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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American television

 I’m often a bit behind in reading The Sunday Times. It is not always that you can devote an entire Sunday to the devouring of The Times. So this morning while I was having breakfast, I read the Culture section. After an interesting article about Baz Luhrmann‘s new film Australia (see trailer here), I got to the previously mentioned AA Gill commenting on British and American television. If you’re interested, you can read the bit about British television yourself here, but I’ll quote his bit about American television. I really wish I could have written it that way myself – we often thought and discussed along those lines while we were there:

 

I have spent the past fortnight in America, immersed, or submerged, in rolling news. There is something numbly comforting about the repetitious lapping of CNN. They say that, after the initial gagging and panic, drowning is quite a pleasant way to go, and that’s rather like watching Fox News — as you drift into unconsciousness, other people’s lives flash before your eyes. The rolling news channels give you the impression of being constantly informed while actually telling you very little. The world sidles past like a great river, and you never have to get wet. Disasters and basketball matches, comic animals and those strangely misshapen commentators all float away with equal inconsequence.

I was reminded again of two strange truths about American broadcasting. One is the astonishing number and variety of snake-oil medicinal commercials, not just advertising patent medicines but whole new diseases. Medical care is one of the main broken bones of contention in the coming American election, but nobody has actually pointed out that getting the halt, the flatulent, the palsied, the breathless and the hypochondriacs to pay for television is a very weird way of financing the entertainment and gaiety of a nation.

 

Brilliant powers of observation!

In a couple of hours I fly with boring Sterling to Copenhagen. Btw. if you’re NOT in Denmark, but want to fly there, Lastminute.com is always, ALWAYS, cheaper with the Sterling tickets than Sterling themselves. This particular ticket (out Thursday and back Sunday) I got for £100, whereas Sterling wanted £300. Don’t even mention SAS

Am going to participate in a 90th birthday celebration in the family. It really is something, isn’t it, to reach 90 and still have all your faculties?

So, see you on Monday…

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Double standards

I was recently enlightened on a new blog on The Times’ page. It’s called Alpha Mummy and it’s full of good stuff. Some pretty clever writers who do a lot of reading, off line and online.

Here’s on the double standards women political candidates are subjected to. It’s the Tonight Show again. I’m afraid I find him very, very funny. He must have some fantastic researches to always find just that clipping that gives his current victim away. And the fact that he always lets them give themselves away. He just sits there, leering…

Here’s an entirely different post about influential and infamous women from ancient times till now. If I tell you that both Lucrezia Borgia and Carla Bruni are mentioned, will you click through?

And here’s an article written by an American Republican woman in The Times, which more or less answers the question I asked a couple of days ago. What are the not-so-religious etc. Republicans going to vote now? The sad answer probably is: They are not. Since they can’t bring themselves to vote for Mr. Obama, they’ll just stay home and do nothing. And if McCain/Palin win, they can sit on their high horses and say that they didn’t vote for them. No, but they didn’t vote against them either.

On the day – may it never come – when Mrs. Palin is president of the United States and wreaks havoc of all the remaining things we love about America, what will these people say in their defense?

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AA Gill on Ms. Palin

The Sunday Times is unbeatable. There is no better Sunday paper – at least not of all the English, Swedish and Danish language newspapers I’ve tried over the years. It’s conservative, it’s snobbish, it’s eh, for want of better word, British… But it’s wonderful! We timed it today – a very lazy day indeed. We’ve been reading for six hours! On a daily basis I prefer the Independent and sometimes the Guardian. But not on a Sunday.

One of the great things about it is one of it’s most high-profile writers, AA Gill. He writes in a style all of his own in an English so flamboyant, so flowery, so vibrant, so vitriolic! And on Wikipedia I just read that the man is so dyslectic that he literally can’t write, he dictates all of his articles and books to a copywriter. He does features, travel writing and restaurant reviews. I found an interview with him on the American food-buff site Chow. I certainly don’t agree with him on everything, but I like to have my views challenged (occasionally…).

Picture borrowed from Clive Arrowsmith

Today he writes on the subject on – yes again – the American election. The article is hilariously funny – at least if you’re no great fan of McCain & Palin. About Minnesota, where the GOP convention is held:

This is where the Swedes and Norwegians came to try to whittle Scandinavia out of the hem of Canada. Back home they grew to be the most liberal nations in the world. Here they grew silent and maudlin. There’s a Minnesotan joke – only the one. It goes like this: there was an old Norwegian man who loved his wife so much he almost told her. That was so funny I almost laughed.”

About the choice of Palin:

“Depending on how fundamentally hard right you are, Palin is either a godsend who speaks to the experience of ordinary small-town large-breasted American women and sticks two fingers in the eyes of the coastal latte liberals. Or she’s a hideously embarrassing mistake that will swamp the election in underclass redneck sexual incontinence and that everything is about damage limitation and trying not to think about what would happen if president McCain died and this was the first family. Not so much from igloo to White House as igloo to White Trailer.”

Isn’t he wonderfully vicious? (The article, Redneck Regina, is not yet available online, but I suspect that it will be made available in a few days time.)

Anyway, we discussed this at length at a dinner party last night. Most people around the table had friends, business relations or family or all three in America and several of them known Republicans. But none of them from the religious right. How are they going to vote??? McCain is 72 and looks even older, his health isn’t that good, he’s had several so-called cancer scares and has the five years in Hanoi Hilton in his baggage. And the job as president is rather demanding, isn’t it? You can’t really take a day off? So, this woman will only be the famous heartbeat away from the presidency. Are the not-so-religious, pro-choice, non-members of the NRA, polar bear-friendly Republicans just going to cross their fingers, close their eyes and vote for McCain anyway? Or what?

I’ve got friends and family of the Republican persuasion. And I know some of them occasionally read my blog. If you do, then please enlighten us Europeans on your thoughts upon the matter. We really want to hear!

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Chrome

Here’s the inside news on the Google browser, Chrome. And here’s Google’s own post announcing it. I don’t (yet) see features that I’ve desperately craved, so I’m not going to install it just yet. I’m overly happy with the latest version of Firefox, which has several new features that I use a lot. Here’s a link to the mentioned “comic book” explaining the thinking behind the new browser and it’s features. It’s quite good and informative, although rather nerdy! Chrome was released earlier today and I’ve had a peek at some early adapters’ response and they seem to think that this is the future! Take a guided tour of it here.

And – speaking of the future, I’ve checked yet another speech at TED.com, recommended by Stephen’s Lighthouse. This one is by the writer, web evangelist and former editor of Wired Kevin Kelly. The Web as we know it has been around for 5000 days. He takes it upon himself to predict what will happen in the next 5000 days. It’s very interesting! There’s a lot of exabyte and terabyte in the beginning of his talk and I’m useless with numbers of that magnitude. They mean nothing to me. But later on he gets to content. And as you probably know – content is king… or at least that’s what a lot of people used to say in the 90’es.

There’s only one machine

The Web is its OS

All screens look into the one

No bits will live outside the web

To share is to gain

Let the One read it

The One is us.

That’s quite powerful, so I’ll leave it at that and say Good Night!

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Wikipedia

I wrote the other day about Mrs. Palin’s Wikipedia entry probably undergoing changes as I was writing. I was more on the spot there than I’d ever suspected. See this bit from Boing Boing and follow the links.

From next week I’ll be following a course at Uni called “Source Reliability”. A brief look at the reading list shows that there’s a lot about the debacle between Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Brittanica. Or rather – between Nature and Encyclopedia Brittanica. Since I haven’t read the articles yet, I don’t know what my teachers are trying to prove. But I have previously followed some of this debate and what I’ve learned is this: I used to blindly trust information found in sources like E.B. or the like – but Nature‘s examination of some of the entries in E.B. showed that they are as flawed as the people who wrote them. And aren’t we all flawed? So – I love Wikipedia because when I read an article there, I don’t trust it like it was the Truth – depending on the character of the subject matter, I check and re-check the information. When checking on which king came before Henry VIII or the name of a card game or the specifics of a plant, I happily use Wikipedia and only that. When checking political matters as the aforementioned Mrs. Palin, I’d be dumb if I relied only on the information on Wikipedia – or anywhere else for that matter.

No matter how many articles I read about the flaws in Wikipedia, it is still a fact that there were never before ONE easily and readily accessible place where you could find so much information and so many links for further reading about every conceivable subject.

Btw – the picture of Mr. Obama on my previous post and the picture of Mrs. Palin above are both from the excellent community site Picapp.com. It contains pictures free of copyright and can be used and downloaded by anyone. Legally.

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A little Obama and a lot of other stuff

Slate, New York Times, The American Prospect, Megan McArdle and a lot of sites that they’re linking to discuss the Obama speech. They seem to agree that it was a good speech, but not fantastic. He is an oratory master and has made so many good speeches during his brief career, that he’s made it difficult for himself. But see for yourself! While looking around all the politics sites, interesting news popped up – John McCain’s most unusual choice of veep candidate – the completely inexperienced, but young and female Sarah Palin. Check Wikipedia as the article is probably developing as we speak (or whatever it is we’re doing). Oh, how I love Wikipedia!

After one of my neighbours told me that I was not alone in experiencing faulty Internet here in our convent (thick, thick walls) and also was kind enough to tell me what he’d done to remedy it, I’ve become the very happy owner of three HomePlugs. OK, not exactly another step towards the wireless home – but oh, my Internet just works wonderfully – at full speed now. It’s like a big plug –  into the mains, one connects to the router with an ethernet cable and the others connect from the mains to my computer wherever I want to work. No installation whatsoever, just plug’n’play! Lovely, lovely, lovely!

So naturally I’ve been surfing around all day long and found lots of lovely stuff out there:

On happiness I’ve found a couple of good posts. They are both lists of things to do to be happier and not exactly groundbreaking science. But I still think they’re good and absolutely worth reading and maybe even memorizing. It’s Gretchen from The Happiness Project, but writing on another blog. And it’s from Pick the Brain about happy people’s habits. Btw Gretchen has a post on how to spot when you’re boring people…

On the TED blog I had to pick a few or the rest of the day would go with watching all these incredible people tell about their dreams and achievements. So this Indian guy with his hole-in-the-wall project took pride of place – he has put computers (with Internet) in holes-in-walls in remote places in India and discovered that any child between 5 – 14 can teach him- or herself and loads of other kids to use a computer in a few months. They even teach themselves basic English to do so. He quotes someone for saying “if a teacher can be replaced by a computer – replace him”. True! If the teacher can’t be better and more emphatic and inspiring than a computer, why have one?

When I started my origami craze I had no idea that it had somehow become “modern“. But clearly it has and I find that quite funny. Here’s a math professor who’s taken origami to a whole new sphere – using his math skills to do so. It’s downright incredible!

On the Long Now blog there’s a post by Brian Eno, who’s new album with David Byrne is on my to-buy list. It’s got absolutely raving reviews in the papers here and I am looking forward to hearing it. The post is about what happens to a society when it’s united in and committed to a very long-term project.

Jeff Jarvis writes about Paulo Coelho’s online presence. I must admit, I didn’t know about it and I’ve never read a book of his, although it’s probably about time that I read The Alchemist, which has apparently inspired many people. I’ve certainly noticed his books in prominent places in the bookshops. His website is very professional and informative and – where he differs from most other authors – there’s lots to read and download for free.

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Boing Boing

I’ve had this Internet directory on my roll for quite some time, but it’s not really until today that I’ve found anything other than curiosities on it. When I looked through it today though, there seemed to be a lot more substantial stuff or maybe I just haven’t paid close enough attention earlier.

This post is about the tendency we all have to embellish a good story AND about how willing we are to believe what we see/read/hear if it “sounds right” or suits our own beliefs. I wonder if that has become worse with the Internet or if it’s always been like that. Think of H. G. Wells and The War of the Worlds.

Here’s about the suspicious and hostile treatment you get in the US immigration – in this case in JFK. On our journey we experienced unpleasantness many times, but luckily nothing like this. We joked about the fact that the only nice immigration officer we met, while in the US, was in fact Canadian…

And here’s a story – or rather a video – that puts what I wrote above into perspective. Should one really believe that this can happen to anyone – ANYONE – in London, here in wonderful, democratic UK????? It sure looks very authentic, but I just don’t want to believe that this could happen to me next time I venture up to London!

The next one is little more than a curiosity, but since it’s about John McCain, I will not hesitate to bring it to you: Here’s the quote from McCain’s own website:

It may be typical of the pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd to disparage a fellow countryman’s memory of war from the comfort of mom’s basement, but most Americans have the humility and gratitude to respect and learn from the memories of men who suffered on behalf of others.

Although it’s not written by McCain himself (how could it be, he’s just learning to surf the Internet as we speak), it’s still ON his website. A Dungeons & Dragons fan promptly had this t-shirt designed:

The guy who designed it has several cool t-shirts to offer actually. Check this for a cool motif:

Now, where was I? Oh yes, politics, that’s right. There’s also a couple of pointers to stories about people arrested at the Beijing games for drawing attention to Tibet. Brave and admirable people, they are!

And now to something completely different. This is a Danish blogger I’ve been following for years. She has just recently posted one of the most exquisite photo series I think I’ve ever seen on a blog and I really must share it with you! It’s called Laundry. Here’s just one photo from the series:

Thank you, Lisa!

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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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