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Thursday, September 25, 2003

"I've got a full house." "I've got a Royal Flush." "Well, I beat you both. I've got the Race Card."

By: Michael Akerman


Several weeks ago (several weeks. I'm a procrastinator too.), my AP Government class came upon the subject of racism and pulling the race card in a discussion.

I observed several interesting things on that day. First off, we have two black people in our class who were raised in foreign countries. In the discussion, both mentioned that they did not blame racism for nearly as many things as African-Americans. In fact, they often felt alienated by the frequency that the race card is pulled.

Prince (he's from Africa... Nigeria, I think) said that people often are afraid he'll be offended by certain things that are said, but he usually doesn't even realize that he "should" be offended. Same for Bola (raised in England, but from Nigeria, too, I think (I'm not sure if it's born or just descended from Nigeria.)).

I theorize that the race card phenomenon is in fact an entirely American oddity. I believe I have derived the sources as well.

Americans, as we all know, are highly individualistic. This is hardly a problem by itself, and is a powerful driving force behind many great American systems. However, Americans are also egotistical. We deserve what we want, and it's someone else's fault if we don't get that.

This is the grand root of the race card. Americans look for any excuse as to why they didn't get what they sought. So, minorities point to racism as an excuse as to why they didn't succeed.

This still raises the question of why white people don't commonly use the race card. Again, another uniquely American factor comes into play: liberal guilt. By liberal guilt, I don't mean guilt felt by Democrats (though they feel it more often), but the guilt that comes from the feeling that you are, or have been, better in some way than someone else. This is why we feel like we should clean up old Indian tribal lands, or why we feel that affirmative action is a necessary evil.

Since white people were better than any other race in economic, social, and political standing for a great many years, we feel guilty. We feel bad to use the race card, although we run into the same issues that draw the race card from anyone else.

I have noticed, however, that there is a trend toward racial equality of guilt. More white people draw the race card than before, and fewer minority people do. I suggest that this trend will eventually create an equilibrium, then begin to drop away as fewer and fewer people accept race as a valid excuse.

Some people say that racist issues will never go away. I disagree. I believe that, with time, racism will go the way of moonshining and blatant organized crime sydicates.

~Michael Akerman,
...I fold...

Monday, September 22, 2003

Word. And... um... Check It...

By: Michael Akerman


First off:

Watch it!

You will watch this!

You will be amazed!

Watch it!

Be amazed!




Heh... I like that...

Mushroom! Mushroom!

Anyways...




All the Liberals Say "What!"

Huh?

No, what!

What?

Right.


Last week (I haven't posted lately. I know. Haven't gotten in the mood.) our A.P. Government class took a quiz to find out our placement on the political spectrum. Incidentally, I was by far the most conservative class member (more than twice as conservative as the next). Predictably, most of the class was liberal. This is a fairly accurate representation of a high school, and for very logical reasons.

In high school, most people do not think about issues. They simply believe what they feel. And feelings are what liberalism runs on. Now, far be it for me to say that all liberals run on feelings (I'm sure some honestly believe liberal idealogy. Of course, they're wrong, but most of that wrongness will be discussed eventually in the blog, so let's not be abstract.)

Those who view the issues through the clarifying lens of logic understand the benefits of conservative idealogy, and thus believe these beliefs. They know that laissez faire and restrictions on negligent behavior will help the whole of the country. The economic controls and Do-What-You-Want beliefs of the liberal camp may benefit the individual, but they have the potential to destroy the country entirely (luckily, most liberals are more moderate than this, and there are conservatives to counter-balance them), and that wouldn't be good for anyone, now would it?

Other things: A lot of people didn't realize how moderate they were before they analyzed themselves. Some didn't realize they were slightly liberal (they thought they were on the good side ;)). Other than that, I don't have much else to say right now.

~Michael Akerman,
..."The Cheat is not dead!"...

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Allow Myself to Introduce.... Myself

By: UnrepentantNewDealer


I suppose it would be rude to post blogs without introducing myself (rather like walking up to a complete stranger and conversing with him like you would with a trusted friend). So... Where to begin?

My name is Michael Smith. I attend Ragsdale High School alongside some of the most agile, perceptive and quick-thinking minds I have thus far encountered, almost all of whom are regular contributors to this Blog. This is my senior year and the combination of senioritis and chronic procrastination is converging to create a perfect storm of epic proportions -- The Big Crunch. Between church (I am President of my church's Youth Council, DeMolay (a service and character building club, very similar to the Boy Scouts, but affiliated with the Masons, of which I am Master Councilor, the highest elected position), scanning groceries at work, filling out college application essays and doing the homework and studying associated with the three AP courses I am taking this semester, that leaves very little time to pursue my favorite pastime (reading), much less posting blog entries.

I now find myself in the unusual position of having no spare time. (OK, technically time does not exist, but time is a useful concept. We humans would go crazy if we hadn't created the concept of time. To quantify the world around us is, I am convinced, the very crux, the essence of being human. I quantify, therefore I am.... More on the nonexistence of time later... see what I mean?)

My long-term career goals include working for the State Department or CIA, pursing a career in writing (both fiction and nonfiction) and screenwriting, as well as a possible campaign for the U.S. Senate or other high federal office. Just think: "Send Mr. Smith to Washington", "I Like Mike"... the slogan possibilities alone are endless! Which leads naturally enough into my first political discussion on this site. This being the natural end to my intro, I will pick up with the aforementioned post later and end this particular post now (Aaaugh! Time references again!)

Until next "time",

*Michael Smith*

Everything changes! Everything chaaAAaaaAAAnges! ;)

By: Michael Akerman


For those keeping score (I know I am), the site's undergone a quasi-facelift. More of a noselift, really.




Some things I've added and changed:

New "Posted by" line above the posts (confused about who posted something? So was I!).

Nifty horizontal reference bars all over the joint.

New "Posted by" line beside the date at the bottom of posts.

All the links should now pop up a new window.

Knowledge of how to manipulate text size, color, and fonts (see above).





Now, if any of it doesn't work, feel free to e-mail me. The e-mail link is at the bottom-right.

Most knowledge for changes came from HTML Goodies.

Look for more to come in the future later after now,

~Michael Akerman,
...maybe we'll switch back to our original informal signatures...

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Taxes for Teens

By: Ed


A few days ago, I recieved my pay check. Upon opening it, I discovered it was a bit.... light. I looked at my deductions for the first time and saw exactly where my money was going. TAXES.
Now yes, I did know I was being taxed, but not this much. Since I started my job two months ago I have payed 132.55 dollars. This may not be a lot for some of you, but to 17 year-old it is a lot.

The amount I was being taxed didn't bother me as much as the fact that I couldn't vote to change it though. Then it dawned on me; I was being oppressed. The same thing our countries founders fought against was happening to me.

Then I had another epiphany. If I were to speak against it, I would probably change nothing. History repeats itself. Of course, there will be no war. I am not that dedicated to the cause, but I thought it was ironic and interesting so I shared it.

Hoping to find time to share more thoughts,

-Ed

Thursday, September 11, 2003

100 hits

By: Michael Akerman


Well, according to the counter (see right side), the blog just got its 100th hit.

Happy anniversary!

~Michael Akerman,
...break out the party hats!...

Geez. What an active day...

By: Michael Akerman


Honestly, it was. New blog subjects popped up left and right.

So, boys and girls, dudes and chicks: let's end with the mental and begin mundane. Stare at the screen and prepare for the strain as we delve into the realm of a high school brain. It's time for some blogging, so just sit right there, and pay close attention to the "when"s, "how"s, and "where"s. I guess I'll get started, now that I have the time, if only I could learn how to stop writing in rhyme...

Like I said, the most mundane subject today:




New blog features!

Hooray for me! There are new blogging features (including spellcheck. Watch out, world! Michael's computer can spell for him!).

Now, on to a more mental capacity.




The Terror and the Tragedy: Two Years Past

As I'm sure you well know, today is September 11th. I salute those who died in the cowardly attack on our country two years ago. May they rest in peace and be praised in heaven.






This morning we had a flag ceremony honoring the 9/11 victims. It was a simple ceremony, requiring less than five minutes of one's life to take part in. Many came, although I'm sure a lot more would have if they had known about it (I only found out because I was sitting by the front door). My best friend Philip, however, was trying to convince me that we shouldn't have a flag ceremony for the victims of 9/11, and that we weren't honoring our country by doing so. He said that it was not an attack against our country, but rather only affected three states.

Another friend of mine, Justin, tried to convince me that we shouldn't have a national holiday on September 11th because "that's what the terrorists wanted" (referring to wanting to shut down our economy).

This obviously sounds terrible of them to say. Justin's statement was only made because he didn't fully carry out his logic process. Obviously, the terrorists didn't want to shut us down for a day. Rather, they were symbolizing their desire to shut us down forever. We do, in fact, need a holiday to honor those fallen.

Philip's statements still troubled me. I found myself wondering how he could say that the attacks only affected three states. Finally, it occurred to me. I'm convinced that Philip, like many Americans, is simply coping with 9/11 by objectifying it. He retreats into the realm of logic to avoid pain, much like how the physical body goes into a coma to avoid pain. He simply affirmed this for me when, at lunch, he said he felt sad for the victims just like he does when anyone dies, but no more so than a normal, natural death.

I caution people not to be angry with people who take strange measures to cope with a tragedy. It's simply a mechanism, like religion or humor, to get through tough things.




Now, another thing that bothers me about 9/11 reports and media coverage is how media personnel say that America changed after September 11th, 2001. They say the citizens became more patriotic and compassionate. I disagree.

Americans have always been patriotic and compassionate toward their fellow men, but had no focal point for these traits. September 11th was a tragedy of such magnitude that it served as a banner of sorts, a modern-day "Remember the Alamo." Our country's citizens rallied behind this standard, ready to fight for justice and work for harmony.

Interestingly, this is, in fact, a normal American reaction. The Revolutionary War instilled in the populace a permanent penchant for doing whatever is necessary to keep our rights. The most obvious example of this, besides September 11th, was World War II. In this rare case, our very system of government was threatened. Our fundamental principles were in danger of being compromised. A huge wave of patriotic action spread out and, though we look on it with disdain now, on through the anti-Communism era of the 1950s.

The very same happened two years ago. The terrorists of September 11th, 2001 presented a threat to our fundamental right of relative safety. The attack was impossible to predict, and killed randomly. We, as Americans, could not let our right to safety and happiness fall to the wayside.

The country took up a standard then, not only of retribution, but of giving. We took it upon ourselves to restore peace to our shores by helping our fellow man. Like the period after World War II, we are still experiencing the effects of this great patriotic revival. Likely, this trend will continue for many years, although with almost assuredly better results. Last time, we fought for our government. This time, we fight for our happiness.




A Case Study

Maggie Dewar told me about her blog yesterday, and I read the same last night. It struck me after reading it that she is far too hard on herself, and subsequently, I realized why.

For reference, you can read her blog yourself, here:

Maggie's Blog

There, if you're through reading it, I'm sure you can see that she (reportedly) has an awful love life and everything seems to go badly for her. Knowing Maggie personally, I must say, she's wrong.

Maggie's sister was near the top of her class (if not the top. I don't recall exactly). She was absolutely amazing in the subject of English, and did fantastically in school. She is a nice girl by all accounts, pleasant and interesting to talk to. She goes to Duke University.

Madeline (Maggie's sister) is tough to compare oneself to. Throughout her life, as is the case for all siblings, Maggie has most likely been comparing herself, at least sub-consciously, to Madeline.

We are all our own worst critics, and Maggie most assuredly misrepresented herself (she does so in her blog, too). Maggie is a wonderful girl. She is smart and interesting, and as lively as anyone I've ever known. In my opinion, she is quite fetching by any standard.

Maggie, I'm sure, felt she could not match up to her sister (although this is false), on whom praise has been strewn profusely. Usually, this would result in inter-sibling dislike. Maggie's case is complicated, though.

Maggie's sister is her best friend. She would tell her anything, and trust her with anything. She does not wish to feel any animosity to the sister she loves so much, yet does. Maggie sees fit (subconsciously, mind you) to punish herself. She reflects the animosity toward her sister onto her social, home, and love life.

Take, for instance, Gohar. Gohar was Maggie's boyfriend last year (according to Maggie, I was the one who broke them up). According to Maggie, Gohar constantly cheated on her. They would fight often and generally did not have a very happy relationship. Maggie reports that she wanted to not want Gohar, but couldn't. She says she would fall in love with him again each time she saw him.

This flip-flop love life points to a self-mutilation complex. Whenever she viewed her relationship with Gohar in a truly logical sense, she realized that the relationship was a mistake. However, when she let herself over to her sub-conscious, she would revert back to her self-mutilation. Maggie carries out this same sequence in countless other situations, from wondering if she's ruining a relationship with her father while hating him anyways to arranging herself in situations where she cannot date a satisfactory boyfriend.




I was going to post one more subject today, but this is really long already, so I'll do it sometime later.

~Michael Akerman,
...I hope you enjoyed...

Saturday, September 06, 2003

On life:

By: Michael Akerman


Blame it on my contemplative nature...

At any rate, thoughts on the nature of life have been creeping around my head for the past couple of days.

One of the greatest questions of all time is the meaning of life. In my opinion, the meaning of life is the quest for happiness.

Life is not about who has the most toys, or who makes their way into the history books. Life is about enjoyment. God did not put us on the Earth to spend our lives in a middle-management position because we can't get a better job.

Society has done a fantastic job of screwing up the quest for happiness. It's hard to say when it happened, but society requires success even from those who don't wish to have success (for the record, I'm not speaking of myself).

In my opinion, the ultimate societal system is the Brave New World system. Everyone is happy, the economy runs efficiently, all needs get are fulfilled, but not without enough challenge to maintain happiness. Of course, not many people go for engineering low-intelligence grunts to do manual work and limiting personal expression. Besides, the society kept making mistakes. First, Bernard was the biggest mistake. The technology was not perfected enough to guarantee that mistakes like him would not be made. Secondly, the Savage Preserves were a REALLY bad idea. They should have been assimilated into society. Sorry, I digress.

Life reaches no higher point than discovery. Many will argue with me that learning is not fun. I strongly disagree. I feel immensely sorry for any person who has never experienced the thrill of discovery. Many have been trained to dislike learning (largely because of school, which I think should be a voluntary system. But that's a subject for another post) because they were forced to learn, much like how I hate Dickens because I was forced to read Great Expectations (worst book ever). In the quest for happiness, the sciences are a permanent drug.

Speaking of drugs, many may argue with me that drugs, alcohol, parties, etc. are our best tools for happiness. This argument is fundamentally flawed. While all things are okay in moderation, drinking to the point of being drunk is pointless and wasteful. Drunkards claim they are happy, yet when it comes down to it, they are fooling themselves. By the time they are no longer drunk, their life is right back to normal. The same goes for drug addicts, and to a lesser extent partiers. People simply use these things as surrogates for living.

The only true life is achievement. I don't mean the traditional American achievement (money, fame, sex), but rather real achievement. The kind that people on their deathbeds think about when they say their life has been good. Friends, family, love, and happiness. No person will reflect happily on a life of parties as they lay dieing, but will almost assuredly regret it.
Achievement, depending on the person, may even include elements of American achievement. I, for one, count leaving a mark of humanitarianism and betterment of humanity as the greatest achievement of all.

I suppose there's not much more I can say about life for now.

~Michael Akerman,
...it bothers me slightly that people will read this and think that they "knew" it because it's logical... hindsight bias... that's life ;)...

Interesting Developments:

By: Michael Akerman


Today Blogger and Blog*Spot fell under attack, and service went down. If you tried to access this site and couldn't get on, try again! I'm back up now! (Wait... if you haven't tried to access again... how can...? Ah, whatever)

The most interesting news: I'm Googleable! Checked Google last night, and this site finally showed up! (As a side note, though I'm linked to everyone else's blog (see right side), and Googlebot finds sites by jumping through links, no one else's blog was listed. Conclusion: Google is based on hits for whose site is hosted, so mine wins!)

Also, check to the right to find a link to e-mail me.

~Michael Akerman,
...I feel important...

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Procrastination

By: UnrepentantNewDealer


And now, what you've all been waiting for: my inaugeral blog! (My fellow Bloggers...) I apologize for the inevitable delay. Upon being invited to join this blog my Michael Akerman, I immediately started thinking of blog ideas. I was intrigued by the possibilities of this brave new technological world. I fully intended to post my first blog quite some time ago. But there really aren't enough hours in the day and I just never got around to it because, because, well, I don't really have a convincing, reasonably plausible excuse, but if you can think of one, please let me know.

That's right: "My name is Michael Smith..."

"Hi, Michael!"

"...And I am a procrastinator."

Unfortunately, there is no cure for procrastination, nor are there any self-help twelve-step programs for us procrastinators. However, there are a number of websites that I have found to be useful, or rather websites to while away the hours that should be spent doing something productive. To wit, they are:

1. www.bbc.co.uk/dna/place-nireland/A431911
-- a hilarious Guide Entry on H2G2 (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy website)-- need I say more?

2. www.procrastinators.org/about.shtml
-- The website of the Procrastinator's Club (check out the Googleplex Project).

3. http://personal.nbnet.nb.ca/twjhnst
-- The Procrastinator's Page, home of the Procrastinator's Creed.

4.www.geocities.com/mohamedqasem/myinventions/procrastinatorswatch.html
-- Interesting site about time

Well, I'll blog again when I get around to it (tomorrow, I promise)

---Michael Smith

Monday, September 01, 2003

So it ends:

By: Michael Akerman


Ed and I have decided to cut off this argument at that last post for fear of it never ending and devolving into a repetitive spewing of old arguments.

Though I posted last, don't construe it as me winning the argument or Ed giving up. I simply posted last before we decided to stop.

~Michael,
...expect more arguments like this once Smith comes on board... that kid's not very e-mail active...

This argument could go on a while...

By: Michael Akerman


Well, Ed, once again, you show an... interesting business sense and misunderstanding of psychology.

First, let me clarify. Society THINKS they hate introverts. People do not hate introverts. In fact, people are more likely to hate extroverts, as they may not only be annoying, rude, incompetent and overbearing, but also talkative and around all the time. The introverts who are annoying and overbearing are rather easy to avoid, because they're perfectly fine with being avoided. Most introverts are not incapable of interaction, because it is necessary in life. In fact, they have exactly the same capability for interaction as extroverts, but they do not garner the same enjoyment as extroverts. They are still polite, caring, helpful, and even charismatic, but they would rather not meet a lot of new people. Their communicatory skills are still evident among their friends, whom they are far more devoted to than extroverts.

Now, you say that colleges want extroverts to spread their praises by word-of-mouth. I assure you, colleges do not need word of mouth. A college's business is not based on how much its name is shouted from the rooftops, but rather the quality of its programs and its location. The only factor in college choice that is based on popularity revolves around sports teams (would so many people care about Duke or UNC-CH if it weren't for sports?), and anyone who actually cares about their education will not base their college choice on the quality of the college's sports team.

Contrarily, what a college relies on is actually success, much of which comes from past introverted students. Colleges blanket high school students with statistics: "graduates from our science programs have won 13 Nobel prizes in the last 20 years, and make, on average, $100,000 upon graduating college", etc.

Now, Ed, you obviously have a very... defined view of business, but it is narrowly applicable. While it is true that in the business field extroverts are favored, in R&D, economic analysis, engineering, and any other science or math field, introverts succeed far more than extroverts. Business owners, Presidents, and CEOs expect results from these people, and in very tangible ways. While in business, it hard or impossible to measure the true impact of a single change, it is logical and simple to do so in science or math. To gain promotions in these fields, one must create good results, a thing introverts are very good at.

The disparity in business between introverts and extroverts is an entirely different and drawn out argument, so I will not argue it here, but I will say this. You say that politics is where the important stuff happens, and that introverts can't succeed because they can't interact. Once again, this is narrow-minded and incorrect. Introverted simply means they do not enjoy certain interactions (large groups, public speaking, and the like). However, introverts are extremely strong-willed on average, and will do what is necessary to gain what they want. If an introvert wants to be a politician, they will most likely succeed just as well or better than most extroverts. They will work at public speaking, and will themselves to present a good image in public, though they will not enjoy this facet of their career. They recognize that this is necessary in their chosen field if they want to make a change and get to the point in their career that they enjoy.

Now, Ed, I am curious. How often do you hear people in public environments, without being asked, spout out what college they went to and start shouting its praises? I certainly have seldom encountered this (there was this one time with Mr. Bender, but that guy's a special case). I also assure you that if a discussion prompts an enumeration of schools attended and their benefits, an introvert will still take part. Being an introvert does not mean being a cynic, and does not mean being reserved in all situations. It also does not mean they will not take part in discussions, even if the discussion is pointless. It strikes me (suddenly, an epiphiny) that perhaps the best way to characterize introverts is not that they don't interact, but rather that they're less likely to accept a new person into their group of friends.

We humans are social creatures. We all interact. We all have to be around people. The difference is that an extrovert may enjoy going to a big party, while an introvert would prefer a small get-together with friends, or perhaps a good book.

Besides, who are people more likely to believe? The introvert who has proven themselves objective, logical, and trustworthy, or the extrovert who strives to please everyone, be politically correct, refuses to see the bad side of things, and partied through most of college?

~Michael,
...I feel like I repeated a lot in that post, but I won't change it for fear of compromising my arguments...