Archive for the Kids Category

walking the PCT

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Running, Travel with tags , , , , , , on August 29, 2015 by xi'an

The last book I read in the hospital was wild, by Cheryl Strayed, which was about walking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) as a regenerating experience. The book was turned into a movie this year. I did not like the book very much and did not try to watch the film, but when I realised my vacation rental would bring me a dozen miles from the PCT, I planned a day hike along this mythical trail… Especially since my daughter had dreams of hiking the trail one day. (Not realising at the time that Cheryl Strayed had not come that far north, but had stopped at the border between Oregon and Washington.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA)

The hike was really great, staying on a high ridge for most of the time and offering 360⁰ views of the Eastern North Cascades (as well as forest fire smoke clouds in the distance…) Walking on the trail was very smooth as it was wide enough, with a limited gradient and hardly anyone around. Actually, we felt like intruding tourists on the trail, with our light backpacks, since the few hikers we crossed were long-distance hikers, “doing” the trail with sometimes backpacks that looked as heavy as Strayed’s original “Monster”. And sometimes with incredibly light ones. A great specificity of those people is that they all were more than ready to share their experiences and goals, with no complaint about the hardship of being on the trail for several months! And sounding more sorry than eager to reach the Canadian border and the end of the PCT in a few more dozen miles… For instance, a solitary female hiker told us of her plans to get back to the section near Lake Chelan she had missed the week before due to threatening forest fires. A great entry to the PCT, with the dream of walking a larger portion in an undefined future…

The Traitor Spy Trilogy

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , on August 23, 2015 by xi'an

“Add the new threat along with a mystery or two. Cook slowly for three novels, increasing temperature slowly. Pay attention. Threats and mysteries tend to disintegrate all of a sudden if you cook them too long after they are resolved, and all you will get is a bland, disappointing mess.” T. Canavan, Orbit Newsletter

When Trudi Canavan published her first (?) trilogy, The Black Magician, I enjoyed it very much. This second trilogy, The Traitor Spy, is a sequel, taking place in the same universe with almost the same characters 20 years later, i.e., one generation later… Recycling the universe (and the cover) of a previous trilogy is fine provided enough novelty is infused into the new series and this is simply not the case here… There are several stories interleaved in the novels, at different locations, with different characters, and I for once regret the classical (at the time of Corneille and Racine) rule for unity of place, time, and action..! Most characters sound incredibly childish and immature all along the three novels, including the senior black mage Sonea who was the heroin of the previous series and had enough of a strong mind to overcome the difficulties that faced her promotion to magician. And to make “black magic” acceptable to the magicians’ community. Here, when she should be a clear leader of this community, she hardly contributes to the major debates taking place in the first volume and does not seem able to argue against changes she does see as prejudicial. The same issue applies to other senior characters, who seem to spend their time wondering about others’ sentiments. And [spoiler alert!] I have not yet mentioned the Traitors’ uprising against the Sachakan regime, which is managed by an handful of individuals, managing to topple an entire society by a single street battle. As quoted above, the author wrote a self-mocking recipe for writing a sequel on the Orbit Newsletter: either she did not follow the recipe properly or there is something fundamentally flawed with the recipe…

Cayuga 1989

Posted in Kids, Travel, Wines with tags , , , , , on August 20, 2015 by xi'an


Seattle street art

Posted in Kids, pictures, Running, Travel, Wines with tags , , , , on August 19, 2015 by xi'an


Einvígið [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , on August 17, 2015 by xi'an

Reykjavik2In Roissy (De Gaulle) airport, prior to catching my flight to Seattle, I noticed a “new” Indriðason‘s novel, Le Duel (Einvígið), that has not yet been translated into English. But just translated into French! This is a most unusual novel in the Erlendur series, in that the central character of the series only appears as a young cop in the final lines of the novel. Instead, the mentor of Erlendur, Marion Biem, is conducting an inquiry as to who had killed a young man in an almost empty Reykjavik cinema. Where almost all spectators seemed to have something to hide, if not always a murder… A classical whodunnit?! Not really because this happens in 1972, during the famous Fisher-Spassky duel, and that duel is unrelated to the murder, while the Icelandic police seems overwrought by the event and the presence of Russian and American double-agents in Reykjavik…

I found the whole exercise interesting, creating a sort of genealogy in the Erlendur series, with Marion’s mentor playing a side role and his early training in Glasgow (of all places!), with the re-creation of a 1972 Iceland and the chess match between Fisher and Spassky at the height of the Cold War. Plus a reminder about the tuberculosis epidemics of the 1930’s, where  The detective side of the novel is however less convincing than usual, with clues and fingerprints appearing at the most convenient times. And a fairly convoluted resolution. Still worth reading, especially on a long flight!

Saffron and Brimstone [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , on August 15, 2015 by xi'an

I cannot really remember how I came across this book, when selecting Amazon (free) books to collect from Andrew on my last trip to New York… (Thanks to ‘Og readers!) Presumably the name popped out of a list of recommended books. The cover was intriguing enough to stop by and to spot that the author was Elizabeth Hand, whose horror/fantasy trilogy I had liked very much in the late 80’s… So I ordered the book and brought it back from New York. Only to realise that this was an altogether different Elizabeth Hand, whose book Available Dark I had read a little while ago. And did not like so much. However, since the book is a collection of short and less short stories, I gave it a try.

As it happens, this Saffron and Brimstone truly is a great collection of short stories, fantastic in a completely different frame than those of the fantasy books I usually review here. It is a fantastic that borders reality, sometimes hardly fantastic, but with a constant feeling of something being not fully natural, not completely normal. The subtitle of “strange stories” is quite pertinent, as the feeling of strangeness hits the reader (or this reader) almost instantaneously from the beginning of each story. I enjoyed all of the eight stories for different reasons, from a reminiscence of an “Alfred Hitchcock presents” short story called the Cocoon that terrified me [as a pre-teen] when I read it late at night!, to variations around Greek myths that brings them beautifully into the modern era. And always with a central female character who brings another degree of strangeness and surreality to the tale.  I do not think it matters the least that those novels are or are not fantasy or fantastic. They are simply gems of contemporary literature. Superb. (Which makes the rather unexceptional Available Dark the more inexplicable!)

STAN trailer [PG+53]

Posted in Kids, R, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , on August 14, 2015 by xi'an

[Heading off to mountainous areas with no Internet or phone connection, I posted a series of entries for the following week, starting with this brilliant trailer of Michael:]


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