Category Archives: Blogosphere

I spy with my public eye

Standard

Back home, I’m very protective about this blog – there is only a handful of people that know about it, generally because they stumbled upon it by accident, and I have literally asked them not to read (I can only hope they actually complied…). Here, however, I tend to be more sloppy, although most times I can deflect questions “oh, but that’s my Dutch blog, you wouldn’t understand it anyway”.

Right before summer, however, we were having a bbq with some friends. It was just a cosy, comfy afternoon, and as we were talking, something slipped – I’m not even sure what it was anymore, but it was clear to everyone that I’d written and published a non-fictional text in English.

You have to give us the link!

Ehm… how about no?

Needless to say, a lively discussion ensued. Why would I refuse to give the link? Why couldn’t they read something that was already out there anyways, open for everyone to read? How could I expect something that I posted on the Internet to remain private anyway?

They have a point, of course. It’s not like I break taboos here – I don’t talk about my sex life, I rarely discuss very personal things, I don’t bash my friends/coworkers, … in fact, I think there is little to no content to be found on this blog that I haven’t told anyone before, that I would get into trouble for or that I would be ashamed to admit that I wrote. There is nothing to hide here – so why do I insist on doing just that?

Because they might not like what they see – and it scares me shitless.

I can go to a public sauna, and I won’t even bother to wrap a towel around me when I leave the cabin to go shower. I will be surrounded by hundreds of strangers, men and women, and I won’t care in the least. Like what you see? Nice, thank you. Don’t like it? There’s a skinnier/rounder/bigger-breasted/better-whatever-you-want girl right over there, kindly re-direct your attention.
But now if I would go to the sauna with, let’s say, my dad, now that would be… awkward (and yes, that happened.).

And that’s how it goes in the blogosphere. There’s a whole lot of strangers passing by your writing, most of whom just glance and move on, while others actually like what they see and strike up a conversation, i.e. they comment or subscribe. You get the occasional side eye or disrespectful look, but there is always the excuse: they don’t even know me, what do they care, and what right do they have to judge me anyways?

That changes when people you actually know are added to the equation.

Because at the end of the day, I’m proud of my writing, I’m proud of what I’ve put out there – if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have published it in the first place. And while obviously I don’t want to obligate my friends/family to read my blog, if I give them the link I will expect them to read it. And I will expect feedback. So imagine -just imagine- that they don’t like it. That they find my writing boring, or pompous, or just completely pointless. Imagine they just don’t care. Either of two options will then happen: 1. they will lie to me or 2. they will tell me straight up my writing sucks. And that I won’t be able to brush that off the way I could with the (fairly) anonymous comments before.

I’m not sure I’m willing to take that risk (yet).

While life was happening outside…

Standard

So this has been my life for the past couple of days weeks. It has been fun and rewarding exhausting, but I have learned a lot:

  • I can function on an average of 3 hours of sleep a night.
  • As long as I have chocolate I do not need any other food.
  • Crystallography is a pain in the ass.

Well, to be honest, I’m not sure about the first two, but trust me on the last one. Don’t go there. Just… don’t.

Hello to you too and hold on to your seats – I am back.

Happy belated birthday, Jane

Standard

I was hesitating whether or not to post this. After all, the present was the ACT, not the writing a post about it. And I believe you’re not supposed to brag about the “good” stuff you do. Coincidentally, I also believe I should be able to write about what keeps me busy on my own blog. So here it goes.

Let’s start with a confession: I’m not a good commenter.

Most often, either of the following situations occur: 1) 10 people have commented before me, saying exactly what I was planning to say (including that witty joke), or 2) nobody has commented yet, and I’m too chicken to actually write something because, well, it might not be as funny as it sounds in my head and, I commented yesterday already, they might think I stalk them or feel obliged to start reading my stuff just because I read theirs. Or something along those lines.

So when Jane from They call me Jane came back after almost one month of absence, I almost didn’t say anything. 8945 people welcomed her back already, she wouldn’t care about my little shout out. Would she?
But see, Jane was one of the first blogs I subscribed to. She was one of the first to leave a comment here. Her birthday challenge was the first I participated in. And she’s just funny and smart and great. I wànted to welcome her back, regardless of whether she wanted to be welcomed back by me (does that make sense?). So I did. And I got myself in a mess :D.

See, it was her birthday 2 days later.

How that gets mé in a mess? Well, she challenged us. Me. She asked everyone who welcomed her back (and everyone else, for that matter) to pull a Random Act of Kindness that weekend, as a birthday present.

Now, this is a very strange concept to me. I mean, I’m kind and all, of course, I give to charity, I’m polite to strangers, I give up my seat on the bus to let older people sit, I help people when they have 3 big grocery bags and a buggy. I do that. Everybody does that. But when it comes to money, I’m not very comfortable with the whole RAOK-thing. I mean (imagining that I would own a car and there would be a drive-thru Starbucks here) I don’t think “that’s kind” would be the first thing that would pop my mind if somebody would ‘pay it forward’ for me. I would find it strange, and scary (what does this person want from me?), and I might even feel offended (do I look like I can’t afford a coffee?), only to conclude that probably, they must have thought I was someone else. However, it most certainly would never cross my mind to do that for somebody else (on a spontaneous basis).

This is what you get for a Google Image search of "starbucks drive thru". I'm hoping most of them are more car-friendly.

I’m not too keen on giving stuff or money to beggars or homeless people either. Don’t get me wrong, I am such a devoted socialist I’m almost a communist, but I refuse to give anything to beggars. I will donate to organizations that work with homeless people, if I ever get the time and courage I might even volunteer with them (I should just DO that, I know – what can I say, there’s room for improvement), and I buy the newspaper they make and sell to support themselves. But I won’t give them anything directly. I am convinced (maybe wrongly, I admit) that our social security system is sufficiently broad so that people who need help, can get it when they want it. I need to believe this is true, because it is the basis of our society (or the ideal one in my head, at least). And giving them… anything, kinda messes up the system. To me.

I would give money if it was for scientific research, obviously.

Obviously, I could give something to someone. For once. After all, a birthday present is a good cause. But then I either needed to buy a car (to go to the drive-thru), or find a beggar. The first was… well, too expensive, and the second was not as easy as it sounds since there’s not so many beggars where I live. I think I have seen one a couple of weeks back… he could’ve just been a lonely old man though (although then again, that would be as good a RAOK-target as anyone else). But maybe I don’t see these people-in-need because I don’t get out. I get up, go to work, get home, read blogs, go to sleep, and repeat that cycle on a daily basis. I live a mile from work, out of the city – it’s a miracle if I see anyone on that walk. I see my colleagues, I go out shopping once every week or every other week. I simply don’t see that many people I could be kind to.

And then it struck me. I was making excuses. I was making excuses why I could not possibly be kind to people. Don’t wanna do this, don’t have the opportunity to do that, … . When did I become so lazy and self-absorbant? Whenever did “being kind” become such a task?

I had to work on Jane’s birthday weekend. I had a friend coming over the weekend after. Yes – I was making excuses again ;). But an idea grew – which was maybe not strictly a RAOK, since it wasn’t particularly random (very heavily planned, even), there was little acting involved and it was more nice than kind, but it was a gesture towards people I don’t know, to brighten up their day unexpectedly. And after all, that was the idea, right, to brighten up somebodies day?

So these were the accomplices I made to help me get Jane her present last weekend (note, carefully check how many you need to make and how much material you need for them, or you’ll be running back and forth to the shop a gazillion times) :

A whole army of Tomterna, Swedish Santa Clauses, were about to take over the apartment block. I didn’t want to take a picture when they were dangling from all door handles for fear of getting caught, so you’ll have to believe me on my word that it looked all kinds of merry!

Happy belated birthday, Jane – for fear of sounding like a cliché, I have the feeling you taught me more than I have given you. I’m sorry it took so long, but this is my present: I will be doing more of these.

Apologies

Standard

I owe you all an apology – despite my promise last Friday, the Smörgåsbord and Quote didn’t go up this weekend as planned… the reason is simple : moi.

I have a nasty habit of forgetfulness, and it happens that I leave my laptop charger at the lab. It happens that I leave my lab entrance card at the lab. It doesn’t happen too often that both occur at the same time but last weekend, they did. With no card, I couldn’t get into the lab myself to get the charger, and with no battery, I couldn’t mail my colleagues to ask if I could borrow theirs (I don’t have their mobile numbers. I’m not thát social. Yet.). Result: an internet-less weekend. Which was all the less convenient since I needed to make arrangements with T who was arriving on Sunday.

So I will try and finish the posts and get them up THIS weekend, and as a consolation I give you some pictures from my Halloween costume! I am still confused as to the fact that Halloween costumes apparently do not necessarily have to be scary, but I gladly took advantage and dressed up as Pippi Långstrump – two H&M t-shirts, a pair of stripy stockings (H&M), some felt, flowers, scissors, needle and thread, and you are the coolest Swedish chick ever!

I know the pictures aren’t of the highest quality, but this is my dad’s camera which I recently bought from him and I still need some practice with the settings and all that … . In addition these were taken AFTER the party when I got back home, so I wasn’t really prepared to put much effort to it ;).
Other costumes spotted at the party were: a guy with a pencil driven through his body, a (very!) pregnant spider, a lego-block, spring, a belly-dancer (I could totally do that one!), and my personal favorite: Edward Scissorhands. I looooove Tim Burton.

Cover of

Cover via Amazon

Hi, I’m Lies, and I’m addicted to blogs

Standard

There’s no more denying it.

When I first started this blog (well, strictly speaking not this one, but the try-out one before), I was subscribed to 3 blogs. Three. As in 1, 2, 3. I loved them. They updated a couple of times a week, and I liked my bit of fresh reading every morning before starting work.

But I had more time to spare than just reading 3 blogs in the morning. Sometimes neither of them had updated, and I had nothing to read. Enter: the quest for new blogs.

I compulsively started to read Freshly Pressed, often adding 2-3 new blogs to my reading list on a ‘good’ day. I followed up on commenters I encountered on other blogs, I googled, I followed links leading everywhere. And thus I found myself every morning, hurrying to read all updates and not succeeding – there was just too much to read and too little time. Half of it wasn’t even that interesting. But it had been written, and thus, it had to be read.

So, out of curiosity, I counted the number of blogs currently in my feed. 93. Ninety three. That’s a 30-fold increase (3000%) in a mere 3 months. And there I am wondering why I seem to have so little free time here… I’m spending it all reading about other peoples lives!
And thus, yesterday and tonight, I have followed up on all the blogs – have they updated recently, did I like at least half of their recent posts, … . I have removed blogs before, most often Freshly Pressed ones that I didn’t like as much as I thought I would, but this time I have withdrawn from a greater number than ever before, including some which I have come to ‘know’ well, but that simply do not seem to appeal to me as much as they used to.

I didn’t like it. In fact, I hated it. I know it is not easy to keep on producing good, relevant posts, with the right balance of humor, information, personal involvement, … day after day after day. I am struggling so much myself. I know that behind each blog, each post is a person, who put their soul in that piece of writing, who wants (and deserves) to be read. And I don’t like taking that away from them. I don’t like it at all.

But it has been done – my Google Reader accepts feeds from ‘only’ 50 blogs anymore. It is still too much, but it is as much as I can handle to throw out right now. In addition, I have banned myself from reading Freshly Pressed – I know I will not be able to NOT subscribe if I really like a post.

So I apologize to all those who I will never read again… but it was nice knowing you while it lasted.

(and, with only 2 more minutes of laptop time – I forgot the charger at work – I publish this without re-reading… apologies for the spelling errors!)

Five Ways to Get Featured on Freshly Pressed

Standard

As you may or may not know, I am currently maintaining two blogs: this one, and The Other Blog. And while this one is set as the primary one, The Other One was first, and this seems to be the reason why – more often than not – people who follow my comments to my blog actually end up on The Other Blog. Which is in Dutch. And talks mainly about how nice it is here (you gotta comfort them friends and family, after all). And is thus not very well suited reading material for your average American blogger. And as any beginning blogger obsessing over stats can testify: it’s hard enough to get other bloggers to pay attention to your feeble attempt to join the blogosphere, let alone if half of those which bother to be interested are redirected to the wrong blog. In addition to that that, I’m not too keen on my friends and family visiting The Other Blog discovering this one. It’s MINE! My precious…

Ahum, sorry about that.

And thus I was trying to find my way around the WordPress FAQ section to see how I best performed the surgery on my Sesame twin-blogs, when I stumbled upon this article.

Five Ways to Get Featured on Freshly Pressed

Stop the worrying over dropping stats, the sleepless nights, the frustration over why-oh-why the WordPress Gods didn’t recognize the sheer genius of your last post – there is an actual manual on how to get your much-deserved 24 hours of fame! Obviously, generous as I am, I gladly share their tips with you.

1. Write unique content that’s free of bad stuff.
Each post that makes it to Freshly Pressed contains original content created by the WordPress user. Bad stuff includes (but isn’t limited to) plagiarism, hate speech, fear-mongering, adult/mature content, copyrighted images that belong to someone else, spam or content that is primarily advertorial in nature.
Ehm.. yeah… so since I just copy-pasted this from the original page, I guess this post doesn’t exactly fit the “original content” requirement. At least I’m not pretending it’s my own… and I provided a link to source… no?

2. Include images or other visuals.
Although not every topic can be illustrated, we believe most blog posts can and should have a visual element. We like original images (meaning, your own) but if not, be sure you properly credit the original source. Video rocks, too. You may get a request from us to add an image before you are promoted to Freshly Pressed — the faster you can respond, the more likely we’ll put your post on the homepage.
But… but… I can’t upload my own pictures right now! I don’t have the cable to connect to my laptop… :/ (and while having lost it could, in my case, be an entirely plausible explanation to this situation arising, actually I received my current camera second hand from a friend which had already lost the cable). And I don’t have a card reader. Yet. But let’s see if Google or Flickr can come up with something to match this post…

This is probably how I'd react on being Freshly Pressed.

(Image taken from Lori Dyans post on being Freshly Pressed not so long ago – apparently, we have a lot in common.)

3. Add tags.
We find new posts by surfing the tag pages. If you don’t use tags, we can’t find you and how sad would that be? Also, don’t use tags that are too obscure (“beauty tips from the ancient world”) but rather more common tags (“beauty,” “history”).
“freshly”, “pressed”, “freshly pressed”, “tips”, “blog”, “hints”, “wordpress”, ehm… ehm… help? Somebody?

4. Cap off your post with a compelling headline.
Your headline needs to stand out. Avoid swear words, excessive punctuation or vague statements. We love a clever headline, and that’s often the reason we click on your article in the first place.
Now that was easy… I learned copy-pasted from the master.

5. Aim for typo-free content.
We know, we’re human, too — errors happen. We recommend using our Proofreading feature before you hit “publish.” If you’ve got a few typos but we really like your post, we may ask you to fix them. In most cases, we’ll put your post on Freshly Pressed after you’ve made the changes.
Do I get more credit for not being a native speaker? Yeah… thought so… maybe this is the signal to get something done about my punctuation, though, I seem to be using ahelluvalot ellipses lately… (I rest my case).

Ok, I am ready – WordPress home page, here I come!

NOTE – For those who’d like to see additional tips on blogging and maintaining a blog in general, check Share the Word, the Editor’s Blog by Joy Victory (the “Editorial Czar”) and Erica Johnson (“Editorial Producer”) which provides regular posts with self-evident and less self-evident tips and tricks for us newbie bloggers. Enjoy and learn!

The high and the low

Standard

I’ve only started this blog recently, and I am fully aware that I cannot expect people to suddenly rush in and become faithful readers, with new subscribers every day. In addition to that, I am a huge supporter of “write for yourself”: as a blogger, you should write about stuff that YOU like, that YOU care about, that YOU find interesting. If other people happen to have the same likes and interests, and like the way you write about them, well, more power to you! (if there’s one phrase I learned in this blogging world… )

Now this blog was originally called into life to keep my friends and family posted on my life abroad. But just to get a hang of it, the feel, I started a few weeks early, and I experienced a freedom of writing, of reading, a whole world full of people who had the same ideas, had different ideas. And it is refreshing. I am the type of person who takes herself as the standard, and automatically presumes everyone else has the same ideas she has, draws the same conclusions from the same premises. And while I know (somewhere) this is not true (or there would be world peace and no more hunger), it is in a way confronting to “meet” people who are … different.

And it dawned on me. If I were to open this blog to my friends and family, it wouldn’t be the same blog anymore. Even though it was only 2 weeks old, even though I didn’t write anything strictly personal or that they weren’t allowed to know, I had it hard to share … this World.

Therefore I split my blog – this is my World, my free World, which I use to ventilate my ideas, to meet other people, to learn. The Other Blog is part of that world, the part where I move abroad to start a job, where I miss my friends. It is therefore also in my native language, to lower the boundary for those not fluent in English – it would not be fair to exclude them from my adventures here.

And it is funny that, while I feel my heart is here, in my World of Lies, the number of hits on The Other Blog is much, much higher. Maybe I have not been able to interest the visitors who came here out of curiosity after Jane’s blog’s first birthday present, maybe they follow through the blog surfer and don’t show up in the stats, maybe they just never bothered in the first place and only came to look out of boredom… But while I miss them, while I miss the spike on my blog stats (it was like being Freshly Pressed in lilliputterland!), I tell myself it doesn’t matter. This World is mine. And while anyone is welcome to join, no one shall be held against their will. My ego will have to find satisfaction elsewhere.

To share or not to share, that’s the question

Standard

For those who haven’t read my About section (shame on you all!), one of the reasons I have started this blog is the fact that I’ll be starting a job abroad for a year and I’d like some way to keep in touch with my friends and family without having to mail them all separately once a week. It’s not like have a huge family or tons of friends, but enough to not wanting to mail them all with the same stories on a regular basis. Hence: a blog.

But.

(There always is a but, isn’t there.)

A blog accessible to friends and family is naturally restricted in its topics. I cannot – not TRULY – write about an argument with my mother (or the lack thereof – I am pretty sure this will be material for a TON of posts), or the not-so-impressive painting of a friend who feels he has just completed his masterpiece (okay, this one I made up).

So the question is: should I or should I not share the address with them? If I don’t, the whole purpose of the blog is kinda lost. Completely lost, even. If I do, I will not be as free to write as I would like to be. Currently I haven’t disclosed the address to anyone, but I have done a similar thing while I was an exchange student, and people have asked me if I’ll do it again. I’ve responded evasively … “maybe”.

A recap of 2 weeks of blogging

Standard

This is a response to a call from Jane to post today on anything we learned/value/wonder/… from/about/… blogging. Admittedly, this blog is barely a few weeks old, but I have been blogging (on and off) for some time, and especially these last weeks I have been doing a lot of ‘research’ on the subject (solely for the benefit of my own blog, obviously, not because I – imagine – like reading blogs). For what it’s worth: my list of wonderings.

  • I love blogs of strong, self-confident women with children and a good sense of humor.
    It is so predictable I am slowly turning into a cliche myself. I always try the “intellectual” blogs, with views on actuality and politics, with new scientific discoveries and Big Opinions on moral and social issues – I feel I should know about these things. Form an opinion of my own. Truth is, in most cases I couldn’t care less and all I really wanna read is how yoga elicits murderous feelings on a beautiful morning and which weirdo jobs people have practiced over the years. It makes me feel like a voyeur, peeking into other people’s lives. I only comfort myself with the idea that, if they didn’t want me to know, they wouldn’t put it online. The strangest thing is, while blogging is supposedly a men’s world and all, I only encounter women’s blogs. Or maybe those are the only ones capable of keeping my interest. Now there’s an idea.

  • American people are religious.
    And not only that, they are very much into the whole empowerment thing. I know this observation seems to have nothing to do with blogging, but it is only through blogging that I come to understand the religiousness of American people. Or rather the omnipresence and naturalness of it. I have never set foot in America (for the record, I’m European), and while I got a faint media-based idea of the average American as a conservative God-bless-America capitalist (fortunately, friends have assured me reality is different), I always had the idea that this whole religion thing was but a cover up. Just an excuse to accomplish a hidden agenda. I think I still don’t grasp the full impact of religion on people’s lives, but it just strikes me – people BELIEVE. Small things: “Today after church …” Huh?! They talk about their church and community, they sign comments with ‘God bless you’. They go to Bible study groups – I think I couldn’t even go to one if I wanted to, solely for the lack of it. They quote the Bible in their posts! And this comes from people who otherwise profile themselves as Democrats (which, as I understand it, is the more ‘progressive’ party?). When I cry out : “my god” (mind the small caps) or “Jesus Christ”, it’s just… something I’ve taken over from television. Not in America. To someone who can count the number of friends and family going to church weekly on one hand (mostly out of habit rather than out of conviction), it is a VERY strange experience. But interesting, too.
  • Everybody uses my layout.
    Ok, this probably isn’t true. But about half of the blogs I am following has the same layout as mine. The other half has layouts which I have considered. It’s creepy.
  • Republicans don’t blog.
    Again, probably not true – maybe WordPress is a Democrat bastion which Republicans refuse to use, I don’t know. If it matters what kind of ketchup you eat to be politically correct, I imagine the blogging platform is even more important. Either way, it seems that I only get to read blogs from people with Democrat sympathies. Which may not be so strange in itself (lots of explanations possible), but what strikes me the most is that I KNOW these things. And I’ve been reading those blogs for … 3 weeks? Any other nationality bloggers I haven’t a clue how they would vote (and I follow Portuguese, French, British, Belgian, Canadian, …), but Americans seem to have this need to position themselves. You’re not just American, you’re a Democratic American or a Republican one. One person seemed to be undecisive, and actually wrote he had trouble finding a job cause future employers couldn’t figure out whether he was a Democrat or a Republican. What’s that all about? Meanwhile I still don’t know the difference between the two. I urgently need to visit this country.
  • All bloggers want to be writers.
    Okay, again, maybe not all. But the number of journalists is astounding, and many bloggers seem to either have finished a novel, are in the process of writing one, are thinking of writing one or simply just aspire to be a writer while knowing perfectly well they’ll never get there but maybe if this blog-thing works out they’ll get the confidence to one day sit down and start (wow, quite the sentence there). The worst part of that is… I’m one of them, lol.

  • Reading blogs is addictive.
    No further comments required.

The many uses of an erase board

Standard

One of the rules of blogging seems to be that you have to be original, and not just repost other material. Well, I’m just gonna wipe my feet on that piece of advice and post the story of Jenny, who – supposedly – quit her job through a series of pictures because her boss called her a HOPA (or HPOA, whichever). She then send these to all her colleagues and, meanwhile, exposed her boss is a Farmville addict.

I mean, this is funny! At least it falls into my category of humor. Given the quality of the pictures, the fabulous facial expressions, a certain add from theCHIVE and – though I hadn’t paid attention to it AT ALL – the very sitcom set-like setting in which the pictures were taken, chances are high it’s a troll, although honesty requires me to say I fell for it (I’m naïve. So sue me).
UPDATE: it is now officially a hoax.

In any case, it shows that eraser boards truly are multifunctional. They can serve to remember your grocery shopping, as magnetic board or as a resignation letter! Some people push it even further and use them to get their camera back. Gotta love it.

A pictorial guide to avoiding camera loss

A pictorial guide to avoiding camera loss


Thanks to Anon for pointing me to this last link.