The song of the masked swan

This year, it was with some hesitation that I accepted an invitation to lead the integration days of the International Masters program ‘Motis’ at ESIEE Paris. One last time. This is a mission that I have been carrying out since the creation of the Masters in 2009. I feel a particular attachment to the program and its successive graduates. I was worried this time though. My motor neuron disease is progressing in my face and throat and speaking is now a real challenge for me. However my friend and colleague Derek M. convinced me that we could do it together. And we did. The first day anyway. He spoke and I led the dance. A double act. The second and third days I was even more comfortable. The listeners were happy. The whole event went very well. Sometimes I feel more like a shaman than a teacher! The program director, Doudou Sidibe, supported me and made sure that I did not stumble in my momentum as a trainer. A milestone in a career that has been at it’s most satisfying during the past ten years.

Earthly Paradise

I’m in the Morvan at the moment with my friend Marie. Daily swimming in the lake in front of a Frank Lloyd Wright type house. There are hens and horses. Cats too. Even a couple of lamas. Bee loud and butterfly laden flowers. Earthly Paradise, though improbable demons hide in the bushes and haunt my insecurities. My spirit is not quite at rest.
There’s a dog. I throw a stick. He swims. Normal. Except there’s a twist. In this case we BOTH swim for the stick. Generally he gets there first. Dogs can really swim fast when motivated.

Manners maketh man

New Princeton Research: People Judge Your Competence Based on Your Clothes in Under 1 Second

It really might be worth spending a bit more on your interview outfit.

“We like to think we judge people’s competence objectively, by carefully weighing their past actions and skills. But science shows a host of other factors, from height, to confidence, to even the way someone walks or smells can have unconscious effects on how we rate people’s warmth, trustworthiness, and ability to do their job. 

Now, new research out of Princeton is adding yet another item to the long list of weird biases you need to look out for when you’re hiring or job hunting. Even incredibly subtle differences in your clothing can affect how people judge your competence, the series of studies found, and these impressions form in under a second. 

Your clothes matter a shocking amount.

A suit, you might think, is just a suit. As long as someone shows up to a job interview neatly turned out in role appropriate attire, then the finer details of the suit (or hoodie) wouldn’t matter. But when the Princeton team placed identical faces atop very slightly different outfits, they found people rated their perceived competence much differently. 

Specifically, when the clothes in question appeared subtly more expensive, whether the article of clothing in question was a suit or a T-shirt, people’s perception of the wearer’s confidence shot up. 

This was true even if the researchers explicitly instructed subjects to ignore clothing, when they told them that people in slightly more downmarket outfits actually out-earned their fancier clothed peers, and even if study subjects only viewed the pictures for 130 milliseconds, which is barely long enough to realize you’re looking at a face. 

Is that depressing and unfair? Why, yes it is. And it’s likely to be particularly demoralizing for those without a lot of money to spend on an interview outfit. It’s an annoying reality the researchers readily acknowledged.

“Poverty is a place rife with challenges. Instead of respect for the struggle, people living in poverty face a persistent disregard and disrespect by the rest of society,” commented study co-author Eldar Shafir. “We found that such disrespect — clearly unfounded, since in these studies the identical face was seen as less competent when it appeared with poorer clothing — can have its beginnings in the first tenth of a second of an encounter.” 

The only upside here 

For job seekers out in the harsh real world, these results suggest it’s probably worth springing for the fanciest interview outfit you can realistically afford (even for more casual workplaces). The larger initial outlay will actually make a difference, this new science strongly suggests. 

But there is also a message here for hiring managers, according to the authors, and it’s the same old song about bias: at least if you know about it you can try to correct for it. “Knowing about a bias is often a good first step,” Shafir says. 

Those truly committed toc compensating for humans’ buggy brains might want to take more radical action. “A potential, even if highly insufficient, interim solution may be to avoid exposure whenever possible. Just like teachers sometimes grade blindly so as to avoid favoring some students, interviewers and employers may want to take what measures they can, when they can, to evaluate people, say, on paper so as to circumvent indefensible yet hard to avoid competency judgments,” he suggests. (Tech tools exist to help with this but they’re controversial.) 

While many employers might balk at the idea of hiring blind, Shafir notes that in academia (and orchestras) experiments with hiring without seeing candidates have actually yielded better results. But even if hiring just a voice and resume is too much for you, this research indicates any efforts you can make to reduce your exposure to candidates’ clothing is likely to lead to more rational hiring”

Meet Will Clarke

Meet Will Clarke, vidéaste and multimedia artist studying in Bristol at UWE

I really appreciate Will’s work. After studying engineering he moved over to his true love : graphic art.

His key focus is stop motion video.

Click on the link below to enjoy the interview.

I have always had a soft spot for engineers who go on to the arts.

During my career as a teacher in the French engineering school system there have been many – designers, actors, painters, poets, artists and writers. A subversive becoming that I have actively encouraged.

I can’t claim to have influenced Will Clarke . But he is definitely one of the pantheon.

Lightnesss of being


I’ve been having trouble managing my weight ever since I gave up cigarettes. And that was in 1992! Or perhaps I should say I’ve been having trouble managing sugar since I gave up cigarettes?

It’s kif-kif as they say in Algerian Arabic .

When I gave up cigarettes I started to eat a lot. I put on eight kilos within a year. And without really noticing I lost my mojo. I moved from being a relatively successful teacher training professional to being a simple teacher, luckily with  tenure. It could have been worse. 

After twelve years in the doldrums (where I replaced professional success with wife and family so all was not lost) I managed to slim down again in 2006. The reward was immediate.  I felt bright again and started behaving brightly once more. The new self confidence led me to become head of my university department. But then I got fat and once more I slowed down mentally and mediocrity returned with a vengeance. 

I’m happily retired now but still struggling with my demons.  

The other day I bumped into  Nicolas Trub, severally a friend, colleague and an ex-student of mine,  and founder of a design company called Stilic Force. 

With maturity he had become roly poly. Now he was thin once more and radiating personal energy. 

“I’ve been fasting”he said. “You should too. Here’s how.”

The method he described is called intermittent fasting. Basically you don’t eat  for 16 hours straight everyday . This includes sleeping time so it’s really not that difficult. You then eat normally in the remaining eight hour window. 

“16/8 : look it up.” I did. 

And since then I’ve been looking into it. It’s all about insulin. 

Here’s how it works, put simply:

When you eat your insulin levels rise and your body uses the food you have eaten for energy.

When you stop eating  your insulin levels fall and your body uses your body fat for energy. 

Up till now I’ve been trying to reduce calories and sugar intake and keep up an active life style in order to lose weight. This demands a lot of personal sacrifice . And the results have never been great over the long term  (in my case anyway).


I’m no longer trying to limit my calorie up-take but rather to limit my eating time, thus allowing my insulin system to do it’s job properly. I stop eating at 22:00 every evening and start at 14:00, or a bit later, the following day. My liver and guts get to rest a bit. 

The result?

I feel much more energetic, especially in the mornings.

I often go to bed a bit earlier and in a more sober state since I stop drinking at 22:00 . I still have plenty of time to socialise with my friends. If there’s a party I just go with the flow. My objective is to create a healthy habit not forge an immutable discipline.  

I’m slowly but steadily losing weight. And this without trying. 

My recipe for honing English language skills acquired in school but unevenly developed as an adult

As a project management trainer and teacher working with engineers and future engineers in French environments here is my recipe for overcoming the eventual shortcomings of a lycée education in English:

  • Fluency – speak continuously at least two minutes today, even if it’s with your bathroom mirror!
  • Precision – write in English, at least one paragraph per day.
  • Prosody – tell lots of stories. Entertain. Play with the music of the language.
  • Pronunciation – dictate to your telephone! If you get it right it writes what you say. If it doesn’t start again 🙂 .
  • Interaction – meet lots of people. Go to meetup, pubs and anywhere else where you can speak English. Create an English-speaking world yourself.
  • Vocabulary and culture – watch television series, go to the movies, go to the theatre, read books, travel, sing songs, play video games etc. etc. The more you explore the world the more your vocabulary and your understanding will grow. In any language.975C8486-9B9C-4A82-8A3F-5A6245F00374

16/8 Getting healthy with intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting is all the rage apparently. My friend Nicolas Trub of Stilic Force introduced me to it. The procedure is simple. Don’t eat for 16 hours at a stretch. Eat normally during the remaining eight. I’ve been trying it and I’ve found it really easy to do.

I have been eating within an eight hour window for several weeks now. Mostly between 14:00 and 10:00. I feel happier, more effective in daily life, my creativity quotient seems to be rising and I’m (slowly) losing weight.

If I have an event like a party or a late night dinner I just push the window a bit moving it from 16:00 to midnight for example and then compensate to bring myself back to my more comfortable schedule.

I don’t try to eat anything special within the window. I just get on with whatever I enjoy eating. No fads. No special diets. That said I find I’m drinking more juices than before. Carrot juice with a little ginger, apple and orange is a favourite. I drink this concoction on evenings when I go to the gym. I also find that I’m drinking less alcohol than before. Basically because social drinking steps me outside my time frame. I’m a water, coffee and green tea man now.

I remain discrete about it. though. I’ve found when I’m open my friends try to talk me out of it – “another glass of wine won’t hurt” etc.

Will I continue? I can’t see any reason not to. The habit feels effortless.