smhwpf: (Dr Who Tardis)
Well, it's sufficiently official and generally known by all concerned that I can make it public.

I will be moving to Boston, Massachusetts in the autumn (or fall as I should get used to calling it), to work at the World Peace Foundation, based at Tufts University, as Project Manager for their programme on corruption in the global arms industry and trade. I start there at the beginning of October. I was in Boston earlier this week to meet with them and discuss details and ideas.

I have in fact been involved in this project for the past few years, as part of an international group of academics and civil society people convened by WPF to discuss these issues and produce various materials on the subject (there's a book coming out fairly soon, plus various internet tools). The group includes South African anti-corruption campaigner Andrew Feinstein, whose book on the arms trade, The Shadow World, has recently been made into a movie, which everyone should totally see when it hits the cinemas.

The idea of the programme has been to take a rather broad perspective on the issue of corruption, looking not only at financial corruption, but at how the global arms industry and trade, and the militarist ideologies behind it, can undermine democracy and the rule of law.

Anyway, so this project by WPF has been edging forward for the past few years, but now they are able to hire someone full time, that someone being me.

The position is for 2 years initially, potentially longer if more funds are raised; however, I am taking a 2-year leave of absence from SIPRI, so I will have the option of returning at the end of this 2-year period. I am therefore not technically leaving SIPRI at the present time, but will at any rate be gone for at least 2 years. If anyone wants to apply for my position at SIPRI working on military expenditure (again, 2 years initially), or knows someone who might be interested, the ad is here.

As to whether or not I will return in 2 years, well, a lot can happen in two years, so who knows? But it is good to have the option.

I am very excited by this. It is a really interesting project, and a really good bunch of people I'll be working with, and from all I hear (and the little I've seen so far from the meetings there of our group), Boston is a fantastic city.

I am already a US (as well as UK) citizen, but this will be the first time I have lived in the US, or indeed been there for more than a week at a time. So that too will be an interesting new experience.

I will also be sad to leave SIPRI, and will miss a lot of people there, not least my team, who are also a great bunch to work with. After the storms of 2 years ago, SIPRI is now on what seems to be moving in a very positive direction, so in some ways a strange time to be leaving; but I have been crunching the military expenditure numbers for long enough, and feeling it's been time for a change for quite a while; and this definitely feels like the right move at the right time.

(Well, except that we might have President Trump a few months after I move. But since there are no shuttles to Mars Colony any time soon, there's nowhere to escape the consequences that may bring.)
smhwpf: (Going places)
Kate B. asks "If the world-wide web/similar hadn't been invented, and technology had stayed the same as when we were kids, how different would your life be now?"

Wow. Gosh. That's a tough one.

It wouldn't have been that different up to my 1st PhD, the Maths one, in 1996. I'd only recently discovered the web. I mean, I'd used email a bit, but it wasn't my principle means of communication.

Wouldn't have necessarily affected the first job I did so much, the one commercial job I had - I mean, not having the web as a research tool would have been different, but it wasn't yet so central. Or what I was doing as a volunteer with Campaign Against Arms Trade. I mean, it would have affected how I did these things somewhat, but wouldn't have fundamentally affected life path, I think.

The work I do now though... it is very hard to imagine doing it without the internet. The vast majority of the research we do is web-based. But SIPRI did collect military expenditure data before the web, so I guess it's like a lot of things where you can't imagine how people did them before, but of course they did.

I certainly wouldn't have a lot of the communities I have. I think. Certainly, there are some people I only know because I know them online. Others... I knew offline originally, but online became a principle mode of interaction. But maybe wouldn't have been so different.

Certainly fandom would never have been a thing. I might have been a Buffy fan, but it wouldn't have been a thing I'd have shared.

Apart from that, I'm trying to think where life-path would really have branched... maybe I wouldn't have been willing to make my first (temporary) move to Sweden back in 2002 had I not had internet community to fall back on. Or maybe I would not have been able to cope with the loneliness. No internet, so how would I have job-hunted back in Britain? THES delivered to my door in Sweden? Mebbe. I think here we've got to factor in the way the internet and other technological developments have made the world smaller. Made regular travel back and forth between countries feasible for people a lot further down the ladder.

So this is a big thing - I don't know whether I would have still gone to work for SIPRI, but it made moving country seem like much less of a huge thing.

So, 2001-2 is a real branch point for me. 2001 is when, after the end of Buffy Season 5, with Buffy's death and wondering whether there was going to be any more Buffy and what was going to happen, that's when I first typed "Buffy" into a search engine and encountered online fandom, and the first online community I was really significantly part of (save a political listserve or two at Warwick I wasn't that deeply into), the BBC Buffy forum, where I first met [livejournal.com profile] whiskyinmind. Then 2002 when I first went to work at SIPRI.

On the flip side, I wonder if I would have been more productive without the distractions of the internet, but then I found all manner of ways to be unproductive before that, so probably not.

Any one else who wants to request a topic, you are most welcome! You may do so here. I am not out of topics by any means, but Easter is still four weeks away!
smhwpf: (Treebeard)
Really uninspired on the subject line front.

So I got invited to a workshop in Boston, organized by the World Peace Foundation, on corruption in the arms trade. That was last week, Tuesday and Wednesday. They were paying for the trip, so I took the opportunity to travel to Toronto over the weekend, thus visiting Canada for the first time, and more significantly meeting the awesome [livejournal.com profile] sabotabby for the first time! Who is, apart from some of my old read-through buddies is one of my oldest LJ friends. (Oldest as in longest-standing, not as in most aged, although both she and I recently added a year to our respective tallies).

I came to Toronto at a turbulent time in the city's modern history. Fordism )

Aaaaanyway, the saga made for plenty of entertainment over the long weekend. As did the performance of Night of the Living Dead Live we went to with a bunch of Sabs' friends on Saturday evening, which was awesome; the first half was a compressed version of the original movie, which it followed pretty closely; the second half was a succession of increasingly absurd (and increasingly brief) alternative scenarios as to what else they might have done to survive, all with the same tragic but inevitable outcome. Then there was the scenario where they all worked together and sung a musical number, and I'll leave the outcome of that unspoiled.

At least equally entertaining was an afternoon of role-playing with a different bunch of friends on Sunday. We were playing Spirit of the Century.

The one annoyance of the weekend was the failure of my luggage to arrive. It had presents in it. (As well as obvious things like clothes). I eventually got it back on the day of my return to Stockholm, last Thursday. Bah. but I did, as part of my emergency wardrobe restocking, buy a T-shirt with the final words of NDP leader Jack Layton from Kensington Markets.

Generally, Toronto is very awesome.

The workshop in Boston was a small group of us, brought together by Alex de Waal of WPF, who I'd previously encountered through various Sudan-related articles, with a view to getting WPF into the issue. The other organizer, and probably the number one expert on the subject, was Andrew Feinstein, who I've met a few times before, including when I wrote a chapter of the SIPRI Yearbook a couple of years ago. Former ANC MP who tried to investigate the huge corrupt South African arms deal when he was head of the Public Accounts Committee, and basically got sacked for his efforts.

So his latest book, The Shadow World looks utterly fantastic, he's basically been going round interviewing a bunch of seriously evil arms dealers and exploring all the connections between them and the big companies and governments etc. Incredible stories.

Anyway, good meeting, lots of good ideas being thrown around. Managed to see a bit of the Freedom Trail before returning to the airport.

s'all for now.
smhwpf: (Unwell Wesley)
Long, long time no post.

I aten't dead. Work has been rather horribly busy.

I've been gradually emerging from a long period of being in quite a bad mental state starting about 2 years ago - anxiety disorder, chiefly. (I am fairly open about it now, and various filters on my flist as well as family, quite a lot of non-LJ friends, many at work know, though this is the first time I've publicly posted about it). Getting medication, had some CBT, gradually processing stuff.

For about a year I've been in a kind of 'relapsing-remitting' state, but the remission periods have been getting longer, and the relapses more manageable. Not fully recovered yet, but, well, getting there.

Having decided to leave the Roman Catholic Church last year, I have been mostly going to my parish Church of Sweden church, Katarina church. It seems good for me in many ways. Even started going to a discussion group last year, and was looking into joining a choir and possibly joining the C of S, but Christmas plus workload getting horrendous has temporarily put a hold on that.

On which general topic, and so as not to make the post an all-about-me one, brief thoughts on the Papal resignation.

Definitely not a fan of Benedict XVI in any way. My post when he was elected made that fairly clear. But while I think a lot of his theological views are wrong and harmful, I do not think he is a monster or a Nazi or the Emperor Palpatine (funny though the joke be), and I think he is making a wise and brave decision in this. (Yeah, about the one thing I can praise his Papacy for is the manner of his leaving it). He is clearly a genuinely spiritual person, and a brilliant philosopher, and not all his stands are awful: he strongly opposed the Iraq war for example, and has been, like his predecessor, clearly opposed to Neoliberal forms of Capitalism. (I get the impression that he has been also somewhat more forceful in acting against child abuse in the church, though still far short of what is desired, and was actually trying to push the previous Pope further when he was right-hand man). Anyway, I am not in the least sorry he will be going, but I wish him peace in his life of contemplation in retirement.

As plenty of commentators have said, there is virtually zero chance that the next Pope will be in any sense a Liberal. What one can hope for is that he will be a Conservative who is more willing to listen and to be open to diverse views (such people do exist, believe it or not), and who will start seriously addressing the mind-set and structures in the Church that led to the child abuse scandals. I suspect that this would still require something of a miracle, but well, they do happen from time to time. The possibility of a non-European Pope is interesting and could have many positives... the fact that Peter Turkson of Ghana, one of the favourites, is head of the Pontifical Justice and Peace Council is quite positive, but more generally having a Global South perspective at the head could be a very good thing. (Though the incident where Turkson showed an alarmist YouTube vision on "Muslim Demographics" at a Bishop's conference is rather worrying; hopefully it was a one-off misjudgement rather than an indication of his overall standpoint; he does come from a country where Christian-Muslim relations seem to be generally pretty harmonious). We are not going to see any change in things like teachings on sexuality or women priests any time soon, but renewal can happen in all sorts of ways.

Even a relative liberal Pope would not see me returning to Rome, as I no longer accept the Infallibility doctrine. But the RC Church is still the largest single part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, so where it goes is still something that matters to me. Not to mention that, as a 1.2 billion strong institution with a heck of a lot of wealth, power and influence, the way it acts and how it is led has the possibility to affect an awful lot of people's lives, for good or ill.

Hopefully will manage to post a bit more, starting with this Lent. One of the things I want to do is to try to give more of my time in positive ways, which includes communicating with others through LJ.

A blessed Lent to all who mark it.

Bleagh

Mar. 2nd, 2012 02:03 am
smhwpf: (Sandman)
Urgh. Yet another late night, even by my standards. Got in late today, had to go early as I had a non-work related meeting (This year I have gone onto the Board of SIRAP, the Stockholm International Researchers Association), then back to work to continue with the Military Expenditure Spreadsheet of Doom. (All finished bar the footnotes, at least).

Brain not up to a more substantive post.

But I might have another trip to the US in the offing in April, though mostly to DC, which is way less interesting than New York.

In other news, Spring seems to be coming early to Stockholm. ("Spring" in Sweden being defined as a week above 0 Celsius.) Hoping even to get my bike out. Was going to today, but have mislaid pump and oil. Maybe tomorrow, or weekend.
smhwpf: (Winter is coming)
Long time since I've updated. Seems a good time to rectify that.

Not a whole lot to report since my trip to China last month. (Not in public post at any rate). The main event has been the latest Buffycamp last weekend, in our usual haunt in the Old Baptist Chapel in Belper, Derbyshire. (If you need a place for a medium-large weekend gathering, it's a really good option, along with some of the other places run by the same company, like the Ebenezer where we have Bardcamp.)

We were doing season 5 this time - I got to be Xander, which was a lot of fun. As was the whole weekend, both the readthrough itself and seeing everyone and the food and copious quantities of drink. Won't oversquee, but good set of performances generally, good balance between relatively experienced hands in the main roles and newer readthroughers given a chance to shine. [livejournal.com profile] mirabehn held things together very well as this year's Buffy, and well, [livejournal.com profile] the_alchemist was simply born to play Glory. Which is fortunate, as she was indeed playing Glory. (And Ben, which I was surprised how well that worked).

Spent a few days at my dad's in Birmingham afterwards, also meeting up with Roger and Chandra WINOLJ, and [livejournal.com profile] the_lady_lily, which was very nice. Also managed to get some serious amounts of sleep, which was much needed.

Back in Stockholm since Thursday. It is the eve of 1st Advent tonight, here as elsewhere, and it is very noticeable. (They mark the church seasons here quite strongly, despite being perhaps even more de-Christianized in practice than Britain). Some things jumped the gun a bit of course, but I was away, so this evening is when I really noticed it.

The Christmas markets are all out in force. They have a much longer pedigree in Sweden than in Britain (presumably a general Germanic thing), though I must say that these days Birmingham and Edinburgh's surpass Stockholm's. Had my first cup of glögg of the season.

Various seasonal products in the supermarkets. Glögg, saffron buns, pepparkakor (they've been around a while actually), and Mariestad's Christmas brew beer. (3.5% of course, the maximum for beer outside the state-owned Systembolaget boozers). They have a special beer for every season. Christmas, Easter, summer and autumn.

But most of all, the light. The whole city is lit up. Large Christmas trees covered in lights. Curtains of lights over the major shops, and overhanging the big shopping streets. Strings of light on the ships on the various channels of the lake and going out to the Baltic. And stars and electric candlestick triangles in every other window. Mine included, a star in the kitchen and candlestick in the main room. I worked out a couple of years ago that such things are not mere decorations, but a civic duty.

As the deepest of the winter gloom descends, with little more than 6 hours of daylight a day, light all over the city, defying the darkness. It helps make the winter bearable. And, very Adventy of course.

Took it all in this afternoon in a lengthy wander round town, after a long lie in this morning followed by some Palestine-related leafletting. First checking-out of the various Christmas present options. Not buying anything yet, still early days. Just looking for now. Or watching and waiting.

A good Advent to all who mark it, and whether or not, an easy winter to all in northern climes.
smhwpf: (Going places)
Well, one thing I can't complain about at work is that it doesn't take me interesting places. Setting off for Accra, Ghana, in a few hours time, to take part in a pair of events related to SIPRI's Africa Security and Governance project. It's not my normal area of work, but the project is a huge, multi-programme, cross-cutting thing, managed by my boss Elisabeth, so I was also roped in. I wrote the mapping study on recent UK policy and security-related activities in Africa, which will hopefully eventually see the light of day as part of an edited book.

Anyhow, this particular event is co-organized with one of our African civil society partners, WACSI, the West Africa Civil Society Institute. First of all there's a seminar launching a WACSI/SIPRI report on the Dagbon Chieftancy Crisis, which I was marginally involved in as the SIPRI 'research contact' for the study, although as it turned out this did not require anything beyond commenting on various drafts on my part. It is a fascinating paper, an almost Shakespearian tragedy of power politics and family rivalry. (Ghana is generally one of the most peaceful and stable countries in Africa, the intermittent Dagbon conflict being a rare blot.)

Then there is a three-day capacity-building workshop for African CSOs, where a few SIPRI people, myself included, will be running sessions. Mine, no surprise, will be on quantitative methods.

I have never been to Ghana before, and indeed have never been to West Africa. Won't have a lot of time free to see stuff, but hopefully some. There for six days in total.

Little bit warmer than Stockholm, round about the high-twenties/low-thirties Centigrade (80s F), albeit with periodic thunderstorms. Whereas over here we still get excited if the sun comes out and it gets up to 4 or 5 C (around 40). Which it did today, which was nice. Might even be able to get the bike out when I get back.
smhwpf: (Winter is coming)
The Swedish winter has decided it means business this year.

My first winter here, many years ago on my first Swedish sojourn, was pretty cold - I think par for the course. The first one when I returned, two years ago, barely deserved the name of winter. This is what it looked like in mid-January. When I went up Ekebyhovsbacken baht'at and baht'coast. Barely a few days of snow the whole time. Last year was colder, fair amount of snow, but still not that bad.

This year? It's like two years ago the Swedish Winter got really sick or really depressed and just stayed in bed all the months he was meant to be out. Then last year he was still kind of recuperating, getting back into the game, remembering how the job is done. But this year - he is BACK, he has thoroughly spanked his inner moppet, and he is making up for lost time.

It is now (as you may be aware) late February. We've had temperatures ranging from -5 to -8 mostly the past several days, and kind of wondering when it was going to change, and then today it got colder. It is -14 Celsius right now, and blowing a blizzard. I checked on my computer weather gadget, and Stockholm is COLDER THAN CALGARY. I know this is cheating as it is 1am here and mid-afternoon there, but I checked this morning (when it was the middle of the night over there), and the score was Stockholm -13 Calgary -9. As for Toronto, don't even. And you Canucks think you're tough.

I ventured out a fair bit today - went to a Palestinian film in the afternoon, with a discussion with the Director afterwards (may post on that later, if I get around to it), and then stayed in town, had dinner and went to a folk music concern at Stallet, which I don't get to nearly enough. Pretty good, Esbjörn Hazelius and his band, fairly trad Swedish. I am fairly sure I recognised one of his songs as a Scottish or Irish tune, but couldn't quite place it. Quite a full venue - the lead singer made a comment about us "defying the weather's might" or some such.

Remarkably, the Pendeltåg (commuter train) home was only about 20 minutes delayed. You'd think Sweden would be used to dealing with snow - and it certainly deals far better than Britain, say. But the pendeltåg in particular always gets thrown off the first couple of days of heavy snow. I think the roads beyond the city get quite bad too, but I don't use them. The headline SNÖKAOS!!! is always blazed across the front pages. So 20 minutes on a night like this is not bad. However it did mean I was between buses and had a 15-20 minute stomp through the biting winds. Fortunately the Swedes really know how to heat buildings efficiently. Once inside my flat I am very glad I am not enduring a British winter.

The biggest upside of the winter is being able to walk along the lakes. I live right by the head of a bay, Edsviken, one of the many long fingers of Lake Mälaren poking their way inland. A couple of weeks ago, one bright sunny Sunday (I think it may have even just about positive temperatures in the heat of the midday sun), I went for a longish walk along the bay. They'd carved out a big wide track down the middle, and hundreds of people were out, mostly on these longish strap-on skates that are probably useless for pirhouettes but very good for just skating a long way in a fairly straight line, some skiing, some walking, one ridiculously brave soul even cycling - quite a few people walking or skating the dog, and a fair number trundling along on their skates pushing prams. I was rather tempted to get some of those long skates myself. A kilometer or so along the local Scouts had set up a stall selling hot and cold drinks and sausages in the middle of the lake, which was proving very popular. I ended up walking all the way to Ulriksdal Slott where the trail ended (I'd vaguely hoped to get all the way into Stockholm City), then, being some way from useful transport links, went over land and then another bay to the SIPRI office to hang around until it was time for church.

I should take some more photos of all this. It can be rather stunningly beautiful. Where I live - Sollentuna - is a suburb dull as ditchwater, but it is right beside this wooded bay.

Still, I did manage a couple of pics from the lake two weeks ago. )

Still, I am rather hoping it starts getting warmer before too very long. But from the look of it, ol' Winter is looking like he's having fun and not planning on going home any time soon.
smhwpf: (Walls)
Well, I have finally finished the grand flat-cleaning prior to my move tomorrow. Phew. Quite the job. Sweat and blood I tell you, sweat and blood. Some would say that, had I but put in a half hour a week more that I did into cleaning regularly, today would have been a lot easier. To such people I say, indeed, but then I would have spent 52 hours over the last two years cleaning, as opposed to the... oh, 12-15 hours today and yesterday. And today would still have been mostly given over to moving-related faff. So I say I come out a winner.

Things not to say to me right now: "I think you missed a bit right there..."

I am moving from Ekerö to Sollentuna. By my reckoning, this will be my 27th address.

Just a few last bits of packing to do, some of which will have to be left to the morning. I have 21 boxes (14 small, 4 medium, 3 large) plus sundry cases, rucksacks and bags.

The best thing about the move is that I will be able to comfortably cycle to work. Except in winter, when I am told, given my location, that it will be pretty much possible to ice-skate to work. I might pass on that option though. A lot easier to get into town, too. (By non-ice-bound routes).

Words

Jul. 23rd, 2009 11:01 pm
smhwpf: (Warwick)
Reply to this meme by yelling "Words!" and I will give you five words that remind me of you. Then post them in your LJ and explain what they mean to you.

My five words from [livejournal.com profile] midnightmelody:

Buffy: My number one fandom, favourite TV program of all time, source of stregngth and comforter in times of sorrow! I came into Buffy a little late, first watching it early in 2000 as I was sitting in my room in Dalston channel-hopping, and thought "Well, it sounds rather silly, but I'll give it a try!". The episode was Anne, the season 3 opener when it first showed on the BBC, and I was immediately grabbed by the cleverness of the dialogue, the reality of the characters and the understated nature of both the drama and the humour. I didn't immediately become a devotee, missing odd eps here and there, but I saw the entirety of the second half of season 3, and well before the end of that I was utterly hooked - to my mind that season, that arc, is the most perfect thing Joss has done. (There's been plenty of awesome stuff since then, stuff that in both form and themes goes beyond what was done in S3, more daring and hard-hitting, but in terms of such a long run holding together in such a coherent way and with barely a false note, that still stands out to my mind.)

I didn't join "fandom" until the end of S5, when I just had to know (or at least join in speculation about) what was going to happen and how they might bring Buffy back and so on. I think I went and bought seven tie-in novels the day after, and then started Googling Buffy, and finally encountered the BBC Buffy forum, where I met the wonderful [livejournal.com profile] mara_sho and subsequently many others, and in good time started doing what I'd sworn I never would and reading fanfic, and then writing fanfic, and finally attaining the level of insanity needed to organise Buffy readthroughs.

So yeah, 'tis quite a big thing in my life!

Folk: Music, that is. Well, that's another thing I'm quite a fan of. Probably taken over from classical as my most regular listening, though I'm still very fond of that. Always had it around to some extent, my dad was a busker and much of his repertoire was of a folky nature. Really got hooked though at Iona in 1993 when there were a pair of fair lasses who sang a gorgeous harmonised setting of The Blacksmith of their own devising, and a copy of one of the volumes of "50 songs popular in Ireland". Then on holiday with my dad in his van in Italy I spent much time poring through his copy of Colm O'Lochlainn's Irish Street Ballads and geekily learning as many as possible.

Teaching: I don't do much of it now, but I was an Economics lecturer for four years, and before that in my various postgraduate studies of maths and economics I did a lot of supervisions of undergraduates and problems classes and so forth. In my years as a volunteer with Campaign Against Arms Trade I also supported myself by being an itinerant maths tutor, travelling from house to house giving instruction to various undergraduates.

I seem to be reasonably good at it. The whole explaining complex concepts in comprehensible ways thing. My greatest triumph, I consider, was one of my freelance students whom I tutored throughout his Maths/Comp Sci degree, and who when I started lacked the most basic habits of mathematical thought, but who by the time I'd finished with him got not only a 1st but the mathematics prize for his year and who, even better, had actually started thinking like a mathematician. (He did have an awful lot of lessons, mind. In revision periods I'd sometimes be round his house every day for a week, for 4 or more hours of lessons a day.)

I like some aspects of teaching better than others: the lecturing side (for I like to hear myself talk), and the sort of problem-solving side, dealing with questions and helping students to come to the answers themselves. Not so good at the seminar-leading side, which tends to require more people skills. The other side of teaching I don't miss is, of course, marking, although it occasionally provides entertainment value.

Coffee: There is a saying in the mathematical community that the definition of a mathematician is "a cunning device for turning coffee into theorems". I am with this notion and variations thereupon. Right now I am a device (cunning or not you may judge) for turning coffee into military expenditure data.

Warwick University: My home for eight years! This was in my previous life as a mathematician. I started my undergrad degree there in 1987, then Masters, then PhD, which I gave up after two years and left in 1993 to do voluntary work, but didn't quite work up escape velocity and returned a year later to complete the PhD, before finally leaving for good in 1996.

It was a tough decision between Warwick and Cambridge, which I also got accepted by - the advantage of Warwick was the far greater flexibility of the maths degree, the ability to mix and match with units of other subjects, more after the Scottish and American fashion.

But what can I say about a place that I spent so long at in such formative years, that so moulded who I have been since? They were good years, with their ups and downs of course, met all sorts of people some of whom I'm still in touch with, got involved in all sorts of political, religious and cultural activities, bounced around all manner of ideas, became a Catholic (after my 1st year, having been a Baptist), generally spent far too much time hanging around the Chaplaincy (though it did have a baby hrand piano. And cheap tea and coffee.), ran for President of the Student Union a couple of times, chaired the SU Elections Committee that ran the elections (not in the same years I was standing of course), laughed, cried, loved (most often though not always unrequitedly), stayed up all night playing boardgames and arguing politics and religion, lived for a year in a freezing cold fungus-infested student house, and all manner of other things. Well, not all manner.

Oh, and occasionally did some maths.

So, please do cry "Words" if you would like some.
smhwpf: (Buffy fire)
On a post of [livejournal.com profile] midnightmelody's I happened to mention that I went for a couple of years to a vaguely Summerhill-like school before it all went wrong, and she asked me what I meant by 'went wrong'. But as it is a rather long story, and as I have not posted on this before (except briefly in passing), I thought I would make my answer to a wider audience. For it is indeed a truly remarkable story which, even were it inscribed with a needle on the corner of an eye, yet would it serve as a lesson for the circumspect.

The school was called Monkton Wyld, in the wilds of West Dorset, not far from Lyme Regis.

read on... )
smhwpf: (Doctor Martha)
Another episode in RaceFail, which has got me thinking.

In this thread (hat-tip [info]keeva), SF/F writer Lois Bujold is responding to a discussion about PoC in genre fiction, and comes out with the breathtakingly obtuse line,

The other and more hopeful point is that never before have so many Readers of Color existed to *have* the conversation, or been able to communicate with each other to do so. When I went to my first midwestern convention in 1968, there was exactly one black fan, male...

She is then swiftly called out by numerous PoC fans pointing out that they were reading and talking about SF/F looong before the advent of the internet, and just because they weren't doing so in front of the overwhelmingly white SF/F establishment or at conventions doesn't mean they weren't there.

To give Ms. Bujold some credit, she did not try to argue with this, but posted a subsequent comment to the effect that she clearly needs to go away and have a serious think about all this.

As do I.

One of the responses talked about the unwritten "whites only" signs at SF/F conventions, and this made me start thinking about other circles I move or have moved in that have, or may very well have, similar unwritten "whites only" signs. I've o occasion come to ponder these before, indeed once I almost made an LJ post about one such (gimme a cookie!), but then forgotten about.

The fact is, most of the social, cultural and even political circles I've moved in have tended to be overwhelmingly white.

Folk festivals.

Choirs, like the Hackney Singers I was in for a while ('cos Hackney is such a monocultural area).

Go tournaments, when I went to them. (OK, that is blatantly false, in that there were large numbers of people of Chinese/Japanese origin there. But next to no black or Asian people.)

The Catholic Justice & Peace conference (of which I posted briefly before). That's the one where I almost made an LJ post on the race thing, because I couldn't but be struck by the contrast between the diversity of the RC Church across the country (and especially somewhere like London), and the almost unbroken sea of white faces (apart from a few invited guests from overseas) at the conference. The conference of fluffy liberals (and not-so-fluffy radicals) devoted to Making the World a Better Place.

Even, to a considerable extent, Campaign Against Arms Trade. We did a little better, as there were from time to time people from or with a connection to places affected by conflicts assisted with British arms. But again, whether in the office or at national gatherings or the like, non-white British faces were a rare sight.

So now I'm seeing all of these in a row, and wondering just how large and loud and daunting are the "whites only" signs in front of these places, unwritten, invisible and ignorable though they may be to the privileged white people like myself that attend them.

One can make excuses of course, some more failsome than others. "Well, you wouldn't expect to see many black people at an English/Celtic folk or classical music event, because that comes very much from white European culture. Black people have their own music." Well, there are indeed differing musical traditions, and English/Celtic folk is not everyone's cup of tea. But then there's not a few white people into "Music of Black Origin", be it Jazz, blues, reggae, hip-hop, etc... and the assumption (so easy to not even realise you're making it) that white people can be eclectic in their tastes while non-white people stick to music from their own culture is racist.

A valid point is the intersection between race and class, and the fact that most of the activities I've described are rather middle-class dominated. Which shifts some of the problem to a different category - but it is not a sufficient explanation.

So I wonder, how does one go about tearing down those "whites only" signs? Where do they come from? How much is inertia, the fact that if a grouping starts out all-white or almost all-white that in itself makes it hard for someone who is not white to break into, and how much is it consciously or unconsciously reinforced by the participants? What needs to be done differently?

One of the hardest things to realise is that good intentions are not enough. I might not have intended to, but (at the very least by omission) I helped write those signs, and they have the same effect as if I did.
smhwpf: (Going places)
So last I updated I'd reached my sister's place in Edinburgh. Had a relatively quiet time of it there, which was rather well needed after all the running around down south. The Monday we didn't do much apart from a trip to IKEA to procure a whole load of kitchen and bathroom stuff for our mum's new flat in Juniper Green, on the outskirts of Edinburgh. She was returning (just last week), along with Blackie the dog, to live in Scotland after three years in Bulgaria. Tuesday I paid a trip up to my stepdad's near Brechin.

Wednesday involved getting up horribly early to catch a train to Glasgow, and thence to Fort William, where I was met by [livejournal.com profile] strongtrousers and [livejournal.com profile] sunlightdances, who (via lunch and a big Morrisons shop, and a brief stop at the Glenfinnan monument) convoyed me to Portuaik in Ardnamurchan to join the rest of the party.

[livejournal.com profile] mirabehn periodically organises such holidays for her and [livejournal.com profile] mostly_a_cat and miscellaneous friends on the Ardnamurchan peninsula (Ardnamurchan point is the most westerly point on the British mainland). I was there once before, four years ago. This year I was a late replacement for someone for the second half of the week, hastily rejuggling my planned UK visit to accommodate. There were twelve of us this time, in two cottages, with a rather squelchy path providing a shortcut down the twisty road between the two.

The next couple of days were much fun and most relaxing, a mixture of scrambling over rocks round bays, hill climbing, playing Articulate and Apples to Apples and Singstar and Paper Telephone, an Under Milkwood readthrough, and of course plenty of eating and drinking and general merrymaking. The scenery there is unspeakably beautiful (see photos from old entry. The hills are in much the same place we left them last time.) And was very good to see people.

Back to Edinburgh all too soon last Saturday, where me and Sarah met brother Angus at the airport, also returning to Scotland after a year living in California. Something of a convergence. The next day mum came round for lunch, with all her descendants assembled in one place for the first time in some while.

Flew home Monday, after a brief wander round Edinburgh. Met up with mum and showed her the excellent music shop on Southside where a decent second-hand piano can be procured for £250, and the adjacent excellent Jordanian deli with all manner of delicious vegan produce.

Some of you may recall the trouble and strife I had when the screen on my bright spangly new phone cracked the day I got it. Well, it happened again while I was in Ardnamurchan. I was an idiot. It happened (probably) while I was clambering over rocks by Ardnamurchan point. There wasn't even any point in having it with me, as there's no reception. So I thought "Here we go again" with all the ambiguous insurance doom the last time it happened.

Then while wandering round Edinburgh I passed one of those cheap phone repair/second hand/unlocking etc. places, the Phone Box on South Bridge to be precise. So I thought, maybe I can pick up a cheap 3 phone instead of going through all the insurance claim rigmarole. Or just maybe they can even repair it, or at least do a trade-in or something. So I went in, took out the phone and started to explain the problem. Quick as a flash, the woman behind the counter says "£29.99, it'll be about 20 minutes." And she was as good as her word.

AAAAGHHHHH! I COULD HAVE HAD IT DONE FOR £29.99 AND HAD IT BACK IN 20 MINUTES, AND INSTEAD I PAID MORE THAN THAT ON THE DEDUCTIBLE, AND WAS WITHOUT MY PHONE FOR FOUR! FRICKING! MONTHS!!!!!

They don't seem to have those sort of cheap dodgy places in Sweden. This is one of the things I miss about Britain. The second hand, make do on the cheap, culture. Ah, well. Now I know. I also bought a hard plastic fascia case so as to prevent this happening again, whilst retaining full functionality.

(This means, of course, chiefly for the benefit of those who were at Ardna, that my UK phone number which you have is back online.)

Well, all in all a really good holiday, managed to take in a rather good number of friends old and new, and good to have the family all in one place again. Somewhat exhausting though. I was sleeping (or in some cases failing to sleep) in eight different places in 17 days. "Holiday" - ur doin it rong.
smhwpf: (Default)
Have now reached Edinburgh in my whistle-stop tour of the UK, where I am staying at my sister's prior to joining various folks in Ardnamurchan. I'm actually going to be in the same place for three day.

The first 5 days were in London, staying with ancient uni friends Iain & Rachel, then [livejournal.com profile] khalinche followed by [livejournal.com profile] shreena. Also managed to catch up with an old CAAT friend for lunch, as well as of course unexpectedly catching up with a whole load of people at the surprise party metioned in the last post.

Went with [livejournal.com profile] khalinche to see Let the Right One In (Låt den rätta komma in), aka "The Swedish vampire movie" on Monday night. (While it may seem perverse to come to Britain to see a Swedish film when I live in Sweden, this way I get English subtitles.)

We both agreed it was pretty awesome - both very tender and incredibly fucked up. More would be to spoil. The action takes place in Blackeberg, a suburb of Stockolm, which is just a few stops along the Green Line from where I get off to get the bus to my island.

During the days I did my usual London wanderings, managed a couple of visits to the British Museum, one for the Shah Abbas of Iran exhibition, one for their new Medieval Europe room which includes things like the Lewis chessmen. I think my favourite exhibit though was the Tring tiles, which depicts fictional episodes from Christ's childhood. Many of these show children playing with Jesus and dying as a result (shown by the unfortunate kid being upside down), then Jesus resurrecting them after his mother tells him off. Others depict anxious parents locking their kids away in castles or ovens to prevent them playing with Jesus.

Also a trip to the Tate Modern and some shopping in Covent Garden and browsing in Forbidden Planet.

Next was Birmingham where I stayed with my dad for a couple of days, but also managed to meet up with other ancient Uni friend Ruth, then a visit to Roger and Chandra and kids in Derby. Yesterday we went to Cromford, a few stops past Belper (of readthrough fame) on the Matlock line, the site of Arkwright's mill. We spent most of the afternoon though at Scarthin Books, a place of awe and wonder, four floors of a Tardis-like maze of twisty little passages of bookshelves stuffed with new, second-hand and antiquarian books of all descriptions. They even have bookshelves in the toilet on the top floor. They also have a highly delicious vegetarian cafe.

Later on, Roger and I went round [livejournal.com profile] strangederby2 and [livejournal.com profile] violent_blue's for a game of Arkham Asylum, where we actually succeeded in defeating Yig (one of the lesser Elder Gods) when he arose from the deep, while drinking much beer.

Limited internet time up to now, so have been just barely keeping up a browsing brief on LJ. Bit more time now, but then away from the internets completely for three days in Ardnamurchan.

Five things

Mar. 1st, 2009 10:58 pm
smhwpf: (Samwise)
So as I am trying to post daily for Lent, I thought I'd try going for that 5 things meme! These from [livejournal.com profile] the_lady_lily. Comment to be given five things of your own.

political awareness )
Deeds, not words )
Peregrination )
Peacemakers )

Bardcamp! )
smhwpf: (Giles party weasel)
Bit of a flying post. Am currently in New York, at the UN, where I'll be part of a panel for the presentation of a new Oxfam report, Shooting down the MDG, on the impact of arms transfers on development. My colleague Catalina and I at SIPRI did the research behind the economicsy section of the report. (Hopefully a fuller version of this might become available at some point.)

Just here for four days - the launch stuff is today - might have some other meetings, but hopefully will also be visiting my relatives upstate.

I now have - procured especially for this trip - a bright shiny new US passport. I'd rather foolishly allowed my previous one to expire, and didn't renew till I knoew I was going on this trip, which was only a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately the embassy expedited my application.

Still no ballot paper, which is a little concerning. Turns out my mum was last registered in the US in Boston, MA, so that is where I am apparently eligible to vote. So not much of an election swinger then, but still.

More on NY later.
smhwpf: (Buffy fire)
A while since I've made a general update - not a whole lot to report it must be said - mostly the usual rounds of work and Swedish classes and choir practice and spending too much time on the internet and watching DS9.

I did spend a couple of days in Brussels the week before last, on work, which I'd totally meant to write about but you know how it is. I was at the European Defence Agency (EDA) confernce on "Commercialising Logistics?", which they'd invited SIPRI to send someone too, and which was of considerable interest as we're writing about the privatizing and outsourcing of military activities right now.

The focus of the conference was on the potential for outsourcing logistical supply for EU Crisis Management missions such as those in Chad and DRC.
Logistical geekiness )

The best talk though was from Amer Daoudi from the World Food Programme, who'se the head of their Logistics Service. He was basically "We're the biggest logistical operation on the planet, we have 3,000 people doing this alone, we shift so many gazillion tonnes a year, we do it cheaper and faster than anyone else, over the worst terrain imaginable - you guys are amateurs!" (well, he didn't say the last bit.) Oh, and they use elephants where necessary to deliver stuff when the going gets really bad! He sort of stole the show.

Moving in rather fluffier circles, I found it very noticeable just how male-dominated the whole thing was. (Not that I should be surprised.) There were maybe an 10-15% of the participants women, but all the speakers, panellists, moderators, and all the people making questions and comments from the floor (quite a number) were men.

Also not surprisingly, very white - I think Amer Daoudi may have been the only non-white person there out of about 300. Though I can't really claim that the fluffier circles are often much better on that score.

general pootling (SPOILER for Buffy S8.12) )

In other news, my brother is now in New York, visiting our grandmother for 10 days before going on to California where he will be living. (As mentioned here which can be unlocked now I've sent him the tunes.)

Also I have finally got round to going to the doctor over my persistent sleeping problems. I basically tend to fail at sleep a lot of the time, which is not good for my productivity or general well-being. Getting a full examination next week. Should have gone ages ago, but I am an avoidant idiot.

Update

Sep. 19th, 2007 08:00 pm
smhwpf: (Homework)
I have a Personal Number! It came on Monday. I now exist in Sweden!

Jag har ett personnummar, därför jag är.

Jag är ett nummar, jag är inte en vri man.

(I think. Something like that.)

This is good, because it means I can do things like get free Swedish lessons, open a bank account, GET BROADBAND!!!!, go to the doctor, and things like that. And did I mention, GET BROADBAND!!!!!!?

Otherwise, life and work plod on. I have been trying out this wierd thing called getting up at a vaguely normal time, getting into SIPRI at 9.15ish, working a normal working day (plus a bit sometimes) and then leaving. It's working out OK, though leaving me rather tired with adjusting to the timetable. Haven't got the getting to bed by midnightish down yet.

Work is good, though at the moment fairly mechanical - going through the arms companies and trying to get data on their arms sales, and getting through a backlog of reading, annotating and filing the defence press. The former can be tricksy not so much because companies treat this as super-sekrit, but simply because in a lot of cases their reporting divisions don't correspond to what we're after. But that's what makes it interesting, so all good.

Otherwise I have been mostly Watching Angel and DS9, and working on a super-sekrit project of my own (which doesn't involve arms, unless you count stakes.) Been out a couple of times, drinks with some colleagues Friday, and watching Scotland's rather extraordinary win against France a week ago, but otherwise fairly sedate.

Spent a fairly quiet first weekend - needed it after the past few weeks - Saturday generally meandering round Stockholm and failing to buy a TV, Sunday taking a walk round the island I live on (Ekerö), which is quite nice, what with the water n'all, also quite a lot of woodland to wander through. Plus more SSP, and the English language mass in the evening. (I hope to wean myself off that in due course, but for the moment good to have the English version). As luck would have it, I was sitting in front of someone who's in one of the choirs, and is scouting for more members. This is my usual strategy for getting to know people at a new church - sing and wait to be invited to join a choir - (most RC churches have sufficiently limited vocal resources that this is a likely eventuality), but it doesn't usually happen quite so quickly. Can't make the next one though due to my first Blighty visit.

Anyway, that's me. And I have more or less used up the time I had left on my internet cafe ticket that runs out today, so I shall head home for dinner, DS9 and SSP.
smhwpf: (Default)
I have just been formally offered, and have accepted, a job at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) as a Researcher on the Military Expenditure and Arms Production project. I will specifically be working on arms production. I worked there before on military expenditure for 8 months prior to my current job at UWE.

I will start at SIPRI at the beginning of November. However UWE are very kindly giving me a sort of mini-sabbatical from some time in early September.

UWE's been good to me as my first academic post, and I'll be sorry to go in many ways, but I feel it's time to move on, and SIPRI is an excellent place to work, and the project I'll be working on has lots of exciting possibilities.

Visitors in Stockholm will be most welcome!
smhwpf: (Scoobies)
Weekend away at Unite for Peace, sadly without a poorly [livejournal.com profile] mirabehn, and [livejournal.com profile] mostly_a_cat. As Fellowship of Reconciliation have now sold the Eirene Centre in Northamptonshire where we used to meet, we were at Douai Abbey in Berkshire, which seems quite satisfactory, and is certainly more convenient for me, though not so much for the Midland folks.

Normally we have various sessions, discussions, sometimes speakers, on one topic or another, but this time as our weekend coincided with the latest Stop the War demo in London, we spent the Saturday there.

A good day out, nice to be going with a bunch of people I know well, though the lack of effectiveness of these demos is rather dispiriting to me at any rate. Between 10-100,000, depending on whether you believe the random numbers made up by the police or the organisers (I don't believe either, nor do I believe that "the truth is probably somewhere in the middle"), but pretty much lacking in political impact either way. Although we seem to be sliding ever closer to war with Iran, which would be an untold catastrophe, there seems to be a total sense of apathy and... torpor amongst people about it - and Stop the War seem to just keep on bashing their heads against the same wall, another demo every six months, congratulating themselves on how many people are still coming and how this is the greatest anti-war movement ever, and just absolutely no new ideas about how to actually mobilise people and have an impact. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for mass demos. I make a point of going on them whenever I can. But if marching from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square every six months is all we've got, we're screwed. (There was the demo at the Labour Conference in Manchester 6 months ago which, hypocrite, I missed as I was on my way back from Turkey, but still pretty much just another big demo.)

Still, a good day out. Seventeen of us, nine adults and eight children, the eldest of whom have been growing up with our little group (7 now). Just before the march set off we had a group photo with the FoR banner just outside Hyde Park, and all of a sudden there was this feeding frenzy of cameras around us - including some quite professional-looking ones - all wanting a piece of us! Either it was the whole "Look - cute children campaigning for peace!" thing, or a "Look at these terrible people BRAINWASHING their children and taking them on DEMOS ALONG WITH OMG MUSLIM FANATICS!!!!" thing. Hopefully the former.

Thursday evening I was in Birmingham, planning the next Called to be Peacemakers conference. Gah, I was most remiss in barely blogging the last one, before or after. We're planning it for late Octoberish again, date tbc, general theme of Conflict Resolution/Transformation (at all levels). Martha, the FoR worker doing the main organising, seems pleased to treat me as an honorary young-person (or at least a slightly-older-than-young person wot comes along in a nominally organisey/helping-out capacity), and seems to think me being around is a Good Thing despite my advanced years, so I stick around. There were several of the new people from the last conference along at the planning meeting, which is an encouraging sign. Anyway, watch this space for further details.

*sigh* Monday beckons ever larger. Rarely a popular day of the week, this year I have had the supreme joy of starting the week with an 8.30am seminar. I'm sure 8.30am classes must count as Cruel and Unusual, for both students and teachers. And that's the first of six hours teaching, so I finish the day a crumpled-up ball of deadness. Ah, well. Set internal dukebox to Boomtown Rats.

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