Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Goldfish

After all the pain I felt in Amsterdam, someone accused me of being a “goldfish” when I jumped right back on the treadmill. I guess there was some truth to that accusation.

Biking through -23 degrees to USM only a few days after #breaking4 in Marrakech, I am beginning to seriously question my sanity. And, despite my promise that this would be the last marathon for a long time, I have to admit that I have already been searching for new races in the breaks between my lectures...

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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Mood lighting

As the last daylight fades in the west, our Boeing 737 Max “Oscar Wilde” is making its climb out towards Gibraltar. The time at the airport quickly flew by with preparations for the coming two weeks in the classroom, accompanied by the happy news that our counter-party will not appeal the legal victory that we won back in December.

Yet, with the mood lighting turning blue, I am reminded of the monkey in chains that was forced to entertain at the square, the endlessly waiting horses, and all the other shadows of humanity’s past. At the same time, I have to say it was a very different Morocco from the one I visited just a decade ago. Poverty was far less visible, the kids seemed happier and there were now electric busses on the streets.

Maybe the glass of tempranillo that I order somewhere over Spain helps blurring the edges but is important to not lose sight of these longer lines. Again, Jon is right, this should be a time of radical optimism. Yesterday, running those 42 km with people from all over the world, some dressed as clowns and others shouting “Allahu akbar”, our common humanity left me smiling. If we want, we can indeed be our better selves.

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Monday, January 28, 2019

Marrakech International Marathon

It is Monday morning in Morocco and I can barely walk. Yesterday, I completed Marrakech International Marathon in 3 hours and 57 minutes, running with the auspicious bib number “777” amidst thick fog. Thanks to dozens of dates and a couple of oranges, I was able to keep moving through the infamous wall that so brutally stopped me in Amsterdam.

Walking down to Djemaa el-Fna after the race, I got the same feelings of continental drift as back in 2009, that this is where the great desert begins. Now I have almost seven hours here at the airport until it is time to board Norwegian flight DY4528 for Stockholm and Arlanda Airport. Fortunately, I also have large number of unanswered student e-mails to work my way through. Bis gleich!

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Saturday, January 26, 2019

Pontus revisited

As tradition has it, I stopped by "Pontus in the Air" on my way through terminal 5. However, in light of what lies ahead, I decided to trade the Grüner Veltliner for a Coke. Instead I ended up spending roughly the same money on the latest issue of Foreign Affairs. Reading Elizabeth Warren’s piece “A Foreign Policy for All”, I find myself in immediate agreement:

“The urgency of the moment cannot be overstated. At home and abroad, democracy is on the defense. The details of the problem vary from place to place, but one cause stands out everywhere: the systematic failure to understand and invest in the social, political, and economic foundations on which democracies rest”

Outside, the snow has stopped falling. The Miami-bound A330 at the gate next to ours has some tech issues and is already running two hours late. With the race starting at 8.30 am tomorrow, I can just keep my fingers crossed that the same thing does not happen to our plane (especially given how notorious Norwegian is for their inability to handle irrops).

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Edith

After reading about Ester Blenda Nordström, I discovered Edith Wharton who also travelled the world on her own a hundred years ago. Taking the boat from Algeciras in the closing hours of the First World War, her travel writing begins with an excuse for the fact she would only spend a month in Morocco, thus making “precise observation difficult”.

“To step aboard a steamer in a Spanish port, and three hours later to land in a country without a guide-book, is a sensation to rouse the hunger of the repletest sight-seer”

As for the road to Marrakech, Edith writes that as long as it “runs in sight of the Atlantic breakers they give the scene freshness and life, but when it bends inland and stretches away across the wilderness the sense of the immensity and immobility of Africa descends on one with an intolerable oppression”. Hopefully, the same does not hold true for Norwegian flight DY4527. Still, I too yearn to finally return to Marrakech’s “red wall across a red wilderness”.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Oranges

Even if Morocco is truly the land of oranges, and I had some of the best orange juice in my life there back in 2009, I was still a bit surprised when I found out that there would be no isotonic sport drink along the course on Sunday but only water and, you guessed it, oranges. With this in mind, I brought an orange along to the gym to see how I would react to eating oranges while running on the treadmill.

After running 140 km in January so far, I am happy to report that I seem to be all good to go and that my left knee, which has been hurting a bit as I have been biking back and forth in the Arctic cold, did not give me any problems whatsoever when running today.

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Saturday, January 19, 2019

Back to school

On Monday, I will welcome a new political theory class as well as 50 future police offices. For different reasons, this spring will be one of the most teaching-intensive in my life, with BPS (our staff planning system) showing a workload between 200 and 300 per cent for the coming months, and that is even before all courses have been entered into the system.

If I survive, I will fly to California over Easter for WPSA and before that I will have two short mini-breaks, one already next weekend to run Marrakech International Marathon and then a weekend trip with the kids to London and Paris in early February. Still, I feel like I am entering a bit of unchartered territory here so please forgive me if updates on Rawls & Me will be less frequent than usual.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Triathlon

With the book chapter behind me, I decided to follow up my daily bike commute with a mini triathlon by adding 1,000 metres of swimming and 10k of running. Going over the course for the Marrakech Marathon, I saw that it promises some “ascending false flat in the palm grove” so I have introduced a bit of inclination to my treadmill runs. Still, even when doing intervals, I simply find treadmill running too drab to actually build volume (when it is this cold outside, I only run 20-30 km per week on the treadmill).

Moments ago, Stefan Löfven was elected new prime minister of Sweden after 130 days without a government. While the price for this compromise was high, the alternative would have been much worse (as it would essentially have given the Sweden Democrats direct influence over government policy). Though I know it is a feeble hope, there is still a chance that the social democrats will carry out progressive reforms in some of the areas that are not covered by the agreement with the centre-right.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Frigid

Four days since my last post and so much has happened. Theresa May got voted down in the House of Commons while Stefan Löfven secured a second term as prime minister of Sweden. Meanwhile, I have been writing day and night on my book chapter which I am now almost ready to submit to the reviewers. Over lunch today I also received my acceptance notice for the BISA conference in London in mid-June which I am very excited about.

Outside, we are having some of the coldest days so far this winter. Biking to work in -23 degrees this morning was a bit of challenge and, with temperatures this low, I do not really feel like running outdoors. In any case, now it is just 11 days left until my big race in Morocco so it is about time that I reduce my weekly volume anyhow.

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Saturday, January 12, 2019

New hat

While I try to keep a slower pace for my longer outdoor runs to build aerobic capacity and endurance, I decided to run 15 km in my planned marathon race pace for a change to see what it would feel like. Equipped with a new running cap that I picked up for 3 EUR at Sportamore’s sale, it turned into one of my best runs in a long time, probably because I have taken a few days away from running this week. The weather after the storm could not be better with calm blue skies.

In the outside world, it seems as if my prediction from the morning after the election is coming true and that Stefan Löfven will once again be the prime minister of Sweden. As expected, it will come at a considerable price, like tax cuts for the rich, further privatization of public services and yet more money to prevent structural change... but if that it was it takes to limit the political influence of the Sweden Democrats, it is of course worth it.

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Friday, January 11, 2019

Winter storm

With the storm "Jan" bringing hurricane strength winds to the High North, it did not feel safe to run in the forest so I took my bike down to USM instead. Trying to keep my planned marathon pace of 5:15 min/km, I was happy to see that my heart rate stayed just above 140 so hopefully I will not kill myself by running those 42 km in two weeks’ time.

In the evening, I made a mushroom risotto with cavolo nero accompanied by a glass of Malbec from Chile. As always, the Pacific exercises an irresistible draw on my imagination. Looking at my calendar, I realize that WPSA and San Diego are only three months away. As for WPSA, I was happy to discover that my friend Manuel will give a paper on "Domination in the Anthropocene", a topic which seems highly related to the book chapter that I am currently working on. For all the space-nerds out there, here is a short excerpt from said chapter (without the references):

Beyond such elementary misunderstandings, ecomodernists diverge from traditional environmentalists in how they understand the broader cosmic setting of the human enterprise. Early pioneers of what is today known as ecomodernism, such as the 2019 recipient of the “Breakthrough Paradigm Award” Stewart Brand, expressed a keen interest in space colonisation, a prospect that fundamentally alters the ethical context in which the ecological crisis is to be understood. Rather than accepting the subtractionist understanding of traditional environmental ethics in which the best would be for humanity not to exist, the possibility of humanity becoming a multi-planetary species and thereby securing not only its own long-term survival but that of life more generally, profoundly recasts the terms of the debate.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Grüner Silvaner

I think the first time that I, at least consciously, discovered the Silvaner grape was on a Lufthansa flight from Düsseldorf to New York back in 2009. I can still remember the crisp taste as I was having lunch looking down on the Scottish Highlands. Recreating a Lufthansa appetizer favourite with oven-roasted tomatoes, the Keller Grüner Silvaner turns out to be a good match with a taste of white flowers, peach and citrus that blasts out of the glass and puts me right back there high above the blue Atlantic.

Otherwise, I spent an icy afternoon running down to the Ume River and then back through the city, adding another 14 kilometres to my Marrakech race preparations. Already tomorrow, the temperature is expected to drop further to -15 degrees but hopefully I will be able to go for another long run over the weekend when milder winds are expected to return. But before that, formal work life is making a reappearance on Thursday in the form of a pedagogical workshop that I am very much looking forward to.

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Sunday, January 06, 2019

Endurance fuel

Beyond the chocolate, I ordered some other things from the newly-opened Moonvalley store back in December that I have been eager to try. With milder air returning this afternoon, I went for a long run to explore Tavelån and some of the small hamlets outside Umeå. 16 km into my run I had a bottle with the “endurance fuel” which really propelled me for the remaining 10 km. While perhaps not the most memorable of culinary treats, the mix of blueberries and raspberries was a true energy punch.

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Saturday, January 05, 2019

Three weeks

In exactly 21 days, I will cross this white bridge and fly down to Africa. All assuming that Norwegian Air Shuttle does not go bankrupt before that. Today I was just biking back from the gym, taking in the breath-taking beauty along the river, thinking that I would probably miss Norrland if I ever were to leave.

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Thursday, January 03, 2019

The Lost Diamond

With the memory of captivating afternoons in the late 1980’s, we just invested in the classic Finnish board game “The Lost Diamond” to Eddie's overwhelming joy. Considering that 2019 seems on track to be a year of great Africa adventures, it is hard to think of a more appropriate investment (any post-colonial critique notwithstanding).

Anaerobic

Biking down to USM in -18 degrees, I decided that yesterday’s long run was enough and that I should do some anaerobic exercises for a change. More specifically, reading about Desiree Linden in Runner’s World, I felt inspire to try to run one kilometre in the same pace that she kept through all of the Boston Marathon in 2011. So, setting the treadmill at an insane 17.7 km/h or a 3:23 min/km pace, I gave it all, only to find myself running out of breath shortly after 500 metres. After some strength training, I gave it another shot but again I had to give up half-way through.

With new appreciation for my post-flu limitations, and deep frozen after 13 km of biking, I made my own version of a pasta dish from Apulia which turned out really great. Unfortunately, I cannot say anything about the “Bolla” sparkling wine as it was just props that I put into the picture to reinforce the alcohol norm ;-) But I promise to return with a review at some point.

Otherwise, I am realizing that the Christmas break is quickly coming to an end and that I have more than a few exams to construct. At least, I received my certificate for the course “Theories of learning” that I took in the fall so now I am at seven pedagogical courses in total.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2019

The road to Marrakech

With 26 days left until Marrakech International Marathon, I made full use of the calm after the storm and went for my first 10 km of running in 2019. Considering all the snow that had fallen over night, keeping a 5:20/km pace was not the easiest thing to do so the scrambled pancakes afterwards felt well deserved. For the rest of my preparations, I am a little worried that it will be too cold for long runs and that I will remain pretty much confined to the treadmill which is far from optimal. Still better than nothing I guess.

Otherwise, I have now submitted an abstract to the ISA conference in Accra. Even if I would end up not being accepted, I feel very good about writing the paper as it will allow me to finally engage more fully with the literature on premature deindustrialization and how it relates to energy access issues.

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