Man kunne jo forestille sig

at danske journalister i langt højere grad, end det er tilfældet nu, tog de sociale medier (især Twitter, hvor nyhederne altid kommer først) alvorligt som en kilde til nye historier (du er undtaget @sfanc) og gad gå i dialog med deres followers/fans/læsere, når disse havde relevante spørgsmål, bidrag, indsigter. Det gider de næsten aldrig – selv når man påpeger deciderede fejl, er der i ni ud af ti tilfælde ingen respons overhovedet. Der er dog efterhånden rigtigt gode takter på flere medier, Berlingske er solidt repræsenteret, men mange af de tilstedeværende kører stadig lidt envejskommunikation, Information er nu godt kørende, og Jyllands-Posten var jo først med den enestående @kaaresorensen. Hurra for ham. Til gengæld er Politiken helt og aldeles fraværende. Når man nævner @politiken i en tweet, uanset hvad det drejer sig om, så er én ting sikker. Man får aldrig noget svar. Det er sgu sløjt!

Det samme gælder politikerne på Twitter med nogle få bemærkelsesværdige undtagelser. Altså, når højprofilerede politikere som @IdaAuken og Margrethe @Vestager, som nok har mere travlt end mange andre politikere, kan finde tid til at svare på tweets, så er det svært at lægge øre til de andres undskyldninger (ministre undtaget). Og jeg taler især til dig @Christianfbach – når en vælger skriver til dig, at de har stemt på dig, ville det så ikke være passende at sige tak? Og når vælgere spørger dig om noget, så kunne du jo svare. Ellers skal du lukke din Twitter-konto og holde dig til Facebook og en almindelig hjemmeside.

Men tilbage til journalisterne – har læst om et initiativ, som YouTube overvejer, nemlig at lancere en kanal, der skal understøtte undersøgende journalistik, så vi kan få mere af det og måske af bedre kvalitet. Problemet er jo – til dels – at der kun sjældent er råd til at betale journalister i måneder for at gå og rode i én enkelt historie. Personligt mener jeg dog, at hvis man skruede lidt ned for dækningen af alverdens småhistorier og sparede udgiften til ligegyldige Reuter-telegrammer og følelsesporno artikler, som dem der fulgte i kølvandet på Utøya og som ses i dag på 9/11årsdagen, kunne man både få en mere profileret avis (fordi alle historier faktisk var skrevet af avisens egne journalister eller af journalister på samarbejdende aviser (som Information og Guardian)) og højstatus enkelthistorier, der var researchet over længere tid. Jeg ville fx tro, at en historie som den om, at Q8 ikke betaler skat i Danmark, kunne have fyldt meget mere og inddraget mange flere perspektiver. Her havde det fx været oplagt at inddrage de sociale medier, hvor mange godt gider bidrage (gratis!) til den type historie med deres egen research og med at sprede den.

Når aviserne ellers finder sig en betalingsmodel, der giver mening (kom NU!), skal vi læsere jo også have noget ordentlig valuta for pengene. At betale abonnement for at læse Ritzau-telegrammer, gider jeg i hvert fald ikke. Men jeg vil gerne have en løsning, hvor jeg kan abonnere på en avis, der ikke udkommer som en forstenet PDF-fil, og jeg vil også gerne have lov til at betale (på en nem og smart måde) for en enkelt artikel her og der fra aviser og magasiner, som jeg ikke abonnerer på.

 

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Identity

I could have a profile with this avatar. Would be correct signal about age and gender, but all else would be open!

The other day I was reminded of something that happened in the very, very early days of social media, long before it was called social media. I think that it’s relevant to today’s discussions about our “true identity” – online or off line or both.

Many many years ago I worked for Nordisk Film/Egmont (one of the largest entertainment groups in Scandinavia) and was part of the earliest experiments with web there. Egmont offered a portal or a community or something, I forget, think it was called EON. There, you could have a profile and chat with others on that same community.  Obviously, back then, there were only a few people on there and the majority were my colleagues from Nordisk Film and Egmont. I was never accepted by the large group of journalists working for Nordisk Film’s various television programmes. Except for the fact that I am not a journalist, I never quite understood why.

To try and understand it better, I decided to start a second profile on EON, this time not as me. But I was careful to write exactly the same kind of messages, with the same “privacy level”  and the same kind of civility that I’ve always wanted to be an exponent of.

The interesting thing was that while most of my colleagues more or less ignored me as me, they were absolutely intrigued by the other me. Although there was NO difference in the content of my posts. And, mind you, there were a lot of other anonymous users, I was not the only one. It was the norm then, to be anonymous.

I, as me, was an uneducated person who, for reasons unknown to most, had landed the attractive job as press officer for Nordisk Film. In my late thirties, a single mother, no journalistic experience but with a history from the music business they didn’t know of and weren’t interested in, anyway. So, in reality, that was what they saw when they saw my posts. Not the actual content.

However, the other me must have been rather witty and intriguing, because I received lots of attention and inquiries and was chatted up by both sexes in numerous ways. It was most disturbing and discouraging and I closed down the profile.

On Twitter I see echoes of this in some instances, e.g. people at the top of the social hierarchy (e.g. with prestigious jobs) who receive a lot of undue attention on Twitter despite their boring and uninspiring updates. In others, the opposite, where I’m extremely pleased to see e.g. heavily overweight people transcend this social handicap and gain lots of followers and have lively interactions based on the content of their tweets alone. Even though their Twitter-friends are aware of their physical appearance.

Personally, I don’t find it too difficult to draw the line between what can be uttered among colleagues at the office or at home with friends and what can be posted to Facebook and Twitter. While I may say in a circle of friends that so-and-so should get it together or something like that, I’d never post that anywhere in writing. Not because I can’t stand by my words but because you need to know the full context to fully understand it. And with hundreds of “friends” on Facebook and Twitter, it should be life rules for dummies that they are not all aware of that context (and that one’s for you, Ditte Okmann).

Please share your thoughts on this subject.

 

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Egypt, the entertainment industry and tea towels

It’s hard to think of much beside or above the events in Egypt. If it’s not at the forefront of your mind, take a moment, close your eyes and imagine this huge country, smack in the centre of the Middle East, with a democratically elected government! If you, like me, believed all the propaganda you’ve heard about the Muslim Brotherhood, take a moment to read about them here, here and here. I can’t say that I agree with them in many of their view points, but they certainly aren’t what many rightwing politicians have so successfully tried to tell us, Al Qaidaish madmen who wish to take Egypt back to the Middle Ages. So – even if they win an election, there’s little risk that Egypt will be another Iran. Imagine the whole of the Right without their eternal argument that Israel must be supported in every way because it’s the only democracy in the Middle East. If you wish to REALLY follow the development in Egypt, some media are a lot better than others! Huffington Post (now sold to AOL?!?!) covers it well, as does Al Jazeera. Several of the correspondents from international newspapers currently in Cairo, tweet. By far the best method to follow the development as it unfolds is to find one of these and follow him or her on Twitter.

OK, there are other things happening in the world, most of which seem to pass me by at the moment. I’m going on holiday and feel most deserving of leisure and luxury. My husband’s company is hosting a corporate event in Dubai – as you do – and spouses are invited. I picture myself poolside with a book and half an eye on junior, playing in the pool. Let’s see what it’s really going to be like. After the corporate event we go on to Abu Dhabi to visit a dear friend who has lived there the past few years. I lost a Twitter-follower because I tweeted that many of the Westerners who choose to go and work there do it for money. I know a few people who have gone there or contemplated going because they got fabulous job offers (an architect, a doctor, a consultant), which they for various reasons couldn’t turn down. But I know and know of many more people who go there because there’s NO tax and super-cheap domestic help and giant golf courses. It isn’t quite the same as going to New York, Maputo or Bruxelles, is it?

Besides the really important stuff like politics and holidays there are few things that will enrage me as the entertainment industry and all the barriers they put up around their precious content. Not to mention their whining. Ugh. The other people here at my office know the range of swear-words I’ll fire off when I come across some content that I can’t move from one device to another because of all these stupid barriers or when I want to buy something and am told that “this content isn’t available in your territory”. Argh. The music industry has had more than 20 years to figure out what to do about the digitisation of content and they STILL haven’t figured it out. They spend all their money on lawyers and precious little on developing new ways to make money, but foremost an easy and fair way to pay for content. I believe that most people are ready to pay for content if it’s easy (EASY!) to access, easy to pay and easy and fair to handle once you “own” it.

On FTM (FollowTheMedia) I’ve read an article (and paid for it!!) on the latest developments. Something very interesting is under way from the Pirate Bay people. Stay tuned!

Before I fly off to the Arabic desert I’ll leave you with a few sweet tit-bits. Here’s a company that says We Are What We Do and try to help us with that. Making charity more palatable for us spoiled first-worlders. Check this tweet-towel. Oh, what a must-have for Tweeters. There must be some sort of cross-over you can do with a charity? Speaking of Twitter, here’s why you should probably have a Twitter account even if you don’t have time to tweet.

This is digitally created. I don't own this wonderful thing.

See you pool-side. *takes cover*

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End of a Year

Hasn’t it been a strange year? It has for me. Started at a low, but ended well. Lots of ups and downs along the way. In a broader perspective I don’t know what to think! Obama is totally unpopular because he’s turned out to be only human and to constantly work for the consensus he’s always said he’d work for. This should be really strange, but isn’t, at least not in politics. Here’s a clip where he ads his five cents to the It Gets Better campaign. In the UK we got out in the nick of time – Oh me, can’t believe how Nick Clegg can sleep at night? Am told from people who move in the upper echelons of the British society that the only people NOT suffering from this deep crisis are exactly them, the VERY rich. The middle class is also feeling the pain, but it’s the working poor and the undeserving (that’s people who don’t work, no matter why) who are really feeling the axe. In Harrods, it’s business as usual.

In Denmark we have a conservative/nationalist government, which is luckily worn very thin. An election next year will bring some form of change, but I will not try to guess what it’ll be like. Hard, however, to imagine anything worse than what we’re experiencing now. The concept of “undeserving” as mentioned above is also very prominent here in Denmark. A very clever and passionate charity worker calls Denmark a “post-solidary society“. He’s right, but isn’t it sad?   I work for the Danish Refugee Council occasionally and that’s just so depressing. To get into the country is almost impossible with the Dublin regulation firmly in place and rigorously enforced, even though for instance Greece is totally incapable of receiving all these refugees and process their applications. Many countries in Europe have stopped returning refugees to Greece, but not Denmark. Obviously. Then to have your application granted is even harder. It’s like the bl**dy camel in the bible.

At my dad’s nursing home I regularly hear the old people abuse the immigrants who work there. And the management says that they can only admonish the staff, not the inhabitants. Imagine going to work every day, at the lowest possible pay, wiping people’s bottoms and then ON TOP listening to abuse for your skin colour and/or your (perceived) religion. I want to slap some of them. But you can’t, can you?

And then there are the wars. Everywhere there’s a war and in many places people who actually work actively to start one. Here, in my little segment of the privileged world it is totally and utterly incomprehensible. People get killed for no apparent reason and the dead are either totally innocent civilians or soldiers, recruited from the lower rungs of their society, more often than not without a clue what they’re getting into. That is clear from the books and stories we hear from soldiers coming home with their bodies but not their minds in one piece.

Our civil rights are threatened everywhere. And most people seem not to worry or care at all! Read here how the democracy United States of America is treating the 22 year old private Bradley Manning (allegedly behind the latest batch of  Wikileaks leaks). He has not yet been convicted of or even charged with a crime – nevertheless he’s treated like a convicted serial killer.

In many European countries you can now have your phone tapped or other measures taken against you without a court order. A great thing, however, is that the Danish court recently said NO, you cannot detain people because you THINK they are going to behave violently at a demonstration. Several hundred people were “administratively detained” before the COP15 summit in Copenhagen last year. But this is perhaps the only cheerful story among all the sad ones about how the “war against terrorism” is undermining the very society it’s supposed to protect.

In the midst of all the misery, there are still people who come up with amazing ideas and who are incredibly creative. I went to the TedXCph, which was a great event and there I heard some great speakers. The one that sat with me the longest was the most crazy and unlikely of them all. Had I been a smoker I might have missed it because the blurb was like “we want to build a mountain in Copenhagen”. You WHAT? Seriously. But I’m not a smoker and I did hear it. I suggest you hear it too. You must hang on till the second guy starts talking. He’s the kind of person who could sell sand in Sahara!

***

Christmas is the time of year where absent friends and family are most prominently on our minds. The ones I miss the most are the ones who are still alive, but who choose to not be around. On that account, I wish for a better 2011 and hope to understand my failings better.

I wish you all and our dear Earth a peaceful 2011.

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I spent a day in the company of geeks

Jennie & Mary, tweeting.

I learned cool stuff about WordPress (this blog is made with WordPress software) – some of which I think I have to refresh if I can convince lovely Lisa to spend a couple of hours getting it to stick in my brain. During the day I learned bits and pieces about technology, just picked up here and there and difficult to quantify. There was a so-called unconference covering a wide variety of subjects, the more interesting (to me) were the one about how to go about writing a book (more geeky than you might think), the one about boosting your self confidence and the one about handling conflicts. Particularly the last one resonated deeply with me. Averse to conflict as I am.

I met some pretty gorgeous people, such as Camilla Ley Valentin from the wildly interesting start-up Queue-IT, the sweet & lovely journalist, blogger and author Dorte Chakravarty, the adorable stylist Judi Lund Finderup, the charming self-anointed Wellness Junkie Anne-Grete Belmadani, the mega inspiring coach Maria Gustavsson and the sexy journalist Ronnie Ritterland. And there were some recent acquaintances from Twitter, the funny and charming Jennie and the mischievous Mary. And many others who no doubt deserve to be mentioned, but whose names Néné, the scatterbrain, has forgotten or who don’t have a website known to me. Sorry!

There was a clothes swap, where you got a token for each piece of clothing you brought in and several little workshops where you could learn jewellery-making and alternative stuff to do with plastic pearls and t-shirts. A good deal of the geeks had brought knitting and some were even spotted embroidering. The food was lovely and the sweets golden in more senses than one.

The best licorice I've ever tasted. Seriously. www.lakrids.nu Photo by @risager

I suspect that I’ll meet several of these fabulous people again and that it won’t be the last time I go to geeky get-togethers.

Did I mention that we were only women?

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Am I a geek?

Some would say yes, others would say no. The yes-sayers are members of my family and some of my friends who find my rather intimate relationship with my laptop and my phone unnerving and unnatural. The no-sayers would be fellow bloggers and tweeters who routinely build own websites and say things about XHTML that I don’t understand…

When I saw Geek Girl Meet-Up (link in Danish) announced on Twitter I was attracted to it, but also very much in doubt as to whether I belong there or not. I still am, to be honest, although I am now officially a participant. I have been asked by a true geek (and this, in my book, is VERY positive), my friend Lisa (link in Danish), to describe what geeky stuff I can contribute with. Hm.

I just don’t think I’m geeky enough to contribute in a setting like that. At least not with traditionally geeky stuff. But there’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. And that is Danish/international companies’ use of English as corporate language.

I like it. I like it if we can emerge from our self-sufficient little island and become part of the world out there – being colleagues at work with people from all over the world and let ourselves be enriched. And English is the obvious choice in our part of the world, where the German, French and Spanish we learn at school are far from sufficient to get us through much more than ordering a meal at a restaurant.

As you all know, I love the English language in all its richness and complexity. I even make a living, more or less, from my love of this language. I love Danish too and would probably love every language I learned well enough. When I read a really beautiful sentence I go all soft and “aahhh”. Guess that’s pretty geeky in a way…

I don’t claim to speak or write it perfectly – don’t think I ever will. But I feel much better about this after my years in England, where I found that most English people don’t either…

What I’m trying to get to is this: Corporate-Speak is NOT English. The language non-English people speak amongst themselves is of course English. It’s just not, well, you know, English. (And it’s not American either). Each time you enter a big international company or go to a conference and listen to people speak, you hear a new, slightly different, version of Corporate-Speak. Then, when you start working with them on their texts, you get into the strangest discussions about language. Like, can we use “difficult” words when not everybody understands them? My claim is, yes, absolutely. You cannot and should not lower the level to some sort of 10.000-words lingo that everybody understands. That would be terrible. We would never do that if we wrote ads, articles, etc. in our own language!

The reverse is also a problem. A kind of imagined “over-familiarity” with the English language. We’ve discussed this on Twitter lately and all the English/American and bi-lingual totally agree. When Danes speak English, they adapt a tone that’s even more blunt than the “original” Danish. Read an article (in Danish) about that here. The f… word, which I could never write, is overused in Denmark, because Danes don’t grasp just how nasty a word it actually is. The fact that it can be heard on television a lot (although in the UK and US it’s usually beeped out) and that rap-artists believe it’s the most common word in the English language, does NOT make it acceptable in book titles, conference blurbs and adverts. It just doesn’t. Some people will think that I’m just an old hag who disapproves of swearing and “modernity”. But it is not so. I wish I was less prone to swearing, but I do swear more than I like to admit. I just don’t say the f… word, unless… There should be a wide gap between what you write in the public sphere and what you say when you stub your toe on the table-leg.

So, what I am is a language-geek. I don’t want to be a custodian, watching over a language spoken in bygone times, but I want us to maintain a rich and easily understandable language, be it Danish or English or any other. Easily understandable in the sense that sentences are complete, punctuated in such a way that they make sense when you read them, and in the sense that “difficult” words are used where they are necessary and not to show off.

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Here she goes again…

Warning: The below is best described as ramblings rather than a coherent defense of feminism. Now you know, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Today I’ve read two articles about feminism. One because I was alighted to it on Twitter, the other because the first article is based on it…

I’m already doing a really good job at being clear and understandable, eh?

You know these lines, spoken by women:

I’m a feminist, but…

I’m not a feminist, because…

I would be a feminist if…

How often do you hear someone say I’M A FEMINIST. Not too often I’m afraid! Well, this (young) woman dares to say it and she shouts it out loud and argues it well. Good for you, girl!

Let us just, for once, leave glass ceilings, pay- and pension gaps and domestic squabbles behind and take a good long look at The Rest of The World.

In some parts of Africa men believe that they can be cured of AIDS if they “sleep with” (what a horrible euphemism that is, in this case!) a virgin. The number of rapes and sad new cases of AIDS is untold. But imagine!

All over Africa and parts of Asia, women bear the brunt of the sufferings of war, conflict, corruption and bad governance – all more or less executed by men. They are often the ones trying to scrape a living during and after conflicts, providing for both the children and the elderly while the men are either dead, off to war or just plain gone. All the aid organisations say the same thing and the micro loan organisations often recommend lending to women as they are more hardworking and more realistic than the men.

And then there are the endless stream of horror stories about women that flow to us from the Middle East. At the moment this story is highest on the list, but there are new ones all the time. In a world that is not in UPROAR because women risk ANY KIND OF PUNISHMENT for so-called adultery or other “crimes” related to sexuality, how can anyone claim that feminism is redundant?

I find politicians’ obsession with veil/no veil ridiculous. Who cares whether a woman covers her hair and we all know – don’t we??? – that the current dramatic rise in the number of women who wear a veil is a question of threatened identity much more than it’s a question of religion or suppression of individual women. However, it’s a whole different ballgame with the burqa. A woman who is made to cover her face is not a free woman in any sense and I simply refuse to believe that a single woman wears it entirely of her own free will. Recently, I’ve noticed that there are many women wearing these hideous garments in the Knightsbridge area and in central Geneva where rich Arabs gather. These women often wear Louboutins or similar madly expensive and VERY SEXY shoes, have polished and lacquered nails, glittering rings and – not least – lots of shopping bags from Gucci, Chanel, Vuitton, Prada, etc. I’ve definitely seen more burqas in one summer afternoon in Harrods than on all my visits to Nørrebro (Copenhagen’s largest concentration of Muslims live here).

These rich Arab countries are ardently supported by almost all Western governments and while Western politicians are all signing petitions to save an Iranian woman’s life, because we all hate the priests in Iran, don’t we? they are much less light-footed when it comes to condemn the sick policies of countries like Saudi Arabia.

I can now hear voices arguing that these wives of very rich men are lucky. Well, yes, they don’t live in poverty and they can wear Louboutin shoes in public and Gucci dresses in the privacy of their homes. But. If they try to leave the home, they can bring none of this luxury with them. And more importantly, they’ll have to leave their children behind. And we don’t know how they are treated behind those palace walls, do we? Because they don’t have a voice, these women.

So, men. While I don’t want to stop discussing inequalities here in the Western world – it livens up dinner conversations quite marvelously – I want to direct your focus towards the women who can’t blog and don’t have a dinner table to discuss around. Support them in all you say and do (and when you vote) and then we’ll talk about whether feminism has outlived itself.

While we, the women, shouldn’t stop thinking and talking about glass ceilings, etc., we should also focus more on our unfortunate sisters. We can focus with our money and with our votes. And we can keep writing about them too.

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Back in the Native Land

Better known as Denmark. Denmark is the kind of country where one of the most publicised points in the new Plan to Save the Country from Economic Ruin is to cut child allowances for families with many children. As any idiot in this country knows, a Family with Many Children is a Brown or a Black family. To further alienate brown and black families, interpretation in hospitals and social services has now been cut to an absolute minimum. And, last but not least, Denmark’s development aid has also been cut.

I’m thinking that I have a copy of Dale Carnegie‘s How to Win Friends and Influence People in the original Danish translation. I could send it to the party leader of the Danish People’s Party (yes, that’s their name, directly translated. Yukk) in the hope she would understand that making friends is much better than getting enemies and alienating people. Or maybe not.

People ask me “What’s great about being back in Denmark?” and “What do you miss about the UK?”. Ah, well… I could say the weather:


But I would be lying. The weather hasn’t been better in the UK than here.

I could say the lovely people. That would be true for both coming back and leaving. I missed my friends a lot more than I’d thought I would – always imagining that we’d talk on FB, on the phone, on Skype and send lots of e-mails. This, however, hasn’t happened. Well, it has, with a few, but with the majority I’ve more or less lost contact except when I came to Copenhagen on visits. All rather strange in these modern times!

The lovely crowd of twitter-friends that I’m leaving behind will be much missed, as quite a few of them grew into so much more than “just” twitter-friends. Some of them are actually coming to visit me over the summer and I’m sooo thrilled! However, given the nature of how I met them, we’re in frequent contact – via FB, Skype and Twitter. I can’t say how much that pleases me!

I could say that I desperately miss British telly, radio and media and that would be absolutely true! If it weren’t for the brilliant phenomenon of podcasts (have I mentioned this before? Oh, I have? Really?), I think I would despair at the loss of R4, which has given me endless hours of pleasurable learning. Now I listen to DR’s (Danish public broadcaster) P1 which is not at all bad, but has recently been very severely hit by the government’s race for privatisation. You know how experience shows that privatisation leads to much better public service, entertainment, train services, hospitals, etc. You don’t know? Well, in all honestly, I can’t say I’ve noticed it either. But right wing governments seem to have this as a mantra. The small matter of missing data/research to support the claim is brushed under the ideological carpet.

On a lighter note, all the series that are my guilty pleasures, 24, Lost, The Good Wife, etc., are months behind here, so I’m not missing anything (and avoided Twitter when season finals were on). Which is good since I’ve had almost no time to watch telly in the month that I’ve been back.

Luck has had it that I’ve hit the ground running here as far as work is concerned. That has been a bit surprising, but surprising in such a nice way…

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Waving the feminist flag again

Knowing how it upsets quite a few of my male readers I just can’t help myself. It’s Ada Lovelace day today, so we’re celebrating women who have excelled in technology.

I’ve chosen not to celebrate any woman in particular but instead to muse over why so many women still shy away from technology.

Ada Lovelace embraced technology although it hadn’t even been invented when she was around. She was guided by her curiosity combined with a brilliant brain and the financial circumstances to allow it.

I think that there’s a number of reasons why women don’t tend to embrace technology the way men do.

*disclaimer*
Please note that I use GENERALISATIONS in this post. I KNOW that not all men embrace technology or are good at it, I KNOW that there are women who excel in hardcore programming, etc. etc. But I’m sure you’ll agree that MORE women than men shy away from technology and that MORE men than women enjoy discussing Megabits of this and Gigabytes of that.
*end of disclaimer*

One of these reasons is the rather dull and unsurprising that technology has always been a male thing ever since the invention of the first technologies when women were still mostly “housewives” and dumbed down by themselves, their mothers, their fathers, their teachers, their brothers, their husbands and society in general. When computers started to be household items, everything to do with them was communicated in a special language, almost exclusive to people who worked with computers and completely unintelligible to anybody outside. But most men had to either pretend to understand or buy some copies of PC World and get an understanding quickly if they didn’t want to be out of the loop.

For women it was enough to learn the weird code language that was WordPerfect. Learning that was not at all considered a computer skill and nobody ever told any secretary that she could take her advanced WordPerfect coding skills and transfer them to other forms of computer coding – that the principles were the same even if the codes were different. So a large group of people – women – who could have become programmers and learned HTML as easy as one-two-three was completely lost. Because when Apple came with their What You See Is What You Get word processing technology and Microsoft came right at their heels and delivered Word to the world, everybody forgot all about WordPerfect and the skillset required to work it.

The language surrounding computers and other daily life technologies has certainly become a lot more accessible with the acceptance and knowledge that the target group has exploded and now includes everybody. But techno speak is still rife and you do need to learn some basics if you want to purchase some new technology and actually know what you’re buying. It’s also very helpful to know basic computer lingo when you make the inevitable call to the dreaded call centre for help. But I still think it would be really helpful if the ad said: This phone has 8GB memory. That equals x number of songs or x podcasts or x movie length films. I mean, who cares whether it’s 8 or 16GB? What you care about is whether there’s room for your entire Itunes library.

So when I talk to other women about technology and they get defensive about learning a bit of computer lingo I challenge them. Every time we enter a new chapter of our lives, we learn the language belonging to this particular subgroup without giving it much thought. You start studying law and after a year or so you’ve adopted a whole new set of words which you use effortlessly, inside and outside university. When you start cooking you learn the difference between tsp and tbsp and after the first mistake you know what “separate the eggs” means. When you first get pregnant (or your girl does) you learn a whole new set of words and phrases and suddenly know exactly what is considered a “normal” birth weight and what isn’t whereas previously you wouldn’t have batted an eyelid if somebody had told you that their baby weighed 12 kilos at birth.

I therefore challenge women to sit down and learn the basics about computers, so they can understand enough to make sane purchases, avoid viruses, guide their children and do what they want to do on their computers and smartphones. Whining that it’s “too complicated” just doesn’t cut any slack with me.

And now for the second reason why I think women are lagging behind when it comes to technology. I think they lack curiosity. Or rather, they lack the inclination to pursue their curiosity. And I think that’s with us from childhood. The further we go back in time the less women are likely to have been encouraged to act on their curiosity as children. And if you go to a toy store or a book store’s children’s department you’ll see how that’s still so very much the case. I should underline that this is a lot worse here in the UK than it is in Denmark. Can’t speak for the rest of the world. The wonderful Science Museum here in the UK has developed the most amazing series of exploratory toys and, happily, they’re on sale all over the world. However, in many a toy store or department store these toys are displayed in the boys’ section and not in the girls’. And where, unfortunately, it’s a general trend that children’s toys today don’t encourage them to think “out of the box” (Now, who is responsible for ruining that phrase? come here and I’ll spank you!) as much as previous generations’ toys, it’s much more true for girls’ toys. If you don’t believe me, go take a look. And don’t tell me that I can just avoid them. I only have boys. But then, I’m not talking about me. Keeping in mind the size of the toy departments and the amount of money spent on advertising toys every year, there CLEARLY are people who buy it, right!

I blame the mothers, particularly the ones who ought to know better, for giving in to this. Just heard this morning that some girls at son’s school were invited to a birthday party with a “Makeover” theme. That makes me want to be sick in somebody’s designer handbag.

In the teetering stack of books next to my bed is a book called Curious? by the psychologist Todd Kashdan (@toddkashdan on Twitter). I haven’t read it yet, but I bought it based on his op-eds in The Huffington Post and an article in the Guardian. I’m very curious myself and have often been told that I’m too curious for my own good. Imagine how pleased I was to read that curiosity is actually good for you and leads to much more “life satisfaction” if such a thing can be quantified. The curious are seldom bored, there’s always an avenue to explore. So what I know now, in the midst of the huge sea of things I don’t know, is that at least I’m not going to die of boredom.

***

So, what I meant to say on Ada Lovelace day, was this: Yes, ladies, there’s a historic precedence for women to not be curious and to be cr*p at technology. But that’s all it is. There are no excuses anymore. And if you can’t be bothered for yourself, then do it for your children. They deserve that you make the effort to understand the world they live in.

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Contentedness

As regular readers will know I read and think (and subsequently write) a great deal about happiness. Quite often I’ve discussed the word happiness with people and tend to agree that the word itself stands in the way of our experience of it. Happiness has become synonymous with big white weddings, having beautiful perfect babies, going on marvelous vacations with your larger-than-life family. Which then leads to people saying that they don’t need happiness, they’ll just settle back and accept some sort of equilibrium and satisfaction with being un-unhappy…

However, I maintain that the above mentioned Big Occasions are not what constitutes happiness and want to reclaim the word. What I really mean with the word is more the contentedness from the title, but there are two downsides to that word. One is the word in itself – it’s a dreadful word, just look at it! The other is that if you say you’re content you’re almost also saying that you are happy where you are and don’t want to change anything.

That’s not how I see happiness. I consider myself an above-average happy person. It’s not that I’m ♫ Always Looking at the Bright Side of Life ♫ and turning the blind eye to the darker side, but I do try to because I find many people’s dwelling on even minor miseries really irksome and I don’t want to moan whinge moan like they do. If you follow me on Twitter you’ll know that I do whinge occasionally, but I try to keep it at a minimum and also try to be constructive about it. Our family’s life situation at present is cr*p with too many uncertainties for anybody’s liking. What I’m trying to do is to find the balance between realizing the seriousness of the situation and dealing with it accordingly and sitting back and feeling sorry for myself. I certainly allow myself to feel self pity over finding myself in this situation, but on the other hand, I like to think back and see how often something surprisingly good has come of situations not unlike this one. I believe in luck, but I also believe that you – to a large extent – can create your own luck by “paving the way for it”, so to speak.

Watch me, on my knees, removing all the weeds and obstacles on luck’s path!

Yesterday I watched a new speech on TED. It’s with Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, the “behavioural economist” about the substantial difference between the “remembering self” and the “experiencing self”. It goes a long way to describe how we perceive our past and why we often make such bad decisions based on that. I’m glad I saw it before the major decisions awaiting us ahead!

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Pink

I’ve been reading some Danish blogs’n’stuff lately since I was in Denmark and was alerted to a friend’s new blog and reminded of an old favourite. If you don’t read Danish, don’t click these two links.

This woman writes about pink technology and how it’s a total turnoff for most women. So true, so true. I cannot think of anything  more dreadful than a pink mobile phone with little sparkly thingies dangling from it.

She has also written an e-book about women and technology and divides us into Electronistas, Electroneutrals and Electronots. Well, as no surprise to any of my readers, I’m an Electronista. Trouble is, however, that I’m in reality far too old to be an Electronista, they are supposed to be younger than 35! Apparently, when you weren’t born into the tech age, you can’t be a true geek?

I’m the geekiest woman I know, maybe save one. In our home I do all things that have to do with technology, including opening envelopes from LoveFilm… I’m unafraid of technology but make no attempt to understand how it works and get annoyed when a tech product tries to tell me what to do and to prevent me from doing things it thinks I shouldn’t be doing (Windows) and when products are totally un-intuitive like my husband’s work Blackberry. When you’re used to an Iphone and prior to that to Nokia, the Blackberry seems devoid of logic. My Iphone is my best baby and I break out in cold sweat by the thought of losing it. It’s already a dinosaur, 1st generation, no 3G, 2 years old. But I adore it and use it for any thinkable and probably also some unthinkable purposes (no, you twat, not THAT unthinkable!!!).

My other best baby is my new Macbook Pro. I’m supposed to be able to make do with something much smaller and less powerful and that’s probably true. But my last MacBaby was exactly the same as this one and we had a loving relationship for 3+ years. So why change horses? (By the way, it still works and young son now uses it).

On my previous computer I had Microsoft Office installed. On this one I’ve avoided it so far, using the excellent Apple office package IWork and, mostly, Google Documents.

As you’ve guessed, because you’re so clever, I love all things Mac. I really can’t help it. When the Iphone first came out I tried to not like it, I tried to brush it off as yummy-tech for the Really Smart People. But I couldn’t. The thing about the Iphone has been that I have loved it more and more the longer I’ve owned it. There’s no grass that’s greener on the other side. Of course I’m now eying the IPad. I’m quite sure that I don’t want the first version. Mostly because I would like it as an E-Reader and it doesn’t have its bookstore ready for Europe yet. But also because I’d like to have Flash (rumour has it that the next version will sidestep Flash and use HTML 5. I honestly don’t know what that means, so I’ll just wait and see). And apparently you can’t use a USB stick on it but need Apple’s own special memory thingummies – I’m not sure I like that. But knowing Apple, all these things will be resolved in one of the next versions. That’s what happened with the Iphone; all the little things that irritated at first have been mended since. In the meantime, another rumour has it that Amazon will start giving away Kindles to all their Prime customers. Now THAT would be nice. Because I’m drowning in books and would very much like to stop buying pulped trees and start downloading.

Back to the pink. I so don’t understand why women will sink themselves and particularly their daughters into the Pink Pit. When I go shopping, both on the Interwebby (thanks Lulu) and IRL (in real life) I’m appalled at the amount of pink and glittery stuff offered to women and their daughters. It’s not that I can’t abide pink at all, I have a pink scarf somewhere and I used to have a pink t-shirt. In my bathroom I even have a line-up of pink coloured perfume bottles… What’s probably even more appalling is that it’s not just pink and glittery on the outside, very often it’s pink and glittery on the inside as well – understood in the sense that it speaks to women and girls as if they were morons and 2nd rate people.

As you may or may not have noticed, it was recently Valentine’s Day. Pink was everywhere. Where there was no pink was on Wired Magazine’s advice on how to win a geeky girl’s heart. Great advice, I would very much like to be at the receiving end of that kind of treatment and to some extent I am, thanks to my Dear Husband. But what so totally puzzles me is why this wouldn’t be a treat for any woman? Why does she have to be geeky (and why are there almost exclusively ads for men in Wired)?

In spite of the fact that I have two sons and a horde of nephews and only one niece, I’ve joined a network here in England called Pink Stinks. Go there and read about it. And, especially if you have daughters, do join!

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Photo Meme

My blogging has been almost non-existent lately. And I can’t really tell you why! I so want to blog more and last week the lovely Angela (@angpang on Twitter) pinged me with an unusual meme. Do click her post, her picture is one of the most poignant pictures of the twentieth century. Yes. It is.

I must choose a photograph that means something special to me – could be by me, of me or by somebody else of something else. I have lots of my own photographs that I’m very happy with, proud of and that hold cherished memories. But I’ve chosen a third party photograph because I really, really thought the world would change for the better when I saw it on the front page of my newspaper. I cut the picture out and hung it on my notice board. My colleagues thought I was bonkers (guess they thought that even before the “picture incident”, but it confirmed their suspicions).

Picture borrowed from San Diego Uni.
Picture borrowed from San Diego Uni.

It was September 13th 1993 and I was so joyous at seeing this picture that I almost cried. I truly believed that world peace was within reach and that this was the first step. It’s a miracle that I’m not an ice-cold cynic today, all things considered!

If all these events are a bit blurry to you, here‘s a blog dedicated to President Clinton’s efforts for peace in the Middle East.

Actually, the meme is called My Favourite Photograph and of course, this is not my favourite photograph. I have twisted the concept a bit, I know. If the poor bloggers, who I’ll now tag with this meme, want to take it back to it’s original meaning, they are absolutely free. Also, as Angela rightly writes, they shouldn’t feel obligated to respond. Only if it inspires them like it did me. Thank you Angela – also for your support in more mundane matters…

These are the bloggers I’ve tagged:

Returning the favour Goonerjamie! By the way, if you don’t know him, go read his tribute to his parents. Fantastic reading!

Mr. London Street is a relatively new acquaintance of mine, a rather more successful blogger than yours truly. I dare him with this meme because he never/rarely uses pictures on his blog. Will he make an exception?

And while I have my daring hat on, I’ll tag another very successful blogger, Motherhood The Final Frontier. A British pop singer in California, who can write about very trivial things so you writhe with laughter.

Tagging Eyglo isn’t very nice of me, as she’s the newest mother I know. So Eyglo, if you’re not up to this you’re absolutely forgiven. The reason I tag her is that she’s a brilliant photographer – just check her photos if in doubt.

I tag Lulu’s Lala Life because Lulu needs encouragement. Poor thing is bored to death in her new job. So L, please share a favourite photo with us!

Lisa is Danish/Greenlandish and only very recently I met her in the flesh. That was after having known her for about five years, where we’ve been following each others’ online presences… it was a REAL pleasure to meet her and I’m confident that it wasn’t the last time. Lisa is a keen photographer, see her masterly pictures here.

I know it’s always “tag ten bloggers” og “tag five”, but I’ve chosen to just tag the ones I felt like tagging today. If you feel left out, I’m sorry. Really.

From http://www.artknowledgenews.com/David_Hockney_Yorkshire_Landscapes.html
From http://www.artknowledgenews.com

And on an entirely unrelated note, can I please plug two items I’ve come across on Twitter today. They are COMPLETELY unrelated, but both touched me profoundly.

This is a little video showing my favourite living artist David Hockney’s drawings on his Iphone. Fantastic! And this is a little article in Huffington Post by a dad who also happens to be one of those admirable lawyers who work for death row inmates in the US. Such a moving piece. Write him a comment to show your support.

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Brain waves

In the car today, my youngest son (8) demanded an explanation of the word “depression”. Not sure where he’d picked it up – maybe he was flicking through a magazine at the hairdressers earlier? I tried to explain it to him as best I could and while I was at it, explained to him that his grandmother’s forgetfulness and repetitiveness through Alzheimer’s also has its root in the brain where so many things happen that we don’t yet fully understand. Of course, the connection between something tangible, our brains, and something intangible, our emotions, is very difficult for a child to grasp. But I think it’s important that we try!

Luckily, Alzheimer is now much better recognised in society than it was even a few years ago and people are beginning to grapple with the idea that, beside obesity and all the other consequences of a poor diet, Alzheimer is one of the biggest problems facing our health services today. My lovely Twitter friend Andrea Gillies is doing a great job at spreading this knowledge. She has two articles in the broadsheets today, one about caring for an Alzheimer patient at home (the Times) and one about the (lack of) care of Alzheimer patients when they are admitted into hospital wards (The Guardian). She knows what she’s talking about, having herself cared for her mother-in-law for three years. She’s written a fantastic but heart-wrenching book about that experience. I cried many times while reading it and I’m in complete awe of Andrea who stomached this without completely losing her mind.

I can only recommend it if you’re close to someone with Alzheimer or to someone who is caring for one. Also if you aren’t actually, because this is something we should all know more about!

At the opposite end of the spectre, so to speak, is happiness. As some readers will know, it’s a pet subject of mine. At the moment I’m reading a book called Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar, who teaches positive psychology at Harvard.

The theory is that we – on average – are in control of 40% of our happiness, if you can put it that way. An average person, living above the poverty limit and in a non-oppressive society, has 40% power over his or her own happiness. Of course, if we’ve just lost a child or been diagnosed with cancer, the 40% shrink rapidly, but I’m sure you get my drift. So when we’re trotting along in our normal, relatively uneventful lives, we have considerable power to heighten our general feeling of happiness. Tal Ben-Shahar tries to give us the tools to do this. For instance, he has a lot of documentation for the fact that once we’ve reached the basic levels of Maslow hierarchy of needs, we all have the same chance of finding happiness. Money has very little to do with it.

I take great comfort in this (not just the money bit…) and try to internalise some of the principles that studies have shown work. For instance, he suggests that we do the “infinitely regressive why” exercise whenever we want something more than a bacon sarnie or a cup of tea. It’s done like this: Why do I want a bigger house? Because so-and-so. Why so-and-so? Because so-and-so. Until the answer is: Because it’ll make me happier. The more “becauses” there are between the original question and the happiness answer, the less meaningful it is for your overall happiness to acquire said object.

If you question that happiness is our ultimate goal in life, then read this quote from Hume:

“The great end of all human industry is the attainment of happiness. For this were arts invented, sciences cultivated, laws ordained, and societies modeled.”

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Honest scrap

The fabulous @goonerjamie, aka the HouseHusband, has given me this award. I guess I should be honoured? All right then, I’m honoured.

The worst bit about these awards is that you have to pass them on. It’s not that I don’t know lots of fantastic blogs, it’s just that I fear they’ve all been awarded this before? I always tend to be a bit late for all the fun parties. And as if that wasn’t the only rule, here’s the rest:

a. ‘The Honest Scrap Blogger Award’ must be shared.

b. The recipient has to tell 10 (true) things about themselves that no one else knows.

3. The recipient has to pass on the award to 10 more bloggers.

d. Those 10 bloggers should link back to the blog that awarded them.

OK, so to keep the suspension going about my guilty secrets, here are my nominees for the award:

1. Gabs – my good old friend. Blogs about politics, music & books.

2. Lisa – one of my oldest virtual friends. This one is in Danish. She observes the everyday through poetic photography.

3. Capac – another old Danish virtual friend. His knowledge about music is quite impressive!

4. SindaTeetering between Tired and Really Really Tired. Sinda is not from around here.

5. Lucy Fishwife – A very bookish blogger. How can she read that much?

6. Ideary – Icelandic Eyglo who lives as expat in Sweden blogs beautifully. Note the marvellous pictures.

7. The Spice Spoon – young Pakistani in the US writes about food. Ooohhh, it’s so yummy!

8. Forhistorier – this one is also in Danish, I’m sorry, but it’s a lovely blog and deserves recognition. Written by Danish historian & journalist. For the non-Danish readers, there are very good photographs.

9. La Vie en Gris – Irish lady in Belgium. She should write more, which is why she gets this award!

10. TitianredReally should know better. This woman has a razor sharp sense of humour and a keen eye.

To all of you – if you’ve already received this award and I just haven’t noticed: I’m sorry. Consider it an honour. If you have the time and inclination, please copy the rules and pass it on. And don’t forget to let me know when you do, so I can enjoy reading your secrets.

Guilty secrets no-one else knows? I’m always spilling the beans, so it’ll have to be secrets that only a few people (=all of Twitter…) know. Or knew, until now!

  1. I love everything with ginger. I’ll eat ginger in syrup directly out of the jar. And I searched high and low for years for the “perfect” recipe for ginger biscuits. And I found it!
  2. I well up all the time. For no apparent reason (sometimes). A book, a film, a news paper story, a friend who cries. And I think I’m allergic to my own tears. Even after just a few tears over a news story I have swollen, itchy eyes all day.
  3. I love to listen to podcasts and sometimes wish I had a long commute as an excuse so could hear Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, Digital Planet, Harddisken (Danish), Melvin Bragg’s In Our Time, TED Talks, Woman’s Hour, etc. etc.
  4. Shoes are my Achilles heel, so to speak. My feet always bl**dy hurt, no matter how sensible my shoes. You can’t imagine how annoying that is for a person who likes to walk!
  5. I have this stupid as yet undiagnosed auto immune illness, which I’ve had since I was 27. The first flares were horrible and sent me to hospital. The latest flares have been milder, but more frequent. What I really hate is when I, after another flare and another round of blood tests, am told by a chirpy nurse that “All your blood counts are normal, so you’re fine!“. Oh, thank you. So glad to know that. So why do I have a penetrating pain behind my eyes/or/inflammation of the eye/or/a painful & swollen foot and what am I supposed to do with it? And then get the slightly less chirpy reply: “Well, if it still hasn’t passed next week, you’d better call back and speak to the doctor“. All right then. Here’s for the real no. 5: This is why I’m always so reluctant to call the doctor about my ailments…
  6. I am so, so, SO proud of my sons. That’s no secret, you’re saying? Well, so be it. I wanted it to be written down somewhere. I think they’re both marvellous in their different ways and my heart swells when I think of them.
  7. I’m like every other would-be creative/writer/whatever. I have a Moleskine notebook, I love it and if you give me another one I’ll love you for it.
  8. My secret wish in the category of “if my life had been different” is this: I always wish I’d been born into a family of intellectuals where Proust was discussed at dinner and Emily Dickinson quoted at festive occasions. I’ve been trying to catch up on these things most of my life, but realise that I never will!
  9. I’m working on a Wikipedia article (no, it’s not about myself) but am finding it difficult. I find that it’s not quite as easy as it’s made up to be.
  10. I’m a very bad liar, so I don’t lie much. So don’t ask me a question if you don’t really want to know the answer.

There. I’ve done it. I’m sure you now know things about me you didn’t really wanted to or needed to know. But it’s your own fault – nobody made you read all the way down to here.

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