Tools for a better understanding of conflicts

I’m trying my hand with some new podcasts now that I’m exercising three times a week. You can hear a lot of podcasts in 4-5 hours! One I listened to today was BBC’s technology podcast called Digital Planet. It was surprisingly good and this episode focused almost exclusively on the Gaza conflict. Some of these wonderful Open Source people have developed a debate wiki called DebateGraph, which encompasses all the stand points and all the arguments in the Gaza conflict and shows them in a graphic way. I’ve been trying to embed it here on my blog, but I just can’t get WordPress to do it. What kind of media is a wiki exactly, anyway? But click here and have a good look at it. The British newspaper The Independent has been more successful than me, it’s embedded on their website and they are presently using it to show “What Obama should do next”. Really marvellous tool!

Digital Planet also mentioned another tool called Ushahidi, originally developed for the conflict in the Democratic Replublic of Congo, which monitors all sources to find out the correct number of casualties. This one is adopted by Al-Jazeera.

A couple of other news tit-bits from around the world: Obama has, in yet another show of supreme insight in how the media works, released a letter he’s written to his two little girls here only a few days away from his inauguration. Read it in its entirety here. There’s also an interesting letter going in the other direction, namely the star of the blogosphere Arianna Huffington‘s letter titled “Moving forward doesn’t mean you can’t look back”. It’s about America not closing its eyes to the crimes committed by the Bush/Cheney administration. She quotes George W.

As for the economy, Bush insisted, “I inherited a recession, I am ending on a recession. In the meantime, there were 52 months of uninterrupted growth.” Which is kind of like saying the flight of the Hindenburg was fabulous up until the landing.

Which reminded me that I still haven’t seen Bush’ farewell address. It’s a must-see, I think. With remarks like that!

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That yellow feeling

Oh, why am I not the kind of person who gets invited to this? My favourite economist will be speaking there – along with several other people, who’s writings I’m following. I’d much rather be at TED than at the Oscars, the Cannes Film Festival or any other gathering of personas. Envy, I think this yellow feeling is called.

Picture borrowed from Leonard on Flickr
Picture borrowed from Leonard on Flickr - http://www.flickr.com/photos/lwr/

Before I retire to bed to read another TED speaker, namely Malcolm Gladwell (oh, did I mention him before?) I’ll just share this fun idea with you. On Boing Boing I read that January 27th will be a special day for all bloggers: We must shed our normal blogging style and come up with something really Alice in Wonderland-ish. The day is called Rabbit Hole Day. Read all about it!

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Dealing with criticism & what makes us happy

On Gretchen’s Happiness blog there’s a post about how to deal with criticism. Inspired by Gretchen’s own honesty about how not-so-good she is at dealing with criticism, I’ve decided to publish her advice here and comment on it with my own thoughts.

1. Listen to what a critic is saying. Really listen, try to understand that point of view, don’t just nod while you formulate your retorts.

This is very, very hard. When the pulse quickens, blood rushes to your head, the eyes sting, it’s almost a super-human effort to really listen. Only way to deal with this is to use rule no. 4.

2. Don’t be defensive. This is the toughest step for me. With my writing, for example, I always have to take a deep breath before reading an edit letter or meeting with an editor, to remind myself, “I welcome criticism. This person is helping me. I’m eager to hear how to improve my book/article/post.” Act the way you want to feel! That’s my Third Commandment. Along the same lines…

When the criticism is on the personal level, I find it almost impossible not to be defensive. I’m hurt! But professional criticism in a friendly environment I think I’ve learnt to handle. And I even like it when my sister-in-law criticises my English, because I strive for perfection and she helps me!

3. Don’t fire back by criticizing your critic. Your comments will just sound defensive, and you’ll escalate the exchange. This urge is very difficult to resist, because the impulse to justify and attack is strong when you feel criticized, but it just isn’t helpful, and it certainly isn’t effective.

Here I also try to use strategy no. 4.

4. Delay your reaction. Count to ten, take a deep breath, sleep on it, wait until the next day to send that email…any kind of delay is good. A friend told me that she has a rule for herself: when she’s upset about something that happened at her children’s school, she won’t let herself do anything about it for three days – and usually she decides that no action is better than action.

This is the only thing I can say with certainty that I’ve become better at over the years. Sleep on it! I never send off an angry e-mail the day I write it, always chew on it at least for a day, sometimes weeks. I can proudly say that quite a few angry e-mails have found their way to the trash – where they belonged!

5. Explain honestly the reason for your actions. Sometimes it’s tempting to re-characterize your actual feelings and motives. Usually, though, that just complicates things more. It becomes impossible to have an honest exchange.

I try to do this, I really do. But sometimes I find that people don’t believe that I am being honest. And then I really don’t know what to do?

6. Admit your mistakes. This is extremely effective and disarming. When I got my first job, my father told me, “If you take the blame, you’ll get the responsibility.” I’ve found that to be very true. Difficult, but true. Admitting mistakes is the first step, then…

I think I’ve become better at this too. But I have also had some bad experiences with it. In the workplace, if you take the blame one time too often (having made a mistake jointly with others) – just to ward off lots of hassle and to be nice to your colleagues, thinking they might take the blame another time – you actually might end up being fired!

7. Explain what you’ve learned. If you can show a critic that you’ve learned something, you prove that you’ve understood the criticism and tried to act on it. That, itself, usually mollifies critics.

This is very true. But sometimes it can lead to the most awful self-righteousness from the other party. And then you want to criticise them…

8. Enjoy the fun of failure. Re-frame the issue entirely to embrace criticism. Fact is, trying new things and aiming high opens you to criticism. I tell myself to Enjoy the fun of failure to try to re-frame failure and criticism as part of the fun. Otherwise, my dread of criticism can paralyze me.

I don’t think I’ve ever tried this tack. Maybe it’s due to a lack of humour. Must try it next time.

A fantastic book on the subject of happiness
A fantastic book on the subject of happiness

As mentioned I found this on a blog dedicated to the search for happiness. You might not know this, but the whole subject of happiness, how we perceive it and how to achieve it interests me a lot – so much that I even read books about it, not only blogs. The book here on the left is practically my bible. And it’s not “psycho-babble”. He gives no advice about what to do to get happier. He tells us about how bad we are at predicting what will make us happy in the future and that is mind-boggling!

Daniel Gilbert is a good example of something I learned while I worked in the music industry. One must separate the (wo)man from the message! Sometimes I’d be giddy for days because I would get to meet an artist, whose music I adored. And I’d be DISAPPOINTED, because the artist(s) turned out to be a first class a……  Other times I’d been dreading a concert because I found the artist bad or just plain old boring. And had a fantastic time, because the person(s) turned out to be ever so nice/funny/intelligent/sexy or all of those things…

I haven’t met Daniel Gilbert, but I’ve seen clips with him on TED and he’s really quite annoying to listen to – it’s something with his swear-words and jokes I can’t handle. But try to listen to what he’s actually saying and ignore his persona. And then go buy the book! This particular video is quite long, but I PROMISE you that it’s SO worthwhile to see it through to the end, where he talks about terrorism and our response to it (the clip is from 2005). There are quite a few videos on TED about Happiness. Find them here.

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No exit strategy (why does that sound so familiar?)

The very serious and high-brow American magazine Foreign Policy has a middle-east blog. I didn’t know that, but now I do and I’ll keep an eye on it, because from what I’ve briefly read, it’s very good. And – my God – do the Americans need to see reason here!

In this post Marc Lynch has been to a round table conversation with the Israeli ambassador Sallai Meridor. Here’s the last couple of lines from the post:

In short, Meridor quite literally offered no strategy beyond hitting Gaza hard and hoping for the best. “In terms of creating damage we are certainly on the right path,” noted the Ambassador. Few would disagree with that assessment, at least. But some might hope that the bloody, battered path might actually be leading somewhere.

In the latest post, he tells about the reactions from a person called Ayman al-Zawahiri on behalf of  Al-Qaeda to the bombing of Gaza:

He sounds about as happy as I can remember hearing him of late. He probably can’t believe his luck.

That is of course not at all surprising. Why is it that apparently the American, the British, the Israeli, the <fill in the blank> government can’t see that they are playing right into the hands of this world’s religious fanatics, left, right and eh, hopefully not centre, with this so-called War on Terror?

It’s late and I’m heading for bed – just stumbled over this and had to share it with you.

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99 things I've done, would like to do or couldn't be bothered to do

THE 99 THINGS MEME

Edit 3/1 09: My trusted friend and loyal reader Gabs wondered why I didn’t give a source for this Meme. And with good reason, for don’t I always go on about sources and source criticism? The truth is that I stumbled over this while doing research for my paper on Library 2.0, C/P’d it and forgot where I found it. But of course – after being nudged by Gabs I tried another way of finding it and this time I located my source. It is American librarian David King. In fact I found out that several of my other sources have also been tempted by the 99 things meme. See here and here! Another bit of research brought me to an extremely interesting book and several scientific papers about The Strength of Weak Ties. It’s a theory developed by sociologist Mark Granovetter in 1973! He investigated the importance of so-called weak ties – i.e. aquaintances – and more or less proved that weak ties play a considerably larger role when we look for a new job, or for a person with specific qualifications than do our strong ties (friends & family). Worth thinking about when considering LinkedIn, Facebook or the way a meme travels from blog to blog!

Things you’ve already done: bold
Things you want to do: italicize
Things you haven’t done and don’t want to – leave in plain font

1. Started your own blog. (what a dumb question for a blog meme!!!)
2. Slept under the stars.
3. Played in a band. (does ONCE count?)
4. Visited Hawaii.
5. Watched a meteor shower.
6. Given more than you can afford to charity.
7. Been to Disneyland/world. (Not again)
8. Climbed a mountain. (a little one…)
9. Held a praying mantis.
10. Sang a solo. (I’m trying to forget this)
11. Bungee jumped.
12. Visited Paris.
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea. (why not on land? – because I have and it was scary but beautiful)
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch. (I guess beginner’s level of origami doesn’t really count?)
15. Adopted a child.
16. Had food poisoning.
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty.
18. Grown your own vegetables.
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France.
20. Slept on an overnight train.
21. Had a pillow fight.
22. Hitch hiked. (When I was young I didn’t know any other way, when the distance was to far for cycling!)
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill.
24. Built a snow fort.
25. Held a lamb. Can’t remember if I have. My uncle had a farm when I was little…)
26. Gone skinny dipping. (I was quite young and the lovely weather came as a surprise…)
27. Run a marathon.
28. Ridden a gondola in Venice.
29. Seen a total eclipse.
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset.
31. Hit a home run.
32. Been on a cruise.
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person.
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors.
35. Seen an Amish community.
36. Taught yourself a new language.
37.Had enough money to be truly satisfied.
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person.
39. Gone rock climbing.
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David in person.
41. Sung Karaoke. (Never. NEVER)
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt.
43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant.
44. Visited Africa.
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight.
46. Been transported in an ambulance.
47. Had your portrait painted. (I’d like to have a double portrait of me and hubby. By this painter.)
48. Gone deep sea fishing.
49. Seen the Sistine chapel in person.
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling.
52. Kissed in the rain.
53. Played in the mud.
54. Gone to a drive-in theater.
55. Been in a movie.
56. Visited the Great Wall of China.
57. Started a business.
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia.
60. Served at a soup kitchen.
61. Sold Girl Scout cookies.
62. Gone whale watching.
63. Gotten flowers for no reason. (no such thing as “flowers for no reason”…)
64. Donated blood.
65. Gone sky diving.
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp.
67. Bounced a check. (that’s a bit embarrassing isn’t it. See 57)
68. Flown in a helicopter. (see 79)
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy.
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial.
71. Eaten Caviar.
72. Pieced a quilt.
73. Stood in Times Square.
74. Toured the Everglades. (But the swamps in Louisiana…)
75. Been fired from a job. (more than once. Not good with bosses…)
76. Seen the Changing of the Guard in London.
77. Broken a bone.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle.
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person.
80. Published a book.
81. Visited the Vatican.
82. Bought a brand new car. (but my husband has)
83. Walked in Jerusalem.
84. Had your picture in the newspaper.
85. Read the entire Bible.
86. Visited the White House.
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating.
88. Had chickenpox.
89. Saved someone’s life.
90. Sat on a jury.
91. Met someone famous.
92. Joined a book club.
93. Lost a loved one.
94. Had a baby. 2…
95. Seen the Alamo in person.
96. Swum in the Great Salt Lake.
97. Been involved in a law suit. (See 57)
98. Owned a cell phone.
99. Been stung by a bee.

Oh, and happy new year to you too!

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Merry Christmas everyone

Our own little toothless nisse (elf).
Our own little toothless "nisse" (elf).

I’ve written a Christmas letter – I do that every year – and added it to my blog as a page. If you scroll up a wee bit, you’ll see the word letter. Press that if you feel inclined to read a recount of the last year in our family. Don’t feel you have to :-)

Dane and I have just finished baking cookies. And pastry for more cookies tomorrow is in the fridge. A huge turkey is resting in my neighbour’s fridge – ours is just not big enough! I’m not cooking it for our own Christmas dinner (which is on the 24th. We’re Danish, you know!), but for the big Christmas thingy at David’s sister’s house on Christmas Day. We’ll be so many that we need two turkeys. Difficult to fit two turkeys, roast potatoes etc. etc. into one – or even two – ovens! I’ll use this recipe from Videojug. Then it can’t go wrong!

Unfortunately I can’t enjoy a totally relaxed Christmas, because I have to deliver a paper on January the 5th. Next year I won’t be a student and there won’t be a paper to deliver – can’t wait! I’m really late with that paper due to two unforeseen trips to Copenhagen. But I think it’s coming together nevertheless, so I’m sort of medium optimistic…

Dane is helping me with the presents, he’s just wrapped at least ten and is begging me to let him wrap his own present: “I promise I won’t look or shake the box” he says.

A not-so-good photo of our fireplace
A not-so-good photo of our fireplace

Tomorrow my oldest son Emil arrives around midday and then we’ll go food shopping. He loves that :-D        We have allready bought all the boring, trivial stuff, so what’s left is just all the nice convenience food and chocolate and stuff. All of the 24th we’ll just lounge around the fire and watch the telly and EAT. If we’re VERY energetic we might play a game of Monopoly or even venture out for a walk!

Until my paper is done, there won’t be many posts here, I’m afraid. I’ve forbidden myself to look at my feed reader, so the only inspiration I get is from real life. And since I hardly get out of the door these days, it isn’t much!

In the meantime – enjoy lovely holidays and be good to one another. Please!

Earlier this month we went to Wisley to meet Father Christmas. On the way we met this citrus Snowman
Earlier this month we went to Wisley to meet Father Christmas. On the way we met this citrus Snowman
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Life as a busy bee and a crippling cold

have kept me from blogging. No running away from the busy bee, but must extend working day at other end! On Sunday I read a very thought provoking article in The Sunday Times, which they’ve been kind enough to publish online. It’s by another of the paper’s excellent writers, Bryan Apleyard and it’s about the possibility of actually proving the existence of an afterlife!

I guess that when someone close to you die or is close to dying, and when you yourself feel mortality creeping up on you, these things become important. I don’t particularly want to “go to Heaven”, but am no fan of the idea of just disappearing without a trace. I always wonder what atheists tell their children when someone close dies? “Your best friend got run over by a car and now he’s nothing.” It may be that I’m just a coward, but I could never say that!

Something along these lines is also this TED talk by a neuro scientist. You’ll have to bear with her absolutely horrible accent and just listen to what she actually says and the humour with which she says it. 

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Mission accomplished

Not much time for blogging today I’m afraid – there’s the Christmas thingy at Dane’s school today where I am manning a stand, where the kids can make origami Christmas decorations. My origami is in fact a bit rusty, since I haven’t had time to indulge in folding lately. But I’m sure it’ll all go just fine.

In my latest post (just below this one, if in doubt) I told you that I was aiming at spending two uninterrupted hours on my course work on the following day. This just to tell you that in fact I did that. And it wasn’t as hard as I’d thought. I’m sure it helped that I had publicly stated that I’d do so. One has one’s pride!!!!! Besides, it gave me a great sense of having actually done something. Accomplished something. So it was well worth it and I’ll do it again. Tomorrow :-D

If you have your own website and/or blog, you should check this post by Kevin Kelly. Interesting.

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More on the downsides of multitasking

A while back I cited an article called Is Google Making Us Stupid here and also posted it on Facebook. It elicited quite a few reactions – as it had for me, the article touched a nerve with some of my FB friends.

At the moment when I’m not just normally scatterbrained, but also preoccupied with things in the personal sphere, I find it even harder to focus on one thing at a time. What I should do with all the things I remember that I have to do while doing something else, is of course to write them down, so I can do them later. But all too often I just rush away and do them NOW. Or I do them only half way, because in the middle of doing it i remember something else, which seems even more important. And so goes the day. Things most certainly get done, no doubt about it. But they probably would get done anyway, as long as I write it down! What I don’t get done is study. I need to read this book, some chapters in other books and some articles. The book is not on the world’s most interesting subject, but it’s actually quite well written and I don’t have to read every chapter through and through. So why is it I don’t get around to it?

Today I stumbled over yet another article on the subject. This one’s called Taming the Web 2.0 Mind. The blog on which it’s posted is a mental self-help blog. This may well make the little brittle hairs stand up on the back of your neck, but I’ve decided to admit to reading it and also to reading self help books. For Crying-out-Loud, we can’t – and probably shouldn’t – figure everything out for ourselves? And what’s wrong in wanting to improve your relationship with your children, renew your marriage, take a critical look at your career (in my case it’s “career”) etc. I read an article in the Sunday Times by Alain de Botton about why we shouldn’t scoff at self help books. He has all the right quotes to back his claim so I rest my case (and was reminded that one of his books is on my Amazon wishlist)…

So this is what I’m setting out to do tomorrow: I’ll set one hour aside to reading the book. Though I usually always take notes directly on my laptop (in super-cool little app called Tomboy by the way), I’ll leave the computer closed and leave markers on pages with pencilled notes for later digitization. And I’ll set another hour aside to do real focused research for my paper, where I’ll do as (26-year old) Peter Clemens suggests and say NO to all ideas of veering away from the research path. At least for that ONE hour.

Will let you know to what degree I succeed!

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Life goes on and food is a recurring theme…

For a long time I’ve been promising myself to go on the look-out for some British blogs to follow. Now that I’m here and all. For reasons I can’t fathom I’ve just never serendipitously come across one I liked – except the Alphamummy one on The Times. So today I went searching on Google blog search and put “uk” at the end of a list of subjects I like to read about. And dear me – there’s not enough time in the world. I’ll just have to jump around for a while and figure out which ones hold water in the long run.

Very quickly I stumbled over one which had a food meme. As my readers will know – I’m quite keen om memes (agree with one of the bloggers – memes are just right for us professional procrastinators) and even more keen on the subject of FOOD. So below find a revealing list of foodstuffs, which I’ve tasted and not tasted, liked and not liked. A remarkable number of the 100 items I had to look up. I do have the excuse of not having grown up in this country (or in the US), but I’m still surprised and somewhat embarrassed about the number of foodstuffs out there that I still haven’t tasted or even knew about.

Anyway, here goes:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at www.verygoodtaste.co.uk linking to your results.

1. Venison – yes, certainly.
2. Nettle tea – in eternal search for the perfect tea. Nettle wasn’t it.
3. Huevos rancheros – yes, several times in Texas. I couldn’t remember the name though. And I don’t like refried beans.
4. Steak tartare – oh yes, staple luxury lunch item in Denmark in my childhood and youth. Has gone completely out of fashion, probably because of the salmonella problems, we’ve had in Denmark. Nobody ever touches a raw egg any more.
5. Crocodile – I expected to come across it on a menu in Australia, but don’t recall doing so.
6. Black pudding – Another staple dish from my childhood. I hated it as a child and haven’t touched it since.
7. Cheese fondue – Why?
8. Carp – Don’t like freshwater fish.
9. Borscht – yes. A bit heavy for my taste.
10. Baba ghanoush – yummy. (It’s a warm and spicy eggplant dish)
11. Calamari – yes. The small ones. And not pickled.
12. Pho – yes, in lovely Vietnamese restaurant somewhere in Greater Sydney. Nice.
13. PB&J sandwich – no never. But my mother always made me PB&H sandwiches. H for Honey. Lovely. Haven’t got my kids to eat it though – they don’t like peanut butter!!???
14. Aloo gobi – YEP – I even make it myself occasionally. (Indian spicy potatoes)
15. Hot dog from a street cart – in New York because you just have to. And in Copenhagen when very late, very drunk, very hungry, very young…
16. Epoisses – yes. It only really goes at those very special occasions where the wine, the company, the bisquits etc. all come together…
17. Black truffle – yes. And I was not impressed.
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes – I think most Danes have in their youth. Cherry wine was really big (and cheap). Most Danes have also said: “Never again!”
19. Steamed pork buns – only once. Didn’t do anything for me.
20. Pistachio ice cream – Don’t like it.
21. Heirloom tomatoes – as other bloggers, I didn’t know what that meant. But I think I must have tasted them, since my husband and I had a tomato craze a couple of years back. We went to tomato tastings, had 10 different sorts in our greenhouse and drove for miles to buy special tomatoes… It’s over now, the craze ;-)
22. Fresh wild berries – well, yes. I pity those who haven’t. We had raspberry bushes and blueberry bushes in our garden and I went out and picked every morning in the season for our breakfast. And one of the loveliest memories I have of my late mother is us picking blueberries together in Dalarna in the middle of Sweden on a crisp morning in early autumn. It was a real blueberry year, so I had berries in the freezer a long time after. Blueberry muffins, ahh.
23. Foie gras – yes. And shamelessly I absolutely love it.
24. Rice and beans – oh yeah, we’ve been to Costa Rica. They eat very little else there.
25. Brawn or Head Cheese – no, and I hope I never will!
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper – yes. Went to a chili tasting once. A gentleman at our table freaked out completely. I believe he’d thought all chillies were like the tame ones you get in most supermarkets.
27. Dulce de leche – yes. Brings back lovely memories of Mediterranean holidays.
28. Oysters – yes. And I really like them. Particularly grilled and spiced up like in New Orleans.
29. Baklava – yes. Veeeery sweet…
30. Bagna cauda – had to look that one up. Will try and go for one of those next time we’re in Italy! Looks really nice, even if I’m not much of a fondue person.
31. Wasabi peas – oh yes. Love them. The family hates them.
32. Clam Chowder in Sourdough Bowl – No. But would like to.
33. Salted Lassi – don’t like lassi. Salted or not.
34. Sauerkraut – horrible. Honestly.
35. Root beer float – what’s that again?
36. Cognac – yep. Lots.
37. Clotted Cream Tea – Oh, yes. The original kind down in Cornwall. Yummy.
38. Vodka Jelly/Jell-O – oh no. And it will never happen.
39. Gumbo – yes. Home made in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
40. Oxtail – yes yes yes. It’s a lovely wintry dish, which I used to make once a year. But I’ve run out of people who’ll eat it. Why can’t you eat the tail, when you can eat practically everything else?
41. Curried goat – yes. Goat is so totally underestimated.
42. Whole insects – probably. Happens frequently when you bicycle.
43. Phaal – never tried anything hotter than the Vindaloo. But I’m game! (had to look it up)

44. Goat’s milk – yes. Prefer it as cheese.

45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth $120 or more – yes – my husband used to have a thing about malt whisky. It has now developed into a thing about red wine.

46. Fugu (aka pufferfish) – no. Good arguments for why I should?
47. Chicken tikka masala – who hasn’t except vegans?
48. Eel – yes. Another staple dish from my youth in Denmark. Smoked or fried is good but enormously rich. Used to be able to stomach it, but no more. Eel in jelly is disgusting.
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed donut – no. I thoroughly dislike both the name and the logo of Krispy Kreme, so would never venture in there or buy a product with their ugly logo on it. And besides I’m not much for donuts.
50. Sea urchin – yes. Not horrible. But not a delicacy to my palate.
51. Prickly pear – yes.
52. Umeboshi – apparently a salty Japanese fruit. No, haven’t tasted that.
53. Abalone – not knowingly :-/   but wouldn’t mind trying. I like most seafood.
54. Paneer – don’t think I have (it’s a kind of cheese)
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal – yes, I admit it. My oldest son used to love McD, but no more. And the young one dislikes it with a vengeance.
56. Spaetzle – Yes. Don’t particularly like them.
57. Dirty gin martini – Uhm. Is there any other way?
58. Beer above 8% ABV – yukkk! My first husband drank these. Besides becoming unpleasantly dizzy after drinking just one, I dislike the pungent sweetness they often have.
59. Poutine – if you, like me, don’t know what it is, click on the link and be disgusted!
60. Carob chips – yes, they were quite fashionable at some point in time in my youth.
61. S’mores – Oh, Americans…
62. Sweetbreads – yes. Not my favourite thing. Probably an acquired taste.
63. kaolin – anti-diahrrea mixture…
64. Currywurst – not as bad as it sounds…
65. Durian – I would probably have remembered if I had…
66. Frogs’ legs – yes. Prefer chicken any time.
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake – yes. Prefer the smaller crunchy ones to the large fatty ones.
68. Haggis – Unless a trusted person recommends it, I’ll probably try to stay away from this dish.
69. Fried plantain – On every menu in Costa Rica. Not bad, but dryish…
70. Chitterlings – nah, thanks, but no thanks.
71. Gazpacho – Make it myself every summer. And Waitrose has a nice one.
72. Caviar and blini – Is proud owner of blinis pan. Love blinis. Find caviar overrated. Prefer lumpfish roe.
73. Louche absinthe – There used to be a naughty, naughty bar in Copenhagen, which served this. So yes.

74. Gjetost or brunost – yes. But not again.

75. Roadkill – not that I know of.
76. Baijiu – no.
77. Hostess fruit pie – looks and sounds horrible!


78. Snails – yes.
79. Lapsang Souchong – have it in my cupboard.
80. Bellini – yes.
81. Tom Yum – yes.
82. Eggs Benedict – yes, but don’t like.
83. Pocky – Japanese chocolate coated biscuit. No. Never been to Japan.
84. 3 Michelin Star Tasting Menu – only 1 star  :-(

85. Kobe beef – never had the luck
86. Hare – yes. It’s quite good.
87. Goulash – yes. Can be fantastic, but usually isn’t.
88. Flowers – yes. Stuffed or deepfried squash flowers are lovely. And there are others.
89. Horse – yes. Not bad, but makes me cringe a little, even when I know I shouldn’t.
90. Criollo chocolate – probably not. But will look out for it – maybe on a visit in Harrods’ food dept?
91. Spam – no no no. Never have, never will. (actually, if you’ve ever bought a cheep pizza with “ham”, you probably have tasted spam.)
92. Soft shell crab – yes. In a seafood restaurant in Galveston, Texas. So many we just couldn’t eat them all!
93. Rose Harissa – harissa yes, but not the rose version. Sounds lovely!
94. Catfish – yes. don’t like.
95. Mole Poblano – Also in Texas. Yummy!
96. Bagel and Lox – In New York they are practically unavoidable. And why should one avoid them?
97. Lobster Thermidor – Very nice. Actually, could I have one right now?
98. Polenta – obviously.
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee – no, I’m probably too cheap.
100. Snake – no.

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Scatterbrain

I’ve always been a Scatterbrain. My memory is lousy, I have to write everything down and often I forget even that. My mind is always jumping ahead of the current situation – that’s super sometimes, but often it’s more than a little distracting. Today, when I was supposed to do two other things, I stumbled over an article…

I swear, I read the whole thing and my mind almost didn’t jump. I remember where it jumped to along the way, because due to the theme of the article, I made it my business to take note of my mind-jumps.

I was visiting this blog, which is a bi-product of some homework I’ve done for my course at uni. The blogger linked to the article in an ambiguous way, which made me click it. And once I’d seen the headline, I just had to read it. The fact that it’s in one of my all time favourite magazines, The Atlantic, of course made it even more palatable. The writer is Nicolas Carr. He has a blog, which after a cursory glance looks interesting, but demanding. The article is called Is Google Making us Stupid?

Here’s a few excerpts:

Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.

But every new technology has had an effect on our brain, as noted by Socrates:

In Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates bemoaned the development of writing. He feared that, as people came to rely on the written word as a substitute for the knowledge they used to carry inside their heads, they would, in the words of one of the dialogue’s characters, “cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful.” And because they would be able to “receive a quantity of information without proper instruction,” they would “be thought very knowledgeable when they are for the most part quite ignorant.” They would be “filled with the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom.” Socrates wasn’t wrong—the new technology did often have the effects he feared—but he was shortsighted. He couldn’t foresee the many ways that writing and reading would serve to spread information, spur fresh ideas, and expand human knowledge (if not wisdom).

In the end paragraph he returns to Kubrick’s 2001, which he quoted in the opening paragraph:

Their thoughts and actions feel scripted, as if they’re following the steps of an algorithm. In the world of 2001, people have become so machinelike that the most human character turns out to be a machine. That’s the essence of Kubrick’s dark prophecy: as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence.

I don’t have such a gloomy view of my own thinking as Nicolas Carr. I acknowledge the disadvantages, but think that there must be some great advantages in being able to think “multilaterally” rather than “unilaterally”?

Back to where my mind jumped: At one point it jumped to a piece of Internet lore, which I’ve returned to many times: The Last Lecture by Randy Pauch, a university professor, who after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, gave a farewell lecture about grasping life’s opportunities, even in the face of death:

If any of you have not yet sat through it, you really must. He has a wonderful lecture for us all. It has been viewed 7 1/2 million times on Youtube! Why did my mind jump to that in the middle of this article? I don’t know!

Also, at the mention of Socrates, I though about something I’ve recently read by Aristotle (don’t worry, it was in connection with an essay for uni): “A speech (or document or whatever) consists of three things, the speaker, the subject which is treated in the speech, and the hearer to whom the speech is addressed” – logos, pathos & ethos. I thought of that because isn’t it so, that sometimes, you’re just very, very far from being “the intended audience” of a text – it’s either above you, beneath you or entirely irrelevant to you! When I read stuff like that I get distracted very easily… I’m afraid it happens rather frequently with academic papers for my courses. Sometimes I even think they don’t want me to read it. And certainly not to enjoy reading it.

And twice I suddenly remembered what it was, I’d set out to do, when I settled at the computer. Wrote it down – must do it when I’ve finished this post ;-)

And in the middle of the article I jumped to read about the writer. I knew I’d looked him up before, but had forgotten. I don’t think that’s something Google has done to my brain. I’m afraid I was like that years before the Internet entered my life (and that was in 1995, if anybody wants to know…).

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WordPress agony

So first I spent many, many days trying to update my “old” WP blog, which runs on a very old version of WordPress, not allowing me to do several things I’d like to do. In the end I had to give up. Nobody seemed to be able to explain to me what the error message I keep getting means. Or maybe they thought they explained it, but I couldn’t understand it. And then what is it worth? I got as far as successfully backing up the blog and I can also see the Automatic-update plug-in on my plug-in page. And I can activate it. But when I try to do the actual update, I end up in a loop between 4-5 pages, which keep telling me to do the same thing. And I get the above mentioned error message (posted in bottom of this post).

OK, so I give up and create this new WP blog. Rather irritable because it  means a longer and less obvious name. And irritable too because I’m not usually a quitter!

The REAL agony starts now though. Because when I logged on this morning, I was made aware that yet another upgrade is now available and recommended, so I decided to do the super-easy automatic update immediately. And guess what happened? Exactly the same!

I realise that there’s something I have to do with permissions or re-naming of files. But what is it exactly?

Oh, and while I’m at it. I made the mistake of calling my tags categories. But when I wanted to revert this – which WP allows by the click of a button – I got the message that a mistake had taken place and it couldn’t be done.

I understand that others have the same or similar problems. Please help, dear WordPress-creators, who we hold in such high esteem!

Warning: ftp_site(): /: Operation not permitted in /hsphere/local/home/nelanela/labeet.dk/wp-content/plugins/wordpress-automatic-upgrade 2/wpau_prelimcheck.class.php on line 185 Warning: ftp_chdir(): ///wp-admin: No such file or directory in /hsphere/local/home/nelanela/labeet.dk/wp-content/plugins/wordpress-automatic-upgrade 2/wpau_prelimcheck.class.php on line 222 Warning: ftp_chdir(): ///wp-includes: No such file or directory in /hsphere/local/home/nelanela/labeet.dk/wp-content/plugins/wordpress-automatic-upgrade 2/wpau_prelimcheck.class.php on line 222

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Copyright and airport security

What do they have in common? On the surface of it, nothing. But I see two things. One – they’re both sign o’ the times. Two – they appear on my blog in the same post…

I found a link to this film on Boing Boing. It’s Girl Talk, Lawrence Lessig, Gilberto Gil and Cory Doctorow in a film about the end of (some) copyright. Good! This article, also from Boing Boing is also about copyright. Are we allowed to sell our old CDs?

It was also Boing Boing that pointed me to an Atlantic article that I hadn’t read yet, although I’ve just downloaded the most awesome application to my Iphone, which – among a zillion other things – allows me to read the Atlantic on my phone. Wow!!!! The article is written by a journalist who – at the risk of getting arrested and prosecuted – shows how airport security is much more show than it’s actual security. Really very scary! One of many holes he uncovers, so to speak, is this:

To slip through the only check against the no-fly list, the terrorist uses a stolen credit card to buy a ticket under a fake name. “Then you print a fake boarding pass with your real name on it and go to the airport. You give your real ID, and the fake boarding pass with your real name on it, to security. They’re checking the documents against each other. They’re not checking your name against the no-fly list—that was done on the airline’s computers. Once you’re through security, you rip up the fake boarding pass, and use the real boarding pass that has the name from the stolen credit card. Then you board the plane, because they’re not checking your name against your ID at boarding.”

And now for something entirely different. On The Long Now Blog I found a link to something new. Crowd powered translation. Whenever you have five minutes, you can go there and help out. You can choose something to translate that’s important to you and then just do as much as you can that day. I just tried it and translated a bit of a discussion between Will Wright and Brian Eno into Danish. Click here and see my just translated text as subtitles to this video (only the first two minutes – must do more soon). It’s a cool tool. Imagine an organisation with an important video they want to get out to as many as possible, quickly. They send link – e.g. through Facebook – to the video’s transscript on this site and members from all over the globe can translate it quickly. You can then load the video onto Youtube and from there redirect people, who don’t understand the original language. Cool tool!

It was quite a nice day today and we took it veeery easy. Read the Sunday Times for a couple of hours and then went to Wisley, as we quite often do. It’s nearby and we’re members. They had a farmers’ market and pumpkin carving for children. So Dane carved a small pumpkin, which is now guarding our front door. And David bought dinner, a freshly made game pie. Uhm, it was nice. Dane found some bread in the restaurant and we went to feed the ducks. But it turned out to be more fun to feed the fish! The top picture is made entirely of Wisley’s own apples by Wisley employees. Apple Owl. Looks good, tastes good and even sounds good!

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Blog rounds

Before I start my round I want to complain! About you! I can see from my statistics that I have a steadily (okay, ever so slowly) growing group of readers. But so few of you ever bother to comment on my posts? Now, this last post about the Nobel Laureates. Honestly, a good chunk of you must be avid readers like me. So you must also have an opinion of one or more of the last 48 years of Nobel prize winners?

Anyway, that was that out of the way. Marginal Revolution points to an article in a magazine for people with excess money to spend – these guys and gals are very sorry for themselves presently, because they’ve lost money. Some of them big money. The magazine is called Portfolio and the writer Felix Salmon. There’s a great quote:

If you’re running an insolvent bank, and you get a slug of equity from Treasury, your shareholders will thank you if you use that equity to take some very large risks. If they pay off and you make lots of money, then their shares are really worth something; if they fail and you lose even more money, well, there was never really any money for them to begin with anyway.

The Chief Happiness Officer points to this job advert. One of the best I’ve ever seen!

Creative Commons photo found on Flickr.

On Squattercity we can read that the authorities’ reluctance to legalise squat dwellings can lead to uncontrollable fires, death and homelessness. When a fire starts and there are no fire hydrants, there’s not much to be done! The article is about a fire in a squatter city outside Durban, SA. 2000 people were made homeless.

Kevin Kelly, the Internet guru, writes a post that instantly got my attention. He calls it The Expansion of Ignorance. Good title, eh? It’s about how the amount of information, patents and knowledge is growing ever more rapidly. But what’s growing more than the answers is the questions! Which of course leads to his conclusion:

we have not yet reached our maximum ignorance.

And here’s something else to raise your eyebrows: Ezra Klein points to this editorial in the Los Angeles Times (a newspaper, btw, named as “liberal” by some of my Texan family). The editorial advocates a no to a proposal for a new law in the state of California, which will

“…require that calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be confined only in ways that allow these animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely.”

The editorial recommends a NO. Because otherwise the state will loose its egg business…

It’s late and I’m tired, having just read a long but very rewarding article in the New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell. It’s been a while since I read anything new by him, but rumour has it that he has a new book out this autumn. The article is about prodigies vs. late bloomers. He focuses on late bloomers and explains the misconceptions we have about their lives and talent. His protagonist is the writer (who I’m afraid I’d never heard of, but who must now go on my Amazon wishlist) Ben Fountain. Gladwell writes fabulously – that alone should make you read the article. But if you’re also interested in what makes an artist an artist and why some geniuses might never bloom, you really MUST read it!

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The bailout

Here’s the latest news on the development from Forbes. Both congress and senate seem to be dragging their feet.

And I think that’s a good thing. I’ve decided that there is probably more of a libertarian in me than I’d thought. I read through Paulson’s plan when it was first launched, long and dead-boring as it was. And I just couldn’t agree with the man. I haven’t read Dodd‘s counter plan, but had it explained here.

Here’s a couple of good quotes that pretty much sum up my feelings on the matter:

Tyler Cowen, professor of economics and prominent writer, explains the difference between the two plans:

Think of a barrel of apples, some good, some less good.  To oversimplify, the Paulson plan has the government buy some of the bad apples.  The Dodd plan has the government buy a 20 percent share in the barrel.  In both cases government buys something.

He points to this letter signed by a host of economists:

As economists, we want to express to Congress our great concern for the plan proposed by Treasury Secretary Paulson to deal with the financial crisis. We are well aware of the difficulty of the current financial situation and we agree with the need for bold action to ensure that the financial system continues to function. We see three fatal pitfalls in the currently proposed plan:

1) Its fairness. The plan is a subsidy to investors at taxpayers’ expense. Investors who took risks to earn profits must also bear the losses.  Not every business failure carries systemic risk. The government can ensure a well-functioning financial industry, able to make new loans to creditworthy borrowers, without bailing out particular investors and institutions whose choices proved unwise.

2) Its ambiguity. Neither the mission of the new agency nor its oversight are clear. If  taxpayers are to buy illiquid and opaque assets from troubled sellers, the terms, occasions, and methods of such purchases must be crystal clear ahead of time and carefully monitored afterwards.

3) Its long-term effects.  If the plan is enacted, its effects will be with us for a generation. For all their recent troubles, America’s dynamic and innovative private capital markets have brought the nation unparalleled prosperity.  Fundamentally weakening those markets in order to calm short-run disruptions is desperately short-sighted.

For these reasons we ask Congress not to rush, to hold appropriate hearings, and to carefully consider the right course of action, and to wisely determine the future of the financial industry and the U.S. economy for years to come.
 

In today’s New York Times there are several good articles and an interesting op-ed. The Economix blog, economy writer Vikas Bajaj‘s very informative piece “Plan’s mystery (…)”

And there’s another thing that I can’t help thinking about. What about the US’ economy in general? If this bail-out goes through, half the American economy will be based on loans in foreign currency. Most of it in yuan (Chinese money). Is that better than having some banks and some mortgage brokers go under?

Here’s a quote from BBC:

Ballooning state debt: The plan would swell the budget deficit, which could fuel inflation, economists warn (Mr Paulson has asked to raise state borrowing to $11.3 trillion, from $10.6 trillion).

A picture of Meg Ryan from The Women? Oh no! No pictures of face-lifted women on my blog. So here’s cute George. Picture borrowed from Styletraxx.

OK, some of you would probably much rather know what I thought of the film The Women, which I saw yesterday. Well, it stinks! I remember being pleasantly surprised by The Devil Wears Prada, which I watched on one of the long-hauls on our trip. Entertaining, funny and with a bit of bite. This one was/had neither. And tooooo looooong! My fingers were literally cutting through the air in some scenes… So, don’t go there. But I saw trailers for two films that I’m longing to see: Brideshead Revisited (oh, how we swooned in front of the TV, when the series was shown in the 80’s!). And the new Coen Brothers film. I’ve seen all their films and I just looove them… and George Clooney ;-)

PS: You’ll want to be wary of the above Wikipedia links (economy). All the articles are highly controversial. So – if you want to go in-depth with any of this, seek other sources as well.

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