Archive for China

remembering Prague Spring, 1968

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2022 by xi'an

In 1968, I was quite young (!), but I do remember vividly the invasion and repression of Czechoslovakia by troops of the Soviet Union and its satellite states. Maybe because the French public radio [our main source of information then] was quite vocal about it, maybe because my parents were early subscribers of a progressive, anti-colonialist, third-Worldist, Catholic newspaper named Croissance des Jeunes Nations, which I read as well and which mostly covered liberation movements in the Third World, but also the resistance of Czechoslovak people against Soviet tanks… Today these tanks are back, now in Kyiv streets. (With the difference that the China of 1968 denounced in the strongest terms the Soviet invasion.) While the Iron Curtain prevented most inhabitants to flee the country, the death toll was relatively limited, with 108 registered victims. After a few days into the Russian invasion, the toll is already much higher and the increasing bombing of Ukrainian cities is going to see it rise faster and faster. Support Ukraine!

a journal of the plague year³ [beginning of the end?]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2022 by xi'an

Made my first trip to Warwick this year despite the travel restrictions imposed by the omnipresent Omicron version. My flights got repeatedly cancelled, meaning I had to fly through Schipol (thanks for the Gouda cumin cheese and stroopwafelen!) and leave at more-than-early hours (even by my standards!). But had more conversations than usual, plus delivered my lecture masked-face-to-masked-face to 19 Warwick students, the first time in 709 days!

Read [in French] the two BDs of Milo Manara on Michelangelo [Merisi or Amerighi da] Caravaggio, which was a Xmas gift!, with as always great in the large scale and character drawings, if not Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro, but less in the scenario, esp. the second part and even more esp. given the agitated life of the artist. And another BD taking place in Cayenne, in 1742, whose drawings also appear in local guides.

Watched 14 Peaks: Nothing is impossible on Netflix, following Nepalese mountaineer Nirmal Purja [of Everest jam fame!] and his team as they manage to climb all 14 eight thousander peaks over 6 months. Including Shishapangma in Tibet, with the added hardship to procure a climbing permit from Chinese authorities for that mountain. The documentary focuses a wee bit too much on Purja’s persona and not enough on the team of sherpas and on the climb itself. Except for the summitings there is very little about the technical difficulties of each summit and the hardships and failed attempts. For instance, the amazing feat of first installing fixed ropes for all 14 summits is only alluded to. Despite reservations about the use of supplementary oxygen (without which, as stressed by Messner, the attempt of climbing all 8000ers in one season would have proved truly impossible and suicidal) and heliporting from one base camp to another, the enormity of the achievement of this team of sherpas remains a monument in the climbing world. (Even only considering that Everest, Lhotse and Makalu were climbed in two days total!)

COVID by numbers [not a book review]

Posted in Books, Kids, Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2021 by xi'an

David Spiegelhalter and Anthony Masters have made a book out of their COVID related columns in The Observer. Here are ten key figures extracted from that book:

  1. The UK was hit by more than 1,000 separate outbreaks (…) [with] far more imports of Sars-CoV-2 from France, Italy and Spain than from China
  2. Reported Covid deaths depend on the day of the week (due to delayed reporting, and a weekend effect, but smoothing is very rarely applied)
  3. In the first year of Covid, over-90s had 35,000 times the risk of dying of Covid-19 as young children (with no relevance of the figure per se since an extra death of a young child would have moved it from 35,000 to 32,000, since there were thankfully so few deaths of young children)
  4. 2020 saw the highest number of deaths since 1918 in England and Wales (even when correcting for population increase or population ageing)
  5. The UK has led the World in testing Covid treatments (like dexamethasone and hydroxychloroquine, thanks to the centralised NHS, making me wonder why France with another centralised and public health structure was not able to do the same)
  6. People who have died with Covid have on average lost about 10 years of life (contrary to the authors’ intial hunch, and mine as well, to oppose to the less relevant loss of life expectancy across the entire population)
  7. Most people died “of” Covid rather than “with” it, but most have also had other medical conditions (with 91% of pre-COVID conditions)
  8. Alcohol consumption stayed the same during lockdown (which came as a surprise, given the general feeling for the opposite, and still as a worrying indicator of alcoholism)
  9. Most people with Sars-CoV-2 don’t infect anyone (which would need more details, as the figure should be weighted by the base probability to infect someone)
  10. The pandemic has been a net lifesaver for young people (with 300 fewer deaths for 15-29 year old, but it also has had a potentially negative impact on their life expectancy).

The Shanghairen

Posted in pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , on July 10, 2021 by xi'an

the pillar of shame [04 June 1989]

Posted in Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 4, 2021 by xi'an

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