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Hi! My name is Ulrik, and this is my student blog. My posts will be based on tasks and subjects given to the class by my English teacher Ann. I am currently in my third year at Sandvika High School, Norway.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

UK election results

I was originally going to write this post on election day, but suddenly the post was half-finished and time became an issue- so this is instead an after-election post; hope you forgive me Ann!

On Thursday UK held it's breath- who was going to be PM? Would the Conservatives remain in power? could they get rid of the Liberal Democrats? Would Labour once again rule Britain? And the most interesting question if you ask me; how did it work out for UKIP?

On election day I was personally hoping for a new Labour government, since I am not very fond of Cameron. The result however, is as we know a new one-party government under Cameron. His party received 331 seats- against Labour with 232-, which is absolute majority (this means they have no more need for the Liberal Democrats, who won 8 seats). The UKIP received 12% of the votes, but only got one seat- this due to UK's election system which I have written about earlier. The election surprise however is probably the Scottish Nationalist Party; they received 4,7% of UK votes, and won 56 seats. While UKIP received many more votes, they were scattered across the constituencies, the Scottish Nationalist votes were pretty much concentrated in Scotland, securing majority all over the place. Scottish independence might not be so far away as Cameron is hoping, despite the result of last years referendum.

This election was of huge importance not only for UK, but for Europe. On Friday I was at a friends place, and ended up discussing the election with some guys. This one guy was hoping for UKIP ending up with more seats (we did not get along that well), while another guy was hoping for the Green Party to win more seats (they only won one)- a girl who threw herself into the discussion was hoping for Labour to win, even though she was not to fond of their leader Ed Miliband (like many Brits, she believed him not to be radical enough for a Labour PM). My point is that when I can show up at Norwegian gathering, and ending up with a debate on UK politics, you can imagine how it is like in the UK; this election was important on the matter of EU, NATO, environment, immigration, Scottish Independence and lots and lots more. How will UK be like in five new years under Cameron? Only time can tell, but he is a popular man and people do seem to like his politics, so maybe it won't be that bad!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Carthage-first impressions

I've only just started on the book, perhaps fifty pages in or so, but Carthage by Joyce Carol Oates has got my attention. Her writing style is good, and despite a heavy month ahead, I have no doubt I will finish it. Many questions are stuck in my head, and they can only be answered by reading the book- how did Cressida disappear? That's the main question, and in a months time you can read my full review. 

Gay Pride Comrades and the Miners' strike

In 1984, the UK government under Thatcher decided to shut down twenty coal mines, leading up to one of the biggest strikes in UK history; picket-lines fighting police daily, as the government used many unfine methods, such as cutting gas lines to the villages. In order to keep a strike ongoing for a long time, you need support- as you are not given salary when striking-, and the Welch mining-community received support from a somewhat unexpected group; the Gay Pride Comrades. After a year, the strike was over, and the government had it their way; Margaret Thatcher remains a controversial figure after this, still hated by the mining communities. 

So, why did the gay community show support to the mining community, a conservative and not really gay-friendly group of people? One man who pushed the cause in the gay community was the gay activist Mark Ashton, who saw that the coal-miners were struggling with police and media the same way as the gays did. Mark met resistance when suggesting to support them, but after a while they had a support organization up and running, showing huge support to the miners. Despite huge donations, many of the miners and their wives remained hostile and conservative, fearing AIDS and poor influence on the children(the usual anti-gay stuff). 

Homosexuality was illegal in GB, and the gay cause probably saw that if they managed to stand hand in hand with another group, they could achieve higher support and understanding- in fact, the Labour Party manifestoed gay rights one year after these events, and it's probably not a coincidence. In addition to this the miners joined the gay-pride march, something that astonished GB; solidarity before anything became the way of thought. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The old order

In Europe the last years, we have seen the growth of nationalism; in both the good and the bad term. We have the Scottish nationalism- the wish for independence and the need for self-government, and we have the British, French, Greek etc nationalism- the anti-EU attitude, hate towards immigrants, and what most non-nationalists describes as people who does not know any better, and will bring upon their own destruction (like Germany in the 30s). In GB, which is this articles concern, UKIP (UK Independence party) creates a headache for the Labour and Conservatives. These two parties, who since the Depression days (the period which created Nazi Germany), has had up to 90% percent of the votes and thereby had the opportunity to form a one-party government without much trouble (because for example Labour could get 60%), now has to include the liberals- and even perhaps UKIP after this election- in their government.

GB has, as we know, a really old out-dated voting system (some would say), and each voting district only has one representant. Thereby will 51% liberal votes only give one liberal representant, and the 49% other votes will be ignored. When parties like UKIP suddenly receives lots of votes in certain districts, and they get people in the Parliament- never heard of in UK history before-, big parts of the UK system suddenly has to realize that the Labour or Conservative days are over.

Why do many people vote for UKIP? They are against the EU (they don't like non-brits in Brussel governing them), and against immigration.  The English system is in many ways stuck in the medieval age. The lords and the old conservatives are terrified because the UKIP wants to throw away the old system, where Hereditary lords, heirs to medieval warriors, can still vote on legislation in a 21st century democracy; they want do replace the House of Lords with a proportional representative senate. Is this bad? I do not think so. That does not mean UKIP is the solution (because they are nationalist scumbags- my personal opinion). However, old UK may be falling down- and a new reality is upon them. With possible Scottish independence within a century, and a nationalist party growing in old England, the old order is threatened. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

GB European parliament elections 2014

The European Parliament elections took place in may 2014, and what we saw throughout Europe was votes thrown on far-right parties. At the same time, there was only a 42% turnout; not even half of the Europeans used their vote. In Britain, The United Kingdom Independence Party(UKIP) became the victor, a party working against the EU.

So, what is the European Parliament? The European Union is a political and economic union, consisting of a number of European states, kingdoms and so on. There are several smaller parts of the union, like the European Economic Area, in which for example Norway takes part of union, without really being a member. However, the EU is governed much like a state, with a parliament of its own- and a executive power (The European Commission). What's different from a state like, lets say Norway, is that in EU, the Europe Commission (the executive power) has more power than the parliament, which means that the separation of powers is not really that democratic (at least that's what the critics are saying.)

The European parliament, with it 751 seats, makes its decisions together with the Council Of the European Union, and their roles consist of ratifying new laws, passing new budgets and accepting new member states into the union. 

The MPs are elected every 5th year, directly by the citizens of their respective nation. and there are 28 member states. Each nation gets at least 6, and at most 96 MPs. 


UKIP poster. Far-Right, populist propaganda.
In GB UKIP became the winner, because even though the Conservatives won most seats, they lost 7, while UKIP gained additional 11. Why? The European Union has the last ten years seen some poor times. Economically things have been really difficult in the south, and in England the scepticism towards the Euro has increased (they have not accepted the Euro as currency in the Kingdom yet). UKIP is a far-right, populist, party- working against immigration, open borders, and thereby the European Union. History has shown that poor times means far-righters, as well as far-lefters (for example Syriza in Greece). What happens when people from UKIP (and every other major far-right party, including fascists and Nazis) are elected into a parliament which they oppose? We'll have to wait and see, but for the unions sake- I don't think its very positive. For GB sake, it's days in the union isn't looking that bright for the future. 

But, even though the far-right are the victors, does that mean that the majority of British, or European, citizens belongs to that side? Not really. With only a 42% turnout, we can guess that only those really fighting and mobilizing are the ones voting- every one else simply don't care any more; maybe they've lost hope. Graphs show that there is no member state, in which a majority of the population believes -all things considered- that the Union is a good thing. If the Union is to survive, and reach it's goal -which is that of a federation, like the USA- they have to step it up, make sure every single voter in Europe feels the union is of the better, and not a non-democratic institution, influenced heavily by far-righters. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

London tour

This week, the English classes went on a school trip to London. Staying at the St. Giles Hotel, Monday-Friday, it became a great trip, packed with museum visits (and of course pubs). Among others, we went to Tate- modern, British museum, Churchill War Rooms, and Warner Brothers studios (the Harry Potter set).

Tate Modern

Myself, looking quite philosophical, at Tate Modern 
Tate Modern is Britains national modern art gallery, and the class went there the first day. With close to 4,9 million visitors each year, it's quite popular. The gallery is packed with modern artwork, and the exhibitions are called; 
  • 'History/Memory/Society'
  • 'Nude/Action/Body'
  • 'Landscape/Matter/Environment'
  • 'Still Life/Object/Real Life'
I am not that found of modern art, but there were some cool pictures, sculptures and whatnot. I really liked the exhibition showing Russian revolutionary posters. However, not really my thing (we ended up taking a cup of coffee).


Inside the BBC News Broadcast Room
One thing I really enjoyed was the BBC. Since some of us was part of the team working on Connected Learners, Ann got us a guided tour in the all new BBC building. Finished in 2013, the building (where over 6000 people work!) is extremely modern, and looked like a great workplace. I was staggered by the, well, positive vibes inside the building; everyone seemed extremely satisfied with their job. 

With coffee (or tee for those wanting to be a bit more British) in our hands, we was guided by a journalist and the head of BBC Technology, who got us inside the broadcast room (where they do editing and stuff for the BBC news, which of course happens live); it was simply awesome. On the top floor we got to see BBC Radio One, which was just as great. If there is one place I, right now, would have worked- this place definitely tops the list. 

The Rosetta Stone

British Museum

After a late nigh, and a groggy morning, me and my friends rushed to British Museum; a museum packed with artefacts brought in from those places once conquered by Britain. We had quite many hours there, so I teamed up with a friend, and managed look through a large part of the museum. Of course, one of my favourite places was the Egyptian section with mummies and stuff, and the infamous Rosetta Stone. What's so special with this stone? It was the key to solving hieroglyphs. In  1799, Napoleons soldiers found this stone by coincidence- and it was three years later brought to British Museums (because the French lost to the Brits in that campaign). Not long after, french scientists cracked the puzzle (the French  managed to smuggle out documents and and copies).

The Rosetta stone is in fact a Ptolemaic decree, dating from 196 BC. It tells which taxes to be cut, and what statues to be built (short version). The decree was ordered in three languages, hieroglyphs, wynen (similar to greek), and demotic- all three found on that stone, thereby making it possible to translate the hieroglyphs.

In addition to the Rosetta Stone, we saw a cool clock-exhibition, and what is basically whole Greek temples transported back to Britain. And yes, both Egypt and Greece (among others) has demanded that some objects are to be returned, but Britain holds on tight to most of it. 

(source: British Museum)

Churchill War Rooms

During the war, the Germans bombed London to pieces during the Blitz. Westminster and the government was of course targeted, and Churchill had no other option than to move underground. Today, this bunker (which remained top secret for many years) is open to audience- and you are able see how the entire war cabinet worked and kept the war effort going. One fun fact (if you can say that), is that the bunker was never built to withstand powerful bombs, so a German direct hit would have destroyed everything- but that never happened, so well. 

We went there, and it was really cool- I have been there before, so I sort of rushed trough- but everything is kept they way it was. Maps, chairs, offices, meeting rooms etc.- it is all there. The war rooms also contains a Churchill museum, showing everything about his life and deeds. 

Me and Sindre driving Hagrids Motor bike. (pardon the filter,
it was taken for Instagram purposes)

Harry Potter 

The last day, we went to Warner Brothers Studios and their Harry Potter set. Being a 8 movie long franchises, the set got bigger and bigger- and they decided to make a museum out of it. The great hall, wand store, costumes, cars (like the tree stories London bus), the model used for filming Hogwarts- it is all there. I am not the biggest Harry Potter fan, but it was actually really awesome. I was amazed by all the objects created for these movies; paintings, houses, cars, books- the list goes on for ever. 

Different guided tours (walks), pubs, restaurants and cafès

Here lived Lawrence Of Arabia
In addition to museum visits, we had a couple of guided walks showing us around London and Westminster. The first walk I, to be honest, feel was a gossip anno 1880 tour. Really not much information, other than who had a romance with who and so on. We got see some interesting places though- such as a house Lenin had lived in. The other walk we had, around Westminster, I found much better. We learned a lot about the parliament, and the area around. To my joy, we went past the house of one of my favourite historical characters; Lawrence Of Arabia. I might do a post on him later!

The rest of the time in London, I mostly teamed up with two friends of my (Sindre and Anne), and tested out cafès, went on sighting, ate good food (Chinese in Chinatown for example), and tasted the local beer. Overall, it was a really great trip!

Sindre, Anne and me. Tnx London!
(sorry for shitty front camera)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

5 reasons for Obama to be satisfied

The last years has not been easy ones for president Obama, which was shown in the midterm elections. However, despite poor election results, he has achieved lots of goals he can be quite satisfied with:

Unemployment rate has gone down

People working in the states goes up month by month, and the oil prices are kept low. Mitt Romney promised to achieve an unemployment rate below 6%- Obama has achieved 5,8%.

Gas prices are low

To most peoples excitement, gas prices are now bellow 4,5 Norwegian kroner. Prices has gone down with over a dollar pr gallon the last year.

Relationship with Cuba

After fifty years of boycotts, and a hard line in diplomacy (non existing), Obama surprised everyone by handshaking Castro at Nelson Mandela's funeral. In all secrecy, the US government has negotiated with the Cuban government, and announced this winter that their relationship will be normalized. Polls show that the US population is more than happy with this, so Obama has really accomplished something!

Immigration policy

Obama has made sure over 4,2 million immigrants has received protection, and will not be thrown out.  Later polls show that people are happy with this (especially Spanish speaking), and most people want the congress to keep working in this direction, instead of trying to block Obama. 

Popular wars

Obama has pulled out troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, both wars with little support back home. However, his latest campaign against ISIS receives support- possible because he is not using large amount of ground forces. Obama has stated that he is skeptical when it comes to involving ground forces, due to poor results from previous occupations.