Final Ceramics Post

Well, Summer term has come to an end, and I'm done with my ceramics class.  I have a few more items to show off though!

Final Ceramics Project

For my final ceramics project, I'm making a dragon climbing a tower ... 

I decided to add a base - they are detachable, and I'll be firing them separately

I based my design on the Dragon climbing the city hall in Munich, Germany:

I'll be raku firing it next week, and I sure hope it stays together!!!

Why Buy Local?

The idea of buying locally has been becoming more popular as groups form, billboards go up, and businesses develop around the idea. Buying local benefits the entire community. Our location determines what we can buy, what we can do, and how much everything costs. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how much money we make or what model of car we drive as much as the kind of community that we live in. Communities are like an intricately woven tapestry, where each component is connected and dependent on all of the other pieces. Buying local items not only benefits the local community’s economy, but strengthens the global economy as well.

Buying locally has quite a number of immediate benefits for the consumer as well as for the community at large. Produce bought straight from a farmer is fresher and riper than foods transported from the other side of the globe. Fresh foods also taste better, and are packed with more vitamins (Rickman). When comparing a handcrafted piece of furniture or clothing with something bearing the label ‘Made in China,’ there is usually no room for argument about which is of a higher quality. That isn’t to criticize the Chinese people as being incapable of high quality manufacturing, but the high output manufacturing they are known for.

Buying locally also helps keep money in a community where it is more likely to be spent at other local businesses. According to Civic Economics, an economic analyst, 68% of income received by a local business is spent in their own community. Non-local businesses, on the other hand, only spend about 43% in the host city (Civic Economics). Keeping money circulating in the originating community is important, especially in cities without a large export income.

Besides these more immediate benefits of fostering a local economy, buying local can also bring long term improvements. Local businesses are owned and operated by other members of the community, and by frequenting their businesses, social ties are strengthened. Local businesses are held to higher standards than businesses located in far away location. It can be easy to ignore rumors of employee mistreatment, or unfair wages when it is occurring on the other side of the world. On the other hand, communities have inside ties to companies operating out of their own towns.

There was a recent paper published by Louis Ferleger, a professor of US economic history at Boston University, that looked at all the cities which have fallen below the national average in employment rates for the last five to twenty years. Ferleger found that each of these communities had relied on a single commodity economy, and when that source of income disappeared, they had nothing else to rely on. The most stable communities, the ones which rode out the recent economic downturn fairly unscathed, were also the communities with the most diversity (Ferleger). Encouraging local businesses also encourages diversity as the varied needs of the community are met by its members.

Although buying local has a positive effect on communities, it would be difficult and unpleasant to insist that a community become totally self-sufficient. Buying local doesn’t mean building a wall around the community and blocking all imports. Each area has strengths and weaknesses, and we all benefit by sharing our strengths with others.

In Roseburg, Oregon, I can easily buy locally picked blueberries, but it would be almost impossible to grow coffee here, let alone enough to supply the entire city. Local products are not always better than what could be imported from elsewhere. But, just because you can not buy everything locally, does not mean you should throw in the towel and not worry about it. A few simple ways to support your own community without giving up certain things we all take for granted are: buying produce from local farms, purchasing household items from local artisans, and choosing locally owned shops or credit unions over national chains.

Humans have always taken advantage of the global economy. Archaeologists have unearthed ancient trade routes that spanned continents. Some even believe that trade between cultures is what sparked the beginning of ancient civilizations (Fagan). It is more efficient for each member of society to specialize in a trade and then divide it up than it is for everyone to work on their own provide everything they need. By specializing, each worker becomes skilled in their trade, and can produce higher quality items in larger quantities (Plato). The modern global economy is merely the next step in the development and expansion of human civilization. Our neighbors just keep getting farther away.

The earth’s population is expanding, and barring a global disaster, we will eventually find ourselves pressed for resources. Our current economic model leaves room for huge amounts of waste and inefficiency. Commercial farms find it uneconomical to harvest every last piece of produce, and it sits in the fields and orchards to rot. At the same time there are starving people, even in our own country, who would jump at the chance to eat some of that wasted food. There are small efforts to distribute this excess, but nothing that comes close to solving the underlying problems (Barlow).

Even though strong local economies are important, the need for a larger scale efficiency is also important. It is sometimes more economical to transport goods and produce from areas that specialize in these goods than it is to try and produce the same items in the community. In the future, creating a globally efficient economy will be vital to our continued prosperity as resources become more scarce.

Despite these concerns for efficiency, communities should be wary of courting large industries to their town, as they can disappear overnight to a location with cheaper labor. Over the years, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of companies which have moved all or part of their labor to other countries. As Gene Sperling, head of the National Economic Council stated, “For much of the last 15 years, it seemed like the attitude was that anytime you could find a lower cost anywhere in the global supply chain, you did it, with no thought of the difficulties or risks that things could go wrong” (qtd in Foroohar). Lower costs mean more profits for the companies, and it is easy to see why they choose to move their operations to these far away locations.

Moving operations across the globe may have resulted in cheaper prices, but money does not account for externalized costs that are hard to quantify. The environment may be harmed by overusing resources, employees may be mistreated such as the Foxconn workers who manufacture technology for Microsoft and Apple (Greenfield), dangerous chemicals may be used in consumer products such as when lead was used in paints. We are not the ones who have to pay the price for our cheaper goods, that debt will be paid by future generations and by those living in places where we do not see.

It might be tempting to point our collective finger at large companies, and blame them for lost jobs and the poor economy, but we need to take our share of the responsibility. If we are constantly looking for the cheapest prices without thought for why it is cheaper, without regard for its hidden costs, then we are just as guilty as the large companies which turn around and do the same thing.

In the end, there needs to be a balance between global and local economies. If a local area is suffering from unemployment, and a lack of diversity, focusing on local businesses is one way individuals can turn their city around. Communities should be grounded locally, even as they take advantage of the global economy and sell their specialties to the world.

Works Cited

Barlow, Genevieve. "Stay Local to the Core." The Melbourne Weekly Times 8 Aug. 2012: 67. Web. EBSCOHOST
Civic Economics. Examining the Impact of Local Business on the West Michigan Economy. Rep. Local First, Sept. 2008. Web. 28 Aug. 2012.
Fagan, Brian M. People of the Earth: An Introduction to World Prehistory. New York, NY: HarperCollins College, 2010. 312-14. Print.
Ferleger, Louis. "America’s Permanent Dead Zones." Salon. N.p., 27 Jan. 2012. Web. 20 Aug. 2012.
Foroohar, Rana; “The Economy’s New Rules: Go Local!” Time, 8/20/2012, Vol. 180 Issue 8, p26-32. EBSCOHOST
Greenfield, Rebecca. "Foxconn Is Still a Hard Place to Work." n.d.: n. pag. The Atlantic Wire. 10 Jan. 2012. Web. 20 Aug. 2012.
Plato. The Republic. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Gutenberg. Web. 20 Aug. 2012.
Rickman, Joy C., Christine M. Bruhn, and Diane M. Barrett. "Review Nutritional Comparison of Fresh, Frozen, and Canned Fruits and Vegetables" Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture (2007): DOI: 10.1002/jsfa.2824. Print.

Beyond Liberal Education

Liberal education is the practice of teaching students a little something from each of the major scholastic fields, giving them a solid grounding in all disciplines. This practice dates back at least to the times of ancient Greece where the citizens concerned themselves with philosophy, the arts, and maintaining physical perfection. The manual labor of the period was performed by the slave caste who did not need an education to carry out their tasks. Today, that same tradition has been passed down to the American education system where, throughout their school career, students are expected to master an astonishing array of topics.

As human beings, we need to stimulate all aspects of our being, and our lives should include a full spectrum of knowledge and experiences. Liberal education is not so much about teaching a specific set of topics as about giving each student a way to express themselves, both in school and throughout the rest of their lives. Children should not be expected to know what they want to be when they grow up because they have not had time to explore all of the possibilities that are available to them. Even most college students have not yet found their niche and need more experience before deciding on a career. Liberal education gives students a chance to explore the world around them and discover how they are exceptional.

Liberal education can be a waste of scarce resources, spending time and energy teaching topics which the students will never use once they have graduated. Social workers do not need to know higher math, physicists should not have to learn to paint, and a gymnast has no need to take writing classes. If the goal of education is to produce useful and intelligent citizens, this can be accomplished without spending so much effort on skills that will lay forgotten as soon as they are learned. One of the secrets to the success of our modern society is specialization, which allows each person to focus on a single skill or task. Liberal education takes the opposite tact by encouraging everyone to become a generalist. Our education system would be better off if students picked a vocation and were able to focus on it without distraction.

Public education is designed to give each student a chance to grow into their greatest potential. Providing a liberal education to students in their younger years gives children options that their personal life experiences may not have prepared them for. When I was in kindergarten, my view of the world was fairly limited, and it was my dream to grow up and become a mail lady, driving around in that sweet little car and delivering letters. As I grew older, I was exposed to the rest of the wide, wide world out there and left my dreams of being a postal worker far behind. Once a student has reached a certain point in their education, they have a fair idea of what they are good at, and in what scholastic direction they want to pursue. Once this decision is reached, the student should be allowed to skip out on the advanced topics that are of no interest or relevancy to their future careers. The current public education system keeps a focus on liberal education far beyond the point where it is useful and necessary.

Both sides of this argument are concerned with giving students the best education possible. This can be achieved by moving beyond liberal education, and allowing students to steer their own futures.


For summer term I've been taking it easy with a ceramics class!  Below are pictures of a few of my pieces:

The Book was Better

Every year dozens of books are made into successful movies. As popular as these movies are, there are always fans of the book who proclaim that, ‘the book was better.’ Is the book really better, or is this claim merely the opinion of enthusiastic fans who would rally behind their book under any circumstance?

What is it that makes novels better than their movie adaptations? Books are longer, which allows the plot to be more intricate and the characters to have greater depth. Novels do not have a special effects budget, and so the story can develop without the constraints of a movie production. Reading is also a form of active entertainment, and the reader must engage in the story in order to gain anything from the experience.

Movie adaptations are notorious for cutting and merging characters or storylines to keep things less confusing for movie audiences. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was approximately 198 thousand words long, which should take an average reader about 13 hours to read. Even after splitting the book into two movies, the adaptation only hits 4 and a half hours of screen time. The book would have to be made into five or six movies in order to match the same complexity of the novel.

Movies very rarely allow audiences to hear the thoughts of the characters for fear they will appear insane to the audience. This is a primary tactic in novels for creating character development as well as giving the reader a glimpse into what makes the character tick, what makes them more than a hired thug or vanquishing hero. Character development becomes flatter and one dimensional when adapted to the screen. Instead of looking at the world from the eyes of another person, movies are limited to watching the characters and stories unfold as a mere spectator.

A popular trick in movies and television is to keep a character off-screen in order to let the viewers use their imagination, which can create something more grotesque or beautiful than any CG or makeup artist can replicate. Novels do the same, but with every character and in every scene. For example, in The Family Tree by Sheri Tepper, the true natures of the main characters are not revealed until halfway through the book. In a movie version, this would be impossible! Scene one, and the surprise would be spoiled.

The written word can control story exposition with precision, telling only exactly what is needed and when it should be told. Movies are severely limited in this regard. In a book, each reader creates an experience that is unique to themselves and their personal experiences. In a movie viewers are limited to one version of the story, that of the producers and directors. Even the most faithful adaptation falls short because it can only reproduce one interpretation of the words on the page.

George R. R. Martin began writing his popular fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire after becoming discouraged by the limitations placed on his stories in order to show them on screen. ‘I’m sorry, we don’t have the budget to do something that cool,’ isn’t a recipe for an amazing entertainment experience. When writing, special effects are free. Dragons, massive armies, exploding planets, all are free of charge for the author. The same cannot be said of movies, and it shows. The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende features a stunning array of fantasy worlds which is hardly even touched on by the movie version.

There are some exceptions, notably short stories where the movie can match the length of the original; children’s picture books on which the movie can expand and the visual interpretations are already in place; and finally, books that were less than stellar. It’s entirely possible to make a movie out of a terrible book and have it turn out better than the original. Of course, what makes a book or movie terrible is subjective and depends on personal taste.

It all comes down to the fact that novels have greater potential than movies to spin a mesmerizing story. All the special effects and good acting of even a great movie can’t compete with what is possible through the written word and the human imagination. If you read the original novel that one of your favorite movies was adapted from, chances are you’ll agree, the book is better.

The Red Lands and the Black: Origins of Upper Egyptian Culture

The Nile river valley was known to its early inhabitants as Kemet, the Black Land, a reference to its fertile, black soil. In contrast to this, the arid regions to the east and west of the Nile were known as the Red Lands, or Deshret, named for the red sandstone hills of the region (McDermott 2001: 126). Before the formation of the Egyptian State near 5000 BP, there was considerable mixture between these two areas, with each contributing technologies and cultural ideologies that would survive throughout Dynastic Egypt.

The histories of these people are closely tied to changes in the area’s climate. Rainy periods brought grass to the desert, and extensive flooding to the river valley. Drought consolidated the desert people around oases and encouraged migration to the banks of the Nile (Bard 1994). Around 9500 - 9000 BP the Neolithic Subpluvial period began, which ended a twenty thousand year period of aridity. The first two thousand years of the Neolithic Subpluvial experienced the highest levels of moisture, and during this time the land supported a wide variety of plants and animals, including gazelle, wild cattle, elephant, giraffe, and possibly even crocodile. The end of this period, around 5500-5000 BP, brought about a return to the familiar aridity of the modern era.

Approximately 15 kya, the Qadan culture took root in the southernmost areas of the Nile river valley. The Qadan were mainly hunters, traveling between valley floor and the nearby savanna as evidenced by the wide variety of animal remains found in their settlements. They also relied on wild or semi-domesticated grains, and at Tushka have left behind grinding stones as well as barley pollen (Hoffman 1979: 88-89). By 14 kya the Isnan culture began their first experiments in agriculture, as well as creating the first truly permanent settlements. Corresponding to this new use of grains, the river valley saw a population explosion beginning 15 kya and lasting until about 12.5 kya when the use of grains ceased in the valley. Although the exact reason is uncertain, “About 12,500 BP the increased rainfall in the Nile’s headwaters resulted in a series of exceptionally high floods in Egypt, followed by downcutting and a change in the river’s morphology from numerous small braided channels to the single large channel that is seen today (Bard 1999: 14).” The people of the Black Land returned to hunting the animals of the Nile and the tools associated with grain use disappear at this time.

There is very little evidence in the archaeological record for the desert regions until the Neolithic Sub-pluvian period began around 9500 BP. Nabta playa, located in the far south, is one of the larger population concentrations in the Egyptian desert during that time period. Here, the inhabitants hunted the large game of the newly watered savannas until the rains diminished and the largest animals left were the wild cattle. At around 8600 BP, the people of Nabta made a dramatic switch from hunting wild game to domesticating cattle and then settling down to practice agriculture (Hoffman 1979: 218). By 6800 BP, they had built a stone circle that served as a calendar which marks the summer solstice and the return of the summer rains, necessary to survival in the increasingly arid environment (Wilkinson 2003: 165-166). Certain cultural practices in Nabta bear a marked resemblance to later Egyptian customs, including the ceremonial burial of cattle and the decoration of pottery with a combed design etched into the side before firing (Wendorf and Schild 1998: 100, 108-109).

At the time when the desert was again becoming uninhabitable, around 6500 BP, a new culture, named the Badari, appeared in the Nile river valley, bringing with it the rebirth of Egyptian agriculture. The Badari culture was originally identified by their distinctive combed pottery and by the introduction of cosmetic palettes. The Bardari began as a semi-nomadic culture, moving between savanna and river throughout the year. Perhaps they practiced farming during part of the year, and hunting and herding in the desert when the river made farming impossible. In later times, Egyptian farmers would be assigned to public works during these same seasons when farming halted. Evidence for the Badarian’s semi-nomadic, pastoral lifestyle comes from the layers of artifacts and large amounts of animal feces interspersed with layers of silt found in their settlements (Wilkinson 2003: 104). The cosmetic palettes used by the Badari were simply fashioned and made from black siltstone found in the Black Mountains of the eastern desert (Wilkinson 2003: 91). The materials used for cosmetics (red ocher, malachite or copper, and lead) were all found in the desert areas east of the Nile.

These semi-nomads soon gave way to the Naqada culture (6000-5000 BP) which was more settled. They began the first large, permanent villages near where the Wadi Hammammat meets the Nile, a popular and well traveled route into the eastern desert. The cosmetic palettes created in this time period became more elaborate, and were fashioned in the form of both river and desert animals including hippo, fish, elephant, ibex, and cattle. Pictures carved into the red rocks of the desert regions to the east and west of the river valley show images of river dwelling animals such as hippos and crocodiles as well as numerous ships indicate that these people were also familiar with the Nile valley (Wilkinson 2003: 92-93).

The Naqada are known for their elaborate tombs which contained household goods and food supplied for the dead. They created separate cemeteries for the richer classes of citizen and these tombs became extraordinarily extravagant. This also introduced what has been called Egypt’s pastime: grave robbing. Artifacts dropped by grave robbers shortly after entombment suggests that the grave robbers were members of the same community. The human remains discovered in these desert graves show remarkable preservation, a form of natural mummification. Perhaps these early grave robbers influenced the need for the later practices of chemical mummification. The Naqada also buried cattle in their cemeteries the same way they would a human: wrapped in a reed mat and facing west (Wilkinson 2003: 101), which echoes the cattle burials found in Nabta.

Another iconic feature of Egyptian culture is the use of their extensive hieroglyphic writing system. The earliest hieroglyphs have been discovered in tomb U-j of Abyos and is a part of the Naqada III culture. The glyphs were written on small tiles with small holes in the top. They could have been used to mark the contents of jars of grave goods. The next use of hieroglyphs were on the Narmer Palette which shows the triumphant king Narmer prevailing over the northern kingdom of Lower Egypt.

It was during the Naqada culture that Egypt developed (by 5000 BP) from a scattering of separate communities into a unified state-based civilization. Precisely how this change came about is a matter of argument, and until more evidence is unearthed, likely to remain so. A prevailing theory involves the slow merging of neighboring villages into small chiefdoms, and then those chiefdoms into larger conglomerates and small kingdoms called Nomes until finally the whole of Egypt was unified by Narmer, the first Egyptian Pharaoh, near 5000 BP (Fagan 2010: 349).

References Cited

Bard, Kathryn. 1994. The Egyptian Predynastic: A Review of the Evidence. Journal of Field Archaeology, Vol 21, Issue 3. Boston: Boston University.
Bard, Kathryn. 1999. Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt. New York: Routledge.
Fagan, Brian M. 2010. People of the Earth: An Introduction to World Prehistory. Prentice Hall.
Hoffman, Michael A. 1979. Egypt Before The Pharaohs. New York: Knopf.
McDermott, Bridget. 2001. Decoding Egyptian Hieroglyphs. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.
Wendorf, Fred, and Romuland Schild. 1998. Nabta Playa and Its Role in Northeastern African Prehistory. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, Vol 17. Massachusetts: Academic Press.
Wilkinson, Toby. 2003. Genesis of the Pharaohs. London: Thames & Hudson.

Television Advertising ... reinforcing gender roles in 2012

I recently started a new job working graveyard on weekends. While I'm working, I have the TV running in order to help me stay awake. I haven't sat and watched TV for ages, and so I was a bit shocked at the content of some of the advertisements that played.

Newcastle Brown Ale: "Brewer"

This ad shows someone's hands, picking out hops, making beer, etc. explicitly avoiding showing the head and face that belongs to them. Then, they end by saying: "Why do we focus so much on our brewmaster's hands? ... Because she's not an attractive woman."

I can see what they were trying to say here, but it came out very wrong. In effect, were they saying that the only reason to show a female on screen is if she is attractive? If she's just average, her face better not show? If she was a guy, they would never have finished the ad with "because he's not an attractive man," that would have been ludicrous!

A Dream Car. For Real Life (Kia)

This ad starts with a couple sleeping in bed, and "the sandman" comes to give them good dreams. The guy dreams that he is in a 2012 Kia. There is a super-hot flag girl who starts the 'race.' When he flies past, she looks after him with a look of complete adoration. He drives his car around really fast, and sleeps with a huge smile on his face.

I can't find the exact commercial that I watched, and my network is bugging out on me, making it hard to search for. The message behind this ad is that if you drive this car around, women like the one in the ad will think you're amazing. In reality, Kias are not very impressive cars, sorry guys :-)

Dr. Pepper 10, Not for Women

A man runs through the jungle with bullets flying, jumps off a cliff, yelling, "hey ladies, this movie's not for you! 23 flavors in ten MANLY calories."

This one is blatant in its message, 'this is MANLY diet soda.' No explanation is given for why it's only for men. It has ten calories instead of zero in diet Dr. Pepper. If diet soda is for women, and Dr. Pepper Ten is for MEN, then .. who in the world drinks regular Dr. Pepper (with its 100 calories)?

There were a bunch of cell phone ads that I'm not going to bother searching for, but had messages like - use this phone and you'll impress the ladies who will call you for a date. Use this phone to look up pictures of hot cheerleaders, etc.

Now, I'm not saying that using sex in advertising should be eliminated - it works, that's why it's used. But, what we watch has a huge effect on how we think, what our social norms are, and how we treat other people.

Geography News: Part Two

Southern regions nurtured languages

by Tim de Chant. Per Square Mile, January 10, 2012
Southern regions nurtured languages
(which references this article: A latitudinal gradient in the density of human languages in North America [PDF])

This blog post investigates how the density of pre-contact Native American languages increases as the latitude decreases, mirroring the number of animal species in those same areas. The sheer variety of languages increases exponentially from about 40° North until at least 8° North (the southern limit of this analysis). One possible explanation to this phenomenon is the corresponding increase of varied habitats. The reasoning behind this is that as habitats become more varied, resources also increase, giving way to smaller groups of animals and humans who can survive in isolation. The author concludes by relating this to the fact that so many languages are dying out as we push for globalization. He makes the connection that as our population increases, our resources decrease, thereby creating the same type of environment that forces us to work together in order to survive. Communication is one of our best tools to encourage cooperation.

This article relates to the chapter: Language. I found this article to be fascinating, especially the fact that the pattern of increase matches the density of animal species. Although, I wish that a similar study could be made of the languages of the rest of the world in relation to habitat as well as latitude. The Americas (at least in the southern areas!) have a tremendous number of dialects and languages even though both continents together only contain three language families. I believe that this stems from the way in which the Americas were originally settled. This article also proposed a reason behind the disappearance of our unique languages as we move towards globalization. Rather than expecting all of us to continue speaking only our culture’s “hearth tongue”, we should encourage a universal language as well as a way to keep our individuality intact. The Native American sign languages are a great example of this. Whole groups of tribes could communicate with these signs while keeping their own unique languages for speaking. It is much harder to understand a foreign accent than it is to understand a foreign hand signal.

Synopsis of Religion in the Early Republican Primaries

by Pew Research Center. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, March 2, 2012
Synopsis of Religion in the Early Republican Primaries

Every election year, religion plays a large part in people’s decisions at the polls. This year, Mitt Romney, a Mormon, is aiming for the republican delegation once again. Romney has received significantly less support from white, evangelical Christians than other voters in every state which has such information available. On average, Romney has received about 15 percentage points more support from non-evangelical voters than from the evangelical. Romney has also attracted the Catholic vote, whereas Santorum (who is Catholic) has yet to win the majority of the Catholic vote in any state. In the Mormon dominated states that have so far held their primaries, Romney is the clear winner among Protestants, with the percentage of Mormons (which are grouped as Protestants in the exit polls) voting for Romney being as high as 96%. In Nevada and New Hampshire, there were enough religiously unaffiliated voters to analyze, and they favored Ron Paul.

This article relates to the chapter: Religion. The United States is home to a large assortment of religions. According to our textbook, almost 80% of us are Christian. This year’s republican primaries include Romney, a Mormon; Santorum, a Catholic; Gingrich, also a Catholic; and Paul, a Baptist. Of these candidates, Romney is the most interesting to look at religiously. In the United States, Mormons have a rocky history of discrimination and persecution from the Evangelical Christian community. When the Republican party was created, it was expressly anti-Mormon. Today, a majority of Mormons identify as Republican, but they are still not entirely accepted by the rest of the party. This article is a perfect example of the localization of attitudes towards various religious affiliations, as well as the religious distributions in the United States. The southern states, which hold a high percentage of Evangelicals, did not, as a whole, vote for Romney, where those who live near the Mormon regions surrounding Utah (which they settled in the mid 1800s) were much more likely to vote for Romney.

Bid to censure Lanka at UN puts India in a fix

by TNN. The Times of India, March 14, 2012
Bid to censure Lanka at UN puts India in a fix

The UN’s Human Rights Council made a motion to censure Sri Lanka over their actions against the terrorist group, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during the last few weeks of the conflict between LTTE and the Sri Lanken government. In India, the Dravidian political party (DMK) has been pushing for censure, while the more neutral leaders (including the Prime Minister) see such a move as merely aggravating an old wound without accomplishing anything. India has a policy to never vote on country specific resolutions, but in this case, the ethnic ties between the two countries make this almost impossible.

The article concluded with India’s claim that this issue would be better dealt with by the Sri Lanken government, and other neutral parties working towards redress rather than a harsh UN censure.

This article relates to the chapter: Ethnicity. The ethnic ties that bind the Tamil of Sri Lanka to the Dravidian Hindus of India together is part of the reason that the civil war was as drawn out as it was (since India contributed arms). It makes complete sense that they would also want some sort of admission of wrong-doing, some punishment and retribution in return. The Tamil might not be powerful enough to gain this by themselves, but it seems that their Indian cousins are more than happy to step up to the plate for them. It shows that despite country lines (no matter how old), family is family and we feel a tie to those who are like us.

I chose this article because it caught my eye since I had chosen this as my religious conflict in the discussion the previous week.

Bahrain and Belarus named ‘enemies of the internet’

by BBC Journalist. BBC News, March 13, 2012
Bahrain and Belarus named 'enemies of the internet'

‘Reporters Without Borders’ (RWB) is a non profit organization devoted to protecting and informing international journalists. In this article, it was announced that Bahrain and Belarus have both been added to RWB’s list of ‘Enemies of the Internet,’ which includes countries that “restrict net access, filter content, and imprison bloggers.” The article covers some of the tactics used by these countries to restrict the freedom of information through the Internet, especially concerning political dissent. Mention is also made of the countries who are bordering on overstepping the bounds that freedom of information require. This includes countries like Australia (for creating a blacklist that blocks any site that the Australian government does not approve of), France, Egypt and India.

This article relates to the chapter: Political Geography. One of the major distinctions between countries is the government that controls the area within the borders. When dealing with an international concept such as the Internet, each government chooses to control it (or not) in a different way. The most oft cited reason for restricting internet access is to also restrict communication. The Egyptian riots of this winter are an example of what dissenters can do to build up a revolution using the Internet. I can see how this would be frightening, especially in countries that do not have good relations with all (or many) of their citizens.

I chose this article because I am, or used to be, in the tech field, and so I am always interested in how the different parts of the world are coping with this new technology. I also chose this article because it deals with a form of communication that cuts through the borders. The network connections don’t care which side of a line you are standing on, and neither does the free sharing of information. I hope that we have all gotten a good taste of this freedom, and will fight to keep it for future generations.

See and Hear Last Speakers of Dying Languages

by Ker Than and Chris Rainier. National Geographic, February 17, 2012
See and Hear Last Speakers of Dying Languages

A new project has been announced that will attempt to capture the Earth’s disappearing and endangered languages in digital format. So far, they have begun to document eight languages (from places such as Mongolia, India, and Paraguay) and have collected 32,000 word entries as well as 24,000 audio recordings. They are working on adding more words as well as more languages to their “talking dictionary.” Although other projects exist, this is geared towards recording the languages of people who do not have the technology to record their language themselves. The purpose of recording these languages is not to provide a way for students to learn the language, but as a supplement to more formal instruction (including grammar).

In Matukar, Papua New Guinea, a small fishing village, there are about 600 speakers of the language, Matukar Panau left. The villagers requested that their language be placed online, even though none of them had ever used the Internet, and the village did not even have access to electricity.

Another language that is being preserved is the Remo language of India, which is of particular interest because of its ancient, pre-Hindu roots. There are few ways to look back into the past, and language is one of the most powerful. As one of the researchers said, “humans lose a unique lens upon the world every time a language dies.” This dictionary project might not be enough on its own to revive a language, but it is one small way that we can preserve these windows into our past and our humanity.
This article relates to the chapter: Language. Languages die and are born with the people who speak them. If no one is left to speak a language, there are few ways to completely retrieve that language for use again. Even in the case of Hebrew, there are many questions and value judgments that had to be made, and there is no guarantee that speakers of modern Hebrew are speaking something even close to the original language. That process was also helped along by the existence of Yiddish, from which some of the vocabulary and grammar rules could be extrapolated. In the case of Matukar Panau, or any of the other languages mentioned in this article. they did not have a large enough sphere of influence to leave but the trace of a memory behind when the last native speaker passes on. Should we feel that by creating an audio recording of a language that we are ‘saving’ it? If we are truly concerned with the preservation of culture and language, is this the best we can do?

I picked this article because of the pretty pictures and the included audio files of the spoken languages. I mean, honestly, who can resist a little multi-media?

Map Exercise: Water Bodies


Southern Ocean

This was one of the last oceans to be explored, and to this day is one of the least used, especially for trade, as it is not very useful unless you are trying to get to Antarctica. This ocean completely surrounds the continent of Antarctica, and falls entirely inside of the ice-flow iceberg range of the southern antarctic circle (in other words, it is freaking cold!)

North Atlantic Ocean

This ocean was not regularly crossed until after the explorations of Christopher Columbus, after which passage became more and more frequent between North America and Europe (less so between Africa / South America & North America and Europe. It is also used to travel between Europe and the Panama canal which provides access to the Pacific Ocean and East Asia. (At least until the Suez canal was built!)

Indian Ocean

The Indian ocean lies between the eastern edge of Africa and the western edge of Australia and the islands of Indonesia. India acts as a "bridge" between these two continents, and was (is) used as a restocking and refueling area on the way to and from southern Asia. This ocean provides the moisture for parts of India (especially the monsoon season), as well as the eastern coast of Africa. Because it is somewhat hedged in by landmass, less inter-oceanic circulation transpires (especially in the northern regions).


Bering Sea

This sea lies between the northern extremities of western North America and eastern Asia. The northern edge of this sea is defined by the point where these two landmasses are the closest (the Bering Strait). The southern border is defined by the Aleutian Islands which curve south-westward and almost reach the shores of Russia. This sea was frequented by natives to the region who traversed it in seal-skin kayaks.

Black Sea

The Black Sea is located in eastern Europe, and is connected to the Mediterranean Sea through a very narrow channel (the mighty Bosporus) through the city of Istanbul. This sea connects Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria and Georgia, allowing them to trade goods and ideas. This is the region that mythologists believe that Jason and the Argonauts arrived at in their search for the Golden Fleece.

Tasman Sea

This sea lies between the eastern edge of Australia and the islands of New Zealand. This sea and New Zealand are sometimes used as a stopping off point to shorten the long distance between Australia and North America by ship.

Java Sea

This sea lies between the island of Malay and the island of Java, just south of the equator. This is a very shallow sea, with currents coming in from the east and flowing west and then north.

Scotia Sea

The Scotia Sea is defined as a shallower area off the southern tip of South America. Unless a ship is traversing Magellan's Strait, they must pass through this sea in order to access Drake's Passage. The South Georgia and Sandwich Islands lie on the eastern edge, and the Antarctic Peninsula lies at the southern edge.


Gulfo de Panama

This is a large indention to the south of Panama. Ships sail through here on there way to and from the Panama Canal.

Gulf of Bothnia

This is a large section of water between Sweden and Finland. Although there are a few similarities between these countries, this area of water seems to have kept the two cultures fairly separate. Finland's language is significantly different from that of the other Scandinavian countries and the people there have a unique religion, more closely aligned with the Slavic people to the near south.

Gulf of Tonkin

The Red River of China and Vietnam flows into this gulf. This area is densely inhabited, on the coast near Ha Noi, it is as densely populated as Hong Kong or regions of Northern China. I imagine that this gulf was very important, strategically, for the Vietnamese in the time of Navel warfare.


Lake Baikal

This lake is located in the heart of the Russian Taiga Forest. This lake is at the heart of many local tribal traditions (as would be expected with such a huge lake). I watched a documentary about shamanism in the area, and there are even certain words that are not allowed to be spoken while on the lake, otherwise it will invoke spirits who will then cause you and your family troubles.

Lake Victoria

This lake lies in east-central Africa, and is split between Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. The areas surrounding the lake are diverse - grasslands, forests, woods, hills ... but they all have one thing in common: the lake's life-giving water.

Lake Titicaca

This is a high lake in the Andes. The lake is split into two sections by the border of southern Peru and western Bolivia. This lake was an important gathering point for the tribes of this section of the Andes. The reeds that grow on the lake shore are used to make rafts and homes.


Baffin Bay

This is a huge stretch of ocean between western Greenland and Baffin Island of Canada. I have a feeling that almost no one uses this bay, as it is filled with ice pack in the winter and icebergs in the summer. ... and no one lives anywhere near there.

Shark Bay

Located on the far western edge of Australia, this bay is home to a number of port towns. The area surrounding the bay is quite dry, and so these are people that would otherwise not have chosen to settle there.

Porpoise Bay

This bay is located on the ... northern? coast of Antarctica, directly south of Australia (130 degrees east of Greenwich). This bay is part of the Australian slice of the continent, and is covered by an ice shelf. I wonder how it got its name? Do porpoises live that far south?

Of all the water bodies you mentioned in this assignment, which one do you find most interesting and why?

Thinking about why the inhabitants of Sweden and Norway declined to attack and conquer the people of the Baltic Sea and the gulf of Bothnia. I have a lot of theories, but no concrete evidence. It makes me want to do research, which is a good thing ... so that's why it's the most interesting, I see unanswered questions there.