tirsdag 31. mars 2009

Bloggers Challenge 2009

Good-day, non-existing readers!

Today I have a special assignment, I'm going to write: "Your story of how blogging has helped you connect to a global audience and what this connection has meant to you. e.g. the friends you have made, what you have learnt about other cultures, how you are able to share your passions with others, how you are able to use blogging to share your views on topics"

So, first off. Who's actually reading this blog except me, my English teacher and some poor American students who have been forced to, by their teacher? Well, I don't really know. Please comment somewhere if you're actually reading this by your own free will, if not I suppose you're a ninja. Yet, I have received comments from like three different people, so I haven't really "connected to a global audience". And is there really a global audience?

Personally, I don't read a blog voluntarily. They are either uninteresting or written in a wrong style. This could mean full of spelling errors, insanely advanced language, claims without evidence and so on. This makes it boring. I have not made friends through blogging, I have become even more certain that the southern states of the US are full of rednecks and I don't have a "passion" for most of the themes I'm blogging on and I don't share them as no-one reads my blog. However, I think I'm pretty able to "share my views on topics".

However "my views" might easily be dismissed as the rantings of a wacko, polar bear-eating, atheist, commie and anti-christ himself. On the other hand: Why would I care? I'm largely doing this to get top marks in English, and if nobody reads my blog, it's hardly my fault.

tirsdag 24. mars 2009

British political system

It seems that I have one more thing to post today - Something on the British Parliaments. So I'll write a tad on the "first past the post"-thing and how this works.

First off, the UK is divided into constituencies (counties or "states", you might say). There are 646 of these constituencies, and each one elects one MP (member of parliament) through the first past the post-system. This means that if there are two candidates, and if one scores 50,1% of the votes, he has won and his opponent gets nothing.

This causes an enormous amount of votes to be wasted: There are mainly three parties in England - Labour, Conservative and the Liberal Democrats. The Liberal Democrats are a bit smaller by number of votes, however this causes them to lose an insane amount of seats in the parliament. This causes the system to be largely controlled by two parties: Labour and Conservatives. This is very unfair to smaller parties.

However, it also provides strong cabinets. The cabinet will always have support in the majority of the parliament, whereas in Norway we get weak alliances and the cabinet can't do what it wants to do. Currently, our cabinet consists of three different parties, and they tend to disagree. And they are the first government in quite some time to hold the majority of our parliament. In the UK there's no way to ensure that the cabinet doesn't become tyrannic, it can only be removed by a majority in the parliament.

This means that when the have elections in the UK, they vote for their next five-year long dictatorship.

Obama on Leno-show

Hello again! This is my third, and hopefully final update today.

Very recently, Barack Obama was on the Jay Leno-show. He's the first US president to feature on the talk show, so it's a bit controversial. However, the the most interesting part was Obama's joke about his bowling skills (this is not in the video below). He said he was so bad at bowling that "it was like the Special Olympics, or something". This has been seen as a lack of understanding for the challenges that disabled people have to face.

I'm very positive to him being there. It's a good thing that the president can be in the media in a bit more informal setting, although it can give him an advantage to his political opponents. It's also an expansion of politics into arenas that people see as entertainment. This might be seen as unethical, but personally I see it as a good thing ("Zoon politikon"). This is a modern version of Roosevelt's talks on radio, and Obama's wife is now expanding the vegetable-garden in the White House, like Roosevelt's wife did.

Black America

In this update I will post a bit on black people's situation in the US today. I will happily ignore all the historical stuff, and focus on what things are like right now.

Since the 1950s there have been huge improvements. Back then black people worked in specific trades and jobs. They could be gigolos or private drivers, for instance. Black people had no political rights in many states, especially in the "deep south", and few civil rights. Additionally, everything was separated: Black people went to different schools, different public bathrooms and so on.

After the Civil Rights Movement there was put an end to the segregation. However, today the black community is split instead. One part is doing as well as the white population. They have as good jobs, health insurance e.g. as the white people. There is an increase in black political leadership, there's a black president and so on.

However, this is not the majority of the black population. A large proportion is still not equal to the average white people, and some groups are worse off today than earlier. Formally, they are given the same opportunities, however they live in areas with a high rate of crime and drug abuse, they have jobs with minimum wages, many have HIV/AIDS. Black people go far more often to prison than white people, this can also be seen as racism in the police and legal systems. Actually, more black people are in jail than in the colleges and universities, this might be a result of education being expensive in the US (Here I'd like some comments).

If higher education is expensive, this will help keeping the rich people rich and preventing the poor from becoming rich and successful. It stabilizes the society, however fighting crime, drug abuse and having people in prison requires enormous resources. And it's ethically wrong. In the US, people supposedly have the same chances, but if you can't pay for an education, this isn't really the case.

If the black population is to become a more functional part of the American society, the minimum wages must be raised, entry to colleges and universities should be practically free and health insurance must be removed. Regulating prices on housing could also be a good idea, because it would prevent the slums from becoming greater.

I don't believe any updates will follow on this topic, unless I am requested to. Please comment on the education system in the US!

More on Northern-Ireland

Last class, we received a lecture on the Norther-Ireland/Ireland conflict. It was quite interesting, but a bit long, so most of the student lost attention and fell into their computer screens (including me, unfortunately).

The conflict is often seen as religious, however this is not really the case. It's ethnic and political: England was at war with catholic France and Spain(?), and the Irish could help them attacking England. They figured that if the French/Spanish kept arms and soldiers in Ireland, an invasion would be easier for them. Accordingly, they conquered Ireland.

Since then, there have been various conflicts in Ireland. The main causes for this are bad treatment - they lived in worse areas and didn't get good jobs. The potato famine fired up under the conflicts and gradually increased. Then came the war of independence in 1912, causing Ireland to gain home rule, while Northern-Ireland remained a part of the United Kingdom.

In Northern-Ireland the Catholics were still not treated as well as the Protestant population, which led to The Troubles. The conflicts developed into a full-scale civil war, between the IRA and the Unionists. This caused the Prime Minister of the UK to directly rule in Northern-Ireland, which at the time was Maggie Thatcher. She allowed captured IRA fighters to starve to death, because they wanted status as political prisoners, while she saw them as ordinary criminals.

Today things are stirring in Northern-Ireland again. There's no apparent cause for the conflict, except for the reconciliation. I have already written a note on this, you can read it here.

søndag 8. mars 2009

Promoting OneNote

I have been required to post something on my blog about Microsoft OneNote. The program seems quite nice, especially practical is the autosave-function, which means that you can just quit it without saving anything. You can store all kinds of information in OneNote: Text, images, video (I think), sound and so on. This makes it a handy tool for noting things, because you store everything in the same location, rather than looking up 4-5 different files.

The idea behind OneNote is great, however the organization of the program is a bit hard to understand at first. You have notebooks that are divided into categories and the categories are divided into pages and sub-pages. It would probably be easier if you only had categories with pages and sub-pages.

A really awesome function in OneNote is that you can search for text. That doesn't sound too special, except this search also includes text in images. You can take a picture off the Internet and make the program recognize the text in it. I might have to test how good it is at this function, it might be somewhat limited. As of yet, I have tested it on my blog and the wikipedia, both working fine. It even includes links in pictures, with is really practical. It's annoying when you have a screen shot and need the link in it.

Another update should follow, I have to get a bit more used to OneNote first.

tirsdag 3. mars 2009

Individual project

Hi again!

We're now about to start working on a larger project in English social studies. Currently, it seems like I'm going to look into the diamond industry. I'm looking to explore how it works, whether it's ruled by (De Beers) cartels and how it became like this. Further I want to discuss if the industry exploits third world countries, and how it's able to do this. Finally, I want to study what impact the "financial crisis" has had on the diamond industry so far, and what will/might happen in the future.

The paper is supposed to be in less than five pages, this might become an issue. Which problems to address can (and probably will) be changed, because of the page limit. Other sub-subjects can also occur, I'll try to keep the blog a tad updated on this.

First, I have to start collecting information and gathering links. In this task, I have to be incredibly careful with what sources I rely on. From there, making a draft will probably be my priority #1. In the end, it will a hand-in paper (presumably an argumentative text) and a lecture.