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Monday, December 27, 2004

An Urgent Call for Aid

By: UnrepentantNewDealer


Well, Merry Christmas! Or Happy Kwanzaa, whatever the hell that is. I had originally intended to post a sentimental piece on the true meaning of Christmas, but it has been overtaken by events I must cover first. The other piece will appear later.

Unless you are an extremely self-centered individual or you are completely isolated from the rest of humankind, you know of the horrific events of Sunday. Off the coast of Indonesia, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake, the strongest in 40 years, set off monstrous tsunamis that have left an unparalleled and unprecedented swath of destruction across the Indian Ocean basin from Thailand to Somalia. At the time of this writing, more than 22,000 are confirmed dead in 10 nations and that number is expected to rise further.

For comparison, we lost less than 3,000 individuals in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. In terms of loss of life, that makes this more than 7 times worse than 9/11, and about 4 times worse than the bloodiest day in American history, September 17, 1862, the day of the battle of Antietam in the Civil War. All the horrible bloodletting of those clear September days pales before the cataclysm that has now descended on Southern Asia.

The scale of this tragedy is beyond the ability of us mere mortals to even truly comprehend. So, perhaps the natural human reaction is to say, "That's really sad. Now please pass the sports page." But the people in this region need aid NOW! This is likely to be the costliest natural disaster in human history. Relief organizations are rushing to the scene, but they need our help. This is where you and I come in.

A good organization to contribute to is the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) http://gbgm-umc.org/umcor/. I can personally vouch for UMCOR. Several years ago, a devastating earthquake killed more than 20,000 people in India. Wanting to help, I inquired as to whether the church that I attended was doing anything for the victims of this disaster. When the answer came back in the negative, I led a drive at my church that garnered almost a thousand dollars one Sunday for UMCOR's relief efforts in India. UMCOR does this kind of thing all the time and they are good at it. They have the infrastructure in place to respond rapidly to any disaster, anywhere in the world. They just need the financial resources to help. Other good reputable organizations just off the top of my head include the Red Cross (http://www.redcross.org/) and Doctors Without Borders (http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/).

It may sound like a tired, worn-out cliche, but no matter how much or how little you can give, every little bit helps. I implore everyone who reads this to ask themselves "What can I do?" Maybe, like Isaiah, a little voice inside you will respond, "Here I am Lord. Send me."

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Chrismahistory

By: Michael Akerman


Shameless Plug: Join the new forums!




'Twas the week before Christmas
And all through the web
People kept saying
That Christmas was dead
"It's just made up anyway,"
The Slashdotters said.

"The dates are all wrong
And Christ's story ain't said.
It's all about shopping
For presents and gifts;
About telling kids Santa
Will fulfill their lists."

But a voice out of nowhere
Reminded them this,
"God so loved the world
That he gave us his son,
Such that those who believe,
Have lives never done."

The Slashdotters went silent.
They thought upon this.
Perhaps they hadn't seen,
'Neath the presents and gifts,
That God's love still resided,
Christ's story was told.
Parents still told the tale
Of God's gift to his fold.

And it's true what they thought:
Through commercialism's veil,
Kid's still learn the story,
Parents tell the grand tale.
Christmas still lives,
It's heart still beats strong.
Those who worry for the season
Have their worries placed wrong.

Know this, my friends,
Christmas still lives on.
Through the ribbons and bows,
Under carols and songs,
Children still learn of,
Yes, people still know,
About that holiest child
Born long ago.




Yes folks, it's the week before Christmas: the one day of the year when Jesus rises from the dead, and we have to soothe him back into the grave by singing Christmas carols.

Umm... seriously, though, people worry about the overcommercialization of Christmas. They say we forget about Jesus. I think my poem sums it up nicely: they're wrong. People haven't forgotten. People still go to church, they still remember Jesus. The only thing that reducing the commercialization would bring is removing something that brings joy to many people.

Incidentally, some Christmas history:




People think that Christmas date is arbitrary. Well, largely, it is. Christmas is on the 25th in, as one may be surprised to know, a pagan tradition. Precisely, the Christian leaders of 336 A.D. wanted to eclipse the then-popular Roman Pagan holiday, Saturnalia, as well as several other prevalent pagan events based on the winter solstice. Not knowing Jesus' true birthday anyway, Christmas was set as the date of his celebration. Originally, this was a simple mass. No pomp, no circumstance, no tree.

Over time, Christmas grew more popular (like Microsoft) and absorbed several nearby competitors (like Microsoft). The Christmas tree came from a German tradition, but is reported to have been popular as far back as ancient Egypt. Mistletoe is associated with Frigga, the Scandinavian goddess of love, which is where the kissing tradition came from. Mistletoe was banned by the Christian church due to its idolatrous nature toward Frigga, and the church recommended the use of holly, for which they made up the symbolism that the red berries symbolized Christ's blood, and the pointed leaves his Crown of Thorns. Interestingly, holly itself was pagan before its acceptance in the Church.

The Yule Log came from a tradition of bringing luck upon the family by bringing in a large block of oak, which would sit in the fire and glow through the 12 days of Christmas (I'll get to that in a moment). If the log successfully burned throughout the 12 days, it was said to bring good luck.

Some traditions, of course, sprang from others. The Christmas tree tradition gradually spawned a tradition of decorating the tree. According to legend, Martin Luther was the first person to put candles on the tree. The twelve days of Christmas, similarly, spawned from the celebration of Jesus' birth, purportedly to commemorate the arrival of the Magi (who supposedly showed up 12 days later). By the way, the 12 days of Christmas do not start 12 days before Christmas, but rather, on Christmas itself. Christmas is the first day of Christmas, so you haven't yet missed 5 days of Christmas.

Christmas carols came out of medieval dances (also called carols) that were assimilated by the Anglo-Saxons into small choirs who stood in the town green singing for passerby. This became a Christmas tradition which eventually evolved into the roaming carolers we have today. Christmas carols, of course, created Christmas music, of which "White Christmas" by Bing Crosby (sung by Bing, rather. Written by Irving Berlin) is considered the most popular of modern times ("I'm dreaming of a white Christmas/With every Christmas card I write," and so forth). And Christmas music is played constantly in nearly every store because we've been psychologically conditioned to open our wallets when we hear it (I'm making that up, by the way).

Gift giving really got into full swing in the late 1800s, again to commemorate the Magi, but also because of an interesting marketing story. Gift giving really picked up after the modern Santa Claus evolved, practically overnight. Of course, St. Nick was originally a man who was exceedingly generous and performed several miracles centering on this generosity. However, he had no sleigh, no reindeer, no belly-shaking-like-a-bowl-full-of-jelly, and he didn't come down the chimney until one man wrote a short story for his children. In 1822, Clement Moore wrote "The Night Before Christmas," in which all of these facets appeared. Santa was later developed more fully by Harper's Weekly in a series of engravings showing Santa's workshop, elves, and Santa making his list and checking it twice.

Santa's red and white suit, by the way, are based on the traditional robes of a bishop.

Rudolph also came about from a short poem, handed out by the Montgomery Ward chain in 1939. Again, Rudolph appeared practically overnight.

There you have it. A short aggregate of Christmas history. Most of this, by the way, is drawn from How Stuff Works, and no, I didn't simply plagiarize it.

So, this Christmas, celebrate Jesus, but remember the rich history of the modern Christmas. Commercialism's a good thing. Enjoy it.

By my hand,
~Michael Akerman

Thursday, December 16, 2004

New Forums

By: Michael Akerman


I went ahead and changed forums. I liked ProBoards, but I found that I no longer checked it because it was s.o.o.o. s.l.o.o.o.w.

You can find the new boards (Invision powered) above and here.

~Michael Akerman

Sunday, December 12, 2004

If You Think About It...

By: UnrepentantNewDealer


Of Armor and Responsibility

Rummy, Rummy, Rummy man! Can't you get anything right?

Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld went on a trip to the Middle East this past week. He was scheduled to appear at Camp Buehring, a base in Kuwait from which troops are rotated into Iraq. You know, one of those PR events where the civilian leader of the military takes questions from rank and file troops. Usually, this is a carefully choreographed ritual designed to show people back home how very supportive our troops are of our leaders. Except it didn't quite work out that way.

Army Spc. Thomas Wilson of the 278th Regimental Combat Team, Tennessee National Guard, asked a disturbing question: "Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?... We do not have proper armored vehicles to carry with us north." Don't believe him? Read this: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2002116477_marinearmor10m.html.

(Tell me what's wrong with this picture: we have the greatest military force in the history of mankind, and our troops have to dig through landfills to collect enough scrap metal to armor the vehicles they are being sent into battle with.)

The other 2,300 or so troops at the "town hall meeting" cheered and applauded the question. The lack of armor on these vehicles was troubling to these soldiers soon to be deployed to Iraq. Soldiers are trained to show respect to their superior officers. To ask such a brazen question is an indication of the desperation these soldiers must feel. They felt they deserved an answer.

The response they got instead was classic Rumsfeldian obfuscation: "It's essentially a matter of physics, not a matter of money. It's a matter of production and the capability of doing it." "As you know, you have to go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you want." "If you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank, and it can [still] be blown up."
http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/12/08/rumsfeld.troops/index.html

Interestingly enough, this was not the first time a soldier had asked Rumsfeld this very question. In Baghdad on May 13, 2004, according to Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers were asked this question: "The new -- (off mike) -- humvees they're bringing over with the -- (inaudible) -- those doors are not as good as the ones on the up-armored humvees -- (inaudible). We even lost quite -- we lost some soldiers due to them, and we're trying to make a change -- (inaudible). The question is, are we going to get more up-armored humvees?"

To which Myers responded, "You do not have all the up-armored humvees you need... Production is ramping up this month... We're trying to get them to you as fast as we can... It's not a matter of resources, it's a matter of how fast can we build these things and get them over here. And I review that probably daily, the status of those machines and that equipment that can help... So we're trying. We're trying hard... I understand exactly everything you said, and we'll do our best. And that's our responsibility." [emphasis mine]

So, let's see, a soldier brings this problem to the attention of Rumsfeld and Myers in May, and in December another soldier has to ask the same question because nothing has been done. That's right, the Army hasn't ordered its supplier of Humvee armor to increase production, despite offers from the company to do just that.
http://quote.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000006&sid=aMGdbQCSwiRg&refer=home

I'm sorry, but I don't buy their excuses. They knew about the situation before May, Myers looks at it every day, a soldier asks them about it in May, promises are made, nothing is done, another soldier in December is forced to repeat the question and gets the same empty promises. Why is the Pentagon giving our soldiers the runaround? It is, as you say, your responsibility.
Of Drafts and Insubordination
But Rumsfeld's public humiliation on Wednesday didn't end there. He was grilled on the recent unpopular "stop-loss" order, which requires some units that have already served in Iraq whose volunteer soldiers could otherwise leave the military when their commitments expire to remain to the end of their overseas deployments and up to another 90 days after they come home.

"Stop-loss" is also known as the "backdoor draft" because soldiers that have already served the time they agreed to are involuntarily forced to remain in the military, many of them in Iraq. This is the perfect way to depress troop morale and scare people away from volunteering for the "Army of One." Little wonder then that military enlistments are down.
Little wonder then that on December 6, eight soldiers in Iraq and Kuwait sued the military challenging the "stop-loss" policy, claiming the enlistment contracts are misleading because don't mention the policy and no one informed them they could be forced to stay beyond their discharge date. "Nothing in the contract that he signed says anything about involuntary enlistment," said Jules Lobel, attorney to one of the soldiers.

Little wonder then that 19 Army reservists refused to go on a mission in Iraq in October, because they would be forced to travel in unarmored trucks. Little wonder then the complaining and grumbling in the ranks of the National Guard and Army Reserve troops (now 40% of our force in Iraq) about how they are given substandard equipment compared to the Army, though both are in a war zone.
Little wonder then that the latest AP poll shows that only 47 percent of Americans think it's likely Iraq can establish a stable democratic government, compared to 55 percent who thought that in April.
http://www.cnn.com/2004/US/12/10/military.gripes.ap/index.html

Little wonder then that Iraqis can't even recognize the Iraq the administration touts as a success story.
http://www.sanluisobispo/news/world/10378628.htm

Little wonder then that many in Washington are already beginning to talk seriously about how if the storm clouds of war with Iran, Syria, or North Korea materialize, we will have no choice but to bring back the draft.
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/printFriendly/0,,1-3-1397131-3,00.html

Although, somehow I am quite surprised to learn that now our soldiers in Fallujah are having to chase down rabid animals, rather than insurgents. Oh, the glory of war!
http://www.turkishpress.com/world/news.asp?id=041210033510.1bgx7r1p.xml


Of Treason
"If you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and it can [still] be blown up." Here's something else for Rumsfeld to think about. If you think about it, a secretary of defense and an administration that knowingly send our troops into harm's way without the equipment they need to get their job done and without any apparent concern for their well-being, that refuses offers by manufacturers to provide more protection to our troops, that think it fitting and proper to keep soldiers in our "all-volunteer" armed forces in Iraq long after their enlistments have expired; and a president that encourages our nation's enemies to "bring on" the attacks on our troops--do not these actions constitute a betrayal of the armed servicemen and servicewomen of America? Nay, do they not even constitute treason, defined in the Constitution as "giving aid and comfort to the enemies" of the United States? Really, the only ones who benefit from unarmored or shoddily armored American Humvees in Iraq are the insurgents we are fighting. If so, treason is an impeachable offense under the Constitution, so then should Bush be impeached for all this? Can anyone tell me why not?

If you think about it...

Thursday, December 09, 2004

I Think They Put Exams in December so Christmas Can Cheer You Up

By: Michael Akerman


Ah, December: that magical time when we don our gay apparel, pretty sidewalks are dressed in holiday style, Santa Claus checks his list twice (is that really enough? I mean, with 2 billion or so Christians, you'd think he'd still miss something), and college students march dejectedly toward final exams. Oh, and our Jewish friends do something with candles. And 2% of people celebrate Kwanzaa (Kwanzaa? Seriously?!)

As the title may infer, I'm unsettled about the idea of exams. Not that I did poorly. No, at worst I may have gotten a B on one, unlikely on two. I'm almost certain I got A's (bear in mind that I have two left, though, but they should be easy). My problem is the sheer weight that is placed on these: sometimes up to 40% of your grade is based on the final exam. That's one single test, which cannot be retaken, making up a plurality of your grade.

I'm never for all-or-nothing situations. There should always be a chance to fix your mistakes. This is why I think that someone who committed a single murder should only get life in prison. Any more than one, of course (except in rare cases where several people are killed in one incident, like shooting someone with a shotgun and accidentally killing a passerby) and they should be eligible for the death penalty.




For something more cheerful:

I think people misunderstand Santa. I'm a firm believer in Santa Claus. Not the North-Pole-living, elf-employing variety, of course, but something more akin to the editor's opinion from "Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus." Santa Claus is not a person. Like God, he manifests himself in each person. Granted, St. Nick's scope is more limited. St. Nick manifests himself as a spirit of giving. Santa is every parent on Christmas Eve, sneaking in the middle of the night, losing precious sleep to surprise their children. Santa is the selfless sacrifice of romantics to their loved when they give expensive jewelry, asking nothing in return.

Of course, it's folly to think that Santa is limited to the Christmas season. No, Mr. Claus is present the year round. However, he is never stronger than during Christmas. It's folly as well to think that you should just tell your children that Santa is a spirit. Fact is, it's hard to grasp the idea of an intangible being. This fact is the reason God is portrayed anthropomorphically. He's probably not human, or even human-formed. He probably didn't form us, physically, in his image, but mentally. However, people, especially children and the less rational people of the past ages, can better grasp tangible ideas: six days of creation, an anthropomorphic God, and a geocentric universe. None of these are true, but they're certainly easier to grasp than trillions of years for creation, an isomorphic God, and the Earth drifting around somewhere on the side of the universe.

No, it's better for children to know Santa as human. There will come a point when they will question this. For a while, it's better to fill in the gaps in reasoning for them, because they will be unable to understand the true nature of Santa. They will ask how he can travel around the world in a night: explain that he only has to cover a single time zone in an hour, and he has time-bending technology. But eventually, the time will come that they realize that Santa is not corporeal. I exhort you: don't call Santa false. Don't tell a child he doesn't exist. To do this is to err to a great degree. For, truly, Santa Claus does exist, he always has existed, and he always will exist.

How do I know? I feel him. Can you feel him too?

By my hand,
~Michael Akerman

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Feeling Like Job: A Meditation on Mortality

By: UnrepentantNewDealer


"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return there; the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."
--Job 1:21


Two Funerals


Well, this has been a stressful two weeks. I went home for Thanksgiving break a day early to go to my grandmother's funeral and I stayed a week late to go to my father's funeral. I apologize in advance if my writing lacks its usual eloquence or elan, if perhaps I ramble more than is my custom or cannot produce a witty turn of phrase, if the structure of my argument seems muddled and disjointed. Please bear with me, for it is very painful and difficult enough for me right now to formulate what I want to write, much less determine the best way to write it.

Where to begin? My grandmother on my father's side passed away on Saturday, November 20 at about 2:15 pm. She was 72 years old and had been battling lung cancer for several years. Her death, sad though it was, had been expected for sometime. Everyone got to see her and say what they needed to say. She died at peace with herself and the world. Her funeral, on the day before Thanksgiving, at the church she and her son and daughter attended, Muirs Chapel United Methodist Church in Greensboro, was truly a celebration of a life well-lived.

After the funeral, my aunt treated all the out-of-town relatives to a meal at the Revival Grill. I had no idea, when I said goodbye to my father that night, that I would not see him in the flesh again.

I had planned on coming back with my girlfriend on that next Sunday, as classes started back up the next day. I had packed up everything and was waiting for my ride, when Craig, my stepfather, called to tell me to stay where I was and not leave town. I assumed it was some doctor's appointment or something of that nature that I had forgotten about.

Craig got back about 2:00 pm and told my sister and I the news. There's really no way to cushion news like that. My father, William Kennard Smith, Jr., just "Bill" to everyone who knew him, had died in a house fire about 11:00 that morning, only 8 days after his mom.


Be Thou My Vision


The next week was rough. The arrangements for the funeral had to be made, and as I am 19 and his next of kin, I had to make many of the ultimate decisions. My father had wanted to be cremated like his mother. I decided on burying the urn at Muirs Chapel UMC so I would have a place for me to someday take my children to, to point to a gravestone and tell them about their grandfather.

The funeral was last Thursday. The sanctuary hall was full of people whose lives he had touched, old friends of his I didn't even know existed. It was emotionally draining. I rarely cry, but when they started playing the hymn I had "Be Thou My Vision ", I almost broke down. I had chosen the hymn by opening a Methodist hymnal at random, yet this simple ancient 8th century Irish melody resonated with my soul in my time of despair:


"Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul's Shelter Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of heaven, my victory won,
May I reach heaven's joys, O bright Heaven's Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all."

My father served in the army for about 8 years in Alaska, the Pacific, and in northern Virginia. He was entitled to a military burial, and I was sure would have wanted it, as that was the accomplishment he had always been proudest of. So after the funeral, we made the treck across the street to the gravesite, where 3 aged World War II veterans from the local VFW chapter played taps from a mechanical bugle and presented my sister and I with a flag folded military style and a letter from the President.

Friday was the roughest day of all. Craig, my mom, my aunt, and myself had to go into the now-condemned house to salvage what we could. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. To sift through my father's possessions, charred pictures of our family, was an emotional roller coaster.

Fire is a strange creature. The kitchen was scorched with flame and the plastic containers were melted, yet the roll of paper towels immediately adjacent was not even touched. It was like this throughout the house, even in the living room, where the fire started. On one bookshelf, the contents of the top shelves had been destroyed, but on the very bottom shelf we found, completely intact sheathed in plastic bags, Christmas presents for my sister Catherine and myself that he had already wrapped and labeled. All in all, much of what he had, antiques and family heirlooms, we were able to salvage, and for that I am thankful.

This has been a bad year for this sort of thing in my family. My 101-year old great-grandmother died in March. My grandmother and father followed in November. It's been that kind of a year.

I can't dwell on the negatives though. For my entire childhood and adolescence I never once had to deal with a close relative dying. I have lived my entire life geographically close to most of my relatives. And I have had 2 great-grandmothers in my memory, one of whom lived to be 101. How many other people are lucky enough to be blessed with all those things? I've truly been blessed.


The Lesson of Job


Job was a good, pious man. Misfortune struck him nonetheless. In the course of a single day, his oxen and donkeys were carried off by one group of desert raiders, his camels by another group, his sheep and shepherds were killed by "the fire of God", and all his sons and daughters were killed when a gust of wind knocked down the house they were in. Job felt all the things people feel after a devastating loss: denial, fear, confusion, sorrow, even anger. But rather than curse the Lord, as everyone around him urged him to do, he continued to praise the name of the Lord. As Job 1:22 records, "In all this Job did not sin or charge the Lord with wrongdoing."

But he did demand an accounting from God, challenging God for at least an explanation as to why He had allowed all these misfortunes to happen to him. God didn't answer the question, but instead launched into a sarcastic tirade, posing questions of His own:

"I will question you and you shall declare to me.
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding?
Who determined its measurements--surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
Or who laid its cornerstone
When the morning stars sang together
And all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?
"Have you entered into the springs of the sea,
Or walked in the recesses of the deep?
Have the gates of death been revealed to you,
Or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth?
Declare, if you know all this."

--Job 38:3-7,16-18

The message is clear. We may want an answer, but since we are not omnipresent and cannot comprehend the true grandeur of the Lord's creation, neither can we question, or even understand, his motives. "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away." It is certainly not satisfying from an intellectual standpoint. My inner Socrates continually pushes me to boldly challenge every assertion and skeptically examine every aspect of the world around me. But, for today, that answer is enough.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

On Bloggers

By: Michael Akerman


The blogger is a strange creature. Still a new species, as yet still developing, it is nonetheless remarkably varied. The news bloggers write simple sentences, pointing out interesting factoids, as well as sensational stories. They don't particularly achieve much, but serve a valid purpose, as TV and Hollywood do, in entertaining the world. One could make a name for himself in this manner, but the field is currently saturated. In a few years, when the top dogs rise above the rest, people may know the big names (my prediction is Slashdot will remain the strongest contender).

A far more influential blogger is the citizen journalist. These are the techies who watch the news adamantly, and, more importantly, write the news themselves. These are the ones who were invited to the party conventions, who noticed the discrepancies in the Rathergate report. Already, stories originate here. Their inside sources contact them with a small tidbit, and, using considerable reserves of current events knowledge, they make the crucial connections that reveal the latest scandal or market-shifting force. A dangerous creature? Some say so, due to journalist bias, but I think they are only so to the people for which the mainstream media is a threat. Never take information uncontested at someone's word. Reserve the possibility that it's false.

Of course, there are the bloggers that merely bore me: the personal journalists. These are the majority, who blog about their latest trip to the mall, and how school went. They do no harm, of course, but they gain no fame, they leave little mark. The LiveJournals and Xangas are merely entertainment, a background noise, a soap opera. They fulfill their purpose well.

Growing in numbers are the artists (see Philip's Realtime Delay and the Pictoblog) who can both make an indelible mark on the world and entertain. The blogging poets and novelists, photographers and artists are recognized for their skill by a large audience.

The final major category is the essayist. This is, of course, what IVIC is about. The essayists, I think, make the most difference in the world. They are today's Aristotles, Platos, Sophocleses. Their ideas become your ideas, and they change the face of the world stage. These are the bloggers led in the growth of the blogosphere by such names as the Instapundit. Interestingly, IVIC follows a somewhat Instapundit vein, though I didn't know it when I started. Instapundit is becoming less essayist and more newsy, so perhaps glennreynolds.com (Glenn is the Instapundit) is a better example. Even better would be the Volokh Conspiracy. They both are in the blogroll.

What's more, essayists get noticed. IVIC has grown fairly quickly. We now have about 3500 hits. It took us about a month to get the first 100. At that rate, it would have taken 35 months to get 3500, but it's only been 16. I think we'll see even more rapid growth in the future. We've been mentioned recently on greensboroistalking.com (I don't live there anymore, but Ed and Smith do, so.... Incidentally, apparently there was a blog convention in Greensboro earlier this year. I wish I had known), and I think there'll be more mentions to come. Why? This is a rather unique blog. Most group blogs (there are a ton of 'em) have one political affiliation. It is merely a conservative or liberal group blog. IVIC spans the political spectrum, and I'm always looking for more members. If you find yourself disagreeing with everyone here, and are good at writing essays, drop me a line at drkashik(at)gmail.com. I'll look into adding you, after I see some of your work. Our Google PageRank's a-climbin'! Go ahead. Search for Michael Akerman on Google.

So, there you have it. The essayist is the most important blogger. Of course, I could be biased...

;-)

By my hand,
~Michael Akerman

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Aquinas and the existence of God.....

By: Ed


I must say first that the following is completely copied from another site....I just want to see what everyone thinks of these....Do they hold water?

On the Existence of God....(still me)


(Another person from now on)
First Way: The Argument From Motion St. Thomas Aquinas, studying the works of the Greek philsopher Aristotle, concluded from common observation that an object that is in motion (e.g. the planets, a rolling stone) is put in motion by some other object or force. From this, Aquinas believes that ultimately there must have been an UNMOVED MOVER (GOD) who first put things in motion. Follow the agrument this way: 1) Nothing can move itself. 2) If every object in motion had a mover, then the first object in motion needed a mover. 3) This first mover is the Unmoved Mover, called God.


Second Way: Causation Of Existence This Way deals with the issue of existence. Aquinas concluded that common sense observation tells us that no object creates itself. In other words, some previous object had to create it. Aquinas believed that ultimately there must have been an UNCAUSED FIRST CAUSE (GOD) who began the chain of existence for all things. Follow the agrument this way: 1) There exists things that are caused (created) by other things. 2) Nothing can be the cause of itself (nothing can create itself.) 3) There can not be an endless string of objects causing other objects to exist. 4) Therefore, ther must be an uncaused first cause called God.
Third Way: Contingent and Neccessary Objects This Way defines two types of objects in the universe: contingent beings and necessary beings. A contingent being is an object that can not exist without a necessary being causing its existence. Aquinas believed that the existence of contingent beings would ultimately neccesitate a being which must exist for all of the contingent beings to exist. This being, called a necessary being, is what we call God. Follow the argument this way: 1) Contingent beings are caused. 2) Not every being can be contingent. 3) There must exist a being which is necessary to cause contingent beings. 4) This necessary being is God.
Fourth Way: The Agrument From Degrees And Perfection St. Thomas formulated this Way from a very interesting observation about the qualities of things. For example one may say that of two marble scultures one is more beautiful than the other. So for these two objects, one has a greater degree of beauty than the next. This is referred to as degrees or gradation of a quality. From this fact Aquinas concluded that for any given quality (e.g. goodness, beauty, knowledge) there must be an perfect standard by which all such qualities are measured. These perfections are contained in God.
Fifth Way: The Agrument From Intelligent Design The final Way that St. Thomas Aquinas speaks of has to do with the observable universe and the order of nature. Aquinas states that common sense tells us that the universe works in such a way, that one can conclude that is was designed by an intelligent designer, God. In other words, all physical laws and the order of nature and life were designed and ordered by God, the intellgent designer.

Immigrant Policy....

By: Ed


I was watching comedy central and heard an interesting immigration policy. Yes, I know it was a joke, but it is still interesting.

After 3 generations, if your family has not made its mark on America, your family is deported. Of course, it would be 3 generations after coming here. That is, Americans here now don't have this, only new immigrants.

Of course there are some problems. For example, not everyone can be upper class. Our economy would crash if this happened. So what is "making your mark"? I would change that to "off all government assistance in three generations." After three generations you show you can sustain yourself here and will actually contribute.

I am eager to hear what everyone thinks and how this could be tweaked to work in the US.

Ed

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Fighter.... Mage... Thief...

By: Ed


Which are you?

In an attempt to do...ANYTHING..besides what I am supposed to (ie: writing this bleeping paper) I am posing a question and asking for comments.

I just saw a commercial asking which group you fell under in an RPG; Fighter, Mage or Thief.

I am normally a fighter, though I love magic in games. In the newer games you can mix and match so I am normally a top level fighter with some secondary magic attacks and healing power. (I hate buying health packs).

Which one are YOU??

Ed