Tag Archives: Fairtrade

For Once, Not Politics or Philosophical Essayism

Whenever I’m not feeling OK, I have a tendency to hit the philosophy. There’s something about contemplating the essential questions of existence that makes your everyday shit seem to be much less of a concern, and more like weird background noise. I’ve finished reading Nausea, my copy of Catcher in the Rye is back on the shelf, and hopefully things will go back to something approximating normal.

I hope I’ve learned something. It was probably something I’d hoped I’d learned before, and no doubt through my own infinite stupidity will need to learn again at some point in the future, but I hope that I’ve learned it for real this time.

Sometimes things end. It’s sad, and sometimes you just can’t understand why, or make sense of what happened, but you can’t howl into the wind and try to change the past with the power of your fury; you’ll just consume yourself in hatred and bitterness and nihilism. Some things just aren’t worth the time, effort or pain trying to fight.

Time to learn to let things end.

In other news, there’s a Fairtrade Cheese & Wine party on Friday night, which I will certainly be going to, and there two events on Thursday I would like to attend but they’re mutually exclusive and I may not have time anyway: Fairtrade tea party, and ICU Election Hustings.

Act accordingly.

Andy out.

The Hard Slog Ahead

Once again I’ve managed to forget that this blog isn’t just to write articles about stuff, it’s also just to write vaguely long-form about where I’m at, and where I’ve been. So, here goes.

Since we last met, I attended the Fairtrade Society AGM, at which I failed to get elected as treasurer. I still believe in the cause, though, so I’m actually changing my buying decisions where there is a Fairtrade alternative. Which is actually kinda peculiar! There was also the Fencing annual dinner, proceeded by the shaving of the president, which was pretty funny. Some people weren’t too gentle with the clippers.

Namih gets shaved

The deadline for MSci project bids rolled in, and with any luck my project will be on using a tree code to simulate plasmas in which collisional effects between particles can’t be neglected (e.g. in a very high density plasma) and provides an O(N log N) computation time as opposed to O(N^2) for naive particle-particle interactions. If you didn’t understand what I just said, never mind.

Coming up, my exams start on May 18th, so I basically have to start hitting the revision really hard and cram a whole bunch of knowledge into my head over the next few weeks. It’s going to be quite a ride. Next term there aren’t really any lectures apart from a single revision lecture for each course, so it’s a straight run-up to the exams, and then we’re pretty much free after that. We have to start preparing for a literature review for the MSci project, which I assume translates as “Raid all the books from the library that are relevant to your project, and then read them”.

My family’s going to come up for a day, and we’re going to see We Will Rock You, so that should be an interesting diversion. I should also be Fencing every Wednesday, so that should keep me active.

Then, once that kerfuffle is all over, there’s the Summer Ball, which should be an awesome wind-down to the year. I honestly can’t believe we’re already at this point again. The rapidity of it all is kinda scary, as are some of the implications of this year being over, like a bunch of my friends finishing their degrees. It’s gonna be weird.

Fairtrade Fortnight

The fortnight of Fairtrade is very much upon us, and if you happen to be at Imperial, well, you’ve already missed a bunch of events followed by free coffee and tea. Sucks to be you. Never fear though, there’s a Cheese and Wine evening from 7pm on Thursday the 5th, to be held in Huxley 344, and you can buy your ticket online.

I have to say I’ve personally started to get interested in the whole Fairtrade thing, because quite frankly, global capitalism has done a damned good job of screwing things up, and something needs to be done. As anybody who regularly reads my blog (all 5 of you!) will know, I’ve recently been reading Marx & Engel’s Communist Manifesto, and so my mind has been bent on these kind of thoughts for a while and the same patterns show through.

The exploitation of the Have-nots by the Haves continues as ever, on a greater scale than ever before.  It’s sick crap legitimised by a squalid ideology: the mythology of the invisible hand of the market, turning individual greed into collective benefit;  terrible wishful thinking which props up this corrupt system.

The theory is supply and demand – if the price drops too low to make something economical to produce, people will stop making that product, supply will drop, and the price will increase until a stable equilibrium is reached; notionally a fair price for everyone concerned.

The fault in this is pointed out by Marx in the Manifesto; this equilibrium, in our era of mass production and global movement of goods, in which another producer will always be desperate enough to sell for less, will be the absolute minimum price at which it is possible for the producer to continue to be alive.

Let me stress this; not healthy, not educated, not able to provide healthcare, nor support relatives – simply alive. How these people are expected to be able to lift themselves out of poverty and improve their lot is utterly beyond me.

This is neglecting the other distorting influences and things stacked against the producers in the third world – farming subsidies in the developed world, the conglomerate power of the multinationals, the fact that the very poorest are unable to switch their production easily from one thing to another because they don’t have the capital necessary to do so. Nor can they do what the oppressed have done for centuries, and simply burn their oppressors out. This isn’t 18th Century France we’re talking about here – the oppressor is the entire Western capitalist system. It’s an enemy, an oppressor, of incalculable power.

Fairtrade isn’t a complete solution to this problem, nor could it be. Social change on the sort of scale needed is… well, big. Huge. But even the longest journey begins with a single step, and paying farmers a bit more than the absolute minimum so they can start to afford to send their kids to school is a damned good start.

FYI, You’re All Gonna Die Screaming

So lots of stuff happened that I pretty much forgot to blog about. Whoops. So I’ll have to perform some kinda compressed info dump, which is not necessarily in the right order:

Went to RCSU RAG ball. Nice venue, alright food, alright company from everyone not called Sarah (ah, I jest), drama, a DJ mashing up “By The Way” (FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHY!?!), freezing cold winds on the way home… it had it all.

Drank some Fairtrade wine at a wine tasting. Nice.

Handed lab report in a whole 24 hours (!!!) early. Double nice.

Had cheese and wine party at Rowan’s. Lots of wine consumed, with predictable results. Then someone produced a bottle of port, and one of sambuca. More predictable results.

Installed IE8 beta. Buggy. Do not recommend yet.

Bought tickets to aforementioned gig, and which acted as a catalyst to get me listening to JoCo’s music. Which is awesome, so you should all do it.

Continued staying off MSN for unknown reasons even to myself. Probably should go back on before everyone thinks I’m dead!

Thought the Hawking thing that was on tonight was actually kinda lame. They used the same clip of a sphere exploding over, then the same clip of some points of light on these funny planes over and over, and they had to keep saying “Other people got to it first…” because Hawking’s famous, but hasn’t exactly done anything ground-breakingly interesting for ages. I guess saying physics is a big collaborative effort isn’t as sexy as a race to be first to create the theory of everything.

No wonder people think that physics is an impenetrable subject practiced only by geniuses in their ivory towers if this is face being presented to the public at large.

Oh, and they kept presenting string theory and supersymmetry as basically facts, which they’re not. There isn’t a single shred of evidence to support either. If the LHC doesn’t detect any of the predicted supersymmetric partners of fundamental particles (like the electron should have a partner known as a selectron) then it’s going to put a massive nail into the coffin of these theories. Or hypotheses? Theory is surely a term reserved for something that’s actually supported by data and not a theoretician’s appeal to mathematical beauty.

Hmm. That wasn’t compressed.

Bought a Stanley Kubrick box set, which includes: Full Metal Jacket, 2001, Clockwork Orange, Eyes Wide Shut, & The Shining. Personally, I’m none too keen to ever see a movie with Tom Cruise in ever again, but hell, the others are worth seeing. Also part of me wants to play a GlaDOS / Hal duet