Dear Lord, I've been tagged.

Posted by Whit Barringer , Sunday, February 17, 2008 6:11 PM

Okay. So I actually volunteered myself to be tagged. Ehhh, what's done is done. Thanks Amanda!

Here are the rules:

1) Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2) Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3) Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4) Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Amanda upped the ante, so I'm going to use pictures for all of mine.

1.) I live on 40 acres. My great grandfather bought the land for $800 ($20/acre) in the early 1900s. You can imagine how much it's worth now. These two pictures are of part of my backyard. Most of the land extends beyond the trees and in the "front yard", which is not shown.






























2.) I'm a Capricorn. Goat-fish!















3.) I own a typewriter that is quite possibly older than Methuselah. It works as you might expect.















4.) I invented my own hamburger dish. It involves butter, garlic, pepperjack cheese, and ranch dressing mix. But that's all I'll tell you. (You should tell me to make it for you sometime.)















5.) Contrary to what you might think, I really don't like sweets. I'd rather have warm tasty food than tooth-rotting candy, cookies, or cake 95% of the time. I do have a soft spot for warm chocolate chip cookies and Hershey's Hugs, but they are definitely not personal food groups.















6.) I am obsessed with symbolism and influential relationships. I bought tarot cards recently so I could study their meanings. When I went to Italy, I was on constant overload, absorbing as much religious and cultural symbolism as possible. I don't believe in any conspiracy theories, but I enjoy reading about old secretive organizations with odd customs. I love reading about Native American tribes and their cultures and folklore. I also love reading about ancient civilizations.

I believe that all of these relationships affect how we live - whether it has affected our ideals of freedom and soul, or the language we use everyday. I've chosen a picture of Jesus being baptized by John in the Jordan River. Of course, the dove of the Holy Spirit is descending upon Jesus, and John the Baptist can be seen pouring the water. The man in the background is not God, but a personification of the Jordan River, who is depicted in Poseidon fashion. This mosaic was done in the fifth century by Eastern craftsmen - which shows the influence that the Roman empire had in the east.

Are you still there? I wasn't kidding and I warned you, so meh.

Last one!

7.) My favorite time of day is dusk. See evidence below.

























































So who are the next victims? I tag Donna, Tim, Jeremy, Monda, and Nathan. I'll leave the next two up to volunteers.

Note: All pictures were taken by me and are from my various trips to different places. If you want/need more information about any photograph, I'd be glad to help.

Feuer der Seele, or "How I found my inner blog."

Posted by Whit Barringer 5:26 PM

I thought I'd take a break from pissed-off-posting to take a long look in the mirror. What is Adamant's Fire all about? What does it mean to me? What am I hoping to accomplish?

To answer that, I have to explain (or at least remember) why I named this "Adamant's Fire" in the first place.

From the first post back in September 2005:

I'm sure that this sounds frivolous and not as serious as I've read in some of the other bloggers[sic] post, but I refuse to resign myself to that sort of political jargon incessantly. I am not brilliant, but I am far from stupid. I'll make my comments on current events as it suits me, as this is my corner of the web and no one elses [sic].
That first post says a lot about where I was when I began writing here, besides being a commentary on my proofread-as-I-write skills). I wanted an open corner - something that belonged to me, but something that everyone could see. But I dropped Blogger before it could even think about becoming a bad habit. I went over to Xanga, but that went bust sometime early last year. I'd been typing away over at Xanga, but I had locked that profile and even protected some of the posts. What's the point of keeping a blog when it's only a conversation between you and certain people? If that's all it is, then why not tell them personally? That's what my Xanga boiled down to. It wasn't about writing about the world and being aware. It was about constantly turning inward, constantly reaching for something, and then constantly shelving it, away from curious eyes.

If I wanted to be constantly introspective, I should have started a diary. I think that realization hit me sometime ago. I became overwhelmingly dissatisfied at my desire to dissect myself. I accept that the unexamined life isn't worth living. But life is broad, and doesn't just include my own, right? So now, my Xanga sits, overgrown with weeds and ivy.

As clear as my intentions were, I didn't post on Adamant's Fire until that following May. Because that entry came after such a long hiatus, the new entry set the tone. I was leaving for Florence, and it was my first time out of the country. I was very afraid, but I was excited. I felt like an explorer, setting out to chart a legendary territory. While few places are as thoroughly mapped out as Italy, I was able to keep myself from the disenfranchisement inherent in European traveling - the thought of "this has been done before."

I've established that this blog is about possession (ideas, opinions, emotions, space), but also about passion.

A username that I use a lot is "Adamanthenes." You may have noticed that my username for this blog is "W.E.B. Adamant." It was a very conscious switch, though subtle and a lot easier to pronounce.

"Adamant" is a contradiction. As can be seen throughout this blog and throughout many of my other writings, I am adamant about many things - opinionated, sometimes unwavering, and bold. However, I can be just as confused, wishy-washy, and indecisive - even weak - as anyone else. I can be everything, and I can be nothing. Sometimes, it doesn't take much to make me one way or the other.

The suffix, -henes, is very much ancient and not of my time, but I dreamed the fusion of "Adamant" and "-henes" after reading Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, in which one of the characters (Valentine) writes on the "nets" as "Demosthenes." I took due inspiration, and left it at that. (Last summer while I was in the Musei Vaticani, I quite accidentally happened upon my partial namesake's 2000-year-old bust. It was strange and amazing.)

I don't remember when I made the switch to "W.E.B. Adamant", but I did it because I wanted to make a new name for myself. W.E.B. Adamant was going to be my nom de plume. Of course, it was going to be awesome and launch my literary career. Somewhat depressingly, those dreams were somewhat squashed when people missed the hint and associated my name with the my awesome pseudonym. I'm still thinking of another. I'll be alright, though. It'll take more than a pseudonym to get me down.

To the point: Adamant's Fire is about the passion of Adamant. I only post what I feel motivated to write (unless it's filler - and I was motivated at *some* point to write it). This isn't supposed to be the mundane, constantly introspective blog that 12-year-olds write in their ultra-private diaries with the easy-to-pick lock. This is about passion, about fire, and about dreams of the future.

Now, that's not a high goal at all, is it?

A Two-for-One Deal: FISA and the Iraq/Afghanistan Wars

Posted by Whit Barringer , Friday, February 15, 2008 8:37 AM

Below are two different posts combined. The first, which follows, is about FISA. I was going to write some huge entry on the Republican walkout in Congress yesterday, the reasons we should reject FISA (especially with telecom immunity), and the disappointing votes in the Senate that passed FISA with telecom immunity (that includes Senator Lincoln (D) of Arkansas - my senator). However, I found the following link at Scholars & Rogues, and every single word was taken out of my mouth.


The second post is something that I've already posted elsewhere. I want to submit it to you, the reader, and gather your opinion on the same topic.

I was addressing this question: I would like to ask how us maintaining stability in Iraq improves our national security?

Here is my answer, though I don't claim to know much more about the whole affair than the casual news-watcher. Just an educated guess, I s'pose.

Iraq alone? Not much. Most news and military reports say that al Qaeda has left Iraq in droves because of concentrated troops due to the surge, and local tribal leaders siding with the U.S. (which takes a source of recruits away).

However, the entire region is extremely volatile. Here's a map:



Photobucket

Iraq is surrounded by countries constantly plagued by violence and upheaval (as well as association with terrorism): Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, and a hop (not a hop-skip-jump) from Israel and Palestine. Interestingly enough, you can see that our occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq have sandwiched Iran. It's not surprising as to why the Iranian president is more suited to make threats against the U.S. that can only seek to anger the American president and people. It's surrounded and feels the pinch.

But as far as an honorable exit from Iraq? Don't expect it. It's either going to be the John Edwards type withdrawal, where we pull the rug out beneath the Iraqi feet, or we take McCain's plan to stay there for however long it takes - even in the case that we'll never leave.

I think building democracy, as Bush claims we're trying to do, is a side-project. America wants the region stabilized so that it's productive. So what if it has democracy? There are plenty of other regions in the world that commit even worse atrocities (Burma? Darfur?). Invading Iraq and claiming the spread of democracy and the downfall of tyranny is suspiciously oblivious to goings on in the rest of the world (especially when we can't even admit our own successful bouts with genocide).

This brings up the upcoming, unavoidable, interesting, and terrifying concept of "peak oil." What it means for the world? When you reach peak oil, and every bit of it is being gobbled up by oil-hungry countries, and there's absolutely no where else to turn. You can't squeeze another million barrels out of an empty oil reservoir. Even if you could, it would probably be the last drops of oil we would ever receive from the reservoir - with or without new technology.

Peak oil means that what one nation gets, another nation goes without. Iraq is a good way to secure one of the more fertile oil nations in the Middle East as a supporter of America come peak oil time. You had better believe that the "we're not here for oil" rhetoric will disappear as fast as the gas prices rise.

So, back to [the original] question. How does this improve national security? In the short term, it really doesn't. It provides us with a rather unstable foothold in a completely unfamiliar land with unfamiliar customs that are incompatible with democracy and freedom and individualism. We've managed to piss off every country and have - wittingly or unwittingly - made them fear 21st century imperialism. But, on the other hand, we've quite possibly secured America can survive past peak oil, buying us enough time to switch to other fuel sources.

Iraq can't keep American's oil addiction forever, but it can buy us enough years to completely transform our economy.

Does that mean I support the war? I don't and I never did. But I can see the long term implications of our being there, and I find it hard to make a case for us to get out immediately - whether it's because of the backlash of violence that will surely come if we leave (and the massacres of thousands of people), or the coming of peak oil. The debt is the only huge reason I think we should come up with long-term plans for a war that we didn't plan to be long-term.


Dear reader-who-I-hope-is-still-reading, what do you think?


Livid. Absolutely livid.

Posted by Whit Barringer , Wednesday, February 13, 2008 10:42 AM

Telecom Immunity? Yes, please!

How big of a budget? $3.1 trillion? A little under a fourth of the U.S. total GDP? And you want to cut popular programs for children, impoverished, and education? Sure thing!

I might blog on these two things later, but I'm sure they speak for themselves.

Thoughts about men I never want to vote for.

Posted by Whit Barringer , Sunday, February 10, 2008 2:39 PM

This is in response to a post on a forum I frequent. Many people are calling a McCain/Huckabee ticket as the most perfect thing the Republicans can do right now. I strongly disagree, and most of the following is in that vein. However, as the title suggests, I don't plan to vote for the Republican nominee at this time, and can't really see a reason in the near future that I would want to do so. At any rate, here are my $0.02.

_____________

I was thinking about the possibility of the McCain/Huckabee ticket, and began wondering if it's really a possibility. Huckabee is a social conservative - not really a Republican. He spends like a Democrat, supports social programs like a Democrat, and has a nagging ability to raise taxes like a Democrat. He just believes in a 6,000 year-old Earth, is pro-life, and carries a gun. That doesn't make him a true Republican.

The people who voted for McCain were appalled at Huckabee. The votes for Huckabee were split between Romney and Huck, not Huck and McCain. I see what everyone is saying about McCain/Huckabee being a fantastic ticket, but I think comments that Huckabee's made, like making the Constitution match the Bible, make real Republicans cringe. Even social conservatives balked when he said that.

That said, while people have amazingly short memories, I have to say that they will probably still remember the power that the current administration's VP has had in the White House. I had a conversation with a politically savvy friend, and he went so far as to say that Bush was a pretty face, and that Cheney would have been the presidential nominee if it wasn't for his time bomb of a heart. While McCain is seen as more intelligent than Bush, I think it would be unwise to say Huckabee would be an idle player in the White House. Don't forget - McCain is an older man, and Huck would be next in line. I don't think people will easily forget that, either (not that I'm under any belief that McCain's not in good health).

So, while many will champion the McCain/Huck ticket, I think it might quite seriously be the downfall of the campaign. Huckabee is an evangelical. Combine that with both of their former attitudes toward illegal immigrants, and many people will dismiss their campaign without further thought.

On the other hand, Obama appeals to many Republicans because they see him as relatively non-partisan. While I think that the Democratic race is far from over, I think that if Obama were to take the nomination, there would be more crossover from the right to the left than there would be from the left to the right.

Like someone else has said on the forum, if this is going to turn into an Obama/McCain race, it will force people to really think about who they are voting for. I think this election, more than some that have come in the past, will be a "thinking" race more than a "feeling" race - which is very very exciting.
_____________

If you haven't guessed already, I've been following the presidential race religiously. In fact, I have a little NPR worship service every day in my car/church. Since I'm constantly on my computer as well (though not while in the car), I wait for the RSS updates and breaking news to pour into my reader and inbox respectively like I was waiting for the Second Coming. All blasphemy aside, I am very much a part of this political process and cannot wait to see how the country votes in the election.

A non-partisan note: Whoever you plan to support or not support, I implore you, Dear Reader, to vote. Show your solidarity and make a stand for what you think is right. Make your voice heard. As one of my teachers used to say, it's only then will you have any right to brag or complain. I intend to reserve that right, and so should you.

Firestarters: Highlights of the Highly Miscellaneous Part IV

Posted by Whit Barringer , Tuesday, February 05, 2008 10:09 AM

Time for another Firestarter!

  • Snorting a Brain Chemical Could Replace Sleep (Wired.com)
    • If that's not scary enough as it is, the article states that it has "no apparent side effects." Is this the dawn of the eternal all-nighter? I kind of hope so. Not enough hours in the day as it is. Speaking of monkeys...
  • Monkey controls a robot half a world away. (NYTimes)
    • What's the big deal? Well, because the monkey was able to make the robot walk with her brain (even after she'd stopped walking and had started eating a banana), it's a breakthrough that may give the paralyzed hope that they will actually be able to control their bodies full-ranged movement with the same amount of effort as the rest of us. Oh, and speaking (indirectly) of prosthetics...
  • "Bionic" arm revolutionizes prosthetics. (IEEE)
    • Believe it or not, prosthetics haven't changed much. With the advancement of the "Luke" arm (named after Skywalker and his prosthesis in Star Wars), amputees will be given the possibility of six possible grip functions, as well as a nearly full range (if not full range) of movement possible in non-amputees - if it gets the funding. Speaking of (even more indirectly) revolutionizing the existing system...
  • "The 'Bowed' Piano: Fishing for a New Sound" (NPR.org)
    • The most amazing sounds to come out of a piano - possibly ever. While they mangle the piano to a point where it's nearly unrecognizable, you have to admit that it's still amazing and awesome that ten people are playing it. There is a video and a few songs listed on the left if you would like to listen to something amazing. Speaking of music...
  • RIAA abandons ruse that they sue for the artists as they seek to stick it to said artists. (Hollywood Reporter)
    • As if the “reign of terror” against college students wasn’t bad enough. While I don’t advocate piracy, I don’t “advocate” corporate greed, either. This entire time, the RIAA has been suing on the premise that not only is their bottom line hurting, but the artists are hurting too. Well, no longer. Songwriters and publishers are making too much money, they say. Sad thing is, major music distribution services like Apple, Yahoo, and Napster all agree. Speaking of corporate bastards and those who would like to stick it to them like they have to everyone else...
  • "20 minutes or so on why I am 4Barack" (Lessig Blog)
    • While you may or may not be involved in the political process, it's still a good video to watch - if not to see if your mind can be changed, then to see the differences between Barack and Hillary (though rather negative on the Hillary side of things). This is who I'm voting for this primary season, and I thought I'd share some of the reasons why. Speaking of political rivalries...
  • "In Democratic Families, Politics make for Estranged Bedfellows." (NYTimes)
    • Maria Shriver went for Obama? The Kennedys are all split up? Husbands and wives working for opposing Democratic (and sometimes Republican) campaigns? Crazy times in this country, but it's great that it's happening. People are thinking, and by God that's reason to celebrate. And, finally, speaking of... well... really nothing in particular...
  • Creationist Museum (YouTube)
    • The one in Texas may be goin' broke, but the one in Kentucky is juuuuuuust fine.

Waging War on the Defenseless

Posted by Whit Barringer , Sunday, February 03, 2008 9:54 AM

This is my response to a World Wildlife Fund campaign to halt the leasing of Alaskan land which may lead ("may" meaning "it definitely will, but we don't know the extent") to the further endangerment or possible extinction of the polar bear in that region. Usually, WWF gives a generic letter that any amateur activist, like me, can send to an influential party. However, I felt moved to write something personal (which is seen as more influential than some email that 50,000 people send out just by filling out their names and pressing "send"). This is what I wrote to Dirk Kempthorne, Secretary of the Interior. It's short and sweet, but oftentimes those are the most effective messages.

Dear Honorable Kempthorne,

While the following is a generic message from the World Wildlife Fund,
I would like to personalize this by saying that the United States, in
all of its peace-keeping, has continuously waged war on those that
either cannot defend themselves or ask for help. The U.S. is a
country most able to invest in renewable energy, but it instead wishes
to give itself a "black gold" fix that is temporarily
satisfying and permanently damaging.

I don't mean to insult anyone's intelligence, but this oil land-lease
is being done hastily and without the proper foresight. Wait until we
know what danger this deal proposes, and allow stringent measures to
be taken on those who plan to drill there. This isn't just about
money and oil. This is about those who are already there, whether you
see them as human, animal, or acceptable losses. The role of every
human being, or at least one of them, is to care for those who cannot
care for themselves. This is the ultimate test of that, and it would
be absolutely appalling for the U.S. to fail this test, when it has
both the ability and the means to save what could be forever lost.


I always get upset at these things. My blood starts boiling and steam comes out of my ears. I also feel the urgent need to cry, but I hardly ever let myself do so. What are we doing to ourselves? Why don't we actually invest in something, rather than letting the current powerful entities run us into some sort of apocalyptic world where we simultaneously find out that there's no oil, no water, no animals, no energy, no way to save any goddamn thing, and no one to ask to help because we were the ones everyone else went to and asked first? What happens when our blessed world leadership and policing leads us straight to an end that could have been completely avoided?

More than likely, this will be another battle lost in favor of making money. More than likely, we can't save the animals in Alaska, the rainforests, the deserts, the forests, the mountains, or anywhere. If we save them, it's because they amuse us. Not because they were alive in the first place, but because they are cute and keep well in a zoo.

Why don't people understand that once something dies, it doesn't come back? We are on the verge of losing so many things because we haven't been able to grasp that one concept. Perhaps we have realized it, and we've become okay with it. "Something else is dying? That's a shame."

We are careless, reckless, and altogether the dumbest species on the planet. Every other species knows how to hunt for its fill without throwing off the very system that seeks to feed it. We can't even do that. We overeat because we feel that we have the right. We go hunting for sport so we can have a stuffed trophy. We poach animals for their fur and disregard any other impact they could have had on our lives.

We are stupid, stupid creatures. As hard as Mother Nature has been trying to kill us off (have you ever thought that all of the viruses, all of the bacteria, all of the complex evolving illnesses that have plagued humans were created by nature to save itself? that sickness and disease is nature's way of self-defense?), we've been resilient. As much as death hurts us, only a death of our own warrants a proper burial. Only our household pets get so much consideration. I guess that means that the solution is for all people to become deeply attached to something in the wild, and be good stewards of its keep.

The problem with me is that I am deeply attached, and I am quite aware I am part of the killing.

Filler #4: Liberation of the Oppressed

Posted by Whit Barringer , Saturday, February 02, 2008 9:49 PM

Alright. I can't get my act together to put up another blog post. But! That doesn't mean I don't have something important/irrelevant to say. So, heeeere goes another filler. (Just so you know, I've begun and not finished three different blog posts about three different things. I am, officially, a lazy bum.)

Enjoy!

Q: Should America or other powers charge for liberating the oppressed in other countries?

A. No.

The root of "liberation" is "to liberate" - to make free, to unburden. If we begin charging for actions we take when "liberating" another country, then we totally undercut the meaning of what we're actually doing. Not only is the meaning lost, but so is any trust between countries.

Take Germany during World War I. A bunch of pompous megalomaniacs sat around a table and pushed chess-like pieces around on a map, totally and utterly removed from any of the horrendous events on the battlefield. When the Treaty of Versailles and the demand for 132 billion Marks in reparations came down on the Central Powers in 1919, the German economy was destroyed. The exchange rate was 1 Trillion Marks to the dollar. It was cheaper to burn money than buy wood. The people were starving, hurting, and resentful toward the global community. It wasn't their country that had done this to them - it was the Allied Powers. It was the U.S., Britain, France, and (seemingly) the entire rest of the world.

So what happens when a country's population is starving and angry? They begin to believe whatever will get food on the table, and Hitler offered that on a silver platter. He gave people jobs, which gave people money to buy food. Hitler was a savior to them, and they paid him back with evil deeds for their full bellies.

But after World War II, someone learned a lesson from what had happened before. Though it was the advent of the Cold War, the late 40s saw some exemplary negotiating happen between the U.S. and other world powers. They realized it was not the people, who had mostly been unwilling to go to war as they had in World War I, but the government, the institution, acting independent of the populace. When Germany was split up into Capitalist and Communist areas, the U.S. poured money into Allied countries to try and combat similar events to the post-WWI era. And it worked. Democratic Germany (not to mention other countries affected by the change in attitude) still stands today and is one of the U.S. foremost allies - as well as one of the strongest economies in the world.

Iraq is the same way. And honestly, what could they pay us? Their currency value is far less than our own, and it doesn't make sense to go in and rob the treasury when they can't even stand on their own two feet at this point.

Think of places like Darfur, with their own ongoing holocaust. Should we liberate them? Absolutely. Scores of people are dying everyday from the world's inaction and lack of willingness to commit to helping them out of this crisis. But should we really expect them to pay us back? After all the suffering? Money is only money, and the rest of the world runs on more money than they can handle. This is when paying for liberation becomes purely symbolic.

That's what it really comes down to. What can places like Iraq and Darfur really give us? To places like the U.S., Britain, and most of Europe, the money they give us is ink on paper, not gold-backed currency. Asking for payment is not only unnecessary- it's insulting. It is sending a message to the world that our mercy is for sale, and whomever can pay is whom we'll save.

Wherever there is human suffering, there should be a helping hand. Not a bill.