Archive for the 'FSEM100J' Category

FSEM Panel

On Thursday I had the opportunity to attend a panel on the FSEM (First-Year Seminar) led by Keith Mellinger with Steve Greenlaw singing backup, or rather, also in attendance. Me and the 4 other people who showed up were asked about our opinions on our experience in the FSEM. As Keith pointed out it would be helpful to get the opinion of the actual students that took the course instead of just guessing how we felt about it, which I guess is always a good philosophy. I also hadn’t had the opportunity to hear other peoples opinions of their FSEM experience outside of the people who took the Globalization FSEM so it was nice to get an idea of how things varied from class to class.

While writing this post, I had an a-ha! sort of moment. During the panel conversation I brought up the fact that some people in our class felt that the class lacked structure and I probably had some random explanation with a few “ums” and “yeahs” for good measure. While I was writing this post I had a moment where I realized the FSEM was the first time I had a class where the teacher did not have all the answers was not the keeper of all the information, doling it out for us to memorize just to have us later give it back in a well thought out persuasive essay. Once we had collectively come to an agreement about the definition of globalization and had an understanding of the so called “basics” we went out and actually researched topics that interested us. The professor didn’t have to know a thing about it, but if we were willing to put in the time and effort we could certainly do whatever we wanted (whether I accomplished that is another story). Of course it helped to have that push from the professor when guidance was needed and to have him send a link to an article he had found that looked like it could help with the research. I understood this abstractly before, but I just never could find the right words to put down what I meant and I think I’ve come pretty close to how I feel. All of the above is a lot of what makes the FSEM a unique experience for freshmen, most likely they have never had a class like it, I certainly didn’t.

Ok, enough dorky ranting on the greatness that is the FSEM experience. It is still weird to think that my opinion matters much in any of this. No one ever mentioned when I applied to college that I may be helping shape the future of the college’s curriculum, neat stuff.


Changing it up

I thinking in the coming weeks I’ll be shifting my blog from a globalization focus to…well I guess a life sort of focus…which really encompasses everything.

It’ll probably contain general musings or whatever is bothering me that week and I’ll probably put up a new picture for my header (photoshop is my secret addiction).

I hope other people from the FSEM continue their blog and I hope we’ll get to get to do a SSEM together, now that would be interesting.

Hopefully I will update again soon.


Just something to ponder

During the discussion in class on Thursday I was reminded of an article I read by Fareed Zakaria.

I recommend reading the whole article because it is quite interesting but specifically Zakaria made this statement,

“Global growth has its own complications. Demand for raw materials and energy is high and will keep rising. Countries that possess such resources—Iran, Russia, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia—become islands of exception to the very rules of markets and trade that are sweeping the world. Thus global capitalism produces its own well-funded anti-capitalists.”

I believe Brian did actually bring this up in class (oddly enough I think he is reading a book by Fareed Zakaria, I think) and although I don’t have any deep analysis on this it is still raises many questions. Does capitalism always breed democracy? Or will these resource rich countries be able to avoid it all together? Of course nothing is forever but what possible strife could this cause in the future as economic markets expand and countries grow richer? So many questions that are unanswerable at the moment but its just something to ponder.

Things That Prevent Productivity

I guess I must have been in a cynical mood because after reading Danika’s blog posting on productivity all I could think of were the things that prevent countries from being productive. There are many good ideas that would improve developing nations but there are still road blocks in the way. I am also not an expert in economics or have I taken a class in it (besides this one I suppose) so I apologize for any logical fallacies but constructive criticism is always helpful.

It is true that every country has a comparative advantage in something but can other countries impose regulations and tariffs that take away from this advantage? Or maybe they make the comparative advantage not as profitable as it could be. For my expert study I have been looking at the effects of agriculture subsidies in America and their effect on developing countries, mainly Africa. In Africa their main trade is agriculture products and because they are a developing nation much of the farming is done by hand and there is a lot of manual labor involved. Compare that to the huge farms that are run by advanced technology and filled with pesticides and fertilizers that make sure the crop potential is at maximum. More importantly add to this the massive amounts of agriculture subsidies (usually paid to big farms who produce crops like corn, cotton, and rice) that drive down produce prices. These low prices that we usually think of as a good thing makes it unprofitable for many African farmers and makes it really hard to compete in trade. In fact the prices are so low it is a lot cheaper to actually import food rather than get it domestically. As stated in the ‘NPR:Africa’s Lagging Development’, “…cheap, subsidized powdered milk from Europe has flooded West African markets. If you go through the countryside in Senegal or Mali, you won’t be able to find local milk… because the powdered milk has destroyed the whole dairy sector in West Africa.”

In addition, despite internal improvement in some African countries such as Mozambique the NPR series stated, “Cotton exporters say this part of northern Mozambique should be able to sell cotton at competitive prices. It has plentiful rainfall. Labor, at about $1 a day, is cheap. The main roads have been rebuilt after a lengthy civil war and are in excellent shape, by African standards. There’s a functioning railway linking the area with a port on the Indian Ocean. But growers complain that they’re barely making a living from their crops, and in recent years, several large cotton companies have gone out of business.”

So how can hard working and highly productive (for what they have) compete in a global market and defeat the cycle of poverty if even their comparative advantage is doing them no good? How do they break the cycle when they’re forced to be dependent on imports from other countries in order to survive?

Not only are there economic factors that prevent developing countries from becoming more stable. If you haven’t read the article “The World is J-Curved” by Ian Bremmer (it is tagged under bookmarks) I highly recommend it. To quickly summarize the idea, “Imagine a graph that charts a country’s stability on the vertical axis and its openness (both within the country and to the world) on the horizontal one. If each nation appears as a point on the graph, the resulting pattern looks very much like the letter J. Nations higher on the graph are more stable; those lower are less stable. Nations to the right of the dip in the J are more open; those to the left are less open. This simple J curve captures many of the dilemmas inherent in global politics today.” The article goes in greater detail but if this J-curve is real then the shift from being a closed and stable state to an open and stable state includes going through a period of instability. Many countries still struggle with that shift and some never quite make it so with the possibility of failure many countries are unwilling to open up.

Not to say that many of these things can’t be overcome but right now these are some of the things that I believe prevent developing countries from become productive countries. Isn’t pessimism great?

Warning:Possible Pointless Rambling Ahead

Rather than really analyzing anything in this post I’ve decided to just talk about a few things that have been on my mind. I don’t keep a journal (too paranoid someone would find it and read it) and as long as this is on the internet I think I might post something relatively sane. If you are unable to follow my stream of thoughts its not your fault. I don’t think coherently and sometimes my writing reflects that. I also do not promise that this post has a point to it, but if you care to read it any comments, questions, suggestions (on where I can find the closest psych ward?) would be nice.

While I was thinking today (as I often do to avoid real work for my classes) I have decided there is too much information available. Does anyone else get that overwhelming feeling of drowning in a sea of information? I’ll read an article online and then find a counter argument in another article that is just as sensible. Then I’ll read on another topic, then another topic, and another topic. By the end of the day I have been swamped with so much information from my classes, newspapers, tv and general online surfing its no wonder my brain won’t shut up. Even as I write this post I have changed my mind about 5 times on what to write about. Now I know its not my responsibility to read every article or opinion anyone has ever had but still I find myself persuing information and asking more questions. No one has ever really looked down on intellectual curiousity but I have reached the point where I get into that “what is the meaning of life?, what does it all matter?” mode and its starting to drain my brain.

The world never stops and I’m pretty sure the older you get the faster it accelerates. I don’t watch the news for one day and I’m 10 steps behind. For example I totally missed the whole Kerry told a bad joke issue (some of you still might not have heard) and even though it was a recent event (like Monday recent) I somehow feel 10 steps behind. Not only are people discussing the bad joke but it proliferates and spins off into other conversations. But as I step back and look at the news that comes and goes I wonder, is there just too much information? Would I be worse off I had never been informed Kerry can’t tell a good joke? Somehow I don’t think so and I’m sure in the coming weeks and months I’ll probably forget about the stupid joke. The more I think about this the more questions I have. I also grow more concerned about the media in general but that is a whole other topic unto itself.

Maybe a broad question that would fit my feelings and ponderings would be what will the average citizen be expected to know in the future? What should a college educated person be expected to know about the world they live in?(I’m trying at this point to ignore all those little nagging questions that come with those I have just asked) With so much information so easily tapped into will there be a new standard? Education in schools has changed since my mother was in school because of changing technologies. Before there was the hand held calculator math at a high school level didn’t go much beyond addition, subtraction, etc. With globalization and technology accelerating and flattening the world what will my children be learning in school?

I probably could go on and on with the questions but that wouldn’t get me very far because many of these questions cannot be answered. I suppose the best you can do is try to predict the future based on the the present. As I come to the end of this post I somehow feel I am asking age old questions, but with a present day twist. Does it really matter what time period I am living it? Isn’t it just human nature to want to know the meaning of life? Does man just naturally hope that what they are doing has some actual meaning so that by the time they get to the end of their life they can look back and not feel regret? I’m probably getting into philosophical ideas and ideas that require volumes of books just to begin answer.

If you could actually comprehend my thinking I thank you for reading my rambling. I guess at this point I am supposed to feel better after getting all this stuff out but I think I am actually left with more questions and confusion but who says that can’t be a good thing?

WSJ – Untouchables

Response to Assignment 5:

So what makes these business’ untouchables?

In the case of orthopedics and prosthetics it is the high demand within the U.S. for these products. “A big reason is that the U.S., with its population of fast-aging baby boomers, injury-prone weekend athletes and overweight people, is by far the world’s biggest market for artificial hips and knees. The U.S. represents an estimated $14 billion of the annual spending in a global market of $22.9 billion”. In addition often doctors work closely with the companies developing the orthopedics or replacement parts so it is easier to communicate if you are only a few miles away rather than a half a world away.

The Viking Range Corp. has an exclusive appeal and their products catered to people who want the real thing made in America. “Viking is one of those rare U.S. brands that have evolved into a cult object. Like Harley-Davidson motorcycles and Martin guitars, these brands have an aura of exclusivity that entitles their producers to charge premium prices — which helps keep their relatively high-cost U.S. manufacturing base viable.” These kind of products usually cater to upper class and professionals who have a need and want gas ranges that aren’t just ordinary Kenmore stoves.

The Schantz Organ Company has the advantage of needing very specialized workers to manufacture the Organ pipes. It takes the workers there about 5 years to become completely proficient in their skills. This type of highly specialized skill cannot be easily outsourced because most labor outside of the U.S. is unskilled labor.

All these companies have aspects that make them untouchables but some of them are still effected by outsourcing even if it is just a little bit. These jobs are for the most part untouchables because of their demand nationally, exclusivity in nature, and highly specialized training required to do them.

Who Remembers Global Warming?

News fluctuates and whoever yells the loudest seems to gets the most attention, and such is the case with global warming. I recall a few months ago when global warming was at the front of everyones mind, it was on the cover of Time Magazine and people were actually reading a book by Al Gore. But its hard to keep our attention so we move on the next big issue and forget about others.

On front page of the Monday edition of the New York Times there is an article discussing the lack of funding for research in the fight against global warming. It is one of those problems that doesn’t really have short term returns so private investing is may not be as high because combating global warming is a long term project and investors are looking for returns sooner than later. American’s in general don’t like to deal with long term because they are interested in the short term and instant gratification so interest in topics like global warming tend to fade very quickly. The truth is though the impacts are going to hit us a lot sooner the longer we ignore this and if we wait too long we are going to have a huge problem on our hands.

While I was reading this article and thinking about globalization in general many things have become quite obvious. With nations like China and India demanding more energy for their expanding economy and industries this is going to escalate further the carbon dioxide emissions. Of course some of the countries are thinking about ways to lower emissions already and many countries are involved in plans to lower emissions (Kyoto) its still hard to say how all the development will affect our environment. Environmental problems shouldn’t hold back development it is just a key factor that needs to be addressed. More importantly though America needs to do something especially if we ever plan on gaining our respect back in the international community. Hart recently posted about the American complaceny that has swept the nation and I couldn’t agree more. We need to be progressive and quit being the gas-guzzling, over consuming, slobs that have taken a seat on the couch of “we are better than you”, and get up or else fall behind.

Globalization of Healthcare

A recent article in Newsweek entitled “Which Hospital is the Best?”, Dr. Brian Jarman points out that as “health care becomes more a global enterprise, with patients going farther afield in pursuit of the best care, the need for an objective measure of hospital performance has become more pressing.” How far will this expand? I really can’t make any predictions but its just fascinating to think that perhaps that people would go to the best facility to get treatment regardless of location. Of course this possibility is most likely a really long ways off for the average person, it is still none the less a possibility in the future of globalization.

The article also discusses that in the U.S. “more than 3,000 U.S. hospitals participated in a campaign of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) in Boston to reduce mortality rates.” Hospitals and doctors have never been in favor of sharing hospitals mortality data but there has been a wave of hospitals willing to share this information with patients, even publishing it online.

With standards being set and hospitals beginning to willingly to share once hidden data will this increase competition between hospitals? Not that there hasn’t been in the past, but will this intensify competition to provide the best healthcare?

“Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sisimpur?”

I’m sure most of the people in class are familiar with the show Sesame Street. You might admit you watched it (or maybe you still do) as a child but its not something we give much thought to now. Things have a way of coming back and you can never escape your past can you? In any case no matter what age you are it is clear that Sesame Street has managed to globalize itself in its pursuit to educate pre-school age children. In the blog that I have been following this semester there was a posting about the recent PBS documentary “The World According to Sesame Street”, the blog poster stated that it is “a fascinating documentary about Sesame Street and how it has gone global, not just as “American” entertainment for children, but as a catalyst for social and economic development by targeting the youngest citizens around the world. The film follows productions in Bangladesh, Kosovo and South Africa and “examines how producers from New York’s Sesame Workshop take the iconic American television show and localize it with indigenous songs, puppets and curricula while facing cultural, political and production challenges.””

If you are interested I highly recommend looking at the website for the documentary. I perused it briefly and it just amazes me that a show I watched as a 4 year old is impacting the world. Sesame Street is played in over 120 countries and has 20 co-production of shows that are similar to the original but are more specified for the area. In South Africa they have a muppet named Kami who is HIV+. The goal is to educate young children about the fast growing problem in South Africa. In Bangladesh (where it is named Sisimpur) they have a girl muppet, named Tuktuki, that “was created to show that girls can have the same opportunities as boys”. Even in Kosovo there has been a creation of a Sesame like show (dubbed in both Serbia and Albanian) in hopes that in educating the young children it will foster a future of peace in the often unstable and violent area. Sesame Stree and its similar “spin-offs” have been highly successful in ratings and have been well recieved in these countries.

Who would have thought that Sesame Street, as radical as it was for the time it was created, would grow into an international phenomenom. Could this create some sort of future cultural unity? If you all grow up on the same street whether its called Sesame, Sisimpur or Takalani Sesame isn’t there bound to be some neighborly love and understanding?

Quick Update

I haven’t posted in awhile but in today’s news I noticed that Wal-Mart has fired its advertising companies and hired new ones. With the latest reports on profits it is apparent they are having trouble attracting the new upper-class customers even with the expansion of grocery section to include organic and the clothing section to include more higher-end clothing. With Wal-Mart’s new goal of bringing in more affluent consumers they have hired a new advertising agency that will hopefully find a balance. That balance being between not angering loyal (usually rural lower class) customers but still enticing more affluent middle and upper class customers.

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