Saturday, February 24, 2018

Second breakfast

In a world where everything is “craft” or “bespoke”, I make a second breakfast worthy the most intemperate escapist with mint fruit salad and date granola. Outside, there is brilliant sunshine and -24 degrees with the forecast suggesting similarly cold weather as I head down to Skåne and then St Petersburg on Thursday. Hopefully, I will at least have better luck with my travelling than last time around.

With an upcoming evening in Copenhagen, I had reason to again reflect on how far the Danish social democrats have drifted, and how their cap on the number of people with “non-Western origin” reflects a race rhetoric based on “apocalyptic ideas” to borrow the words of the Danish author Anne Sofie Allarp. Terrifying as each new policy measure surely is, what is most frightening is the uncertainty of whether there is even an end to this slide into darkness? How much worse will it have to get until we finally turn around and have the courage to embrace a global modernity?

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Vaulting ambition

Over the winter, my main goal at the gym has been to run 10 km in less than 50 minutes. Today I once again fell short of that goal but at least I was able to bring the total accumulated distance on the treadmill this year above 100 km. As I sit down to write what will be my 700th post here on Rawls & Me, I am thinking of insomnia on the west coast of Sweden, of lingering jetlag and that spring in New York with Patrick Stewart playing Macbeth: “vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself”.

Meanwhile in the real world, the plot of the detained Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai thickens, Thomas Friedman declares that it is now “code red” with regard to Trump in the White House and, in Italy, fascism is becoming normalized. It would be one thing if irrationality would be limited to such anti-democratic forces but watching Al Gore’s ”An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” I was reminded of the same strange mix of lying and delusion that we have come to associate with Trump. I do not know what is worse, if Gore actually thinks that “the world can easily be powered by renewables” or if he knows that it is not true and lies about it?

Maybe, as my long-time Australian co-author suggests in a recent article on geonengineering, it will be the developing world that finally cuts through all this hypocrisy and forces the rich countries to take real responsibility for climate change?

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Fog Cutter

Although 40 degrees colder than Texas, I am back on European time, admittedly with a little help from some “bold blended, dark roasted coffee meant to clear up the foggiest of mornings”. Thinking about it now, Austin reminded me of the slow southern charm of Athens, GA, of stolen summer days in the middle of the winter. As often with America, layers upon layers.

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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Austin

Thanks to the AAAS conference, I have been in Austin for the last couple of days. With two courses finishing in Sweden, it has been a strange but blissful combination of student e-mails, climate science and breakfast chalupas in the morning sunshine, plus some of the most awesome running tracks I have seen anywhere in the United States.

In the Uber back to the airport, the driver told me that she used to work as an elementary school teacher but decided to quit as the job was no longer about teaching but only about documentation and preparing the kids for different standardized tests. It is scary to think how global these trends actually are since everything she said would be equally true for Sweden. It is not that I have all the answers to these questions but we really have to do something, and that fast, if we are to stop this downward spiral of de-professionalization. Before I get too depressed, here are a few more snapshots from Texas...

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Monday, February 12, 2018

A distant mirror

In our late teens, my friend Gabriel and I found it hilarious to include “German supermarket beer” in our home-made recipes. While the humour of this may be somewhat lost both in time and translation, that very beverage (or at least its Danish counterpart from Skælskør) came back this evening when I made gnocchi with walnuts and roasted pumpkin. And so did Lonely Planet Southwest USA which was the perfect appetizer for what is to come.

Earlier today at work, I was informed by the university’s legal team that, apparently, students in Sweden have an unlimited right to read the answers to take-home exams written by other students. While I of course design new exam questions each semester, I still find this rule to be highly problematic, not only for pedagogical reasons but also in relation to the former students who have no legal way of preventing others from reading their exam answers. As much as I may be a supporter of transparency and accountability, this is a rather extreme intrepretation of the Public Access to Information and Secrecy Act (SFS 2009:400). Nevertheless, university rules are university rules so there is not much I can do.

As for Star Trek Discovery, season one came to end last night in the US. Contrary to my expectations, there was no time travel involved but at least a strong rebuke of those who believe that the ends justify the means.

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Saturday, February 10, 2018

Mardi Gras

While lent has long faded from the collective consciousness in Sweden, the tradition of eating sweet rolls with lots of whipped cream and almond paste in preparation for the fast has not.

Outside, the sun is slowly returning even if spring is still months away. It goes without saying that life here at the 63rd parallel would be unbearable in the absence of modern technology and indoor heating. Still, I am always surprised by how many people in Umeå who seem to wish modernity away. Eating a bean burger at Max earlier today, I could read on the tray about how their tree-planting carbon-neutralizing programme in Africa “enables smallhold farmers to remain in their rural communities and not having to move to overpopulated cities”. I guess all I can say that we in Sweden should feel very fortunate that no one intervened in our societies in the 19th century with a similar neo-colonial agenda...

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Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Swede

With the temperature falling down to a frigid -27 degrees, the last days have been bitterly cold (despite the abundant sunshine).

In The Guardian I saw a recipe for vegetarian carbonara with rutabaga which I of course had to try. The result was so delicious that I again had to ask myself if it is not better to finally leave the whole meat eating thing to the mirror universe?

As for that, we now know that Gabriel Lorca was indeed from the mirror universe. Unfortunately, the behaviour of other people remains more difficult to explain. Yesterday, after Taylor & Francis published my article "The High-Energy Planet", I received another barrage of spiteful Malthusian comments. In all fairness I should say that I also received a lot of encouraging words but, since leaving Twitter in the autumn last year, I had almost forgotten how tribal and mean-spirited much of the climate and energy debate has become...

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