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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A pedagogy of laughter

Today is the blog translation carnival. I translated Pedagogia de Riso by João Vasconcelos Costa of Reformar a Educação Superior and he has translated my post Lovers of laughter, lovers of life on his blog into Quem gosta de rir gosta de viver.

We've also decided that blog carnival or not, we're going to translate one of each other's posts every month! So here goes JVC' thoughts on a pedagogy of laughter:

I’ve written a lot about my enthusiastic contribution to the Bolonha Project at the U. of Madeira. On the page I’ve just linked to you can see that the discussion is well underway, but I hope that the texts speak for themselves, showing the difference between open and imaginative positions and some, just a few, examples you expect from traditional narrow-mindedness.

In the middle of this discussion, we get the interesting participation of Kurt Millner (KM). He’s a young man (compared to me), a teacher of German and of Austrian nationality. A few days ago, he wrote something challenging in relation to transversal competences:

“I forgot, in my previous post, in the parts that refer to ‘transversal competences’, to highlight a very important ‘competence’ which I consider underlies, in one way or another, all the documents and contributions and interventions in the scope of the Bolonha Debate, in the UMa, and that I recognize without any exception, literally all those people who I’ve dealt with in the five, six years I’ve been in Madeira, whether it’s in the gorcer’s shop or in the University Senate, and that is the ‘competence of humour, of smiles and of laughter’.”

So has anyone remembered this? In thousands of pages about the paradigm of Bolonha or about new liberal education in the USA, I haven’t found it. I would also add, as I wrote after Millner, the stoic competence of “to know how to cry, to know how to lose, and both with dignity.”

This is what I replied: “Splendid! It’s my whole attitude to life. There is no valid serious writing if we can’t raise, even if it’s only for ourselves, a smile. I am, essentially an epicurean. (…) Getting back to the smile, but without forgetting Vienna. One of my patrons is Thomas Moore. Any educated person will know his serious life and of “Utopia”. But many people don’t know his satirical writings, sometimes even bordering on the obscene. And aren’t the scatologies of Bocage splendid? But I’m still going to add one more thing.

I have three registers in writing. I regularly send messages to a select list of friends. There, I talk without reserve of what I think to be a good sense of humour, we exchange jokes and humerous videos. Then, I have the notes and jottings of my place, where I have to control myself but where I can’t resist the odd joke. Finally, the serious articles. I don’t know if you’ve noticed that, on first impulse, I often add a final playful note, which, after a prudent sleep, I delete the following day.

A good morning chuckle from a joke on the net keeps me smiling all day. I can’t stand ascetics. Do you remember “The name of the Rose”? Everything rotated around a hypothetical “Treatise on laughter ”, of Aristotle. Would that it had existed and that I had read it.

And this has nothing to do with teaching? Wrapped up in a funny or attractive story, students learn the essential message very well. Sorry for the personal reference that follows, but I think it could be interesting for readers.

One day I had to write about my lessons about AIDS, preceded by one hour of a story– unhappily, in this case, not a funny one – that included Mobuto, Haitians, economic segregation in the USA, the back rooms of gay bars, the sad story of a Portuguese pseudo-scientist in South Africa, the interests of multinational pharmacies and much more.

My lessons are full of anecdotes, often about the news from the paper I read in the café before the lesson and remembered, or which, spontaneously, comes to my head (I never do the traditional “lesson preparation”, it’s what comes out in ‘performance’, the rest come in books. A lecturer is an author/actor). Maybe it’s for this reason that I always have over two thirds of my students who loyally come to classes and who come to sit with me, on their initiative, at the table of the bar, whether it’s to talk about football (there are also important things to say about this). Once, I asked why. One reply delighted me: “because your lessons are such fun!” But they learn! And maybe this also has to do with my fascination for the “new” liberal education, that I consider would be a better fulfillment of the Bolonha paradigm.


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Monday, February 27, 2006

Native Text

Intriguing new application from Native Text which I must try out when it opens:
Nativetext is a free web service that translates RSS feeds from blogs and podcasts into foreign languages.

Using a new kind of distributed supercomputing, foreign language translation is performed by a network of millions of humans around the world, not machines. Translated content is served to a global readership through native language syndication.


Sunday, February 26, 2006

Definitely needing help

Hmm ... in an article in the New York Times (Hooked on the Web: Help Is on the Way) I read that Mike is one of the addicted patients struggling with his obsession with logging on to the Internet.
"He feels anxious if he does not check several Web sites, mostly news and sports sites, daily."

Several? Daily? That surely makes my own condition an extremely serious one.

Lovers of laughter, lovers of life

The most significant recognition I have ever received was short and came in an email:
Dear Beverly - thank you for the sharpness of your mind and the playfulness of your heart.

It came from the person, a leading writer and researcher, who has most influenced my practical and theoretical understanding of learning. Of life, in other words.

And I am reminded of it as I translate João Vasconcelos Costa's post Pedagogia do Riso (Pedagogy of Laughter) for the Blog Translation Carnival on the 28th Feb. In his post JVC talks about the importance of humour for him, in the classroom and in the rest of his life. He calls on humour to be a transversal competence in the Bolonha process.

Not confusing humour with lecturers who merely imagine they are being entertaining (!) I wanted to add something to what JVC says - about developing a Pedagogy of Playfulness for learning. In other words, it isn't just about humour, it's about playfulness and curiosity as well. It's a carnival full of uncertainty and surprise. It's about scruffy learning - so important in the whirling contingencies of international and digital life.

And yes, if I had one wish for the influence of Bolonha on my day-to-day life, it would be for more playfulness and less piety from the top-heavy hierarchies weighed down by the gravity of life in Higher Education.

My own trajectory in Portugal - as an inglesa with manias has cost me in terms of my research and career. Candour, enthusiasm and a sense of humour are not qualities that add to your academic status in the echelons of the Portuguese Higher Education system I know. But I wouldn't trade playfulness and a sharp mind for any "serious" position in the hierarchy! As I've said somewhere else - Viva as chicas espertas!

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Saturday, February 25, 2006


My ideal job has come up - but in the wrong country. I would just LOVE to see this mission by Aspiration taken up in Portugal for the Lusofone world. And you could count on me to be one of the cross-sector, cross-disciplinary team. Maybe the workshop I'm doing with Equal could be the beginning. Anyway, as soon as I've finished my doc. Aspiration and CoP2.0 is the mission I'll be on.

About Aspiration

Aspiration facilitates better software for the sector so that nonprofits and NGOs all around the world have relevant, appropriate, usable, and affordable software readily available so that they, in turn, can change the world.

We convene and facilitate events that bring together users, developers, intermediaries, and investors to articulate and focus their needs, spark relationships and collaboration, and share skills and knowledge in the nonprofit software realms;

We are building the Social Source Commons, a “knowledge commons” that maps the nonprofit software space. It provides information on nonprofit software available, and links to relevant documentation, localization tools, user reviews, and events and services;

Aspiration offers a range of support services that help create and sustain useful software for civil society. We offer consulting, mentoring, and infrastructure support for civil society software projects with an aim toward building the capacity of developers and project leads.

See our web site at

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Bilingual blogging - um colaborador amável

Blind Tangerine Jones reminded me of Blogamundo - where they are building tools for bringing more translation to the Web. As they say on Bolgomundo:
There’s not enough translation happening on the web, here’s why:
* It’s a pain to edit.
* It’s a pain to look up words.
* People don’t have a place to organize translated content.
BTJ and his Brazilian wife keep a Webzine in Portuguese, O Bicho-Preguiça. Their bilingual partnership reminded me of the non-technical (i.e. a social) solution to Web-site translation that keeps occuring to me:

Why don't we work more in cross-lingual partnerships for keeping blogs? It wouldn't be so easy as it first seems, there would be a whole lot of social processes to work on - interpersonal, inter-professional, inter-disciplinary as well as the interlingual and intercultural.

I can see the potential for a sort of bilingual blogging match-making service. It would help you get hooked up and offer social and technical advice about how to make it successful.

It was JVC's call for a colaborador amável that really got me focusing on all this.

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Friday, February 24, 2006


At last a decent online news service with RSS feeds. This is from Carlos and it's really very cool.

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Interesting bilingual sites

I'm collecting examples of bilingual blogs and sites. I don't mean just the site with little nationalistic flags - but neat or interesting ways people are doing it.

Nancy White sent me this link to a discussion group running in Italian and English by what must be one hell of a dedicated woman Cristina Grasseni. There's no explanation of the process but I think she invited a "speaker" who put up his text (in English) and people are invited to comment on the text in English or in Italian.

Finally she writes a summary in English and a summary in Italian of the comments that were written in both languages - English and Italian.

If you have ever tried to do anything similar, you will know how much time and effort has gone into this whole enterprise. And if you haven't ever tried to run a meaningful, bilingual online event, then take the age of your grandmother and multiply it by a thousand. That's how much longer it will take than you are imagining!

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Language, identity and power

A debate has been heating up in the comments section of Engrenagem about writing in English or Portuguese.

Debates about language always bring out our feelings of pride, fear and insecurity because language(s) are so much tied in with identity. And so much tied in with power.

In a report about the future of English (English Next, 2006) David Graddol puts it better:

English is now redefining national and individual identities worldwide; shifting polticial fault lines; creating new global patterns of wealth and social exclusion; and suggesting new notions of human rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
That's why treating "language" as only technical issue (she sighs thinking of Inglês Técnico) is all wrong! As Graddol puts it:

The teaching of English has been seen in the past as largely a technical issue about the best methodologies, a practical issue of resources in teacher training and text books, ... We can now see that it has become much more than these things although such issues have not gone away... It is a phenomenon which lies at the heart of globalisation.

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Scruffy learning

Wonderful quote from Robert Schank, chapter 9 "Information is surprises". He says:
I'm what is often referred to in the literature as "the scruffy"; I'm interested in all the complicated, un-neat phenomena there are in the human mind. I believe that the mind is a hodge-podge of a range of oddball things that cause us to be intelligent, rather than the opposing view, which is that somehow there are neat, formal principles of intelligence.
Hey -me too! I take a scruffy, rafeira view of learning.

Thanks Monica for the link! I have the book at home and had almost forgotten this chapter.

"The Third Culture: Beyond the Scientific Revolution" (John Brockman)

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Warning - irreverant post

Members of our very excellent Conselho Ciêntifico regularly gather together to discuss and make grave and important decisions about our future in these very difficult times.

They save us, the minions, from even the smallest piece of information lest it should disrupt the day-to-day running of our lives. We entrust to them our professional and academic integrity as they struggle to keep us afloat in times of uncertainty and change. Their piety and goodness shine out as they walk the corridors and acknowledge our presence.

My imagination goes wild as I read a comment by Petrach (early humanist in the Renaissance) echoing Faust's observation that knowledge and goodness are imcompatible. He says:
No one is a man of learning unless he is also a heretic and a madman, and above all, aggressively perverse.

All these signs of piousness around our place bring out the Mephistopheles in me. Perhaps I could go really mad and propose an aula aberta on BDSM so the Doms, Dommes, Switches and Subs can come out and play in the open. Who knows we might even see some learning!

There goes the renewal of my contract next time round. If only I could keep my mouth shut and focus on teaching more technical English like answering the telephone and writing memos, then my job would be safe.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

About choosing your "culture"

Amartya Sen, Nobel prize winner in '98, was a writer on economics and poverty who transformed my thinking back in 1983 when I was doing my Masters.

Now he writes words of wisdom about mulitculturalism, following on from the confusion of the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed:
One of the central issues concerns how human beings are seen. Should they be categorized in terms of inherited traditions, particularly the inherited religion, of the community in which they happen to have been born, taking that unchosen identity to have automatic priority over other affiliations involving politics, profession, class, gender, language, literature, social involvements, and many other connections? Or should they be understood as persons with many affiliations and associations, whose relative priorities they must themselves choose (taking the responsibility that comes with reasoned choice)? Also, should we assess the fairness of multiculturalism primarily by the extent to which people from different cultural backgrounds are "left alone," or by the extent to which their ability to make reasoned choices is positively supported by the social opportunities of education and participation in civil society? There is no way of escaping these rather foundational questions if multiculturalism is to be fairly assessed.

He goes on to write some hilarious experiences of his life as a hybrid in Britain, including one where he is describing the way Britain has changed:
The distance traveled has been in many ways quite extraordinary. I recollect (with some fondness, I must admit) how worried my first landlady in Cambridge was about the possibility that my skin color might come off in the bath (I had to assure her that my hue was agreeably sturdy and durable), and also the care with which she explained to me that writing was a special invention of Western civilization ("The Bible did it"). For someone who has lived--intermittently but for long periods--through the powerful evolution of British cultural diversity, the contrast between Britain today and Britain half a century ago is just amazing.

And he articulates something much better than me when he asks if a person is born with their culture:
A person may decide to seek closeness with more than one of these pre-defined cultures or, just as plausibly, with none. Also, a person may well decide that her ethnic or cultural identity is less important to her than, say, her political convictions, or her professional commitments, or her literary persuasions. It is a choice for her to make, no matter what her place is in the strangely imagined "federation of cultures."

He concludes by reinforcing the difference between multiculturalism and plural monoculturalism.
There is a real need to re-think the understanding of multiculturalism, so as to avoid conceptual disarray about social identity and also to resist the purposeful exploitation of the divisiveness that this conceptual disarray allows and even, to some extent, encourages. What has to be particularly avoided (if the foregoing analysis is right) is the confusion between a multiculturalism that goes with cultural liberty, on the one side, and plural monoculturalism that goes with faith-based separatism, on the other. A nation can hardly be seen as a collection of sequestered segments, with citizens being assigned places in predetermined segments.

Is the word "diversity" US discourse for multiculturalism and does it stand the same test?

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Comunidade de Prática fecunda

Thanks a bunch for the language help for my presentation yesterday. There's something rather delicious for me about the expression comunidade de prática fecunda.

I'm not very good at listening to most presentations - so I make sure I never give a straighforward one myself. Yesterday was all metaphor with one Sala for the Igreja (no Século dezasseis) and
and the Sala ao lado (Sala2.0) for those of us engaging in conversations through and about new technologies for distributed communities of practice. I could just see people thinking I was nuts as I started my story... this crazy English woman speaking Portuguese who doesn't look like a technology geek and now she's giving the wrong presentation!

Feedback was very positive and I'm looking forward to the workshop which will start in the next week. It's the second time I've met most of the Rede Coordinators and it feels very exciting to start working with them. It's even more stimulating to know that what they do in my workshop they will be adapting to present to people in their own sector rede.

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Found in translation

Check out Global voices to see where my suggestion of doing a panel on bilingual blogging at BlogHer which started a discussion on the BlogHer site which Liz Henry put into action in the Carnival of Blog Translation. It's amazing how these things can spread!

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Bilingual blogging in Portugal (Part III)

Oh no, I can't keep up. More people in the Portuguese blogsfera are talking about bilingual blogging. The posts and the comments they are generating are too interesting for words. I'm going to TRY (but can't promise) to translate as many as I can for the Carnival of Blog Translation on February 28th. asks (in Portuguese and English):
Since the begining of this blog, all my posts are written in English. I thought that writing in english I could reach a wider audience, because most of the portuguese readers that are interested on the topics I write about understand english and, for what matters, so is the rest of the world. But, am I depriving the rest of the potential portuguese readers? Should I write in portuguese? Does it make a difference? I would really apreciate some feedback on this…

And João Pedro Pereira reflects (in Portuguese) that although it's tempting to write in English he will continue to write entirely in Portuguese in an effort to avoid the weakening of other languages because of the standardisation of English and for some nationalistic pride.

A Arte de Blogar explores the advantages and disadvantages (in Portuguese although he also has a slightly slower English version of blogging tips), one of which got me chuckling aloud in its wisdom:
"Finally, in case you're thinking of writing in English, you should think about how good you are in the language. :-) If you see nothing wrotng in expressions like "my hovercraft is full of eels" or "all your base are belong to us", it's better to stick to your native language. You clearly don't want the attractive part of your blog to be due to sounding "exotic". :-)

I'm tagging all these blogposts in under "bilingualblogging" if anyone else wants to share.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Comunidades de Prática e Web 2.0

I'm nervous as hell today as I prepare my presentation for around 250 people at FIL (Junqueira) tomorrow. In Portuguese!

It's for the Lançamento das Redes Temáticas da 2ª Fase by the Project EQUAL for whom I will be presenting an online workshop starting in a couple of weeks. My workshop will be for the co-ordinators of the Redes Temáticas using Web2.0 technologies for communities of practice. The co-ordinators will then adapt and present the workshop to their own redes.

So I'm preparing for a 15 minutes slot before the first coffee break with a view to enthusing the entire network about Web2.0 technologies for communities of practice in the social movement.

And -please - who can tell me how to say "a nourishing community of practice" in Portuguese, without sounding like an idiot?

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Are women bloggers noticed in Portugal?

Over in BlogHer they are planning some more sessions, including one on EduBlogging:
"Three academics from prominent colleges note that women are using blogging in and out of the classroom but, and this will sound familiar: it's the male academics who get noticed. So, the session is about how to use this technology and how to raise the profile of the women using it."

So it's not just in Portugal! At last year's 2º Encontro de Weblogs we heard from Manuel Pinto that the trend in Portugal was for equal numbers of men and women bloggers. But when I look at the Scientific Commission of this year's Encontro I see thirteen men and not one woman!

Do you mean to say that women blog but only men are academic enough to consider if your writing about it is sufficiently original, relevant, has quality, style and clarity?

(Todas as propostas serão avaliadas pela Comissão Científica com base na originalidade, relevância, qualidade técnica, estilo e clareza de apresentação.)

Come on sisters and irmãs - how do we raise the profile of women bloggers in Portugal?

And I wonder what Joana Baptista's study suggests ...
De facto, os homens têm aparentemente mais tempo disponível para dedicarem a estas questões, uma vez que a estrutura social indica a uma maior sobrecarga para os elementos do sexo feminino, no que concerne a tarefas domésticas e educativas a somar à sua vida profissional.

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Monday, February 20, 2006

Preparations for the carnival

It's always exciting when these things work.

Regina Nabais of Polikê? wrote to me with enthusiasm about the Carnival of blog translation and I suggested some blogs that she might find interesting to translate. So you she wrote to Darren Kuropatwa of A Difference to see if he was interested in joining.

Darren says he's very interested as
"The students in my school collectively speak over 50 different languages so I'm very interested in increasing accessability to the students work in their parents native tongues."

and it stimulates him to try out an automatic translator for his blog.

OK, success!
One down - just a few more million to go!

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Feb 28th - Carnival of Blog Translation

No-one described me as "rash" in the Johari window, but look how quickly things get out of control.

I made a suggestion for a session on bilingual blogging at BlogHer in July, which, within a week has sparked off a blog translation carnival from Liz Henry and aspirations for getting Google sponsorship for a one day workshop somewhere round San Jose, California with an IRC going in several languages!

Anyway the blog carnival sounds interesting and this is how to join in, if you want to translate:

1. On the day of the Carnival (28th Fev, fériado por acaso) you translate one post by another blogger, and post it on your own blog with a link to the original.

2. Email Liz Henry with the info. who will compile one big post on the day of the Carnival with links to all the participants.

3. You can translate any blog entry that was posted in the month of February 2006. It can be your own blog entry, if you like.

The info. Liz needs is:
* your name
* name of your blog
* your blog URL
* post title in target language

* name of blog you're translating
* name of person you're translating
* that URL
* the post title in the source language

Liz also points out:

"You should get permission from the person you're translating to post your translation of their work. I would also suggest that you might introduce your translation for the target-language audience, and provide some context if you can."

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Thanks for Johari comments

Thanks for doing the Johari window for me. My biggest blindspot was "complex". Funny, I see myself as being so direct and straightforward!

I did a Johari for Nancy and Joitske, but for Harry, Pauloya and A, let me share my impression of you even though I've never met you:

Harry, I see you as dry, funny and secretly kind.
Pauloya, I think you are learning, searching, and discreet about the hard times.
A - you are subtle and mysterious!

A dream about Setúbal

Talking to Setúbal-bro Pedro of Centopeia (well, exchanging e-mails) and I started fantasizing about making the universe a better place. My local universe called Setúbal, that is. Setúbal is the fifth biggest city in Portugal and reputed to be as exciting and on-the-go as a fallen raspberry.

Pedro showed me Regional Post a now defunct project he started with Luís of Reciclemos and David of Songo. It's an online "espaço aberto ao jornalismo cívico e a uma vivência diferente em sociedade!" and they are wondering where to take it.

Their initiative got me dreaming. A blogger's dream.

There was a community space (a portal) where I could go and see the RSS feeds of other people blogging in Setúbal. Someone from the chess club was blogging as was a skater from Largo de Jesus. People blogged about the films they had seen at Charlote and the Fórum, others about toxic waste at Secil. People from Clube de Montanismo Arrábida blogged about the wonderful things they were doing. Someone was writing a satirical blog about people in the Câmara. School kids were blogging about school and students at the University and Polytechnic were blogging about .. whatever they blog about. An imaginative restaurant owner wrote a humerous blog about his clients and others wrote about how they managed to make the woman behind the desk at the Registo Civil smile.

In my dream not one of these people was using blogs merely to "transmit" information. No-one was using blogs to broadcast, they were using them to tell their stories and share ways of solving their everyday problems . Every day I went to the portal (or rather it came to me through my subscriptions) and I dipped in and out of the lives of different communities in Setúbal. Some made me mad, some were boring, some I commented on, some even got me to go out and meet people! I picked up technology tips from people writing about technology, cooking tips from people writing recipes, and learned to navigate my way collectively round Setúbal social and political life.

Somehow we were all making little tiny connections and, yes, we were creating a local identity that was more than the sum of lots of individuals - and Vitória wasn't its only name. People even started feeling accountable to each other. And going to Lisbon became a treat rather than the only way to get a life.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

About me again - Johari window

Nancy did it first and then Joitske. It's a Johari window that compares what you think of yourself and how others see you. Luckily almost all the words are positive ones so you can't use it as an opportunity to be really horrible.

I would be tickled if anyone filled in the Johari window for me by choosing five or six words that you associate with me (even if we've never met). It doesn't take long and you do it at Bev Trayner's Johari window. I'm slightly nervous about straying to the self-absorbed, rather than self-aware but as Nancy suggests, you need the mirror or other people to be self-aware.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Invite to dialogue in Prato, Italy

A few days before the Community Informatics Research Network conference in Prato (in October) some of us from CPsquare ( are meeting up for a dialogue about memory and forgetting in communities of practice. The dialogue will also be preparation for a workshop we are presenting at the conference called "Lively remembering: Technologies, memories and practices in communities of practice". Technologies and community memory, identity and empowerment is the theme of the Conference.

Click here for the full invitation to participate and if you want to join us, please send an expression of interest by March 1st. For people who also want to attend the CIRN conference (and help present the workshop) they also need to register for the conference (see the site).

"Why do you do it?" is a question my family always ask me about organising and participating in these events. There is no perceived value of it at the place where I work (it will take a while for Bolonha to kick in) and I don't make money out of it. I know I'm not alone in this dilemma of following research and practice dreams that make little sense to people living a "real" life of low-risk, career and status advance - so we've included the dilemma as an explicit part of the Dialogue agenda:

"For many of us, where a social perspective on learning is the subject and the means of inquiry and the rallying point that brings us together these events are works of love. They are produced in moments stolen from our jobs, families and friends. We often find ourselves swimming between disciplinary and professional boundaries trying to articulate more clearly what we do, and looking for ways to justify, legitimize and finance our way to learning and improving our practice. At this Dialogue we want to make these stolen moments an open and discussable subject of inquiry – part of our community memory as we join ideas and forces for making such events a sustainable part of our repertoire of practice, and our gift to the world."

It sure helps to talk with people who share the same language - where language is not related to nationality or words.

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Dynamic presentation styles: Community Informatics

So the Community Informatics Research Network conference in Prato in Italy is on. Our paper "Remembering and forgetting: a Review of Narrative and Technologies from a Communities of Practice Perspective" is accepted. (I'm on the advisory committee so I'd have felt embarrassed if it hadn't been.)

The conference theme this year is "Constructing and sharing memory: community informatics, identity and empowerment". What I like about the CIRN group is that it walks the talk. One of the best conferences (round table) I participated in was the Roundtable workshop on qualitative research methods for "Supporting community through ICT".

The way we used technologies at that Round Table meeting for an emerging community-based agenda was exciting. And that wasn't because it was my first time! And now the way we have to do our presentations at this upcoming conference is going to be interesting.

We have only 15 minutes to present and the first five minutes have to be questions to the audience. Then we have to develop our presentation either in response to the answers or as a conversation. Not only will it stop that excruciatingly boring practice of talking at the audience with power point, but it shifts the art of presentations from a "knowing" monologue followed by debate to one of listening, connecting and talking. Somewhere closer to the competence of "unknowing" that Nancy White and others talk about.

Straight after the CIRN conference is the 3º Encontro Nacional sobre Weblogs so I'll be stepping off the plane to go to Porto for that. Hmmm ... I'm going to really enhance my reputation as an inglesa with manias if I start making suggestions to the organisers for less boring presentation styles as well as the involvement of more women!

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Weird things happening on blog

My posts seem to be disappearing and coming back in different places. And the formatting seems to have gone squiffy. I expect it's related to my experiment on Sunday to transferring the blog to Wordpress.

I've now decided not to go ahead with that idea. Although blogger drives me c-razy for not having categories, you can't personalise Wordpress with HTML (in the unhosted version that is).

Monday, February 13, 2006

Going international

Big breath.

Under pressure from Bolonha to change the curriculum to help students become more internationally mobile and ready to participate in international academic and professional networks, in at least one Business School in Portugal some people, important ones, are debating whether to take English out of the curriculum and to substitute it with Spanish.

I have to say that from where I'm sitting, that looks a little short-sighted.

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Snapshots of Portugal from Vit

Vitriolica Webb has some of her crazy drawings of Portuguese life through her eyes on Shortcut.

This one is my favourite. I must remember to take a photo of the Piaggio - a carrito for the papa reformas - that parks in line with the slick new BMW outside my appartment. It's the arms hanging onto the side (and the cigarrette) that do it for me with this picture.

I contemplate getting one myself (not the BMW). Easy to park, economical on gas, space for my mountain bike - and it would discourage my kids from asking me for lifts.

Competencies of online interaction

I have taken selective notes of Alan Levine's recording of Nancy White at Northern voice talking about seven competencies of online interaction.

1. People think that going online will solve their problems, but you get online and it's not that easy. Among other things you are bridging literacies, bridging belief systems and bridging languages. (Sigh of relief that she didn't use the C _ L_ T _ R _ word).

2. Interacting online involves thinking/moving laterally not hierarchically. Global thinkers, those who absorb large amounts of information randomly and then see patterns, do better than sequential thinkers who tend to take linear steps that follow in a logical order.

3. We have to be able to read a hell of a lot more; we need to be able to scan and see patterns.

4. Interacting online involves bringing your heart and mind into the online world.

5. Jealousy, ego and competition don't work as we become change artists or process artists. (I didn't manage to hear all this bit of the recording).

6. Interaction is emergent and multi-contextual.

7. We have to be able to write. And we have to be writers, beyond words including images, music etc.

8. Ealy adopters can take a lot of information and makes sense of it - we have to be able to filter it for others (e.g. through tagging)

9. An important competence is to be unknowing. Bev switches on the neon lights round this one in a desparate bid to challenge the entire Portuguese education system.

10. Blogging is going to increase our online competencies - it will change the way we articulate our ideas.

11. Online is "not a solo gig". We interact online with others, while the experience of it is an individual one.

12. The power and importance of the lurker.

13. We have to learn to be "creatively abrasive"

14. Very important is "the art of invitation" - crafting an invitation that gets people involved

15. Our role as bridges for people shy of interacting in the online world - not necessarily all the time nor alone.

16. Our struggle to manage our multiple identities and personas in the multiple contexts/communities in which we are operating. (This is one of Wenger's key questions in his research agenda and a question in my own research).

17. The importance of outsiders - "the magic of the periphery". (I like this one as I see myself as a privelaged outsider in almost everything).

18. The importance of striving for self-awareness in online interactions (becoming self-aware, not self-absorbed).

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Experiment in bilingual blogging

Liz Henry made a comment and suggestion on a previous post that has got me thinking about doing an experiment in bilingual blogging, maybe for discussing, presenting and reflecting on at BlogHer (July, USA) and/or the 3º Encontro Nacional sobre Weblogs in Portugal (October, Portugal). She says:
I've been thinking it would be a cool exercise to hook up pairs of bloggers to translate each other. They'd have to be pretty fluent to keep up with each other, but it might be a great experiment for, say, a single day, or a week

I would like to try this experiment. I propose to match bloggers in Portuguese with bloggers in English for one week, each one translating the other's posts. Then to reflect on the joys, issues and problems. Even without thinking too hard I have a host of questions:

1. Where to put the translation? On your own blog or the other person's?
2. How would the translator give context to the post? How much context to give?
3. How much would have to be negotiated - rather than just translated. For example, tags.
4. How much would it change what you wrote knowing it would be read in a different language?
5. What are the same/different issues translating from Portuguese to English and from English to Portuguese?
6. What is the advantage of having your posts translated into English? And into Portuguese?
7. Are the issues different for different types of blogs?
8. What technologies did we need/use to carry out the experiment?
9. What technological and social processes helped or hindered?
8. Does pairing up to write blogs in two languages have a future? For whom?

If anyone's interested in joining in the experiment, let me know. My own focus is Portuguese-English but anyone's welcome to do it in other languages.

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Unpolitically correct observation

Pam from Nerd's Eye View writes a post on BlogHer where she recounts an old joke:

What do you call someone who speaks lots of langauges: Multilingual.
What do you call someone who speaks two langagues? Bilingual.
What do you call someone who speaks only one? American.

In a post on her own blog she charts the languages of the people round the lunch table - the combination of people, nationalities and languages, including a yoghurt container written in a language that none of them spoke.

I thought of it last night as I sat at a "Portuguese" dinner table where F on my right has a Portuguese name and passport but speaks English as her first language and was born and brought up in Rhodesia. M on my left was born with Portuguese nationality, his first language is Portuguese but has opted for a British passport. He was married to the woman born in France, bilingual in French and Portuguese. Next to him was K, British retired - just finished doing proficiency level Portuguese at Universidade de Lisboa and married to A who is Portuguese living in Brussels and speaks Portuguese, French and English...

And it occured to me as I thought of some of my dear work colleagues still debating the Bolonha process and whether or not a second language other than Spanish is important ...
What's a Portuguese doing who thinks that being bilingual in Spanish is enough to participate in the international business and academic community?

Answer: Missing the action!

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Bilingual blogging (2)

Some great comments by bilingual bloggers from a previous post that I don't want to get lost.

Perhaps they are the start of some conversations on bilingual blogging for the BlogHer conference and the 3º Encontro Nacional sobre Weblogs in Porto in October.

BTW is it just me or does anyone else see bilingual bloggers as a long tail to be listened to?

PeCus (a Setúbal bro) says that he needs two blogs - one in English for his professional life (otherwise it probably wouldn't be worth writing anything) and one for his private life. Mixing the two would be confusing.
Eu pessoalmente optei por escrever dois blogues, um em português e outro em inglês, curiosamente o que impôs a separação não foi a lingua, mas os temas que eu desejei separar: vida privada (/var/log) e outro mais profissional (Centopeia), simplesmente porque me fazia confusão misturar as duas águas.

A escolha das linguas foi no meu caso para o blog profissional em inglês, porque na minha área profissional é quase uma obrigação, senão se calhar não vale a pena escrever... Embora o que escrevo seja essencialmente para mim e para um grupo restrito de pessoas.

Zone_41 says that he wouldn't translate if he was quoting someone. And that he writes in Portuguese from Portugal but goes blogging to different places in different languages.
Eu normalmente se tenho que citar algum blogue, não costumo traduzir essa mesma citação.
Eu escrevo em Portugues apartir de Portugal, mas como tu o dizes vou blogando por vários blogues de vários ediomas. Por exemplo tenho achado a blogosfera espanhola mais fiel ao espanhol do que nós por cá, com muita gente a escrever em ingles.

And Vit celebrate being at least bi-lingual: "one gets so much more out of everything. especially, of course, blogging!"

Thanks guys and chica!

And I'm on the hunt for even more stories and thoughts about the joys and frustrations about blogging em duas línguas, especially in Portugal.

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Nyumbani kwangu in blogs and blogging

I was reminded today of one of the "100 things about me" which I prepared for a meme but never posted. Number 2 said:
I am uneasy when people ask me what it was like to grow up in "Africa". I don't know one place called Africa.

I do know that when someone asks me the question about my life in Africa they aren't expecting to hear how unfair it was that I always took the blame for my sister or how it was so boring on Sundays when my parents made us all go for "a drive".

And I can see in retrospect that squabbling in the car was less interesting than the elephants we would have seen if we were paying attention.

As I mature I can now see the funny side of dad's marital prickley feelings as he scooped up elephant poo into the boot with the engine still running because mum wanted to put it (the poo) on her garden/ shamba. And I'm conscious that we were focused on the wrong drama as dad shouted at mum when the buffalo charged and he had to quickly jump into the car and accelerate off.

So I knew what Binyavanga Wainaina was talking about in his piece on "How to write about Africa".
In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don't get bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big: fifty-four countries, 900 million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book. The continent is full of deserts, jungles, highlands, savannahs and many other things, but your reader doesn't care about all that, so keep your descriptions romantic and evocative and unparticular.

(Don't miss the whole piece here.)

And when people ask me if I ever think of going back to "Africa" I'm embarrassed to say that I can't imagine living the life of my sister on the South Coast who has problems accessing the Internet - but that following the Kenyan blog scene and I start feeling like I could belong - even if those guys are mostly from Nairobi or the United States...

Recently I followed a hot debate from Thinker's Room about Kenyan Diaspora returning - or not which generated 155 comments and lots of follow-up posts. Other Kenya bloggers that make me feel "at home", even nostalgic, are:

Kenyan pundit for news, politics and links,
White African for cool insights and technology tips,
Bullets and honey for intelligent rants,
Bankelele for news,
Afrikan Eye (new) checking out Afrika's contribution to civilisation,
Diary of a mad Kenyan Woman for mad woman insights,
Feminist Africa Sister for her feeling stuff,
and Gukira for his queer voyeurism in the USA.

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BlogHer 2006

Against ALL my personal resolve and New Year's Resolutions I suggested a spot for bilingual blogging at the BlogHer 2006 conference.

They've got such an exciting new site and some of the sessions look just tooooo good to miss. So I just did it. Damn it.

This was my suggestion:

"Keeping a blog in more than one language is more than just a linguistic problem. There are a host of social, political and technical issues around posting, reading, writing, blogrolling and tagging in more than one language. I would like to explore some of these issues, share some of the practicalities, and move ahead with some ideas for designing for blogs and blogging in two languages."

My ultimate dream would be chique blogs and blogging in two languages. So many things that are "multilingual" have a stodgy, even pious, air about them. What I like about BlogHer is that it brings passion and style to blogging.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Being rafeira

There is an interesting discussion about Grounded Theory taking place in the CI (Community Informatics) Researchers discussion group. It's bringing up all sorts of issues that have been haunting me recently around theory, practice, and top-down, bottom-up research.

Andy Williamson comes up with a gem in the discussion. Checking out his blog and discovering him is a moment of serendipity for me (more later). He says:
I think some of us are pedigrees (pure bred researchers etc) but many in the CI field (myself included) are more like the typical pound dogs (PT rafeiros) - bits of everything... I'm a consultant, but also a researcher and I'm active in local communities and with CI projects.

That's another click in my identity. I'm not a cão de raça (pedigree) and don't have aspirations to be. I'm a rafeira. Maybe that's why I feel so at home in Portugal - it's a system built on "refeiro-ing" (a form of desenrasco?)

Hmm, a thought ... do rafeiras have problems negotiating territory amongst aspiring pedigrees?

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Bilingual blogging - in Portugal

JVC in Reformar a Educação Superior half hopes he can find a "colaborador amável" so he can (also) keep his blog in English.

This got me thinking (again) of the different ways people in Portugal are writing em duas línguas...

When I first "met" Paulo Santos of Pauloya he wrote all his posts in Portuguese, English and Turkish. Now he writes some posts in English, others in Portuguese and occasionally he shows off in Turkish :-)

Thinking aloud: not only is it time-consuming to translate, but it also assumes that the contexts of people reading it are the same. Posts need context which translated words can't give you. How do you get the balance between content and context?

Of the blogs I read, writing different posts in different languages is more common than translating every post. For example Hugo Neves of Lisbon Lab writes some in English and some in Portuguese. As he says, some things lend themselves more to being blogged in one language, like the LIFT06 conference where many of the 300 participants would already be blogging in English. His blogroll and bio is in Portuguese.

Thinking aloud: Posting in two languages is one thing, but what about your bio and blogroll and links? And how do you categorise your links when they are in two languages? Some things are obviously for one audience or another - but what is your criteria for the others?

Monica André now keeps her Blog da tese mostly in English with an occasional post in Portuguese when the content and context is Portuguese. Her tags are all in English. Her other blog B2OB about barriers and opportunites to organisational blogging has more Portuguese posts and her links there are to both Portuguese and English and Spanish sites.

Thinking aloud: how does she stay so organised in her blogs, blogroll and links?

Then you have some blogs like Zone41 who writes mostly in Portuguese but whose links and blogroll are mostly to English or Spanish sites.

Thinking aloud: just because you are writing in one language it doesn't mean you are reading and navigating in only one language.

Blogolento - Slow Blog posts in Portuguese and has a translator so you can read it "almost in English".

Thinking aloud: does anyone really use translators?

And you have blogs like Tao of Mac; Rui Carmo posts entirely in English with links to sites in English, but with references to Lisbon and Portugal.

Thinking aloud: is this where you get to when you know a lot about content in two languages?

Then there's the whole words/images thing. Vitriolica writes in Portuguese English. Her references in words and pictures are Portuguese and English. You get the joke if you speak English and Portuguese and you know some British and Portuguese cultural references.

Thinking aloud: you get quite different things out of a post when you know the language and references of more than one language.

Paulo Querido in Mas certamente que sim! blogs different posts in different languages and categorises them into English, Portuguese or both. While he doesn't translate his blog title he does translate the sub-title (in the English but not in the "both" section)

Thinking aloud: If you categorise things in terms of language, then you also need a way to sub-categorise your posts. How do you do that? And also do you translate everything including sub-titles, meta-language e.g. comments/comentários etc? And if you do, how do you represent it without everything becoming overcrowded?

I'm left with at least two questions:

1. What must it be like to simply read, post and tag all in one language? What do you do with the rest of your time?

2. What are "cultural references" for "English"? English is not so bounded by geography as many other languages are. What does it mean to bundle everything written "in English" to "English"?

And I continue to marvel how navigating the online world em duas línguas is more than the sum of navigating it one of two languages.

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Just saying Yes to Microsoft

Here's a publication from O'Reilly which probably won't make great sales in Portugal where Bill Gates has been awarded Portugal's highest civilian award for his efforts to fight poverty and disease around the world. He has just finished his visit to Lisbon where he shared his intentions to share some of his resources with the Portuguese and Lusofone countries. We are now plugged in!
Just Say No to Microsoft begins by tracing Microsoft's rise from tiny software startup to monopolistic juggernaut and explains how the company's practices over the years have discouraged innovation, stunted competition, and helped foster an environment ripe for viruses, bugs, and hackers. Readers learn how they can dump Microsoft products--even the Windows operating system--and continue to be productive. The book also shows how to work successfully and seamlessly with computers and people who are still hooked on Microsoft software. Includes full explanations of alternate operating systems, such as Linux and Mac, and outlines various software applications that can replace the familiar Microsoft products.

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Monday, February 06, 2006

Advice about blog stalkers

Darren Rowe on Problogger writes a post about Blog Stalkers - personal safety for bloggers which made me pause.

I've been stalked before (not as a blogger) and it was a deeply disturbing experience. It's not common to be stalked so I don't want to get paranoid. But it's given me something to think about.


Sunday, February 05, 2006

Inglêsa with manias

My son is stuck in writing his blog. He's trying hard at school. He's listening to the teacher who recently told him that to write well you have to write correctly. And when you write you must never use the personal pronoun "I".

Now his blog hangs in the air for all to see. A permanent testimony to his language mistakes in English (his second language) and to writing in the first person. I thought of going to speak to the Director de Turma - but I already know the poor man's polite expression and glazed eyes as he has to listen again to that inglesa with manias.

Other parents go to talk about their kid's faltas and mal comportamento - while this parent has a bee in her bonnet about blogs, the importance of making mistakes, and writing in the first person!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Shifting paradigms: Blogs, CoPs and Chicas

CoPs = Communities of Practice

Aldo de Moor of Growing Pains writes about his visit to the Museum Plantin-Moretus in Antwerpern, one of the earliest leading publishing houses in Europe. He was struck by how book printing only developed while it was "strongly embedded and evolving in a nourishing community of practice". He says:
We often think of "Humanism" and "Renaissance" as abstract, larger-than-life ideas, which somehow emerged autonomously or "because the time was ripe". A visit to this museum makes very clear, however, how much depends on people and politics for these ideas (not) to flourish.

In other words, to continue my internal conversation with Monica, Atrium, and Fernando, we wouldn't say that the book (or the blog) was just another publishing tool - there was a community and a context that gave it meaning and life.

Now 500 years later I identify perfectly with Aldo's scenario of the changes at work:
Imagine, one room housed the catholic censor, who had to reject everything that did not follow Party, pardon me, Church lines. In the next room, a Great Mind was Shifting Paradigms! What an exciting time it must have been: printing technologies rapidly maturing from nothing to mass production, the greatest religious and intellectual forces of the era whirling around that emerging hub in the world of Early Modernity, political and religious authorities that tried to get a grip on this...

This looks like a different metaphor for my current situation. I'm the Duh-cent (docente) who has to get things through the Catholic Censor while my Chica Esperta is in the next room trying to dance with Great Minds Shifting Paradigms!

In fact I watch unfold the picture Aldo paints of that time:
Incredible tensions and conflicts must have arisen. Picture the subtle discussions, sensemaking, negotatiation, and plain scheming that had to be done to keep all these contradictions from exploding! If ever there was a community of practice that has influenced the world, this is the one.

He also says "against all odds, Plantin and his team managed to beat The System."

Hmmm, that makes me think CoP2.0, blogs and chica espertas!

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

Author's Addendum - retaining your rights

Thanks a big bunch to Jill/txt for her link to the SPARC Author's Addendum about how to retain the right to publish your own work.

I have never understood the business of signing over the copyright to articles I write and then not even being able to share them or put them on my website. It's not like you get paid for your contribution.

I'll try the addendum next week when I have to sign over the copyright of my article to Webist (Web Information Systems and Technologies) for the paper that just got accepted. It looks like such a hard-core techie-business conference that I was expecting some scathing reviews of our paper that takes a social perspective on technologies and learning. But it was mostly maximum points on all aspects. That was cool.

If I manage to retain some rights on the paper I'll be able to share it here."Participation in international online learning communities: a social learning perspective" by Trayner, B., Smith, J. and Bettoni, M.


Metaphors for weblogs

The page for the 3rd Encontro of weblogs in Porto has gone up. The provocative question for the conference is: "And if weblogs finish in 2006?"

In the first blog entry Fernando Zamith takes the same line that Monica André and Atrium did a week ago - that the weblog is merely a different type of publishing tool, albeit with a blog culture growing round it. (Yuk - that C word again)

I think that the metaphor for the weblog as publishing tool is reductive. I worry that attending too closely to weblog as tool or as just one more means for publishing overlooks the network of social relations and the social context that helps people make sense of and give meaning to blogs - and to all technologies for that matter.

A more helpful amalgam of metaphors in my research would be:

* weblog as voice;
* weblog as emerging identity;
* weblog as an intersection of multiple identitites;
* weblog as design for self;
* weblog as social practice;
* weblog as resource for designing for communities and human activities;
* weblog as social resourcefulness;
* weblog as mutation.

All the more when you think of how weblog designs and practices are changing and being changed by things like tagging, RSS feeds and mashups.

(Just for the record, there is one Chica on the seven-chico organising commission and none on the academic commission.)

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

4 x 4

It doesn't sound very convincing to say I'm busy when I'm doing things like this. Tagged by Mónica André.

Four jobs I had:
1. Uncle Sam's hamburger joint in Brighton, UK while I was a macrobiotic and vegetarian student.
2. All round manager, digger-driver substitute, crew recruiter, tug hand for Coastal Launch Services Ltd. in Brockenhurst, UK.
3. Community development education worker for Leicester World Development Centre. Some of the projects I helped set up still continue with the Leicester Masaya Link Group; partners wwere Soft Touch Community Arts.
4. Co-ordinator of British Council Special Language Services in Lisbon, which is now called Professional Learning Services.

Four places I've lived:
1. Mombasa, Kenya
2. Brighton, Bath, Henley-on-Thames, The New Forest and Leicester,UK
3. Lisbon, Carcavelos, Parede, Monte Estoril, Malveira de Serra and Aldeia Galega de Merceana, Portugal
4. Setúbal, Portugal

Four places I've liked:
1. The jebels in Kassala (Sudan) near the border with Eritrea.
2. San Francisco. Laid back and very fab!
3. Lamu Island, Kenya which I loved to visit in my youth.
4. Florence because it makes me feel like I'm exotic.

Four TV shows I like: (although I very rarely watch T.V)
1. Sex in The City
2. SIC Notícias
3. Ali G
4. The Simpsons

Four places I've vacationed:
1. Seychelles
2. Marakesh and beyond, Morrocco
3. Durban and around South Africa
4. Sagres, Algarve

Four favourite dishes:
1. Fresh grilled fish in Setúbal
2. Gado-gado sauce on anything.
3. Deep fried goat's cheese with wild berry sauce.
4. Polenta with gorgonzola cheese

Four sites I visit daily, or rather four sites not in my aggregator:
1. CPSquare when there are good conversation going on.
2. Webist (International Conference on Web Information Systems and Technologies in Setúbal) because I'm waiting to read the reviewers' comments on my paper.
3. Escola Dom Manuel Martins, Setúbal to keep up with what's going on at my son's school.
4. Pixmania to stare at the CANON Digital Ixus i zoom that I want and can't afford.

I think I should only tag the people I think have time to tag, or maybe not:
1. Joitske Hulsebosch - just because.
2. Gukira - whose personas include voyeur, anthropologist, queer from Kenya whose blog is like a book I can't put down.
3. Pauloya because he was the first person I met for the first time on my blog and will always be special to me for that :-)
4. Nuri Martin, who I'm trying to encourage to blog - as if you couldn't guess.

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