I can’t really say that I’m in “sabbatical mode” yet, but I’m laying the groundwork, I suppose?

I’d stayed up a bit too late last night learning how to use Visual Studio Code and GitHub Copilot for my upcoming coding projects, and then I couldn’t stop myself from writing a data-heavy post about border trends. Knowing that I didn’t have to report to work the next day let me follow the topic wherever it took me, and by the time I looked up from my screen, it was 12:30 AM.

Though I was up later than on a regular work day, this morning otherwise looked like…a regular work day. I wanted to go through my news feeds and create a daily border links post because it’s impossible to look away from Senate Democrats’ deeply regrettable decision to move forward with asylum-restrictions legislation this week.

I also guest-taught a class of U.S. diplomats via Zoom. It was my second time trying out a 45-minute presentation about Latin America’s security challenges. The narrative flows across these topics:

  • The region’s chronic violence
  • Deforestation as an example of how laws are not enforced against the powerful and well-connected
  • What “impunity” means, and how impunity for official corruption tied to organized crime makes organized crime far harder to confront than insurgencies
  • How state absence from vast territories makes the problem even worse
  • Why a “pax mafiosa” is not progress, even if it lowers violence levels for a while
  • The solutions to violence that human rights groups and pro-democracy reformers propose: construction of a democratic security sector
  • A problem: my community’s proposed solutions can’t make people feel safer in six months. But some politicians offer short-term fixes to security
    • The “Bukele model” and why it may not work, and especially not in countries like Ecuador
    • Negotiations with armed and criminal groups, like gang pacts or Colombia’s “total peace”
  • Amid frustrations over short and long term timeframes, leaders (and U.S. policymakers) often content themselves with repeatedly pushing security challenges down to “manageable” levels
  • Where “manageability” falls apart (returning to the beginning) is deforestation and climate harm. There is no “manageable” level of that anymore.

While I’m on this sabbatical, I hope to polish this talk some more, then post a screencast delivering the narrative as audio over my slides.

After that talk, I spoke to a journalist about border trends for half an hour. Then I took my daughter out to the suburbs and sat in a cafe while she got a haircut. While in the cafe, I put out one of my weekly (OK, not quite “weekly”) emails to my mailing list.

I paid a quick visit to the grocery store after that, and upon returning home found on the doorstep some items that I’d ordered when I was in Medellín last week. I’m on a tight budget—non-profit salary, child at a private college—but had thought it would be worthwhile to set up a basic screen shelter and some sort of outdoor furniture in our tiny urban back yard.

More than two hours of assembly later, here it is. I now have an extremely rustic “writing shed” to work in during the coming months.

Yes I know, my back yard is a weedy mess. That’s a result of work deadlines, travel, family obligations on off-days, and a series of rainy weekends. I haven’t been here much when it’s nice out. I’ll clean it up during the sabbatical.

I’m writing in it now, and it’s just barely starting to feel, maybe, like I’m on sabbatical.

Tomorrow morning I’ll be working on some of the projects I’d discussed in my “sabbatical coming” post from last week. In the afternoon, though, I’ll be going to the Nationals baseball game with my mother and her husband, who live out in the suburbs. The weather is supposed to be perfect.

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