An evening traversing the World Wide Web

This picture of a very impressive hydrangea at Nyman’s in East Sussex has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of this post. I just had to show it to you, it’s so beautiful!

I have almost come to a point where I don’t want to come across any more interesting blogs. But unless I stop reading blogs, I’ll inevitably come across new and interesting ones. Like this one, named Interfluidity. The post that Marginal Revolution brought to my attention is about something I’d never heard of, but at least can understand, the paradox of thrift. Quite a brilliant piece on what happens when there’s CRISIS written all over the economy.

Marginal Revolution also reminds me of something I also thought of earlier this week. The Amazon Kindle looks more and more interesting. I’ve dismissed all earlier electronic bookreaders as just not coming anywhere near the real thing in comfort and convenience. This one just may be up there with good old paper and print. It would save us from having to buy a bigger house in a couple of years…

On a Danish website I found a solution to a Facebook problem. When you’ve just added a new friend, the feature “suggest friends” pops up and lets you suggest some of your “old” friends to your new friend. But next time you log on to your new friend’s page, this feature is nowhere to be seen – or found. However, the banal and rather old-style solution is to go to the URL and then just write “&suggestfriends” after the address and press Enter – voila! In the same ballgame I’ve found (through my very own search, no less) what may be my salvation. I’ve been struggling with updating this WordPress blog to the newest version, which will let me do a lot of things that I can’t do now. But I’ve come across several obstacles and have had to give it up when I’ve tried it. It has become almost traumatic… It’s a video which explains to dummies like me how it’s done. You’ll be able to see for yourself whether it works. Don’t expect miracles in the next few weeks though – too much holiday stuff going on. But then!

On the subject of happiness, Jonathan Mead wrote this interesting piece on Pick the Brain. I do think he could have tipped his hat to Daniel Gilbert, my happiness guru, but he doesn’t. He’s got his own blog, which also looks like it could be worthy of the occasional visit.

On the news I found a funny little story about “the first computer” – from 2.100 years ago. It apparently had several ways to compute time, one of which was Olympic Time, i.e. every fourth year. Read more on BBC Online and on the project’s homepage.

And in the Independent I read that Danes are only half as fat as the British. No, that’s doing terrible things to statistics, which I’ve promised myself never to dabble in, since I saw this video on TED. Anyway, there are 18% Brits who are obese, but only 9% Danes, or so the accompanying statistics claim. So get it together, my Danish friends, and stop eating c-r-a-p food while you can! I had actually wondered several times if there weren’t more heavily overweight people over here than back home. And sadly, I was right. 18% obese people – that’s a lot!

Oh yes, and I’ve forgotten to bring you this excellent version of The Story of the Internet and the World Wide Web. It’s from Vanity Fair.

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The Gift Economy?

No matter how hard I try, I never seem to be quite up to speed with what’s going on out there in the world. Today I read about a phenomenon, which I’ve occasionally been arguing for (to a degree), but didn’t even know had a name… Well, it does have a name: The Gift Economy (Wikipedia article disputed, but still quite informative). First book on subject written more than 20 years ago :-(

The source of all this new information is a blog I’ve been following for quite a while. It’s called

This Blog Sits at the

Intersection of Anthropology and Economics

which is an unusually accurate title for a blog.

What he uses as an example is a rapper called Lil’ Wayne from New Orleans. Apparently he tipped Coldplay off No. 1 in the American charts. And I’ve never heard of him… Anyway, the interesting bit is that Lil’ Wayne makes practically everything he ever makes freely available on the Internet – in every shape or form you can imagine. So, when his album was recently released, could you then expect it to sell? Well, I would. But I know a lot of people who wouldn’t!

Gift Economy is based on the thought that “What Comes Around Gets Around”. Where I’m certain that variations on this idea can work very well for most artistic products, I’m not so sure about other stuff. As the above blogger muses, will somebody give him the aluminium siding that he so wants? And if somebody did, wouldn’t that somebody go bankrupt very soon? Or would other people start giving him back stuff (he wants and needs)  out of sheer gratitude? I know people who would and people who wouldn’t. Don’t know which kind there are most of out there!

But oh, can I just love the idea of it for a little while!

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Links

Now, what kind of idiot does a thing like this? Thank you to Capac for the pointer.

I’m always going on about TED (Technology Entertainment Design). As the happy owner of an Iphone I have taken podcasts to a higher level and sit on buses, trains and airplanes etc. and LEARN things in a very entertaining way by watching video-podcasts from TED. If you still haven’t taken my hint and tried to watch a TED video, here’s your chance of watching some of the very best ones, picked out by really brainy people. The theme of TED is “Ideas are Everything”. And what the speakers have in common is that they have one or more original idea(s). Some speakers are world famous, some “only” famous within their field. Some of them aren’t famous at all before they appear on TED!

A spinoff of TED is this lovely online shop based in San Francisco with messenger bags made of discarded plastic bottles. I want one!

The Long Now Blog links to this very funny post about the messages that we, Earth, have sent into space since we were able to go there. It’s not uplifting reading, but it’s so funny! I’m going to keep an eye on that guy.

The Times (and most all other media) has the story this morning of an American court ruling against Google/Youtube. Viacom has sued for infringment of their copyright. Oh, I’m tired of hearing the big media companies going on about Artists’ Rights. It’s not really the artists’ rights they care about, but their own sources of income. And very often they – mysteriously – are biting the hand that feeds them. For instance, the many, many clips in Youtube from Britain’s got Talent and all the other similar shows. Do those clips give the shows more viewers or less viewers? More interest or less interest? Your guess is as good as mine… It really is worrying that Viacom can look into the viewing habits of every single Youtube user and maybe even access their IP-address. In a statement Viacom says that they are not going to do that, but only time will show. Reading about this led me on to this honourable organisation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation. How glad I am that people have the time and energy to found and run such organisations. It’s for the benefit of us all. More on this issue from Jeff Jarvis.

Also from the Long Now Blog a pointer to an article (disguised as a book review) in the New York Review of Books about global warming by British physicist and author Freeman Dyson (what I would not give to be as clearminded at the age of 84!!!). Before you roll your eyes and move on, let me tell you that this article is about the whole issue. The arguments for and against whether global warming is a serious problem or not, the economic aspects of all the different paths we could take and a very interesting finale about Environmentalism as a new religion. If you’re interested in this and want to read something that is truly unbiased, then try this. It’s not exactly an easy read and I will not claim to have understood all of it. But I understand lots more now than I did before…

The News is now Public ( a site dedicated to the publishing of news ignored or played down by other media) tells about Patrick Waller, the 31st innocent man freed by DNA in the state of Texas. The state of Texas apparently has a double record in the US. It’s the state where the most sentenced have later been found innocent based  on DNA and other evidence. And it’s the state with the highest rate of executions. That’s bone-chilling! CNN is the source of the story. An organisation called the Innocence Project are fronting and financing many of these cases. God Bless them!

As many of you will know, I’m an “Apple Person”. I love all things Apple and have much more of that “I Can’t Live Without It”-feeling in the Apple Store than in any department store. But there are things that aggravate me with Apple too. And mostly that has to do with the copyright thing. I absolutely detest that I can’t do with my own paid for CD’s and downloads exactly as I please. That absolutely INFURIATES me. And reading that I couldn’t watch Netflix films on my Mac if I so chose, infuriates me further. Give me my rights back! Why are my rights influenced by what platform I’ve chosen? Grrrr…

Jabberwock, an Indian blog, reviews the debut novel by Mohammed Hanif, which I’ve also read good things about elsewhere. He tells about the similarities to a book I read a long time ago and really, really liked: Mario Vargas Llosa‘s The Feast of the Goat. Mr. Hanif himself acknowledges the inspiration from Llosa. If you’ve never read anything by Llosa, he can be recommended as good – and very entertaining – summer reading. I’ve added the Exploding Mangoes to my Amazon wish list.

Oh, just realising I’ve been going on like this for hours and you’ve probably left this page a long time ago. Let this then be the last link. A funny post by Megan McArdle on The Atlantic about the demise of the SUV. I was never fond of SUVs in the first place, them being petrol-consuming and even more dangerous to pedestrians and bicyclists than other cars, so of course I love her little piece. Have a laugh over some of the comments as well.

No, here’s the last bit. On a very nice social outing with neighbours here in our convent, one person collected money for a “kitty”, for drinks at the pub. I did know what a kitty was, but hadn’t heard the word in many years, not having lived in England before. Asking all these knowledgeable and well educated people about the origin of the word “kitty”, they all drew a blank. But view possible explanations here, here and here.

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What to do about city slum

Upon surfing the news circuit, I stumbled upon a really interesting article on CNN. It’s about the positive sides of city slums, favelas, shantytowns, or whatever they’re called in different parts of the world. It’s really, really interesting, and, honestly, I didn’t have a clue about this.  Do read it all the way to the end, if you can find the time. Here’s a little appetizer:

Historically, Brand said, squatter cities have always been areas of economic expansion; within them there is virtually no unemployment, and their inhabitants are constantly striving to lift themselves out of destitution, he said.

“[Slums] are generating wealth the way cities have always done,” Brand said.

In India, almost 20 percent of the GDP comes from Mumbai, where half the city’s 12 million residents live in slums, Brand said. And even though many slum dwellers work in the informal economy, the official economy benefts as workers accumulate income and can afford to buy more goods and services outside their shadow neighborhoods.

In the article an organization is mentioned, which I’ve never heard of either. The Long Now Foundation. It’s based in California (where else?) and its focus is on long term planning instead of the usual way politicians and administrators do it, till the end of their term… The website looks incredibly interesting and I’ve added the blog to my rounds. Which means you might here more about it at a later stage ;-)

Furthermore, the article mentions a journalist, Robert Neuwirth, who has lived in different shantytowns for two years and wrote a book about it. Here’s a link to a talk he gave to the TED conference, here’s to his blog and here’s to buy the book

Photo googled and found here.

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A weakness

I’m going to admit something to you. I don’t dig entertainment on TV and usually don’t watch any of it. Honestly! But when we first came over here I was forced to watch a show on TV called Britain’s got Talent. Forced! (Gotta blame it on someone, haven’t I)…

But, nobody’s forced me to watch every programme since then!

There’s something completely irresistible about it. Every time we’ve been watching the auditions we’ve been asking ourselves what it is that makes people who are absolutely devoid of talent, charm or any other asset go on TV and showcase their shortcomings to the world. Some of them are just absolutely incredibly untalented!

But then, in between all the more or less terrible acts, come these unpolished gems right out of the sticks. Out of nowhere, wih so much talent that you’re left speechless! And sometimes some more polished gems make you think where A&R (artist & repertoire) people around the country have had their eyes and ears?

Here are some of my favourites:

George Sampson – dancer

Hoop-La-La – eh, hoolahoop dancers. Didn’t go on to the finals – much to my regret!

Flava – a street dance group way above what you usually see. And one of the boys’ mum had actually done the choreography! They didn’t go on to the finals, lost to these two little cutiepies:

Cheeky Monkeys.

Another act that didn’t reach the finals, was Tracey. I would have loved to have seen him perform in front of the Prince of Wales!!!

Some of the absolute superstars of the programme are a young girl and a young boy. They both sing and they both sing classical music. And both their voices make the little hairs on your back stand up! Andrew Johnston and Faryl Smith.

The judges of this show are national heroes, it appears. I don’t particularly like any of them… Piers has been editor of some of Britain’s worse rags, which qualifies him to absolutely nothing in my eyes. Amanda is probably a fine actress, but I’ve never seen her, so… And then there’s the world famous Simon. I think he’s horrible. Not because he’s “the tough one”, but because I think he’s got poor taste. He’s one to fall for a cleavage… (and take a look at his own haircut and open-necked shirts, sooo eighties!!!). At one point we saw a pair of dancers who were very good at what they did. It was like ice dancing without the skates. Which is to say not exactly high brow or anything. But Simon went on and on about how he preferred baked beans to caviar. Which was why he didn’t like this act??? They were exactly beans!!! Good, fine, talented. But beans. To Amanda’s credit she rolled her eyes at him!

I’d love if some of my readers (I actually know you’re out there!) would like to comment now and then. It’s quite OK to disagree. But if you do so in foul language, I’m not going to publish your comment. It saddening how many people leave horrible and obscene comments on perfectly above-board blogs. Shame on you!

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Link day

From Marginal Revolution this about Icelanders being the happiest people on earth.

From the New Yorker a bone-chilling recount of Nixon’s presidency and why that period is still very relevant to America today.

Kottge.org links to this incredible collection of legs as used in book- and magazine covers…

Puzzled as I am as to what this really is, animation, film, graffiti, a figment of someone’s imagination? I bring you this absolutely stunning little film. Found by Tore.

Ezra Klein has a couple of posts about Ted Kennedy. The first just a short notice about how sad it is that it is this particular senators of all senators who has to suffer from a malignant brain tumor. In the second post he quotes other mourners and reflects some more. Ezra Klein writes like he’s ancient and has studied intensely all his life. But no, here’s yet another young person who’s just immaturely brilliant! He writes for the liberal magazine American Prospect.

No Impact Man points to this funny Australian/soon-to-be-American blog about Icing. Icing as in the clothes we put on, the make-up we wear (or don’t as it is) and the outward signals we send in general. Not surprisingly, I really like her post about what to wear when you’re well past forty!

A tulip field in Holland!!! Picture snatched from a food blog on the New York Times. It was an interesting lecture on TED which directed me to Mark Bittman‘s blog. Cow farts are mentioned…

Jeff Jarvis has a funny post about our personal health in the public space. I didn’t even know such a thing existed as Google Health. But there you go. He points to this site, which looks very interesting to me, who, as many of you know, suffer from all sorts of weird little ailments…

Megan McArdle reminds us of Tom Lehrer. How can such an old clip still be so relevant. It’s just same old, same old, isn’t it? And she has this remarkable story about milk subsidising in the US. I haven’t verified it – having almost unlimited faith in The Atlantic. And as the lady says, you just can’t make these things up!

On the Danish website ComON (news about the IT world) I was astounded to find this link. It shows you how to modify your Iphone so the interface looks like Windows Vista! Who on the planet would want that, other than Bill Gates? My husband’s just got a new laptop for work and it has Vista. I find it absolutely horrible. It’s just plastered with widgets and warnings about this, that and the other and a completely useless “opening screen”. Give me XP anytime if I have to use Windows…

On the Blog with the Long Name (on anthropology) I found this interesting post: What Women Want. You just can’t help clicking, can you?

Gretchen, one of my happiness-gurus has this interesting post about how to stop a tantrum (in children, that is…). I’ll give it a shot next time Dane starts slamming doors.

You might be wondering (if you’ve made it all the way down here) why I read so many American blogs and so few British. I certainly wonder about that myself. The truth is, I don’t think much about it, I just put down the good ones I come across. As it turns out, they are mostly American. If you can point me to some exellent British ones, I’d love it! You should know my taste by now!

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Food for thought

I’ve recently added a new blog to my “daily rounds” (or weekly, it depends…). It’s on The Atlantic‘s website by Megan McArdle. This woman can write. And, tada, she’s not a journalist (and not an economist either)!

Her blog is supposedly an economy blog, but if that’s economy I want to be an economist too. Actually, economists seem to be a lot more fun than I’d ever imagined. As I’ve previously let you in on, I also follow economy blog no. 1, the Marginal Revolution blog. Very often the posts are not about economics at all, quite often they are about economy but in such an interesting context that it doesn’t seem that way. And some times they are about hardcore economics and I just skip them…

But back to Megan. The post that made me sit down and write this is about racial issues. But it’s also about litterature. And philosophy. And it is so beautifully written – such mastery of language! An example:

I see the two communities looking suspiciously at each other and saying “Once you have perfected yourself, then I will love you as myself.” But this will not work. The very act of watching the other, at a distance, for signs of change creates the problem we want to solve.

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350!!!!!!

Global warming… Copenhagen 2009… Waterlevels rising…

The answer, apparently, is 350!

OK, so what’s it all about? I didn’t know that that number had any kind of significance until a little earlier today, when I read about it on the No Impact Man blog.

350 is the red line for human beings, the most important number on the planet. The most recent science tells us that unless we can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, we will cause huge and irreversible damage to the earth.

The above is quoted from the about-page on 350.org.

When the object of the countries participating in the next climate conference (the one in Copenhagen, thanks to Ms. Hedegaard) is to agree on 450 (optimistic) or 550 (much more likely), it dawns on you why some people out there suddenly think they need to build an entire organisation around the number: 350.

The post on No Impact Man is full of good and solid references.

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A basic belief shattered…

or is it? I’ve always believed firmly in the so-called Easterlin paradox (although never really knowing what it was called). It’s an economic term named after the man who first wrote about it. (Some) statistics can be read in a way that indicates that, until you’ve reached a basic level of economic security, you get happier the more money you earn. The paradox being that once your finances are in such a state that you have a roof over your head, clothes on your back and food in your mouth (and healthcare and education possibilities for your children), your level of happiness evens out no matter how much money you earn after that.

This dogma is now being challenged by a couple of young American economists. According to an article in the New York Times their data is fairly substantiated. But read it for yourselves, I can’t explain it half as well as that excellent journalist who wrote the story.

First read it on a favourite blog of mine, Marginal Revolution. On New York Times’ Freakonomics blogs there’s more.

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Oh no!

Up early, all eager and happy. Arrive at new flat in excellent mood and lovely sunshine with son and helpful sister-in-law. Get call from movers that they can’t get through gate. Look like big questionmark – gate is very wide, removals lorries, delivery vans etc. drive in and out every day. Appears they‘ve used a 17 meter long giant-lorry to transport our stuff…

Must be the one at the back…

Bottom line – they drive back to depot, reload our stuff into a smaller vehicle (See, it’s possible, it fits!!!) and come back. On Monday.

I don’t cry about things like that, but I do feel very, very disappointed!

So tonight we’re back with our hospitable and patient family for another weekend with nothing much to do.

While sitting in the almost-empty flat waiting for a delivery (new vaccuum cleaner), I found that one of the undoubtedly nice neighbours has left his/her router without protection, so I’ve been perusing the Internet most profusely in my echoing and almost-empty kitchen.

Here’s some of the interesting things I’ve read today:

The Independent tells about research that has now proved that some colour additives bring on or enhance ADHD or “just” generally unruly behaviour in children. If this subject interests you, be sure to check out the other articles in the series, found at the bottom of the story.

My heart fluttered a little when I saw this headline:

The Email Habits That Make People Hate You

because I use e-mail a lot and often wonder why some some people don’t reply. Maybe they just don’t care about me and think I’m a general nuisance (just let it lie there, will you…), or maybe I’m just breaking lots of e-mail rules and annoy people that way? I was relieved to learn that I only really break a couple of the rules (4 & 5) and only some times.

On my friend Gabriela’s blog I found this wonderful speach to the American people, which made me laugh out loud. I thought of John Cleese only yesterday when I overheard two Englishmen doing their traditional good bye routine, where both parties try to pile as many compliments and niceties on top of the other person as possible within a couple of minutes. Cleese & Co. had a lovely sketch about that once upon a time. Maybe one day I’ll try to locate it on Youtube. If you’re one of those people with sticky brains and long memories, please tell me the name of the sketch and where to find it.

The Chief Happiness Officer had a look at office pranks and this is his favourite. It’s mine too. But I couldn’t help wondering when these people work and what they do?

Finally, I learned that videos can now be uploaded to Flickr. So I tried it – and it worked. Next step is to learn how to embed videos here on the blog. I just haven’t had sufficient time online to look into these matters, but mark my words, I will SOON! After all, on my old and much simpler Danish blog, I embedded videos succesfully.

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England

I know I’ve been a bit secretive as to what’s going to happen now. A reason for that could be that we weren’t entirely sure ourselves…

But – now we’ve decided, we’re going to settle down here in England, my husbands home country, which he’s been away from for almost thirty years. We have our eyes fixed on a lovely flat in Woking, Surrey. That’s south-west of London, a 20 minutes journey by train to Waterloo. Almost all the family is in Surrey, so we’ll be close to baby-sitting opportunities ;-) The deal is not done yet, so cross your fingers, please.

We’ve got ourselves a bank account – sounds easy-peasy doesn’t it? Well, it wasn’t! You have to produce evidence of residence – e.g. an electricity bill with your name on it. That’s not easy when you’ve just arrived in the country! AND you have to be on the electoral register, which is only updated every three months… Well, I wont go into details about how we got all of this fixed, but we did and now have a joint account with Natwest. The bank manager was all apologies over these new rules – you can try a wild guess as to why they’ve been implemented…

We’ve also bought a car – that was a lot easier than getting a bank account. You just go to the car dealer, choose a car, pay with your credit card and sign on the dotted line and Yippeee, you’ve got a car! Ours is a slightly battered eleven year old Audi A6 stationcar. It’s a lovely car, although a bit of a hassle to park. And it was dirt cheap, compared to Danish prices.

Until we’ve cleared it with the flat we’re staying with David’s sister and her family. Dane is having a fantastic time with his cousins Avi, 11 and Simmie, 9 and all their friends. He has really been missing other children on our trip, so this is just great. The family is most gracious, letting us stay, lending us all sorts of things that we need, giving us advice on schools (that’s a BIG deal over here!), public transport, parking, shopping etc. etc. Families can be really useful, you know!

We’ve been driving around the southern English countryside and – oh, it’s just so beautiful! It’s so much more hilly and wooded than the Danish countryside and villages seem to live on, in spite of the spreading suburbia and the huge supermarkets everywhere. We’ve heard from a number of sources that the preservation of villages is a cause that has captured many Englishmen’s hearts, besides the ones owning the ailing village shops. I’ve borrowed the picture from this page.

Oh, and on another note – my travel blog, still this one, just being transmogriffed into a different kind of blog (with some kind of purpose, don’t know which yet), has been nominated to an award. I’m very honoured, but can’t quite do what I’m supposed to do yet, since I haven’t had time to look at many blogs lately. Hope it’s ok for me to get back to my duties later. Thank you to Capac for thinking of me and promoting me this way!

If you only stumbled over my blog today, just click the travel category and you’ll get all the posts from our travels. There are quite a few, we travelled for six months and have only been home for about two weeks.

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