Archive for COVID-19

a journal of the plague year² [not there yet]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2021 by xi'an

Returned to Warwick once more, with “traffic-as-usual” at Charles de Gaulle airport, including a single border officer for the entire terminal, a short-timed fright that I actually needed a PCR test on top of my vaccine certificate to embark, due to wrong signage, a one-hour delay at departure due to foggy conditions in B’ham, and another ½ hour delay at arrival due to a shortage of staff and hence no exit stairs available! And got a tense return to B’ham as the taxi line in Warwick had vanished!

Read the first novel of P. Djèlí-Clark A Master of Djinn after reading a series of short stories and novellas of his, taking place in the same fantastic Cairo of the early 1900’s. This was enjoyable, mostly, again thanks to well-constructed characters (apart from the arch-villain) and the appeal of the magical Cairo imagined by the author. I did not feel the appearances of Raymond Poincaré or von Birsmark were really needed, though. Also kindled A history of what comes next, by Sylvain Neuvel, which I got as a free (Tor) book. Which is an interesting take on the space race, with a pair of (super-)women behind the entire thing. And a lot of connections to the actual history. I somehow got tired in the middle, even though I finished the book during my commuting to and from Warwick.

Watched within a week My Name, a dark Korean TV drama,  as I found it very good and rather original (albeit with some similarities with the excellent Jeju-based Night in Paradise). The storyline is one of a young woman, Ji Woo, seeking revenge on her father’s killer, by joining the criminal gang her father was part of and infiltrating the police (not really  a spoiler!). At the beginning, this sounded like gang glorification, hence rather unappealing, but soon things proved to be quite different from how they appeared first. The scenario is of course most unrealistic, especially the (brutal and gory) fights where the heroine takes down endless rows of gang members and where the participants almost always recover from knife injuries that should have been fatal or at least permanently damaging. And the ineffectiveness of the police in stopping the drug dealers. However, when watched as a theatrical performance, the main characters in My Name, most especially Ji Woo, are well-constructed and ambiguous enough to make this descent into darkness worth watching. (Given the conclusion of the series, I cannot imagine a second season being made.) Also had a short go at Night Teeth, which proved a complete waste of time!

Foundations of objective Bayesian methodology [21w5107]

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2021 by xi'an


After years in the making (!), our BIRS-CMO workshop on the foundations of O’Bayes is at last taking place! In an hybrid format as BIRS-CMO is restricting the attendance to 15 people on site, instead of the customary (i.e., pre-COVID) 35. Still, it is quite exciting to join this workshop and the friends who will gather in Mexico or on-line to discuss objective Bayesian tools and prospects. And of course to visit for the second time the city of Oaxaca, its temples and markets! (Hopefully managing the stray dogs when running. If running.)

on [not] making tea

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 14, 2021 by xi'an

By chance, when looking for information on the film that usually appears on top of tea brews (!), I came upon this highly ranked blog entry of a security expert explaining how not to make tea. Which did not seem completely right in my tea-oholic eyes..! Not that the following rambling is of any relevance whatsoever!

On the agreement side, it is indeed hard to get decent tea in most places, the primary reason being a lack of understanding that very hot water is needed. The worst being these cafés where they bring you a cup of (definitely not hot) water with a tea bag on the side! I used to travel with my own kettle to avoid this issue, but I am striving to carry as little stuff as possible and hence gave up on that habit. Instead, I often take a thermos bottle that contains an infuser: all that is needed is hot water!

On the disagreement side, the obvious resolution of most complaints about poor quality tea, “herbal teas” that are not tea, tea bags in general, &tc., is to carry your own loose tea. It is light and keeps well and cannot disappoint. And can be brewed several times, especially oolongs. The section about milk is beyond discussion as tea with milk is another beverage altogether. I certainly enjoy drinking duh-wali-chai  in India and am even making some at home from time to time, but otherwise I stopped putting milk in my tea during the first COVID lockdown. (Which also considerably simplified my tea consumption when travelling: all that is needed is hot water!) The main issue is however in using boiling water. Which is almost never recommended for brewing tea! Especially green and Darjeeling teas. Instead of using water above 90⁰, one should stay below 90⁰… Especially when running several brews. Not only this keeps the bitterness under control but it avoids loosing oxygen and CO² contained in the water.

As an aside, this film/sheen is the result of “an interfacial reaction of polyphenols and other components in the tea that bond with ions in the water”.

a journal of the plague year² [600+]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2021 by xi'an

Returned to Warwick for the first time in 600 days!, most pleasantly reconnecting with my colleagues there and realising some were almost as freshly back to the department as myself. But also noticed a strong difference with France in terms of wearing mask and practicing social distanciation among the students (at the University) and the general population (in the local Tesco or the train to the airport). Which may explain for the persistently high number of contaminations, when compared with neighbouring countries. Despite its high vaccination rate.

Read the second volume of Baru Cormorant, after enjoying so much the first instalment (under the Corsican relentless sun). However, it was such a disappointment, as it seemed written by a completely different author, including the style, with the story being more broken, more difficult to follow, and the characters becoming shallow and uninteresting. This is particularly true of Baru, who sent from a sharp focus on her goal in Traitor, to a purposeless floatsam in Monster. With a highly artificial rescue of her ethics in [warning, spoiler ahead!] killing her lover Tain Hu (and hundreds of others) in the first volume. I currently doubt I will buy the third one… A stormy night kept me awake and as a result help me finish the last hundred pages!

Watched Mute, dubbed a “Netflix disaster” in The Guardian! (and following the appalling Warcraft!). Which postulate of a mute character could have been rewarding, had not the characters be of cardboard consistency. And the plot so transparent most of the scenes had to be shot at night. And the cheap plagiarism of Blade Runner is simply ludicrous. I also watched Bong Joon-Ho’s Okja, a satire about the meat industry producing hippo-like pigs that I found very heavy-handed, especially in its characters.Started cooking bread on a regular basis once again, as weather is turning colder and baking also warms up our drafty kitchen! Now turning to a heavier type of loaf, mixed wheat and rye, and reducing the amount of water to make it last longer. And also made a first attempt at Okonomyaki, this tortilla-like dish made of shredded cabbage and flour that I enjoyed very much in Osaka. The result was pleasant enough but very, very far from the original, maybe due to my using (soba) buckwheat rather than plain flour. Or using regular stock rather than daishi stock.

another bad graph

Posted in Books, pictures, Statistics with tags , , , , on October 27, 2021 by xi'an

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