Archive for Scotland

ISBA 2016 in Banff???

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2014 by xi'an

Banff west-northern range from Rundle, Sept. 10, 2010Scott Schmidler, Steve Scott and myself just submitted a proposal for holding the next World ISBA Conference in 2016 in Banff, Canada! After enjoying the superb environment of the Advanced in Scalable Bayesian computation workshop last week, we thought it would be worth a try as a potential location for the next meeting, esp. when considering the superlative infrastructure of the Banff Centre (meaning we really do not have to be local to be local organisers!), the very reasonable rates for renting the site and securing two hundred rooms, the potential for a special collaboration with BIRS, the scarcity of alternative proposals (as far as I can fathom) and the ultimate mountain environment… I remember fondly the IMS annual meeting of 2002 there,  with a great special lecture by Hans Künsch and, exceptionally, an RSS Read Paper by Steve Brooks, Paulo Guidici and Gareth Roberts.  (Not mentioning en exhilarating solo scramble up Mount Temple and another one with Arnaud Guillin up the chimneys of Mount Edith!)  Since the deadline was this Saturday, March 15, we should hear pretty soon if we are successful in this bid. (Good luck to our Scottish friends from Edinburgh for their bid for holding ISBA 2018! Moving from the feet of Mount Rundle [above] to the feet of Arthur’s Seat would make for a great transition.)

The Pinnacle [by Hot Aches]

Posted in Books, Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , on February 22, 2014 by xi'an

Last night, I watched “The Pinnacle” on my computer. This film retraces the unworldly week of Jimmy Marshall and Robin Smith who climbed in Feb. 1960 six first winter ascents on Ben Nevis. This included the great routes Orion Face Direct and Point Five Gully. The film includes a detailed interview of Jimmy Marshall as well as the repeat, 50 years later, by Dave MacLeod and Andy Turner of the six routes that were first climbed over that 1960 week. This is terrific climbing and I also loved it for following so many climbing routes on the Ben! Following Steve Dean’s description, the “pinnacle” alludes to the feat of Marshall and Smith, who re-defined Scottish climbing, all this using old-style ice-axes and step-cutting rather than the soon to come front-pointed crampons and much more manageable shorter and doubled ice-axes… The film is available for free screening on Hot Aches website for a few more days! (I also learned at last the meaning of hot aches and screaming barfies from the movies. Handy for the next winter climb or run!)

no Complaints [book review]

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , on January 18, 2014 by xi'an

Another Rankin! In the Complaints series: the main character is Malcom Fox, inspector at the “Complaints and Conduct Department”, investigating a case of corruption within the Force on the north side of the Forth, in Fife. Rankin builds on the history of Scottish violent nationalist groups in the 80′s to deliver a very convincing story, mixing as usual the unorthodox methods of an investigator with his personal life. Even though some tie-ins are a wee bit unrealistic and I do not buy the final  (major) scene, I enjoyed reading the book over two or three days (between Chamonix, Geneva and Paris). Maybe due to the novelty of the character, there is no feeling of repetitiveness in this instalment. And the background is definitely interesting, relating the older SNP with violent splint groups at a time when Scottish independence was beyond the realm of the possible. I am now looking forward the next instalment, Saints of the Shadow Bible, where Fox and Rebus share the scene….

Χ on stage

Posted in Kids, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , on September 11, 2013 by xi'an

XonXA screen-shot of the video taken during my talk in Hong Kong (restricted to 2013 WSC attendants, I am afraid. Or not.), where I happened to be wearing my favourite (and only) Scotland rugby shirt with prominent  Χ labels…

waterline (book review)

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , on September 1, 2013 by xi'an

Another book I received as a bedside gift at The Hospital, this one a gift from Magali. Waterline by Ross Raisin is the story of a Glaswegian former shipyard worker falling into a mental abyss of denial and grief after her wife died. She died from asbestos-related cancer, whose fibres were brought from the shipyard in Mick’s clothes. Mick seeks solitude and shuns contact with former colleagues and friends, seeing their return to a normal life as an aggression against his wife’s memory. When Mick cannot stay longer in his rented council  house in Glasgow, fearing eviction and with no money left, he moves to London where he first finds a job as a dishwasher that alienates him even further into a bubble where he can cut others out. He is fired after a while for taking a very passive part in a local union and within a few weeks he spirals down into homelessness. The second part of the book sees him getting out very slowly and very reluctantly out of this state, with no clear sign of any return to (whatever we could call) normality…

This is a far from perfect book and the second part feels contrived, with a sort of “happy ending” out of the bottom end of Mick’s life. Still, Waterline is a strong book that marked me because it left me with a strong impression that the same fall could happen to any of us, under the right (or rather wrong) … Raisin has a highly convincing way of describing the inner mental paths taken by Mick to stop seeing others, including his children, for not returning to his uncertain cab driver job, and for giving up too readily looking for jobs, shelters, or help. The homeless-ness pages are terrifying in their somehow warped version of normality, when the “lives” of Mick and of his (leading) companion of misfortune Brian follow some kind of predestined pattern, from avoiding security guards by moving around to finding accessible toilets, to stealing food from  delivery trucks, to tracking protected places to sleep away from the rough weather. At times, this feels like too much and too long, but I would support the idea that this is “exactly” (given my total lack of expertise in the matter…) reflecting the experience of those homeless men, with no future further than the next night or the next meal. The second part of the book also shows how hard it is to reconcile with a “normal” life, incl. a poignant chapter on Mike reuniting with his son uncomprehending why his father had not called for help.  A highly recommended read, if not exactly on the brightest side of life…

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