slim pickings in stores as we move into the big holiday push. Retailers seem to have pulled back so much on shelf inventory that most of us walk in, glance around and walk out. I know that a lot of these decisions are made months in advance of the actual holiday season, but this year I think retailers missed it in the demand department. Many of us look early for gifts and seasonal merchandise and we are just not seeing it. I'm all for cutting back on the commercialism at Christmas. But the truth is that many of us shop not only for personal gift exchanging. We look for items for civic clubs, churches and charitable organizations. I'm hoping the online inventories are better because that's where I'm turning next.

posted at: 08:51 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Tue, Oct 06 2009

Blowing open a new door

Today has been full of things such as riding in a car with the windows down and the fall air rushing in, talking about fireplaces, eating Chinese food, having a cup of popcorn shared with me by a lovely woman, laughter, sadness for struggling friends and even a little resentment that creeped in when a remark reminded me of someone who had treated me badly some time ago. All in all, the balance of the day has been good. I questioned my moment of focus on that resentment as my mind pulled up a memory of being treated badly, but it was such a tiny part of the day that I felt only growth and refreshing as it passed. It's not only true that when one door closes, God opens another door. It's also true that God opens all the doors and windows and lets the air of His Spirit rush in and sweep us right on to the next big adventure. I can't wait to see what comes next. I hope your day has also been full of an inrush, a big wind, a clean sweep.

posted at: 18:13 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Mon, Oct 05 2009

The perks of doing a little business with a bank

When I was a child I lived in a small Midwestern town and used to marvel at the way our local bank workers knew so many people on sight. No one had to ask for identification during transactions. They knew you, your parents, your neighbors and your church friends.

Times have changed in many ways. We had some landowners and business owners in the area who I would often see chatting with loan officers at separate desks, but there was always coffee on in the general area of the bank and there were candy dishes near the tellers so that youngsters could receive a treat after waiting in line.

I live in a somewhat larger community now, but my spouse and I have banked at the same bank branch for more than 15 years. One of the things about this particular branch is that the layout allows the tellers to be on one side of the main room and the investment and loan managers to be on the other side. When we go in to see an investment or loan manager we bypass the people in the teller lines, often take a seat to wait, are greeted by several different people, are offered coffee/water and are assured someone will be with us in a few minutes. If the person we've come to see is delayed we are again approached with an offer for a beverage and an apology for any delay. This happens whether we have an appointment or just stop in on the chance that someone is available to meet with us. The service is professional, but so friendly and personal that I can imagine myself back in my old home town bank.

The thing that's different now is that the greetings from the loan and investment side of the room does not usually carry through to the teller side of the room. It has nothing to do with the amount of money involved. Quite often we go in to make some minor change in an investment account or simply ask a question of an investment or loan manager. But I've noticed more than once that we get these little stares from the customers who may be standing in a long line to see a teller while we are seated and offered refreshments.

It makes us feel appreciated and special to be fawned over in little ways. But I can't help but wonder what goes through the minds of those on the teller side of the room. If they're feeling envy they may not realize that we could be a position of preparing to owe the bank a whole lot of money in a mortgage or other lending situation. They might actually be happier over on the teller side of the room, cashing their paycheck. But the glances they give us say something else. It's not something we take personally, but it is interesting to see people react to the little attentions they see us getting.

And here's a thought. Maybe banks should think about giving a little more of that extra attention to people on the teller side of the room. Bankers could strike up a conversation with customers that might lure them over to the investment side of the room, particularly if that's where bankers perceive most of the money is being made.

posted at: 19:26 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Fri, Oct 02 2009

Crockpot living

I overfilled the crockpot this morning and was barely able to make the lid sit on top of it all. I had to set the appliance on High for the first couple of hours in order for all that food to cook in time for tonight's dinner. It's always difficult to judge these things when filling the grocery cart. I see the separate ingredients and know they'll cook down once they have spent time in the crock liner. I always buy too many carrots and I always underestimate the amount of liquid the crockpot contents will produce during the cooking process. The price of the fully-loaded crockpot makes me blink a time or two in the store until I remember that we'll get more than one meal out of that appliance. And we do. By the time we've used up most of the contents we are tired of it all.

This post really was about crockpot cooking. But read it again. It's full of metaphors for a lot of other things in life. I hope your weekend is so full of good things that you can't keep a lid on it.

posted at: 18:35 | category: /Food | link to this entry

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Stealin' copy is as bad as horse-thievin'
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such varmints when they least expect it!