Routine and Freedom [en]

[fr] La liberté, et la routine. Trop de liberté ne rend pas forcément plus heureux. Et si la liberté c'était de pouvoir choisir ses contraintes? Retour sur mon histoire avec la liberté et les habitudes.

Kites @ KepongPhoto credit: Phalinn Ooi

I think about routine a lot. I spent a lot of time when I was at university trying to be free. I was quite free, actually. Habits and routine are something we can get stuck in and that might shield us from seeing things we need to see — but I naturally gravitate to the other end of the spectrum, the introspective one, the one who thinks too much, wonders too much, asks herself too many questions. It was clear to me, already back then, that routine/habits had their use: they allowed us to lighten the load of thinking and deciding when it comes to our lives.

I spent ten years at university. Ten. Being a student. Three years studying chemistry (and finally failing), and seven years in what we call “Lettres”, studying History of Religions, Philosophy, and French. One of those years was spent in India. I then spent a lot of time not writing my dissertation. All in all, I spent many years with very long holidays and a very do-it-yourself schedule. It was a good time of my life. It was difficult to see it end.

Is freedom so important to me because of this slice of life, or did I hang out in that context so long because of how important it is to me?

Over the years, I’ve realised that “too much freedom” in the way I live my days does not make me happy. By that I mean complete lack of routine. Was it the first or second summer I was living alone in my first flat? A friend had used the kite metaphor: when you’re free, you let the string out and the kite can fly far, far up high. And I had let my kites go out a bit too far. University resumed, I drew my kites in.

In 2009, it felt like I had got my shit together. My life felt “under control”, in a good way. I wasn’t scrambling after things. If I remember correctly I was even doing my accounting regularly (that’s saying something). And I remember that during that year, I had a pretty solid morning routine. I actually would set my alarm clock. I would wake up at 7:30, and at 9:00 I would be at eclau to work, having pedalled on my stationary bicycle for a good half-hour.

Then 2010 happened. During my catless year, in 2011, I travelled way too much. I made up for all the previous years of no holidays. 2012 was chaotic. All that to say I never got back to where I was in 2009. Briefly, yes. But not consistently. And I know very well how important it is for me to have routines and good habits, so it’s something that’s often top of my mind. But I find myself coming short.

Things might be changing right now. This morning I wrote my first Morning Pages. (Loïc’s fault for mentioning them.) Last week, I got confirmation that Quintus is pretty much completely blind, and so I’ve been actively thinking about how to stabilise his environment — space and time. Quintus is a very routine-oriented cat. All cats are, to some degree, of course.

Blind Quintus Taking a Stroll

So between Morning Pages, cat-related routine, no money to travel (keeps me at home!) and wanting to get back on track when it comes to physical exercise (judo injury in March and slightly expanding waistline that doesn’t fit into favorite winter trousers anymore), the time seems ripe.

I’ve also been wondering recently if I’m not sleeping too much. One of my precious freedoms is not setting an alarm clock in the morning: I sleep as much as I want/need. But I still feel tired. So I think I’ll go with the 7:30 alarm for a bit and see if it changes anything. I’ll report back.

On another note, I sometimes feel like I spent a huge amount of my time in the kitchen dealing with food. I like cooking, and I like eating. But maybe I should limit the number of times I actually cook during the day. I eat a “normal meal” at breakfast, so I sometimes end up cooking three proper meals a day. I should probably reheat or throw something quickly together for morning and lunch, and just cook in the evening.

The biggest freedom might be the freedom to determine your own constraints.

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Facebook: Sharing or Showing Off? [en]

[fr] Une prise de conscience d'une part de l'effet négatif que peuvent avoir sur moi les publications positives de mes amis sur Facebook (je suis contente pour eux, mais en comparaison, suivant mon humeur, ça peut faire ressortir à mes yeux mon inadéquation), et d'autre part du fait que je contribue peut-être à cet effet chez les autres avec mes partages (de tout mon temps passé au chalet dans un cadre magnifique, mes voyages, la voile...).

A few months ago, I realised that certain posts that showed up in my timeline on Facebook didn’t make me feel very good.

  • another of my friends was writing a book
  • somebody else was hanging out with exciting “famous” people
  • yet another was pregnant
  • somebody had a new exciting professional gig

I felt happy for all these people, of course. Amongst my peers, I’ve been reasonably conservative about connecting with people on Facebook, and bar a few exceptions (that’s life), I’ve only friended people I like. So, when people I like are happy, or have a new exciting job, or are about to be parents, or lead exciting lives, I’m happy for them.

Neige et chalet 129 2015-01-18 17h45

But during times when I’m not feeling too good about myself or my situation, or going through a tough spot, or suffering a bout of self-doubt, learning about these good things in my friends’ lives actually brings me down.

The explanation is quite simple: social comparison. We tend to do that. Some more than others. We compare ourselves to others. It’s a background process, really, and I personally have a lot of trouble turning it off or at least down.

I’m somebody who is on the whole positive/optimistic about the internet, the digital world, social media. I think it is overall a good thing. For us as a society, and for us as people. So I’ve always looked at articles like this one with a bit of skepticism.

What I see described in some of these “facebook envy articles” doesn’t really fit with what I observe on Facebook. They sometimes paint a picture where people are actively putting their best foot forward and showing off the highlights of their lives, and others spend their time actively stalking their friends lives, seething with envy. I’m exaggerating a bit, but you get the idea.

Kolkata Streets 2015 38

When I noticed that learning good news about my friends’ lives was bringing me down, it took me a while to realise I was experiencing some form of Facebook envy — because the mechanisms I could see didn’t fit with what I had been (half-heartedly) reading about.

I didn’t see my friends as bragging. They were just sharing stuff about their lives. And of course, people are more likely to share “Yay got the book deal!” than “ate a cheese sandwich for lunch”. Or maybe they also share the cheese sandwich, but more people are going to like the book deal and comment on it. And so Facebook’s algorithm is going to push it to the top and make it appear in my newsfeed, rather than the cheese sandwich.

I also didn’t see myself as actively trying to compare myself with others. This was just part of the “keeping passively in touch” role that Facebook plays for me. Catching up asynchronously, and probably also asymmetrically. But behind the scenes, social comparison was working overtime.

Sailing in Spain

I learned to take time out. Leave Facebook for a while and go do something else. It didn’t spiral out of control. Yay me.

As I was becoming aware of what my friends’ posts was sometimes doing to me, I started having second thoughts about some of the things I was posting. You see, I have a chalet in the mountains, in a really picturesque area in the Alps. I go there quite often during winter, as I take a season ski pass. And I share photos.

What’s going on in my mind is not really “see how lucky I am”, but more “I’m aware how lucky I am and I want you to get to experience some of this too”. My intention is generous. It is to share so that others can benefit too.

But I’ve realised lately that this may not be the impact my posts have on others. My sometimes seemingly endless chalet and mountain photos might be for others what book deals and professional success in my newsfeed are to me.

Chalet

People with families, or two weeks of holiday per year, or who live in parts of the world that make travel more difficult or simply don’t have the means to move from where they are might feel (rightly) envious of some aspects of my life. I travel quite a bit. Aside from the chalet, I have a boat on the lake, go to India regularly. My freelance life has drawbacks, but one of the advantages is have is that I have quite a bit of freedom with my time and where I am, as some parts of my work are location-independant. And I live in Switzerland, for heaven’s sake.

Of course, I try to share the good things about my life, because I’m aware I’m privileged, and I don’t want to spend my time whining or complaining. I do complain, but about the small things, usually. Like people saying “blog” to mean “blog post”. The big things that bring me down are also much more difficult to talk about, and so I don’t often mention them. But I’m generally happy with my life and that is what I try to express.

Home

I don’t experience what I do on Facebook as “self-promotion”. Every now and again I “do self-promotion”. I write a post that really has to do with my professional area of expertise, or I share information about something I’m working on. But that’s far from the majority of my postings. Most of the time, it’s really just “oh, look at this, I want you to enjoy it too!”

Now, however, I’m more and more aware of the part I may be playing in fuelling other people’s social comparison blues. Am I going to post yet another photo of how beautiful the mountains are from the chalet balcony? Or showing that I’m sailing on the lake? Or that I’m hanging out with the cats again?

Furry Boys

I don’t know if I’m going through a realisation that will change what I post about or not. But it’s definitely changing how I think and feel, to some extent.

What about you? Do you get “bad feelings” seeing what your friends are upto? And do you think about what “bad feelings” you may unwittingly be eliciting amongst your friends through your postings?

And what is the solution to this?

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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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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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Adopting a New Cat: 10 Tips for Newbies [en]

[fr] Quelques conseils et tuyaux pour les personnes peu familières avec les chats.

Not everybody is familiar with cats. Here are some tips and advice for those of you who might find themselves a little at loss with their first adopted cat (or first “real” cat you have the full responsibility of).

Cats (2013 11) -- Mon petit panier de légumes

1. Cat psychology

The main thing to understand about cats is that they are naturally shy animals. They like sheltered places (under then bed) rather than big empty spaces (in the middle of the living room).

If your cat is spooked, leave it alone. It will end up exploring and coming to you, even though it might take weeks. The worst thing you can do is chase after a spooked cat to try and make friends with it. It’s said that cats like those who don’t like them, and there is some truth in there: people who don’t like cats leave them alone.

Cats don’t either like loud noises or brusque movements. To make yourself cat-friendly, avoid speaking too loudly and making scary noises. Move gently. (This is why cats often have trouble with children, who traditionally make a lot of noise and tear about the place ;-))

2. Cat language

Some cats are talkative and meow, others don’t. Meowing is a way of communicating with humans, so if a cat is meowing, chances are it wants something. Usually one of:

  • food
  • water
  • litter
  • to be let out of where they are
  • reassurance (which might not necessarily mean being scooped up and carried, but maybe just visual contact and hearing your voice)

Sushi en septembre 2

Cat body-language is unlike the dog’s: tail flapping is usually sign of annoyance or discontent (again, some cats have more wavy tails than others and might whip their tail around even when purring — but generally less tail movement = better). Ears backwards is fear. Big dilated pupils too. (Or anger.) Purring is usually good, growling and hissing isn’t.

3. How a cat explores

Most cats will explore only at the speed they’re comfortable. They might spend a lot of time exploring with their eyes/ears/nose first before coming out of their hidey-place. They’ll explore a little and then retreat to safety.

Cuisery 24

You and other humans are part of the territory to explore. If you’re away during the day, be sure the cat is making good use of that time to explore — or sleep!

4. Food, drink, and litter

At the beginning make sure that food, drink, and litter are close at hand for the cat. You don’t want it to go days without food because it’s scared (cats actually don’t do well without food for anything more than 24 hours). If the cat is not eating try and tempt him with something specially tasty.

Keep the litter tray as far as possible from the food and water. The cat might take a while to use it (they’re champions at “holding it in”, specially the “big business”, for what might be days). If you’re worried about time passing by and not enough going in or out of the cat, call a vet for advice with the specifics, they’ll be able to tell you if the cat needs medical attention or just a bit more time.

Most cats don’t like their water near their food. More than one water bowl is a good idea (I spread them around the flat). Avoid plastic for food/water bowls as many cats are allergic and develop acne on their chins.

Keep the litter tray very clean (remove whatever the cat does in it as soon as you see it). Open litter trays are more appreciated than covered ones. A few drops of bleach in the litter will encourage the cat to use it. (Remember, what smells nice to you doesn’t smell nice to the cat, so go gently on those litter deodorants or perfumed litter.)

5. Petting and carrying your cat

Cats usually like to be petted once they’re comfortable (and it can reassure them). Not all cats like to be carried. Scratching under the chin, on the head, stroking on the shoulders is usually safe. Scratching the lower back can be either much appreciated or set the cat off. Bellies are best avoided until you know for sure the cat wants it (rolling and showing you its belly does not always imply it wants you to touch it).

When you carry a cat, make sure you support its behind with one hand. Cats have their habits, so maybe your cat has been used to being carried a certain way. Try and see what your cat does when you pick it up and listen to its body-language, it might give you hints.

If your cat hits you or bites you when you pet it, it might mean

  • that it’s not comfortable enough with you yet (specially if it’s at the beginning and it’s still scared)
  • that it’s “over-stimulated” — there is a fine line between pleasant contact and contact that feels like an agression. In that case, learn to stop petting before it becomes unpleasant for the cat. Watch out for flicking tail, ears backwards, dilated pupils. With time (months/years) you will learn to know when to stop, and the cat will gently stretch out its comfort zone.

Max et Lilly à Saint-Prex -- Max

6. Approaching your cat

If your cat is shy, and even if it isn’t, avoid standing full height when you first approach it. Also avoid looking at it directly (staring is an agressive attitude). Look at the cat, look away, look at the cat, blink, look away, etc. Gently stretch an arm forward as far as you can and point your index finger at cat-height in direction of your cat — as if your finger was another cat’s nose.

Cats greet each other by touching noses, and you can mimic that with a finger. Approach your cat with your finger, very gently, and let it do the last bit (don’t ram your finger in its nose, leave your finger a few centimetres away and let your cat do the last bit). If your cat is scared and retreats, retreat too and try again later. Speak gently/softly when you do this.

Once the cat has touched your finger it will probably retreat a bit, or come and rub its head against your hand. Let it do it a bit, and then see if you can pet it a bit with a finger or scratch head or cheeks!

7. Enrichment: toys, outdoors, cat tree

Cats are hunters. They sleep a lot (upto 16 hours a day, mostly when you’re not around). If your cat is an indoor cat you are going to have to play with it every day. Here’s an article (in French) about how to care properly for an indoor cat. Expensive toys are not necessary (they bring more pleasure to you than the cat, so spend wisely). A piece of string or a rolled ball of paper you can throw are fine. Corks on a string and ping-pong balls are great. Fishing-rod style toys are good as they really help you be active with your cat. Clicker training is also something you might consider, as it’s a nice cat-human activity, and it can do wonders in getting a shy/less-sociable cat to bond with you.

An indoor cat absolutely needs a scratching post. It should be really sturdy and tall enough for the cat to stretch out completely when scratching (that can be over 1m high for a big cat!)

If your cat is going outdoors, wait at least 3 weeks to a month before letting it out. More if the cat is still not comfortable with you, doesn’t come when called, or is not quite at ease indoors. Here is an article (in French) that explains how I proceed for letting my cats outdoors.

A cat is going to be happier in a cluttered environment than in a place full of open spaces. It doesn’t mean you need to live in a mess, but particularly at the beginning if you can leave paper bags and cardboard boxes lying around, or a chair in the hallway, etc., it will make it easier on the cat (you’re creating hiding-places). It’s also important that the cat has somewhere to look outside. They’ll spend a lot of time “virtually hunting” just by observing the outside world.

Max et Lilly à Saint-Prex -- Attentive

You can create more “space” for your cat inside by thinking in 3D: where can the cat climb? This adds surface to its territory.

And indoor cat should have access to “cat grass” (usually wheat). You can get it in supermarkets or pet stores depending on your area or plant it yourself. They use it to purge themselves of the fur they ingest while grooming.

8. Education

The golden rule of education is: be firm and consistent. Imitate a mother cat with her kittens: if you decide your cat is not allowed on the kitchen table, a sharp “no!” and swift removal of the cat should work (just pick it up and put it on the floor, or if it’s skittish enough, chase it off with your hand — or it might just jump off as you approach). I usually continue saying “no!” in a stern tone until the cat is back in “permitted” territory. (Be reasonable though: a cat needs to be allowed on the furniture in general!)

It’s usually unnecessary (just sayin’!) to hit your cat. If you have a specially stubborn cat like my Tounsi you might have to swat it on the top of the head with two fingers (imitate a cat paw coming down sharply) but use this with care and circumspection.

What works better for cats who insist on getting into trouble (destroying your houseplants for example) is to run/walk fast towards them, yell or make a huge hissing sound when you get near (like an angry cat), and when they move, chase them away by running after them. This is really imitating what another cat would do.

This technique can also be used for a cat who does not know play limits and bites or scratches you. Stop interacting immediately, hiss and chase the cat away. Then ignore it.

Clicker training can also be a very useful tool for education. (Watch videos on YouTube if you don’t know what it can do.) It can help replace unwanted behaviours by wanted behaviours. Not to mention it can help with useful things like getting a cat into a carrier or having it let you examine its paws.

Quintus has no shame, comfort before everything 1

9. Safety

Open windows and unsecured balconies. Cats do fall from windows and balconies and injure themselves (the cat never getting hurt by a fall is a myth). Tilt open windows are dangerous for cats as they might try and get out through them and get caught in the crack (and die).

Some plants are toxic to cats (famously, lilies — Google will serve you umpteen lists). Antifreeze is very attractive to them, and deadly.

Be careful with power cords (risk of electric shock) and electric/ceramic cookers (burns). Don’t let them swallow string or ribbons (risk of intestinal occlusion).

Chocolate is toxic to cats. So are tomatoes and a whole lot of other human food that doesn’t agree with them well. Cats don’t digest milk, it gives them diarrhoea. They are strict carnivores and should normally not eat anything besides high-quality cat food. (Ask your vet for advice. Supermarket cat-food is usually suboptimal but some brands are good.)

Permethrin, which is found in some insecticides (including dog anti-flea products) is deadly for cats.

A cat which has not eaten for 24 hours is a medical emergency (risk of hepatic lipidosis).

10. Vet and carrier box

If you can, make sure you can get your cat into the carrier box before you need it (but don’t over-spook an already spooked cat by doing it unnecessarily). Leave the carrier outside for a few days instead of taking it out of wherever it is just when you use it. Lure the cat inside with treats. Let it come back out. Put a treat in the back of the carrier, close the door, give a treat, open the door again to let it out. With a bit of practice chances are you’ll have a cat that runs into its carrier to get a treat.

Ask your cat friends for a vet recommendation before you need one. If your cat seems to be settling ok, it can be a good thing to take it to the vet for an initial check-up. Like that the vet gets to meet the cat when it’s in good health and doesn’t need to be tortured too much 😉

Safran aime mon jardin palette 3

Eye issues shouldn’t wait before seeing a vet. Cats are fragile with colds, so a coughing, sneezing, or sniffling cat should see a vet quickly. Cats hide pain very well, so often the first sign you will notice of a cat not being well is that it’s more quiet, doesn’t want to play, isn’t eating much — or simply doesn’t follow its usual habits. If you notice such changes in behaviour, call your vet for advice and probably a check-up. It’s better to catch something minor early than wait too long and end up with a dead cat (sorry to be dramatic but these things happen).

Have fun with your cat!

There, I think I’ve covered the essentials. If you have any questions, use the comments. And have fun with your new cat 🙂

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Fiddling With Video: Lightroom, YouTube, and iMovie [en]

[fr] Je m'amuse avec iMovie. Ça donne une vidéo de chats, bien sûr.

In November, I had Thierry Weber come and give my SAWI students a short practical course about YouTube and online video. It gave me a kick in the pants to (1) accept that YouTube has grown up a lot since its early days and is now a nice platform and (2) decide to put more video material out there.

I still have issues with video: either you edit heavily, and it takes hours of work to get a few minutes out of the door, or you share raw, unedited clips and it takes a long time to consume, requiring the viewer’s undivided attention. Also, like audio, there is no way to really speed through video: if it’s an hour long, that’s the time it’ll take you to watch it. You have way less freedom than with text regarding which bits you skip, pay attention to, go back to, or pay little attention to.

I have hours of video shot in India in 2004 that I have not yet done anything with. And that’s just one example.

So, between the kick in the pants, the HD iPhone always at hands, and cats (the primary source of all online content), I’ve been doing more video these last months. Some of them have ended up on my YouTube channel, but not many (can you imagine I actually have the username “steph” on YouTube? yeah.) But most of them are sitting on my hard drive due to logistical difficulties in turning them into something. (Ugly sentence, sorry.)

Today I had made enough progress sorting my photographs that I felt it was time to tackle my videos. Here’s a peek at how I’m doing things.

  • Firstly, I import all videos into Lightroom with my photos, be they from the iPhone or my proper camera.
  • I use Lightroom to organise them in a separate folder than the photos (per month) and topical subfolders if needed. This means that in my 2013/03/ photos folder, in addition to the various photos subfolders I may have (2013/03/Cats at the chalet or 2013/03/Mountains) I will have a folder named 2013/03/videos 03.2013 which might contain 2013/03/videos 03.2013/Cats in chalet garden and a few others, feline-themed or not.
  • If anything needs trashing, I do it in Lightroom, ditto for renaming. Clips can also be trimmed in Lightroom if I haven’t done it before on my iPhone (oh, a note about that: a clip trimmed on the iPhone isn’t recognised for import by Lightroom; it seems that restarting the phone gets rid of the issue.) If I’m going to upload individual clips to YouTube I keyword them “YouTube” and upload them directly to YouTube from the website.
  • For stuff I want to edit: I import the clips I need into iMovie (hopefully I will have collected the clips needed for one project into one single directory in Lightroom, like 2013/01/videos 01.2013/India snippets and keyword them with “iMovie” in Lightroom. This means they exist twice on my hard drive, but I don’t think there is a good way to avoid that (except maybe trash the Lightroom versions, which I’m loathe to do because I like the idea of having all my video stuff organised somewhere, and I like the way Lightroom does it better than iMovie).
  • My video editing skills are extremely limited: today I figured out (without access to iMovie help, which is online!) how to add a title and credits to my little series of clips stuck together end-to-end to create a mini-movie. Head over to YouTube to see my cats explore the big outdoors are the chalet for the first time.

There we go, more cat videos on the internets from my part!

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Samedi soir fatigué [fr]

[en] Tired Saturday evening post.

Après quatre jours de SAWI (module 4), je suis raide, mais contente. C’est surtout aux étudiants qu’il faut le demander, mais je crois que ce module s’est vraiment bien passé.

Je voulais aller au cinéma hier soir mais je n’ai pas eu le courage de m’extraire de chez moi. Aujourd’hui, par contre, je m’y tiens. J’ai besoin d’aérer mon cerveau avant que la semaine prochaine démarre (une demi-journée de consulting, une conférence, une demi-journée d’enseignement: je vais encore bosser samedi).

J’ai sorti les chats et fait une vidéo de Tounsi, qui est fort câlin ces temps. Période des chaleurs? Possible. Quintus et lui sont de plus en plus “copains”, si on peut dire. Sommeil “en contact” (ils aiment visiblement les deux assez un coin particulier sur le canapé pour tolérer la proximité de l’autre afin d’y être), un peu de judo, courses-poursuites dehors… Contente aussi.

Cats in Contact

En passant, j’ai remarqué la forte viralité des photos de Tounsi sur Facebook. Quintus est moins populaire, peut-être parce qu’il est moins comique que Tounsi, juste très très cute.

Tounsi Facebook screenshot

Quintus Facebook screenshot

Premier panier de légumes du jardin potagerPour la deuxième fois, je suis allée chercher jeudi mon panier de légumes du jardin potager. J’adore. C’est juste en face de chez moi. Je vous en dirai plus long dans un autre article.

Encore contente: #back2blog fonctionne bien cette fois aussi, et mon groupe Going Solo pour indépendants également. Tout baigne. J’ai juste un peu trop de pain sur la planche d’ici fin avril.

2ème Back to Blogging Challenge, jour 6. Bloguent aussi: Nathalie Hamidi(@nathaliehamidi), Evren Kiefer (@evrenk), Claude Vedovini (@cvedovini), Luca Palli (@lpalli), Fleur Marty (@flaoua), Xavier Borderie (@xibe), Rémy Bigot (@remybigot),Jean-François Genoud (@jfgpro), Sally O’Brien (@swissingaround), Marie-Aude Koiransky (@mezgarne), Anne Pastori Zumbach (@anna_zap), Martin Röll (@martinroell), Gabriela Avram (@gabig58), Manuel Schmalstieg (@16kbit), Jan Van Mol (@janvanmol), Gaëtan Fragnière (@gaetanfragniere), Jean-François Jobin (@gieff). Hashtag:#back2blog.

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CatBlock Fills Your Internets With Cats [en]

[fr] CatBlock vous montre qu'internet est fait de chats. Miaou!

The other day, Anna told me I should blog about CatBlock for Chrome. Here we go.

You knew the internet was made of cats, right? Well, instead of simply hiding ads like AdBlock, CatBlock reveals all the hidden cats inside them.

Since I’ve been using it, it has greatly helped me get my daily cat fix. Yes, with CatBlock, my work is no longer interrupted by a sudden urge to run off and look at cat pictures on Tumblr or I Can Has Cheezburger. (Or wherever the cute cats are hiding nowadays.)

See it in action:

Blog with CatBlock

Blog with Cat (CatBlock

Une Nuit au Sahara -- catblock

catblock -- rencontre sérieuse

You can even send in photos of your own cats if you like. Did you spot Safran?

And if you’re not that into cats, you can tell CatBlock to display pretty much anything: unicorns, dogs, or even motorbikes.

Go download AdBlock/CatBlock, which started off as an April Fools’ joke. You’ll have to pay a small monthly fee but it’s a great way to support the developer of AdBlock.

Meow!

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Cats Online: Quintus and Tounsi [en]

[fr] Photos et vidéos de chats 🙂

Being a proper cat lady and an expert in social media I of course make sure my cats’ online presence is at least decent. Twitter doesn’t work too well because we only have one phone for the three of us, and I get to use it most of the time. On Facebook, I have thankfully (for my friends) joined a francophone “cat people” group where I post most of the kitty photos I take. Quintus and Tounsi do have their own presence on Facebook, though it’s spotty at best. (Do please like them, it’s good for their egos.)

During the last module of the social media and online communities course I direct, Thierry Weber came to give a couple of hours of training on YouTube and online video. I “played student” for the occasion, which inspired me to tinker a bit more with video in the future. I actually did some “videoblogging” early on, and was a rabid user of the initial Seesmic, but never really got into YouTube. Probably because I joined it early on (my username is “steph“, that should tell you) when it was still really crappy. (Which is why I used to post more to DailyMotion or Viddler.) I’ve also always found messing around with video formats and codecs and upload size a real nightmare, but now it’s much easier. With an iPhone and a programme like iExplorer to get the videos off it (warning: you have to pay), I’m actually looking forward to making some videos while I’m in India next month. Oh yeah: video editing… not so much for me. I shoot short sequences, throw them online, and that’s it.

So, without further ado, cat photos (Tounsi and Quintus) and videos from the last days.

Enjoy!

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How Was 2012 So Far? [en]

[fr] 2012, année chaotique, mais qui se termine avec un retour vers la stabilité. 2013 s'annonce plutôt bien.

A conversation last night had me thinking back about the last few years. This morning, I stumbled upon this post that I wrote end 2009.

2009 was a good year. I felt like I was getting my act together. Everything came crumbling down in 2010, my “shit year“, and 2011 was largely a year of grieving. Healthy grieving, I’d like to add. Not easy to go through, but a hugely empowering life experience.

What about 2012? Well, it’s not quite finished, though I have two weeks of Lausanne life to go before heading off to India for my annual vacation. So I might as well look back now.

2012 has been chaotic. It’s been a year of changes and uncertainty, both personal and professional. You know how at times you feel like your life or a relationship has not reached its point of equilibrium? That it’s in flux, going somewhere, but not there yet? That’s what 2012 has felt like. On a very practical day-to-day level (the most important one, actually!) I adopted two cats, lost one two months later, and brought another one back from the UK just about a month and a half after that. It may seem like nothing, but for somebody who sometimes finds day-to-day life a bit of a challenge, it was quite a disruption in my life, and whatever was left of the routines and habits I’d formed the previous years kind of flew out the window. To give just one example, I climbed back on my exercise bike for what is possibly the first time in 2012… yesterday.

Tounsi & Quintus à l'eclau, proximité 3

In addition to that 2012 came with its lot of work changes and uncertainty: the end of a long-standing gig, two other important sources of work and revenue left hanging for quite a few months, growing dissatisfaction with the social media industry and figuring out where I want to go these next years…

All this shuffling around was taking me somewhere, and I think that with the year wrapping up, I’m pretty much there. Things are stabilizing. (Proof if needed: In addition to climbing back on my bike, I cleaned the dust webs off my ceiling again this week-end, something I’d been doing regularly in 2009 but that disappeared sometime between now and then.)

2013 is looking good — and exciting.

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