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?


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.



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!


Musings before Mother's Day


It being Mother’s Day tomorrow, the Times has asked six women, mainly writers, to write a letter to their children at 21 (they all have young children) or to share the advice of their own mothers. Some of these letters are so, so beautiful. I didn’t just well up, I had to go and get a clean hanky out of the drawer. I like Sarah Vine’s and Justine Picardie‘s the best. Found on Tania Kindersley’s brand new blog.

The Times has also compiled a list of the most powerful Muslim women in Britain. An interesting read!

So, at 49, I’ve finally found a word that defines me: Geek Mum

Olivia James writes a very poignant piece about Mother’s Day. Read it if you have a troubled relationship with your own mother!


Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has a weekly food column in the Guardian. If it wasn’t online I’d feel compelled to buy the paper every Saturday. Actually, I might do that anyway, the Weekend Guardian is a very good paper, lots of sustenance! Today it’s about flour. Also one of my pet causes. I buy almost all my flour freshly milled at the Farmers Market, not least the lovely spelt. It’s a totally different experience from the supermarket stuff. Hugh forgets to mention cornmeal – not the dreary stuff that you buy to thicken your gravy, but the real stuff. I use it in muffins, which then look beautiful and yellowish and as one of three types of flour in my sourdough bread.

Sourdough bread & cake with muscovado sugar, cinnamon & courgettes.
Sourdough bread & cake with muscovado sugar, cinnamon & courgettes.

I’ve promised Tania Kindersley to publish my recipe for Panzanella. It’s from The Blue River Café Cook Book. I hope they won’t sue me for copyright infringement…

Panzanella – serves 6:

  • 3 stale ciabatta loaves
  • 1 kg fresh, plum tomatoes, chopped, seeds removed, save juices (key to recipe is the tomatoes actually tasting of something)
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed (I always dump them in boiling water for a bit to take the top of the “sting”)
  • Maldon sea salt (or similar) & freshly ground pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tbs red wine vinegar
  • 3 red peppers – grilled until black & skinned, then chopped
  • 2 fresh chillies – not necessary
  • 100 gr salted, large capers
  • 100 gr salted anchovies (these can be ground to a paste and mixed with the dressing)
  • 150 gr black, pitted olives
  • 1 large bunch of basil

Cut the bread (preferably stale) into bite-sized chunks. Mix all “wet” ingredients and toss the bread chunks in this. Mix all ingredients. Don’t serve cold.


Also in the Guardian, Ben Goldacre again crucifies a number of journalists for their faulty and misleading interpretations of a scientific paper about prostate cancer.

I’ll never stop recommending TED. Probably the best source of ideas on the web. It never, never fails to inspire and to lift my spirits. Here’s about how to grow your own fresh air… What to do when you DO NOT have green fingers?


A lot of people are – as usual – angry with the new design of Facebook. Maybe I’m easy, but I’m fine with it… Here’s one who doesn’t like it, but makes a good joke of it.

Here are some very useful tips about how to customise the new Facebook. I’ve already done it – I have some FB friends whose updates are rather boring, to be frank. But I still want to keep them as friends. Done!

I don’t find any reason whatsoever to doubt this story about the GRU and the FSB in Russia using cyber “weapons” against Georgia in the war. But then I’m not a great fan of the Russian Leadership.

Oh yes, and as an Iphone owner I’m thrilled to bits by this. Can’t believe I forgot to write about it earlier!


An American soldier tells the moving story of when he accompanied a fallen soldier to his final resting place. Very touching and also enlightning. The Americans are good at honouring their fallen. Would be nice if they were as good – or even better – at honouring the wounded and crippled.

Here’s about the methods of torture applied by the CIA. You know, the ones sanctioned by John Yoo, as mentioned yesterday.

This sounds like a good plan. Geithner reveals how the US will deal with its toxic assets.

See, here’s what sets a respectable Republican apart from one you can’t respect. Please Sarah Palin, can’t you just go elk hunting forever?

How can this and this take place in the same country at the same time? It’s about the right to life on the one hand and the right to a dignified death on the other.

With a few exceptions, which are from my RSS reader, all of the above were harvested over 24 hours on Twitter. So don’t tell me twittering is a waste of time.