Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Fakir trains

Sweden happens to be one of the world’s most centralized countries. Basically all political and economic power radiates out from Stockholm which, in turn, creates the need for early morning connections from the different parts of the country so that people can make it in time to their Very Important Meetings in the capital.

Thus, when I was living in south Sweden a decade ago, there was much talk about the so called “fakir train”, leaving Malmö sometime around 6 a.m. in the morning. Well, I guess everything is relative because in the new winter timetable, the first high-speed service to Stockholm now departs Umeå at the ungodly hour of 04:19 a.m.

Having a slightly masochistic streak, I of course had to try it out when SJ had a flash sale with 50% off in first class. While I intend to primarily use the trip to work on my book chapter, the fakir theme inspired me to bring along nothing less than Paul Theroux’s classic travelogue The Great Railway Bazaar.

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Sunday, December 09, 2018

Lead grey skies

As part of the road to Marrakech, I am doing a longer low-intensity run every week. With the temperature again above zero and the ice melting, I decided to go for a city run for a change, including a visit to the airport where I could see Rut Viking take off into the rain. Now time for a lussekatt and some coffee.

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Saturday, December 08, 2018

Surprise returns

With the grace of the WTO, the Argentinian malbec of the mirror universe made a surprise return as a #småparti this month. Small as the world may be, there are still unknown geographies and Luján de Cuyo in the upper Mendoza valley where the wine is from definitely counts as one. Looking at a map, I was surprised by how close it actually is from the border and Santiago de Chile.

To celebrate our legal victory and the fact that SAS is having a kids-fly-for-free campaign, we booked a weekend trip to London and Paris in February, featuring a pre-Brexit ride with the Eurostar, something that Eddie is very much looking forward to. With BISA at the Royal Society in mid-June, this also means that I will be in London both a few months before and after the ominous date of 29 March.

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Friday, December 07, 2018

In victory

As Winston Churchill famously said about Pol Roger: “In victory, I deserve it. In defeat, I need it.” Yesterday, after more than two years of legal wrangling, we finally won our court case over the promised lawn that turned out to be a parking lot. Given how much money real estate agents and developers have made in the last decade and how rarely they have been held to account, this felt like an important victory, if only as a social principle.

Back home, I received a package from Switzerland that would have made Mållgan proud, an echo from a time when it was nothing strange with answering “Je suis dactylo” when asked for one’s profession, a time when the postal service was a source of national pride and not despair.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Deicing

It took a bit of an effort to get the German bike trailer ready for action but in the end I made it to school with the kids, leaving me hopeful that we can make it through the rest of the winter without having to buy a bus card. After spending a day at work constructing exam questions, I felt that it was about time to start experimenting with different ingredients for my New Year’s dinner (a dinner that has become somewhat of a tradition here on Rawls & Me). First out is some pickled cucumber and coriander, served with my latest Lonely Planet acquisition, a combination that definitely helped with the deicing...

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Under the weather

After the last couple of days filled with energy, I have felt unusually lethargic today. As the kids are taking an afternoon nap, I cannot even get myself to review a journal article for Futures but instead drift into that strange world of old photos and discontinued timelines. Exactly a month ago, I was looking out of the window at Miami International Airport and saw a Lufthansa A380 getting ready for its Atlantic crossing.

And almost a year ago, I was at the other side in Frankfurt, waiting for my own flight up to Sweden. As the snow keeps falling, it feels good to remain on the ground for a little while and dream about where the road leads next.

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Monday, December 03, 2018

Winter apples

As the world turned white, I just had to take my new VJ Sarva Xante out for a test run around the lake. Ignoring the fact that I got completely covered in wet snow, the grip was truly phenomenal. So far this year, I have ran 1418 kilometres so it goes without saying that I have to run the remaining 82 kilometres before the end of the year.

Back home, I heat some mulled apple wine on the nuclear-powered induction stove and thank my lucky star for being able to escape the elements. Down in Katowice, COP24 is underway but I find myself strangely disinterested, probably because no words in the world can change the basic fact that the world is in a cul-de-sac with regard to mitigation as the expansion of renewables keeps locking in fossil fuels.

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Sunday, December 02, 2018

Höganäs

As I pour up the last coffee from Bogotá in my newly acquired Höganäs espresso cup, it is the second day of December and probably the last mild day for quite some time. Yesterday, I went for a half marathon in the morning and I plan to go for another run this afternoon before the mud freezes and winter returns.

For the rest of the road to Marrakech, I have invested in a pair of Finish running shoes with carbide steel studs as my left knee keeps reminding me that running longer distances on the treadmill at USM is not a very good idea. As can be seen above, I concluded my shopping spree by also buying a big bag of Lavazza beans even as I fear that it will not be up to the standards of Arte y Pasion Café.

With regard to the real world, I was stunned to find that in a recent poll, a 52% to 48% majority now prefers a “no deal” to remaining in the EU. I mean, at the individual level, self-harm behaviour is nothing new but as a country? Though the human price will be high, not the least for those depending on medicine supplies from the continent, maybe a hard Brexit will once and for all bring some perspective to degrowthers who seek to end global trade and commerce?

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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Pyrrhus

Biking home from the university through a wintry mix of ice and sleet after finishing marking an unmentionable number of exams, I could easily relate to Pyrrhus and his fear that “one other such victory would utterly undo him”. With both kids sick at home, I have been stretching everything far beyond all sanity but at least I am finally on the other side.

That however is more than one can say about the previous Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and his attempts to form a new government. After more than two months of stalemate and grandstanding, the centre-right parties are finally publicly considering supporting a new Löfven administration but only under the, slightly odd, condition that Löfven implements their key policy proposals rather than his own. After providing a feverish laundry list of neoliberal reforms such as lower taxes for high-income earners, lower payroll taxes and further tax reductions for domestic services, Jan Björklund concluded that he also would like an increase in defence spending to 2% of GDP and NATO-membership. Listening to his press conference, I started to wonder why he did not go all in and made his support conditional upon the building of the Death Star?

I mean, seriously, it is not like these things have not been tested in other countries. Greater inequality does not lead to economic growth. Full stop. Long-running and sustainable growth comes from accelerated structural change, technological innovation and, most importantly, broad social investments. If Björklund really wants the upper middle class to benefit, he should advocate greater equality, better paying jobs and an end to the numerous subsidies that are currently delaying structural change and emancipation (such as financial support to rural areas).

And, finally, as for defence, how about spending a fraction of that money on integrating Russia to lower the risk of a military confrontation in the first place?

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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Reality

Philip K Dick once wrote that “reality is that which, when you stop believing it, doesn’t go away”. Even if “reality” has never been a defining feature of Rawls & Me, I still found Trump’s dismissal of his own administration’s report on climate change to be nonsensical to the extreme: “I don’t believe it”. As I have tried to explain over and over again, it is one thing to not believe in the Malthusian policy paradigm as promoted by mainstream environmentalism (I do not either), it is a completely different thing to not believe in the geophysical processes behind anthropogenic climate change. In part, some of the resistance to basic science of course comes from an evangelic worldview in which the climate is simply beyond human control but even so I find it strange that Trump has such problems disentangling facts and values (at the end of the day, I guess he is simply not that “very smart”).

Having said that, I do not claim that it is always easy to reconcile the world and our own place in it. The kind of champagne socialism pushed on these pages is of course easy to criticize from a whole host of directions but hopefully a reader will understand that this is just one story of many and that, on darker nights, I also think of everything from precarisation to the nuclear holocaust.