*OMMMM*

I market myself as a kind of social media strategist. Anyone who knows about these things also knows that all good things come to an end. And one day there won’t be a need for services like mine. This article is about my next career move ;-)

In my last post I wrote about the Arizona shooting. Since then I’ve read this incredibly interesting analysis on Politico. It’s about twisting words till they are devoid of meaning and getting away with it. It says for instance:

in the past week, the question of whether a carefully planned assassination attempt on a member of the United States Congress might have had anything to do with politics has been mocked into oblivion. Well, let’s see. The dominant theme of Loughner’s ravings was suspicion of the government. He apparently didn’t believe in paper money and thought only gold has value. He believed the government was responsible for Sept. 11. And so on. This is not a random collection of nutty opinions. There is a theme to it, and it is not simply that the guy was crazy.

It’s a bit like the discussions about political correctness. Once an opinion has been successfully deemed politically correct by the right, it can’t be uttered in the public debate anymore. I often wonder why the liberals don’t reclaim the term. I mean, at the moment it seems that the most politically correct statements are that “we must cut public spending to get the country back on its feet” or “we need to cut taxes so we can get the wheels spinning again”.

Sometimes the kind Internet will direct you to sources you’d normally never think of consulting. And just as we think that we here in Denmark have brilliant minds who deserve to be heard outside our small country, regional papers in e.g. the US also have brilliant writers, who are rarely heard outside their own territory. This article is from a Chicagoan paper, it’s about blogging, expectations and “what’s in it for me”. Very good and true. Posted on twitter by @KrisWager.

Here’s another news source that you wouldn’t normally come across, The Boston Globe. When we travelled the US, this was a paper that I learned to like and respect. Now I’m just happy that people on the web sometimes remind me of that. Here’s a very thorough article about the consequences of the legalisation of drug possession in Portugal. Well researched and unbiased.

I’ve tidied up my Twitter favourites and found a few gems that I’d forgotten about, re. my last post about reading lots and forgetting most. This article is a very well researched piece on why women are needed in tech companies. I’m sure that @Elektronista will agree with the article’s author and with me.

Never a blog post without at least one thing about Twitter. This is a column from The Guardian by Margaret Atwood. She’s not a young woman anymore, but she’s still managed to fall in love with Twitter, head over heals. Read about it here and follow her on Twitter @margaretatwood.

Twitter isn’t all gooey and lovely. It’s also used to spread completely unfounded rumours by people who forget to think before they write. Let this collection of tweets serve as a warning. Verify, verify, verify! Note that some of the tweets have been removed. Some very embarrassed people have deleted their tweets.

Sometimes you need to jump off the grid for a while and pretend to have a life. @sheamus has written a short, humorous post about it.

From Gizmodo

Now for some gadget news. Must haves, nice to haves. Here’s a lovely charger for all your stuff, smart and practical.

And what about this one – a sun charger for the Iphone. One that works. Apparently.

We’ve been talking for ages about using our phones to pay for stuff. And already we can buy bus/train tickets with them. Which is great. Next up is lattes at Starbucks.

Guardian is trying the free/paid option that Danish paper Politiken is also trying. Free news online, but paid app. So far I feel uninspired to buy the Politiken app (especially since I subscribe to the paper version, but haven’t been offered the app for free, grump), but the Guardian app seems to be great value, 4£ for a YEAR, that’s one pence per day.

On BBC News I’ve read this suggestion to Facebook: That they mimic Apple and vet the applications that we allow access via Facebook. This is a really good idea. I’m slightly paranoid when it comes to Facebook applications and have allowed almost none. But especially young people don’t understand what they are doing when they allow various games apps access to their Facebook accounts.

Not a gadget, not even an app, but did you know that bit.ly doesn’t only help you shorten URLs but also helps you create quick lists of links? Very practical for a birthday wish list or a shared reading list.

Do you sometimes need some Zen-time to focus on something you’re writing? But you’re constantly disturbed by incoming mails or tweets or Facebook posts and are too weak-minded to turn the whole thing off (like someone I know)? Ommwriter is for you then. Great little programme you download and write in. When you open it, everything else on you desktop magically disappears and some lovely yoga-style music is added to the blank-but-not-white screen. Peace.

I was recently given Patti Smith’s autobiography and was in fact going to exchange it for something else, as I’m neither a a big fan of biographies, nor a huge fan of Patti’s. Strangely, a few days later, with the book on my desk beside me, somebody posted this interview with Patti Smith. After watching only a bit of it, I grabbed the book and started reading. Am halfway through it now. She’s a gifted writer (why do some people get all the talent?) as well as musician and the intertwined stories of her own and Robert Mapplethorpe’s lives are gripping. Warmly recommended.

The rest of the links today are on the silly side. This is a video of an in-air proposal. Awww. And here’s a young man who seriously doesn’t want to be disturbed while reading his book.

This has been a week of loads and loads of math homework for Dane. I’m not exactly a math wizard and the family wizard (David) is not around most days. One day I had to post a photograph of Dane’s assignment on Twitter for help. Help was around five minutes away.

The same day, and possibly as a comment to this, someone posted the quote below on Twitter. When son gets around to equations (am bracing myself for the day), he will wholeheartedly agree.

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A few days on the Interwebs

Across all the media I (try to) follow on the Interwebs, all kinds of news and information appear every minute, hour, day. I read lots and lots and lots but fear that much of it is forgotten again very quickly because I don’t “do” anything with it. Have been pondering this for a while and then thought that if I quickly save links or keywords on a dedicated page and then write a bit about it, the information might stick better. So that is what this is!

I read this post on Salon about Wikileaks and Assange. I’m not quite sure whether this is mere conspiracy theory or if there’s something to it. What do you think? I find it to be the most far out “coincidence” that it is Assange who’s accused of rape – of all the famous people who take, more or less, advantage of their notability. Salon, however, is not the first to suspect the Wallenberg family of wrong-doing. If you’ve read the Stieg Larsson trilogy or books by Jan Guillou you know what I mean. If you would like to read a complete update on the whole story of Wikileaks and Assange, go to Vanity Fair and read their interview with the enfant terrible.

Also at the serious end of the spectre, Sarah Palin has published a video to clear herself of the accusations against her for inciting hatred. I’m sure you already knew that, but have you actually seen the clip? And have you seen that map with shooting targets that she had on her website until moments after the Arizona shooting? The interesting thing about the video is the obvious discrepancy between the text, which (except the little “slip” with blood libel) is really quite good and her completely insincere expressions, which she clearly can’t control. And then the technical glitch; that you can see the teleprompter reflected in her glasses. *Amateurs*

I will get to news about gadgets and new ways to waste time on the Internet in a moment, but why don’t you bookmark this short article for reading when you’re in that “OMG, I’m mortal and I will eventually die”-mode. It’s a reflection over two famous atheists’ last stance before death and it’s both thought-provoking and quite life-affirming. The two atheists are hundreds of years apart – it’s David Hume and Christopher Hitchens.

I’d read about the Mikkelsen brothers before, but like with so much else, I’d forgotten about it. Then yesterday, I read about them again in Wired. Two brothers make good use of collaborative software to help refugees trace their families. It’s called Refugees United.

The lovely, but slightly awkward chef and animal welfare campaigner Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall has started the campaign Hugh’s Fish Fight. I predict that he’s starting this at exactly the right moment in history and that this campaign will be quite successful. Sustainable fish is the new black. Please like the likable Hugh on Facebook – you can do it directly from the Fish Fight website. More importantly, however, is to walk the walk. Eat sustainable fish. Which, among other things, means that we must choose our sushi restaurants with care.

The rest of this post is light weight stuff, but life must consist of both or we go mad:

This morning @tveskov posted this about Steve Jobs‘ leave of absence and the IPhone 5. It’s fairly tech-heavy, but the gist of it is that the financial markets are very worried that the Apple top management  can’t quite pull off the constant innovation without Jobs. Must admit that I don’t know enough about the personalities in the Apple top to have an opinion about that. One would think that, based on experience, Jobs would have taken great care and hired some visionary people, knowing what happened the last time he had to leave the company. The rest of the article is about expected features on the IPhone 5. Looks wildly interesting and like a huge leap forward. Which is much needed, because as it is now, the Android phones are rapidly overtaking the IPhone in many respects.

My dear husband has an IPad and I have tech-envy. But on the other hand am not quite sure that I have enough spare time to really enjoy it. Can I use it to read in bed? I feel that it’s slightly on the heavy side, as my bedroom is icy cold and you can’t really sit up in bed unless you’re wearing a sweater… On the other hand, this is the device I’d bring to the breakfast table (rather than my phone) to read the news, check the weather forecast, etc. And to the sofa in the evening to tweet and browse. Anyway, the next one is said to not have a home button. I’m fine with that, as long as it can skype, which is what I miss most on the current one. See a video demo of it here.

Another Apple news tidbit is that the (free) Twitter application for Mac is really, really good. And that it has a super cool extra function (only works in Safari and Chrome and only with the latest OS), which lets you tweet directly from a webpage. If this interests you, have a look here.

I don’t read women’s mags, I’m not much into fashion and generally uninterested in celebrities. But. (There’s always a but). I adore the reports from the big events in the movie biz with all the superstars in their fabulous dresses. Can’t tell you why, but after the Golden Globe thing the other day everybody scrambled to see Ricky Gervais’ faux pas, but I jumped to Vanity Fair to look at all the dresses. I think I agree with VF that Natalie Portman was loveliest of all – pregnant and rosy. Just saw her shine in The Black Swan, a dark dark film but Portman is fantastic – she actually does the dance scenes herself, a feat that is truly amazing. As much as I adore Julianne Moore I HATE her dress! Same goes for Mad Men star January Jones’ red show stopper. Bah. But I rather like Angelina Jolie’s understated green. Do you share my fascination or do you say BAH, who cares?

Picture from Foxsearchlight.com

Speaking of dresses, this one could save the planet. I want to see it at the next Golden Globe or Academy Awards!

Anders Høeg Nissen (@4nd3rs) of local Danish Harddisken fame brought this marvelous little thingummy to my attention. I have to say, with my lacking DIY-skills, this is something I absolutely MUST HAVE. As those of you who’ve visited me at home will know I’m very fond of what silicone can do for me. Outside my body, that is.

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Flink – something only Danes can be. But are they?

So much to write about, such lack of inspiration.

I could write about Denmark’s new status as instigator of a world-wide war against Islam. If it wasn’t so incredibly depressing that I can’t bring myself to do it. Read about it here if you have the necessary stamina.

I could be techno-nerdy and write about Google Instant, but I haven’t made my mind up yet if I really need more speed… I tend to agree with Charlie Brooker.

What I will tell you about is a most unpleasant episode the other morning at Rungsted station, an otherwise very civilised place. Son and I were lurking in front of the doors into the kiosk, wondering whether we had time to go in there or not. We weren’t in the most intelligent of spots… A woman came out and slammed the door into son. I said two things out loud. First, to son, that it wasn’t the most intelligent position he’d chosen, secondly, to woman, that even if he was a bit in the way of the door, she could still apologise for banging the door into his face. She bent down, so her face was right in front of son’s and screamed into his face: YOUR MOTHER SAYS I SHOULD APOLOGISE. I’M VEEERY SORRY. IS THAT OKAY? then standing up and staring at me angrily. Honestly, I felt so sorry for her, what a sad sad life she must have to scream like that at an innocent child. So I sent her a big smile and wished for her that she might have a better rest-of-the-day, as she clearly needed it. Then of course she started screaming at me. Everybody on the platform stared at her.

My son was rather shocked, he’d never witnessed behaviour like that before – good for him! Made me think of new Danish initiative called F…… Flink (link in Danish). It’s not translatable – even though the f-word is known by most people. I’ll try to explain rather than translate: The f-word is used very freely here – with the distance there always is to words in a foreign language. No matter how familiar this language is. Same with the word love, which most Danes can say without blushing. The similar Danish word – not as easily. Flink is a very Danish word, somewhat related to hygge, which I’ve discussed with many English-speakers. It means nice, but is much narrower. You can be a flink person, but you can’t have a flink meal or a flink journey. So when you’re flink, you’re being a nice, friendly, decent person.

What the F…… Flink initiative tries – I fear in vain – is to get the Danes to be a lot more flinke to each other. We are usually really flinke to tourists and other visitors who are not too brown-skinned, but we’re certainly not always very flinke to each other. Episodes like the above are not unusual.

I try to be flink to other people every day. In fact I’ve made a promise to myself to “do a good deed a day”. I do it only for me. I’m not altruistic or anything. But it creates such a nice (no, not flink) feeling inside when you see the surprised and pleased smile on somebody else’s face when you’ve let them out in traffic, offered them shelter under your umbrella or your valid train ticket or whatever. And I’m very, very puzzled why everybody else don’t do the same (I do, luckily, know a lot of really flinke people who do the same, but out and about I meet lots of people who definitely don’t). It’s such an easy shortcut to the smug feel-good warmth we all love.

I wish I had the personality to be a real do-gooder, one of those who make a tangible difference to people in real need. You know, sell my house and donate the proceeds to the poor and live in a tent. Or working for some charity in Africa. Or, or, or. But I don’t. I just donate a tiny bit of my huge surplus occasionally so that I can continue living my comfortable life and even feel good about it.

Although I don’t really believe it’s going to happen, I really wish the F…… Flink initiative all the best. And hereby encourage *all* my readers to go out there and be flink. Not just today, but for the rest of your life.

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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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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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It Really Must Stop

If you look carefully you can see a little red person. Thats young son, perching on a branch.
If you look carefully you can see a little red person. That's young son, perched on a branch.

The Health and Safety regulations concerning children in this country are going totally overboard. In young son’s previous school, a Church of England state primary, we were already shocked by the number of rules they had, supposedly for the children’s safety. No playing football in breaks, during the heatwave they had to stay inside or sit down under the trees in all breaks, when we had the snow last year the school was closed for a whole week (explanation was that there was ice on the parking lot…) and teachers cannot hug or cuddle a child who’s unhappy or has been hurt.

Then there’s this horrible story about a dinner lady who got sacked for telling parents the truth about their daughter being bullied. And there’s this silly, silly new regulations at a playground: To accompany your child or grandchild or whatever into this playground you have to be vetted as a “playground worker”. If you’re not, you have to stay outside the fence.

And there’s this, where home baked cakes for school fetes have now been forbidden for hygiene reasons.

In yesterday’s Times, Jenni Russell tells another horror story and concludes that we, as parents in the UK, must really do something and protest!

Unfortunately, since I’ve moved my child away from the English school system to an international school, I don’t have much of a say in the matter. It’s my son’s good fortune that I’ve done so, the International school doesn’t appear to harbour these hysterical views on safety and believe that some good old-fashioned  common sense and respect for teachers, children and their parents goes a long way in keeping our beloved little ones safe.

However, it’s not all the government’s fault. We, as parents, must also look at our own views on safety. Where does good common sense end and over-cautiousness begin? Obviously, you can’t let your child play in the road, so that it will learn road safety. But you can let them fiddle with scissors and cut themselves a bit to understand why scissors are not toys? And where you can’t let a child stick its head into the fireplace, maybe you can let it light the candles on the table and burn their fingers a bit?

I remember an incident in my son’s preschool. He fell off the climbing structure and hit his head on one of the milk crates they used in their play. He of course hurt himself and had to have a few stitches at the doctor’s office. But a mum came up to me the next day and asked whether I didn’t think we had to pull the climbing structure or at least get rid of the milk crates, so a similar accident wouldn’t happen to another child. And she reminded me that a boy had fallen off the structure the previous year and broken his leg. She was rather surprised when I didn’t agree! It was the same mother who decided that her son could never again ride in a bus after she read about a tragic accident when a child was killed when a bus collided with a tractor. No number of statistics about children’s safety in cars versus buses could convince her to change her mind!

So now, let’s be sensible. If we let our children play and cycle and climb trees, there’s a good chance that they’ll scrape a knee, bump their heads or break an arm. But when I was young, we all had accidents like that! The only two real accidents, one fatal, I remember from school was a girl who was killed in traffic and another girl who got her finger crushed in a door, indirectly because of bullying. Neither of those episodes could have been prevented by all the crazy measures we take nowadays to protect our children!

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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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Censorship not needed

when millions of people willingly watch this brainwashing TV-station every day (it’s a mash-up obviously)?

Watch the whole video, then sit back in your chair a minute and try and recall what the Republicans have called Ms. Clinton, Ms. Pelosi or Ms. Sotomayor. If you don’t recall, google it. Or use my new pet search engine Spezify. I was directed to the video from here – a link I found on Twitter, posted by @sharonKONE.

That censorship luckily becomes more and more difficult for the horrible regimes around the world is shown by this excellent article in the Washington Post.

For all the people out there who struggle to hear our voices and who struggle to make their own voices heard over the clatter of the propaganda machines and the short, short memory of the Western press, we really owe them to qualify the news we read/watch/hear and check our sources. We’re the ones who can!

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#Iranelection

What’s with the # (hash-tag) you ask (if you’re not on Twitter). The above is the key word for any tweet about the Iranian election and the ensuing unrest.

Just read someone saying “You can’t trust all tweets about Iran”. No! Did anybody really think so? Can you trust anything fully? I don’t think so and I find this Iran-twitter-revolution thing totally fascinating and a great leap forward WITHOUT necessarily believing every tweet I get about the goings on there.

There are a number of reasons why:

  1. The people inside Iran can’t always get news verified before they post. Each Iranian tweeter values his or her own sources and tweets what he/she finds credible. When things get very heated, they might tweet something that is exaggerated or will later turn out to be false. That doesn’t discredit these people entirely!
  2. People outside who’re trying to make sense of tweets from inside are well-meaning people (mostly). They want to support the people inside Iran by RT’ing (re-tweeting, means forwarding) their messages to their own group of followers. Also called viral power.
  3. Apparently there are (this is NOT verified) government officials in Iran trying to infiltrate Twitter by posing as Mousavi-supporters. One must have one’s bullsh.. guard up.
  4. And then of course there are all the people here in the West who loves a “good story” more than anything. And in this particular species’ view, a “good story” is one with lots of blood and misery. They will exaggerate anything they hear and in no time stories will be blown out of proportion. This is something which also happened before the web, if I may just remind the Luddites out there.

So no, you cannot believe anything you read on Twitter, on my blog, in the Daily Mail (particularly not…), in the Times, on BBC Online or anywhere else. You must apply your own critical sense. After a while you realise that it is more often true what you find on BBC Online than what you read in the Daily Mail. OK. Now you know this. It’s still not a reason to now believe everything that’s on the BBC website. What you do know now though, is that when it makes sense to check something you read in the Daily Mail against what’s on the same subject in the Times, the other way round will only rarely pay off.

If you want to join in, start by reading the always sensible but engaged Cory Doctorow’s advice on how to go about tweeting #iranelection. Another trustworthy source of news from Iran is Andrew Sullivan on The Atlantic. The most web-forward British paper is The Guardian, a journo there is live-blogging.

And – green is the colour of hope in Iran, so get out the greens!

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Holiday, corruption, drug resistance, sleep & happiness – in that order

Last post in a while. We’re off on family holiday in Portugal tomorrow morning and I’m not bringing my ailing Mac-baby. It will rest in our safe. Don’t try to rob our house, we have alarm and neighbourhood watch ;-)

Politics:

American justice is a strange phenomenon. I’ve never liked the fact that judges are elected directly by the public. It appeals to a kind of ambition that a judge should not have… This story from the New York Times confirms your worst suspicions! Had it been a film, you would probably have judged it incredible, had it been a book it would have been written by Elmore Leonard.

Environment:

Sometimes I have discussions with people about why one should buy organic household products. I do it because I want to do my teeny weeny little bit to not add more to pollution than necessary to that very limited resource of ours, water. It’s not just me flushing less chemical sludge into the sewers, it’s also the factories producing the products I use. I must then live with the fact that it’s more difficult for me to keep my whites white and that my clothes don’t smell like a meadow of lilies. Here’s an article from the Guardian referring to a study, which has shown that many household products like shampoo and cleaning agents contain substances which further the development of certain microbes in water, which in turn spread drug resistant bacteria into the environment (=us).

Science:

Worry dolls. Picture from Wikipedia.
Worry dolls. Picture from Wikipedia.

Sleep, that lovely thing we do every night and think little of when we get enough. Anyone who has suffered from prolonged sleep problems or who has small children and a job knows how important it is and how terrible it feels when you don’t get enough. Even when it’s only a few nights. Scientists are still working to understand sleep, but here’s an article which tells about short- and long term consequenses of sleep deprivation. Get your sleep while you can! I have a sleep tip for those of us who will lose sleep over worries: In South America they use “worry dolls“, tiny little dolls to whom you tell your problems before placing them under your pillow. Something happens when you voice your concerns. Sometimes they disappear altogether, other times they are just put into perspective. If you don’t have access to worry dolls (who has?), try writing your worries on a piece of paper or a note book before you go to sleep. It works more often than not. At least for me.

Happiness:

On Twitter someone recommended this very seasoned blogger, Lisa Williams. That was just as well, because she has a most interesting post about happiness, a whole new take on the subject. If you’re half as interested in the subject of happiness as I am (who isn’t btw?), then you’ll enjoy reading Lisa’s little insightfull post. I’ve written about happiness previously. Here latest.

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Religious zeal – or what's worse

Politics:

An interview with Hanif Kureishi about what has happened to the world since the fatwa against Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. It’s very interesting and deserves to be read by anyone who takes an interest in these matters. Here’s a quote:

The Rushdie affair, Kureishi believes, transformed not just his own work, but also “the very notion of writing.” The fatwa “created a climate of terror and fear. Writers had to think about what they were writing in a way they never had to before. Free speech became an issue as it had not been before. Liberals had to take a stand, to defend an ideology they had not really had to think about before.” How have they borne up to the task? “The attacks on Rushdie showed that words can be dangerous. They also showed why critical thought is more important than ever, why blasphemy and immorality and insult need protection. But most people, most writers, want to keep their heads down, live a quiet life. They don’t want a bomb in the letterbox. They have succumbed to the fear.”

They also touch on the Danish cartoon controversy. I thought then and I still think that it was perfectly all right to publish those drawings, if they had been in some sort of context. The most controversial one, the one with the mullah with the bomb in the turban would probably had gone by quite unnoticed had it accompanied an article about one of those insane Islamic fanatics who we always see on videos thundering about the imminent demise of the Western World. But the context of the drawings, if anyone should have forgotten, was a purposeful attempt to insult Muslims. Plain and simple. Nothing else. And I find that despicable.

I’ve read several of Kureishi’s books and of course also seen the lovely My Beautiful Launderette, but bow my head and admit that I’ve never gotten around to read the Satanic Verses or any of Rushdie’s other books. I don’t like Rushdie much and, although I’m always preaching to others about not letting the artist overshadow the work, I guess that’s what’s influenced me so I haven’t read any of his books. I even have one or two on the shelf… It was the clever twitterer @howardsends who alerted me to the interview.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Here’s a video from a congressional hearing on climate change. You will have to see it to believe that so much nonsense can come out of the mouth of a grown up and totally sane looking suit-clad congressman. (notice how the girl behind him tries not to smile). Pointer (again) from Andrew Sullivan at the Atlantic.

Here’s a good, reflective piece from Time Magazine about the Earth Hour.

IQ:

Thorough and well written review of important book about IQ as being hereditary or environmental. As with almost everything else, it’s not either or, it’s AND. Of course intelligence can be cultivated. And of course black people don’t have lower IQs than whites because of their race. And of course women don’t have lower IQs than men. As with any other gift you inherit from your ancestors you can either do something with it or not!

Tech:

If the management on NYT and International Herald Tribune are this dumb, there’s very little hope for the world!

Food:

How to use chopsticks. Instructional video. 90 secs. It works. Found on this interesting looking blog via Sheamus who never fails to twitter about interesting stuff.

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Hunger on April Food Day

Writing about hunger today on April Food Day, inspired by Ari Herzog. His main concern is this charity, Feeding America. Although I have seen with my own eyes that also America has its share of extreme poverty, malnutrition seems to be a much bigger problem than hunger and with equally devastating short- and long term consequences. If you enter their homepage and click on the real-life stories, the pictures illustrate my point. A good deal of these people, apparently suffering from hunger, are obese. So, they are not hungry, but malnourished. I find that, from checking on their homepage, they don’t focus enough on nutrition and have no statistics to tell us whether it’s possible to buy enough healthy food for the family with the same amount of money that these families clearly spend on food with no nutritional value.

Honestly, I don’t have anything to say on the subject of hunger that others haven’t already expressed much better than I ever could. So below I’m linking to a few filmed speeches (from TED) and posts/websites, which touch on this subject in original and intelligent ways. Enjoy!

The first is Eleni Gabre-Madhin, who works for the International Food Policy Research Institute.

This one is two years old and doesn’t specifically address hunger. But if you take the time (just under 20 min.) you’ll be rewarded with some of the most amazing statistics you’ve ever seen AND with data about the developing world, which is actually uplifting. The Swedish statistics genius Hans Rosling:

On a much less optimistic note is an article from NYT about hunger in India – a much overlooked problem, because other parts of India are developing fast and it’s a democratic country.

Hunger as weapon. Andrew Sullivan in the Daily Dish blog on the Atlantic. Really, really horrible!

In the American Foreign Affairs magazine (often much more interesting than the title suggests) there’s an article by an Oxford economist, with whom I do not agree at all. He promotes large scale farming to solve the hunger problem, mainly in Africa. To offset his claims read the reply from employees of the World Bank.

Finally some links to organisations that focus on hunger. Action Against Hunger focuses on sustainable solutions to the world’s hunger crises. The One organisation is the one founded by Bono. I know you’re supposed to think that he’s a selfrighteous prick, but I actually think that he’s chosen to do something worthwhile with his fame and his money. So there…

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To eat meat or not, is that really the question?

Tech:

This is an absolutely brilliant post by a young PR wizard about technophobia. Particularly addressing privacy issues, something I often find myself discussing with people. This young man addresses it very well. It was Jesse Newhart who twittered about him.

Google seems to be headed towards semantic search. Well explained on Mashable.

Another PR guy who knows what he’s talking about is Brian Solis. Check out his blog. He’s come up with this model of how online conversation is taking place – if you look at the prism directly on Flickr you can see Solis’ notes by moving the cursor. Quite brilliantly done. Thanks  to Gabs for pointer.

Model from Brian Solis Flickr page.
Model from Brian Solis' Flickr page.

Politics:

I like watching 24 on the telly, it’s highly addictive. But I often think to myself that the show in almost every episode indicates that torture gives results, although all research shows that it doesn’t. People will say just about anything to be freed of the pain. This guy clearly hasn’t revealed anything of any interest to anyone, but that didn’t keep the US back from holding him imprisoned in Guantanamo for almost five years… it’s so embarrassing for the free world that we’re complicit in this!

Quite a few Twitterers have pointed to Newswipe, a new programme on the BBC, and – having just finished watching it on the Iplayer – I must say it’s just fantastic! The middle part about the power of the PR agencies over the oh-so-slack media is saddeningly sobering. Likewise the last bit about a tiny demonstration, which was blown completely out of proportion by the media.

News about one of my Most Hated Organisations. NRA. Obama, don’t let them get away with it!

Feminism:

Do you love or hate chick flicks? A rather learned article on the subject. Including some depressing figures about women in the film biz.

Food:

Oh, please give me something to do that doesn’t have a downside to it? The newest environmental fad, which I’m also following, is to eat less meat. An article on BBC News tells me that that’s not an altogether good thing to be promoting, since people in the developing world need the protein they get from their livestock. The article is sort of made to look like there are two conflicting views here, but I don’t really think there are! No doubt all of us in the West could benefit from eating less meat? Healthwise and environmentally? That doesn’t mean we’re aiming at stopping African herders from eating their cattle!? Come on!

Science:

How the brain tends to switch off completely when put in front of a so-called expert. Avoid them, I say!

Ever wondered what’s on the other side of the planet? Literally? Wonder no more. For me? Ocean. Pointer from Sheamus.

Scientists are getting closer to finding the cause(s) of the demise of the honey bee. Good news, eh? Then we just need to do something about it!

Environment:

An article in Newsweek has this question:

How do you keep people interested in green initiatives and saving the environment at a time when people are concerned about their jobs?

That seems like such a silly thing to ask, when the vast majority of things you can do yourself for the environment is about being frugal? The article is interesting enough though, since it tries to answer the overlying question, which is whether there’s political will in a time of recession to invest heavily in the environment.

Growing hemp could be one of the answers to Newsweek’s question.

Where not otherwise indicated the above links are found via my own RSS feeds or via the busy, busy Nerdnews on Twitter.

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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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