Quintus a eu beaucoup de chance [fr]

[en] Quintus is a very lucky cat indeed. He used up one of his nine lives the night before last. He almost certainly chocked on a piece of kibble. Luckily I was there. In panic, because I thought he was dying in front of my eyes, I stuck my fingers down his throat repeatedly (met kibble, got bitten, didn't solve the problem). At one point I thought he was dead, lying unresponsive on his side, blue tongue hanging out of his open mouth, not breathing but heart beating under my bloody fingers. That must have been when I shook him upside down in despair, what was there to lose? To cut a long story short, when I got the emergency vet on the phone, he was breathing, not well, but breathing, and he slowly resurfaced. I found a piece of kibble on the carpet the next day. No certainty, but it might be the culprit. I spent the rest of my night at the ER for my bite, which thankfully is not too serious.

Quintus a failli mourir durant la nuit de mercredi à jeudi. Je vous rassure tout de suite, il est en pleine forme maintenant.

Smilimg Quintus

2h du matin, je me couche tard (pas bien je sais) et pendant que je me prépare à aller au lit, Quintus, qui vient de rentrer, mange ses croquettes.

Je le vois débouler dans la chambre pour se cacher sous le lit, ce qu’il ne fait qu’en cas d’orage ou d’aspirateur. Il n’y a ni l’un ni l’autre. J’aperçois un filet de bave au passage, je plonge pour extirper le chat de sa cachette, il a la bouche ouverte et la langue dehors.

Ni une ni deux, je plonge mes doigts au fond de sa gorge, me disant qu’il doit y avoir quelque chose de coincé. Je rencontre des croquettes. Il m’échappe, toujours bouche ouverte, langue dehors, ne tousse pas et ne respire pas.

Mes souvenirs sont mélangés, parce que je suis sous le choc. Mais je sais que je l’ai attrapé plusieurs fois pour aller grailler au fond de sa gorge. Je sais que je me suis fait mordre. Je sais qu’il a sauté brutalement sur le lit pour y faire un bond, paniqué. Je sais qu’entre deux tentatives de l’attraper, j’ai réussi à enfiler un pantalon et un t-shirt, à prendre mon téléphone, à chercher le numéro du vétérinaire d’urgence. Je sais que je n’arrivais pas à trouver ce putain de numéro parce que mon doigt pissait tellement le sang que l’écran du téléphone ne répondait plus. Je sais que j’ai cru que Quintus était en train de mourir. Non, non, non, pas ça, pas ce soir, non. Je sais que j’ai réussi à essuyer assez de sang pour appeler le vétérinaire. Je sais qu’au retour de la salle de bain où j’étais allée essuyer le sang, je l’ai vu étendu sur le flanc, inerte, bouche ouverte, langue bleue, regarde vide, et j’ai pensé qu’il était mort. Je sais que j’ai mis la main sur sa poitrine et senti son coeur battre. Je sais que je l’ai saisi par le milieu (était-ce à ce moment? avant? je ne sais plus) et secoué la tête en bas, de désespoir, le tout pour le tout, je pensais que c’était fichu. Je sais qu’il était couvert de sang, mon sang, partout. Je sais que quand j’ai enfin eu l’assistante vétérinaire de garde au téléphone, Quintus était couché devant moi, inerte, mais respirant très vite et très superficiellement.

C’était mon cabinet qui était de garde. Ils connaissent Quintus, bien sûr. L’assistante m’a posé une série de questions sur l’état de Quintus, y répondre m’a calmée, je n’étais plus toute seule face à mon chat en train de mourir. Elle a appelé le vétérinaire, m’a rappelé droit derrière, Quintus respirait toujours, il a même levé la tête. Elle est restée en ligne avec moi pendant qu’il semblait respirer de mieux en mieux et reprendre ses esprits. Elle m’a rassurée que je pouvais le laisser une fois qu’il semblait reprendre pied pour aller soigner ma morsure.

Je n’osais pas y croire.

J’ai passé le reste de la nuit aux urgences du CHUV. Une morsure de chat, ça peut vite devenir mauvais, je le sais, et je sais qu’il ne faut pas attendre. J’ai pris mon mal en patience. Les morsures sont superficielles, heureusement. A mon retour, à six heures du matin, Quintus dormait paisiblement dans son panier, et il a ronronné quand je l’ai pris dans mes bras — comme d’habitude.

J’ai eu tellement peur. Je suis encore sous le choc, je crois. Tout l’épisode a un goût de mauvais rêve, le même goût que le cauchemar de la nuit dernière dans lequel un proche mourait. (N’allons pas chercher très loin…) J’ai cru qu’après Bagha, j’allais encore une fois devoir assister, impuissante, à la mort de mon chat. J’ai vraiment pensé qu’il était mort. Et je lui ai probablement sauvé la vie.

Après avoir passé mille et mille fois la scène dans ma tête, au point que je ne sais plus maintenant où sont les “vrais” souvenirs et où j’ai bouché les trous, je pense que la croquette est probablement sortie quand je l’ai secoué. Sa langue était vraiment bleue, ça j’en suis sûre. J’ai retrouvé en nettoyant une croquette sur le tapis, là où elle aurait pu tomber quand je l’ai mis la tête en bas. Certes, il y a souvent des croquettes qui trainent chez moi, mais la femme de ménage était passée la veille et je n’ai pas souvenir d’avoir lancé des croquettes dans le coin mercredi. Donc… probablement la croquette coupable.

On a quand même fait un petit saut chez le vétérinaire l’après-midi suivant, surtout pour me rassurer. Son examen confirme l’hypothèse de la croquette (on écarte définitivement l’épilepsie et les histoires cardiaques) et il m’a confirmé que c’était extrêmement rare, un chat qui fait une “fausse route” comme ça avec une croquette. J’essaie de me rassurer que ça n’a aucune raison d’arriver à nouveau, mais je ne peux pas m’empêcher de garder un oeil sur Quintus quand il mange. Je frémis de penser à ce qui aurait pu arriver si je n’avais pas été là…

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Bad Cat Photos (And Links. Non-Cat Links.) [en]

[fr] Des liens. Surtout.

I still haven’t found the magic solution to grab interesting links on-the-fly and collect them for a future blog post. I easily share to facebook, G+ and Twitter from any device. Anything shared on Twitter ends up in delicious, and so does everything shared to facebook (albeit privately). I stuff things in Pocket when I don’t have time to read them and the tabs start piling up. I’ve started sticking things in Pocket that I have read but want to blog about. It’s going to be messy.

The Basket is a Little Tight

I hardly got through the first item in my notes with my last post. So, sorry for the somewhat stream-of-consciousness blogging. Welcome inside my head.

A facebook friend of mine asked us what we thought about couples who have shared email or facebook accounts. The reactions were mostly swift and strong: eeeeeeew! Mine was too.

Online, your account is your identity. Are you “one” with your significant other? Joint accounts, for me, point to symbiotic relationships, which I really don’t consider healthy. Are you nothing without your SO? Do you have no individuality or identity aside from “spouse of”?

This reminds me of how in certain communities the “second” of a couple (ie, not the primary member of the community) sometimes feels a bit like a satellite-person, using the “primary” as a proxy for interacting with the rest of the community. This bothers me.

It bothers me all the more that the “second” is (oh surprise) generally the woman of the couple. It’s a man’s world, isn’t it, and women just tag along. Enough said. A bit of reading. Not necessarily related. And in no particular order.

In “offline” news, I’ve been redoing some of the furniture in my living-room. (“Cheese sandwich”, here we come.) One part of trying to solve Tounsi’s indoor spraying problem is getting rid of the furniture he irremediably soiled, and that was the opportunity for some changes.

New Furniture

The picture is bad, but you see the idea. Huge cat tree on one side, and “cat ladder” created out of two LACK bookshelves from IKEA (don’t put all the shelves in). More for Tounsi than for Quintus, clearly, who is more comfy in the ground-level basket I brought back with him from England three years ago. His elbows aren’t what they used to be, so jumping down from anywhere is a bit of a pain.

Basket for Quintus

Yes, today comes with a lot of bad cat photos. Sorry.

Anyway, I had to remove all my books from my bookcase to move it over one metre, which gave me the opportunity to start sorting, now that I’ve gone all digital with my kindle. I’m finding it very liberating. All those kilogrammes of books I’ve been carrying with me for 20 years! I can now feel free to let go of all but the most meaningful or precious. My Calibre library only takes up space on my hard drive — and hardly any.

(The WordPress editor is doing horrible things to the formatting in this post. My apologies.)

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Swiss Monsoon: Ashley Madison Leaks, Minimum Wage, And Healthcare [en]

[fr] Les fuites de comptes Ashley Madison et pourquoi je ne participe pas aux réjouissances concernant la mise à nu des infidèles. Mes petites théories perso sur le salaire minimum (fausse bonne idée) et le système de santé suisse (bon équilibre des pouvoirs).

After a tropical summer, the monsoon. It’s pouring all its worth outside. No, it’s not very pretty.

Swiss Monsoon

Ashley Madison leaks. Another opportunity to drag “nobodies” into the spotlight and shame them. Oh, the horror of the affair! I don’t have proper stats handy, but cheating is something roughly half of people do at some point, if my memory serves me right. If it’s not more. It’s a small crime. Yes, it’s ugly, it’s a betrayal, a breach of trust, and can even endanger your partner if you’re having unprotected sex. Lying is ugly (don’t I know it). But in the grand scheme of things, it’s a commonplace transgression. That usually has a story. Anyway, my purpose is not to discuss adultery in length or excuse it (go read Dan Savage again), but to invite those who may be perched there to descend from their moral high horses.

Does being on the Ashley Madison leaks list mean you should be outed to all those who know you as a cheater, maybe ruin your marriage beyond repair, and even damage your career? (And just sayin’ — not all those with Ashley Madison accounts are cheating scumbags.)

So, I will not gloat about these possibly lying and cheating people who are now outed to the world. Not because I think they have done no wrong, but because I do not think that the public square should be the one to judge their crimes. (Read my patchwork post from the chalet for some background.)

And then there is this:

Josh Duggar? I will allow myself some schadenfreude, given the guy has made a career shaming others for their sexual orientations, preferences, or even gender. He’s not a nobody. He’s a celebrity with a big PR machine. Different can of fish.

I didn’t just want to talk about Ashley Madison — I actually took notes of the various things I would blog about in my “next post, this week, oh next week, ouch another week has gone by”.

There’s a very interesting Planet Money episode on the birth of the minimum wage. It’s funny that for the US it is so obvious that there must be a minimum wage. Yeah, guys — it didn’t always exist. Here in Switzerland, there is no minimum wage. On the one hand I think it’s important to ensure people are paid fairly. But on the other hand it seems to me that setting a minimum wage makes us run two systemic dangers:

  1. The first is “tampering with the system” of offer and demand. This is not a very palatable point of view, and it’s certainly shaped by the fact Switzerland has a very low employment rate. I like to believe that if something is really underpaid, people will not take the job. But I know this is wishful thinking, to some extent. When you are desperate, you will even take a bad deal. But does artificially raising the bar for the price of labour solve the underlying issue, which might simply be that there is just not enough work for everybody anymore, which may call for much more radical solutions than a minimum wage?
  2. The second, way less far-fetched, is priming. When there is a minimum wage, this in a way sends a signal that if you’re paying that amount, you’re “OK”. What are you complaining about, you’re getting the minimum wage! I worry that if we do set a minimum wage, salaries which used to be just above might end up being “attracted” to that theoretical minimum. If everybody is paying minimum wage, you don’t have much choice but minimum wage. With no “reference point”, employers will probably be more free to compete to attract employees by varying how much they pay. I realise this is coming back to my first argument, and assuming a system in which there is “enough work”, so I’m not sure how things hold up when employees are competing for just any kind of employment.

Does anybody know of research around these questions? I’d definitely be interested in reading more on the topic.

This slightly “political” topic brings me to one of my little theories about the world. It has to do with healthcare. Healthcare has always been of a particular interest to me, probably because I use medical services quite a bit, and maybe also because I had heart surgery when I was a little girl and quite liked my hospital experience then.

I have people close to me in various countries, not the least my grandparents in the UK, and close friends in the US (and we hear enough horror stories about US healthcare, don’t we). I’ve lived in India (OK, extremes). I am in love with the Swiss healthcare system. And I have my little theory about why it is so good.

First, here’s how it works:

  • basic insurance (which actually covers a lot, determined by law) is compulsory; if you’re really too broke to pay for it (300-400 CHF/month roughly) your town will normally pitch in
  • when you go to the doctor, you pay the bill directly, then send it to your insurance which reimburses 90% of it; every year, you pay the first 300-2000CHF of your bills before getting reimbursed (you choose the “franchise” and your monthly insurance bill is reduced if you take a higher one)
  • for fancy stuff like alternate healthcare, private rooms in private clinics, etc, there are optional “complementary insurances”; they can refuse to take you on, but once you’re on, you’re on

So, it’s quite expensive, but the quality of care is really good. The reason I think it works well is that there is a balance between those parties who have a vested interest in costs being high (doctors etc.) and those who have a vested interest in keeping it low (insurance companies).

This means:

  • nobody can get dropped by their insurance because they get sick, or some “preexisting condition” BS
  • your insurance is not tied to your employer
  • “everybody” has insurance (quotes, because it’s probably not the case for a tiny marginalised fraction of the population)
  • you are free to see the doctor your want
  • no huge waiting lists for specialists, or hospitals, or doctors, or whatever
  • no quotas (your “GP” has more than 8 minutes to see you, and will just charge more if you end up needing a 45 minute consultation)
  • you get the bills, so you have an awareness how much your healthcare is costing
  • the quality of healthcare is high pretty much everywhere.

It’s not perfect. Ask Swiss people, they will complain about the healthcare system all day if you let them.

For me, the US is an example of a system where the people who have a vested interest in raising the costs have too much power. That’s how you end up with ghastly expensive bills for things like a drip, and insurances which have no incentive to defend your interests, as they can seemingly easily get rid of you if you become too expensive.

We see this in two areas here in Switzerland:

  • dental care
  • pet insurances.

Dental care insurances are not compulsory and not regulated. We are used to paying our dentists out-of-pocket. Having anybody in this country look at your teeth costs an arm and a leg, and insurances are commonly perceived as “not interesting” to have. Easier to drive to France (that’s what I do).

As for pets, we have seen insurances show up these last years. I got one for Tounsi as he was young enough, and it did serve me well as I ended up with thousands of francs of vet bills a couple of summers back. But the insurance has a clause for “chronic conditions” where they only pay for care during the three first months, and then they don’t cover it anymore. Sounds a lot like something one might find in human insurances on the other side of the pond?

As for the UK, it suffers from the opposite problem. As everything is state-run, and paid for by taxes, the parties looking to minimise the cost of healthcare end up having too much power. You end up with ridiculous quotas, sub-standard care, huge waiting lists. Sure, it costs less, but the quality of healthcare takes a dive.

What do you think of my “perfection in the balance of power” theory? Specially interested in your views if you’re an expat and have first-hand experience of different healthcare systems.

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Ingress: apprendre à glypher et éviter la pénurie de résonateurs [fr]

[en] On the importance of learning to glyph correctly, and how to avoid running out of resonators (4, 5, 6) while keeping your stocks low, thus freeing space for more interesting items.

Je joue toujours à Ingress. L15 en vue, mais nécessité de lever un peu le pied pour cause de vilaine bursite à l’insertion du tendon d’Achille. (“Ça pourrait être un facteur déclenchant,” m’a dit mon médecin quand je lui ai dit combien je marchais.)

Bref. Je profite donc de faire un peu “d’Ingress canapé” (cf. les “armchair anthropologists” et consorts) pour vous régaler d’un ou deux conseils.

Premier conseil: glyphez. Je veux dire, apprenez à glypher (et pas avec cette saleté d’overlay glyphe-triche sur Android dont certains tentent de rationaliser l’utilisation; c’est de la triche, faites pas).

imperfect truth accept complex answerAlors je sais, c’est facile à dire, “apprenez à glypher,” mais concrètement? J’entends souvent “je glyphe pas parce que j’arrive pas.” Mais pour apprendre, il faut justement passer par cette phase où on essaie et on n’arrive pas. A force de s’entraîner, ça finit par rentrer, et on arrive même à faire “imperfect”!

Perso, je vous encourage à faire un peu confiance à votre cerveau et aux processus d’apprentissage naturels. Si vous commencez à jouer, mettez-vous-y tout de suite. Au début, vous allez regarder les glyphes se dessiner sur l’écran, et être incapable de reproduire quoi que ce soit. Ce n’est pas grave. Ce qui est important, c’est de bien regarder la correction et les noms de glyphes qui apparaissent.

Les glyphes ont un sens, et les phrases aussi, ce qui rend leur mémorisation à court terme facile, une fois qu’on connaît les noms des glyphes. Il y a des couples de glyphes complémentaires comme “create/destroy” ou “past/future” dont la forme graphique exprime le lien sémantique.

Si les phrases sont trop longues, tentez de retenir le premier glyphe — puis les deux premiers, etc.

Mais pourquoi se donner toute cette peine? Glypher apporte des bonus de matériel conséquents. Pas juste un ou deux items, mais carrément (si on glyphe sur des P8) l’équivalent de 3 ou 4 hacks. En moyenne, pendant une ferme, on arrive à 13 items par hack en glyphant. On voit tout de suite les implications… (Difficile de jouer sans matériel.)

Si on veut s’entrainer pour être en forme pour sa prochaine ferme, il y a des applications d’entrainement comme Glypher. La vitesse ne fait pas de grande différence au nombre d’items obtenus — il vaut donc mieux y aller lentement mais sûrement qu’essayer de battre des records et rater ses glyphes.

Savoir glypher est aussi important pour ne pas vous retrouver en pénurie de résonateurs. J’entends souvent des joueurs dire qu’ils n’ont plus assez de résonateurs de niveau 4 ou 6 (généralement ceux de niveau 5 ça va, vu qu’on hacke du 5 quand on joue seul).

Si on glyphe confortablement, non seulement on ne se retrouve quasi jamais à sec, mais en plus, on peut se permettre de tourner avec un stock minimal de résonateurs 4, 5 et 6 dans son inventaire, libérant ainsi de la place pour des items plus intéressants (comme des XMP, au hasard). Personnellement, je tourne avec entre 20 et 30 résonateurs 4 et 5, et un peu plus de 6 si je peux, 30-50, vu que je joue souvent solo. Mais je suis souvent à moins. Il est complètement inutile de se balader avec 100 résonateurs de niveau 5 dans son inventaire.

Comment je survis?

Déjà, il faut connaître le “truc” pour obtenir des résonateurs de niveau 4: déployer 8 7 6 6 5 5, puis hacker (en glyphant bien sûr). A ce stade du déploiement, le portail est de niveau 4, et on obtient donc des résonateurs 4. Qu’on peut ensuite déployer pour compléter le portail.

Le désavantage ici, c’est qu’on ne peut pas continuer à avancer, si on veut déployer proprement. Ça nous ralentit donc. Une alternative est de compléter le portail avec deux résonateurs de niveau 1, ce qui permet de continuer à marcher et de les upgrader une fois qu’on a fini de hacker le portail.

Pour les résonateurs de niveau 6, il faut être à l’affût des portails incomplets capturés par un autre joueur. Avec un 8 ou un 7 en place, on fait du 6. Quand je commence à être à court de résonateurs 6, il me suffit de croiser 3-4 portails ainsi que je peux “monter en 6″ pour me refaire un peu mon stock.

De façon générale, je garde toujours un oeil sur mon stock de résonateurs quand je joue. S’il est haut, je n’ai pas besoin de glypher et je peux donc jouer plus “vite” si je le désire. S’il est bas, je glyphe soigneusement.

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Stories to Listen to, Moderating Blog Comments, Teaching Blogging [en]

[fr] Deux ou trois épisodes de podcasts à écouter. Quelques réflexions sur les commentaires de blog (spam ou non?) et la difficulté d'apprendre à bloguer.

Listen to Greetings from Coney Island. I swear you won’t be disappointed. Just don’t make the same mistake I did, and be a bit distracted early on, not realising there are two parallel stories, told by two women with (to me) very similar voices. I actually reached the end of the story before realising I had missed the whole point, so I listened to it all again. It was worth it.

vue cham

Another episode of Love+Radio reminded me of a Moth story I heard quite a long time ago now. It’s about a volunteer at a suicide prevention hotline. That story made me understand something about suicide (which I am lucky not to know from the inside): it’s not about wanting to die, it’s about wanting the pain to stop. Like many Moth stories, it’s beautifully told and very moving. Well worth the small moment of your life you will spend listening to it.

I know, this blog is turning into a podcast review. But not only. See.

One of the challenges I face as editor-in-chief of Open Ears is approving comments. Not so much because we publish controversial articles that have people biting each other’s heads off in the comments (not at all, actually), but more because

  1. spambots are getting better and better at sounding human
  2. some humans are sounding more and more like spambots.

About the latter: people like me have been saying for years that a great way to get your website or blog known is to comment on other blogs. But that’s not quite the whole story. Aligning fluffy or self-promotional comments on other people’s blogs might get your “nofollowed” links out there, but isn’t really going to do what matters, which is encouraging people to actually know you and read your stuff because they’re interested. Clicks and visits only really mean anything if they come from the heart.

So what does work? Well, actually, being a valued member of the communities you are part of. At the time, during the Golden Age of Blogging, leaving meaningful comments on blogs you read and linked to was a way of being that. It’s not about the links, it’s about the place you respectfully take or are given willingly. Add value. Be helpful. Try and make friends. That’s the spirit of “leaving comments”.

Which brings me to an important piece of blogging advice I came up with while trying to teach my latest batch of students the basics of blogging (it was, to put it kindly, a mixed success): blog about stuff that’s in your head. Write about what you know. If you have to google around to factcheck this or that, find a link, or look up a detail, that’s fine. But if you find yourself doing research and reading up to gather the material for your blog post (and the post is not about your research), chances are you’re “doing it wrong”.

Blogging is this weird thing which as at the same time so easy (for “natural bloggers”) but so hard to learn or teach. I think that is because it touches upon “being” more than “doing”. It’s about daring a certain degree of authenticity that we are not encouraged to wear in our school or professional lives. And it’s definitely not how we learn to write. In a way, teaching blogging is a bit like trying to teach people to dare to be themselves in public. This makes you think of Brené Brown and vulnerability, does it not? Exactly. And that is why, I think, blogging is a powerful tool to connect people.

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Back On The Heat Wave [en]

[fr] L'oeil qui voyait trouble? Pas un coup de soleil, mais un mini corps étranger métallique. Oui, ouille. J'en ai monstre marre de voir flou de mon oeil dominant, juste là.

It was much cooler up in the mountains. Here I am in Lausanne, with another heat wave hitting us. Or the same. I don’t know anymore, this summer has been endless days in survivor mode trying to keep my flat cool. The largest part of my flat faces southwest. As soon as it gets warmer outside than inside, I close everything. I close the blinds so the sun doesn’t heat my rooms through the windows. And late in the evening, when the temperature has dropped a few degrees, and the outside air is finally cooler than inside, I open everything wide.

heat wave 2015

No ceiling fans or AC here. Swiss buildings are designed to keep the cold out.

Remember the fuzzy vision I told you about a few days ago? Wednesday morning I headed over to Lausanne’s eye hospital. I spent most of the morning there. The fun bit is that I got to see two young doctors doing their internship. They were very friendly and relaxed, went through all the preliminary questions, examined my eye, tinkered with the devices in the room (they usually saw patients in another room, they explained, and weren’t familiar with this one), and then went to present my case to the doctor supervising them, who then saw me to close the case.

Turns out it wasn’t too much sun. Oh no. It was a speck of metal dust stuck in my eye, right in the middle. Tiny, a fifth of a millimetre or something. My first reaction was “OMG metal in my eye”, followed straight behind by “OMGOMG you’re going to have to remove it!” The doctor reassured me that this was something they did many times a day and was no big deal.

A few drops of anaesthetic in my eye, some deep breaths (well, I tried, at least) and clenched hands on the handles in front of me, staring straight ahead with my other eye, straight ahead, very important not to move, straight ahead… and that was it. He scraped out the nasty little thing from my eye. Oh, and a tiny layer of my cornea, too, he explained. (Luckily I’ve had enough feline eye adventures with Sir Quintus that this didn’t alarm me. But still.)

So, now I’m left with gooey antibiotic drops (we don’t want an infection there) and still-blurry vision. It’s really making reading (on-screen or off-screen) difficult and frustrating. The blurry eye is my dominant eye, otherwise it wouldn’t be so bad. It still hurts a bit at night, but hopefully the pain should go away in a few short days. I don’t know about the timeline for the blurry vision, and it’s starting to distress me. The nurse on the hotline suggested I give it the week-end and come around on Monday if it was still bad. At this stage what’s going through my mind is “I hope I get all my vision back at some point” and “I hope it doesn’t take too long, because it’s starting to impact my ability to work”.

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Fuzzy Vision [en]

[fr] Encore du vrac!

Watch, if you haven’t watched it yet, the video on managing unconscious bias at Facebook.

And, just because I thought of it right now this second, this documentary on Yusuf Islam, the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens. He tells a very moving story of his religious journey, from the early days when he was “a pop star” to now. (Remember the “Salman Rushdie incident“? Not surprisingly, it’s not what you thought it was, just like the story of the lady suing McDonald’s for spilling hot coffee on her lap is not what you thought.)

Note to Self” was formerly called “New Tech City“, and it’s a podcast on the human side of the digital world. Exactly what has been of interest to me these last fifteen years. I recently liked this episode about reading. There are two different types of reading skills we need to develop in today’s world:

  • slow reading: the type we learned at school and practiced before the internet. Reading a novel. Reading complex, complicated stuff we need to digest.
  • skim & skip reading: the type we do online, always interrupted, always jumping off to something new, going through large quantities of information quickly.

Both need training. But our brain adapts to the second type so well… we need to remember to practice the first type. It will come back. I still read books (Kindle…) and I’m going to make sure I set aside some regular phoneless reading time in future.

Hiking yesterday, I realised that there really is a technique to walking on a mountain trail. Specially going downhill. I don’t know how I learned this, if somebody taught me or if I figured it out alone. Shift weight gently, don’t just dump all your weight on the next foot as soon as it hits the ground. Do it in a way that you can backtrack if you start slipping. Remember your knees (and ankles) are there to absorb shock (too many concussions have taught me to be sensitive to this). So bend your knees. Don’t plonk your foot down with a locked knee.

Vue depuis le Chamossaire

And when it’s too steep, or there is a really big step to go down, and your back leg is not willing (or strong enough) to let you down gently? Squat first on both legs. Then take a step down from that squatting position. Easy!

Fuzzy eye? Articles need titles, don’t they. I seem to have managed to sunburn one of my eyes two days ago, and my vision out of it is still fuzzy. Probably nothing serious, but as it’s about an eye, I’ll do what my vet says and not mess around. Doctor today or tomorrow.

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A Patchwork Post From The Chalet [en]

[fr] Plein de choses en vrac. Y'a des liens qui mènent vers des trucs en français.

I keep falling into this trap. I don’t blog about something because there is something else, more important, that I should blog about before and haven’t got around to writing.

In this case, it’s the fact that just over a week ago, I finally got to see Joan Baez live on stage. I’ve been listening to her since I was seven or so. I know most of her songs. I’ve always listened to her. And a few years ago I decided that I should really go and see her live soon, because, you know, she’s not getting any younger, and at some point people who spend their lives touring and singing on stage might decide that they want to stay at home and paint instead.

Joan Baez at Paléo

And she was coming to Paléo, in Nyon, just next door. I think I cried during the whole show — not from sadness, just from too much emotion. I was glad to be there that evening, because it was the evening to witness, with Patti Smith and Robert Plant, too. Isn’t it strange how somebody can be such an important part of your life (the soundtrack of many of my years, like Chris de Burgh) — and yet they have no idea you exist?

If you’ve never listened to Joan Baez, just dive into YouTube.

During the drive to the chalet a story came up on the podcast I was listening to which is exactly about that. The Living Room, a story from the podcast Love + Radio, which I’m going to add to my listening list as soon as I have a good enough data connection.

I finished reading “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” by Jon Ronson, after devouring “The Psychopath Test” these last weeks. It’s a great book. Anybody spending time online should read it. It’s important. With great power comes great responsibility, but we the people on Twitter and Facebook are not aware of the power we wield. The power to destroy lives. To get the gist of it, use 17 minutes of your life to watch Jon’s TED Talk.

My reading of this book coincides with the unleashing of online fury over the killing of Cecil the Lion. It has disturbed me deeply. I feel an urge to dig through my archives and see what my reactions to Jonah Lehrer and Justine Sacco were, because I remember the stories. I’m worried of what I may find. I will be watching myself closely in future.

I also find myself shy in speaking up against those piling on against Cecil’s killer. Oh, he has done wrong. And I have no love for hunters, and no love for hunters of big cats. But what is missing here is proportionality. And I am scared that by speaking up I will find myself faced with a wall of “you’re either with us or against us”, ie, if you don’t join the mob then you’re defending the killing of lions. Just the way last year I was accused of “encouraging pedophiles” and whatnot because I was opposed to a stupid piece of “anti-pedophile” legislation. To some extent, I feel like I have let myself be silenced. Parallels to be drawn with the harassment episode I went through earlier this year (more on that, someday, probably).

This interview of Jon Ronson for On The Media also gives a very good summary of his book.

(My only gripe with Jon Ronson and his book is that a blog is not a post, dammit!)

Two local newspaper articles made me react today on Facebook (they’re in French). One about “the ideal age to conceive” for women, and one about a carer who got bitten by a Komodo dragon at the Lausanne Vivarium.

The first made me jump up because alongside statistics saying “if you want three kids you should get to work at this age” we find things like “you still have a 40% chance of conceiving at 40″ and “don’t worry, it’s still quite possible to have children after 37″. Well, at 40 your chances of success through IVF are more around 10-15% — I’m curious where that “40%” comes from, and what it’s supposed to mean. Certainly not “4 attempts to conceive out of 10 succeed” but more “4 women out of 10 who are ‘trying’ (define that) succeed”. Another topic that’s keeping me from blogging about other stuff, because I have so much more to write about not having children. Well, you’ll get it in tidbits, it seems.

As for the second, well, I was expecting a “scare” piece. “Look, the dangerous animal.” Or “look, another negative story for the Vivarium” (which was running out of funding a couple of years ago). To my surprise the article was really good (edit: wow! they seem to have changed the title!), with the carer explaining how she was actually responsible for how the animal had reacted, and that showed how affectionate she was towards it despite the bite. I realised that reading the title had prepared me for “bad journalism”. But going back to it, the title was quite neutral: “Vivarium carer bitten by komodo dragon”. And so I wonder: how could the title have been better? Tricky.

Up in the mountains, in my chalet with almost no data connection, it’s easy to slow down and “do nothing”. A couple of weeks ago I decided I was going to consciously try and do less things in parallel, both on a micro and a macro level. Monotask more, multitask less. Try and keep my number of “open projects” under control. My podcast-hopping brought me to the “Bored and Brilliant Boot Camp” episode the other day. It really drove home the fact that my brain needs downtime. Bored time. And probably a holiday (I haven’t had a “real holiday” (= with no work to do) in much too long, and I’m starting to feel it. How did that happen? I thought I was over that.) So now, I’m paying more attention to where my phone is, and trying to keep it more in my bag and less in my hand, more in the other room and less just next to me.

That’s it for today, folks. My plan is to write again tomorrow. Or the day after. Let’s see if it materialises.

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Hangouts: Watch Me Run Screaming From Dark Green Conversation Bubbles [en]

[fr] Vous avez vu la nouvelle version de Hangouts pour iOS? Texte blanc sur fond vert, donc lisibilité décrue, pour le texte de votre interlocuteur. Révolte! Je reviens à la version précédente...

I’m generally pretty good at dealing with my internal resistance to change when it comes to upgrading software. I know that we get used to a lot of things.

But Google have crossed the line with their new iOS version of hangouts. So, for the first time in my life, I’m actually downgrading the recently upgraded apps on both my iPhone and my iPad. I know it’s not a permanent solution, but maybe somebody at Google will realise that reading white text in a dark green bubble set against a light background makes for a rather unpleasant reading experience.

A picture is worth a thousand words, so head over to this review with screenshots to see what I mean (the one below is lifted from there). Sure, it’s pretty, but what about readable?

old vs new Hangouts

The old version of hangouts served similarly contrasted text for the whole conversation:

  • your interlocutor’s words on a white/light background, with dark text
  • your words in the same text colour but on a light green background, so slightly less contrast (you don’t read your words that much… right?)

Compare to now:

  • your interlocutor’s words are white text on a dark green background, set against the light background of the app (reminder: this is the text you’ll be reading all the time)
  • your text is dark on a light background

WTF?!

Inverted color schemes are less legible.

Too much contrast hurts legibility as much as not enough can. (Yes, the page is old and ugly.)

Check out some research:

From these results, one can say that contrast affects legibility, but unfortunately, it does not seem to be as simple as high contrast being better than low contrast. In the main experiment, GN/Y had the fastest RT’s, and in the control experiment, medium gray, and dark gray had the fastest RT’s. In neither experiment did the BK/W condition show the fastest RT’s. These results show that these participants had faster response times when more median contrasts were used. These results supported Powell (1990), who suggested avoiding sharp contrasts, but did not fully support Rivlen et al. (1990), who suggested maintaining high contrast.

According to a manual by AT&T; (1989), the direction of the contrast (dark on light, or light on dark) might also affect legibility. When light text is placed on a dark background the text may seem to glow and become blurred; this is referred to as halation, and it may make the text harder to read. Some evidence for an effect of halation was found in the current experiment.

(via Coding Horror)

You’d think they would have paid more attention to readability for an app many people (myself included) spend pretty much all day using. How did this get out of the door? And why is it still out there?

Give me a sec while I go grab my pitchfork, I’ll meet you down in the street.

Mood: horrified.

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A Post About Many Things [en]

[fr] Des choses en vrac!

It happened again. As time goes by and things to say pile up, the pile weighs heavy on my fingers and blog posts don’t get written. Been there, done that, will happen again.

First, a heartfelt thanks to all the people who reacted to my post about being single and childless, here and on facebook. Rest assured that I actually rather like the life I have — it’s full of good things. But it’s very different from the one I imagined. I will write more on this, but exactly when and what I am not sure yet. Also, one can grieve not being a mother but not want to adopt or be a single parent. There is a whole spectrum of “child desire”, and it’s not at all as clear-cut as “no way” and “I’ll do anything”. Check out “50 Ways to Not Be a Mother“.

Most of my working hours are devoted to running Open Ears and a series of digital literacy workshops at Sonova. I’m still way behind on my accounting.

Tounsi (and his pal Quintus) went to see an animal behaviour specialist, because I was starting to get really fed up cleaning after Tounsi’s almost daily spraying in the flat (thankfully his pee doesn’t smell too strongly and I’m good at spotting and cleaning). I plan to write a detailed article on the experience in French, but it was fascinating and I regret not going earlier. As of now, spraying is pretty much under control, and I’m in the process of finally chucking and replacing two pieces of furniture which are soiled beyond salvation.

What I learned:

  • outdoor cats can also need stimulation (play, hunting…)
  • even a 20-second “play session” where the cat lifts his head to watch a paper ball but doesn’t chase it can make a difference, if this kind of thing is repeated throughout the day.
  • making cats “work” for their food can be taken much further than feeding balls or mazes: change where the food is all the time (I wouldn’t have dared do that, didn’t know if it was a good idea or not, but it is); hide kibble under upturned yoghurt cups; throw pieces of kibble one by one for the cat to run after (another thing to do “all the time”); use an empty egg-box to make kibble harder to get to; etc. etc.
  • clicker training for things like touching a reluctant cat: my baby steps were way too big and my sessions way too long
  • Feliway spray is way more efficient than the diffusor (at least to stop spraying)
  • cleaning with water (or water and neutral soap) is really not enough, there are products to spray on soiled areas which break down urine molecules (even if you can’t smell anything, the cat can)
  • spraying can simply be a “vicious circle” — it seems to be the case with Tounsi: he sprays in the flat because it’s a habit, and because there are “marking sign-posts” (ie, smell) everywhere

While we’re on the topic of cats, I’m playing cat-rescuer and looking for homes for Capsule and Mystik (together, used to living indoors but that could change) and Erika (has been living outdoors for 5 years but super friendly).

I don’t think I mentioned StartUp podcast or Gimlet Media here yet. Anyway: want great podcasts? Listen to Startup, Reply All, and Mystery Show. And in addition to Invisibilia and those I mention in that article, grab Planet Money (I swear, they make it interesting even for me!), Snap Judgement (great storytelling), and This American Life.

Reading? Spin, Axis, and Vortex, by Robert Charles Wilson.

Something I need to remember to tell people about blogging: write down stuff that’s in your head. It works way better than doing research to write on something you think might be interesting for people.

Procrastinating and generally disorganised, as I am? Two recent articles by James Clear that I like: one on “temptation bundling” to help yourself do stuff while keeping in mind future rewards (delayed gratification, anybody?) and the other on a super simple productivity “method”. I read about it this morning and am going to try it.

Related, but not by Clear: How to Get Yourself to Do Things. Read it, but here’s the takeaway: when you procrastinate, the guilt builds up and you feel worse and worse. But as soon as you start doing it gets better. And so the worst you’ll ever feel about not doing something is just before you start. Understanding this is helping me loads.

Enough for today. More soon, or less soon.

Thanks to Marie-Aude who gave me a nudge to get back to this blog. I’d been in the “omg should write an article” state for weeks, and her little contribution the other day certainly played a role in me putting “write CTTS article” in my list of 6 things for the day. Merci :-)

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