Thursday, October 29, 2009

Change we can believe in

16 year old Jasmine from China BlueI asked Professor Rouse if he believed things could get better.

We had just watched a documentary (China Blue) on child labour and exploitation of manpower in China, at a factory that produced pants. We had been talking about the difficulties of implementing regulation and minimum standards for how the companies treat their employees, and how widespread such problems are – they are not only present in the clothing business, but also in markets of food, diamonds, toys and electronics. As a teacher of courses in globalisation, Rouse pointed towards the new shape of capitalism that has evolved in the last thirty years as a cause for such conditions’ continuous deterioration. (I don’t know what exactly type of capitalism Rouse is aiming at, but I still think it sounds perfectly reasonable. To me, practices of the European Union such as open borders and same currency comes to mind, and also a high pressure on developing countries to open their markets)

Did Professor Rouse believe things could get better? Yes, he did. He knew from his own experience and his own life, things could indeed get better. Before the late 1970’s, things were getting better. What hinder us from improving again? Rouse believed in change, so it was worth the effort for him to come and talk to us students about this in his spare time. Professor Rouse’ heart and effort made him a beautiful person; his faith – his confidence in what he hoped for – was allowing him to be so.

Al Gore was asked the exact same question concerning his campaign to stop global warming. “Do you believe the world can change?” And Al Gore did believe. His belief that things can change allows him to be beautiful in fighting for that very change. Just as Nelson Mandela, Dalai Lama, Henrik Wergeland and Martin Luther King Jr also were warriors of beauty when they fought for changes that they believed in. Now, none of these I have mentioned took the change for granted. None of them were certain change would actually happen – the only thing they knew for certain was that it was possible for change to happen if a sufficient number of citizens would decide to join their faith, be beautiful and “get the finger out” (an anglified expression from my gorgeous home country right there:-).

Let us consider for a moment what it means to have faith in Al Gore. Then you obviously also have faith in Al Gore’s project, and believe that it is actually possible to stop global warming. However, this belief alone does not automatically make you beautiful; in fact, if you believe that Al Gore is going to save the world single-handedly, or by the help of all those other people, is that not hypocrisy? To be beautiful, and “follow” Al Gore if you will, you need to actually make an effort yourself. You actually need to sort the garbage – because you are confident it can make a difference.

I also consider to put Jesus on that list. May give the phrase “believe in Jesus” a new flavour.

Learn more:
Teddy Bears Film: China Blue
TED: Al Gore's new thinking on the climate crisis

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Wean Hall Artspace

Ever been late for physics or math recitation because you just HAD to read that comic strip? Wean Hall is a world of distractions.

I went on a journey to photograph every single comic strip on the office doors in Wean. The distractions are now also available online! I apologize for those pictures that are slightly out of focus, but I think most of them are readable with a little effort.

Access the Wean Hall Artspace here:

The best way to view the pictures online is to click on the slideshow button in the lower left corner, and then pause the show so you'll have time to read the strips. Alternately, you can download all the pictures and view them in your favorite picture-showing software.

Read more:
xkcd: Centrifugal Force Strips
Calvin and Hobbles: Calvin for President

Monday, October 5, 2009

Healthy homesickness

A returning question that I get asked from time to time is whether or not I’m homesick. It surely is a legitimate question, as the distance from home is greater than any other place I’ve lived, and never before have I been continuously away from my roots for this long. “However,” I usually tell my friendly inquisitors, “keep in mind that I have lived away from home for five years already.” I moved in to my first apartment at age 16 to go to high school in Knarvik, which was a prolonged one-hour drive away from home. After four years at high school and two more apartments, I spent a year in the barracks of the Norwegian infantry, far north of any sophisticated civilization, before I ended up in Henderson House here at Carnegie Mellon.

My Bergen wallpaper, me like!So in general, I am used to be away from home, and I am not homesick. At least I am not as homesick as one of my roommates in the army was, I mean, he was seriously homesick; he was on the phone with his family for at least two hours a day. Occasionally he would smash his head against the wall and scream in frustration of not being home. While others said “anywhere but here,” he would say “nowhere but home.”

He had my sympathy, and I learned a lot from observing him. I learned that there is value – real value – in loving your home. The more I think of this guy, the more impressed I am with how much he appreciated home, and the more I realize that value for myself. He inspired me to draw my beloved home city Bergen and post it on my cork plate. The Bergen drawing followed my plate throughout my time in the army, despite changes in room and roommates. He also, though more indirectly, inspired me to bring a camera to Stoltzekleiven and Fløien to take pictures of my favourite trail before I left off to the states. I now use one of those photographies, one with the exact same motif as the drawing from the army, as my desktop wallpaper. See above.

I regret that I don’t have a photo of my Bergen drawing on this computer, but if it happens to strike me as a good idea to post the drawing whenever I come back to our family computer, then maybe you will have a chance to see it. It won’t be soon, though.

I haven’t talked too much with my parents, and I haven’t smashed my head to the wall. I don’t feel like I’m missing my pre-college life, and I don’t at all consider to transfer to the University of Bergen. Yet, I am proud to announce that I, at least a little bit, miss home. I love to talk about home with my friends – I like to portray for them the beauty of Bergen.Streets of Bergen I enjoy to explain what the narrow streets looks like, how they climb from the fjord up the abrupt mountain sides, twisting and turning as they were shaped by time and topology; I like to describe how you can bath in the sea in the middle of the city, and how the taste of the salt water compares to that in the fresh lakes only 30 minutes of hiking away. And of course, I am super-excited to show people my wallpaper, point out all the different places, buildings and restaurants, and tell why they matter to me.

However much Pittsburgh is a fabulous place – it is not home.

Read more:
Warrior of Agape: WeHe
Wikipedia: Bergen
Visit Norway: Bergen