Hung out to dry

There’ll be nothing about politics in this post, I swear. Lacking that, however, I’ll encourage you to check this great fashion report from Vanity Fair, inviting you to have a good laugh at a dictator’s expense.

A British twitter-friend, who’s also a civil servant directed my attention to a media horror story from the UK, which I haven’t heard mentioned in Denmark. A female civil servant (not known to me) is an eager blogger and tweeter and generally very active on the web. She blogs and tweets about her life, as most of us do, and she hasn’t made a big secret of either her name or her place of work. She doesn’t work with sensitive material and she doesn’t mention specifics anyway. What she did do though, was mention how hard it is for every civil servant to face the enormous cuts into the heart of every public service in the UK and how nervous many people in public employment now are to lose their jobs. She would also tweet about it when she’d occasionally had a drink too many at the pub, but nothing gory, just stuff like “Oh my, I’m afraid this will lead to a hang-over tomorrow”.

One of British press’ most dreadful papers, the Daily Mail, employs some really mean-spirited people. One of them must have been bored out of his mind, because he started to follow politicians’ followers to see if he could catch on to something. And through a Labour politician’s wife he found our civil servant. And decided that she was a Most Irresponsible and Despicable Human Being Not Worthy of Consideration, which is why he decided to publish her full name, picture and some very selective quotes in the paper together with a lot of filth about what a horrid person she was and that she was undeserving of being publicly employed.

As you can imagine, this all but ruined the woman. Thank God that she has such a cool-headed boss because she has NOT been fired, but her life has been absolute hell ever since with hundreds and hundreds of letters, phone calls, e-mails, blog comments and tweets saying every kind of horrible thing imaginable to her.

This has of course led to a discussion across platforms about our right to privacy in a digital age. Some people have argued that she has to live with the consequences of being open-mouthed in open fora. Others that she shouldn’t have been exposed like that because she simply isn’t “newsworthy”. I agree with both, actually. Because you must stand by everything you say on the web except for private (really private) forums and in e-mails. On the other hand, if you say a lot, it’s a bit like with the monkey which will eventually write the collected works of Shakespeare. Pieced together you can always create filth. But the fact that you can piece together anybody’s words in “new and interesting ways” doesn’t make them newsworthy.

In my opinion, the most balanced comment on the whole thing is here. Her own comments and reflections can be found by clicking the link to her blog above where she also links to the dreadful article.

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Egypt, the entertainment industry and tea towels

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you pool-side. *takes cover*

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*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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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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A can of worms (what??)

* Sainsbury’s have finally gotten back to me on this issue. Scroll down to bottom to read end of story.*

No, actually, what it was was a can of Sainsbury’s organic chopped tomatoes. But there was a worm in it. Or so I thought at first. It turned out to be less, eh, organic, namely a shoelace. I was making plain tomato sauce for vegetarian lasagne and so had only a bit of olive oil and minced garlic in the pan before pouring in the tomatoes. Which is why I know with absolute certainty that that’s where it came from. Besides, we’re not much of a shoelace family. Husband prefers loafers & son prefers velcro. As for me, eh, flip flops & slippers?

The next morning, Nov. 17th., I wrote this to Sainsbury’s:

Subject: foreign object in Sainsbury’s So Organic chopped tomatoes
User’s Comments: Last night when making sauce for lasagne I used two cans of your otherwise nice So Organic chopped tomatoes. When stirring contents “black snake” appeared. Since there was only garlic in the pan prior to adding the cans of tomatoes, there really was no other source of this. A LENGTH OF SHOELACE.

Can ID: PRO 1 BIO A 270
B.B.E. SEPT. 2010
Photograph can be seen here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nenelabeet/4111313339/in/photostream/

On November 19th I got this reply:
Dear Nene
Thank you for your email regarding the shoelace that you found in the JS SO chopped tomatoes.  I’m sorry that you had the displeasure of finding such an item in your product.

Can I ask you to send this by recorded delivery to our Product Quality department where they will investigate the cause of the shoelace appearing in the tomatoes.  The address is as follows:

Product Quality department
Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd

33 Holborn
London
EC1N 2HT

Kind regards

Andrew Baillie

Customer Manager

On Monday 23rd I did as requested. Have receipt right here next to me. Enclosed my business card with all details – including Twitter ID – and the query number I’d been issued with. Recorded delivery ensures delivery on the next day before 1 pm. So can assume Sainsbury has received it? But of course, have not heard one word from them since then.

Or, I have. Because I have of course tweeted about it. Both when I just found it with the above picture as Twitpic and later when I still didn’t hear anything. Other tweeters suggested I tweeted directly to @sainsburys, who clearly doesn’t follow their own brand name on Twitter. How amateurish is that???

So I tweeted directly to @sainsburys who then asked for my phone number in DM. They then had this hapless, clueless girl from customer services call me. Without checking my Twitter stream first and certainly without checking whether they had received my complaint and the can & content. As my husband would probably say: W*nkers! I felt so sorry for that girl who called to tell me to do what I’d already done, namely send in the can & lace via registered mail. She wasn’t authorised to do anything else.

Here’s one week worth of Tweeting about shoelace in Sainsburys’ tomatoes. I do realise that you can’t actually read this, so try here (this link is to live search of Twitter for labeet + sainsburys). Sainsburys have access to this same tool, don’t they?

I know that Sainsburys is a huge, huge business and that I’m only one tiny little person (relatively speaking). But I also know that customer services are becoming more and more important as “the little man’s” access to a wider audience becomes easier. Scanning 5-6 hours worth of tweets including the word Sainsburys takes about 5 minutes (I know, I just did it). Most tweets that aren’t just mentioning Sainsburys because they’re either going shopping or orienting themselves via the local Sainsburys are positive or musing over the fact that they are now being followed by @sainsburys. Maybe they should explain to people why they start following them? One tweeter amusingly writes: The whole of Sainsburys is fllowing me? That’s a bit scary if you stop too quickly!

Quite a few of the tweets are recommendations of current in-store offers to others. @sainsburys could really profit from this if they tweeted back with related offers. What they seem to be doing is tweeting recipes and saying thank you to people for following them back. When queried directly, they assured me and @angpang and @EmmaJaneR that they were “listening”, but the above is all that happened? And since that tweet yesterday afternoon, @Sainsburys has sent out 5 tweets altogether, the last one 16 hours ago.

I am clueless as to why a company that large with that amount of resources chooses to do anything as half-hearted as that. I understand that for many smaller businesses it’s impossible to have one single person responsible for these things, but as I’ve just shown, scanning half a day of tweets takes 5 minutes!

I now have to go out, so won’t be here to take delivery of the huge hamper of guaranteed shoelace free cans of tomatoes and other goodies that MUST be on its way from Sainsburys. I hope the neighbours will.

Ah well, just kidding. I’ll keep you posted and will tweet link to this post with annoyingly regular intervals in the meantime. And, Sainsburys, I promise you that I’ll just as eagerly tweet and post when you turn around and “do the right thing”. Until then: @Sainsburys #fail.

Added 5/12:

On December 1st I wrote to Sainsbury’s again, asking if they had actually received the can and if they were going to do anything about it, ever?

And finally, yesterday evening, a woman with a peculiar accent (def. North, but where exactly, she had the funniest expressions and prolonged nouns?) called. She talked non-stop about what they were doing with their suppliers, quality control, etc., etc., and in the end finished her speech by offering me £50 compensation. I accepted. Maybe I should’ve taken the matter further, but £50 seems to be OK, all things considered. And I’m really, really bad at squabbling. Heated discussions make me nervous and get ridiculously high levels of adrenalin flowing – think it’s a leftover from childhood…

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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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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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I love this woman

Lenore Skenazy
Lenore Skenazy

Her name is Lenore and she’s a New Yorker. Some time ago she wrote a small article in a relatively obscure paper which inadvertently changed her life. She admitted that she’d let her child ride the subway alone… close your eyes and imagine the torrent of hatemail, calls etc. that landed on her. Or read her own very funny account of it all on Huffington Post. Here’s her blog – it’s all about Free Range Kids, she’s even written a book about it.

I’m completely devoid of inspiration today, so I’ll just pass you on to a handful of women, who all write very well, engaging and funny:

This one calls herself @titianred on Twitter, where she never fails to entertain. She loves Monday mornings – or so she says.

Here’s Razorkitty – an intelligent, beautiful woman, who’s comments are gold when you’re watching certain programmes on TV.

Clare is also an eminent Twitterer. She’s promised (it was you, wasn’t it Clare?) to write on her blog why it is that buying clothes at Boden is a no-go. I’m waiting in trepidation…

Last one – I’ve written about Tania Kindersley before – and her lovely book Backwards in High Heels, which you can read more about on her own blog.

Over and out from Sunny Surrey.

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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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Is less always more or only sometimes?

Together with a lot of other Twitterers, I’ve enjoyed this article in the New York Times. It’s written by the clearly renowned writer Pico Iyer, although I *shamefully hangs head* had never heard of him. I must read one of his books. Any of you well read, sophisticated people out there have any suggestions?

The piece is about leaving most of his worldly possessions behind him and settling in humble dwellings in Japan. How it elates him and sets him free. Even if you have no dream of being able to do such a thing or even if you’re a real materialist hedonist (can one say that??), you should still read it. His writing is fabulous and very evocative.

I have little more to say today, other than bringing you this silly picture. Notice that it’s a first for me – I usually never fall for animal cuteness on the web, but this one really got me. Maybe because of the caption. It was brought to my attention by fellow happy twitterer @Eyglo from Iceland who also writes the excellent blog Ideary.

Sourced from @eyglo on Twitter: http://tinyurl.com/n5hg23
Sourced from @eyglo on Twitter: http://tinyurl.com/n5hg23

Oh yes and this, which I took yesterday when we decided on a quick walk in a strange forest. Sheep Leas, not far from Horsley, Surrey.

Dont say an Iphone cant take a decent pic.
Don't say an Iphone can't take a decent pic.
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Something to be thankful for? (and Aristotle for kids)

After using new Netvibes tools to arrange all the blogs I follow into neat groups, easy to sort through, I’ve hardly looked at them. The reason is the same as for not writing anything here. So today I thought I should have a quick look through them and see if there’s anything worth recommending. And of course there is. Lots.

Blogging

My favourite economist Tyler Cowen meets another favourite of mine, Happiness-blogger Gretchen Rubin IRL. He teases us with their discussion subjects, but ends post with this, which I find very promising for when I’ll someday meet some of my blogger-favourites myself:

I have never once met a person whose blog I like and then been disappointed.  Never.

Children

Another economist (author of Parentonomics) obviously writes a lot about parenting. He recommends this post, which is one of the best I’ve ever read about children. It’s about how to teach them to argue well. And yes, we DO want to teach them that. If you have children, read it, read it, read it.

Happiness

A blogger who tethers between economy and politics is Chris Dillow. He has an interesting and intriguing post about happiness, one of my pet subjects.

Food

On the very, very important subject of food, I’ve just finished reading this absolutely mouthwatering post about Southern (We’re talking about the Southern US here) food prepared in a Northern kind of way. Oh me oh my; for a person who was in culinary heaven while travelling the US South and particularly in New Orleans, this post will inspire to quite a few meals around here. What do you say to Garlic Bread Pudding? I say YES.

Via one of my favourite food writers, Mark Bittman, is here a little treat to go with barbecued greens: Chili oil.

On being a woman, a mum, a person

Quite a while ago Tania Kindersley wrote the most beautiful and poetic post about what we do when a bad mood strikes. Except that I could never hope to write such adorable prose it echoes what I often think myself on these matters. How I wonder where the bad mood came from, what to do to expell it or even if I should (when not affecting others, of course). Tania has taken time off from her blog and Twitter and I must say, I truly miss her! Btw Tania, I was thinking we should also reflect on those days when we wake up in a great mood, equally inexplicably. That’s one of my favourite experiences of daily life -when you suddenly find that your spirits are high and the world looks like a friendly place. Where did it come from? We might never know. But I’m thankful.

The debate about working mums contra stay-at-home mums is still roaring. Here are three prominent voices: Sarah Vine in the Times. A fuming reply from “Potty Mummy”, a stay-at-home mum and a reply to this from Times editor Jennifer Howse on the Times Alpha Mummy blog. (Don’t bother with the comments, they are depressing, I just hate it when women are so poisonous against each other).

I am an in-betweener. I work, but I do it at home and often I don’t do much of it. But I would never choose to be a stay-at-home mum for the sole sake of my children. Although I love to cook and bake cupcakes, I’m just not the type. And I hate, HATE cleaning. I don’t entertain my children, I’m lousy at keeping up with their homework, I always try to wriggle out of playing board games etc. etc. And excursions never EVER go to kiddy entertainment places, but invariably to National Trust properties, Good Long Walks or museums etc. etc. I find it difficult to relate to many of the issues raised by the stay-at-home mums of my acquaintance, as I find them boring, quite simply. And I worry that they over-protect and overwhelm their children with their presence.

But I’m glad that I don’t have to go to work every day, because I do get to pick up son after school and chat with him, I do get to sit down with him and do something he wants, I do get to watch his TV favourites over his shoulder and I do get to make sure that he eats good and varied meals (almost) every day. And I don’t have to live in constant panic of him falling ill (which is probably why he never does).

But I can certainly relate to some of the points raised by Sarah Vine – the total lack of social status, the complete invisibility at social gatherings, the lack of a social life (besides Twitter…). I thoroughly miss the social status my job used to give me and it’s no use claiming that I don’t. But I don’t miss the stress of office life, the (sometimes) awful malice of other women, the struggle to live with a boss who’s just not that bright…

Bottom line I guess is same old, same old. You can’t have it all. So sit back and enjoy what you do have, while you still have it. Veeeery philosophical and not even very profound, I know. But that’s me.

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Silence

Just thought I should let you know why I’m eerily silent here on the blog. It’s not because I’m too busy Twittering, although I do Twitter a bit every day. 140 characters seem to be just what I can deal with at the moment.

You see, I’m writing my Bachelor paper for delivery on May 29th. And that’s only a few weeks away. Right now I’m stuck, but that too will pass – I hope.

Also, I had to go to Denmark last week to attend my (grand)mother’s funeral. It was nice to see such a big turnout for the passing of a nonagenarian. She would have appreciated the truckload of flowers in only pink and purple and the beautiful sunny day. A good day for a send-off!

So, dear faithful readers (those of you still left after my long silence), I’ll be back in June, hopefully with a vengeance. If you absolutely must know what I’m up to, please subscribe to my Twitter-feed. You can see it in the right hand column here on the blog.

Have a lovely month of May, everyone!

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There's nothing a brain scan won't reveal

Science:

Activity in Caudate Nucleus (a part of our brain) predicts our choices. That’s another part of our brain that seems to be moored in the hunter/gather era of humanity, because the study shows that the brain pushes our choice towards the one with the largest perceived reward.

This is funny! Apparently, there’s very little you can’t see on brain scans. For instance, you can predict blunders! Seems like life would be different (easier?) if we could walk around with brain scanners on our heads all the time…

When romantically inclined, we don’t want to follow the crowd. It’s the other way ’round when we’re scared.

IQ:

A brain scan can show IQ?

Children:

When discussing how we bring up our children and feminism issues with friends and family I’m always arguing that 1) We must answer questions about sex when put to us by our children, in an honest and close-to-the-truth way, according to their age. If we don’t they’ll know how to get the information from other sources, which might not be as credible. They WILL get the information! And 2) that men and women will never be equal as long as the porn industry is as skewed as it is. When boys and girls see the average porn flick or magazine, they get a sadly stereotypical impression of sexuality. Finally a programme on Channel 4 (and not just yet another study by a feminist psychologist) shows how youngsters get their “knowledge” about sex: Porn. Think about that, parents, before you snub another sex-related question from your children out of misplaced modesty.

Told you so… Extra-curricular activities and good social skills in high school will benefit you later in life.

This story was all over Twitter yesterday. When your toddler doesn’t respond to your REPEATED instructions, it’s not because they’re not listening. They’re just storing it for later. What I don’t understand then, is what happens with bigger children? Maybe they are just storing the instructions for MUCH later?

Health:

Education slows down the spreading of HIV in Sub-Saharan countries. Read the interesting description of how, in the beginning of the epidemic, the disease spread fastest among educated males, because they had more leisure time and money to provide them greater access to commercial sex workers. Notice this new euphemism for prostitutes… Where did that come from?

A cure for Herpes. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Politics:

Why is it that politicians from all over the Western world aren’t queueing to scold Putin and his puppets for these killings? Russia actually claims to be a democratic country and wants a place among the world’s leading nations!

For a nation that embraces countries like China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Pakistan etc. it’s about time they loosen up towards Cuba.

Food:

Recipes on Twitter… I’ve just added a host of twittering chefs to my stream. Inspiration is everything when you’re the one left to do the everyday cooking!

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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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