## the witcher

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 11, 2020 by xi'an

As I read (some of) Andrzej Sapkowski‘s books, and then watched my son play the derived video game, I took the opportunity of the break to watch the eponymous Netflix series. Which I found quite decent and entertaining, given that the books were not unforgettable masterpieces but enjoyable and well-constructed. The New York Times was quite dismissive in its review of the show, seeing as a cheap copycat of Game of Thrones when the books were written earlier than Martin’s unfinished no-end-logy. The Blaviken battle scene in the first episode is certainly on a par with GoT most fighting moments, while lasting a few seconds. And the actor playing Geralt manages to convey much more in a few grunts than, say, Kit Harington’s permanent cocker spaniel sad face!!! The budget here is clearly not the same as HBO’s investment, with some exterior scenes looking a wee bit bare (just as in the BBC’s rendering of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrel). But, again, nothing there to dim the appeal of the series (although they could have cut on the definitely gratuitous softporn moments!) and a plot gradually rising from the fragmented time line and the apparently unrelated subplots, which is also a feature of the books, made of short-stories vaguely glued together. I am hence looking for the second season, hoping the GoT curse does not extend to this series. (Tor.com also published a highly critical review of the show. And of the books, which are incidentally not published by Tor!)

## end of the game

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2019 by xi'an

[Uninteresting coincidence: in this NYT pre-finale analysis, I read the very same sentence “Power resides where people believe it resides” pronounced by Mikhail Gorbachov in the daunting Chernobyl series which I watched a few hours earlier.]

## ODOF, not Hodor [statlearn 2017]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , on April 15, 2017 by xi'an

## Will Winter ever come?!

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , on January 16, 2016 by xi'an

Just read in my Sunday morning New York Times that George R.R. Martin had no clear idea when the sixth volume of a Song of Ice and Fire will be published. Not a major surprise given the sluggish pace of publishing the previous volumes, but I thought maybe working on the scenario for the TV Series Game of Thrones would have helped towards this completion. Apparently, it just had the opposite effect! While, as Neil Gaiman once put it in the most possible delicate way, “George Martin is not your bitch” and,  writers being writers, they are free to write when and whatever they feel like writing, there is this lingering worry that the sad story of the Wheel of Time is going to happen all over again. That the author will never end up the series and that the editor will ask another fantasy author to take over. Just as Brandon Sanderson did after Robert Jordan died. Thus I was musing over my tea and baguette whether a reverse strategy wasn’t better, namely to hire help now just to … help. Maybe in the guise of assistants sketching scenes for primary drafts that the author could revise or of an artificial intelligence system that could (deep) learn how to write like George Martin out of a sketchy plot. Artificial writing software is obviously getting against the very notion of an author writing a book, however it is plausible that by learning the style of this very author, it could produce early versions that would speed up the writing, while being tolerable by the author. Maybe. And maybe not. Winter is simply coming at its own pace…

## The winds of Winter [Bayesian prediction]

Posted in Books, Kids, R, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2014 by xi'an

A surprising entry on arXiv this morning: Richard Vale (from Christchurch, NZ) has posted a paper about the characters appearing in the yet hypothetical next volume of George R.R. Martin’s Song of ice and fire series, The winds of Winter [not even put for pre-sale on amazon!]. Using the previous five books in the series and the frequency of occurrence of characters’ point of view [each chapter being told as from the point of view of one single character], Vale proceeds to model the number of occurrences in a given book by a truncated Poisson model,

$x_{it} \sim \mathcal{P}(\lambda_i)\text{ if }|t-\beta_i|<\tau_i$

in order to account for [most] characters dying at some point in the series. All parameters are endowed with prior distributions, including the terrible “large” hyperpriors familiar to BUGS users… Despite the code being written in R by the author. The modelling does not use anything but the frequencies of the previous books, so knowledge that characters like Eddard Stark had died is not exploited. (Nonetheless, the prediction gives zero chapter to this character in the coming volumes.) Interestingly, a character who seemingly died at the end of the last book is still given a 60% probability of having at least one chapter in  The winds of Winter [no spoiler here, but many in the paper itself!]. As pointed out by the author, the model as such does not allow for prediction of new-character chapters, which remains likely given Martin’s storytelling style! Vale still predicts 11 new-character chapters, which seems high if considering the series should be over in two more books [and an unpredictable number of years!].

As an aside, this paper makes use of the truncnorm R package, which I did not know and which is based on John Geweke’s accept-reject algorithm for truncated normals that I (independently) proposed a few years later.

## hospital series

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 5, 2013 by xi'an

While I usually never find enough time to watch series (or even less telly!), I took advantage of those three weeks at the hospital to catch up with Game of Thrones and discovered Sherlock, thanks to Judith. As I have been reading George Martin’s epics, A Song of Ice and Fire, from the very beginning in 1991, I was of course interested to see how those massive books with their intricate politics and complex family trees could be made into 50 minutes episodes. Glimpses caught from my son’s computer had had me looking forward to it. After watching the entire second season and the earlier episodes of the third season, I am quite impressed by both the rendering of the essentials of the book and the quality of the movies. It is indeed amazing that HBO invested so much into the series, with large scale battles and medieval cities and thousands of characters. The filming locations were also well-chosen: while I thought most of the northern scenes had been shot in Scotland, it actually appears that they mostly came from Ireland and Iceland (with incredible scenery like the one above beyond the Wall!).  The cast is not completely perfect, obviously, with both Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Rob Stark (Richard Madden) being too shallow in my opinion and Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) lacking charisma, but most characters are well-rendered and the Lannisters are terrific, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) being the top actor in my opinion (and Arya (Maisie Williams) coming second). I was also surprised by the popularity of the series at the hospital, as several nurses and doctors started discussing it with me…

Sherlock Holmes is a British series, set in contemporary London, and transposing some of Sherlock Holmes’ adventures in contemporary Britain. While I had not heard about this series previously, I was quite taken by it. It is quite innovative both in its scenario and its filming, it does not try to stick to the books, the dialogues are witty and the variety of accents quite pleasant (if hard to catch at times), and… Watson has a blog! It is also a pleasure to catch glimpses of London (Baker Street is actually Gower Street, near UCL) and the Hound of Baskerville takes place on Dartmoor.  I do not think I will continue watching those series once out of the hospital, but they were a pleasing distraction taking me far, far away from my hospital room for a few hours!

## At last!

Posted in Books, Travel with tags , , , on July 25, 2011 by xi'an

While in Lancaster, I bought the latest volume in George Martin‘s Song of Ice and Fire series. A book I have been waiting for, for about six years… Even though the size of the series is far behind the Wheel of Time, it is clearly headed towards the same fate of never getting any near the finishing line, unless someone else takes over! I am very much surprised at the TV adaptation of the first volume, A Game of Thrones, nor because it is a poor adaptation (quite the opposite!), neither because it attracted many viewers (including my son), but because there is no end in sight. Or maybe that’s a good thing for a TV adaptation! In any case, I got the heavy hardcover in the Lancaster University bookstore at the price of a paperback. A  voluminous and hopefully good enough read for the incoming summer break!