Archive for Japan

fresh teas! [for teaholics]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 23, 2022 by xi'an

Here are some new teas I sampled this summer, when visiting a few tea shops here (Paris) and there (Montréal):

  • Yakushima black tea, a subtle Japanese tea from a producer of sencha on this far-south subtropical island off Kyushu
  • Dong Ding oolong, named after the mountain in Taiwan where these tea bushes grow, also most subtle
  • Jejudo green tea, from Jeju island, Korea
  • Wakocha Zarai tea, again from Kuyshu, wakocha meaning black tea in Japanese, although the colour is almost red, surprisingly sweet
  • Dattan sobacha,  a grilled buckwheat (soba!) tea from Hokkaido, with the added perk of eating the buckwheat afterwards!
  • Sannenbancha, a dark light Japanese tea roasted over cedar wood, tasting (obviously) woody and vaguely licorice, sannen meaning three years in Japanese, as the bush is left to grow for three years before leave and [mostly] stems are collected. (Actually the full name of this tea is kuki sannen bancha, with kuki meaning twig).

a journal of the plaid [shirt] year [#2]

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Running, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 3, 2022 by xi'an

Read Kawabata’s Sound of the Mountain, which I also found in a Montréal bookstore. At first, I thought it was connected to the masterpiece House of Sleeping Beauties,  which I read eons ago, as dreams are also central to that (mostly) domestic and familial story, but this was quite another, more personal, and poignant reflection on aging and the irreversibility of time. As well as an unsuspected window into immediate post-war Japan. (With the realisation that abortion was completely acceptable then.) Also spotted Greg Bear’s Darwin’s Children in my Canadian cabin, which I started and finished later with a Kindle version. As I was unaware of a sequel to the fabulous Darwin’s Radio. Overall, I was almost as enthusiastic about it as I was with the first book, but obviously suffering from an academic bias as the author engages into speculative population genetics, which may prove too much for non-academics… (Imho, the end is wasted, though.) And (binge) read January Fifteenth on the flight back (leaving too early to sleep!), which is a short novel whose only speculative aspect is the move (by the US Government) to a universal basic income (UBI) for all individuals, and the consequences on several women’s live. This was indeed a very quick read, presumably due to the high proportion of dialogues, with (variably) interesting characters that avoid a direct take on the concept, but somewhat charicaturesque nonetheless. The implementation of the scheme is rather vaguely described: January 15 is the calendar day people pick their yearly UBI and they have to do it in person to avoid been coerced or scammed into transferring it to someone else. As someone rather interested in this societal propsal, this book did not modify my views on the concept or on its practical aspects, but shed light on some potential consequences of (one version of) it.

Had a great time in a Lac-Saint-Jean cabin, with direct access to the lake. Albeit requiring the emergency purchase of a neoprene swimming suit, as the temperature of the lake was rather low for extended swimming without it. But otherwise, having a swell time every morning, often running and swimming and biking. Before hiking. (The last week, farther south, next to a much smaller lake I could easily cross, did not require the suit!) Also appreciated very much the almost flat véliroute des Bleuets (blueberries) that run all around the lake (even though some sections are alas shared with cars). Has for instance an uninterrupted 15K connection to the nearest (genuine) bakery+cheese-mongery! Made an attempt at kouign amann, but using the wrong type of both flour and cassonade, plus an unknown oven and the poor substitute of baking soda for yeast predictably failed the experiment, even though the outcome was eatable (and eaten within a few days).

As usual (!), did not spot much wildlife, beyond groundhogs, pikas, squirrels, beavers and muskrats in our rental’s lake, moose tracks here and there, and a few Virginia deer in the Mauricie National Park. (Which made me realise that national and regional [Québec] parks co-existed in the area.) Had a few traditional hikes, reconnecting with Deet to keep mosquitoes and black flies at bay.

Watched nothing at all! In part due to my wife often borrowing my laptop for its Netflix connection, in part due to my early sleep caused by earlier rise, as light comes before 5am in this part of Québec we were staying, which made an ideal opportunity for very early run, swim, and… Biometrika editing!

a journal of the plaid [shirt] year

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 1, 2022 by xi'an

Read The priory of the orange tree, bought in one of the many Montréal bookstores [where I could have purchased many more books!] This fantasy novel was a Goodread fantasy recommended read, plus a NYT best-seller and nominated for some fantasy award, but I am quite surprised by the enthusiastic support. Indeed, I found the book had a very shallow and predictable scenario, with most of the tropes of the genre (e.g., ninja-like fighters, heroes uncovering long-lost magical artefacts, , super-evil entity about to return to life/power, a few predestined characters saving the Universe). Unrealistic events, all-too-convenient coincidences, with little efforts put in the construction of the world, of the magical rules, or of the political structure there. The second half was particularly bad.

Enjoyed very much my week in the Plateau part of Montréal, with the green spots in from of every house, the density of shops (and not only restaurants), and the fantastic network of BiXi stations that made travelling around so easy and essentially free! (Glad I brought my 661 helmet from home, even though it attracted many questions during the conference!). And lived essentially on (Saint-Viateur) bagels and (Kinton) ramens. With a funny linguistic incident when I ordered a bagel [which I pronounced bah-gael in the Parisian way] in a bakery and was offered a baguette!

Watched The Chase, an improbable but funny Korean film about a grumpy old man uncovering a serial killer, helped by a former cop escaped from a psychiatric facility. Given that the heroes were mostly senior citizens, this made for a welcome major change from the series I usually watched. Also came by chance upon the 2003 Japanese anime Tokyo Godfathers, which I found amazing, despite my rare foray into anime! A most unconventional Christmas movie, to watch in July or any other month.

a journal of the [less] plague and [more] pestilence year

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 10, 2022 by xi'an

Read Rankin’s last Rebus, A song for the dark times, which takes place between Edinburgh and the Far North (of Scotland). I reasonably enjoyed it, by which I mean I was not expecting novelty, but rather reuniting with a few characters, including the Teflon villain, Big Ger Cafferty, still around at his craft. Rebus is getting older, cannot climb stairs any longer, and cannot deliver a proper punch in a fight! Still enjoyable, with a dig into Second World War internment camps for German prisoners… While not yet into the COVID era, the spirit is definitely post-Brexit, with a general resentment of what it brought (and did not bring). The character of Inspector Fox escaped me, mostly, but otherwise, an enjoyable read.

Made a light (no baking) chocolate tart, with home raspberries on top (of course) that did not last long.

Watched two Japanese shows: Any crybabies around?! by Takuma Satô which revolves around the Namahage tradition in Northern Japan (to terrify children into being obedient and no crybabies!) and the immaturity of a young father acting as such a character until disaster strikes. With a lot of cringe moments, until the utter hopelessness of this man crybaby, more straw-like than his traditional costume made me stop caring. And the mini-series Switched. Which explores a (paranormal) body switch between two teenager girls to school pressure, bullying, and depression, but in a rather perturbing manner as the girl who initiated and forced the exchange does not come out nicely, despite her overweight issues, her abusive single mother, and the attitude of the rest of the school.  The most interesting character is the other schoolgirl who has to adapt to this situation without changing her (inner) personality, but the story is slow-motioned, predictable, and heavy-handed, esp. in the sobbing department. (Plus bordering at fat-shaming at some point.)

bad news for reproductive rights

Posted in Kids, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 20, 2022 by xi'an

Last week, when reading about Japan [late in] coming close validating drug induced abortion, I found out that both surgical and medical abortions in Japan do require [by law] the consent of the woman’s partner! As denounced by both the World Health Organisation and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, this is an appalling restriction, a violation of reproductive rights, and  a potential tool for partner abuse.

And then came the news of Poland setting a database of pregnancies, reported by medical personnel. Which is of course worrying in a country where abortion is essentially illegal. As the über conservative Polish authorities could use the database to hunt and prosecute women who have self-administered abortions….

Meanwhile, Oklahoma governor just signed a law making abortion illegal at conception, following another law turning abortion practice into a felony… Not even waiting for the SCOTUS [likely] abrogation of Roe v. Wade.

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