Quel chenit! [en]

Il y a un tel chenit chez elle qu’elle passe un mois à ranger. Les objets ramènent des souvenirs qui lui refont vivre les moments forts de son existence extraordinaire.

Chaque fois que l’histoire s’est faite, elle était là.

Derrière la scène, dans l’ombre, mais là.

Elle pourra enfin mourir.

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Vie de chat [en]

Installé bien au chaud, je l’attends.

Elle me prend dans ses bras, me raconte sa journée; je lui fais des bisous félins.

Un fracas terrible: elle tombe, inerte, le monde s’écroule autour de nous, je m’enfuis.

Trois ans d’errance dans la ville dévastée, pour retrouver enfin un foyer.

Sans elle.

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Dernière [en]

Juliette quitte la classe en claquant la porte. Elle attend dans le couloir. Personne ne vient la chercher.

La cloche sonne. Le collège est immobile.

Elle entr’ouvre la porte: la classe est vide. Les autres également.

Elle est la seule rescapée d’une sinistre expérience scientifique. Ils l’attendent à la sortie.

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Snowed In (bis) [en]

The endless snowing had to stop. The elders sent Julian off to negotiate with the gods. He travelled across the country, picking up companions on the way. The gods told him the horrible truth — great sin had been committed. He repaired the harm and brought back warmth and sun.

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Snowed In [en]

Without warning, the temperature dropped and it began to snow. It snowed without interruption for forty-five days. Ten months later, they had dug tunnels under the snow all over the city. Julian set off to fix the weather. Negotiating with the gods was tough, but he struck a good deal.

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Taboo [en]

More and more words were forbidden. The simplest conversation became a minefield.

Punishment was terrible: blanking. She’d been through it before. The isolation was unbearable.

They took away her words again, and she killed herself.

A revolution ensued, upturned the Linguists, and gave the people of Otea their words back.

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Les vacances, les vacances! [fr]

[en] Off for the holidays. Some reading recommendations for my French readers.

Je me prépare à filer à la montagne. Pour cause de trop de travail et ensuite de trop de virus, je suis restée un peu clouée en plaine ces derniers mois, donc je me réjouis vraiment d’aller m’enterrer avec le chat sous des piles de neige!

Durant mon absence, n’hésitez pas à aller rattraper de la lecture en retard sur le blog des boulangeries Fleur de Pains (je l’anime à coups de reportage, par exemple sur la Saint-Valentin ou la fabrication des financiers au chocolat& miam!) et sur le blog de voyage d’ebookers.ch, où je suis responsable de coordonner les publications de sept blogueurs enthousiastes qui partagent récits de voyage et bons plans tournant autour de multiples destinations.

Quant à ma petite personne personnelle, si vous n’avez pas consulté récemment Digital Crumble, mon tumblelog, je vous invite à le faire (et à ouvrir votre propre tumblelog, pendant qu’on y est).

Je serai complètement déconnectée en montagne, mais si vous avez de la chance, je vous enverrai quelques photos via Twitter.

Ah oui! Cela fait des semaines que je veux écrire un article en français sur Ada Lovelace Day, qui aura lieu le 24 mars. Il s’agit d’une journée où les blogueurs écriront un article consacré à une femme qu’ils admirent dans les sciences et les technologies. Si vous n’êtes pas encore inscrits, allez le faire — et l’excuse “je ne vois pas de qui parler” n’est vraiment pas valable. Vraiment. (Parce que si c’est vrai, ça montre à quel point une telle journée est nécessaire, et il vous faudra donc y prendre part, quitte à vous creuser un peu les méninges, non?)

Allez, bonne semaine. La mienne le sera, ça c’est sûr. :-)

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A Week of FlyLady Inspiration [en]

[fr] Une semaine à faire 15 minutes de rangement par jour. Les petits pas fonctionnent pour moi! Mon hall d'entrée est rangé, et plein d'autres changements sont en route.

Last week-end, I wrote about the Wisdom of Incremental Change, or something like that. I’ve spent a week now on my FlyLady-ish programme, and am reporting now to the world so you can witness my progress.

Huge progress.

I feel like I have a new life. I feel like soon, I’ll actually be able to bake cookies (one of my fantasies, representing a stress-free life where one has enough time to do useless but pleasant things like baking cookies).

Here’s what I’m doing:

  • morning routine (includes making the bed and rincing the bathroom sink clean)
  • unclutter 15 minutes a day
  • evening routine (includes checking my calendar for the next day, planning train times, and major work activities)
  • clean sink, bathtub, two counters, mirror and toilet with detergent on Sunday
  • clean kitchen sink with detergent on Sunday
  • empty my GTD inbox 15 minutes a day
  • Sunday = bath day!
  • generally, keeping clean/uncluttered areas that way
  • going to bed at midnight (Cinderella technique)
  • set alarms for all regular things throughout the week, including mealtimes

Here are the things I’m thinking of slowly easing into my routines; not all at once, but next on the list:

  • set Roomba to work in a different room each day
  • go through projects, clients, and tasks 15 minutes a day
  • prepare stuff I need the night before (ie. judo bag, snacks)
  • set alarms for snacks between meals
  • do “weekly home blessing” (not right away though)
  • get an indoor bicycle for my bedroom and cycle 20 minutes a day on it
  • add stretching and other exercises to my morning and evening routines (gradually)

It’s interesting how cleaning/uncluttering is contagious: in addition to straightening out my hallway (photos below) I also emptied my big suitcase (it had been lying around since October with stuff still in it), but a few hooks up in the kitchen, and removed all the dead leaves from my plants (poor neglected plants).

Equally of note, I put my clean laundry away the very day I unhung it (it’s easier when the last load of clean laundry isn’t still lying around the room), cleared out my fridge before I went shopping, and threw out a few scary things that were in my freezer (like 2 or 3 year old chicken legs and fish).

Here’s a before and after pair of photos taken from my hallway; click on the photos to read notes:

next cluttered-up space in the zone Uncluttered hallway

I’ve also reorganised the entrance part of my hallway (again, click for notes):

Uncluttered and reorganized hallway

I realised that I have a lot of stuff in my flat which has no home. But I also have lots of spaces which are not home to any stuff. For example, those white shelves in my hallway where just layer upon layer of “things dumped here”. What are they going to be home to? As you can see in the notes, I’m trying to figure out what to put in them — but I’m sure it’s not final. I have cupboards and drawers which are just full of “stuff” that was dumped there at some point when I moved furniture around — I need to have a long hard think about what goes where at some point. (That’s an idea for a future blog post: a list of stuff that I’m keeping but I don’t know where to keep.)

A side-effect of this “more sleeping, more cleaning” regime is that I’m way less stressed (I feel like a big cloud has lifted off my life) and I’m taking time to do things, like eat and cook. I cooked my first chicken last night, and today made chicken salad, chicken soup, and cooked some minced meat that needed it. I think that for quite a few years, I’ve put a lot of energy trying to “escape from” my flat (well, my chaos) when I was in it. Now, I’m happy to be around. Happy to see that I’m taking control of things.

2009 is the year of taking control of my life again. I’ve been letting it happen to me for way too long. So here we go:

  • keeping track of my finances with buxfer — which has a great iPhone site btw, and allows updates from Twitter, so you can enter all your transactions on the road if needed
  • regaining control of my living space with FlyLady
  • keeping control of the “stuff” I want to do with a sprinkling of GTD (and having an office).

I’m going to love 2009!

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The Wisdom of Small Changes: Incrementally Reclaiming My Flat [en]

[fr] Reprendre contrôle de mon appartement, un petit pas à la fois. Chaque jour, ajouter un nouvel élément à garder sous contrôle. Aujourd'hui, c'est nettoyer la baignoire.

Aussi, diviser l'appartement en zones, et travailler chaque semaine sur une zone, 15 minutes par jour.

Inspiration: toute une longue histoire personnelle, et le site FlyLady.

I’m going to tell you about my plan to reclaim my living space, little by little, over the next weeks and months. However, you know me — I’m first going to get sidetracked a little ;-) and tell you how I got where I am, and how the plan was born.

I have lived in clutter my whole life. Both my parents were pretty active clutterers too, so I guess part of the reason is “in the genes” (we recently cleared out the family home to rent it — oh, boy). Other reasons include the fact that there are much more fun things to do in life than clean/tidy (though annoyingly, each time I actually start doing these things I really enjoy them), and my natural tendency to “not do things” rather than “do things”.

I love living in a reasonably tidy place. It makes me less stressed. It makes me less depressed. It makes me happy to spend my days in an environment which is under my control, rather than a sprawling monster of Things. How to tidy my flat and keep it tidy is something that is always on my mental to-do list.

I’ve lived in my flat since I came back from India, over eight years ago. It has been cleaned more or less from top to bottom a few times since I moved on (in 2007, for example — check the “myflat” tag to see more pictures of my living space and its transformations through the years). Over the years, I’ve become quite good at keeping clutter off the floor, but that’s about it. Clearly, I lack a process to keep My Stuff under control. I have lots of stuff.

The importance of having processes in life was driven home by my foray into the GTD (Getting Things Done) method. So far, I have not succeeded in implementing GTD completely (I particularly suck at weekly reviews, I think I haven’t ever managed to do one). I do, however, use quite a lot of elements from this method:

  • ensure I have a system in which I can capture all the stuff that’s on my mind
  • have an inbox (though I don’t empty it very often, but at least it keeps all the stuff to be dealt with in one place
  • think in terms of “next actions” and “projects”
  • know that when I’m procrastinating, either I have too much stuff sitting in my head, or my next action is not clearly defined
  • use an A-Z classification system, with printed labels on folders, for all my paperwork.

The idea of having a process is underlying in two previous “housecleaning” articles: Taming the Dirty Dishes, way back in 2002, and Keeping The Flat Clean: Living Space As User Interface, in 2003. But it’s not quite there yet, or expressed clearly.

Two years, ago, I had a groundbreaking conversation about my diet with my Doctor. I was leading a very unhealthy lifestyle (even without smoking or drinking) and knew it, but I was so wracked with guilt and discouraged by the amount of changes I had to make to my life that I just didn’t do anything. He showed me how important it was to not disrupt my life and diet completely, but to make small easy changes like prepare a few leaves of lettuce while my pizza was warming in the oven, or cut up an apple before the meal so that I’d eat it for dessert.

A year ago, I officially rediscovered the importance of morning rituals. I’ve also come to accept that having some things under control is better than none, even if all the rest is going to the dogs. Last autumn, for example, I decided that even if my kitchen was a mess, I would at least keep the table clean and void of any clutter, so that I would have a nice place to eat.

Recently, I started cleaning my bathroom sink (almost) every morning. I don’t use soap or anything fancy, but I have a sponge I keep on the sink and I give it a quick wipe whenever I use it. Looking into a clean sink in the morning is clearly nicer than when it’s dirty.

Now that I’m in the habit of (#1) washing my bathroom sink (it doesn’t require any cognitive effort for me to do it, it’s just part of the things I do like brush my teeth or use my neti pot), I’ve started thinking about other small changes I could make. And I’ve already made some:

Last week-end, I decided that if I wanted to tackle this flat, I had to do it little by little. So, on Saturday a week ago, I did two things in that department: caught up with the kitchen dishes (they were running away again) and put the laundry away (I live out of the clean laundry basket). Oh yeah, and I got Roomba to work.

Cleaning my bathroom sink each morning has reminded me of FlyLady. I first heard about it when Florence Devouard mentioned it at Going Solo Lausanne. I didn’t really investigate it then, but filed it away somewhere under “system/community which starts with cleaning your sink, and then you add extra stuff to do each day”.

I looked it up this afternoon and spent a couple of hours reading through it. FlyLady is a system/community designed for stay-at-home moms, or “Sidetracked Home Executives“. It is e-mail based, and indeed, does start with getting you to shine your kitchen sink (read why) and get dressed to the shoes.

Are YOU living in CHAOS (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome) like Franny in the pink sweats? Do you feel overwhelmed, overextended, and overdrawn? Hopeless and you don’t know where to start? Don’t worry friend, we’ve been there, too.

Step through the door and follow FlyLady as she weaves her way through housecleaning and organizing tips with homespun humor, daily musings about life and love, the Sidetracked Home Executives (SHE) system, and anything else that is on her mind.

The whole tone of the site is very caring and motherly, with a lot of educational redundancies and extremely detailed instructions. The system actually instructs you to stop and rest for 15 minutes doing something you like, or to only declutter for 15 minutes at a time. Some of it might make you cringe, or laugh a bit if you’re a computer geek, but I really think they’re onto something and it’s well worthwhile spending some time reading the various pages on the FlyLady website.

Obviously, I’m not a stay-at-home mum and I don’t own a house, so I’ll be taking a shot at my personal interpretation of the programme. Here are the ideas I like:

This “slow but steady” system reminds me a bit of dieting strategies. You’re better off with a diet that makes you lose weight slowly, and is in fact a lasting change to your lifestyle, than with a crash diet that makes you lose loads of weight but will see you put it all on again as soon as you stop.

Same with clutter: if you stop everything for three days to clean the house top to bottom, you haven’t in fact made any changes in the lifestyle that caused you to accumulate so much clutter in the first place. By changing things slowly, you’re actually making modifications to your lifestyle which will allow you to keep the clutter under control, rather than clean everything and end up knee-deep in clutter two months later.

As FlyLady says somewhere on her site (quoting from memory): “Your house didn’t get cluttered in a day, and it won’t become uncluttered in a day either!”

Browsing as I was writing this article has brought me over to SHE forums, a community which functions on “challenges” and peer support to deal with household tasks. Remember Website Pro Day and WoWiPAD? :-)

The FlyLady website method is actually based on a book, Sidetracked Home Executives(TM): From Pigpen to Paradise, and one of the co-authors has a site called The Brat Factor, which is all about taming your inner brat (there’s a CD and DVD involved, of course) — but it looks fun (that’s how you tame brats). Your inner brat is the part of you that procrastinates, leaves the dishes in the sink, doesn’t put the clean laundry away& know him/her?

So, I’m going to set my timer to do 15 minutes of decluttering in my hallway (zone 1, I’ll consider it’s already Feb. 1st). Each day, I’ll add a baby step to the ones I’m already doing. I’ll post each new baby step on my Digital Crumble.

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FriendFeed's Missing Feature [en]

[fr] FriendFeed, c'est bien joli, mais ça n'a jamais pris chez moi. Une chose que j'aimerais pouvoir faire (gravement!) c'est de visualiser tous les éléments de mon lifestream qui ont bénéficié d'un like ou d'un commentaire. Ça, ça serait du feedback utile qui me ferait visiter le site régulièrement. Après, qui sait, du moment que je suis là... j'y ferai peut-être un tour!

Every now and again, I hop over to FriendFeed. A couple of times a month, maybe. I like that FriendFeed gathers up all my stuff in one place (mainly Tumblr and Twitter these days).

Stephanie Booth - FriendFeed

Why don’t I head over to FriendFeed more often? Well, to me, it’s a bit noisy, and populated with “Social Media Experts” (legitimate and less legitimate). To keep in touch with what people in my world are doing, I have Twitter. To stay tuned to what they’ve found or are publishing, there are blogs and tumblelogs. I guess I just haven’t found a place for FriendFeed. I don’t want to have to “dive in” and look at everything. I also regret that there is a tendancy there to “like” or comment based on the title, rather than reading the whole thing. It’s not a crime, but it’s not really my cup of tea.

I think lifestreams have three main purposes:

  • first and foremost, for the person “owning” the lifestream (it makes us “feel” good to know that all the stuff is gathered somewhere, that there is a central repository of our expression online)
  • second and secondarily, it offers a “starting point” for somebody who has newly discovered another person online: if I start on FriendFeed, I can get a quick glimpse of what kind of things they blog about, if they tweet, if they have a tumblr, etc.
  • thirdly, FriendFeed can serve as a more global “catching up” place for people like me who don’t really read blogs and are generally pretty bad at staying in touch, and who wake up one morning thinking “Gosh, I haven’t heard about Josh for ages, I wonder what he’s been upto?”

Unless there are people out there stalking me, I am probably the most interested person in my lifestream.

What would make me go to FriendFeed more? Make it more about me. Each time I go to FriendFeed, I head to my lifestream page to see if people have liked or commented upon my stuff. There is a link I want to click, but that link is unfortunately not there. It’s the link that would show me my items which were liked or commented upon by others. And maybe (why not?) give me an option to filter “only liked and commented upon items” when I’m in “friends view”.

Stephanie Booth - Stephanie + Friends - FriendFeed

And it’s all very nice to allow me to filter an individual FriendFeed by source, but how about letting me filter the whole darn mess of my “with friends” page to remove all the Twitter and Tumblr feeds, for example, as I already get them elsewhere? Or show only del.icio.us links?

Maybe the layout of the feeds could be improved — I find especially difficult to sift through the stuff I want to ignore as is. And as for FriendFeed through Twhirl, well, sure, it’s running on my desktop, but I never look at it because way too much stuff goes through it each minute.

Give me some control, please.

So, recap, here’s what FriendFeed could change to have a chance of getting more pageviews from me:

  • let me view just my items which were liked/commented upon (instead of just letting me see my likes and comments, which is good, sure, but doesn’t do the same thing at all)
  • let me filter out for my “with friends” page certain services, like Twitter and Tumblr, or view only one or two services at a time.

Thanks for listening!

Edit, 10 minutes later: a list of “people who are subscribed to me but that I’m not subscribed to” would come in handy, too.

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