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June 30, 2006

An education for globalists?

"Today more than ever, the traditional boundaries between politics, culture, technology, finance, national security and ecology are disappearing. You often cannot explain one without referring to the others, and you cannot explain the whole without reference to them all. (...) I am a globalist. That is the school of thought to which I belong. That means I am not a realist, who thinks everything in foreign affairs can be explained by the quest for power and geopolitical advantage - and markets don't matter. I am not an environmentalist, who looks at the fate of the world only through the prism of the environment and what must be done to save it - and development doesn't matter. I am not a technologist - one of those Silicon Valley techno-nerds who believe that history began with the invention of the microprocessor and that the Internet will determine the future of international relations - and geopolitics don't matter. I am not an essentialist who believes that people's behaviour can be explained by some essential cultural or DNA trait - and technology doesn't matter. And I am not an economist who believes that you can explain the world with reference only to markets - and power politics and culture don't matter. (...) Unfortunately, in both journalism and academe, there is a deeply ingrained tendency to think of the world in terms of highly segmented, narrow areas of expertise, which ignores the fact that the real world is not divided into such neat little beats, and that the boundaries between domestic, international, political and technological affairs are collapsing." - Thomas L. Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree

Ah, this is just what a student of International Studies wants to read! Over the past year, I have taken classes at the departments of Political Studies, History, Economics and Law. I believe that the boundaries between these fields, not to mention the strange cultural differences within the university, are an obstacle to students and faculty. It is confusing when professors and the university administration insist on seeing the world as being divided when the whole point of my bachelor program is that the boundaries in the world are being torn down. When wondering what courses to take next semester, I noticed that in every department, there were a lot of classes where you could basically learn the same facts, but seen from different angles - using the tools of economics, history or political studies to learn about the same world. By choosing courses wisely, I can (in theory) get a good mix of these different views, but I also have to spend (or waste, depending on attitude) time figuring out how to study, referance, write papers and sit for an exam the way the different departments want me to do so. We can joke about the way "students in the other buildings" dress or act, but the fact remains that there are different ways of doing things, and that the students and faculty who always stay in one building, never find out that their way isn't the only way.

There is a debate within the university over whether International Relations should have its own Master program at the University of Oslo. It seems that the main reason not to do so, besides the university's economy and the fact that many International Studies students want to get their Master's degree outside Norway anyway, is that International Studies is really just a subcategory of Political Studies. But the whole point of International Studies is that it crosses the boundaries of the different departments. A Master's degree in Political Studies may mean losing the economic, historical and legal perspective - not to mention the technological, ecological and cultural perspective, which International Studies is already lacking. Yes, you should be allowed to concentrate on one area of expertise, but should you have to? I don't know, but I think it's worth thinking about.

The world still needs experts, but unfortunately, we seem to have a tendency to believe that you can't know much about anything unless you have a degree in it, and that if you have a degree in something you automatically know everything about it, but are unable to know anything about anything else. In reality, remember that you are studying the world, not your textbooks.

Posted by Julie at 2:03 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Book review: The Lexus and the Olive Tree


Don't you just love it when someone who is supposed to be an authority on something puts into words exactly the thoughts you've had going in wordless circles in your mind? I'm reading Thomas L. Friedman's "The Lexus and the Olive Tree", and I get that feeling with every page.

This book about globalization was originally written in 1999 and expanded and updated in 2000, so it's a little out of date. Not just because it was written before 9/11 (each one of my globalization text books for last year was updated end of 2001 or beginning of 2002), but because he writes sentences like "now anyone can just go down into their basement and get on the internet". These days, it's more like: "why not just open the laptop in front of you that's already on the internet?" Families don't need to have a "computer room" anymore; each family member can have their own computer and do everything online. So I'm looking forward to moving on to "The World is Flat".

After a year of International Studies, not to mention living and paying attention to the world for the last six years, I can't say I've learned a whole lot of facts from this book that I didn't already know - but he writes it so well. Friedman's central idea is that globalization is the system that took over after the Cold War ended. The internet is not a trend or a toy; it is the most important tool shaping this new system. We - leaders of both countries and companies, who increasingly think in the same way - must not only live with that, but adapt in order to make the most of it.

Friedman is able to see the whole picture, acknowledging the unfortunate environmental and cultural side effects of economic globalization without renouncing the economic upside. The Lexus represents the drive for progress and modernization - globalization. The olive tree represents the feeling of security, tradition and home - local culture. The Cold War was a struggle between olive trees, but these days, the threat to your olive tree is more likely to come from the Lexus. Friedman writes that a global homogeneous culture would mean a less interesting world, but that "to tell people in developing countries they can't have [McDonald's] because it would spoil the view and experience of people visiting from developed countries would be both insufferable arrogant and futile." Fortunately, it is possible to "use globalization against itself" by convincing countries and companies that they can actually make more money in the long run by preserving culture and nature. In general, it is usually better to give someone a real incentive to do something rather than just appeal to his or her sense of responsibility and good will. Call it selfishness, but it works, and the fact that not only the anti-capitalist movement, but also shareholders, can mobilize all over the world instantly can really provide people with the right incentives. When it comes to culture, Friedman hopes that Americans will enjoy sushi and Japanese will enjoy McDonald's, but that they will both remember which of the two is from their own country.

In short, I recommend this book. I would advise Internet/globalization sceptics to read it carefully. Anyone who already has a pretty good idea what this is about, should skim it in order to get a good review of the whole picture.

Posted by Julie at 1:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 25, 2006



Ved første øyekast virker bysykler genialt. Hurra, en sykkel man ikke trenger å ta med på bussen, en sykkel som ikke blir stjålet, en sykkel som andre har ansvaret for å pumpe opp dekkene på og reparere hvis den blir ødelagt. Hurra, så lenge det ikke er snø, trenger jeg ikke sitte på overfylte busser mer, og hvis det plutselig skulle begynne å snø, kan jeg bare sette fra meg sykkelen og ta bussen hjem likevel. 

Problemet er at man ikke kan regne med bysykler fordi:

  1. Annenhver gang jeg prøver å bysykle hjemmefra, er det ingen sykler i nærmeste stativ. De andre gangene er jeg heldig og det er akkurat 1 sykkel igjen.
  2. Jeg tør ikke sykle til jobben på Folkemuseet, for hva gjør jeg hvis stativet er fullt når jeg kommer frem? Jeg kan ikke planlegge at jeg skal ha tid til å sykle tilbake til sentrum, sette fra meg sykkelen og ta bussen ut til Bygdøy.
  3. Syklene står stort sett på eller i nærheten av knutepunkter hvor det allerede er gode bussforbindelser. Det jeg hadde trengt, er stativer litt utenfor sentrum, hvor det ikke allerede går busser hvert 3. sekund. (host, Malmøya, host)
  4. Tilbudet kan bare brukes spontant, når jeg ser at det er en ledig sykkel på et stativ jeg likevel går forbi. Og hvis jeg hadde planlagt å gå til en avtale og plutselig bestemmer meg for å sykle, kommer jeg jo for tidlig frem. Altså er det ingen egentlig vits i det.
  5. Siden det ikke er bysykkelstativ på Blindern (fordi Blindern er utenfor ring 2), må jeg uansett sørge for å ha en vedlikeholdt sykkel i boden som jeg kan sykle til skolen med.
  6. Bysykkel kunne virkelig vært praktisk om natten, når man akkurat ikke rekker siste buss. Men nøyaktig samtidig som bussene slutter å gå, stenges sykkelstativene. Ok, jeg skjønner poenget, fulle folk gjør dumme ting med syklene og bør egentlig ikke få lov til å bevege seg i trafikkbildet raskere enn i sjangletempo, men likevel...
Altså: Bysykkel kan ikke erstatte vanlig sykkel, bil eller kollektivtransport, og når det erstatter gåing, blir det bare spontant og for moro skyld, ikke fordi det egentlig er så praktisk. Men det er gøy å kunne trille uten bruk av krefter nedover St. Hanshaugen til sentrum, og så ikke trenge å bruke krefter for å få sykkelen opp igjen.

Posted by Julie at 1:09 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 22, 2006

Must... have... internet... access...

I am still struggling for internet access in my new apartment (takes short break to be overjoyed at the idea of new apartment). In the process, I have come to realize how much a part of my daily life the internet really has become. I mean, obviously, I knew it was important since I have a blog to take care of, but the internet is also my bookstore, library, map of my city, mailbox, university registration office, magazine, newspaper - basically my main source of entertainment, information and communication. Not to mention, I need internet to get internet.

I have - no joke - had dreams in which I am running around the city, searching for a café with internet access.

So I finally get around to ordering internet access. I - of course - do this over the internet. Seconds after I order a "do-it-yourself internet package" I realize that I will be at work when it is supposed to be delivered. I click "contact us" and the default way of telling the internet people I need to reschedule is to send them an e-mail. I receive a confirmation e-mail telling me they will get back to me soon - by e-mail. So they will contact me over the internet to help me with the problem of not having internet access.


This was written last week. Still no internet in my apartment, but for a different reason now.

Posted by Julie at 4:11 PM | TrackBack

June 18, 2006

What I really want to say...

I suppose in every job, there are certain irritating phrases you hear customers say all day. I'm working at the Norwegian Folk Museum (an open-air history musuem) this summer again, and I'm posting my dream reply to one of these annoying phrases here. I'm doing this to get it out of my system, because if I ever actually say it, I might just get myself fired from a job I love.

In reply to the comment: "I recognize this kind of furniture/kitchen appliance/architecture/brand name/etc. from when I was a child! My childhood is in a museum... does that mean I'm old?!?", I just really want to say:


I mean get over yourself. You're - what? - three or four times my age? Of course you're old.

If you expect me to smile politely and assure you that you don't look a day over 29, you are deluding yourself, because that is not my job. My job is to provide you with information about history, and if that includes making you feel old, oh well. There is nothing I can say to make you feel better about being old as long as you yourself are ashamed of it. I could tell you that you probably know more about this particular historical artifact than I do, and I would love to learn from you. I could say that it must be wonderful to really have experienced history by witnessing the way everyday life has changed during your lifetime, and that I can't wait to see the changes that happen during my own lifetime. But you would take both of these comments as a personal insult because they both confirm that I think you're old, and you believe that translates into me thinking you're ugly, fat, wrinkled and boring. I'm sorry, but it's not my fault that our society has decided to glorify the teen-age years. Remember, I'm really young; I wasn't even born when that decision was made! And I'm much younger than anyone selling anti-wrinkle creams or designing "Women's" clothes that only fit fourteen-year-olds.

I really believe that being old is nothing to be ashamed of. It doesn't make you inferior to me. What does make you inferior is the fact that you won't admit to what you are, and that you are wasting my time and your own. A woman who describes herself as "a girl of 45" is pathetic. That doesn't mean you can't dress the way you want (within certain esthetic limits) or do what you want, but face the facts. Just as I have to face the facts by admiting that I don't always have enough experience to figure things out on my own (contrary to popular opinion, I don't think I know everything). By law, I am too young to do some of the things I want to do, and although I may complain about this, the laws are facts I have to live with (although I may make a mental note to change them if I ever have any power). And you have to live with the fact that you are old.

Have a nice day!" 

Posted by Espen at 8:17 PM | TrackBack

June 1, 2006

Dårlig innflytelse


Første dag på på sommerjobb i dag. Som tidligere nevnt, sommerjobber jeg på Norsk Folkemuseum på Bygdøy, og jobben består blant annet av å koke kaffe (jeg kommer til å lære meg denne siden utenat :-) ) på vedovn eller i peis og å underholde barn. Ikke alltid en sunn kombinasjon:

30 barn på en gang: Hva gjør du?

Julie: Jeg lager kaffe.

30 barn: Hva er det?

Julie: Det er kaffebønner.

30 barn: Og hva er det?

Julie: Det er en kaffekvern. Man tar kaffebønner her og så kverner man slik, og når man har gjort  det en stund, er det kvernet kaffe i denne skuffen.

30 barn: Det blir pulverkaffe!

Julie: (grøsser og tenker at barna har mye å lære) Og så kan jeg koke den på vedovnen. Og, ja, den er forresten varm. 

30 barn: Det brenner!!!

Julie: Ja, det er slik jeg varmer vannet. 

1 barn: Men kan man ikke bare spise kaffebønnene da?

Julie: Jo, det kan man egentlig. Men det er ikke alle som liker det. Jeg liker det da... (gode minner)

1 barn: SPIS EN DA!

Julie: (knaser en kaffebønne og smiler)

30 barn: (gaper og stirrer)

liten pause

30 barn: Jeg vil også ha!

Julie: (ser fortvilet etter barnehagetanter) Men dere kommer ikke til å like det.

30 barn: Jo!

1 barn: Jeg liker å drikke kaffe, jeg!

Julie: (er imponert. Barnet er jo bare en meter høy! Bestemmer seg for at barnehagetanter som tier, er barnehagetanter som samtykker.) Ok.

30 barn: (får 1 kaffebønne hver)

1 barn: Jeg liker det ikke... (antydning til gråt)

Julie: du får lov til å spytte den ut i blomsterbeddet.

29 barn: Mmmm... Mer! Mer!

Så ja, barnehagetanter, det var pga. meg. 


Posted by Espen at 9:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack