Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Butternut squash

Following British Airways’ take-over of my beloved BMI in 2012, I was granted Gold status with its Executive Club for two years. Since that normally takes a whopping 1,500 “tier points” of flying, it was a rather generous gesture on behalf of BA. Yet, staying fiercely loyal to Star Alliance, I did not make much use of my temporary stratospheric status. Nevertheless, I did get the chance to check out both Cathay Pacific’s famous “The Wing” in Hong Kong and BA’s own “Galleries First” lounge at Heathrow Terminal 5.

Since then, American Airlines has also stepped up the lounge game with their new Flagship Dining Facilities. Living vicariously through a certain travel blog, I felt like I just had to try replicating one item on their JFK menu, namely the “roasted butternut squash soup” with apple, fennel and toasted walnuts. I think it is fair to say that I found a new autumn favourite.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Russian River

E. M. Forster, himself famous for the novel A Room with a View, once remarked "Moby-Dick is full of meanings: its meaning is a different problem”. After two days at home with Eddie, I have to agree. Now as he has recovered, I roast some onion and garlic in the oven before mixing it with asparagus, goat cheese and fresh basil.

At Systembolaget, I picked up a pinot noir called “Irony” from Russian River Valley, of course truly irresistible for an unceasingly allusive blog like Rawls & Me.

Still, to be sure, the bright overwhelming light of Northern California is a world away here in Tomtebo. Past the equinox, the days are quickly growing shorter. Yet, to my surprise, I feel much less dread than in previous years. New global adventures certainly await but, even without them, I guess I am becoming increasingly acclimatized.

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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Cantaloupe

My mother sent me an elephant postcard made in Dar es Salaam. After finishing I am Pilgrim, I have become slightly more suspicious of the coincidental. Still places are just places, they are not vested with any meaning beyond the one we give them. A few years later, the same stage can be used for a completely different play. That much becomes obvious when reading Tove Folkesson’s Kalmars Jägarinnor.

“In my mind I board the train in Malmö, find the seat next to yours and sit down. You lean to the window and I lean on your shoulder. A train through the winter in Sweden. Black, frozen fields that are barely discernible, and then forests. Mostly silence. People with the anticipation of Christmas in their faces get on and off but we do not see them”.

Over time, the subtle always takes precedence. Right now however, W turns on the strobe flash light and siren on his fire truck and it becomes difficult to think a single coherent thought. I guess I will have to leave it with that.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Cold civil war

The journalist Carl Bernstein has suggested the notion of a “cold civil war” to describe the social climate of America today. While political discourse may be somewhat less polarized in Europe, we still have many of the same epistemological divides, especially with regard to immigration or feminism.

As I pour up some machine coffee and begin my work on a new paper about energy and democracy, I am thinking that one way of overcoming this polarization may be through better contextualizing the present and emphasizing the historical trends that have been driving human progress. In a remarkable speech the other day, Barack Obama expressed this as that we should “reject the notion that we are suddenly gripped by forces that we cannot control” and that we should instead “embrace the longer and more optimistic view of history and the role that we play in it”.

Obviously, nationalist politicians like Donald Trump thrive when people give in to their existential fears and demand a world of absolutes. Part of that is about projecting a sense that the world is falling apart, that there is no longer time for tolerance or curiosity. In that way, nationalists are very similar to much green political thinking. Any hope for a bright future depends on defeating such eschatological views and showing why, more than ever, we need liberal freedom and an open future.

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Friday, September 22, 2017

Moules marinières

One of my first encounters with mussels was at the restaurant De Zevende Hemel in Bruges more than fifteen years ago. Not only did the restaurant's name made my smile as it reminded me of the Moomin character “Hemulen” but the mussels were truly divine. Since then I have had great mussels here and there, including at Rex in Umeå. Yet, last weekend in Barcelona, I came across something I would never have thought of, namely mussels Gangnam style with cava. Luckily, since our local ICA store has both kimchi and green mussels from New Zeeland, I am able to end this week of marathon teaching with some quintessential fusion cooking.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Rider of the Blue

Back in Umeå, I struggle to hold on to the trip for a bit longer. Between picking up my astronaut winter jacket at the dry cleaner and a visit to the gym, I buy a cheap bottle of sherry from Jerez de la Frontera, perfect for marinating some shrimp, scallion, chili and cilantro. Together with cashew nuts, I throw it all into the wok, creating a yummy but rather different dinner from the HCHF-diet I followed during my three days in Spain.

In London the other month, Fredi recommended the book “I am Pilgrim”. The last time I read a crime story was back in December when I was completely glued to Paul French’s “Midnight in Peking”. I am afraid it is no better this time around. Right now at page 345 out of 912, I wonder what the book’s ultimate toll will be in terms of my precious night sleep :-) 

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

LX2021

While I have no intention to begin competing with Lucky, I just have to say how thrilled I am about my flight with Swiss up to Zürich this morning. For those looking for that lost golden era of flying, it is worth knowing that when booking well in advance (in my case, about six months), Swiss has some deeply discounted intra-Europe Z fares which can be just a few hundred Swedish kronor more than a regular economy ticket. While Swiss is certainly a good airline in economy as well, it is hard to imagine that this kind of service exists in the same universe as the scratchcard madness of Ryanair. Vi auguro un volo piacevole!

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Instantáneas Españolas

After a dramatic start with a mid-air lightning strike, a lost bag and a malfunctioning flight computer, I could not have had better days in Spain. Unfortunately, the misplaced bag meant that my Barcelona city run had to be cancelled but I made up for that with churros, tons of tapas and great company.

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Fugitive pieces

A glass of Cigarra, a Portugese red wine made of shiraz and tinta barocca, turns out to be the perfect rain weather companion to the novel “Fugitive Pieces” by Canadian author Anne Michaels. On the other hand, time turns out to be somewhat of a blind guide as the story shifts from war in Poland to that most elusive of islands, Zakynthos. Written in the late 90’s, it certainly speaks of vertical time and mysterious symmetries.

In less than a hundred hours, I will be on a flight to Zürich and then Barcelona. Last time I was in Catalonia, I was struggling to finish my PhD, feeling the pressure as time was running out and my own limitations were becoming visible, also for my supervisors back in Lund. This time around, there is no academic stress but just a short mischievous escape from all the duties and responsibilities of the real world.

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Friday, September 08, 2017

Caprica

Following a week with crisp blue skies, rain blew in from the Bothnian Bay late last night. With Anna away on a conference dinner, I decided to mix preparations for my classes next week with revisiting some old episodes of Battlestar Galactica. For someone who believes in bright futures, it is a dark, conflicted and morally ambiguous universe, one that reminds me that I may be the one who is ultimately mistaken.

After my PhD defence in December 2010, Mia gave the most wonderful speech in which she contrasted my Star Trek post-scarcity optimism with the darker “neoliberal” pessimism of Battlestar Galactica. At the time, I had only a cursory familiarity with the series.

The ending of the series notwithstanding, I do not believe that any rejection of technology can be comprehensive enough for anarcho-primitivism to make sense. Like Bruno Latour, I believe that we must rather care for, or even learn to love, our monsters. Though I may be less worried about the “singularity” after my sister got her degree in machine learning and calmed me about the prospects of the toasters taking over the world, I still foresee that accelerating technological evolution, especially with regard to medicine, will give rise to profound ethical dilemmas. On the other hand, technologies sometimes arrive too early for us to understand their true value. For instance, if nuclear energy was discovered today, everyone would immediately recognize it as the “magic silver bullet” it is when it comes to stopping climate change.

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Sunday, September 03, 2017

Worlds apart

This morning I woke up to the news that North Korea has tested a thermonuclear device, generating a 6.3 magnitude explosion according to the latest USGS estimations. While not surprising in any way, it once again underscores the urgent need for real negotiations. As I suggested already in April, I think Trump has a unique chance to do something good here as he is not as constrained by the kind of commitment to multilateral regimes that have tied the hands of his predecessors. For one thing, it is now beyond debate that North Korea is a nuclear power and should be recognized as such. Thus, moving forward means abandoning much of the thinking behind the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Only with a permanent peace treaty between North Korea and the US in place is there any hope of normalization and, ultimately, denuclearization. For every day, waiting becomes less and less of an option as North Korea continues to expand its nuclear stockpile and the risk for miscalculations increases. And since the only meaningful pre-emptive action would be a massive nuclear assault, saying that a "military option" is still "on the table" is just plain stupid.

On a personal level, I used to live with this continuous crisis in the back of my head for three years. Suddenly protected by 7,000 km, its significance shifts from immediate physical vulnerability to what is says about our long-term future as a species. If this conflict can be defused, then I think we have good reasons to be very optimistic about that future. Obviously, the opposite is very much true.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

First autumn run

As the leaves turn yellow and the forest outside is brimming with blueberries, I am able to go for a quick lunch run around the lake. Over the summer, my running has improved quite a bit and I feel much less exhausted afterwards compared to what I did in the spring.

Now on Monday, Anna will fly down to Skåne and I will be alone with both kids which is kind of scary since I have a two-hour lecture scheduled in the afternoon. Hopefully, they will both be fine at the new preschool but it certainly makes one wish that we had relatives living closer by.

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