Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Brief Bio

This morning I received e-mails from both John Barry, who will be discussant of my paper, and Robert Ballinger, who will chair the panel. Las Vegas is indeed drawing closer. Robert asked me to provide a brief bio. Guess I will take the standard one:

“Rasmus Karlsson is a PhD Candidate in political science at Lund University, Sweden. His research interests traverse theories of intergenerational justice, sustainable development, and the temporal dimension of democracy.”

Still in Europe though. Still lunch time. Still snowing.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Flip the switch

When setting up my Blogger Profile I had to compile a list of my interests. And I recall myself putting down "collecting airmiles" towards the end, to somewhat offset the sophisticated impression that comes with being interested in "cosmopolitanism" and "architecture".

Anyway, half-way through a new batch of exams which I have to grade, I feel like elaborating a bit on this rather odd interest.

I was 21 years old when I first boarded an aircraft. I still remember that I was dead nervous on that windy Danish morning in December 1999. My girlfriend at the time had persuaded me to fly down with her to Madrid. After a rather tense take-off from Copenhagen I remember that somewhere over France I began to relax and really enjoy it, especially the scenery with Mont Blanc at the horizon.

Since then I have, at least according to, flown 306 hours and 44 minutes, enough to take me 4,50 times around the globe or 180 457 kilometres. That is pretty far, about half the distance to the Moon.

Yes, it is weird to put down every flight you made in a database. And no, the list is not complete, I have flown a few more domestic sectors and a few more roundtrips to Vienna. But anyway, why this obsession with flying?

Perhaps because it defies the elements. It points towards a new spatial understanding of our planet, in which we share a common global living-room on equal terms. Still deep into the future, still so much ignorance and spatial/temporal-chauvinism to overcome. At the same time, and especially in these carbon-aware times, we have to take seriously the environmental aspects of flying. Though aviation currently accounts for only 2-3 percent of all emissions of green house gases, the exponential growth of the industry threatens to undermine even the Kyoto treaty. Last year, at a summer school in Keele, U.K., I presented a paper called "Fly me to the end of the world?" on this very topic, arguing that we urgently need an aggressive research agenda if we are to be able to keep flying beyond peak oil. To simply wait and see is not a sustainable attitude.

Labels: ,

Friday, February 23, 2007

Ithaca college

This will be my second posting on SL. I promise to not make a habit out of it. But a day like this when I am still suffering from the cold, the snowstorm is back and every train has been delayed, I just have to escape once more. So, this is what happened today:

I met an undergraduate student from Ithaca College in upstate New York. I was invited to their university island where I, among other things, participated in a group photo and came in possession of a very fancy blue t-shirt :-)

As far as I understood it, they were having some kind of methodological class in SL. Perhaps something for Sofie and her participant observations? Anyway, I am looking forward to meeting up with all of you in SL, especially you Johan, it is really time you get it up running!

Labels: ,

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Second Life

To those of you who know me well, this will not come as a surprise. I even heard that some of you just waited on me to write a post about Second Life (SL) and my alter ego Erasmus Welles. So, here I am.

I signed up shortly after Christmas, spent a few intensive days in this virtual universe before taking a long break. But now, with the article sent in, the exams graded and the snowstorm haunting Tornhem I felt like, this is the time to return.

For those of you unfamiliar with SL, here is the short story: SL is a computer game of sorts, using the internet you interact with people from all over the planet in a virtual universe. Unlike a normal computer game it has no plot, instead, like reality, it is what you make of it. This far I have met a lot of people in SL whom I would not have met in 1st life. These include a fairly large number of American librarians aged 53-70 who spend their days exploring the many libraries and genealogy research facilities. Like all Americans, they have already invited me to come and visit them in 1st life. Besides librarians I have met everything from Irish computer geeks to Swiss phd students studying the Swedish 13th century philosopher Boetius of Dacia.

The only negative thing to say about SL is that it takes a lot of hardware to function smoothly, luckily my laptop is pretty new so it can handle most of the graphics. But just the thought of playing SL with a beamer on one of the white walls of Tornhem makes me rather excited... The future has arrived.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Beyond the Rawlsian Monologue

It has been fulfilled.

All that remains now is to wait. Today I sent in the manuscript of "Beyond the Rawlsian Monologue" to Philosophy & Public Affairs. I know it is bold, even on the limit of being overconfident, but sometimes you just have to do these things.

And even if it gets rejected I hope to get some valuable comments. Cycling back and forth to the department however nearly freaked me out. Let’s call it "adverse weather conditions"; snow just below the freezing point and strong winds. Tried to persuade Nilla to move immediately to Melbourne. There is still time to redeem all my airmiles and catch the SK evening flight to Southeast Asia...


Monday, February 19, 2007

After the glow

Six hours of teaching this Monday. Demanding since I spent the whole weekend sneezing and feeling not so well. So today I had no option but to activate my grad school simulator: Tylenol – acquired at some Walmart near Albuquerque, NM.

And it sure worked, I managed to *lecture* for six hours. Great pills, but I guess you should not make a habit out of taking them whenever you are sick... Luckily, all I have to do for the rest of this week is (a) get better, (b) do some final editing of my paper Beyond the Rawlsian Monologue and (c) go on working with my presentation for Las Vegas.

Yes, I am going back! In two weeks tomorrow, though it will only be a short trip stateside this time around. SAS to Chicago and then United down to Las Vegas. Four days of intensive networking and post doc scouting at WPSA 2007 before flying back to Copenhagen. And the flights have been carbon neutralized...

As for the afterglow, I am listening to Sophie Zelmani’s new album “Memory Loves You”. Got a few favourite songs already.


Friday, February 16, 2007

Edgar Julius Jung

Over the last half decade, Antonia Ax:son Johnson has made an extraordinary contribution to the liberal arts and social sciences in Sweden by funding the cultural magazine Axess. Covering a wide range of subjects from the limits of tolerance to future studies, the magazine has also occasionally published translations of contemporary philosophical texts, including (to my own delight) an excerpt of Stephen Eric Bronner’s “Reclaiming the Enlightenment”.

In the latest issue (2007:1) there was a fascinating biographical piece on Edgar Julius Jung, the ghost writer of Franz von Papen. As few others in similar positions, Jung realized that Hitler was a despotic leader in charge of a brutal mass movement. In a famous speech, written by Jung and held at the University of Marburg in June 1934, von Papen sharply criticized the national socialists’ attempts to suppress the free press. Though definitely no saint himself, it is noteworthy that von Papen dared to speak out like he did:

"Nicht durch Aufreizung, insbesondere der Jugend, nicht durch Drohungen gegenüber hilflosen Volksteilen, sondern nur durch eine vertrauensvolle Aussprache mit dem Volke kann die Zuversicht und die Einsatzfreude gehoben werden"

Naturally, Hitler was incensed by all this and, shortly after, Jung was found dead as one of many victims of the night of the long knives.

Sixty years later those times appear to have been so simple, so obvious black and white. Of course we would have sided with the resistance, taken up the fight alongside my own personal political favourites like Kurt Tucholsky? The Weimar era seems so distant today with democracy consolidated and Starbucks latte around every corner.

But as recent events have shown, we may never grow too confident. Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and the whole "war on terror" have made us fearfully aware that democratic virtues are not something that are automatically inherited. Instead they must be fought for anew by each generation. Even in a peaceful country like Sweden, the government is currently considering a new law which will allow the National Defence Radio Establishment (FRA) to monitor all internet traffic passing out and in of Sweden (yes, that includes you reading this weblog). Tomorrow I will join a demonstration in Malmö against this new law and for those of you who know me, Rasmus is not a typical guy you find in protest marches. Tomorrow I will join forces with the Green, the liberal youth organization and some others. For let me conclude by quoting the last line of the speech written by Jung:

"Die Geschichte wartet auf uns, aber nur dann, wenn wir uns ihrer als würdig erweisen"

Labels: ,

Thursday, February 15, 2007


The renaissance of the telegraph. Yesterday I signed up for a new price plan for my cell phone, giving me unlimited SMS within Sweden for 99 kronor (€10,65) per month. A bargain considering how addicted I have become to the multi-tap lifestyle.

With a proficiency level high enough to make even Samuel Morse jealous, I have come to use text messaging for everything from short hellos to haiku poems. During my summer in Ann Arbor I also learned that texting is a quintessentially European activity, virtually unheard of in the US. In Germany, Angela Merkel is even known for conducting a lot of her politics through SMS, making it necessary for her counterparts to stay brief and focus on the essentials.

Why does Rasmus write about this? Seriously, I do not know.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Dim West

Flew into Dublin early Thursday morning just to find the Emerald Isle covered in wet snow. Being my first trip to Ireland I was naturally a bit disappointed with such weather conditions, especially as I had hope for some relief from the slush in Sweden. But my visit to Trinity College and its department of political science turned out to fully offset that somewhat negative first impression.

And so did the next day up in Sligo:

Walked out on a cliff and allowed myself to be immersed by the Atlantic. In my mind I could see that distant western shore in New Jersey where Nilla and I spent a sunny morning in November last year.

Sligo was followed by Dublin on Friday night, London the next day and then a long return trip to Copenhagen, a trip which also gave me another first-time, namely a ride on the Eurostar under the English Channel!