Archive for Korea

a journal of the plague year² [away!!!]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 25, 2021 by xi'an

Read the last two volumes in The Witcher series, The Tower of Swallows and The Lady of the Lake, with some difficulty as I found them [again] overly stretched. Plus recycling a whole lot of older myths, like the Arthurian tale of The Lady of the Lake to start with. But the major battle scene in the final volume is worth reading and very cinéma-esque… And the slugguish construction of the characters’ arcs eventually make sense. If a bit too much of a happy ending imho. And I also read [much faster, mostly while in Marseille] the third book of the Eastern Bloc series by Olen Steinhauer, 36 Yalta Boulevard (the local equivalent of Lybyanka), a bit less exciting, if covering another aspect of the Eastern block countries at the time of the Czechoslovakian uprising in 1968. Less interesting because of the convoluted guilty-non-guilty scenario. Quite interesting for impersonating this time Sev,  the most ideological of the members of the detective team, for taking place in Vienna part of the time. Less realistic because by rendering Sev so realistically human and compelling, his blind adhesion to the Party line does not make sense, the more when exposing the corruption and double game of some of his superiors.

Did not cook much in the past weeks, first for being at CIRM (with an escape to Cassis for a nice if not fabulous dinner by the harbour) and then for going through the fruit and veggies crates we bought in Aveyron on our way back home (after carrying South-East wine South-East!). Would have enjoyed tasting some boar meat at CIRM, given how prevalent the animals are on the campus (with apparently no warning for guests).

Watched Strangers 2, the second season of the Korean TV series. Which I enjoyed even more than the first one. With the central characters being the same but (appearing) older and a stronger and less broken scenario, centering on the power struggle between police and public prosecution. And less of the chaebol‘s power struggle and recurring corruption. Plus a more central and less caricaturesque role of women. It is still unclear if and when the Season 3 will happen.

a journal of the plague year² [or the unbearable lightness of staying]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 19, 2021 by xi'an

Read Haruki Murakami’s First Person Singular, a collection of short stories, some already published in The New Yorker, and quite diverse. Even with those I did not like much, I appreciated the enormous skill in making an uninteresting event or line of thought into something worth reading, while still keeping the thing utterly mundane. A super version of i-novel as well as a pastiche. Short stories like With the Beatles or Carnival are quite powerful. And The Stone Pillow even more. The cover of the book, with its  Shinagawa monkey reaching out for something adds to its appeal, even though the corresponding story did not really need the monkey [as a monkey].

Spent a whole Sunday morning preparing vegetables from the farmers’ market for the week, with mixed results as some turned sour before we could eat them! (No one got sick though!) And has a taste of our first strawberries [plentiful after a wet cool Spring], cherries [tasty, but which did not resist the onslaught of magpies, pigeons, and slaty-headed parakeets], rubharb, and potatoes [which grew on their own from discarded peel].

Watched Strangers, a 2017 Korean TV series. To quote the New York Times, “the murder mystery “Stranger” has less of the usual awkwardness and obviousness of many South Korean dramas as well as another big advantage: It stars the immensely likable Bae Doo-na as a fearless cop.” Indeed! Besides this central figure of Bae Doo-na, who also plays in Kingdom, the show is faster paced than others and steers away from both supernatural elements and romantic side-stories (if barely). The only annoying part is the constant upheaval of characters’ morals, who at one point or another are suspected of one crime or another. And the rushed final episode.

a journal of the plague year² [more of the same]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2021 by xi'an

Read V.E. Schwab’s The Near Witch, yet another instance of a YA novel not identified as such! Conditional on this category, I found it a rather good book in that the central character (as a female teenager fighting prejudices of her village) is well-made, with depth and (almost) enough imperfections to be credible. The universe where this happens is however restricted to a village isolated in a grassy plain where strangers are so rarely seen as to be immediately an object of suspicion. On the light side, but definitely superior to her Shades of Magic trilogy.

Made hot X buns, mostly successful except for the X that tasted exactly as the dried uncooked flour it was made of!!! And tagliatelle nere agli asparagi, at the very end of the [green] asparagus short season, with more bigoli as well. And sampled a few bentô boxes from [surviving] local restaurants. During a semi-vacation trip to the Brittany coast, cooked large local crabs bought from the local fishermen (back from blockading Jersey!] and fish from the same providers.

Watched some parts of Kingdom, yet another Korean TV series that mixes historical drama with… zombies. A lot of scenes can be [and were] speed-watched as the pace is deadly slow (if not from the zombie perspective!). The end is unexpected, making it almost worth the effort. And Erased, a Japanese TV series derived from a famous manga, which I found remarkable, mostly for the performances of the young actors, as the serial killer is rather easy to spot. And the end somewhat anticlimactic. Also started 47 Ronin, which I thought was related to the book I read two summers ago. But found it so ridiculous with its cheap fantasy, its obligatory Westerner saving the day, the gross misrepresentation of the original story, the many cultural counter-representations, the absurd love story, &tc., &tc., that I gave up. The antithesis of Mizoguchi’s 1941 version.



a journal of the [second] plague year

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 10, 2021 by xi'an

Read the picaresque El Buscòn (in French, translated by Nicolas Restif de La Bretonne), dating from 1602-1604, but the classic French translation from a century later is quite enjoyable and the story often hilarious. (I read this book after reading in 2019 the BD (comics) by Alain Ayroles and Juanjo Guarnido called les Indes Fourbes, that was inspired from El Buscòn and pretended to produce its sequel, located in South America). Also read the second volume of Olen Steinhauer, The Confession, just as impressive a dig into the minutiae of a Balkanic socialist dictature as the first one. And into the complex mind of another militia inspector in the homicide squad. (Just wondering if there were truly paper cups in the post-war Eastern block!)

Made my first fresh pastas with the traditional pasta machine my daughter got me as a Xmas present! I need improvements but, despite the mess this creates (flour everywhere!), it is a real treat to eat fresh pastas. The next goal is to check if soba noodles can be made with the machine….

Watched some parts of a rather terrible Korean series, Demon Catchers (or The Uncanny Counter). With absolutely no redeeming feature, although a very popular show… And the beginning episodes of another SF Korean series, Alice,  playing with time travel themes until it hit the usual paradoxes. (At least the physics fomulae on the white boards sounded correct, even though the grossly romanticised home office of a physics professor made no sense.)

Gave up on Augusto Cruz’ London after Midnight. Which revolves around the search for a surviving copy of the 1927 horror movie London after midnight, made by Tod Browning, and seemingly cursed. The plot is terrible and the style awful, an unpalatable endless infodump… Read P. Djeli Clark’s delightful short story A Dead Djinn in Cairo, which is a prequel to Haunting of tramcar 105 about a supernatural Cairo in the early 1900’s.

understanding elections through statistics [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids, R, Statistics, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2020 by xi'an

A book to read most urgently if hoping to take an informed decision by 03 November! Written by a political scientist cum statistician, Ole Forsberg. (If you were thinking of another political scientist cum statistician, he wrote red state blue state a while ago! And is currently forecasting the outcome of the November election for The Economist.)

“I believe [omitting educational level] was the main reason the [Brexit] polls were wrong.”

The first part of the book is about the statistical analysis of opinion polls (assuming their outcome is given, rather than designing them in the first place). And starting with the Scottish independence referendum of 2014. The first chapter covering the cartoon case of simple sampling from a population, with or without replacement, Bayes and non-Bayes. In somewhat too much detail imho given that this is an unrealistic description of poll outcomes. The second chapter expands to stratified sampling (with confusing title [Polling 399] and entry, since it discusses repeated polls that are not processed in said chapter). Mentioning the famous New York Times experiment where five groups of pollsters analysed the same data, making different decisions in adjusting the sample and identifying likely voters, and coming out with a range of five points in the percentage. Starting to get a wee bit more advanced when designing priors for the population proportions. But still studying a weighted average of the voting intentions for each category. Chapter three reaches the challenging task of combining polls, with a 2017 (South) Korea presidential election as an illustration, involving five polls. It includes a solution to handling older polls by proposing a simple linear regression against time. Chapter 4 sums up the challenges of real-life polling by examining the disastrous 2016 Brexit referendum in the UK. Exposing for instance the complicated biases resulting from polling by phone or on-line. The part that weights polling institutes according to quality does not provide any quantitative detail. (And also a weird averaging between the levels of “support for Brexit” and “maybe-support for Brexit”, see Fig. 4.5!) Concluding as quoted above that missing the educational stratification was the cause for missing the shock wave of referendum day is a possible explanation, but the massive difference in turnover between the age groups, itself possibly induced by the reassuring figures of the published polls and predictions, certainly played a role in missing the (terrible) outcome.

“The fabricated results conformed to Benford’s law on first digits, but failed to obey Benford’s law on second digits.” Wikipedia

The second part of this 200 page book is about election analysis, towards testing for fraud. Hence involving the ubiquitous Benford law. Although applied to the leading digit which I do not think should necessarily follow Benford law due to both the varying sizes and the non-uniform political inclinations of the voting districts (of which there are 39 for the 2009 presidential Afghan election illustration, although the book sticks at 34 (p.106)). My impression was that instead lesser digits should be tested. Chapter 4 actually supports the use of the generalised Benford distribution that accounts for differences in turnouts between the electoral districts. But it cannot come up with a real-life election where the B test points out a discrepancy (and hence a potential fraud). Concluding with the author’s doubt [repeated from his PhD thesis] that these Benford tests “are specious at best”, which makes me wonder why spending 20 pages on the topic. The following chapter thus considers other methods, checking for differential [i.e., not-at-random] invalidation by linear and generalised linear regression on the supporting rate in the district. Once again concluding at no evidence of such fraud when analysing the 2010 Côte d’Ivoire elections (that led to civil war). With an extension in Chapter 7 to an account for spatial correlation. The book concludes with an analysis of the Sri Lankan presidential elections between 1994 and 2019, with conclusions of significant differential invalidation in almost every election (even those not including Tamil provinces from the North).

R code is provided and discussed within the text. Some simple mathematical derivations are found, albeit with a huge dose of warnings (“math-heavy”, “harsh beauty”) and excuses (“feel free to skim”, “the math is entirely optional”). Often, one wonders at the relevance of said derivations for the intended audience and the overall purpose of the book. Nonetheless, it provides an interesting entry on (relatively simple) models applied to election data and could certainly be used as an original textbook on modelling aggregated count data, in particular as it should spark the interest of (some) students.

[Disclaimer about potential self-plagiarism: this post or an edited version will eventually appear in my Books Review section in CHANCE.]