Thursday, May 31, 2018

Sommarlov

In the corridor at work, I tried my best to convey the magic of the word "sommarlov" to our Kiwi PhD student. While five weeks of work remain until the actual summer holidays, today marked the last days of the semester with students and fixed hours.

At Systembolaget, I found a stunning #småparti bottle overflowing with Yarra River nostalgia and green melon.

I know I am late on the ball here but today I also received my copy of Hans Rosling’s Factfulness. While thematically similar to Pinker’s book, it has even more of a pop science feel to it, including the following pedagogical illustration of what the very basics of life (drinking water, cooking, sleeping etc.) may look like at different income levels. Next time my post-development friends suggest that growth is just a mirage, I promise to put this on my conference slides.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Good example

Biking into the summer, I am happy that I am finally old enough to always wear a helmet. Today has been one of those days that first tricked people up along the coast of North Sweden as the polar ice receded. With the temperature at 28 degrees and winds more akin to the Arabian desert, it is perhaps the most incredible day after weeks and weeks of abundant sunshine.

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Chili

Somewhere on the Internet, I stumbled upon the Obama family recipe for chili and thought I should upgrade it a bit with some pulled oats rather than meat. While maybe more suitable for cold autumn days, it still turned out to be a perfectly hearty lunch after reaching 101.87 km of running in May. My goal for the summer is to keep running at least 100 km per month, will see how that goes though as I head off to California in three weeks from today.

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Sunday, May 27, 2018

Double up

When I lived in Melbourne a decade ago, I used to go for long evening runs along St Kilda Beach and up to the Royal Botanic Gardens. At the time, I had no responsibilities whatsoever (except maybe finishing that PhD thing I was working on) so it was essentially a different world. Still, with both kids taking a lunch nap, I decided to turn right at the end of the lake and go for two full rounds. 1602 kcal later it is now time for a late lunch...

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Saturday, May 26, 2018

Latitude

Basically every day there is a new op-ed arguing for “radical” climate action. The messages is pretty similar in all of them; time is short, draconic measures (surprisingly often the same measures that these people would advocate regardless of climate change) are urgently needed and we should not let "politics" come in the way (which is also kind of surprising given that many of these people have spent the last decades trying to close down our largest existing source of carbon-free electricity). None of them engage with the bigger global picture or seem to understand why a technologically advanced civilization is likely to be far better equipped to deal with climate change (or for that part any other existential risk) than their own pseudo-pastoral fantasies.

Instead of writing another letter to the editor (the anti-migration Malthusians were enough for this year), I decided to wrap up the kale season with some sourdough bread from Kulturbageriet, accompanied by a glass of Latitude from the South Island. Given that I have only been to N.Z. twice in my life, it is funny how often I dream of returning.

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Friday, May 25, 2018

Mint green

Now, all that remains of this semester is the grading of fifteen theses. Unlike last year, Pino is busy elsewhere, so in my solitude I find myself confined to the sun-drenched balcony with an Americano and my mint green shorts that I never really got around to wear in Tel Aviv. Similar to meerkats, Swedes have a peculiar relationship to sunshine, perhaps most visible during the first weeks of spring. As such, I am very happy to have moved my office outside as I make my through way through the massive stack of printouts.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Bush wine

After two months with at least ten student e-mails every day, the electrosmog is finally clearing. Even if supervising a record of 18 theses has often pushed the limits of my multitasking abilities, I have at least learnt a lot about everything from autism in career counselling to indices for measuring local government corruption.

With greener pastures just around the corner, I made some sweet potato salad with a lime vinaigrette for dinner. Thanks to... ehh... Monocle, I also found an inexpensive bottle of chenin blanc from South Africa for 79 SEK at Systembolaget which turned out to be a good match.

Rather than pondering the perennial question “where next?”, I was then thrilled to find a new article in the International Journal of Public Theology that really engages with my work. Often, citations can be a bit hit and miss so it is immensely rewarding when there is suddenly a real conversation going on. Hopefully, this will inspire me to finally complete my own draft paper on theology in the Anthropocene.

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Saturday, May 19, 2018

Salatat Al Jazar

Just when one thought that the madness had reached a kind of stable equilibrium, the Swedish Democrats surge again in the polls. I struggle for explanations for what essentially amounts to society-wide self-harm behaviour. With an allusion to Zarathustra and the Last Man, it is almost as if people are drawn to destruction for its own sake, as if they have become completely consumed by hate of whatever still holds the world together.

Some other day, I want to write about post-feminism and whether all these angry men, if they knew there was some kind of ultimate “end point” to the feminist project, would perhaps be slightly less frightened. The same of course goes for racism, that rather than a long list of things one should not do in the present, there needs to be an aspirational vision of a world where race has ceased to be a defining category. After all, the future remains the weakest point of every nationalist movement, just think of how laughable their strictly divided world will seem in a few hundred years’ time – perhaps a bit similar to how we today think of “Dackefejden” in Sweden.

But right now I am just sad and frustrated by the sheer stupidity of it all. I know it is not much of a protest but I make some Moroccan carrot salad with haloumi. Nevertheless, it turns out to be enough to remind me of the shared future world that is still very much possible. 

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Quaffable

Today at the research seminar, I presented my article on how gallery walk seminars can be used to teach political ideologies. Given how much time we all spend in the classroom, it is surprising how rarely we have these opportunities for professional reflection. In fact, it was the first time since joining the department four years ago that the higher seminar was devoted to something teaching related.

Biking home afterwards, it felt like a really productive seminar and I got a lot of useful ideas for future revisions (the article is currently under review with the Journal of Political Science Education so I first have to see what comes out of that). For me, it was also an unusual experience to present something so uncontroversial. After spending the last fifteen years fighting Malthusians, it simply felt strange to discuss something that is completely politically harmless, at least from a Swedish horizon.

For dinner tonight I made a new COOP magazine favourite as in an avocado, zucchini, and cashew nut salad with lots of chili, cilantro and lime. Thanks to Systembolaget and its #småpartier, I found a pinot gris from Oregon with crisp flavours and a very bright finish which I guess Fredi would describe as highly “quaffable” :-)

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Lightness

This time of the year, I almost appreciate the fact that William wakes me up at 5 a.m. For as dark as the Umeå winter may be, there is now almost no night left. After browsing Monocle’s new Drinking & Dining Directory with stops including “Zum Schwarzen Kameel” in Vienna and “The Kettle Black” in Melbourne, I put on my old running shoes and head out for a morning sprint around the lake. While I have long forgotten the reason for all this running, I am currently at 282 291 km of running this year and have no intention to stop. I guess running simply is the new air miles :-)

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Poseidon

When passing by Götaplatsen in Gothenburg with its Poseidon statue the other day, I was reminded of the rather obvious fact that Umeå Triathlon in August will include some swimming, 1500 metres of it to be exact. Despite my fondness for jumping into hotel pools everywhere from Delhi to Tel Aviv (above), I have to admit that I am completely lacking in terms of technique. At least today, I managed to swim 1000 metres in 38 minutes which is roughly the time it took last year for those who knew what they were doing to swim all 1500 metres.

A few days ago, Michael Shellenberger published a very pedagogical article on why solar and wind simply cannot save the climate. Today, he followed up with another great article that explains why being a “mixologist” (i.e. someone who supports a range of low carbon technologies) may make political sense at first but ultimately takes us further away from having an honest conversation based on the science. While I rarely take similarly positions in public, I should say that I agree wholeheartedly with Michael here, the question is only how much worse climate change must become until people will be ready for that honest conversation?

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Sunday, May 13, 2018

Cuckoo's nest

With the kids camping at their grandmother's, we decided to wrap up this week on the road with a stay at the Radisson Blu Riverside. Looking out over what once the terminal of the Swedish America Line, I was thrown back to another transatlantic adventure through the recreation of one of SAS most memorable pre-dinner cocktails, "Air born" (equal measures calvados and green vodka served with ginger ale). Otherwise, the hotel bar called "The Cuckoo's Nest" had a wonderful sci geek theme, complete with a yellow biplane followed by a green banner declaring "Nothing shocks me, I am a scientist".

I am not sure if it is true though. In fact, I am often shocked by how much the future is lagging, even among those who clearly should know better. Over the last days I have had a heated exchange over what counts as sexism with a highly accomplished professor. On a very basic level it is about moral imagination, what it feels like to be on the receiving end of seemingly innocent jokes in a patriarchal society. Again and again I am surprised by how difficult it seems to be for some people to understand power structures, that each comment in itself may not matter much but accumulated over many years and decades, a pattern emerges, one that anyone who claims to “defend the Enlightenment” should be very careful not to reinforce.

Already tonight, I am back in Umeå where I will remain on the ground all the way until the 19th of June when it is time to fly to California and Breakthrough.

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Friday, May 11, 2018

Iced Caffè Americano

With the temperature climbing up to 28.2 degrees here in Gothenburg, it was again time to cause grave confusion among Swedish baristas by ordering the most iconic of all Korean summer drinks, namely an iced Americano. While it is still beyond me how it can be so bewildering given that I never have had any problems ordering iced Americanos anywhere in the US, it has become almost a ritual to witness the growing stress behind the espresso machine until someone finally, while still trying to look cool, asks “when you order that drink, what do you normally have in it?”.

Later in Slottsskogen I stumble upon the Shoreline Memorial, as if I was not already sentimental enough. Walking past the university library, I am reminded of all the endless hours of dissertation writing and time becomes slightly incoherent once again.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Departing KLR

After a day of Skype seminars and cold brew coffee in the sun, SK198 climbed out over the light blue sea and its preview of summer days to come. While I still have to clean the house all night in preparation for tomorrow’s warranty inspection once I get up to Umeå, I could not resist the indulgence of a small bottle of chenin blanc from South Africa as Småland turned into Östergötland. Even without the wine, there is something with flying that never loses its appeal on me, how the most familiar can look so different from above. But also on the ground, one should be careful to always assume that “things remain the same”. It is the most worn-out cliché used by those who left decades ago, often uttered with little thought for those who chose to stay.

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Sunday, May 06, 2018

Hobbiton

While I may have missed the original when visiting New Zealand a decade ago, stopping by Jumbo Hostel at Arlanda for coffee today definitely made up for it. It is not every day that one gets to climb around inside a 42-years old 747-200 that used to fly for every airline from Pan Am to Cathay Pacific before becoming a hostel in Sweden.

Later today, our journey will continue down to Kalmar and my parents. Again, I am surprised by the fact that 1.5 years have passed since my last visit. This time is a bit special as it will be the first time that William gets to see the city where I grew up. Unfortunately, my own visit will be a bit interrupted as I have to head back up to Umeå tomorrow night for a two years’ warranty inspection of the house but at least I will be back with the boys in Kalmar already on Tuesday evening. Meanwhile, I am happy to report that Breakthrough Journal has now published my response to Pinker.

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