Music and Sadness [en]

Musique, émotions, larmes.

[fr] Musique, émotions, larmes.

This is a post I wrote over a year ago, in December 2014, but never published. It’s still quite true today. Since his death, I’ve been listening to David Bowie. I was very unfamiliar with his music and wouldn’t have listed him as an artist whose work I “liked”. Now, I’m discovering that there is actually quite a lot of his stuff I do like, and that I am finding an interest in the rest, even if it’s not my favorite kind of music. It feels like a different way of appreciating music from until now.

Emotions have always been hard. As far as I remember. Especially one, which all the others seem to hang on to. Sadness. Grief.

I can have trouble connecting to these sometimes difficult emotions. We all do, to some extent. Maybe? I’m not sure. Well, I have trouble connecting.

Throughout the course of my life, I’ve realised that there are two things that I do to help me connect, to help me feel: listen to music and watch fiction. Reading sometimes does it too, but less — I suspect it’s the music connection. Movies and TV series have music, in addition to a story.

Until about 18 months ago I was singing in a local choir. Too much going on, I had to make the difficult choice to stop. Since then, I haven’t been singing much. I got a car again earlier this year, and I sing in my car, when I listen to music.

Singing while commuting is what made me realize how important music was to me. When I was a teenager I would drive to school on my motorcycle, singing at the top of my lungs under my helmet. If I’m alone in a car, I’ll sing along to whatever I’m listening to.

Over the last year, despite the car, I have been listening to less music. I’ve been listening to podcasts, or more recently, audiobooks. Or I just haven’t been listening to much. The cable to connect my iPhone to my music player in the car is shot now, so I drive in silence. And I find that I’m not even really singing.

This year has been a difficult year. There will be more — much more — to write about on that topic. I have been keeping myself busy. With work, of course, but not being too much of a workaholic, with other things too: helping people around me with their problems (a big favourite of mine it seems), consuming fiction and non-fiction in various forms, and having an active social life, online and off.

And now that I’m stuck on a plane with my headphones in, listening to music because I’m tired and don’t trust myself not to fall asleep while listening to a podcast, I am taken over by a big wave of sadness. It’s not even very specific, sadness about this or about that. Oh, about a bunch of things, but it moves around. I don’t try to catch it. It’s just there.

And music brought me back to it.

When Do You Wear or Remove Your Hearing Aids? [en]

As the founding editor of Phonak’s community blog “Open Ears” (now part of “Hearing Like Me“) I contributed a series of articles on hearing loss between 2014 and 2015. Here they are.

As somebody with mild/medium hearing loss, I guess wearing hearing aids are more of a choice than a necessity for me. I mean, I functioned without them for nearly 40 years. Today I wouldn’t give them up for anything in the world, of course, and I really prefer wearing them for anything resembling human interaction. But I can get by without. (An audiologist I had a chat with one day told me I’d be surprised at how people with much more hearing loss than me “get by just fine” without aids. Anyway.)

So, when do I wear them, when do I remove them? As a general rule, I wear them when I leave the house. (My cats aren’t all that talkative.) I remove them when I get home. Since I got my V90 aids though, I often forget to remove them when I get home.

I don’t wear my hearing aids to watch TV.


I’ve been watching TV so long with headphones that having “ambient” sound on actually makes me self-conscious about bothering my neighbours with it (this is Switzerland). I used to always remove them to listen to music or podcasts. Now that I have the ComPilot Air II I sometimes keep them in (more for podcasts than music, with open tips there are frequencies missing for the music). If I’m travelling or wandering around on my own and not really expecting to interact with people I might take them out, too.

At judo training, I usually keep them in for warm-up and maybe the first rounds of “light” practice. Then I remove them so that I don’t have to worry about paying attention to what’s going on around my ears.

For skiing, I keep them in, despite the helmet. With my old Widex aids I’d given up on that (they really didn’t cope well with the helmet), but my current ones are fine. When driving, I sometimes wear them, sometimes not (depends if I was wearing them just before taking the wheel or not, I guess).

I also ended up removing my hearing aids once at a very noisy party. Even with the highest “speech in noise” setting, I actually managed better without them. But that was really an exceptional situation.

What about you? Do you put them in first thing in the morning and take them out last thing at night, or are you like me, sometimes in, sometimes out? And when? I’m curious to hear how other people do this. I suspect our wearing vs. not-wearing habits are also linked to how much hearing loss we have.

About Being Confused [en]

As the founding editor of Phonak’s community blog “Open Ears” (now part of “Hearing Like Me“) I contributed a series of articles on hearing loss between 2014 and 2015. Here they are.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been trying out a variety of hearing aids as part of my newly-found “guinea pig” position at Phonak. As a geek, I love playing with new technology and trying things out. As a person with hearing loss, I’m curious about how good things can get for me.

One of the challenges I’ve come upon trying out hearing aid solutions is confusion. You know what happens when you’re shopping for perfumes, and after a (short) while you can’t distinguish smells anymore? That’s a bit what it feels like with sound. Maybe it has to do with the rather strong “habituation” component there is in the way we process sound.

Some situations are clear-cut: for example, after trying out the Bolero Q90 hearing aids for a few weeks, I switched back to my Widex Clear 330 ones to see if I could spot a “reverse difference”. One situation where there was no debate was at the vet’s: I’d been going there regularly throughout my Bolero trial, and when I went back with my Widex aids in, I really struggled to understand what my vet was saying. The room is a bit echoey and she speaks quite fast. To make extra sure I wore the Boleros next time around.


I did recall that I’d always found it difficult in that room. Switching programmes, even turning my hearing aids off. But I completely forgot about all this as soon as the situation stopped presenting difficulties with the Q90 aids. See how it goes? We’re prompt to forget and get used to what we have.

Another situation was singing. I sing in my car a lot. With the Widex aids, I’d get “scratchy” noises on some notes when the anti-feedback mechanism kicked in. With the Boleros, no scratchy noises, but annoyingly vibrating notes (anti-feedback mechanism again, I’m told). With Venture, no scratchy noises or vibrating notes — a huge, huge improvement.

A few weeks back I tried “slim tips”, a light type of custom mold, so that I would have better music quality when streaming with my ComPilot. For that, it worked, but when I was singing, I couldn’t hear myself well enough at all. So that was also a clear-cut situation. (We still might be able to improve it, I haven’t abandoned the idea of a more closed fitting altogether.)

But most of the time, specially when we’re tweaking settings, it quickly gets really hard to know if things are better, worse, just different, or even, not different. My poor brain can’t follow.

One problem I identify is that comparison relies on memory. And also that the hearing situations we have problems with are often “out in the real world” and not in the audiologist’s lab. Maybe some form of distance fitting will help solve that — but the fact that we get used to what we’re listening to very fast seems to be here to stay.

Impressions on New Hearing Aids [en]

As the founding editor of Phonak’s community blog “Open Ears” (now part of “Hearing Like Me“) I contributed a series of articles on hearing loss between 2014 and 2015. Here they are.

As promised, here are my impressions of the Bolero hearing aids I’m currently trying out (hoping I don’t get any of the technical stuff wrong here, do tell me if I did!). They have open tips, like my Widex ones have, but are BTE (entirely behind-the-ear) rather than RIC (with the receiver, the part that produces sounds, directly in the ear canal — this would be the Phonak Audéo model, which I might try in future). My Phonak audiologist Jennifer tells me it doesn’t change much, acoustically: a RIC just moves some of the technology away from behind the ear, allowing the part that sits there to be smaller — important for those, who, like Steve, appreciate when their hearing aids are invisible.

Phonak Bolero Q90

The first thing that struck me with these aids was that there was less ambiant noise. Or less operating noise. Or different. I had the strange feeling I wasn’t really wearing hearing aids. There was probably a little less amplification than what I was used to, but clearly something in the sound texture too.

Voices felt a little tinny/reverb-y at first. Mine, Jennifer’s. Not unpleasant, but a little bit weird. Jennifer told me it was probably due to SoundRecover, which compresses high frequencies into a lower frequency region so we can hear them better. She warned me it would take some time getting used to. I don’t notice anything strange with voices nowadays, so I guess I did indeed get used to it!

I discovered that with Phonak there is a whole list of programmes the hearing aids can switch back and forth from, and which can also be set manually. I left my “main” channel in automatic mode to see how that worked, and for the other ones picked StereoZoom, which is optimised for speech in noisy environments, with a lot of noise reduction and a very narrow beam for amplification, speech in wind (for sailing), and a phone programme (right ear). The last position is a “mute” mode (indispensable for me).

The buttons on both aids have different roles: they can either be used to turn volume up or down, or switch programmes. The catch is that the left button is the “volume down” one, and the right button “volume up”. So as I wanted a “volume up” button, I had to have my programme switch one on the left — whereas it would have made more sense for me to have it on the right. I’m right-handed, and switch programmes more often than I increase volume. Oh well.

I can’t say I’ve used the phone programme much. I tried it, and it works, taking the sound from the right ear (the phone one) and channeling it into the left ear too. It’s pretty neat. But it requires positioning the phone in such a way that the hearing aid catches the phone sound (takes some getting used to) and pressing the phone against my ear with the hearing aid in it ended up being a bit too uncomfortable. So, for long planned calls I’ve reverted to my trusty earbuds. For impromptu calls I still tend to switch to mute, because background noise sometimes interferes with the phone mode (i.e., gets amplified too) and I don’t really feel like experimenting with acoustics when I’m on a call. I guess I should probably run some test calls to really try that mode out.

Given the lousy weather this summer, “speech in wind” has also been largely left aside, as it’s the programme I was planning to use when sailing. I like StereoZoom, though I sometimes have trouble determining if I should use it or leave the hearing aid in automatic mode, specially as automatic mode has a whole bunch of different programmes it can switch to and even blend.

While it’s nice to have a hearing aid that recognises the acoustic environment and chooses the best programme suited to it, it’s sometimes frustrating in practice. I’ll be in my car talking to a friend, and suddenly the quality of the sound changes and I have more trouble understanding speech. And then it changes back. Or I’ll be listening to music in the car, and one ear seems to be treating sound differently from the other. I find the whole concept of a hearing aid intelligent enough to know what it’s listening to fascinating, and would love to know more about how to the tech/programme works, but the control-geek in me would like to be able to have some kind of indication telling me which mode I’m in, and an easy way to override it.

I haven’t yet put my Widex aids back in my ears, which in my opinion points to how comfortable I am with the Phonaks. There’ll be a little tweaking to do next time I go to headquarters and see Jennifer (one ear is slightly less-amplified, and maybe I need a smaller size tip in one ear, we’ll see), and I’ll probably change my selection of programmes, including at least the music one.

LIft13, Mobile Stories: Christopher Kirkley, Sahel Sounds [en]

Here are my live notes of the Lift Conference session “Mobile Stories.” Keep an eye open for mistakes, inaccuracies, and other flakiness due to live-blogging.
Christopher Kirkley: Sahel Sounds

Camera and other functions supersede making calls. How technology has been adopted in a different culture challenges some of our ideas.

Initially thought the cellphone would interfere with his field work and recordings. Started to realize that the cellphones were also a tool (e.g. people recording local music productions).

The cellphone in West Africa is a little different from in the West. Cheap alternative phone market, converging technologies into one device. Memory card as personal storage space of all digital media. Photos reworked and passed from person to person.

People spend a lot of time sitting around and drinking tea, context where file-sharing can happen. So cellphone adapted as a sharing device. Bluetooth for direct file transfers. Browsing each other’s collections. This is how most media is traded. Emergent network: cellphones and people traveling from city to city. steph-note: back to a “slow” network with spatial highways

Metaphor for the internet. Has evolved differently from “our internet”. Most frequently shared data on mobiles is music. Soundscape has been transformed. Tinny cellphone music being played all the time, headphones pretty much inexistent. Home-made creations found only on the bluetooth exchange network. Most interesting music! Music would not be distributed without the cellphones (cheap!) About 15$ to record a song in a cheap studio (don’t need the best microphone…). You can walk out of the studio and immediately start sharing your song. Great method of distribution for music of ethnic minorities.

Shops which are physical versions of iTunes: you go and buy an MP3 song. Of course paying for the service and not the music (which isn’t perceived as having an inherent value). For artists: mp3 trading as a way of free promotion. A lot of artists are actually going to the mp3 vendors with their new songs so they will distribute them, sometimes even paying them to promote them.

Student who publicly shames a director for abusing students in exchange for grades, through a rap song. Song goes viral. Student expelled until he deletes the song, so he deletes it. But it’s already on the network, out of control.

Rise of the cyborg esthetic in Mali.

Urges [en]

[fr] Un vieux texte ressorti des brouillons.

A draft dating back from March 2010. Probably inspired by a dream.

Loud rhythmic music started drifting in the air, and the crowd on the festival river boats slowly went quiet. People stood up and started dancing and cheering.

I looked at Paul. We could feel the urge, but knew that giving in would only make it harder to resist what would come next.

Everyone sat down as the music went silent.

People looked at each other grimly. They knew that however strong the urge, they should not jump overboard.

In a flash, I noticed the group of children a few seats away.

“You! Come here right away!” I ordered.

A little bewildered, they came withing reach. People around me had understood, caught the children as they arrived, and sat them firmly in the seats next to them.

As for me, I grabbed two under each arm — two girls and two boys.

The girls didn’t budge, but the little boys started struggling and hitting me. I didn’t let go.

Donner 80%, ou la loi de Paréto appliquée aux métiers des idées [fr]

On est tous familiers avec la loi de Pareto: 20% d’effort pour 80% de l’effet, etc.

L’an dernier, à SoloCamp, Dennis Howlett nous en a proposé une application en réponse à la question (qui torturait plusieurs d’entre nous): sachant que donner gratuitement est une forme de marketing très efficace, surtout dans les métiers des social medias, où mettre la limite? Combien donner? Quand commencer à faire payer? Comment ne pas se faire avoir, sans pour autant devenir radins?

Eh bien, sa réponse m’a stupéfaite, j’avoue, et bien tranquillisée. D’après lui, quand on est dans les métiers de la “propriété intellectuelle” (en gros, ce qu’on offre à nos clients, ce sont principalement des idées), une bonne ligne de conduite est de considérer qu’on va donner gratuitement (ou presque) 80% et faire payer (cher) les 20% restants.

Donner 80%!

Je suis presque tombée de ma chaise.

Puis, sachant que Dennis est quelqu’un qui réussit plutôt bien en affaires, que j’avais depuis un moment le sentiment désagréable que je donnais de moins en moins et que mon business en pâtissait, je me suis un peu détendue, et j’ai décidé de garder en tête ce principe.

Et si j’y réfléchis et que je fais un peu l’inventaire de mon “travail gratuit”, je me rends compte qu’on y est assez vite:

– tout ce que je publie sur ce blog et ailleurs sur internet
– les Bloggy Fridays
– l’eclau
– les repas, pots, “petites discussions” où je fais du “consulting gratuit” en échange d’une pizza ou de la reconnaissance éternelle de mon interlocuteur
– organiser Going Solo et SoloCamp (c’était pas censé, mais ça a fini par l’être, du travail “gratuit”)
– les personnes que je dépanne à l’oeil, en ligne et hors ligne
– les interviews accordés aux journalistes, participations non rémunérées à tables rondes et autres événements…

Je pourrais continuer encore la liste.

Bien entendu, il y a un retour sur investissement, là. C’est mon budget marketing, si on veut, toute l’énergie que je mets dans ces diverses activités. C’est “ce qui me fait”, aussi, et j’en suis bien consciente. Mais rien de tout ça ne remplit directement le compte en banque: ça fait partie des 80% grosso modo de mon temps-énergie que je ne facture à personne, et durant lequel je “travaille gratuitement”, suivant quelle définition on donne à “travailler” et “gratuitement”.

Me voici donc à répondre enfin à M. Fontana d’Universal, mon interlocuteur contradictoire lors du “débat” sur le piratage à la RSR1 il y a quelques mois, lorsqu’il demandait (ironiquement et sûr de sa réponse) si j’avais l’habitude de travailler à 100% et de n’être payée qu’à 50%. (L’homme de paille favori de mes détracteurs concernant les questions de partage de fichiers semble être que je ne veux pas que les artistes soient payés pour leur travail…)

Oui, oui, Monsieur — et même plus que ce que vous imaginez. C’est comme ça que ça fonctionne, dans mon métier.

Vous me voyez venir: si l’on accepte de sortir d’une mentalité d’employés (ou pire, de rentiers), on pourrait sans beaucoup de difficulté appliquer ce genre de raisonnement au monde des oeuvres de l’esprit en général, y compris la musique. Pour les détails, il faudra repasser, car je ne les ai pas (j’en entends déjà qui hurlent) — mais n’y a-t-il pas là quelque chose à creuser?

Recommandations musicales [fr]

[en] Some local musical recommendations: Mario Pacchioli, Laurent Brunetti and his Christmas tour, "Grain de folie" DVD and our next Café-Café show on January 25th.

Comme je souffre d’insomnie dominicale (la grasse mat’ était prévue au programme, mais voilà, 7h à peine et je suis “wide awake”), voici un petit billet sur “l’actualité musicale de mon petit monde” en attendant que ma tisane de fleurs d’oranger fasse son effet.

Si vous avez l’occasion d’aller écouter l’artiste suisse Mario Pacchioli (accompagné par Astrid Alexandre), ne la ratez pas. J’étais hier soir à son concert à Lutry: j’ai pleuré, j’ai ri, j’ai passé un excellent moment. Mario chante en anglais, français, et romanche (sa langue maternelle). Il est de plus fort sympathique, tout comme Astrid, avec qui j’ai passé un long moment en conversation vers la fin de la soirée.

Côté Suisse Romande, mon ami Laurent Brunetti (dont je vous ai déjà parlé à une ou deux reprises, et qui m’a donné envie de venir au concert de Mario) sera en tournée de Noël pour une série de concerts gratuits dans les temples et églises de la région. Les dates sont sur MySpace.

Cet été, Laurent était le Magicien Soleil dans le spectacle “Grain de folie” (composé par Pierre Huwiler et Bernard Ducarroz) lors de la fête du blé et du pain à Echallens. Je n’ai pas pu participer à ce spectacle ni y assister, la faute à mon agenda, même si bon nombre de mes collègues chanteurs de Café-Café en faisaient partie. Par contre, lors de notre concert à Echallens le week-end dernier, nous avons repris près d’une dizaine de titres de cette oeuvre et invité les solistes de la fête (Laurent Brunetti, Thierry Romanens, Gisèle Favre, Maël Graa et Simon Ruffieux, Bla Bla Bloo ainsi que le choeur d’enfants Pique-Notes).

Bref, ceci pour vous dire que même si j’ai raté le spectacle en tant que tel, j’en ai entendu/vécu/chanté assez d’extraits pour vous recommander chaudement le DVD “Grain de folie”.

Retour à Café-Café. Nous avons pris l’habitude, depuis ce printemps, de faire salle comble et même guichets fermés. C’était le cas bien sûr à Echallens (ou de nombreux choristes de la fête du blé et du pain sont venus nous voir — et aussi chanter avec nous, un public chantant comme on n’en avait jamais vu!) et ce sera le cas très certainement pour notre prochain concert, le 25 janvier à Cossonay. Lors de la répétition de mercredi passé, on nous a en effet annoncé qu’il ne restait déjà plus que 50 places en vente& Si vous pensez venir, réservez vite!

FOWA: What is the Future of Web Apps? (Ryan Carson, Om Malik, Michael Arrington) [en]

[fr] Notes prises à l'occasion de la conférence Future of Web Apps (FOWA) à Londres.

Here are my live notes of this Future of Web Apps (FOWA) session with Om Malik, Michael Arrington, and Ryan Carson. They are probably incomplete and may contain mistakes, though I do my best to be accurate. Chances are I’ll be adding links to extra material later on, so don’t hesitate to come back and check.

steph-note: arrived really late to this session (not quite as late as Arrington, though), so vaguely trying to pick up a few snippets here and there as I get organized for the day.

FOWA 2007 3

Gphone. Gphone. Gphone. steph-note: as I was entering the room.

Launching a DRM-free music store would be a good business idea right now. But please, says Om, not another Office clone. We have enough.

Plugins. Facebook. Organizing the buddy-list. Facebook Appls: we haven’t seen that many game-changing apps (besides Scrabble, says Om).

Om: Facebook as directory service. Ryan: critical mass. BBC/Radio4 talk about Facebook.

Arrington thinks there is a chance that Facebook will go the portable social network way. (Ryan seemed skeptical.)

Arrington: more mobile stuff, and more “virtual reality” — using your body to interact with the computer.

Om loves his Crackberry.

Concert Café-Café 6 juin à Pully [fr]

[en] Café-Café, the group I sing in, will be on stage in Pully (just next to Lausanne) on June 6th. Unfortunately without me, as I'm coming back from Denmark too late to make it to the last crucial rehearsal.

Café-Café, groupe vocal dans lequel je chante (de grâce, ne dites pas “chorale”, ça sent l’église ou l’alpage) sera en concert le mercredi 6 juin dès 20h30 20h00 à l’Octogone de Pully, à l’occasion du Festival’entre2 — un festival de chanson francophone interprétée par des artistes suisses.

Au programme du 6 juin (le festival en entier couvre 4 jours, jusqu’au 9), un hommage à Léo Ferré dès 20h30 20h00 avec Michel Bühler, et nous. “Nous”, donc, Café-Café.

Groupe vocal Café-Café.

Je ne dis pas ça juste parce que j’y chante, mais Café-Café vaut vraiment le coup d’être vu en concert. Il paraît qu’on comprend même ce qu’on chante! 😉 On a appris tout un tas de nouvelles chansons de Ferré spécialement pour ce concert, et personnellement je les aime beaucoup.

Vous pouvez acheter vos billets via la billetterie de l’Octogone ou téléphoner directement au 021 721 36 20 pour réserver.

Malheureusement et à ma grande frustration, je ne pourrai pas chanter ce soir-là (il faudra revenir une autre fois me voir sur scène!) car je rentre la veille au soir du Danemark où je vais pour donner une conférence lors de reboot et faire un peu de tourisme. J’ai pris un billet d’avion “pas modifiable”, et je vous promets que je m’en mords les doigts.

Groupe vocal Café-Café.

Mais que mon absence sur scène ne vous décourage pas de venir — on se verra dans le public, et entre Léo Ferré, Michel Bühler et Café-Café, je vous prédis une excellente soirée!