According to Julie


Read this blog: Beautiful absurdity

sham jaffEvery week, freelance journalist Sham Jaff writes a one-paragraph summary of the news stories she thinks are the most important.

Sure, a lot of news outlets do something vaguely similar, but I like this one.

I like the brevity of the summaries, and the weekly rather than daily (or constant) updates.

I like her selection. Jaff writes about politics, culture and literature. She is particularly interested in the Middle East -  and let’s face it, we should all be more interested in the Middle East – but the stories she picks out are from around the world. She’s based in Nuremburg, Germany, which reminds me that too many of my sources of information are American, British or Scandinavian.

I also really like that this is a personal blog project, rather than a network or an automated aggregation. It’s a weekly feature in her blog Beautiful absurdity.

Sham Jaff is a freelance journalist, and she publishes some longer writing on her blog as well, like this book review and this post on the importance of political scientists.

Overall, put Beautiful absurdity into the service you’ve selected to inherit your Google Reader feeds (I mainly use Bloglines). Sham Jaff is also on Twitter and her blog has a Facebook page.

Image source: I borrowed the portrait of Sham Jaff from her blog.

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Links according to Julie (delayed August edition)

This is a selection of things I read in August and wanted to share with you. Since I haven’t had much downtime since the end of August, and some of these articles were read in July, they’re starting to get old. But they don’t feel old, and that’s the point.

Oliver Sacks’ thoughts on turning 80, in The joy of old age (no kidding), are also the reasons I hope to live for a very long time:

One has seen grand theories rise, only to be toppled by stubborn facts. One is more conscious of transience and, perhaps, of beauty. At 80, one can take a long view and have a vivid, lived sense of history not possible at an earlier age. I can imagine, feel in my bones, what a century is like, which I could not do when I was 40 or 60.

Jane Catherine Lotter wrote her own obituary:

One of the few advantages of dying from Grade 3, Stage IIIC endometrial cancer, recurrent and metastasized to the liver and abdomen, is that you have time to write your own obituary. (…) I was given the gift of life, and now I have to give it back. This is hard.

… and Michael Winerip in The New York Times wrote about her.

It turns out the world is getting better – this is almost too good to believe.

Tech and teens have pushed the English language forward, and now Twerk, Selfie, Bitcoin, and more have been added to an Oxford Dictionary. (I realize it is now even harder for some of you to believe the world is improving.)

The hashtag # was first suggested for use in Twitter in this blog post. This August, the hashtag turned six years old.

Sarah Koppelkam wrote about how to talk to young girls about their bodies. Step 1: Don’t!

I really enjoyed this cartoon about what teachers make, this randomly beautiful literature in a Craigslist missed connection, and this French sign:

ne se passa strictement rienSource: La Vie Est Belle

More links according to Julie

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Links according to Julie

twitter birds

Favorite online reads from the month of July:

Tim Kreider in The New York Times: I know what you think of me

Hearing other people’s uncensored opinions of you is an unpleasant reminder that you’re just another person in the world, and everyone else does not always view you in the forgiving light that you hope they do, making all allowances, always on your side. There’s something existentially alarming about finding out how little room we occupy, and how little allegiance we command, in other people’s heads.

Rachel Hill, in her blog Musings of an inappropriate woman: Wherever you go, there you are

But really, what had affronted me most was the possibility that he might be right. That I did watch from the sidelines instead of participating. That people didn’t want me in the action. That I was small and easy to ignore.

Lindy West for Jezebel: How to be an atheist: without being a dick about it

If faith is what certain people need to feel okay, then who the fuck am I to tell them otherwise? As soon as that faith translates into any action that oppresses others, it’s fair game for criticism.

Ann Friedman in NY Mag: Parties we should be having instead of weddings:

The Graduation Shower: It makes no sense that we let newly married adults in their 30s, most of whom purchased their first area rug or KitchenAid mixer years ago, run amok with a barcode scanner in Crate and Barrel while most members of the Thought Catalog generation are adrift with barely an Ikea bookshelf to their name. We know that kids these days are graduating into one of the toughest economies in generations. Why not give them a boost with a graduation shower?

Josh Constine for TechCrunch: Why do we endlessly retweet tragedy?

Our brains are not wired for the modern age and the incredibly powerful tools we’ve built to transmit information. A few thousand years ago, literal word of mouth was all we had. If you heard something bad was happening, it probably directly affected you. “There’s a sabretooth tiger coming! Run!”

And why nerds should dance

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Links according to Julie

Words are the most powerful thing on the web


Justin Jackson wrote those words. He is right, and you should read the whole thing. I work in the field of communications/PR because I want to work with words. I work with digital media because the internet is a great way to distribute words to lots of people.

So have a great month of July. Here’s a collection of good online reads from the month of June:


Thomas Beller in The New Yorker: The ongoing story: Twitter and writing

It used to be a radical cri de coeur to claim, “We live in public.” Like many mantras of the cyber-nineties, this turns out to be mostly true, but misses an even larger truth: more and more, we think in public.


Mr. London Street: Four pints

A theologian, an environmental engineer, a sports physiotherapist and a lawyer walk into a bar: it sounded like the start of a joke. Maybe in a way it was: a joke about how we all spend three years studying these things and then go and get jobs which bear no relation to them.


Graeme Wood in NYMag: Scrubbed

Metal Rabbit Media, he said, was a boutique shop for the online reputations of very wealthy people. He worked by mining the client’s history of publication and philanthropy, then pumping up the volume to drown out all else. Basic service costs $10,000 a month, Tom said, which could make Phin’s total bill, running from the first website in December 2010, nearly $300,000.


Anna Latimer in XOJane: In defense of being a pretentious little shit

My 29-year-old friend Rose, an Oxford graduate, wrote to me of how she sometimes tears up thinking of the passionate writer she used to be. “Maybe what I would write now is better for being more self conscious and tempered and aware of others. But I think there’s definitely something sad about the loss of that intensity and passion.”


Latine Fatale: How to talk to little girls

Not once did we discuss clothes or hair or bodies or who was pretty. It’s surprising how hard it is to stay away from those topics with little girls, but I’m stubborn.


Mat Honan in Wired: Inside Digg Reader’s race to build the new Google Reader

In fact, it could be a perfect fit with the rest of the Betaworks puzzle–Chartbeat could point out stories that are being read all the way through; could give insight into what people are linking to; and Instapaper could even show which stories people may want to read but don’t have time to, right now. Its own reader would give Betaworks a way bigger piece of the fast. But the only sure way to grab that fast was to tie its fate to the exodus of passionate Google Reader fans.

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Links according to Julie

take the time to pleasure-read

In the month of May…

WordPress turned 10 years old! I still recommend this platform to any blogger who asks me.

The Tumblr “Get off my slot” was started, giving all you non-dancers some insight into how being a West Coast Swing dancer feels – really, what my life is like.

Parents of Reddit exchanged sometimes terrifying stories of creepy things their children do.

The French finally came up with a word for what we call French kissing.

I found this list of words that are almost (but not quite) forgotten. They are totally Englishable (or possibly Norwegianable).

Emma Coats, previously Pixar’s story artist shared some useful story-writing tips.

This blog post inspired me to say certain things more often.

With one month to go before I lose Google Reader, I bought a Premium subscription to NewsBlur. So far, I’m happy about that.

I signed up for Instagram. I know, I know, better late than never. Still don’t know if I’ll really find any good use for this, but I need to know how it works beyond just reading about it. Feel free to follow me. Just like on Twitter, I’m called julierandersen


Norskspråklig bonus:

Min kollega Marius Parmann blogget om hvordan en god kommunikasjonskampanje har reddet mange liv.

Du trenger ikke svare på om du er gravid bare fordi du ikke drikker på fest.

Iphone har dårlig dekning.

Og husk at du er offentlig i sosiale medier. Bare aksepter det.

Image source

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Read this blog: Journey to the East

“Hello, my name is slut”. Not exactly the way most travel blog posts start. But my friend Alex Jungwirth, an Economics Lecturer at Soochow University in Suzhou, China, blogs about the weird sides of moving to a different continent. Like meeting a Chinese girl who decided her chosen English name should be Slut because she likes the “ssl…” sound (come to think of it, it is pretty).

Alex is amazingly intelligent (she’s working as a professor at age 21!). She’s also one of those great people you can discuss international political economics with while shopping for corsets.

I have no doubt she’ll continue to produce funny and insightful blog posts and add more to her list of Common Chinese Stereotypes. So head over to Journey to the East and make sure she has too many readers to quit her recently launched blog.

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2 mini book reviews and some other stuff I’ve read and listened to lately

This week I finished reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. It’s one of those books I find difficult to explain. When people have asked what it’s about, I’ve dodged the question, because “Uh… There’s this kid. He goes to high school. He finds some friends,” doesn’t really do it justice. Like To Kill A Mockingbird and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, it is essentially the story of grown-up problems as observed by an unusual child. I liked the idea of the wallflower advantages: what the quiet observers can experience when they – ok, we – just shut and watch. But on the other hand, as Charlie learns, you have to “participate” sometimes.

Last week I finished The Fault in our Stars which is also about this kid who finds some friends, but she has cancer. This novel by John Green was the top fiction book in 2012 according to Time. Not that I’ve read all the other fiction books and made an objective comparison or anything, but I’d like to say Time may have been right. This novel has everything I want from novels: complex characters, interesting sentences, little details that make me stop and think or laugh, plot twists and funny dialogue. It also has characters that have cancer, putting it firmly in the “these characters have bigger problems than me” category, unlike some other books I’ve read in 2012. By the way, I like the fact that Time’s number one fiction book of 2012 is technically “young adult” (a genre old adults should read too), but does not mention vampires or children killing each other.

I’ve been offline a lot over Christmas and New Year’s, but here’s a few interesting online reads from the past couple of weeks:

How to use Evernote as a memory tool for deep reading, writing, and research.

Science fiction became science fact this year.

A “self-made man” thanks all the people who helped make him.

Has Peter Jackson ruined Tolkien? “(…) finding the moments in The Hobbit film that are actually adapted from Tolkien’s book can start to resemble a Where’s Waldo exercise. I’d argue it’s no coincidence that these rare moments, when they happen, are by far the strongest in the film.”

I’ve been also been reading a couple of books I plan to review, a novel in English and a book about social media in Norwegian.

Since I spent four days at New Year’s Swing Fling for New Year’s, my background music has been mainly Christmassy or West Coast Swing. But according to, my top artists were Doe Paoro, Frank Sinatra (that’s because of Christmas), Tori Amos (probably mainly Midwinter Graces, her winter album), Alex G and Garrison Starr.

Here’s a playlist of the songs I listened to the most in 2012.

And here’s a playlist of 20 new songs I listened to a lot in 2012.

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Knitting sushi and googling

knit sushi by lapoliSomething I learned at work this week: people knit sushi.

This was brought to my attention by a co-worker who told us that finding random stuff like that on the internet is inspiring, much like visiting an art gallery. I agree – knit sushi inspired this blog post.

When I wasn’t learning about food-shaped yarn, I spent most of this working week researching search engine optimization for a client, which basically meant I got paid to google things. I guess I can call myself a professional googler now. But to be fair, I have been a professional googler for a while. So it’s time to give up a secret…

… At least 50% of the time someone asks me a factual question (and it isn’t about myself), believing that I am qualified to answer, this is what I do.

The thing is, googling, or more generally speaking internet research, is a skill. You need to be able to judge the difference between good and bad sources of information, make good use of tools for searching, translating and curating stuff, a good vocabulary, and creative ideas for ways to use that vocabulary.  I mean, not everyone could find knit sushi on the internet without knowing it was already there. I wonder if she just googled two randomly chosen words to see what came up. That does sound like a good way to find some fast inspiration.

Image: lapoli, CreativeCommons

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Two weeks of Twitter

I would like to blog more often, which in practice means quicker and shorter, but Twitter has taken over from the short, efficient look-what-I-found-on-the-internet blog post. So to maintain not only blogging efficiency and frequency, but also the idea that my blog is an ever-changing snapshot of part of my mind, here’s a collection of stuff I put on Twitter in the past two weeks – stuff that could have been blog posts. Like this analog Twitter wall, blog posts like this are a way to make what we write on Twitter slightly less blink-and-you-miss-it.

Of course, one reason my blog posts are fewer and further between these days months, is that I have other stuff to do, including a job that I really enjoy. But this job entails a lot of both writing and internet- and social media-based research, so it requires the same skills that I use for blogging. This is good in the sense that blogging has honed relevant professional skills, but it also means that when I get home, I want to do something other than sit in front of a computer screen and produce sentences. My situation reminds me of the character Matilda: when she finally got enough academic challenges at school, she lost the ability to use her excess brain power to move objects with her mind (this happens in the book, not the movie).

However, I am qualified for my job partly because I have been writing online for years. Maintaining my own voice and online presence is important to me personally, but I would argue that if I do it right, it is important for my employer too. This article about employees with a personal brand – Twitter celebrities, widely read bloggers etc. – was an interesting read. And made my decision to tweet the link while I was at work feel like some kind of statement. Twitter is still a relevent way for me to get new information about stuff that is relevant for work in media and communications: like that the first live news blog was written in the 1920s.

Otherwise, I’m thinking about American politics a lot now, and whether or not Pinterest can predict the election, this XKCD is brilliant:

If it’s true that Amazon wipes Kindle accounts and refuses to explain why, then that is very scary to me. I imagine walking into my living room one morning and finding that all the books in my bookshelf are  gone. As long as losing my Amazon Kindle books this way is even a remote possibility, I’m going to want to have the books I care about in paper format as well. Once I have a paper book, I might lose it or ruin it, but then it would by my fault, and something I could have prevented. It’s not like the book store, publisher or author can just decide that I no longer have the right to read the book, and remove it from my shelf or replace the printed pages with blank ones. I don’t like thinking this way. In fact, in most cases I would rather store my most important paper electronically, so that it can be backed up and not be as flammable. And I want to trust Amazon. But at the moment, I don’t.

This open letter to Ann Coulter was writtern to her by Special Olympics athlete and global messenger John Franklin Stephens after Coulter used the word retard. Stevens’ calm response shows a simple sophistication that proves his point  without being overly politically correct or obnoxious.

It’s even more official: Oslo is one of the best cities in the world for coffee!

And here’s the story of The Writer Who Couldn’t Read:

Would your 15-year-old self listen to you? (this link probably won’t work, because the blog Jezebel is still having issues after Sandy)

Bonus for Norwegian readers:

Hvilke rettigheter har norske forbrukere i møte med firmaer som Netflix og Amazon? @olavtorvund går gjennom jusen.

Interessant fra @hogrim om skjev pressedekning i Vågåsaken. Hvorfor forstår ikke pressen at å være på den svakes parti ikke er det samme som å være nøytral?

Hvor er den profesjonelle eleven? Axel Fjeldavli spør: og skriver: "Elevene sitter i norsk- og mattetimen og lurer på om det betyr noe om de er der eller ikke. Elevene føler ikke eierskap til det som skjer og er ikke aktive i egen læringsprosess. Det er skolens store problem at elevene sitter som passive tilskuere til undervisningen.

"Det er visse grenser for hvordan man opptrer overfor andre mennesker – snikere eller ikke." om trikk via @jofolsland

Spotify for avis! "betaler gladelig 99,- pr. måned for å få tilgang til alt nyhetsstoff fra f.eks Schibsted-avisene. " Jeg hadde også en diskusjon med @hillestad om hvorvidt det var for sent for avisene å gjøre dette, og hvor fine RSS-lesere egentlig var. Det som mangler for at RSS-lesere skal være en fullverdig alternativ til å sjekke ørten nettaviser, er at nettredaksjonene tagger artiklene fornuftig og setter opp feeder deretter, slik at jeg kan få alt politisk, økonomisk og utenriks fra alle og enkelt filtrere vekk sport og kjendiser, for eksempel. Helst vil jeg ha mer finjustert også, slik at jeg får “kultur” i betydningen anmeldelser av en ny tv-serie, men ikke “kultur” i betydningen “Hvem ryker ut av reality-TV denne uken, tror vi?”

George Orwells skriveregler fungerer like bra nå – også på nett fra @kaaregarnes