Disclaimer: This weblog contains many tedious and repetitious bits as well as a few gems of useful web lackey info and amusing turns of phrase. It stands as a monument to the need for editing and is a glimpse into a simple but over-tired heart trying to succeed when pitted against the giants of the Internet. Nancy Kamp
January 7, 2004 No Tai Chi for You My tai chi class is beginning even as I sit here typing these words. I have opted out.
The class was geared for the geriatric set, and I simply don't have time to participate. There goes the article I was planning. It would have been fascinating since the instructor was the 1940 National Swing Dance Champion and a real character.
Today is the day I order ISBN numbers (http://www.isbn.org/standards/home/index.asp) for the first lot of books we will be publishing. That makes us official - though publishing newsletters for over two years should count for something.
January 14, 2004 Rules of Engagement We get queries from writers and wannabe be writers. They want us to publish their articles and stories. They also want us to pay them, which is, sadly, not going to happen in the near future.
We are not currently accepting fiction or poetry. If you want to submit an article for the glory only, please follow these simple rules.
Please understand that your work could be rejected or edited. We've been there, done that, but editing is the name of the game.
You will retain legal ownership of your work. This means you may withdraw it from the site at any time - but you have to give me reasonable notice.
January 24, 2004 Fiasco City Suppose you gave an award and no one accepted. That's what happened to us!
Last summer, to increase our links with top quality sites and to boost newsletter subscriptions, we announced our Win a Gemstone Necklace and Help Martha Bear®Contest. We got lots of contest entries and quite a few nominations for the Martha Bear™ Gold Standard Awards for the kind of sites we were looking for – those with great content that were not owned and operated by a major corporation with mega resources. Everything was perfect until after the first of the year when award notifications went out. No one responded. No one at all.
Since we're not yet as well known as we'd like to be, I have to blame the whole fiasco on spam. I believe those who received award notifications, headed "Website Award Winner," in their e-mail boxes deleted them without opening them because they knew they hadn't entered their sites in an award contest. We all have spam on the brain and rightly so, but we still have awards with no winners, so we are restructuring our contest.
February 5, 2004 Blood on the Ice It's nerve racking when one must sign legal documents because one must first read the @#%* things.
As we (finally) get ready to publish the first book in Jane Marie's series set on her own Amelia Island, it's my job to make sure we have made all the right business decisions. If we had a dart board, the whole process would be easier. But rest assured that decisions have been made, and things are in motion.
And now, for the moment, it's back to normal web lackey stuff.
The tip I wanted to pass comes from Marketing Sherpa. They've reported the doings of Headvertise, a successful agency formed by college students who sell advertising space on students' foreheads.
Can't you just see my sister, Jane Marie, at the next hand bell session, with Shop with Martha Bear written on her forehead?
And that's why I go on.
"Quinctilius Varus, give me back my legions." Augustus Caesar
February 9, 2004 Blame it on Varus From now on, all of our delays will officially be blamed on the Roman general who lost three legions and his own life (suicide) at the hands of German tribesmen in 9 AD (CE).
Convenient blame shifting goes back to the youth of my children when our CDO could be heard to repeat her first sentence, "Jill did it," with great frequency and sincere conviction.
We had hoped to announce the availability the romantic historical novel, The Goodbye Lie this week, but I'm still bogged down with PDF software. Someday soon, folks. Someday soon.
February 24, 2004: And The Scapegoat Is ... For the fourth year in a row, I dragged available family members off to OU's Academic Convocation to hear the guest speaker. Yesterday, Rudolph Giuliani followed previous guests such as Margaret Thatcher, Desmond Tutu and Mikhail Gorbachev in imparting words of wisdom and bringing a little piece of history to me and mine.
Guiliani's theme was leadership. He said. "Leaders are made," and listed six qualities to develop:
Just as no weblog entry would be finished without a clue as to what the title means, neither would a speech be complete without a heckler. The former mayor of New York City had only one, but he was a doozie. Things were moving along nicely when a gentlemen near us stood and yelled out that it was Walmart not Al Qaeda. We've all heard a lot of lame-brained nonsense about September 11, but that one has got to be the product of some of the most twisted logic on this otherwise most sensible planet.
March 7, 2004 ASCII* Directions Though we are moving ever further from the early days of computing, dinosaurs like ASCII text are still sometimes required. With the help of Cary, our Director of Fireworks, I figured out how to convert Word documents:
In a Word doc, go to File and select Save As.
At the bottom of the screen, choose, Save Type as Plain Text.
When the next window opens, choose Other Encoding and then select US ASCII.
Click the Line Break button. And then select OK.
Save the document in the ASCII format.
*American Standard Code for Information Interchange
March 13, 2004 New Motto I'm looking for a spot - any spot - to display the new motto for this site - Always a Work in Progress.
Or perhaps just Arrrgh.
March 19, 2004 Moving Day The other day, The Dallas Morning News reported that city's historical center, the cabin of Dallas founder John Neely Bryan, was being moved - again. Now progress is certainly progress, but it would be nice if the city fathers and mothers would just pick a location and stick with it. On the other hand, the proposed new parking lot going in at the cabin's current site will be a blessing for tourists.*
*Somebody's husband got a ticket when he neglected to feed his curbside parking meter on a Saturday visit to the nearby grassy knoll and school book depository where President Kennedy was shot.
March 30, 2004 Who is Nancy? What is She?* When tax time comes, I withdraw into myself and churn out masses of unreadable nothing. Then I focus on unimportant little chores. So I've productively spent several minutes moving this useful info from another, now defunct, page about better websites.
Limit the number of fonts on your site. Verdana seems to be the easiest on the eyes. But various versions of Arial look good too. Fall back on Arial for standard text and universal readability.
Headlines - NUMBER HEADLINES
While you're waiting in line at the supermarket, look at the magazine covers vying for your attention. You probably won't find one of them that doesn't try to grab you with a number. Headlines scream things like:4 Ways to Eat More Chocolate without Gaining Weight
10 Signs He's Cheating
15 Tax Cutting Tips
You get the idea. If it works for the big guns of the press, using Number Headlines might make all the difference in your next article or sales brochure.
This is probably a case of the pot abusing the kettle, but here goes:
Easy navigation is critical to online success. People want to be able to find what they want on a website without hunting around for it.
With our huge amount of content and lack of a single niche, we're working on this problem everyday. Make sure ease of use is a daily focus on your site too.
Style - BREVITY
William Faulkner once wrote a paragraph that was three pages long. He was not writing for the web.
Use short sentences and short paragraphs whenever possible. The eye can't handle loooong online.
When e-mailing in a TEXT format, always <open and close> URLs and e-mail addresses or the browser your recipient is using may not show a hot link. This is especially important in very long URLs that may require more than one line in the message.
* "Who is Sylvia, what is she?" William Shakespeare
April 19, 2004 Nine Years I went down to the Oklahoma City National Memorial today thinking I would be inspired to write something about the stupidity of senseless murder.
April 24, 2004 The Cheese Stands Alone
"Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs and the universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the universe is winning." Rich Cook
I appear to be the only person in the universe who is having a problem using Word Art in FrontPage.
Somewhere on every remodeled page of this site, there should be a Word Art graphic of the word Win! But every time I try to use one remodeled page as a rough template for another, the Word Act graphic disappears and I have to reinsert it - sometimes four times. And then I'm not sure if the &%#$ graphic will show up when the page is published.
I've remade the same little graphic so many times I truly could do it in my sleep, but now I have a new problem.
When we originally published the Martha Bear™ stories, I began each one with a large clipart letter as an homage to the illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages. Since our remodeling began - about 138 years ago or so by my watch - I've been replacing the clipart because it's here, it's there, it's everywhere, i.e., boring.
The trouble is, I don't know how I got the original Word Art graphic for the bear stories. Until I can figure out how to make Word Art hold when it's copied from other pages, I get to play with each newly remodeled page for many extra fun and exciting minutes in order to get a pleasing and uniform look.
And my exhaustive search for help on the Internet forced to conclude everyone else not only knows how to control Word Art, but is also laughing at me.
May 12, 2004 All Fed Up and No Place to Go It gets harder and harder to write this drivel when I am buried alive beneath images of evil. Masked beheaders. Ethnic cleansing. Rape and murder. Human trafficking. Prisoner abuse. Bah!
Where are Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when we need them? Oh, right. They were assassinated.
June 7, 2004 Dumbledores My snit is over. How long, after all, could I be expected to cease expressing opinions?
Besides, there's something really creepy going on. Over the weekend, Jane Marie and I got a bunch of e-mails from a site stating its purpose was to share information about people. Some of their members were inquiring about us.
While there's nothing wrong in saying, "Nancy's the finest human being on the planet" or "Nancy sucks" if one of these statements is true, there is danger in posting rumor, unverified gossip and excessive praise. Think about the possibilities.
In the interest of free speech, I joined the site. Apparently, I now get to e-mail the person who posted whatever they posted to find out what it was they said. Since my conscience is clear, I'm not going to bother. But I still think the whole thing is creepy.
Today's title comes from our DF who prefers Michael Gambon's interpretation of Harry Potter's Dumbledore to that of the late Richard Harris. Isn't this good to know?
June 12, 2004: Idiot's Delight I have removed all ads for freecardirectory.com from the site. With a kid in college, every method of fund raising is worth investigating, but when I finally checked these folks out, I didn't like the results. Sigh.
June 16, 2004 Well, Oh Yeah As we get closer to the publication of Jane Marie's novel, The Goodbye Lie, the author herself is driving me nuts with marketing suggestions. That disease is catching and I just now found myself considering the purchase of AmazonBestSellerSecrets.com: How To Quickly and Easily Turn Your Book Into An Amazon Bestseller in Only 28 Days. Unfortunately, that particular volume is currently ranked at 846,747 on the Amazon Sales Rank list so how good could it be? Sigh.
Note: As of January 2005, it isn't available from Amazon.
June 22, 2004 Huh? We've been getting a lot of mail lately from ShareYour Experiences.com. It says people are inquiring about us. This would be gratifying because we have sterling characters and can't think of any reason for anyone to badmouth us, however, the latest member of our staff to be discussed by someone who purports to know he/she/it in a "social" context is Contest.
Contest is not a person. Contest is not a being. Contest is a mailbox we sometimes use for giveaways, though it is not in use at this time.
How someone can claim to know Contest "well" in a "current" situation just screams for an explanation I don't have a hope of getting.
Note to JM - The frames are gone. We had to re-upload the entire site to do it, but this site is now frame free.
July 7, 2004: Advertising Genius, I Think I just signed us up to promote what I believe is lettering for your car.
Although they refer to their product as a "plate," I'm pretty sure this is bad copywriting for a good and useful product that Jane Marie and I need to get for our own vehicles - especially since my dear old Tercel has moved on to greener pastures.
The idea, as I understand it and as the pictures on the site clearly show, would be for Jane Marie to get a sign for her car that reads
People who want to advertise their clubs or businesses or churches or whatever need these signs that run $39.95 and up. Seems like a bargain to me.
Note: All of the signs on my car were stolen, and we no longer promote any companies of this type. Sigh.
July 8, 2004: FrontPage Really Sucks I spent hours creating the perfect error page for the site before I read the directions. If you don't use FrontPage, you simply create a special file and everything is fine. But if you do use FrontPage, your server has to be set just so or the boring default error page pops up instead.
Until FrontPage adds this feature, the new page - designed to bring a cheery smile to the faces of those thousands (according to our statistics) who've stumbled upon a 404 / Page Not Found type of error on this site - you won't get to see my handiwork unless you click here.
July 12, 2004: Mega Problem The other day we got an e-mail from a newsletter subscriber asking to be removed from our mailing list. We don't lose many subscribers and the requests of the people who do wish to leave us go directly to Bravenet, the company that handles our list.
Because this direct request was so unusual, I thought maybe we were getting some kind of spam, but I replied that to leave us, one has to select unsubscribe in the box in the upper right corner of our upgraded pages and (this is where the problem was) reply to the e-mail asking for confirmation.
Our correspondent replied to my e-mail with the perfectly reasonable statement that it was OUR list. And I replied I would take care of the whole thing.
When I attempted to figure out how to do this, I discovered the e-mail address in question was not on our list!
There's no way to know if it had ever been there, but did I really need this on a day when I had to hand delete all 180 links from one of our affiliates who is upgrading their website in a slow and frustration-making manner?
My concern is the address in question may never have been on our list. If this is the case and the spammers are somehow using us to send out junk mail, well, the repercussions are enormously awful.
July 18, 2004: See Mystic River It isn't very often a movie can save your child's life. However, after last night's screening of Mystic River (Widescreen Edition), I urge every parent or guardian to buy, borrow or rent a copy of this film. Once you've watched it for yourself, I beg you to show your children the scene that begins with the boys playing street hockey. You'll know where to stop the tape. (Children do not need to view the entire movie.)
If you've already seen the film, you'll realize I'm talking about child abduction. We tell our kids to beware of people attempting to lure them away with candy or lost puppy stories, but children are not prepared to resist authority. Allowing them to see one film's depiction of a predator's technique and talking about what the characters are doing could help your child resist this compelling method of abduction.
Please don't wait.
July 23, 2004 Instructions R Not Us Before the days of Plug and Play software, hardy PC pioneers stuck their brand new manufactured or pirated 5 1/4" floppy disks (that really flopped) in the floppy disk drive and messed around until they installed a new program. It was magic.
Today, our DF and I are in the process of laying floor porcelain tile, and since neither of us has much experience with power tools, we decided to actually read the instructions - after fooling with thingies didn't seem to do the trick.
Although some of us have now mastered the use of circular and jig saws, we cannot claim real prowess when it comes to being handy. The DF said it best, "We have to read instructions to put ear plugs in. We're sad. We're really sad."
August 4, 2004 We Must Be Nuts Caryn and I signed up for free cash at SearchCactus from which we hope to garner enough money to make all the spam we're going to receive because we did this worthwhile. The idea is you sign up for offers you don't really want while avoiding those offers that require you to pay for anything. You are trading your valuable information/data/opinion/potential as a customer for a few pennies per screen.
This is a direct outgrowth of my need to enter contests, which cries out to be fed with prizes. Alas, the last thing I won was a guitar that took months to arrive and was shortly followed by a second, unlooked-for guitar. Of course no one here ever learned to play.
We'll let you know how we make out with this little venture.
NOTE: As far as I can tell, this is a total waste of time.
August 10, 2004 Help is on the Way Because I wear so many hats for this company, I subscribe to lots of zines that don't always get my full attention. Luckily, I not only opened, but also skimmed this morning's WDFM (Web Digest for Marketers) wherein I found a link to Copyscape. They will do a free check on any webpage to see if some other site has copied your content. Of course you'll have to enter one URL at a time, but this is still a stupendous resource.
August 13, 2004 Secrets and Lies I like to think I'm on every possible mailing list for writers, and lately I've noticed a pattern. In an effort to raise much needed revenue, they're all hyping How To books that promise to insure publication success, fame and fortune and big bucks.
If I had unlimited funds, I'd buy each book, follow its program and probably lose my financial shirt because writing success really boils down to talent, ruthless editing, timing and marketing. If any one of these elements is missing, the payoff doesn't happen.
There. I just saved us all a fortune.
August 25, 2004 FTP This! We're in the process of introducing Jane Marie's new novel The Goodbye Lie. Although most of the online bookstores picked it up from Ingram's list of new publications, Amazon did not get the cover for whatever reason so I had to FTP it to them. Unfortunately, good old FrontPage and I couldn't do it - although I suspect we should have been able to.
I went to ZdNet.com to try out some FTP specific software (freeware and shareware) including Core FTP, LapLink FTP and SNK FV FTP, with no luck. I also tried Ipswitch WS_FTP Pro without success. All the software should have been easy to use, but I kept getting error code 553, which means the receiving server was too busy. That never made sense.
I spent several days messing with the simple settings on the Ipswitch product and finally juggled something - I don't know what - right.
I don't know when I'll have to FTP again. I'm not buying anything, so Ipswitch will expire with its secrets unknown to me. Can't hardly wait until my next challenge.
September 3, 2004 Repairing the Oversight I just applied to the Amazon.ca and Amazon.co.uk affiliate programs. We have lots of international visitors and I stupidly assumed they could be served via our usual channels. Please accept my apologies if we aren't supporting our friends overseas the way we would like to.
September 7, 2004: I Won! I Won! I have the harmless habit of playing Spider Solitaire while talking on the phone. I am proud to report that at this time and in this place I actually won a game using all four decks. I honestly didn't think it was possible. When I get a minute, I will open a hall of fame for those of us who stumble into this exalted position.
September 11, 2004 "All those lives wasted, and for what?" Steve Miller
September 24, 2004: Our Petty Horror I was going to rant about the condition of so many of our pages - old style and layout, bad writing and graphics. But then I caught sight of the previous entry.
I will say I tried to validate our code (HTML) with the W3C validator service <http://validator.w3.org/> since these people set the standards for XHTML for everyone in the world, but we had so many errors I couldn't even comprehend how to fix them. With a smaller site and a bigger staff, a much bigger staff, I might have some small hope of doing this. Instead, I'm going back to my glacially slow upgrade. And perhaps, someday, somehow, someone will develop a FrontPage code improver. Sigh.
October 7, 2004: Trickle Treat It seems like I'm moving into the new office, greenlightWRITE World Headquarters, one paper at a time. And to add to the fun, fun, fun, the site upgrade is barely moving along - we're switching to pages that look like this as well as changing all the individual book links over to Amazon (Amazon Books Home Page).
October 17, 2004: Short Stuff I spent most of the weekend renaming the files on this site. FrontPage doesn't like to publish to all the pages on a site this size at once, so mostly after I spent hours renaming the pages, I spent hours trying and failing to complete a publishing attempt. I will never change every page on the site at one time again. Never. Even on January 1 when I want to change the copyright year.
The reasons I messed with the file names in the first place are simple:
Until the search engines re-spider us, we are literally dead in the water when it comes to visitors who find us via a search engine keyword search, click, and get an error message. This is because I chose not to have our files cached (old files held) on search engines. While that is biting us in the rear on this occasion, I stand by the decision on general terms.
In the long run, we may well move up in keyword rankings. Cross your appendages.
October 21, 2004: Panic in Prairie City I got up early to begin a new blog, our own Teddy O's chronicle of his personal campaign to become the unofficial Official Spokesbear of the 2007 Oklahoma Statehood Centennial.
Unfortunately, I went on to read my e-mail where I discovered we had been dropped by one of our affiliates for adult content (huh?) or violating their contract!
Since we only had five links on this entire site devoted to those folks, since we don't spam and don't use other companies' brand names in our keywords, I am at a loss to comprehend what this is all about. I dutifully removed their links and sent off a query by return e-mail out of curiosity and concern.
Then I went to work finalizing our newsletter - only to have it hit me as I set up new links: the new pages names I spent the weekend developing will have thrown off some of our domain name pointers. I must reset them. Now.
Quoth the White Rabbit, "Oh my stars and whiskers!"
October 28, 2004: Phone Phreaks I hate, hate, hate recorded political phone calls. If Barry Switzer or General Whatever or ex-teacher X want to talk to me, they can do just do it. Curses on all phone and fax phone spammers. I can choose my own candidates.
November 9, 2004 Planning Ahead The idea was I would take the 4 a.m. local shuttle to the airport for my one way flight to Cleveland.
Then, Cary, our DF, said I should drive him to the airport for his earlier flight, drive myself back for my flight, and leave the car for him. Sounded simple and made sense - especially when he suggested I sleep in an extra half hour.
At the last minute, we discovered one of my tires had a slow leak so we switched keys and cars, and hit the road.
The next morning, I walked out the door at 4:30 a.m. into a monsoon. Naturally, I couldn't unlock Cary's car. I tried three sets of keys and all the little clicky car things in the house. Still nothing. Clearly, I had to take the low-air-in-the-tire-car or miss my flight.
Visibility was terrible, but I made it to the airport, entering by the wrong door because of all the construction at the Oklahoma City terminal. By tapping my heels together three times and singing "Boomer Sooner," (I made up the heel tapping), I got cooperation from the eticket machine, through the security inspection after my nail scissors were seized* and onto the plane, where I sat in the wrong seat.
Bottom line: LEAVE EARLIER THAN YOU'D LIKE WHEN YOU HAVE TO CATCH A FLIGHT. And inspect your bags before packing.
*I swear I didn't know the nail scissors were in my bag. After all, I had a pair of nail scissors seized the last time I flew and knew better.
PS Cary's mom had to pick him up at the airport. She also took a car key for my car to him. Fortunately, the low-air-tire wasn't too flat, and he made it home in time to discover his car needed a new battery.
November 15, 2004 Oh, I Am So Embarrassed You've seen the commercials where the idiot is locked out of his or her hotel or apartment wearing a towel or a newspaper, right? Guess who joined their ranks this morning.
Shortly before 7 a.m., the CDO bleated piteously for a non existent umbrella. I jumped out of bed, fumbled for more clothes and piled into the car wearing a T shirt and an unbelted robe. I didn't bother to lock the front door because the car keys I found didn't have a house key attached. (You know who said we were only going half a block anyway, and the dogs could guard the house.) What neither of us realized was she had automatically turned the doorknob to lock the door on closing.
When I returned from the bus stop, I rapidly assessed the situation and ran to the neighbors house to borrow the key we keep there. The neighbors weren't home.
At this point, the situation became murky, but let's just say a new door will be delivered and installed tomorrow. And then the locksmith who will be making all the new keys for us will be heading for her villa on Majorca.
November 21, 2004: National Treasure There are number of things I would have changed if I had been in charge of the new movie, National Treasure. Among them:
And FYI, "Osiris* was commonly represented with skin colored either black, like the fertile alluvial soil of Egypt, or green, the color of new growth," according to Delia Pemberton, author of Treasures of the Pharaohs.
*Osiris was the Egyptian god of the dead and of renewed life.
November 26, 2004: All's Well Despite the gray skies, I took a lot of pictures on our recent trip to San Francisco. However, when I got ready to upload to my computer, I found myself with a 256mb CompactFlash card that read "full" while allowing me access to less than half my photos.
I screwed something up. Possibilities:
Kodak told me I had to go to a local camera shop to have my pictures extracted. This worked great except the very nice man who performed the extraction hadn't done it very often and kept losing the pictures on his hard drive - since he was charging by 15 minute increments, I paid extra for photo retrieval, but I've learned two lessons:
December 9, 2004 Grouse On I am sick to absolute frelling* death of the terrible customer service this time of year. I was going to give you a list of all my grievances, but I'll bet your own list is longer.
And to top it all off, the search engines that are supposed to respider this site at least every 14 days have taken the month off, or have simply been phoning in their work.
If you scroll up to the entry of October 17, you'll notice I renamed a number of pages. Last night, I discovered Google and some its drinking buddies were still referring our Gone With The Wind visitors to a page that didn't exist. I had to add a page with the old long name back into the site. So name your pages properly the first time or beware. Grrr.
*Farscape fans know what this means. The rest of you can figure it out.
December 22, 2004 Meats and Other Food Groups I no sooner (no pun intended) came up with a great design for Teddy O's campaign to become the Unofficial Mascot of the Oklahoma Statehood Centennial when I discovered my daughter had come home from her job in Norman, Oklahoma and left a large turkey in our laundry room.
Despite or perhaps because of the fact my sister, Jane Marie, claims a family of mice lives in this laundry room, it isn't the best place for food storage, so I'm going to have to haul out ye old family cookbook and roast the turkey today. With all the trimmings.
UPDATE: It turns out the turkey is smoked and hasn't been refrigerated for two days. You know we have to toss it. What a horrible waste, but "when in doubt, throw it out."
And Jane Marie thought Teddy O's photo was too dark on the T shirt. (She was right so I fixed it.)
In the spirit of the season, I will count my blessings and get back to work.
December 29, 2004 Normal Search
"Where are they? Where are they? I don't know where to start looking."
Indonesian woman looking for her family in the wake of the Christmas Day tsunamis
Those of us who've never experienced a disaster are so very fortunate. Our hearts go out to the victims, we do what we can and then we move on. That seems heartless, but it's probably self defense.
it seems ridiculous to bother with the Yahoo!
Search Top 10 Searches for 2004 when other searches are far more
important. Yahoo's list:
I've always wanted to be somebody, but I can
see now I should have been
“On a ground of disintegration, do not fight. On shallow ground, do not halt. On a ground of contention, do not attack. On a ground of intercourse, do not get cut off. On axial ground, make alliances. On deep ground, plunder. On bad ground, keep going. On surrounded ground, plan ahead. On deadly ground, fight.” Sun Tzu, The Art of War
"I don't know how it is with anybody else, but I can never think about what I'm supposed to think about." Donald Westlake
"I'm embracing my inner curmudgeon." Gerald Nachman more quotations
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