27. maaliskuuta 1998

Project-Oriented Funding Threatens General Science

University researchers in Helsinki have quickly learned that to receive funding for their work, they had best organize their research into ’projects’. Departments with specialized projects that show results are more likely to receive financial backing, particularly since the University adapted a result-oriented distribution model for university funding. Matti Nykänen, Senior Assistant of the Computer Science Department, is concerned about the future of multidisciplinary research. ”If researchers come across an interesting tangent when doing basic research, they are free to follow up on it . In project- oriented work this kind of detour is not possible, no matter how fruitful it may prove to be. The project must be completed within its original framework.”
    Nykänen feels that in project work, research and results are intrically connected. Test results must be interpreted to coincide with the desired result. He worries about the lack of room for mobility, ”There must be an institution in our society that investigates the side streets and the university is the natural alternative.”
    Students that are concentrating solely on one project area are prime candidates for a future profession, but Nykänen says that their place is actually in a polytechnic. Academic work should not be the production of research that is restricted. The University should be aware of this trend and decide whether it should continue. Nykänen adds, ”It is true that the university should make the results of its research better known to the public. Results could be packaged in a project form, but the research methods should not change as a result.”

The Diverse World of Beers Unfolds

Evidence has shown that Mestopotamian peoples enjoyed liquid bread already 4000 years before Christ. In Ancient Sumeria, half of the crop was reserved each year for beer making. There is even speculation that people began to settle down and abandon the hunter/gatherer life in order to sow regular crops for beer. Babylonians made tens of different flavored beers with crude measures, in contrast to today’s beer conglomerates, producing millions of gallons of bland basic lager with state-of-the-art equipment. ”A lot of people have a revelation when they get a taste of better quality beer than the basic fare. Although the lagers that are mass-produced are widely advertised and bought, people now know how to buy other beers if they are available.” So says Jyrki Jortikka owner of the Metro pub, specializing in beers from a town in Finland named Lahti. Beer beyond the big name brands is being rediscovered throughout Finland, following a world-wide trend. Over 500 brands are currently imported and Finland itself already boasts 30 functioning micro-breweries.
    A vocational course in Mustiala has been created for entrepreneurs interested in producing their own beer. The venture is not without its risks, however. Experimenting with new tastes is time-consuming meticulous work that takes time to turn a profit. Add this to the fact that the tax on beer in Finland is clearly the highest within the EU. Jortikka still encourages Finns to spend a bit more and try the many options. ”Everyone should try new beers just as adventurously as you try new food!”

Come To Terms With Your Prejudices

We cannot begin to fight our prejudices before we admit them to ourselves. A survey of university students discovers that many share this adage. Psychology student Jarkko Ylikoski was robbed by two immigrants on his Interrail trip in Germany last summer. ”After that I was really careful every time I saw one. I realized that I wouldn’t have done the same had two Germans robbed me.” Finnish philology student Riikka Venetkoski explains that ”just yesterday I was walking into the metro station and I saw a police car. A well-dressed man from Southern Europe came walking out. I thought that he must have something to do with the police being there. Why did I single him out? I couldn’t really help it.” Harri Kuusniemi studies economics. ”When I visit St. Petersburg, I have only good experiences with the Russian people, but when I come back home, I hold on to my wallet every time I see one.” Math student Mari Savela goes swimming at Itäkeskus, also frequented by many Russians. ”My swimming things have been stolen twice and I can’t help but think that it is the Russians.” Hanna Päivärinta studies veterinary science, ”Romany boys will bud in front of me in lines, and be abusive in public. I hear that putting down women is part of their culture, but I still don’t think that is an excuse for
bad behavior.”
    Of course there are other grounds for prejudice besides race or nationality. Päivärinta admits her prejudice against beauty contest participants, ”Miss Suomi-pageant girls are good-looking but dumb. It’s a waste of time to try to prove otherwise.” Psychology major Aleksi Raappana had lots of preconceived notions about what the army would be like. ”There were some pretty decent people there after all. 25%…Okay, maybe 50%. But I wasn’t totally wrong either.”
    Eero Sallasmaa
studies in the Math department and pokes fun at his fellow students, ”While I sit in lectures, I reinforce stereotypes that already exist as I look at the people sitting around me. I would say that one-fifth of math students are real nerds.” Antti Helenterä studies geography, ”Anybody who says they don’t have any prejudices must be just full of them. Say you are sitting on the bus and a drunk gets on. You and everyone else is thinking the same thing: ’just don’t sit next to me!'”

A Barking Dog

Doesn’t Fool Around Barry Levinson’s new film Wag the Dog couldn’t have come out at a better time. The movie begins with a teenage girl accusing the U.S. president of sexual harrassment just 11 days before the presidential elections. The White House resorts to its trump card: war is declared against Albania. The sex scandal drops to the background while the country prepares for war. The film analyzes an age-old phenomenon in America: a president in trouble needs something bigger than himself to happen and fast. It
hasn’t always worked though, Nixon and Breshnev’s fleets on the Black Sea in 1974 didn’t stop the Watergate proceedings. Time will tell if the ploy will help Clinton. Amidst the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Clinton has managed to dig up his old rival Saddam Hussein. Wag the Dog mirrors the Lewinsky story in a frightening way. The picture used in the film as evidence of the president’s trist is strikingly similiar to that of Clinton and Lewinsky’s embrace seen in magazines throughout the world. Robert de Niro plays Conrad Brean, the fix-it man called in to create a national emergency fast. Dustin Hoffman plays the Hollywood producer that helps set the stage. Wag the Dog may be timely, but the effect is still harmless. The film moves the president’s character to the side for safe keeping, bringing the satire to extremes.

Nonpolitical Politics

In Indonesia Anu Lounela, a student of cultural anthropology, has recently finished her thesis, ”The Islam discourse of Muslim university students in Java, Indonesia”, based on her year-long experience in Indonesia. Studying Muslims in Indonesia is like studying the country itself: 90% of the population is Muslim, the most active of which are attracted to the university environment. The history of Indonesia has allowed the Islam religion to spread, but only as a non-political religious movement. Lounela believes that, ”All of the effort to make the religion non-political has succeeded in making it very political.” Indonesia is led by President Suhar
to, ruling autocratically as the good father and guardian. Suharto has recognized the strength of Islam in his country and has traveled to Mecca and taken the name Muhammad. Although the country refers to itself as a democracy, political activity is limited to election periods, a mere four weeks every five years. As the level of education rises, the need for students to express their opinions grows. Lounela feels the situation is becoming explosive, ”The longer Suharto is in power, the more troubles there will be. Everyone wants a change. It may not come quickly, but as long as Suharto is in office, it is inevitable.”
    Lounela doesn’t believe the situation will lead to a revolution, however, she is expecting a change from within. ”In Indonesia, the students are the ones that bring the injustices and political problems out into the open,” explains Lounela. ”It is not the custom to show that things aren’t well in Java. The culture cherishes harmony. You can’t simply say no.” The government condemns student protests in the national papers, pointing out that feelings shouldn’t be allowed to rage out of control in public areas. ”Sometimes it was frightening, The army would roll into campus with their tanks,” says Lounela. When it comes to change, the students have the will, but are lost for a way: the army is divided, the opposition is split and no one knows who to support.

Man Over the Atlantic

Last summer, Andrew Halsey, a bricklayer from London, became the sixth person in the world to cross the Atlantic rowing. Quite a feat for anyone, but consider the fact that Halsey is also an epileptic. ”Before I left, a lot of people thought that I wouldn’t make it because of my illness. I only hope that my example will alter people’s prejudices and encourage young people with epilepsy to participate in sports and exercise,” says Halsey. His trip lasted 116 days, only 30 of which were graced with good weather. A selection from his log describes it best, ”Last night was horrible and the situation looks just as bad today. Waves are 10-15 meters high. I should be frightened, but I am too tired and hungry.” After a water leak ruined most of his food supplies, Halsey lived the last seven weeks of his journey on fish he caught in the ocean. ”My rule of thumb was that if it had scales, it was edible. When I arrived on land, I found if difficult to buy food again.” Water supplies also ran low, limiting him to just one cup of water a day for the last three weeks.
    When Halsey arrived at his destination of St. Lucia, officials wouldn’t believe that his story was true. Two men were needed to carry him to the dock, he had lost over 20 kilos on the journey. According to the map, Halsey had rowed 4,500 kilometers. In practice, he had rowed hundreds more. ”I can’t speak for others, but we all have our dreams. I am lucky because I was able to fulfill mine. My trip was perhaps more of an adventure than a challenge. A challenge for me would be to sit at home all day and watch television.”

Pamela Kaskinen