Ever been graded?

Sure you have! We all get graded all the time. Kindergarden, pre-school, middle school, high school, college, university, various certificates for having learned to swim, ride your bike or drive a car — grading has become one of societies great sports. More than that, especially in societies with a low degree criticism of the structure of society (and here I’m amongst others thinking of the country I currently reside in), it has become an entire ideology of itself: grading is seen as being a scientific activity done according to natural laws and any grade is dependent, and only dependent upon that which is being graded — subjective factors in grading do simply not exist. So if you get some grade from a school in some dinky place in northern Norway, that grade is directly comparable to another student might receive from a school in central Oslo. And more than that: according to this ideology, it is perfectly possible to accumulate grades across subject! So one can somehow say “student A with a certificate from a high school i central Oslo, who got A in math and B in French is a better student than this student B with a certificate from a high school in Tromsø, who got B in English and C in geography”. And people believe that is possible not only for high school, but also for college and university!

And once the grade has been handed out, one can then use it to objectively classify all students and either hand out salaries that correspond to the grades in case they take a job or in order to filter out the best if they choose to go on and take further studies.

Although I have always been highly critical of the first part, up until recently I had believed that at least the second part was one close to that way (although that does of course not make much sense given that the grade is not very objective to begin with).

But then I was called in to a meeting with the Central Admission Committee for bachelor studies of the University of Oslo in which I am one of two student representatives. The meeting was to decide upon the fate of a little more than 100 applicants for “selffinancing bachelor students”…
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Weather modifying dreams…

My good friend and inventor Michael Fallwell is at it again. Previously he came up with a home-built revolutionary new telescope design, which is much cheaper than the existing designs because it leaves out all the unnecessary parts and the lenses can be grinded using parts of any old washing machine you can find on the road. Then he came up with a glider powered windmill that might soon make oil obsolete as there is much less electronical cruft involved compared with the static windmills as we know them today.

<%image(20060430-sprayturbineboat.jpg|400|400|A spray turbine boat enhancing the weather )%>

This time, Mike takes care of another of our current global problems: climate change. Mike’s rainenhancer works in the following way: you have a fleet of ships moving around the coast, pumping all the seawater they can up about 10m into the atmosphere (in 100m wides stripes around 200m apart). Then some of that water will get stuck there and form clouds which will then move up 100–1000km inland before they rain out — “like a little storm system,” as Mike says.

Just like most socialists, Mike believes that change in the structure of society is closely connected to changes in technology. But while most socialists in some way or another are politicians and believe the necessary technology to permit for a restructuralization are present already and all that needs to be done is to organize for a social revolution that will leave society with a different (socialist) structure which will be able to take full advantage of the inventions that have been made already.

<%image(20060430-finished_airplane.jpg|842|800|Mike with another one of his inventions -- a glider powered windmill)%>

Not so with Mike — as an inventor he sees the main driving force of human history to be the inventory spirit of mankind. If one wants changes, one needs to invent new ways of doing things — social changes will follow as reactions.

Unrealistic? Well, maybe. But how can we know if we don’t even try? I wish Mike all the luck he needs for getting it to work, but as a socialist I can’t quite see how society will change without any human intervention at all. But maybe technological inventionism is what people focus on if social change seem impossible to start with…

Millinkevich once more

You might remember my previous item on the matter, and our protest from the Left Alliance against Millinkevich, the pro-Western, pro-privatization candidate in Belarus. Last weekend, Millinkevich came to Oslo as a guest of the Norwegian Helsingfors Commitee. As noone else had, we ended up being the ones protesting him. And by the way, yesterday, I gave up all my positions in the Left Alliance. I decided upon that mainly for three reasons:

1. the youth has to take over (although several of them are older than me or have been in student politics for a longer time)

2. the student parliament is mainly limited towards having the powers of a student council at a high school. Now although it was pretty soon clear to me that those were it’s formal powers, it took quite a long time for me to udneerstand that most other MPs also wanted it to remain that way and that they enjoyed having phony debates about things they couldn’t do anything about — without even getting the press involved to build up public pressure

3. I might, believe it or not, actually finish my career as a student this summer!

…well and then there are more interesting things/activities out there. So don’t expect me to stop being active quite yet!

Update (04/30/06): The last session of the student parliament this year was actually on Thursday after I had written the entry, so technically speaking, I had one last meeting to attend to. And at that meeting, the student parliament called for a boycott of all the main occupation states: Israel, USA, China, Marocco, Turkey, Russia, Iraq, Iran, Great Britain, Pakistan, India and Indonesia. I really don’t think it can get very much more radical… If you know Norwegian, you can read the entire text below.
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Another reaction on “On the Margins”

Niels S.Nielsen from Århus today had the following review of On the Margins in the Danish minority in Germany newspaper Flensborg Avis (they take stuff offline for a month after the day of publication, so I’ll paste it all here). It’s written in Danish:

Folk i en grænseby
Duborg-studenten Johannes Wilm (årgang 2000) er nok for mange Flensborg Avis-læsere kendt for sine tildels kraftige udbrud mod det danske mindretals institutioner i form af læserbreve sendt fra hans nyvalgte hjemsted Oslo. Man kunne derfor tro, at han ikke har meget tilovers for grænseområder og de deraf følgende problemer. Det er derfor overraskende at læse Wilms bog “On the Margins – US Americans in a Border Town to Mexico” om grænsebyen Douglas på grænsen mellem USA og Mexico. Han forsvarer her de overvejende mexicanske indbyggere, som i det meste af USA kun er kendt for at smugle narkotika og mennesker over grænsen. Socialisten Wilm forklarer, at byen, han har boet i i lidt over et halvt år, har en reel ledighed på over 50 procent, og at der for mange af de unge ikke er mange andre udveje end enten at smugle eller forsøge at få job som grænsevagt.

Wilm har i sin tid i Douglas fulgt en mængde forskellige personer – fra elever på gymnasiet i Douglas, som han prøver at overbevise om, at de ikke skal melde sig ind i den amerikanske hær for ikke at blive sendt til Irak, til de mænd i halvtredserne, som har siddet i fængsel for bl.a. smugling af store mængder narkotika – som han prøver at hjælpe til at komme til penge. Når Wilm prøvede på at overbevise dem alle om, at der findes andre muligheder for dem, var han nok lidt for missionerende og for lidt forsker. Men billedet, han tegner af befolkningen, er dog interessant. Det er de udstødte, man ikke hører noget om. Det er dem, som ikke klarer sig i det amerikanske konkurrencesamfund.

Når Wilm kommer ind på temaet nationalisme, er det klart, at han har baggrund i det danske mindretal i Sydslesvig. Kritisk prøver han at belyse, hvordan hver enkelt opfatter sig selv, når det gælder nationalitet og tilhørsforhold. Mange af hans teser er da også interessante: Det er ofte de hvide angelsaksere med familiebaggrund fra et andet sted i USA, som er mindst interesseret i at bevare de amerikanske traditioner, mens nogle af de ivrigste og mest konservative nationalister findes blandt andengenerationsindvandrerne fra Mexico.

Om man politisk er enig med Wilm eller ej, er hans tema interessant, fordi der skønsmæssigt bor 11 millioner “illegale” indvandrere i USA for tiden, og fordi der i disse dage protesteres i store dele af USA både af dem, som vil smide indvandrerne ud, og af dem, som vil give dem opholdstilladelse. Man må håbe, at Wilms bog kan øge forståelsen for mennesker, som bor i disse marginaliserede samfund.

on blogging

Yesterday I got a surprise visitor who came by to invite me to walk another couple of streets of Oslo that I had not seen before. Yes, you guessed it, it was the French walker who visits me every now and then. He is the type who does not like walking streets with bars and so we usually walk through residential areas instead. Those are not very hard to find in this city though. And with everyone gone and the streets not yet cleaned since the snow melted, much of Oslo certainly looked the closest to what I’d imagine the abandoned areas around Chernobyl t look like. One could stand right in the center of an intersection with 5-6 floor houses on all four corners and extending quite a bit in either direction. And there would be no-one. No cars, no person, no sound, no nothing. Amazing, quite amazing. My co-walker immediately commented on it as if it were some common trait of all Norwegians: “They don’t ever talk to anyone. They talk to their parents and their siblings and their boyfriend or girlfriend. But that’s it. You almost need to have known oneanother since kindergarden if you are to talk with oneanother.” He also commented on this blog (which he seems to be reading extensively): “You know the stuff you write is like a 16 year old girl. You write on where you go and what you think about this and that,” he criticized. “So what should I write then?” I inquired, “should I just write like these hard core political blogs that people like [ANONYMIZED] have? What’s the point with that? I can read the newspaper if I want the news, or I’ll post something on a news site if I now something new [in addition I'm discussing politics on various email lists]. You know, I’m trying to use the blog to try to give a ‘human face’ to the hard-core politicized Johannes who people tend to ‘know’ me as being. “But the things you’re writing, about what you feel and what you think about and so on; Norwegians would never write anything like that,” he continued, “they’ll think ‘what’s wrong with you?’ and ‘Is he lonely or something?’”
ow to a certain degree he is of course right. This is not a very Norwegian styled blog. Most Norwegians wouldn’t write this kind of stuff. But the fact that I choose to do anyways is not that I do somehow not feel such standards or that I do not think it is weird to expose myself in this way — rather it is that I feel I have a mission to _change_ the way people think about these things. If we ever are going to establish a society with less privately controlled property and more held in the common (and Norwegian society anno 2006 is extremely focused on the private: even food at common meals are usually held in the private), we also need to be able to break down some of the unnecessary boundaries as what one can talk about publically and what one ca not. Of course, there will and should always be social boundaries on some level, but the concrete manifestation of these are much less ‘hard-coded’ into any culture than people tend to think, I am strongly convinced of. Just looking at the way the older student houses are built and how they must have been used with common showers and kitchen for up to 8 students — unthinkable to live in for many young Norwegians nowadays.
So if you are one of those Norwegians wondering what the purpose of this blog is: view it a cultural experiment. View it as a way of trying to change the culture i am myself a part of.
However, the fact that this blog is so infrequently updated is exactly that I do usually not have much spare time at all… so I guess that goes somewhat against the earlier mentioned theory of Norwegian generally being isolated. Oh well. How do you like the new header picture by the way? Also check the footer (there are only two of them though) I finally got the HTML/CSS fixed so that it shows correctly in IE, Firefox and Konqueror. Or it least it has done on all the browsers I’ve checked so far… please report any problems you might find.

Just found a record…

of my past — and my future? Apparently I wrote it during my first three weeks in Norway (back in 2000). And it’s written in German — and I’m quite amazed at the level of proficiency I had in the language back then. It might have been writing as part of an email for a family member, but now I just found it in an old folder on my computer that I had not looked in for a long, long time. The things that amazed me the most are:

- I thought 20 kr to be too much to use for the subway, so I walked for hours on end (with all my belongings on my back!) instead.

- I was afraid of the students.

- I was childish enough to knock on other people’s doors and swap around their key cards on the way up here (on a trip to emigrate to another country after having tricked German and Danish authorities into letting me go!)
- One of my main concerns was not “stay around nationalists” of various nationalities (boy, I managed that well), and it almost seems as if I’m on some kind of spiritual trip (well, getting close to saying one can “grow” by staying around the right kind of people, etc.).

< %image(20060414-exit_strategy.jpg|1704|2272|Johannes, May 2006 -- in need of an exit strategy?)%>

Now you might wonder why I’m suddenly seemingly living in the past again. Well, fact is that May is the absolutely last month that I’m receiving my student stipend from Denmark. Since 1998 I have been receiving money from them, and now it finally comes to an end. And so does my education, at least officially. That is why gave up my room in the student house at the beginning of this month, and I’ll have to be moved out before the 1st of June this year. And then what? “Don’t do something silly like giving everything up in order to be ‘free’ and then storing all your books at some railway toilet the way your grandmother would do it,” my mother Pia already told me in fear over the phone when I told my parents that I’l be homeless in a few weeks. Although Pia is exaggerating, she probably is quite correct in terms of what kinds of ideas I actually might be able to get.

Instead though, I currently have two alternate plans: either move into my tent back where I was when I had just arrived here. That might be a nice way to end my university career — although, as it would have no planned end to it, it might just be the right recipe for throwing myself into some large scale depression: “What have I done? What did I do these past 6 years? Where did my youth go? etc.” Another plan is that when I met Shawn/Sean the other day, I asked him for his address. Apparently there are quite a few other immigrant workers living there, and it’s cheap. Even cheaper than Berit’s place! I might want to check that out…

German Readers read on for the entire letter I wrote back then (and remember: if you’re a government official, all of this is mere fiction)
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Are you a ZIP code spreading communist?

Maybe you wondered why you have not head much about my book lately? Well, the thing is that I felt it was ready, and so did those I talked to here in Norway. As a last check, I send three test copies to key figures in Douglas, and all I got from them was nothing but high approval ratings. So I decided then to go ahead and publish. That was back in February and the book has been spreading since. Then suddenly, on March 21st, I got a mail from another Douglasite “[...] I am about half through it and am finding it entertaining. However, the English grammar and word usage makes it somewhat difficult to understand. I would rate your grammar and word usage as atrocious at best and possibly even horrific. [...]“

Ouch, bummer! He then went on to offer me to edit it, and as his rate was incredibly low, I went ahead and agreed for a second edition (which hopefully should be comming up in a few weeks). But do not be worried if you already ordered the book (see right column), according to my other native English speaking contacts, it is absolutely readable and entertaining.

But the reason why I wanted to post on this is due to only a minor aspect of the editing: one thing that the editor pointed out immediately was that I had said that Douglas was on “US territory” — which of course technically is not true. The term “US territory” is usually used to describe those pieces of land which belong to the United States without being part of any particular state (Guam, Washington DC, etc.). My editor pointed out that a “fringe group” had actually given their US citizenship back and traded it in for “state citizenship,” which somehow means that they don’t need to pay (federal) taxes and don’t need to register their car.

I could quite get it, so I researched it a bit more, and what i came up with was “The state Citizens Service Center” and their leader James R. McDonald. They argue as follows:

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The foreign working class

I just met Shawn. He was picking out vegetables outside my favorite grocery store at Torggata, a street known for it’s immigrant family owned corner stores, and just a few blocks away from here. “Hey, hey!” I shouted from behind until he turned around, “remember me?” Shawn scanned me with his eyes for a while, trying to recognize any prominent features he might remember.
So who is Shawn? Well, Shawn was my very first room mate when I moved to Oslo. Or rather one of them.
But let me start from the beginning. it all started like this: the day when i received my draft card from the German military, I was to leave for Norway. That was pure coincidence. Another coincidence was that I hadn’t received my new passport yet. So I went to my parents’ village’s people’s registry and unregistered that very morning, before I took the train to Kiel where I was to catch a ferry to take me to Oslo. I told the registry office that I’d had a huge fight with my parents and that I was now off to go camping towards Russia — for 20 years…

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