Der Amerikanische Urlauber

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Wolfowitz Wins Over the Europeans

From the Defense Dept. to the World Bank... Posted by Hello

Well, I didn't expect it would wind up causing any tensions, but I didn't expect it to go so smoothly either.

When Bush nominated Deputy Defense Sec. Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank, right on top of naming John Bolton as the US ambassador to the UN (and he's not exactly a big fan of the UN, so I'm certain he'll love his new job...) a lot of people saw it as Bush being really unilateral and basically saying "screw you, we'll do things our own way, thanks" to Europe.

It really kind of is the message we're sending. But whatever. The United States, under tradition, always nominates the head of the World Bank. In turn, the Europeans nominate the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). So each holds sway over a different entity. But this was looked at as the US trying to bend the Europeans to doing things our way. If that's the case, they bent a little by offering formal backing today. But then, it's really not worth it and it wasn't expected for them to offer an argument to his nomination. Many people within the World Bank themselves aren't too happy, however.

But we'll see how it turns out. Paul Wolfowitz, if he does his job right, should on many occasions wind up doing things that are not always to his former boss's (that would be President Bush) liking. It's entirely possible that he can do it, and the Europeans seem willing to give him a chance. The World Bank is especially important because of the clout it holds in the international community; it's the entity that grants loans to developing nations, help end world poverty, etc.

The Europeans happen to be as a whole the largest contributors to the Bank and they plan to make their influence felt more in the future. Likely so this can't happen again.

I'm particularly interested because I am considering going for a job in the World Bank in the future, at a time when Wolfowitz will still likely be head of the Bank. So this could be my future big-time boss I'm talking about here. Pretty much it all depends on what area in international affairs I intend to go into. Still making my mind up on that ftront...

Saturday, March 26, 2005

What an Ingenious Book...

What a great book... Posted by Hello

It's amazing how much you really continue to learn about your own native language even after you've been speaking and writing in it for years. English is a complicated language, especially to write in. We have tons of different rules, inane spelling, and pronunciation is about as ridiculous as French (particularly due to our borrowing a huge percentage of our modern wordage from French)

This book, pictured above, Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity in Grace, always seems to teach me something, with each of the ten lessons that I read. This particular lesson was devoted to the wonderful art of concision. Concision is extremely important. I'm certain I could be more concise, as could everyone.

But at the same time, there's a danger of being so concise and to the point that you lose the effect you wanted to have on your reader in the first place. It can make the writing sound cold or overconfident. So there's a fine line to be walked when it comes to concision. Essentially, as author Williams writes, you have to listen to the reader, because only they know how to be your reader. Yay for willing guinea pigs.

Honestly, I sometimes employ up to a dozen people to read those papers I deem essentially important and worthy of critique. Of course, I've found the greater the pool of judges, the greater the spectrum of critique. One person will praise what another says to omit, and so on.

So that's when I decide to listen to those points that resonate with me and that open my eyes to legitimate problems.

I was amazed that right after reading this particular section, when I went and re-read over my journal analysis that I've been writing for International Studies, the editorial pen went to paper and repetitive words and excessive metadiscourse (filler that we like to add in spoken conversation which is essential to, but can weaken, an essay) went out the window. My what a difference that made.

I do indeed love this book. And it's so nice and short. Why can't all academic readings be this... concise?

Thursday, March 24, 2005

A Blow to the European Union

Chirac: Oui au Union Européenne! Posted by Hello

Many Americans may be unaware, but across the pond there has been the development of a union of European nations which is called the European Union, or EU. It's based in Brussels, Belgium, and it serves a role of unifying the individual European states under a single organization. Some envision the EU becoming a "United States of Europe." Others just want the EU to serve a role similar to a large trading bloc. The EU is a big presence in the world today, because it is comprised of a number of the world's largest economies, in effect it now is made up of nearly every European nation, save for the Balkans and some in the far east (Ukraine, Romania) which do hope to enter.

The latest topic of debate in Europe for Europeans has been ratifying a new European Union constitution. Some nations just had their parliaments vote on it. The most significant nations, however, including Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain, and the UK, just to name a few, have made it open for national vote.

But something has happened that many European politicians never predicted: many Europeans are now Euroskeptics. They aren't so sure that the new Constitution represents their best interest. It's been surprising for a number of International observers (like myself, don't forget I study this stuff!) to see a nation like the Netherlands, which has been per capita the largest monetary supporter of the EU, and even Belgium, which is home to the EU, with small majorities now ready to vote Non or Nee on this new Constitution.

And now it's happening in France. Polls came out today that show a majority of the French would oppose the constitution, prompting President Jacques Chirac, a huge EU backer, to send a warning to the French people

The main reason it seems many Europeans are reluctant to approve this new Constitution is because they worry somewhere in the 200-something page document (yes, 200+ pages; that's certainly longer than the American Constitution... somehow I don't think anyone will ever be able to quote parts of THAT thing!) are provisions that will cause a loss of national sovereignty and give way too much power to Brussels.

Because whatever happens with the EU will affect everyone, yes, even Americans in the middle of rural Idaho, it's important to watch. All it takes is one nation to vote no, and the Constitution is a no-go. And it's very close to reaching that vote in a number of nations, and that's not even including Britain, which everyone thought would be the only real obstacle; they don't vote until 2006.

Some people wonder if the EU will collapse. While I certainly am not betting on that, it still wouldn't ever surprise me if that were to happen. Would that be an end to the whole united Europe experiment, or would they try again? They probably would try again. I don't know if Europeans would be so happy to have to wait at national borderlines again to have their passports stamped. But who knows? It'll be interesting to watch.

Ich lerne drei Sprachen! Je apprends trois langues!

Speaking My Way Around the World... Posted by Hello

Yes, it's true, my current count of languages I am studying has now increased to three.

In addition to German, which I'm learning on my own, and French, which I'm majoring in at school, I now have taken up Italian for my upcoming trip to Italy this May.

I'm an admitted language-nut. I can't go anywhere without making some attempt to know even a little about the language. Thank God I don't plan on going to China or Japan anytime soon.

When it's something you enjoy, as this is for me, it's not hard, it's a fun challenge. I'm one of those people that really likes to challenge myself. And it's surprisingly not very hard for me to do; I just split time up daily amongst the three.

My interest in international affairs, traveling, and languages really all go hand in hand. One just builds upon the other. I've found that languages, as with anything, it's so easy to get frustrated, because you never become fluent overnight. So I focus instead on how each day I make more and more progress. Each new word I learn is another part of a code that allows me to communicate with millions of people around the world.

Each of these languages also happens, incidentally, to be a language ancestors of mine have spoken. How unfair, that they spoke these all from birth, and I have to devote hours to the same!

I can't pick a favorite language either. Each one is so different. Italian flows beautifully; German is just really fun to speak; French sounds sophisticated. I remember how terrified I was the first day of French back in January. I never thought I'd learn so much in just nine weeks.

I'm really excited to be able to use Italian on my first trip to Italy (and Europe, for that matter). It's going to be the first time I ever get to use one of these languages in a native setting. How fun. :-D And it's when you get to use these languages in these settings where it really culiminates and it definitely is worth it. Sure, you can get around speaking English; but the experience is a heck of a lot better if you can speak their language and not have to be stuck within a restricted Anglophone bubble.

Also on my list are Dutch and Spanish. I took Spanish for two years in high school; but the French and Italian have kind of been wiping out whatever is left of that in my brain.

Incidentally, someone who is learning Arabic once told me that it's easier to learn than French (she also has been learning French) which surprised me. I guess once you get a handle on the written script it's possible! French definitely is not the easiest language either. Though I have a French friend who is still learning English; it's comforting to know that she has the same problems I have, and that she thinks we all talk too fast too!

Fluency is still a distant goal, but I'll get there eventually!

Arrivederci, à bientôt, und tschüß!

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Wikitravel: Jamaica

I really had a fantastic time editing the Wikitravel pages. As I mentioned before, I lived in Jamaica for several months when I was a child, so I had significant knowledge to give on Jamaica in particular, to choose just one of many islands I could comment on.

In fact, I got really into writing, and I wrote a LOT. You can find the Jamaica page here. There pretty much was nothing there before I got there. It's easy to discern from overall writing style which are my contributions and which aren't, however I'll list them here so you know where to look:

  • Added detail to description of Jamaica
  • Added the 14 parishes
  • Wrote all the city descriptions: Kingston, Montego Bay, Negril, Ocho Rios, Port Antonio
  • added a resort to Hotels and Resorts (Sandals and Beaches resorts)
  • Wrote the sections "By Plane" and "By Car" under "Get In"
  • Stay Safe
  • Stay Healthy
  • Respect

It really was fun, and I hope people can benefit from my advice. I could have written even more, but I'm exhausted and I think I made quite a substantial contribution for the day! If you have any contibutions you would like to make yourself, the site is and just search under the Continent in which your country or city is located. It's actually kind of fulfilling...

Friday, March 04, 2005

Willkommen aus mein neues Blog!

Well, I had a feeling it would come to this, and it did. I'm happy too, I really didn't like at all. I think it's perfectly feasible to make academic posts on a much better service like Blogger or LiveJournal. Plus, at least this allows creativity.

I know I wrote an introduction before, but that mysteriously disappeared. Seriously, that server had serious problems, I think. But, I digress...

My name's Joe. I'm an International Affairs and French language major; the main function of this blog is to serve for writing for my English Composition II class at the University of South Florida in Tampa. However, when this class is over, I intend to keep it up. I already have another blog which I do in joint conduction with my Dutch friend Kim, who lives in Amsterdam. Well, she did live in Amsterdam. Now she's moving to her first home in the town of Huizen, which is actually Dutch for houses. Creative, no?

Most info about me can be found in my profile. But I'll elaborate a bit here. I absolutely love to travel and I am fascinated with learning languages. I love it. It's not even work for me, it's so much fun. I just found out today that I will be going to Italy in May, so I'm extremely excited. It's the first time I'll ever have been to Europe. The first of many, many travels abroad!

As far as language goes, I am studying German, French, and now, Italian. I also know a bit of Dutch because of my Dutch family and friends, and plan to study that more intensely in the future. I also would like to learn Spanish again someday; I took two years in HS but it was an immense waste of time. It's very hard for me to pick a favorite language, because they're all so unique. I think I like German the most, but it's so close.

That leads me to where I got the name for this blog. Urlauber is a German word for traveler, or, more literally, "holiday-maker." Amerikanische means American. So, Der amerikanische Urlauber
roughly translates to "The American Traveler." I thought it sounded cool. ;-)

Where have I traveled before? I've traveled rather extensively in the Caribbean, to Jamaica, St. Lucia, Barbados, Antigua, and the Bahamas. Jamaica in particular; in fact, I lived in Jamaica for a few months when I was 7, an experience that I like to consider shaped my life and helped lead me toward a path in international affairs. It's an extremely rewarding field to be in, I think.

I'm really cerebral, but I also love to be active. Bodybuilding is an immense part of my life, I love it. I also love to play many sports just for fun, particulary tennis and swimming. I also love cycling. I just basically like to move!

I also love European cars, particularly German cars. I am a huge car buff.

Well, that's all for now, I'll end this before it becomes an essay in its own right!

Also, feel free to comment in my blog as you'd like. I love commentary!