Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

I would like to share and reprint a classic editorial that I am sure you have all read or heard about in some way. In 1897, an eight-year-old girl named Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the The Sun newspaper in New York asking if there is a Santa Claus. Her friends at school had told her that he did not!

Newsman Francis Farcellus Church responded to her in the most reprinted newspaper editorial of all time. Though it was printed 111 years ago, the essence of its message has not changed one bit.

“DEAR
EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
“Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
“Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
“Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

“VIRGINIA O’HANLON.
“115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.”

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been
affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age.
They do not believe except [what] they see. They
think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible
by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether
they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this
great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an
ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless
world about him, as measured by the intelligence
capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly
as love and generosity and devotion exist, and
you know that they abound and give to your life
its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would
be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It
would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS.
There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry,
no romance to make tolerable this existence. We
should have no enjoyment, except in sense and
sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills
the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not
believe in fairies! You might get your papa to
hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas
Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did
not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that
prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no
sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real
things in the world are those that neither children
nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing
on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof
that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or
imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable
in the world.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes
the noise inside, but there is a veil covering
the unseen world which not the strongest man,
nor even the united strength of all the strongest
men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith,
fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that
curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty
and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA,
in all this world there is nothing else real and
abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever.
A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand
years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

 
 

Merry Christmas to all!

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

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Who throws a shoe? Honestly.

I have to say I am surprised, but not too surprised, at the response to the Iraqi journalist throwing a shoe at President Bush during a press conference at the Iraqi prime minister’s office.

In case you missed it:

Now we can all see the humor in throwing a shoe. Just as the title to this blogpost reflects the Austin Power’s joke. Even Bush, who I’ve thought always had a surprisingly good sense of humor, said afterward:

“Okay, everybody calm down for a minute … And if you want some — if you want the facts, it’s a size 10 shoe that he threw. (Laughter.) Thank you for your concern, do not worry about it. “

Throwing your shoes also is a sign of distaste and a clear insult. After all, what’s more dirty than the thing people walk in all day long? So distasteful a symbol in fact, that people have started a campaign to send old shoes to Bush to show their protest of the war in Iraq. Personally, I would much rather see those shoes go to the Salvation Army and people who would truly need them. I have a feeling that the Bush family may just donate them if they receive many.

Let alone, this was a supposed journalist who was committing this act. I don’t know what the standards are for journalists in the Middle East, but I would hope any self-respecting news agency in America would fire someone for that. A real journalist would ask tough questions, not get riled up and behave like a child.

Many Internet-users have hailed this man as a hero. Of course, if this were Obama, I’m sure the collective Internet response would more likely be outrage. Either way, our president probably doesn’t deserve to have shoes thrown at him, nor does anyone else.

With that, I leave you this:

I was pretty surprised to see the reflexes of a 62-year-old man in avoiding both projectiles. I am sure that presidents get training for such things though.

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12 Days of Christmas: Gifting your true love is pricey this year!

Every year, for the past 24, PNC does a Christmas Price Index that calculates the cost of goods for every item in the song 12 Days of Christmas. This is surprisingly a good measure of the economy for the year and inflation. This year, the price is the highest ever at a whopping total of $21,080.10 for 2008, which is $1,573 more than 2007. Of course, if your true love is an online shopper, it’s going to cost them $31,957. If you buy all 364 gifts you will pay $86,608.

Here’s a helpful breakdown for the interested lovers out there:

A partridge in a pear tree – $219.99

Two turtle doves – $55.00

Three French hens – $30.00

Four calling birds – $599.96

Five golden rings – $349.95

Six geese-a-laying – $240.00

Seven swans-a-swimming – $5,600.00

Eight maids-a-milking – $52.40

Nine ladies dancing – $4,759.19

Ten lords-a-leaping – $4,413.61

Eleven pipers piping – $2,284.80

Twelve drummers drumming – $2,475.20

Gold is down but swans are up!

The Christmas Price Index chart for the last 24 years from PNC.

The Christmas Price Index chart for the last 24 years from PNC.

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Great deals can be found online

The holiday season is always a crunch on people’s wallets. You go from Halloween candy and costumes to Thanksgiving feast to Christmas gifts, food and decoration to New Year’s fireworks and alcohol. This year is especially tight with economic and financial woes.

I often visit the coupons section of my favorite forum, keeping an eye out for a great deal, and there are plenty of Web sites that are willing to help.

Bantler.com
Many of you have heard of the deal-a-day savings on Web sites like woot.com, which offers a different product each day at a severely discounted price. It now includes sub-sites such as shirt.woot.com that has a different shirt every day for just $10.

I found Bantler.com, which very conveniently compiles these deal-a-day sites onto one page. Bookmarking that page, I check it daily for great savings on sites like the various Woot! pages, Amazon, Yugster, and SteepandCheap. Deals include clothing, electronics, jewelry, wine and cheeses, DVDs, mystery boxes, outdoors equipment and much more. On Bantler, you can sort by category or site, and you can add them to your Facebook for updates.

DealMeIn.net
Another great Web site I found is DealMeIn. Like Bantler, it updates daily with great deals across the web. DealMeIn goes a step further, compiling not only deal-a-day sales but ongoing sales, store coupons and freebie offers. Many of your favorite stores, such as KMart, Best Buy, Circuit City and Aeropostale, etc., have daily deal offers. Popular Web sites like Newegg, Dell, Amazon, TigerDirect, Travelocity and iTunes are also common bargain features.

If it’s a hot deal online, DealMeIn will have it. Laptops, games, kitchen supplies, movies, music, travel, accessories. There’s no limit to the money you can save on gifts. The site also offers Facebook, an email mailing list, a RSS feed and a search option. You can search by store index, look for free give-aways or check out deals ending today. Be sure to customize your email alerts to keywords if you’re looking for a specific item on sale.

BlackFriday.info
For those like me, who will be braving the crowds on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) hoping for some great bargains, don’t go without a plan! BlackFriday.info is the place to find a list of all the ads for Black Friday shopping at the most popular stores. The Web site compiles the ads as soon as they appear online, a task that would take a person quite some time. Easily compare CircuitCity’s deals to BestBuy’s, Walmart to Walgreens to Target, or The Home Depot to Lowe’s. You’ll have the ultimate game plan once midnight hits on Nov. 28.

Conveniently, BlackFriday.info allows you to register and create a shopping list in order to keep track of your favorite sales. You can click on the Hot Deals tab and look at the best prices on popular items. And don’t forget to click on Coupons to print out special offers and codes for the big day.

Some stores will have Black Friday deals that coincide with their Web site for those who want to sleep in.

Enjoy
I hope this list gives you a good start for the holiday shopping. The countdown to Christmas has begun. But remember, it truly is the thought that counts. Christmas is a time for family, friends, faith and reflection.

christmas1

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Anonymous

You may or may not have heard of the “group” Anonymous, recently. Chances are, if you have only recently heard of them it was from some media outlet. I have been curiously following them and their antics for the last couple of years, and one thing that constantly bothers me is the media’s complete ignorance in defining them.

Fox News coined them the “Internet hate machine,” much to their humor. On the other end of the spectrum, they have been called an “Internet vigilante group” by news stations for the work they did that lead to the capture of a pedophile last year.

So who are they?

Anonymous isn’t really a group, it is a concept. There are no members or leaders. People come and go. They are nameless Internet users who typically come from sites like 4chan (or any of the various *chans), Encyclopedia Dramatica and to a much lesser extent Something Awful.

On the popular *chan sites, posting is done anonymously and users can share stories and images. In the past, people have grouped up to certain ends. Usually “raiding” certain Web sites like Habbo Hotel, Deviant Art, YouTube and MySpace.

I have seen these raids be both cruel and productive in nature. I have seen them call out Deviant Art users for tracing and plagiarism. The Habbo raids were in response to moderators on the Web site being racist. I have also witnessed incredible cruelty to a disabled girl who danced on YouTube.

Anonymous is like a social experiment. What happens when people have complete freedom and anonymity? Of course, some will use it for good, some will use it for bad and most will use it for a combination of the two. For the most part, everything is done for laughs.

As a whole, people who associate with the anonymous ideal do not tolerate suppression of free speech.

This is where the Scientology Raids have come into play and why I chose to post about this today. I could spend awhile telling you about this but I found a very good video which sums up what has happened and what is happening today:

For the first time, Anonymous has truly come together (of course there are many Anonymous who disagree with these raids as well, like I said Anonymous is not simply a group) and stepped away from their keyboards en masse.

Today, the streets of major cities may be seeing masked peoples from all walks of life protesting, for the second time, the global scam known as Scientology. Now, their anonymity is being used to protect them from Scientology’s “fair game” policies against those that oppose them.

To follow the story from their point of view, visit: http://www.encyclopediadramatica.com/Ides_of_March

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Thumbs up/Thumbs down: Silencing Thought?

I’ve been thinking about comment ratings. It seems most Web sites now have some sort of ability for people to rate (+/-, thumbs up/thumbs down) people’s comments. I think it was originally created as a way for users to self-police their communities. It’s nice to not have to read spam and incredibly offensive diatribes that have nothing to do with the conversation because some other users have kindly rated them down to the hidden status.

However, what about all those comments that are rated down simply because a lot of people don’t agree with them? Are we silencing voices on the one plane that has traditionally been truly free in terms of speech and conversation? I am guilty of this myself. I don’t like what someone says and without thinking twice I give them a thumbs down/ a negative/ a 1 star. Not only does this kill the conversation and silence thought, it makes for lazy users. People who could have addressed the comment in a reply now lazily show opposition to the statement with a simple click of a button.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of “thumbs downed” comments on Digg:

  • Regarding an article about a lawmaker in Kentucky who is trying to pass a bill in his community disallowing anonymity on the Internet.

mdude85 posts: “I think some form of internet accountability is very important, but this particular bill leaves a lot to be desired. I guess it’s a step in the right direction though.

Anyway, as I interpret it, requiring non-anonymity on the Internet is not a violation of 1st Amendment privacy rights. If you consider the Internet as a public place (accessible by right or invitation, expressed or implied), then posting on-line is akin to making a comment in public. The right to privacy only holds in private places, not public ones. So requiring an ID to make an internet post would not be an invasion of privacy (even if you are using the Internet from a private place such as your home).”

-Negative 18 Diggs

  • Regarding a link to a YouTube video with a speech by Barack Obama saying the candidate supports Net Neutrality.

Bagos posts: “You keep it neutral by keeping the government OUT OF IT. People really don’t know what this means. It means governance, and once there is governance there is control and once there is control it is not neutral anymore.”

-Negative 34 Diggs

  • Regarding a news article about the Marines investigating the video of a soldier throwing a puppy.

Airiox posts: “You people are disgusting wishing a human death for what he did to an animal. What he did was abhorrent, but no in ways does it justify the stance that many people have taken which is wishing him death, loss of limb, etc. To top that off what is most disconcerting is people taking out this one Marines actions upon every single member of the armed service. Just as in life, there are bad apples. 99% of the members of the armed services of America are good upstanding people that take seriously their actions and the effects its has on others.

For every story like this there is a thousand others that shows the good character of our men and woman in our uniform. Unfortunately those stories never garnish the same attention that this has.”

-Negative 54 Diggs

Should these comments truly be hidden or given less worth? I think they add something to the conversation to be sure. With the Digg default settings, any post with “-4 or higher” is visible. While everything below -4 is automatically hidden to most users.

Is this a good idea gone bad? Will you think about why you’re rating something down the next time you do it?

negdiggs.png

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Word Gets Around

Word definitely gets around these days. I was intrigued as I followed an interesting story that came up on the local Craigslist Rants & Raves Web site. When people aren’t bickering and racial profiling, sometimes some interesting conversation comes up.

It all started when one poster pasted a forward he/she had received, on to the board:

“Just passing this info on to others.

I had an interesting situation with the Factory Card Outlet over the weekend that I wanted to share with others. I really bothered me and if you feel the same way, I hope you will pass this story along. My daughter is on the Rock Bridge softball team, and they try to do some community service work when possible. Today they are going to the VA Hospital for a belated Valentine’s Day visit. The coach asked that they each bring as many valentine cards as possible. This had the potential to be a bit expensive, since you can’t really take a box of 40 Power Ranger cards. . . so on Saturday, February 16, Abby and I went out to look for cards at the Factory Card Outlet over by Sam’s Club. I thought I might be able to buy several at a reasonable price. There was no sign indicating any discount on the Valentine card display, so I asked a clerk if they were on sale. She said they weren’t, so I explained I was buying cards to take to the VA and asked if they would make me a deal if I bought a large number. She sent me to talk to the manager. The manager laughed and told me they wouldn’t discount them. As I was talking to him at the counter, another clerk was systematically busting already-blown-up Valentine balloons with scissors and throwing them away. So I asked if they would consider donating these balloons to the veterans instead of throwing them away. He said, “No, we have to destroy them.” I told him that didn’t make any sense to me, since they were already blown up and they obviously weren’t going to sell them and were throwing them away. Wouldn’t it be nice to donate them to a worthy cause? He again said no, they had to destroy them. He made some comments about bar coding, and anything leaving the store had to be bar coded out, and it was easier to bar code things that were flat and so on. Eventually he told me I could call back later and talk to the owner. So, of course, I did. The owner was obviously primed for my call. He immediately informed me that he would much rather destroy the balloons than give them away. I pointed out what a worthy cause giving them to the veterans who were in the hospital would be, but he said it didn’t matter, he would be destroying the balloons anyway. He didn’t make donations to anyone because if he gave these away, he would have people lined up outside the door the next day looking for donations and would “go broke.” I tried to point out to him that I wasn’t asking for him to take something viable off of his shelf and give it to me for the benefit of the softball team — I didn’t ask him to blow up 15 balloons and give them to me — but he didn’t want to hear about it. (Really, I am not making this up — I know this sounds unbelievable.) In the end, this person’s attitude about giving back to our community and certainly to our veterans made my skin crawl and I decided I wouldn’t ever set foot in that business again. It made me sad to think that they hadn’t thought about taking these balloons (and there were probably 30 to 40 of them) somewhere like a nursing home or to Rainbow House themselves in the first place. I feel strongly enough about this to want to tell everyone I know. Please feel free to share this with anyone who you think might be interested and want to spend their money with a business that demonstrates a stronger commitment to our community.”

Apparently this story had been making the rounds in Columbia by email. People were calling a boycott on the store and there was a mostly general consensus that the store had been wrong in its actions, one way or another. What’s a journalist to do? A juicy story to be sure, but how to track down the original source?

Many assumed the original Craigslist poster was the writer of the email. However, they reposted saying that they had simply copy and pasted that message from their email and did not know the original source. The Business Editor of the Columbia Tribune posted to the board looking for the contact information from the originator. I’m glad to see I’m not the only journalist in town using these outlets.

However, now I was starting to question how valid the post was. I receive a few forwards a month, typically from one friend. They’re usually outlandish stories that upon further inspection at Snopes end up being either entirely false or a clever addition to a much smaller story.

Finally, a story appeared in the Missourian that validated the tale: http://www.columbiamissourian.com/stories/2008/02/21/online-community-outcry-causes-company-apologize/

Somehow these reporters had traced the story back to a Nancy Holman who had sent the original email.

“Holman sent out the message, and within days, hundreds of local residents had received it. Soon, some who received the e-mail were filing online missives of their own encouraging consumers to boycott the company.

The e-mail eventually made its way to Gary Rada, president of the party supply chain that has nearly 200 locations throughout the country.”

The articles goes on to say that Rada contacted Mrs. Holman and issued an apology as well as stating that the company plans to possibly make a donation to the VA Hospital and give them discount cards for the future. It’s often joked that the Internet is serious business but for Mr. Rada it clearly was. One email has the potential to bring a company to the ground.

One thing that bothered me however was this:

“Holman’s husband, Kevin, said that he and his wife had received numerous calls from members of the community voicing their support. Nancy Holman declined to comment.”

She declines to comment? This woman who had the guts to share her story with all of Columbia from behind her computer screen, (an email, which could very well have closed down the local Factory Card Outlet) cannot even comment to the newspaper about her actions?

Shame on you, Mrs. Holman.

The story feels really incomplete without her side.

However, there is quite the lesson here that word gets around a lot easier than it used to. The Internet certainly has changed the consumer environment. Even I look up businesses from time to time and I use the Myspace Professor grader to see what people say about a professor before joining a class.

For further reading: http://www.columbiamissourian.com/stories/2008/03/03/internet-gives-consumers-more-voice-and-options/

   
   

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