Sam PF's Journal Below are the 10 most recent journal entries recorded in the "Sam PF" journal:

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June 28th, 2014
10:34 pm

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Island hopping
The past few months I have taken the odd saunter, by bike and by boat, round various bays and islands and watery things. Some photos are in order, I think.

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June 12th, 2014
01:00 am

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Bragging
I went to hear Billy Bragg this evening! In Stockholm! And he was awesome.

He started off in 1649, hovered round 69 with Ingrid Bergman, visited the 1930s and the 1980s, and of course spent some time Between the Wars, but brought things very much back to 2014, part concert and part political rally, and making it work.

He didhis homework on Swedish politics too. Gave a shout out to the Feminit Initiative, dedicated Power in the Union to the striking rail workers in the south, and Accident Waiting to Happen to the Sweden Democrats.

Boy, could I sing along to Power in the Union with feeling. Of course I've always been pro-union, cheered on the miners in '84 and so on, but this year's been the first time I've really found out for myself what unions mean. Without the unions, we would very probably still be lumbered with our calamitous ex-Director. That includes the local unions (i.e. us), the national union, and all the generations of unionists before us that won such a degree of clout for organized labour in Sweden, still there in spite of the Neoliberalism that's been advancing here as everywhere else.

For his encore, Billy went back to 1983, and his first album, Life's a Riot with Spy vs Spy. The WHOLE DAMNED THING! It's a short album, 7 songs in 16 minutes or so, but damn, that is still some encore!

I said this to myself last time I heard him, but I swear when he sings New England I can hear the ghost of Kirsty McColl singing along with him.

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May 29th, 2014
01:21 am

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Orphan Black
OK, Orphan Black is officially the best show on TV right now. Probably since Buffy. Possibly ever. Totally blowing me away. (Thanks sabotabby for the rec.)

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For those who don't know it, it's a sci-fi thriller, though I'd put the accent on thriller: the sci-fi conceit takes place in a contemporary real world setting. (In Toronto, where all the best TV shows are happening right now, like Lost Girl and that really cookie political thriller about the crack-smoking mayor who's mixed up with all these criminal gangs and... oh wait.)

As a thriller, the pace, the tension, is just mindblowing.

As for the fascinating characterisation, an excellent and totally non-spoilery article on why it's such a great show here.

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May 14th, 2014
02:58 am

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SIPRI Director resigns
SIPRI Director Tilman Brück has resigned, as has Chairman of the Governing Board Göran Lennmarker.

A statement by the SIPRI Governing Board on the SIPRI website has more information on the resignations, which followed the annual meeting of the Board on the 12th-13th May.

Prof. Brück will leave his position at the end of June. [Though I understand he will be on leave from 1st June.] He will continue to serve SIPRI as a "Distinguished Senior Fellow" working on the economics of Security and Development. [My understanding is that this is an associated researcher type position, rather than a staff position]. An Acting Director will be appointed by the Board following consultation with the relevant stakeholders [i.e. unions, government, etc.] The Board has also agreed to appoint an international expert to undertake a comprehensive review of SIPRI and to make recommendations for its future. The Board thanked Tilman for his "important, innovative and valuable contributions in research and management to the Institute", and expressed regret at his departure.

Although it is not mentioned in the Board's statements, the resignations come following severe criticism of the Director by the trade unions representing SIPRI staff, who also referred SIPRI to Sweden's Work Environment Agency.

I think this is for the best. I hope that SIPRI can now begin to heal and move forward, after what has been an extremely difficult time for everyone.

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April 9th, 2014
01:49 pm

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The situation at SIPRI
Further to my previous post. The Chair of my union, ST, has actually made a statement about the situation at SIPRI, posted to their website. It says pretty much similar things to the previous press report, but it also attaches a letter sent by the two trade unions to the Cabinet Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that is responsible for SIPRI. The text of the letter is here. My translation is below. I have capitalized some specific Swedish legal terms that translate rather oddly.

I will not add anything save to say that I fully support my Union's actions in this matter.

letter from ST and SACO to the Foreign MinistryCollapse )

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April 8th, 2014
11:56 pm

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Stuff
It seems that the situation at my workplace, SIPRI, has become the subject of media attention. I repost the linked article with my own rough translation, and without further comment.

Union: SIPRI could be closed.

Many employees at peace research institute SIPRI are suffering from stress, sleeping problems, anxiety, high blood pressure and suicidal thoughts, according to [trade unions] ST and SACO-S. The trade unions have therefore put the foundation under so called special protection measures.

"If the demands are not met, the workplace could be closed," said ST Press Secretary Sofia Johansson.

She states that the special protection measures involve demands for systematic efforts to improve the work environment, and to deal with specific identified problems.

According to the union, employees at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI, which employs about 50 people at its Solna office, have experienced degrading and discriminatory treatment, and there have been no improvements since the previous work environment survey.

ST and SACO are pursuing eleven grievance processes against SIPRI, and more are to be filed. The local cooperation agreement and collective employment agreement have been cancelled.

There has been no comment from SIPRI's side.

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April 7th, 2014
01:04 am

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Blent: tee-shirts
Kate B asks "Of the subversive tee-shirts at redmolotov.com, which most appeals to you?

Oh dear, there are so many!

Also, this reverts to the question of "what is subversive?", and should we include some of the pop culture and TV and films ones and so forth? Is the Ministry of Silly Walks inherently subversive in its ridiculing of power and officialdom? But I will stick to the political ones just to narrow the field.

Then there are all sorts of other issues.

First, do I agree with the sentiments expressed? Or is it OK if I don't if it's being ironic? But is it sufficiently clear that it's being ironic, or is it too obviously ironic so as to degenerate into mere sarcasm? Or is it too cleverly ironic?

Then, is it too pretentious?

Is it too mainstream and sheepish, like you just can't wear Che Guevara anymore, unless you're being really ironic and retro in a way that is far too clever for me to pull off.

Is it too po-faced and worthy? Anything involving, say, Martin Luther King or Gandhi risks this.

Do you have a right to wear it? Is it about some cause that you think is cool but really you have absolutely nothing the fuck to do with and there's a whole load of appropriation going on in wearing it?

Too old? Too new? Too familiar? Too obscure?

Oh, and I almost forgot: does it actually look any good?

Subversive/political tee-shirts are a real Scylla and Charybdis and probably a third really dangerous thing sitting somewhere in the middle. I would definitely need advice from sabotabby before attempting this sort of thing in earnest.

Having said this, I will step into the maelstrom and identify a few I like (and a few I'd not be seen dead in). Alphabetically, as they are listed, in no particular order

The Fascist snake. I've always had a thing for the Spanish Civil War. And I rather like this one.

Woody Guthrie. One of the greats.

Been an Orwell fan since when Kate B. and I were both at Woodroffe. This one seems well-designed and a good quote.

I'm the one the Daily Mail warned you about. Not one I have a right to wear, being a white hetero cis male (immigrant in Sweden but of the privileged variety), so only really have lefty in terms of things the Daily Mail hates. But a good one.

Of the Marx ones (Karl as opposed to Groucho and bros), this is probably the best, but it loses a lot of points in my book for using faux-Cyrillic, treating a Я as an R and an И as an N.

No man has any right to buy and sell the earth for private gain. Risks the overly po-faced and worthy, but it is a line from an awesome folk song, and of course a Bardcamp favourite.

Subcomandante Marcos. The quote is too small to be readable, but it is an awesome quote, and generally seems a nice design.

Well, there's a short list at any rate.

I think this is the only post I've tagged with 'fashion' or probably ever will. ;-)

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April 2nd, 2014
12:07 am

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Blent: sacred place
Been slipping here - partly due to being away for the weekend in London, at a readthrough of the Lord of the Rings radio series, organized by mirabehn and mirrorshard. It was wonderful! I got to be Gandalf! (I should get a Gandalf icon along with the Treebeard one - I played Treebeard the first time Elly organized such a readthrough).

Anyhoo. There are various more substantive intellectual posts in the queue, but brain not up to that just now. So, an easier one, from the self-same mirabehn, who asked "Where is your favourite sacred place?"

That's a fairly easy one - has to be Iona, the Scottish island where St. Columba landed and founded his monastic community, which became the center of Celtic Christianity in northern Britain for centuries; and which is now a base for the modern-day Iona Community, a social-justice oriented ecumenical Christian community (their other base is in inner-city Glasgow). They practice a creation-centered form of Celtic Christianity that probably bares only a little more resemblance to the original than modern Celtic Paganism to its ancient inspiration, but which is no less awesome for that.

I went there with a chaplaincy trip from Warwick Uni in 1993. There was a student week, with groups from various unis.

It is of course a stunningly beautiful natural setting, and both the island and the abbey where we stayed are incredibly peaceful, spiritual, well, sacred places. The founder of the Iona Community, Rev. George MacLeod, described it as a 'thin place', where the veil between earth and heaven is weaker. Kind of like a reverse Hellmouth, if you will.

And, well, it was a powerful experience, with the music and the services and the walks round the island, and the ceilidhs, and it was where I was introduced to Single Malt Scotch, and where I first started properly encountering folk music.

Yeah, really want to go back there some time.

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March 27th, 2014
01:06 am

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Blent: TMI
From Kate B: "This is a question about self-censorship: about which subject(s) would you not blog/post on Facebook? (I'm not talking about those which you would f-lock.) In other words, when is it *not* 'good to share'?"

I don't post personal stuff to Facebook. I mean, basic life things like going to a concert or traveling to A or B, but not *personal* stuff. As opposed to Livejournal, where I have a range of filters for posting different sorts of things that can be seen by different people. There's very little I wouldn't be willing in principle to post on LJ to an appropriate filter. I think the only things I would not post to LJ is those that would be TMI, in other words that people have no need or desire to read! (Whether I do post something depends a lot on whether I get round to it or am in the mood, etc.)

Anything political though (except internal organizational politics), I always make public. (Also, as someone asked recently, what is posted publicly here may be publicly shared).

I don't know why I don't post personal stuff to Facebook. Well, for one thing I'd have to go and create a whole new set of filters. I know they exist, close friends and stuff, but why bother? If it's stuff I want to tell to a narrow audience, then by and large that audience is also on LJ. Also, I don't know, FB just seems less suited to the long form when people have this whole feed of trivia and photos and linkies passing their eyes. Then again I just got into FB a lot later. And, kinda, probably irrational this one, I just kind of don't trust it as much. It just feels so... open. LJ feels more intimate and secluded. Which is nonsense. Filters and all.

Of course, Facebook is a big mega corporation so the extent it can be trusted with one's privacy is dubious. But then not sure how ultimately trustworthy SUP Media are, that own LJ. It's one third owned by Kommersant which is owned by a Russian oligarch. And, presumably if Vlad the Magnificent were to click his fingers they wouldn't be in a hurry to say "Sorry Mr. P., but our customers' privacy is sacred. We have our principles you know!" On the other hand, although LJ has sometimes screwed up, and many folk lament that it is not the pure, independent, idealistic IT-start up it once was, I think FB have done a lot more nefarious stuff to their users on the privacy front, though I can never keep up with what's real and what's a hoax scare story. But maybe there's something to my reluctance. Like, with FB you never know if they'll be like "Ah, you restricted this post to Close Friends, but then one of your Close Friends commented on the post and tagged one of their Close Friends which means they can see it!" or some such, or sell your deepest, darkest secrets to advertisers who will then try to sell you relevant medications/sex toys/therapy/weapons/cats. That's another thing. I have a permanent account on LJ, so no ads, so I don't run the risk of being confronted with disturbing adverts responding to my deep dark secrets.

So there may be some rationality to my greater willingness to share on LJ than FB, but I think mostly it's just habit and comfort.

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March 25th, 2014
01:23 am

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Blent: what I'm most proud of
shreena asked "What are you most proud of?"

I think this would have to be being involved in the solidarity campaign for East Timor in the 1990s. It's one of the campaigns I have been most intensively involved in and, unlike a lot of others, actually saw a positive outcome.

A brief history: as for links, well you know where to find Wikipedia as well as I, or here is the history as given by the Timor Leste government website.

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As I say, I got involved in the campaign after seeing a video of John Pilger's 1994 film, along with a group of fellow activists at Warwick, in 1995. We were starting a local Campaign Against Arms Trade group, and also started a student East Timor solidarity group, which we sought to expand nationally.

In Britain, the campaign largely revolved around the UK's sale of arms to Indonesia, including armoured vehicles, and Hawk Trainer/Light ground attack aircraft, exactly the sort that had been used to such effect by Indonesia in the past. A clearer case of siding with evil by a western government would be hard to find. (Well, there are a fair number of as-clear cases mind you). My good friend Chris Cole, who has been willing to put far more on the line than I ever have, went to prison for breaking into a BAE base and hammering on the nose cone of a Hawk destined for Indonesia. The women of the Seeds of Hope Ploughshares group also broke into BAE Warton in Lancashire in 1996 and smashed up a Hawk; they were acquitted by a Liverpool jury on the grounds that they had acted to prevent a greater crime.

As for me, I got involved in national CAAT when I moved to London, with the arms to Indonesia being one of the key campaigns. I and a friend also started up a Christian-based solidarity movement for East Timor - playing on the fact that the East Timorese were predominantly Catholic, and the prominent role of the Catholic Church in the peaceful resistance. All in all, it kept me pretty busy, though to how much effect is of course always impossible to say. I was particularly active, with the British Coalition for East Timor, in the run-up to the referendum and its appalling aftermath.

The credit for Timor Leste's freedom lies first with the East Timorese, who endured unimaginable horrors and still stood firm to demand and win it. Second with the Indonesian people, who created an opening for change when they overthrew Suharto. But I think the international campaign made a real difference - a swing vote if you will. Like I said, it meant that when Indonesia was transitioning to democracy, there was enough of a noise and a smell over East Timor that it wasn't something they could ignore, and then the post-referendum violence became something the 'international community' couldn't ignore.

I played my part in that; a minor one in the scale of things, but not a negligible one in terms of time and energy. I met Xanana when he came to speak in London. He thanked all of us who had been part of the solidarity movement.

This one, we won. Timor Leste is free. I am proud of that.

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