Friday, 19 December 2008
A liberal-NDP coalition may be a step towards what I see as the most pressing issue of all: reforming our archaic British first-passed-the-post election sham process to a democratic proportional representation, or, what I like to call “one person, one vote” democracy (unlike now).
Despite the high I felt of a united Centre-Left, it was shortlived when I started reading angered comments of (perhaps biased sampling of angered conservatives) Canadians on the CBC. “Coup d’etat,” “Power grab” etc. Many even had the pretension to say we’d look like an international joke when an “elected” prime-minister can be toppled only two months after an election-- unaware that most democracies in the World are made up of coalitions. E.g., where I am now, Sweden has never had a majority government. Rather, I’d say our election system looks like an international joke when a party that the majority of Canadians don’t want (i.e., 60% of Canadians didn’t want the conservatives to win) rules without compromise or negotiations. Most countries have governments where many parties have to come together, compromise and negotiate, while respecting the varied principles of each other and the citizens. This demonstrates a maturity and pragmatism that Harper never had, and its time Canada grew up.
I just came back from Scotland.
The Rankin’s were apparently hereditary pipers for the Maclean Clan, in North-Western Scotland, round the island of Mull. I was fortunate enough to visit these coasts and highlands, being in the town of Oban for a Marine Biology excursion for a week. I can’t say I feel any of what many Eastern Canadian authors of embellished of “returning” to Scotland / Ireland, a sense of ancient belonging. Nonetheless, I did feel I could live there, if need be, more culturally similar than Sweden. I liked their friendly manners and happy disposition. I like not being around tall, handsome, well-dressed people all the time. Seeing the capital B Brats in the Gothenburg airport, well gelled hair, tight clothes, meek and giant… I’m anglo through and through!
Monday, 24 November 2008
Catch in trawl. Part of the Marine Faunistics Course trip to Croatia, Marine Biology Masters program in Helsingborg, Lund University, Sweden
Animal photos on a course in Croatia, Halloween, Arx and Nimis, X-rays of my Jaw, and other strange things
Sunday, 23 November 2008
If so, I’m on the cusp of cool! The air of scorn for flashy bling, a pocket of saved fastfood napkins, and a shirt I found in the laundry room, all suddenly the mark the with-it.
A Spanish friend and dumpster-diving mentor calls it “buscar vidas”, searching to live (she found the sweets in the picture). To her, and many impoverished others, its primarily for survival. To me, its longterm survival: planetary, ecosystem survival. Gaia gives us 2 degrees to warm, about 500 ppm Carbon Dioxide equivalent, until the planetary system is perturbed to an entirely new homeostasis. One without ice-caps, without the Amazon, without the tundra—an Earth unseen in 3 million years. Its not something that “heals” itself, it sits happily and steady within its new nightmarish balance.
There is a bright side to economic slowdowns. An economic contraction, reduction in material standards of living, slows the rate of climate disruption. And I write that recalling the sting of the early 90’s recession--- and how government marine “biologists” faced numerous bomb threats from fisherman during those years.
In the new tradition of frugality, today a friend and I used construction boxes as sleds to slide down Lund’s only hill of note. Its snowy here. Its quite beautiful. There is a sensual nostalgia to the bitting cool of snow: warm smoking stoves, drafts, the laziness of Christmas, swaying craggy trees silhouetted against ghostly snowscapes. I love it! With it too do the Swedes really shine—they just sort of make sense when it snows.
But with the snow also comes a sense of foreboding. Mostly all of my new friends are leaving in January. Oh well, time to get serious with my thesis.
Saturday, 4 October 2008
As part of my bedroom activities, I imagine how far in the past an injury like this would equal death? In five days they're going to put a titanium rod in my jaw, to secure it back in place. X-rays and MRI and serious facial surgery. Could they do that 60 years ago, 80, 110? I think around 110, I'd probably be near the end. I'd probably have been a farmer, and I would have let it heal together on its own in a mismatched unalignment, having my farm wife stoically mash potatoes and cabbage into a paste that would be poured through a tin funnel into my mouth.
At some point, the inability to chew and communicate would have equaled death. Thus, I am all to more apparently wedded to civilization, all the more dependent on murderous dams, vicious pit mining, and omnipresent effluent. If I had my dream and industrial civilization did overshoot and crash, I wouldn't have the blender, the plastic straws, MRI's and titanium alloy to make it all better.
Its apparently routine surgery. My face is a bit swollen, but otherwise the same. They say I'll be back home after the surgery, I'll be alright. I plan on going to school monday. I earned this little bundle of joy by trying to stop a fight. I didn't and got hit, hard. The fuckers ran away. Didn't really hurt at the time, just odd.
Hopefully I post the x-rays soon.
Saturday, 27 September 2008
But ain't it cool! Oh, the anticipation as the engines groan while lugging in the haul. The silvery mass of fish n' net rising to the surface. The gulls hovering eagerly. Everyone's face taut and anxious. Is it a big catch? Did we catch anything rare or maybe endangered?
We trawled and dredged nearly every day in Croatia for a week. One of those things, that despite the sun, the roll of the sea, good people, and the inherent interest of a new culture, it made me think: "I don't belong here. This is wrong."
On the bright side, everyone likes my new tan!
I celebrated my 26th birthday in Split, the Croatian capital. I'm now legally an adult. I left my adult life back in Canada. I look forward to graduating.
Monday, 1 September 2008
Short video outlining the research on and behaviour of seabirds inhabiting a remote island in Arctic Canada - as well as some fun fotage of Belugas!
Sunday, 31 August 2008
At a more northern and larger colony on Prince Leopold island, Dr. Tony Gaston hasn't noticed a difference in ice. "We're seeing more large icebergs, collapsing from Glaciers, but the amount of ice is the same." This is good new for the birds here. The island hosts 100,000 plus murres, nesting in dense aggregations on the precipitous shale cliffs which drop 280m to the sea. They are doing alright. So are the colonies of Black-legged Kittiwakes, which seem to be on the rise. The alien looking northern Fulmars are having birth defects and reduced productivity, but that's more likely from the global-atmospheric dump of mercury and persistent organic populants than the retreat of sea ice.
I just returned to "civilization" after 5 weeks on the island. Working with the environment canada researcher Tony Gaston, and a few others, we monitored birds' breeding success, abundances, and mounted various instruments on them. There is nothing like living on a seabird colony! The smell and sounds and eye-candle of so many birds packed in so tightly on the cliffs. Where possible, one can get pretty close to the birds too: living so remote, both in terms of latitude and dangerousness of their nesting ledges, the birds haven't evolved much fear of nosy primates. This is to researchers advantage. One can closely observe all their facinating behaviours from close, without disturbing them. The stars of the shows are of course the chicks. And what a drama! Facing horrible 70 km/hr winds, gusts, snow squalls, and little comfort on a narrow ledge 280m above certain death, the heart really goes out to these chicks, each day, watching in their meteroic growth.
If the chicks are the stars, the non-breeding adults are the sideshows. Hormones are high at the colony, and birds are showing off. Loud arial displays, build faux-nests, chasing each other around. Are they trying to attract new better mates, or intimidate rivals from potential breeding sites next year? My favourite sight was the "choking" display of partners: loudly rubbing nape over throat of each other, while fiercely making a vomit/cough head-thrust. This is how Kittiwake partners say "I love you, we're together, right?", as uncomfortable it may seem. And thats whats cool about birds, beginning to understand the emotions and gestures of pair-bonding and parenting, which have evoled in many different alien ways, opposed to the more intuitive gestures of higher-mammals, whom we sympathize with and anthropomorphize so easily.
Their lack of fear nor evolved susticiousness to humans allows us to catch them easily too, sliding nooses around their necks and snagging them with nets (relatively harmless). By catching them, we were able to put geolocating devices on them, dive-depth measurements, and identify bands. Devices like these allow us to see where and how far they go to get food in between incubation turns, and identify individuals over the years. We caught one Murre who had a metal band ID placed on him from the late 70's, making him at least thirty years old (older than me!)
The island always offered a dream of marine mammals: the occasional Walrus, harp seals, bowheads, and when there was ice, belugas. And of course, Polar bears. "I have nighmares of Polar bears," says Dr. Gaston. He's had his fair share of dangerous encounters with them. We walked around with slug-loaded shot-guns, just in case.
I made a snazzy video on youtube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=HoqdQNxuh7s
Now, I'm back in the "real world" of civilization, back in Lund, Sweden, to continue with Marine Biology.
Friday, 4 July 2008
And how will these 5 weeks here fit in to my story? Not much to say.
Wednesday, 11 June 2008
Another 500m onwards and we're on an icefield. A few passerines, and a lonely golden plover makes distress calls in the distance. A futile effort, as its nest is surely lost: 30cm deep in snow, in the cold, parents must make a choice between their current nest and survival to future breeding efforts. Everyone else has abandoned. Perhaps this one has lost its mate, and waits at the only obvious rendezvous point.
I don't want to think how many more days of optimal weather we must wait for until all this snow is gone. Then how many more days until the birds can re-lay eggs? It will be a late season this year. I just have under 4 weeks left, researching nesting patterns of the Dunlin. All previous efforts to waste. Re-searching indeed. And so it goes.
Friday, 23 May 2008
I've done it before in Alaska, but more experience is always good. I guess? I don't really know what this will all lead to. But I feel good doing it. How many students can say that and mean it? How many professionals?
So, the pace of school is slow and cool as June approaches. Its already so bright here. Soon, I will kiss the stars and night goodbye as I head up to northern northern swedish moutains for 5 weeks over the solstice. Until then, I don't know what was the climax, but things are unraveling. Everytime I meet someone familiar, it could be for the last time. Few of my friends now will be back in sweden in the fall when I return. I don't know where I will live, and have the choice of three cities... slowly saying goodbye to a great ten months. I had good friends, a good corridor, good education, fun distractions. Sad to see it go. But that is my life: go, go, go!! I don't plan on stopping any time soon, but at 25, I'm aware of some ancient genetic programming thats nagging me to settle down; that its only in this frivolous modernity that one can be thrown so much strange shit and think its normal.
Go! God is a verb.
Saturday, 10 May 2008
At first, you don't think its true, you must of heard wrong, a mistranslation from swedish to english. But its true: for the last two weeks, every day, from five to eight thirty, my student housing building, called the Paratheses, has been playing in a self organized tournament of "burnball", a bastardized version of baseball, each student corridor against the other, obligatory and highly competitive.
People take it serious (and for a good reason...) For the last month, everyday, people have been practising out in the middle ground of the "Parathesis", training their batting arms, catching one handed, and throwing.
My corridor's bats were stolen... sabatoge! A dirty trick in a dirty student tournament. A serious dirty tournament, for at the end of the two weeks, the two losing teams from each division (remember the American League and National Leagues?) play each amidst a hailstorm of week-saved garbage being thrown in inebriated volleys from the balconies of the other non-loser corridors. Trash, old tv's, stinky containters, fish eggs, rotting fermented herring. You name it, they throw. And the grand losers, have to clean it all up in the end.
Then they erect a giant beer tent, and the modest student residence of 300 grows to thousand for the legendary Bränboll fest.
We play under the threat of punishment. My corridor, mostly inert swedish girls, almost lost last year. This year, we managed to avoid being in the final losers game by an opponent team to lose on purpose, with baked cakes, punch and waterpipe.
Our team is called "Kärlek utan granser" ("Love without limits"). Other floors called themselves "Love hurts" "We eat blackeyes for breakfest" "Love for a price" and "Fuck Love, we just want to fuck."
So, lets recap just how rediculous this whole concept is: the tournament is a long tradition, completely self-organized, obligatory, and the whole point is to just avoid losing and thus cleaning up the damn dumpster. Unheard of in more civilized countries like Canada.
We play our final game in a couple minutes: non-serious, enjoyable goofy game as we're under no duress of losing. I'll have a beer in my hand and rubber boots, as the field has become mud after two weeks nonstop play.
Tuesday, 4 March 2008
Öland is a long narrow island on the Swedish east coast. It’s a last stop for many birds before they leap frog to continental
Watching seals, climbing lighthouses, mischevious witches and their abodes. We stopped at ruins, old borgs and castles, and large erected rocks in the shape of the phallus (many in
I should actually congratulate myself in finding the fun in the more “mundane”
Sunday, 24 February 2008
So, thats it for a while. Contented for the moment with my time away from Lund, and hopefully not going to feel the need to travel around more, like these damned affluent swedes would so casually fly the globe around for their monthly vacations. Me, the spring migration is coming, and the summer sits on the horizon like a warm, glowing orb, full of promise that fills all whose light it touches. I really live an exciting life.
Friday, 25 January 2008
Otherwise, life prattles on as usual. I dazzled my professor with a modelling project on Auks and Seals, he wants me to try to get it published, which is the highest honour for a project. My half brother Jeff is getting married, and will have a daughter in June! Amazing... though, for me, I'll probably never see this niece, as I never see Jeff, have never met his finance, and will likely live in very a different part of the globe. Too bad, Uncles are usually really cool.
And now, some more observations about swedes and north americans: Unlike in Canada, where the signs of a good listener are nodding, showing expressions of interest, and asking relevant questions, the swedes consider this all very excitable and somewhat rude. One should just sit very still and quiet until the speaker is finished. "Dead in the eyes" is how I might characterize them.
But thats okay. I love them anyway. I'm for the most part glad that I came, despite having perhaps the wrong reasons.
Tuesday, 1 January 2008
What now for 2008? I hope to do exciting thesis work in the summer, and other than that, just interesting biology courses, and try to rectify that whole "being single" issue.
I can't seem to sleep.