Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006


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OK, So, Twitter

I always knew that the Twitter moment would arrive, but, judging by my blogging/Facebook/online Scrabble addictions, I always thought it would be healthy to postpone it for as long as possible. Do I really need to have a Tweetdeck to obsess over? A whole lot of really interesting people to follow?

It seems the moment may have arrived. I’ve just finished reading The Year of the Flood, the second in Margaret Atwood’s dystopian trilogy and it is, of course, brilliant and exquisitely scary. I woke up at four this morning to finish it, listened to my dark house groan and had delicious shivers of fear. This morning, in the sunlight, I am both pleased and sad that I’ve finished it. Anyway, according to MaAt’s Twitter stream, she’s already working on book three. This is stuff I need to know!

So my Twitter questions are:

1. Do you tweet?

2. Is it worth it?

3. Have you used it for publicity and did that work?

4. Who are your favourite Twitterers and why?

Any and all comments much appreciated.


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Tales From The Web

Number Five, February 2009

The Things to Make You Smile, But In An Ironic Way, Edition

I don’t know about you, but for me January has been long, dark and slightly depressing. There have been protracted bouts of cancelling the car, I have read 11 eleven books (always a sign), my kids keep coming home from school with infectious illnesses which they pass on to other members of the family and a bad thing happened to some people I love. Being Ms Glass Half-Full, I have to admit there have been good things – I’ve got a new client, and a new writing gig which I can soon tell you about, a cheque which was lost in the post was kindly re-issued, Barack Obama was inaugurated and we’ve re-jigged things in the family routine to allow me more writing time. But somehow, the gloom has prevailed.

Now that it is a new month, and we had a great day yesterday celebrating a ninth birthday at the ice-rink, I am ready for perky. I’m ready for sunny. I’m ready to be amused. It is my self-appointed duty today to introduce you to some funny stuff.

I do love the Germans, and I also love laughing at them. Since some of my dear German friends read my blog, I have to avoid being too brutal. But this guy pulls no punches – he’s got the Germans down. His blog is called Ich werde ein Berliner, and is written in the same style as the now-famous Stuff White People Like: each post is part of a catalogue explaining the Germans. I especially like these on Christmas, cafes and Irony.

I have a blog crush on the Crabmommy. I am not a huge fan of Mommyblogs generally, but Ms Crabster has subverted the genre and produced something cutting, funny and dare I say it, ironic. Her manifesto is thus:

On this website I will never:
*speak of the enchanting constant joy and transformative wonderment of motherhood
*dispense little nuggets about what my child has taught me
*tell any mom to stop and smell the diapers “because it all goes by in the blink of an eye”
*make jokes about bowel movements and baby body fluids (because it’s not my thing and it can be found abundantly elsewhere)
*use the word “miracle”
*count my blessings
*chart my child’s developmental milestones
*seem to be in a good or grateful mood
*be mean about my friends or family because they’ll get me back

If you trawl through her archives, you can watch her craft toys from tampons, mock Gwyneth Paltrow and post embarrassing photographs of herself during her South African schooldays. But the ultimate post, and the one which converted me to a die-hard fan, is this one which starts: “Barack Obama is a great man, but frankly I voted for him because he is hot.” Go and read it, and see her justification for voting with your eyes. (If you are moved to comment, tell her I sent you and maybe, just maybe she’ll come and visit me so that we can share our Barack Obama crush and our weird South African past.)

Laura, aka Ms Honey Pie Horse, is consistently funny about many things: living in Germany, being married to a German and explaining things – including God and sex – to your children. For me her post on spa terrorism is a tour de force.

PaddyK, an Irishman living in Sweden, is the ultimate Internet snarkster, and has been oft-quoted in TFTW. Paddy has recently started an expat blog carnival, in which I have taken part, and through which I found Po, the spindrifting South African sea monkey. Po has drifted as far as England, where she likes, as is tradition in that country, to take the mickey. All her posts are funny, but see these two: Smallish Britten and Smallish Britten – unleashed. Watch out for the emperor in his new clothes, and then come back and agree with me on the sheer brilliance. Po, you deserve plaudits.

Ms Waffle, formerly of Belgium but now back in Ireland, mines a rich seam of humour, particularly with regard to raising three small children and working fulltime. I have long been, and still remain, a fan.

I don’t know if any of you have noticed, but the sub-theme of this Smiling/Ironically edition is Barack Obama. I may have mentioned that I am more than slightly enamoured of the Prez. A couple of nights I ago, I dreamt that I met him at a party and was able to advise him on his South African policy. He was deeply grateful. I have had discussions with friends as to the source of my crush and we agree that Barack is of a similar type to my husband: tall, skinny and intellectual, but with a twinkle in his eye. However, my friend Diane woke up to find that her own husband had actually turned into Obama. See what happens here.

The last post is nothing about humour, but it is the best blog post I have read this year – and that is saying a LAWT, since me, I go for quality – and I need to share it with you. Ian is a Canadian expat living in Germany and this year, when the canals froze in Holland, he drove 500 kms to go skating on the ice. 10 Things I Learned About Skating in Holland embodies everything that is good about blogging: great writing, a glimpse into a world unknown and superb visuals. Ian, I wish that National Geographic would pick up your post, publish it and pay you wads of cash. You deserve it.

On that note, I leave you, hopefully amused, uplifted and, most essentially,  fully equipped with the essential skill of how to order coffee in Germany and drink it in the most ironic fashion. Latte machiato, God forbid!

Yours sincerely

Little Ms Sunshine


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Tales from The Web: The Endorphin Edition

It’s been a long time since my last edition of Tales from The Web. Things have got in the way, like writing a novel and developing a gym habit. I have discovered that an endorphin high from 45 minutes on the cross-trainer lasts a whole lot longer than the endorphin high from eating a 100 gram bar of Milka. Gym is my new drug of choice, and like any addict I get really crabby when I don’t get my fix. This week I’ve sick kids and have only been able to go twice, which has made me bad-tempered and irritable. My family have been practically forcing chocolate on me. “Eat this, Mummy! Eat this and smile again!”

As a form of virtual chocolate, I offer you the March edition of Tales from the Web. Consider it endorphins packaged especially for you, as feel-good as spring lambs gambolling in acid-green fields. And if that doesn’t constitute happiness for you, then imagine you’ve just come off the treadmill, all wobbly-legged and trembly, and you’re floating out of the gym on a cloud of hormone. Feels good, doesn’t it?

Let’s start with eye candy. I bookmarked this in December, but these cakes could be Easter cakes too. The blogger African Vanielje is a chef, baker extraordinaire, photographer and writer. Take a look at her Truly Remarkable Once a Year Cakes and wish you were a friend of hers with a birthday just around the corner.

I love the Wallace Stevens quote BlogLily has as her blog tag: “It must give pleasure”. On days when I’ve felt like posting something gloomy, self-reflective and sad, I remember BlogLily’s mantra. I do think it is a good one. I have chosen a classic BL post for your delectation here. It comes from her visit to London earlier this year, where she soaked up a lot of theatre. Apparently in London in January, “it was pouring plays about sex”. Have fun reading Is Eros All?

Now we all know that sex can lead to babies, and babies, though delicious, bring a host of unexpected complications with them. Next up is a post written in response to a desperate plea. I saved it because I was taken with the thoughtfulness and kindness that went into shaping the response, and because I was once that parent, with a co-sleeping, breast-feeding baby who didn’t want to sleep unless using me as a dummy. I know the desperation that went into that original email, and I would have welcomed the same kind of non-judgmental kindness that Bluemilk exhibits here in trying to find a solution. I include this in the March Tales from The Web: The Endorphin Edition because I want to show that the blogosphere can be a good place, not just a snarkfest.

The lovely Anna is trying to work herself out of a job. Her three boys are growing up, and her resolution for this year is to mother them less so that they can learn the life-skills they will need when they leave home. I am a big fan of her blog The End of Motherhood where she is documenting this process with her great sense of humour. The post I’m linking to today is not about parenting teenagers, but is a tip for raising smaller kids. It’s what she calls “a secret sauce for parenting young children” and you can read about it here. Fifteen minutes a day to stop tantrums and reconnect with your child. That’s feel-good isn’t it?

I can always rely on Emily to make me laugh. In this post she talks about how, although she loves writing, she goes through the five stages of grief when she has write a half-page introduction to her company’s maths catalogue. As a procrastinator, I can relate. Read it, then go forth and complete all your admin. You’ll be so glad you did.

Ian is funny. But that’s no surprise since he’s Emily’s brother. Check out his Geekfield’s Guide to English Literature, a hand-drawn compendium of English literature from Beowulf to Dan Brown. Who thought graphic text books could be so much fun?

Helen was considering giving up writing, but then she needed the loo. Read how The Most Inspirational Toilet in Sydney gave her her writing mojo back. Could I have one in Heidelberg please?

For all-around chickeny cuteness, go and check out Mandarine’s new tenants, the Orpingtons. We had bantams as children, and they caused us no end of happiness. Unfortunately, they didn’t last long, because the suburbs of Pietermaritzburg were a cut-throat place even then, and they were taken out by a hardened gang of vervet monkeys. However, that’s not going to happen to Mandarine’s chickens because (a) they live in France, and (b) they have a lovely house. Oh, and if you read French, which I can if I try really, really hard, you can read Mandarine’s new blog where he details his attempt to farm a garden big enough to feed his whole family. (Which means he one day may have to sacrifice an Orpington, but we’re not thinking about that yet.)

That’s the Endorphin Edition for now. If I don’t get to the gym soon, I’m going to have to eat one of these:


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I’m So Bursty!

I’m doing some research for an article on how trends like globalization, the need for sustainable development, and increasing connectivity, will affect IT generally and, specifically, the company who hired me to write the article. One of the trends that’s going to affect us all is the change in the way we work. My inhouse guru of all things techie sent me a link to a blog called Anne 2.1 where a tech wizard called Anne Zelenka talks about two work styles: busy and bursty.

Someone who is busy works a set number of hours, does required face time in the office, makes sure they leave later than the boss, behaves according to a received hierarchy. Some who is bursty is unconventionally productive, has flat networks, spends a lot of time online and surfing. The old paradigm does not like the new paradigm much, because it LOOKS so unproductive.

In another post on Web Worker Daily, Anne goes on to differentiate the two work styles:

Busy: Show your face during all standard working hours.
Burst: If you produce what you need to, we don’t care when you do it or how long it takes.

Busy: Immediate response to email required.
Burst: Use better ways to communicate when available including blogs, wikis, IM, chat rooms, SMS, and RSS.

Busy: Manage the hierarchy inside your company.
Burst: Connect laterally outside your department and company.

Busy: Always available during working hours.
Burst: Declarative availability.

Busy: Web surfing is bad.
Burst: Web surfing fertilizes and seeds the soil of the mind.

Busy: Long-term planning rules.
Burst: Try agile experimentation and fast failure instead.

She concludes:

We need the busy AND the burst economy. The busy economy gives us our groceries, our electrical power, and our newspapers every morning. However, many companies will find themselves at risk of not benefiting from the hyperproductivity of the burst economy because to the busy, it looks like an excuse for slacking off rather than blasting off.

With my declarative availability, blogging, frequent Web surfing, sporadic productivity, lateral connections, I just realised – thanks to Anne – that I am Ms Bursty. However, putting my new paradigm smugness aside, I’ve also realised that this style of work is wonderfully suited to work-from-home parents like myself. It’s a way to fit work and life together, so that the two need not be separated. I work according to need at strange times of the day and night, and in between I fit in managing a home and family. The classical divide of stay-at-home parent or working parent is being eroded, and I think that’s thrilling and amazingly empowering for women.

It’s heady but great out here on the cutting-edge.