According to Julie

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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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Moose Cap Friday links

Happy Moose Cap Friday! (What’s that? The answer is right here.) I have blog post drafts on "How to live in a basement closet", "Reasons to visit my blog" and "Blogging naked". We’ll see if I ever have time to finish any of them.

In the meantime, here is a completely random list of links:

Mandatory Moose Cap photo:


I was here the other day, and seriously people screamed when it started and continued to scream and sing along:

It sounds horrible in the video, but it didn’t from where I was standing, because Mka has a nice voice, and he speaks the best kind of English. Mmmm… I loved every minute of this concert, except for the screaming teenagers that sounded like they were actually inside my ear. Yes, I am very old. When you can’t bear the screaming anymore, just watch the video instead. The song fits the Oslo weather today, but I don’t hate days like this. Days like this are Fridays, with too many fun things to do to have time for blogging. Moose Baby and I are off to celebrate!

(photo by Craig Woods, t-shirt design by Eivind B. Hackett, and yes, it’s me)

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This week: Fashion, Moose and Moose fashion

This week "unfriend" was named word of the year. Meanwhile…

I listened to Tomi Paldanius. Craig Woods, the guy who runs THE DA (which is probably a great website, but I can’t really tell, since it’s all about soccer) was my apartment’s DJ this weekend, and for Saturday breakfast brunch, he played guitar covers of songs I don’t really like. But they work as guitar covers, especially with bacon. Because bacon is the best thing ever.

I watched the first season of Mad Men, and I actually enjoyed it. I once wrote (in Norwegian) that Mad Men is "good clothes, bad people. I’m often in the mood for the former, not often for the latter. And especially not these days." Apparently these days are over.

Chanel is also good clothes, and so I watched this video. French pop music, Chanel, Natalie Portman – what’s not to love?

I read about (but didn’t watch) reality TV. The New York Times interviewed former reality TV contestants about the conditions behind the scenes, and my suspicions were confirmed: take a person who just wants to become a designer/model/millionaire/complete stranger’s fiancée, subtract sleep, food and any contact with the outside world, and then add alcohol. That recipe will give you drama every time. On the Norwegian version of Top Model, a contestant with chronic fatigue quit the show when she was one of the top three, saying that working as a model was a lot less stressful than being on the show. After all, in the real, real world, you are allowed to talk to your family, sleep more than five hours a night and use the internet.

In other television news, Sesame Street in South Africa has an HIV-positive muppet.

The New York Times also taught me that fashion – especially for men – is getting really retro. Not 1980s, but 1890s.

If that’s not your style, you could hope for an invisibility cloak instead. Yes, soon (er… maybe someday) we can be like Harry Potter. For real; scientists are working on an invisibility cloak. I first read about this in Norwegian last spring, but there have been news articles in a lot of places this week, like The Telegraph. Meanwhile The Frisky suggests we use these cloaks to go to Paris for free, sneak backstage at concerts and dance like no ones watching – because no one can.

I could have read a personalized newspaper, if I lived in Germany. I still don’t see the point of aged news, but I would try this if it were available in my language.

I added a new blog to my Bloglines: 1000 Awesome Things, because, well, it’s awesome.

I wore my Official Moose Shirt on Friday, and realized that the design strongly encouraged photographs like these:


My Moose Shirt

I learned how to prepare Moose steak in the oven, and was rewarded for my efforts when Aina finally responded to my "I can’t cook," with "Yes, you obviously can, you just look impractical when you do it." And then my mom wanted food advice from me, and I realized that I must really be growing up.

P.S. For fans of MGMT

Photo credits: Craig Woods and Aina Skjønnsfjell

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This week: Not quite magazines


I have discovered – and begun obsessively reading – a new blog this week: Yes and Yes by Sarah Von.

In one post she laments the stupidity of women’s magazines: ("I could really do without another quiz to determine if he’s into me (note to self: if you have to take a quiz to find out, the answer is no) or instructions on how to look thin while having sex.").

Sure, I’ve read that particular complaint before, and the obvious solution is to not read Cosmopolitan. But clearly, there is some part of me that wants to flip through glossy magazines that are not about international politics or the future of the media. I crave a break from all my different brands of geekiness. I always reach for Cosmo, Elle etc. if someone places one in front of me for free – and then I am always, always very disappointed. At best bored, at worst angry.

Luckily, the internet exists. This week I have read, noticed and remembered a lot of things that could very well have been in Cosmo. But if each of them were, they would have been the smartest, funniest thing in there.

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This week

Links for the weekend – Things I’ve been thinking about while writing for work.

This week I recommend Think again: Child soldiers from Foreign Policy, a very thought-provoking article.

Also thought-provoking is The New Socialism from Wired, where Kevin Kelly writes that social media is the new socialism. I’m not entirely sure what to make of this. While both my inner politics geek and my inner web-media geek are very pleased, I’m not sure the arguments in this article are all that original or even true. At any rate, thoughts on the behavioral economics of blogging, twittering and youtubing are interesting. Specifically, it’s hard to think that I’m blogging with a strictly rational-choice what’s-in-it-for-me attitude. The idea of blogging to contribute to a community makes more sense. With me, I tend to blog what’s in my head anyway; it’s really not work that I selflessly do for your benefit. In Norway, there’s a twist to this web socialism, as our Labor Party prime minister twitters. When he announced this on radio, he claimed he would follow everyone who followed him, because that’s the Labor Party way ("Alle skal med!"). I don’t know if he kept his promise though – is he following me?

Speaking of social media, AudioBoo is the new thing, according to various sources, but I’m linking to The Guardian.

Going back to paper media, Dan Sabbagh at Times Online explains why the very snobby Monocle magazine is making money.

So it’s not all doom and gloom: Global newspaper sales went UP in 2008.

But I still think paper is for art, not news. Examples to the left and above.




For Norwegian-speakers: B-mennesker er de nye A-mennesker fordi vi holder ut lenger.

This week I looked forward to Stuart Murdoch from Belle & Sebastian starting a girl group, God Help the Girl:

Although the dark-haired singer is clearly wearing my coat in this picture, I’m optimistic about this. I didn’t love the first single (video), but I might in the near future. Individual Belle & Sebastian songs usually start out feeling anonymous, but then they grow on me.

This week I read The Enchantment of Lily Dahl by Siri Hustvedt.

b1d5af9c-89b4-4e7e-aaea-687aeeb88d01-1I recently renewed my subscription to Morgenbladet, but they keep calling me and sending me multiple postcards urging me to renew my subscription. They need to get their act together. Despite subscribing, I can’t link to them, which is beyond annoying.

I added a new personal blog to my Bloglines: Thoughts and All


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This week

I read…
Drunk, and Dangerous, at the Keyboard by Alex Williams
“The experimental program requires any user who enables the function to perform five simple math problems in 60 seconds before sending e-mails between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. on weekends.”
Sorry, Dad, I’m voting for Obama by Christopher Buckley
“Necessity is the mother of bipartisanship. And so, for the first time in my life, I’ll be pulling the Democratic lever in November. As the saying goes, God save the United States of America.”
The Global Cities Index from Foreign Policy
“The world’s biggest, most interconnected cities help set global agendas, weather transnational dangers, and serve as the hubs of global integration. They are the engines of growth for their countries and the gateways to the resources of their regions. In many ways, the story of globalization is the story of urbanization.”
A Six-Pack of Joes from BBC News
“The next president of the United States will not be called Joe, but Joes of various kinds have been all over the news from the campaign trail.”
The Comprehensive Argument Against Barack Obama by Guy Benson and Mary Catherine Ham
“As the saying goes, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Questions abound: Is this man prepared to be president? Does he hold mainstream values and policy preferences? Who has influenced his thinking, and where does he want to take the country? Has he been honest with the people from whom he seeks votes?”
It’s hard out here for a Mom… by Susie from the blog What Was I Thinking?
“So, yea, ever since her third grade teacher had her reading about how messy ejaculating boys are, I’ve tried to screen teacher-recommended books. (…) I guess my somewhat pessimistic view that there is no one who is going to look out for my kid’s well-being the way I do, was reinforced (…) there is nothing in the world more precious to me than her brain (…)”
And in Norwegian…
Om å gjøre det slutt med andre enn kjæresten by VirrVarr
“Når du begynner å date noen, kan du backe ut. Når du begynner å henge ut med noen, har du ingen høflig retrettmulighet.”

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This week

I read…
The Things He Carried by Jeffrey Goldberg
“The whole system is designed to catch stupid terrorists,” Schnei­er told me. (…) “We defend against what the terrorists did last week,” Schnei­er said. He believes that the country would be just as safe as it is today if airport security were rolled back to pre-9/11 levels.
Canadian Immigration Problems
The possibility of a McCain/Palin election is prompting the exodus among left-leaning citizens who fear they’ll soon be required to hunt, pray, and agree with Bill O’Reilly. Canadian border farmers say it’s not uncommon to see dozens of sociology professors, animal rights activists and Unitarians crossing their fields at night.

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This week

This Weeks are normally a Sunday thing, but let’s just say I was busy/tired on Sunday. This is technically a combined This Week for this week and the last one.
I read
Fear of fairy tales “There’s a very important reason why these tales stick,” says Jack Zipes, a German professor and folklorist at the University of Minnesota, who has written such books as “Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion” and “Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales, Children, and the Culture Industry.” “It’s because they raise questions that we have not resolved.” What happens if we clean away unresolved conflicts in fairy tales? Joanna Weiss writes: It’s a great way to sell just about anything, but it’s also precisely the opposite of what makes fairy tales compelling in the first place.
Spare me the sermon on Muslim women
It’s easy to forget that Muslims are not inherently more sexist than folks in other religions. Muslim societies may lag behind on some issues that women in certain economically advanced, non-Muslim societies have resolved after much effort, but on other issues, Muslim women’s options run about the same as those of women all over the world. And in some areas of life, Muslim women are better equipped by their faith tradition for autonomy and dignity. writes author Mohja Kahf. I don’t even know if this is true, but it’s certainly very interesting. The main point is that faith in itself is not to blame – culture and interpretation of religion are the causes of the problem. (via Foreign Policy Passport)
Is the Vice Presidency Necessary?
The Vice President has only one serious thing to do: that is, to wait around for the President to die. This is hardly the basis for cordial and enduring friendships.
Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote this in 1974, and today, it made me feel a little bit better. By the way, I like that I can read articles from the seventies online. (Via Foreign Policy Passport)
Will somebody please leave this woman alone? (Via Foreign Policy Passport again.)
Ooh… a soft computer screen! (blog by Eirik in Norwegian, video and NYT article not in Norwegian) Could this be a way for newspapers to handle the layout problem?
And in Norwegian…
God gammel hårgang
Nesten alle eldre norske kvinner velger samme frisyre, skriver Benedicte Ramm i Dagens Næringsliv fredagsmagasin D2. Hvorfor det? Å gjøre en reportasje ut av det temaet er egentlig genialt. For en stund siden blogget jeg om en annen god reportasje i D2. Jeg er offisielt glad for at jobben min abonnerer.

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This week

Sunday morning. I have a wheaten terrier sleeping with her feet in my lap, and luxury pesto for breakfast. (Both a direct result of a visit to my parents yesterday). My plans for the day: a walk in the woods with my dog and my best friend, and hopefully skyping with another close friend this evening. Life can be so quietly fantastic sometimes.


This week…

I watched
Jonas Gahr Støre speaking to students about the UN. Støre is the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs. For International Studies students at the University of Oslo, having a thing for this guy is as required as passing exams and handing in papers on time.
Steven Fry talking about the internet
A video on how men should hug – Glad I’m not a guy.

I read
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami (started between Thailand and Cambodia, almost finished now)
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (read the first hundred pages while waiting in line with other Jonas fans – ahead of almost all of them actually)
Hjorthen’s example of how statistics can be misinterpreted (in Norwegian)
Futurese – how will we speak English in 1000 years?
Linda Grant on the two populations of the United States
The Clothes Horse on missing friends