Monday, December 31, 2018

Salmon sins

As the snowstorm rages outside, it is time for the most sacred of traditions here on Rawls & Me, i.e. the New Year’s Lunch. This year, I looked to India and South Africa for inspiration, arriving at a crispy salmon fillet with coconut and peri-peri rice, served with cucumber pickle and, unlike last year, the house champagne Pol Roger.

Synthetic abundance

Shortly after 6 am on the last day of the year, I was more than ready to lace up my Finnish running shoes and head out around the lake. Yet, a quick look at my phone revealed that the temperature was still at a lung-wrecking -20 degrees so instead I went down to USM and Utopia. After not running for two weeks, I took it decisively slow, just five kilometres of meditation on the treadmill, bringing my total running distance in 2018 to 1506 km.

Back home, the day broke and I could finally document the bedroom in daylight. While still definitely at the minimalist end of the spectrum, it feels much more like a room and not just a storage facility for furniture thanks to the new space-age mirror, the lamps and the synthetic green that would make any ecomodernist proud.

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Saturday, December 29, 2018


No matter how you think about it, Umeå is in the periphery. For all its remoteness, this also opens up for a certain playfulness, like today when I made locally sourced roasted almond potatoes with rosemary and garlic in the oven, very much in line with the now closed restaurant Invito’s motto: “where Norrland meets Italy”.


Bainbridge Island

As the year is drawing to an end, we are renting a car from Hertz for a few days to clear out the storage room and similarly exciting things. After lunch today, we drove out to Holmsund to look for the ferry to Bainbridge Island but unfortunately it was nowhere to be seen. At least, we were able to find the matching coffee ;-)

In early August next year, the International Studies Association is organizing a conference in Accra, Ghana, which will be the first such event on the African continent. With West Africa high on my list, I am definitely thinking of submitting an abstract.

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Friday, December 28, 2018


Instead of marathon training, I am eating Emelie Forsberg’s new chocolate in the sofa. However, with a bit of luck, I will be able to swing by the gym before the year is over. I also had great plans to join Eddie on his skis but unfortunately I gave up half-way through at XXL today when I realized that a pair of new cross-country skis with all the equipment would set me back almost 4000 SEK. Still, I realize that is sort of unforgiveable to live in the High North and not own a pair...

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Wednesday, December 26, 2018


As thousands of earthquakes jolt Sicily, normality is slowly returning to Umeå where Eddie has finally been able to try his new cross-country skis. For my part, all the coughing makes me think that it will be a while until I can go running again but at least I revel, if not at the spelling, so at least at the red Arctic evening colours and the white serenity of the snow.

In exactly a month today, I will board Norwegian flight 4527 to Marrakech for my second attempt to run a full distance marathon, this time along palm groves rather than canals.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Possunt nec posse videntur

Though I am slowly recovering myself, the rest of the of the family is now having the flu so this Christmas turned out quite different from how I imagined it. Still, inspired by the Latin motto above, I at least managed to schlep home a Christmas tree.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Great White Fleet

For the last three days, I have been down with fever and some nasty respiratory bug. Maybe due to all the running but I have otherwise been able to stay more or less healthy this year so I guess it was about time. In any case, as I faded in and out of sleep during the longest night of the year, I was reminded of the same night exactly a decade ago, how I was out hiking on the sandy beaches of Wilsons Promontory in Australia, the last few days before flying back to Sweden. It is funny how just a few days can stay with you a lifetime while others are barely even registered.

When I am sick, I tend to read a lot of Wikipedia for some reason, maybe because it does not really take much energy. Today, I for instance read about The Great White Fleet, the first Moroccan Crisis and a few other fairly random topics. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2018


After something as unusual as a whole unbroken day of writing, I had the privilege of giving a talk on “climate nationalism” this evening. While thematically similar to the talk I gave at Bokmässan in late September, I had a chance to expand on some key points but, more importantly, also listen to what the audience had to say as they worked in groups for 30 minutes afterwards. As often before, I am struck by how much more productive the discussion becomes once you move outside the usual circle of environmental studies people with their entrenched paradigms.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Antipodean bikes

After moving back from Australia a decade ago, I came to develop a certain nostalgia for Rolling wines with bikes on their labels. Today, stretching the boundaries of geographical definitions, I found a chardonnay from Chile with a green bike to accompany my favourite sweet potatoes soup with toasted corn and cilantro. Otherwise, I have spent the last days completing that review for Futures and surviving the department Christmas dinner (although I curse myself for always talking too much). I have also made some real progress on my book chapter which feels slightly more urgent now that I have signed a formal contract with Springer.

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Sunday, December 16, 2018


Overnight, more snow fell over Tomtebo. For some reason it reminded me of the final winter scenes in “Call me by your name”. Even in the Northern provinces, Italian winters are somehow more suitable for humans than Swedish ones. Further south, I actually prefer winters to summers in Italy; some of my best vacation memories are from Campania in December and January.

As the sun was beginning to set, I went for my weekly half marathon. With all the powder snow, I had to take it slow and be careful where I put my feet. For the 42 days that remain until my next big race, I hope to be able to keep running 40 km per week with 80% of the time in the “endurance” pace zone.

Meanwhile, down in Katowice there was a new climate agreement which I am afraid will do very little to prevent the world from becoming 3-4 degrees warmer by the end of this century. In the long run, I remain an optimist that when things become sufficiently serious, the world will act through some combination of solar radiation management and nuclear energy. It is just sad that we have to wreck the biosphere before we realize what have been obvious for more than a decade already.

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Saturday, December 15, 2018

Patatas a la Riojana

All things considered, it is only logical that the road to Marrakech would go through Spain. Similarly, I was not particularly surprised when I discovered that the Monocle Winter Weekly travelled down a dirt road to the exact same part of Argentina that I was curious about a week ago.
After a hearty pot with potatoes and chorizo, I went down to Nydalasjön with Eddie and our new ice skates. There is a certain magic in being a parent and seeing someone doing something for the very first time (I guess that the people around us thought the same was true for me).

Thursday, December 13, 2018


Given that today is “Lucia” in Sweden, I had Italy on my mind more than usual. After racing around the lake in -14 degrees, I decided to make a ridiculously unseasonable dish with asparagus, roasted pepper pesto, halloumi cheese and cashew nuts – a good match for the green grape arneis which is quite widely grown in Piedmont.

In Stockholm, the attempts to form a new government are again stalling. The few policy debates that I have listened to are equally frustrating and marked by a profound lack of theoretical analysis and sense of direction. Not that I would necessarily do it any better myself, in fact, I guess I would just quickly alienate basically everyone...

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018


Following the coastline, Sigvalde Viking will soon begin its descent into Umeå where the quicksilver is expected to drop to -16 degrees tonight. In my book, it is the mid-70’s and the Direct-Orient Express has just arrived at the Sirkeči Station in Istanbul.

While the sky may be the same, it is still slightly bewildering how time can turn all certainties upside down, starting with the basic fact that north is now south. At least I was able to steer clear of the mirror universe this year.


Penguin paradoxes

Shortly before Västerås, I submit the corrected proofs to my forthcoming article in Journal of Political Science Education. Like the beaver who walked into an Örebro hotel lobby back in 2006, I must admit that it has been a rather rough night.

Seeing all the stressed up people on their way to work, I again feel so grateful for living up north where life is somehow sheltered. As the years pass by, the rest of Sweden is becoming increasingly foreign to me, almost to an extent that I would paradoxically feel more at home in Hong Kong or somewhere where I would be foreigner for real. Clearly, Italo Calvino was on to something.

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.


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


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.


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.


Sunday, December 02, 2018


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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