Friday, November 16, 2018

Arrows and candles

For some odd reason, I came to think of Nietzsche and his “arrows of longing for the other shore”. Each candle is made by a child growing in Umeå, reminding me of where I can never go.

But in terms of spatial rather than temporal journeys, 2018 has already come to an end. In total, I racked up just over 70k miles which is about ten thousand more than last year, taking me everywhere from Austin to Jerusalem. This year, I was able to add not only four new countries but a whole new continent to my travels. Among the new countries, Russia was perhaps the most overdue and, no matter how short the trip was, it will definitely stay with me.

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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Street-level bureaucracy

Today I am having eight hours of seminars on Lipsky’s classic concept of “street-level bureaucracy” with my social work students. Half-way through the day, I think the first two groups have had quite good discussions on the ethics of public administration, especially in relation to migration and the growing social interest in “cultural difference”. Though I am obviously not the first to point this out, there is clearly something paradoxical about the fact that, as the world becomes more homogenous than ever, we become increasingly obsessed with the small differences that remain.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018


The hot, dry Nor’West wind has formed a unique terroir in the Waipara Valley over millennia. For someone living just below the Arctic Circle, it takes a bit of recalibration to make sense of the notion of warm winds coming down from the north.

Today, the Swedish parliament voted down Ulf Kristersson as new prime minister. Since Kristersson would have depended on the support of the Sweden Democrats, this marks a break with the rest of Europe where centre-right parties have been all too happy to collaborate with the extreme right. The obvious question is of course what happens next? If we end up with a rerun of the election, there is a clear risk that the Sweden Democrats will grow even further and ultimately come into power. But for now, we have taken a step back from the abyss.

As I keep playing with continents, I made vegan noodles with Thai pesto for dinner together with some mango and avocado.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018


After ten days with overcast grey weather, the skies suddenly cleared and I went for a half-marathon in the afternoon to savour the sunset. Once home, it was finally time to unbox what, given my obsession with coffee, must be the most overdue investment ever, namely a grinder. After spending endless hours researching what kind of grinder to buy, I went for a very simple Bodum model which seems to do the trick just fine. As with all household appliances, knowing that it is powered by 100% certified nuclear electricity of course brings a certain joy of its own.

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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Reactionary indifference

Tonight I completed the Petzl 42 km night running challenge. Thanks to the autumn high pressure, the temperature remains fairly stable around five degrees both day and night so the conditions could not have been better.

Otherwise, I am trying to catch up with work after being away in South America while once again feeling grateful for not having any social media presence, this time in the wake of Jordan B Peterson’s visit to Sweden. Considering how far we have come over the last couple of centuries, it is really sad to see that people are again turning to hierarchal thinking and essentialism instead of deepening universalism and emancipation. While the contemporary Left may have its fair share of problems (reaching from its anti-nuclear irrationalism to its mixing of far-reaching social constructivist ontologies with notions of primordially existing “indigenous peoples”), the answer is not reactionary indifference to the suffering of others or a fascist rejection of reflexivity.

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Saturday, November 10, 2018

Roasted pumpkin seeds and agave

With my mother visiting, I am giving her a whirlwind tour in the kitchen, featuring everything from Peruvian ceviche to the agave interpretation of the house kale salad. Despite this elaborate effort to bridge continents and times, I am again reminded of how different the world of my children must be from her world growing up in the 1950’s.

One day I want to seek out that Kodachrome universe of sun-bleached afternoons and endless sugar beet fields, but also what lied beyond: the quays, the old medina in Marrakech and St Pancras long before any champagne bars.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Moose meatballs

While the concept of “Friday” may have lost some of its cathartic character after becoming a parent, it still feels good to bike home from the university and make meatballs with lingonberries and sherry vinegar cream sauce, knowing that the formal work week is over.

Not only will there not be any plum flowers in the spring but today the autumn also felt very far away from Korea (acknowledging that autumn was the single best season in Korea). The only good thing with all the rain is that the temperature stays above zero, extending my outdoor running season for a bit longer.


Tuesday, November 06, 2018


Late last night, Tova Viking descended through heavy clouds and touched down on a dark and rainy runway in Umeå. With no sun in the forecast for a fortnight, the golden foliage of Zürich, to say nothing of the blue skies of the Americas, could not feel further away.

To fight the apparent gloom, I poured up some fjällfil with Peruvian blueberries (not self-imported) and headed out for ten quick kilometres with my brand new trail gloves.

When I returned, I had received a final acceptance note from the Journal of Political Science Education which made me really happy, especially after all the hard work I have put into that paper over its three rounds of revisions. Once it is published, I will write another blog post introducing this new article which is my first piece of pedagogical research.

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Monday, November 05, 2018


Since I wrote a short review of the outbound Avianca flight, it is only fair that I say a word or two about our return flight with Swiss. When booking this trip back in April, I could not really believe my eyes when two seats suddenly appeared on the 777-300ER flight from Miami to Zürich, featuring Swiss latest cabin. While availability is known to be relatively good for their own Senator members, Swiss is quite stingy when it comes to making premium cabin inventory available to other Star Alliance partners and, obviously, Miami is a very popular destination this time of the year, so all considered I felt very lucky.

Without any doubt, Swiss is one of the world’s most civilized airlines. The overall quality in terms of finishes is simply unmatched and the new cabin feels very warm and welcoming. In line with their “A taste of Switzerland” concept, the food was inspired by the cuisine of one Swiss canton at the time. For our flight it was Nidwalden, located in the geographical centre of Switzerland. Unfortunately, shortly after departing Miami, we passed through an area with some thunderstorms so the cabin service had to be suspended for over an hour, meaning that once it was finally dinner time, I decided to just have a quick meal and then go back to sleep. And sleep I certainly did, in fact all the way until it was time to eat breakfast above Paris.


Sunday, November 04, 2018

The Andes

After finishing marking another batch of take-home exams, I look down on the Andes as our Airbus 330 continues its climb towards its cruising altitude. With this foray, I have now written posts on Rawls & Me from six different continents, a fact that only makes me more aware of how little of the world that I have actually seen.

Looking through my camera, I pause when I see this cliché tourist picture taken at Plaza San Martin. Though not visible in the picture, there were a lot of young kids selling sweets as we walked through Lima’s Centro Histórico. While there were also older kids in school uniforms taking selfies outside the ornate baroque churches, it is not their eyes that will stay with me.

Often in my research, I feel like I remain trapped in abstractions and extrapolations. To travel then becomes a way of breaking out, of experiencing other worlds, if ever so slightly. Ten years ago, when hiking through the Balkans with Gabriel, we travelled on a very tight budget, staying in the most run-down youth hostels in places like Pristina. Now I have truly become a “flashpacker” of the worst conceivable sort, still I feel like I have recorded so many images from this trip that I will carry with me in the months and years ahead.