Friendless in a Foreign Country

I like to overdo it a bit in my headlines. Do forgive. But – when I first left Denmark and came over here I never thought it a problem to have left my friends behind. I mean, we could e-mail, phone, exchange comments on Facebook, Skype, etc., and I come home often. The truth is, we don’t do any of this much. For some reason some of my best friends are just not into Facebook, Twitter, IM’ing or frequent e-mailing. So the fact is that only with a couple of my friends can I claim to have an ongoing relationship. When I’m in Copenhagen there’s no problem, it’s as if we’d never been apart and all is rosy.

But I’ve realised that the day-to-day chat at the school gate, at a brief coffee, in a quick phone conversation about practicalities, at get-togethers and dinners mean a lot more than I’d thought. And that’s what I miss. Sometimes you meet with a friend and you launch right into deep, personal important stuff. Other times you spend the allocated time discussing recent political developments. And at other occasions it’s your children or “what a lovely new coat”. It’s when all these things come together that you can speak of a real friend.

a little bird...
a little bird...

I didn’t quite realise how much I’d missed this until I found The Twitterladies. The Twitterladies should be seen as something very elastic. I couldn’t tell you their names without missing some of them (we don’t all tweet around the clock about everything) and also, there are a few men there too.

Now, I can already see eyebrows raised, also among twitterers. So I can reveal right away that no, I don’t believe that I now have 20 new best friends of whom I’ve only met half. But what the Twitterladies have given me that I was missing is those four things I mentioned above:

Yes, you can discuss personal stuff and find comfort and wise words. When I recently experienced something very unpleasant in an unexpected setting, I tweeted about it. And sympathy and sound advice came streaming in.

And politics of course. I’ll be the first to admit that I mostly tweet with likeminded, but not always. Meaning that I’m following (and they are following me back) people with whom I do not agree politically. But when you find people who will discuss on an informed level and in a decent tone of voice, isn’t that just like having real friends?

Then the children – oh, The Twitterladies tweet a lot about their children. And I love it. Because it allows me to tweet about my two wonderful children as well without feeling embarrassed about it.

Finally, the “nice new coat”. Have you ever heard of twitpics? Well, they are the pictures we post to twitter of a pair of new boots, sunglasses, haircut, etc., and then receive lovely compliments. I also recall an episode with a Twitterlady who photographed herself in the changing room in two different skirts because she couldn’t make up her mind. The Twitterverse helped her with an almost unanimous verdict.

Oh, and then I haven’t mentioned food, literature and television. The foodies among us tweet ideas for dinners, cake recipes, cook’s tips, etc. The Literature Ladies tweet literary criticism (or links to same), suggestions for Next Book and comments on literary events. And television. Oh dear. There’s a fraction of the Twitterladies who are dedicated to watching Strictly Come Dancing and tweeting about it. I don’t watch it so see my twitterstream change into something completely unintelligible whenever the programme’s on air. But I also get good ideas for programmes to watch and programmes to avoid. Watching anything on TV simultaneously with other Twitterers enhances the experience. Seeing is believing!

You dont want to know why I took this picture
You don't want to know why I took this picture

I most certainly couldn’t do without my real friends, some of whom I’ve known a big chunk of my life. We share something that I don’t share with anyone on Twitter – our pasts. But It’s the honest truth that The Twitterladies have enhanced my life.

As mentioned above I’ve already met quite a few of them live. We had a fantastic “tweet-up” on Trafalgar Square when one of the Twitterladies was “on the plinth”. Explanation of that phenomenon here. If this has made you curious, here’s an intelligent and thoughtful blogpost about the Trafalgar Square event: La Vie en Gris. And I’ve met three Twitterladies, on separate occasions, for coffee. All lovely, all inspiring, all leading to a nice warm community feeling.

If you tweet, just check my stream, and the lovely Twitterladies will emerge. Some of them are so bright and brilliant that I’m constantly thrilled to “know” them.

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Like walking in water

is what my intellectual life has felt like lately. I’ve read a lot of very inspiring stuff but felt completely incapable of commenting on it in a way suitable for publication. But then I read how a children’s author found the courage to start writing: After decades of reading all the masters of both adult and children’s fiction, she’d built up a sizeable inferiority complex and felt incapable of writing anything of substance. But then she got the idea of approaching it the other way round. She went to the library and borrowed some really cr** children’s books and went home and read them. And then she read some more. And suddenly the writer’s block was gone  – ’cause anyone could write prose more engaging and interesting than what she’d just been reading.

So – after having read stuff by some of the world’s leading journalists and writers over the summer in Vanity Fair, Sunday Times, Wired etc., I’ve now stumbled around a bit and read some bits and bobs by more inferior writers and got my courage up :-)

I’ve been following the debate around Free. The debate started long before Chris Anderson’s book*, but it really took off after. And News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch has certainly stirred the pot with his claim that he’s very close to creating a pay-wall around his empire. What to think about all this? I’m still in doubt. I’m against downloading music without paying for it, but I happily use Grooveshark and Spotify to stream music. And I’m the first to say that the music industry has only itself to thank for its current predicament. I can still recall how my bosses in the Danish music industry laughed at me when I – in the very early 90ties – came home from a seminar in New York and told them that music was about to become digital and how that might have implications for copyright protection…

Would I pay for content? Yes, I think I would gladly pay for some content, if it were of high quality and delivered to me in a convenient and tailored format. I’m having news from BBC, Times of London, New York Times, The Guardian and Washington Post among others delivered to my computer and/or my phone on a daily basis. What if these could be tailored even more specifically to my needs and delivered in more reader friendly ways? Personally, I think micro-payment, as practised on Itunes and in the App store, is on the up and that our future credit card statements/phone bills will be full of miniature payments for all sorts of things, not only songs and apps, but news stories, TV-programmes, films, parking, bus tickets etc.

Anyway, if you haven’t followed the debate, here’s a few important articles on the subject: Anderson himself, Malcolm Gladwell’s dismissal of the idea, Murdoch’s vow to install a pay-wall, Andrew Keen‘s treatment of Pirate Bay and finally a summary on The Guardian’s tech pages (the best place to follow this debate, the Guardian’s online presence is by far the best on the web).

Another Big Story that I’ve been following over the summer is the story about the greatest swindler of them all, Bernie Madoff. Incredibly interesting and intriguing stuff! Vanity Fair is best for this story. Just go to their site and type in Madoff in the search field. The Guardian has collected everything about Madoff very neatly in one place if your time is too short for 3-4 VF articles…

Of course I’ve also been following the development in Iran – mostly via Twitter – and the situation in Afghanistan, which seems to deteriorate on a daily basis.

And then there’s the Birther movement and the “If Stephen Hawking had been English, he’d be dead” debate in the US. I absolutely love the latter – isn’t it just exceptional how the American right can get away with blatant lies. How can the people who work on Fox News and a whole host of other media spreading these insane rumours call themselves journalists? (Oh well, people who write about the latest shenanigans of 3rd rate TV stars also call themselves journalists – so much for that).

And I’ve been away on holiday – will not use the word st**cation – some of my Twitterfriends get sick when they hear the word – on the Sussex coast. We had a lovely totally holidayish time, kiting, crabbing, touring, playing Monopoly and Canasta, reading reading reading. Best book I read was Turbulence by Giles Foden. Absolutely brilliant – a must read. I’ll never badmouth the meteorologists again, promise! Above pictures are from holiday, inspired by Turbulence.

Finally, a recommendation. Youngest son Dane has been busy with scissors and glue since we came back. See the rather surprising results of his endeavours here.

* A funny aberdabei about Anderson’s book Free, is that it’s actually only free in the US. Over here we have to pay for it. So much for Free!

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What makes you happy? I know and you don't…

Had nice Mother’s Day with flowers – hand-picked at real florist by young son – and womenly presents. It was an incredibly beautiful day, so we went to Box Hill, the highest vantage point here in Surrey bringing a picnic. We had a lovely time and even got some much-needed exercise walking up and down the hill.

Young son admiring view from Box Hill, Surrey
Young son admiring view from Box Hill, Surrey

In the morning I favourited a huge number of tweets and bookmarked an even bigger number of news from my weekly dosage of science news. All at your disposal.

Politics:

This is really good news: The US is completely reviewing and changing its policy towards the poppy-growers in Afghanistan. Lead came from @howardsend, who generally tweets very interestingly.

The populist blah blah blah about youth today and elevated murder and crime rates is just that. When the real pros dive into the statistics, a totally calming result emerges. But that doesn’t sell one single copy of the Daily Mail and doesn’t win over voters.

Happiness:

They don’t make us happy. A study shows that people with children aren’t happier than people without them. Personally, I think that the moments of utter happiness we have with and because of our children are offset by the colossal amount of worry they also give us. I’m guessing that people without children don’t suffer the same extremes – or at least not as often as we poor parents do…

A stranger is better at predicting what makes us happy than we are ourselves. See that’s interesting! The study was led by one of my heroes, Dan Gilbert. I’m always trying to get people to read his book.

Botox hinders happiness… Ah, well, sort of. If you don’t show your disgust over something but try to hold it in, the disgusted feeling will stay with you longer. People who’ve been botoxed can’t show disgust – or any other emotion for that matter.

Tech:

Stephen Fry is one of the most popular celebs on Twitter. I’m not following him myself, but I see the occasional ReTweet and I have also visited his page. He is funny, there’s no way around it. He’s given an interview to BBC’s Radio 4 about why he looooves the web. It’s good. He says things some of us dare not say, we just think it. That’s a relief!

Here’s a quick run-through of a panel discussion about the future of the music bizz held at SXSW. These bizz people were clearly well chosen, because here’s people thinking out of the box and not shooting at everything that moves from copyright trenches.

Tips for Facebook power users. There’s even a tip that tells you how to return your Facebook page to the old look and feel before THE CHANGE. If you so wish.

Twitterer Lulu has made this cute little Twictionary over the strange words you encounter once you’ve entered the realm of Twitter (AKA the Twitterverse).

Speed up Firefox. Wauw, I needed that piece of info! Thanks to The G Man.

An interesting list of influential people in the tech world. Nothing to do with money, I should add. Link from Sheamus Bennett.

Science:

A huge study (from the US) seems to have proven that blacks actually get cancer more than whites. Even if I can see that they’ve done a lot to eliminate other factors, I still wonder if this would also be true if the comparison had been made between white Americans and Africans (in Africa) with same demographic and social characteristics.

The language of music is now proven to be universal. Must admit that I would have been more surprised if it wasn’t.

Here’s a really odd one – of the archeological sort. A study of 500 year old teeth reveal which bodies in a gravesite on La Isabela belonged to sailors brought there by Columbus and the interesting fact that some of the people buried there were almost certainly from Africa!

Health:

The fatter the parent the less he/she is able to see a weight problem in own offspring. Maybe not surprising, but still? How can you fail to notice that your daughter’s legs are twice as big as the other girls’? And that your son needs shirts for grown-ups even when he’s same height as the other boys in his class?

My father-in-law (80, super-fit, very healthy) has been eating after the GI diet principles for many years (1/2 plate: veg, 1/4 plate meat/fish, 1/4 plate rice/pasta/pot./etc.). Apparently one of the reasons it works is because a diet low on GI will make you feel more full. Makes good sense. Am trying to buy more veg and less meat already, inspired by Mark Bittman.

My husband sometimes angers me by salting his food before he’s even tasted it. I’m showing him this article about how a very slight reduction in daily salt intake significantly reduces your risk of heart deceases.

IQ:

More evidence that it’s highly hereditary.

Children:

Parents grossly underestimate the influence their children have on them when grocery shopping. Well, I don’t. Which is why I generally avoid having any of them with me when shopping. The 20-year old is worse than the 7-year old!

Viva music! The combination of children and music is good. Always. Never underestimate it. I’ve written about it before, here and here. And now there’s a new American study, showing that children who learn music also enhance their cognitive skills.

Psychology:

It pays off to be nice. Not just in the afterlife…

On a much related note: It’s harmful, particularly to men, to be angry and aggressive.

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News from the world

I’m afraid you’ll see many posts from me in the future looking like this. Since I started twittering I just seem to come across even more interesting things than ever before.

What about this kid, who donated his birthday presents to children in the Third World?

Technology:

More about children online. When reading this, please take into account who paid for this survey. Symantec. They want us to worry. But I still think it’s true that our children spend more time online than we’re aware of. The advice in the article is good and precise.

Why you (don’t) need Twitter. It’s funny.

Very Twitteristic: How to ReTweet better. Good idea.

Winners of the Bloggies 2009, announced at SXSW. I love this one. But it makes me hungry…

Watch whom you trust with your online security.

Fantastic Firefox plugin that shows just how far we’ve come on the web. Thank you to Gissisim.

Children’s freedom:

A mother is reported to the police for letting her 10-year old walk to soccer practice. OK, this is in the US, but still?

Feminism:

This would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic. In a recession, equal pay is unthinkable. I wonder what else is unthinkable in a recession?

Politics:

Some Republicans have understood what the majority of Americans were trying to say when they voted for Obama. Others haven’t.

Black women entering the White House in unprecedented numbers.

Don’t get smart with us, Dicky, says Obama press secretary.

EU is rasing the bar on climate change. But not for us. For “the others” (=developing world). Shame on us!

Health:

Best medicine at cheapest price. Conservative Americans claim that this is “European” – i.e. socialist practice. Read the interesting discussion, fuelled by a post in Obama’s stimulus package to fund research in this area.

IQ:

Passing it on. Possibly the brightest kid on the planet right now. I’m glad he’s not mine. Not sure it’s a blessing!

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Twitterism & loads of links

I’ve now been twittering for a couple of weeks and am beginning to understand the workings of Twitter. For me it’s a place to harvest (more) interesting info than I’d otherwise find. Sometimes a bit on the much side I’m afraid. Below you’ll find a scattering of info that’s been twittered from my followees throughout the weekend. Particularly the tech-ones have been inanely active, since they are all gathered at SXSW.

Tech stuff:

A review of the app Dropbox, which I’m a very contended user of. For instance, it’s a great way of sharing documents between me and my writing partner at uni (he’s in DK). And thanks to him for recommending Dropbox.

Blogger apps for the Iphone. Sounds veeeery interesting, haven’t looked at all of them yet.

Twitter personalities the Myers-Briggs way. Which one am I, I wonder. Hope I’ll be considered as the Messenger type…

A Youtube add-on that makes it safe for little children. Quite good if you like your kids to browse away but preferably not to stumble over some of the more horrid videos that are in ample supply on Youtube. I think this will work up till the age of 8-9. After that they’ll have learnt to circumvent it and it’ll be up to you to teach them how to navigate not only Youtube, but all of the web.

Now to brain stuff:

We learn more from the unexpected than from the expected. Our brains respond just like the traders on the stock exchange floor. That’s bloody disappointing! From Science Daily.

Want to know what dialectical bootstrapping is? Read this. Also from Science Daily. Hint: It’s about applying the wisdom of crowds to your mind…

Also from Science Daily is this article about brain training as a preventative method against Alzheimers. I like the scientist’s down-to-earth advice:

In her opinion, the best way to keep one’s cerebral functions is to do intellectual activities, eat well, control vascular factors, particularly in the case of diabetes and hypertension, and remain physically active.

Brain activity reveals memories. Science Daily.

Health stuff:

This article (Science Daily again) reveals why I’ve never been able to make serious money. I was not particularly popular as a child. Or what?

My mother is dead, unfortunately, so I can’t share this information with her. I would’ve liked to, because I think she might secretly have blamed herself for my cleft palate/lip. But it’s in the genes! Luckily then, I haven’t passed it on to my sons.

Here’s another story to do with genes. It supports every smoker’s favourite story about the Grandmother who Smoked 20 Cigarettes a Day and Lives Happily to be a 100 Years Old.

I don’t usually quote the Telegraph, since it’s rarely worth quoting, but that’s the point really. To equal a school, which actually does something actively to improve the pupils’ health with Gestapo is just so out of this world!!!! My son tells me that, although his school has strict policies about sweets and crisps NOT belonging in the lunch pack, lots of children still have it every day! It’s just sad, sad, sad that parents understand so little about nutrition that they give their kids a packet of crisps and a white cardboard sandwich with square ham every day! It certainly supports the study about how IQ and education are directly linked to life expectancy, which I wrote about previously.

On feminism (watch out for the flak!):

Why women opt out of certain careers.

Miscellaneous:

The Health and Safety Executive has a myth-buster page, which is a comforting read. Clearly, what we’re seeing at schools and other places are over-zealous interpretations of the health and safety rules. So if we just stuck to the rules themselves, we’d be fine. Here’s a great example.

About coffee. Why the crap coffee in canteens and at railway kiosks gives a much higher boost of caffeine-induced energy than the luxury coffee we brew at home.

That’s all folks.

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Tech news of the day

In Washington Post about viruses on social networking sites. It’s a very sober article, telling us the facts about the current viruses out there, how to spot them, how to avoid them:

It’s important to note that practicing basic online street smarts can save you from falling for these types of attacks, regardless of the medium. As always, be extremely cautious about clicking on links in unsolicited messages, even if they appear to have been sent by a friend or acquaintance. Also, don’t install applications or programs if you didn’t go looking for them. Before you install anything, take a few minutes to research the program and its vendor first. If you decide to install the application, make sure to download it directly from the vendor’s Web site, if possible.

– waste of time set aside, this is a good a reason as any to avoid all the silly applications on Facebook. I’ve kept just one and that’s because it’s been developed by a friend of mine, so I trust it.

Havent installed the app yet!
Haven't installed the app yet!

Also in Washington Post about a cool app for the Iphone, the kind you wish you’ll never have to use. At a calm moment in your home you record all details about your car, insurance etc. And then, if you’re in an accident, you can report it to the insurance company with details like photos of the wreckage etc. in seconds.

Wired has the story about Flickr now opening up for videos, even in HD, also for the non-paying members.

Guardian Tech tells that Yelp has launched for London. It’s a review site like so many others, but this has apparently worked really well in the US. At a cursory glance it looks good. Worth checking out if you’re going I’m sure. We go there so relatively rarely that I still feel so totally like a tourist – map in hand 50% of the time…

Finally a tip from down under. I’ve started following this entertaining blog, which has such a cool take on its two subjects, economy & children. He really knows how to mix those two things in new and entertaining ways! He also Twitters and a few days ago Twittered about a math site for children called Mathletics, which he recommended. I checked it out and now I’ve purchased it for Dane. We just did an hour and he won his first certificate. Not only is this a fairly cool way of learning stuff that could otherwise be boring (it responds intelligently to you getting a question wrong and goes back and gives you an easier one or one with more help), you can also play against other children around the globe. For me specifically I finally get a glimpse of the curriculum for his year and I can tell you, I breathe much easier now!

Oh, and then this one which isn’t techie at all, but still lovely news. Bryan Appleyard has good news, namely that pundits get it wrong 66% of the time. I’m sure that’s more than me :-D    and more than the flip of a coin.

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Completely unrelated…

As a comment to yesterday’s post about the web’s damaging influence on innocent young children, check this little (1.6 min) speech by Don Tapscott, which is in fact a well disguised and well executed advert for his latest book. I guarantee it’ll make you smile.

On a completely different subject – or subjects – is a post on theTimes’ Alpha Mummy blog. It’s about how the death of David Cameron‘s son touches us all, no matter how we might feel about him. And about how well he and his family have handled the publicity around their private lives. It’s also – and subtly related – about the survivors of the US Airways flight emergency landing on the Hudson. How some passengers are now suing the airline while others are just immensely grateful to be alive – realising that a flock of birds is “the Black Swan” – the highly improbable and should not lead to blame. Not a long post, very much worth reading.

I wish you a merry Friday afternoon & evening. Let’s go out and do some good!

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More, yes MORE about youngsters and social networking

I’ve written a lot about this lately and now it’s a major media storm here. If you haven’t read my last entry on the subject, this one probably won’t make much sense, unless you instead read this excellent post from a blog I didn’t know existed, but am more than glad that I’ve now found. It’s called Bad Science and that’s just what it’s about. Much needed!

In the post you can see a video clip from BBC’s Newsnight from last night, where Ben Goldacre, who writes Bad Science discusses with a psychologist who claims that social networking makes you physically ill… It’s here:

On his blog he also points to this article about a scientific study from the University of Southern California and the University of California at Berkeley, which claims that social networking in fact empowers the young. The full study is here.

I warmly recommend reading the whole article in the Washington Times (not long), as it has some good down-to-earth tips about how to go about helping your child using social networking in a healthy and responsible way.

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Hey, stop, don't go away, it's me!

I’m sure you’re thinking, oh my, hasn’t she got anything better to do than changing the layout of that bl…… blog all the time. The answer of course is YES – I have lots of things I should rather do. But the otherwise nice layout (blog theme) with the teacup and the Iphone was too rigid, so I just had to change it.

This theme is extremely flexible, but requires coding. SCREAM!!! I started with a bit of colour coding and that went well once I figured out that I had to use HEX codes, not the other kind I’d googled, so maybe I’ll go on and try and change some other titbits another day. But as I said, I’ve got loads of other things to do…

And as you can see here on the right, you can now follow my musings on Twitter. So far I have 2 followers and I know both of them personally…

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How social networking must be corrupting our children…

because it’s not our fault, is it?

The British papers are all running after Baroness & neuroscientist Susan Greenfield today. She has a message that we can all use – it’s the Internet’s fault. Almost everything. Including Autism. Here’s in the Daily Mail. And – thank God – a less hysterical one in the Guardian.

The most interesting thing about this is that all of it is her opinion. In spite of being a highly respected scientist she apparently doesn’t need any kind of evidence for her claims.

As readers of this blog will know, I don’t really believe in this. I do, however, believe that we ARE changed by the web. Of course we are! It has totally changed the way we go about things, so in its turn, we are changed. But so did Gutenberg’s lovely invention, the industrial revolution and radio.

One of her claims is that after some years of exposure to the web, we can’t read longer passages any more and we can’t hold focus. I read more and longer articles than I ever have before, on line as well as off line – that’s a fact. I watch much less TV than I ever did. I e-mail with my friends and speak with them on the phone on the same level as I always have – maybe a bit more e-mail and a bit less telephone, but that’s more due to my friends being in Denmark than a change in behaviour. For me, nothing beats a café morning with good friends. And I know many young people who are the same – as much as they love staying in contact with their friends via Facebook, WOW, text messaging etc., they still gather IRL several times a week!

It might be true that our attention span has shortened. But I’m afraid my own attention span has always been short, so I really can’t judge that!

She also attributes Attention Deficit Disorders and the need for Instant Gratification to the web. I just don’t buy that! I find the need for Instant Gratification among the younger generations very disturbing and I constantly battle with my own children on this account. But my 7-year old has yet to take any interest in social networking or anything other than Googling answers to his eternal stream of questions. And he certainly suffers from a much too great need for instant gratification. But so do all his peers, including those whose conscientious parents keep them away from computer games and restrict their TV time!

I’m afraid that we – the parents – are to blame again. The last many, many years of total focus on material things has left us almost incapable of rewarding our children with none-tangible stuff. We reward them with chocolate, junk dinners, trinkets, toys, a trip to PLAYland etc etc. And I’d like to emphasize that I’m as guilty as anyone here! The trouble is, of course, that once you’ve started down that path, it’s so, so hard to reverse!

I would LOVE to discuss this on an informed level – with other parents, with anybody with a qualified opinion.

How do we teach our children the joy of anticipation?

As a little aside, here’s a story about how the Daily Mail and papers like it distort reality, so it fits in beautifully with the Public Opinion – or what it perceives it to be. It’s on the subject of poor little Christian children being bullied by Muslims at school.

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Twitter and more on online safety for children

After months of hesitation and no-saying to Twitter I’ve given in. As I understand it, Twitter can be more useful than Facebook when you want to promote your blog and/or other writings to a larger crowd. And of course I want that – otherwise I wouldn’t be writing, would I? I’ve read up on Twitter recently, here and here. There are a few things that irritate me about Facebook, although it’s also fantastic to re-connect with old friends and acquaintances. Funny how some people who used to be mere acquaintances are now candidates for friendship and how some who used to be friends, now have come off the radar, somehow.

If you want to follow my Twitter feed, my screen name is labeet.

On Boing Boing I just read this great little story about how to monitor you child’s online presence. Here’s a Dad who takes his responsibilities as a parent seriously and at the same time realises that we can’t use the same template for our children that our parents used for us. The world has changed and we must change with it. But we should also remember that it’s mostly the outer world that’s changed. The world of feelings, morality and right vs wrong hasn’t changed half as much. A good deed is still a good deed and love, indifference, arrogance or selfrighteousness are still the same feelings they used to be. But you knew that, of course…

Completely unrelated – I’m happy that Slumdog Millionaire (which we accidentally saw Saturday afternoon!) won lots of Oscars – it’s a great film. Happiest I think I am for the music score Oscar, since I particularly liked that. Very original and very in-your-face without obscuring the film. Also it’s great that Anthony Dod Mantle, who’s a little bit Danish, haha, won an Oscar for the cinematography. He is good.

Oh, and just read this. What are we to think? Was he a terrorist all along or did Guantanamo make him one? I think four years there could have made me one…

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Online safety and children

This is an issue that causes rather heated discussions in the media, in schools and among parents. The discussion is a close cousin to the discussion of computer games and television and hard rock and its bad influence on children and teens.

Here are a few of the latest stories on these subjects: Boys sending nude-photos of themselves to a stranger. Chatting on Facebook can lead to depression. Online bullying.

My general view on this is that by blaming computer games, FaceBook or texting for whatever ails the young is a way of running away from our responsibilities as parents.

Back in the “good old days” before wall-to-wall TV, computers and mobile phones, there were also dangers. Our parents, the good ones, explained to us the dangers out there. They told us what to do, if we were approached by strangers, they told us where it was safe to go at night, they told us about alcohol, drugs, cigarettes and sex. And just like now, some parents were successful in teaching their children this, others weren’t.

Picture from picapp.com
Picture from picapp.com

I would never forbid my children to have an account on Facebook or Myspace or install safety-software on their computers. But I would sit down with them and tell them about the dangers involved. Explain why it’s wise only to give your phone number and full address to people you actually know IRL or who’ve been vouched for by personal friends. I would tell them about dishonest people who might want to befriend them, posing as someone and something they are not. And how to avoid this. If I had a young teen boy I’d explain to him how most porn flicks and pictures are made, just so he’d know what kind of industry he’d be supporting by browsing porn sites. And most importantly, I would make sure that my relationship with my children was such that they would come to me if they were suddenly in over their heads, whatever the reason.

I don’t tell my children that they can’t use Wikipedia, because there’s information on there, which is not true. I tell them how Wikipedia is created and where Wikipedia is useful and where it isn’t and how to go about verifying information in general, be it an e-mail circulated story (e.g. a virus warning), a Wikipedia entry or just something you vaguely remember.

The overall rules for overcoming the dangers in life are not all that different now than they were then. Honestly, I think we, as parents, have become more lazy and want to leave the schools, the society, the television stations and the software companies with the burden of protecting our children.

But it is mainly our own responsibility as it always has been and as it should be!

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Procrastination

is another word I like a lot. My dear old Dad, bless him, has often said that the word procrastination defines him. I think that’s rather unfair, really. Except for the Mr. & Mrs. Perfect out there, we all do it! So there goes, Dad, I never bought it!

Although I in fact have been really efficient today I started the day procrastinating. While David took Dane to school, I browsed through the news over coffee and stumbled over a couple of odd pieces. I managed to control myself and NOT start blogging about them first thing, but to DO WHAT I HAD TO DO first. Which was homework for my last course of this my last semester of my BA in library- and information science. The course is about building large websites (=corporate portals) and is quite techie, which suits me just fine. But because academia is academia (can’t think of a better explanation, sorry!) most of the texts are 7-8 years old. Which is perfectly OK if your subject is ancient runes or hieroglyphs or even if it’s WWII. But I just find it very, very hard to believe that the best stuff available about the building of portals and content management was written 7-8 years ago!

However, it’s done and my conscience is clear! So now, off to the odd pieces. There was this good one about how to tackle a project and get it over with, quickly. I needed that one! And this sad article from Washington Post about how Bush has rewarded his cronies:

Less than two weeks before leaving office, Bush made sure the senior aides shared a new assignment, naming them to an obscure World Bank agency called the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes.

One of the Guardian blogs has a very thought provoking post about what to do with that Afghan fellow, who’s clearly guilty of something, but who’s been tortured so badly that he’s been reduced to a head-case? The post is by seasoned Guardian journalist Michael White.

Those of you who know me personally will probably know that I was always a fierce advocate of the MMR vaccine. A “scientist” published a paper linking the MMR vaccine to autism. It was just the one paper, but it had all the ingredients of A STORY in the press. And it became huge. Suddenly everybody knew a child with autism who’d had the MMR vaccine. The fact that ALL children back then had the vaccine, also children with autism didn’t get in the way of this scaremongering story. When it was revealed that the “scientist’s” data were falsified and that there is NO link WHATSOEVER between the MMR and autism, this wasn’t at all A STORY. So there was nothing, or almost nothing, about this in the media that people actually read or watch. Which led to a huge drop in children who’d had the MMR. And now we see the result. A veritable measles epidemic. Try reading about measles and think that if it hadn’t been for that “scientist”, but primarily if it hadn’t been for the media who never seem to take responsibility for anything, all these children and teens wouldn’t have to suffer the dreadful complications to measles. The illness would most likely have been extinct! Here’s the story from the Sunday Times.

Sunday morning I read an article (no, not an article, an excerpt from this book) that truly scared me. The writer James Lovelock states that we’re too late to save the planet, so all we can do – as Brits – is to save ourselves from the hungry hordes, fleeing their over-heated or flooded homes! It came much too close to the article about the honey-bee I read only a week previously. Have we really come to the brink of our own extinction? And why are we all sitting back doing next to nothing? Probably because it’s just too much for our brains to handle! What I found even more scary than the prospect of living on a diet of strictly local produce and not enough of it in 2030, was his suggestion that we need a “strong leader” like Churchill to guide us out of this mess – democracy is no good in such dire straits. I shiver to even write it!

On a less dire note, here are some recent tech news. Amazon has launched a new version of the Kindle. I still want one and I still can’t have one. There’s no news about when this lovely gadget will be available in Europe. It’s something to do with the difficulty of finding an agreement with our multiple phone companies. Hmfff. I want it soon, and so, I think, does my husband. Look here how many books I’ve bought inside the last 3-4 weeks. Admittedly some of them are for course work, but as you can see, not all of them!

Which one should I start reading first? Dont say Jakob Nielsen, please!
Which one should I start reading first? Don't say Jakob Nielsen, please!

Here’s a funny one – I bet my oldest son will like it. It’s about bragging of your World of Warcraft skills in your resumé… I would say it depends on the job, really, if it’s a good idea or not!

Speaking of games, here’s an odd piece. I don’t play myself, so the thought hadn’t even occurred to me. But of course – in games that are so life-like there would have to be pregnancies. And it’s fun to read how they go about the deliveries etc. Thanks to Torill for the pointer.

Oh me, dinner is served, says husband. That’s so nice, I have to go! Sorry for this messy, messy post…

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Am I creative?

◊ or ◊

I should think not… I’m with Capac (site in Danish) when he says that he has mixed feelings about the word creative. But he has nominated my blog to a Creative Blogger award, and I’m very honoured and in such good company!

I’ve found what might be the origin of this award, here’s the reasoning behind it (found here):

for those who bring unique and creative elements to their blogs. For those who incorporate art, music, creative writing, photo’s, and other beautiful visual effects into their website. For those who put a unique spin on things and come up with new ideas. This award is for the artsy, the funky, the inventor, and even the rebel. This award is for those creative individuals who stand out from the crowd.”

I hope I “put a unique spin on things” – the rest, I don’t know!

And now for my nominations:

I would have nominated Capac, but he has been already, obviously!

15 Minutter (Danish) – for being thoughtful and versatile.

Copenhagen Collage (in English) – for bringing thoughts on design to a wider audience.

Lisa (in Danish, but this blog has many pictures and few words) – for always having an original take on things and for showing the most beautiful pictures!

Froeken Roesen (in Danish) – for being young, idealistic and enthusiastic and for sharing her voyage into adulthood with the wider world.

DEIXIS (in English) – for being a German in Denmark in such a pragmatic but also slightly misanthropic way. (It’s healthy to see ourselves with her eyes!!!)

A fragment of the Emperor’s new rags – for standing up for all those who can’t stand up for themselves.

What’s left for me to do now is to let Capac know that I’ve done his bidding (and say thank you!!!!), link to my nominees (only six I’m afraid!) and let them know that they are nominated. I’ll do all that in a moment when I’ve posted this.

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

THE 99 THINGS MEME

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

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

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

Oh, and happy new year to you too!

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