Archive for Normandy

Argentan half-marathon

Posted in Running with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 5, 2019 by xi'an

Today is the day of the Argentan half-marathon which I will not run this year as I have not yet fully recovered from my Achilles tendinitis. (If running too many days in a row, as I indulged in while in Salzburg, inflammation is back!) Frustrating, as this is my “race of the year” in the Norman countryside. But another break also occurred ten years ago, when I missed the 2009 and 2010 episodes. And somehow this is the “best year” to miss as I am switching to the next age group, V3 or grand-master!, in less than a month, and will thus end up as one of the youngsters in the next race I run! As an indicator, in the 5km trail I ran last Sunday in the Parc, I ended 4th (by one position and 6 seconds!) in my category and 2nd (by three positions and 16 seconds, plus a month!) in the following one.

space opera by John Scalzi [book review]

Posted in Books, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 15, 2019 by xi'an

John Scalzi, author of the memorable Old Man’s War, has started a trilogy of which I only became aware recently (or more precisely became re-aware!), which has the perk of making two of the three books already published and hence available without a one or two year break. And having the book win the 2018 Locus Award in the meanwhile. This new series is yet again a space opera with space travel made possible by a fairly unclear Flow that even the mathematicians in the story have trouble understanding. And The Flow is used by guilds to carry goods and people to planets that are too hostile an environment for the “local” inhabitants to survive on their own. The whole setup is both homely and old-fashioned: the different guilds are associated with families, despite being centuries old, and the empire of 48 planets is still governed by the same dominant family, who also controls a fairly bland religion. Although the later managed to become the de facto religion.

“I’m a Flow physicist.  It’s high-order math. You don’t have to go out into the field for that.”

This does not sound much exciting, even for space operas, but things are starting to deteriorate when the novels start. Or more exactly, as hinted by the title, the Empire is about to collapse! (No spoiler, since this is the title!!!) However, the story-telling gets a wee bit lazy from that (early) point. In that it fixates on a very few characters [among millions of billions of inhabitants of this universe] who set the cogs spinning one way then the other then the earlier way… Dialogues are witty and often funny, those few characters are mostly well-drawn, albeit too one-dimensional, and cataclysmic events seem to be held at bay by the cleverness of one single person, double-crossing the bad guys. Mostly. While the second volume (unusually) sounds better and sees more action, more surprises, and an improvement in the plot itself, and while this makes for a pleasant travel read (I forgot The Collapsing Empire in a plane from B’ham!), I am surprised at the book winning the 2018 Locus Award indeed. It definitely lacks the scope and ambiguity of the two Ancillary novels. The convoluted philosophical construct and math background of Anathem. The historical background of Cryptonomicon and of the Baroque Cycle. Or the singularity of the Hyperion universe. (But I was also unimpressed by the Three-Body Problem! And by Scalzi’s Hugo Award Redshirts!) The third volume is not yet out.

As a French aside, a former king turned AI is called Tomas Chenevert, on a space-ship called Auvergne, with an attempt at coming from a French speaking planet, Ponthieu, except that is should have been spelled Thomas Chênevert (green oak!). Incidentally, Ponthieu is a county in the Norman marches, north of Rouen, that is now part of Picardy, although I do not think this has anything to do with the current novel!

75 years ago

Posted in pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2019 by xi'an

Juno Beach [jatp]

Posted in pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2019 by xi'an

military records of two great-grand fathers

Posted in Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , , on December 15, 2018 by xi'an


Here are the military records [recovered by my brother] of two of my great-grand-fathers, who both came from Western Normandy (Manche) and both died from diseases contracted in the Army during the first World War. My grand-father‘s father, Médéric Eude, was raising horses before the was and hence ended looking after horses in the Army, horses from whom he contracted a disease that eventually killed him (and granted one of my great-aunts the status of “pupille de la Nation”). Very little is known of my other great-grand-fathers. A sad apect shared by both records is that both men were retired from service for unfitness before been redrafted when the war broke in August 1914…

L’Armée Furieuse [book review]

Posted in Books, Travel with tags , , , , , , on December 9, 2018 by xi'an

“On dit que les Normands n’aiment pas beaucoup parler… Ce n’est pas qu’ils n’aiment pas parler, c’est qu’ils n’aiment pas répondre. Ce n’est pas la même chose.”

I picked this book by Fred Vargas at the airport mostly because the back cover mentioned Orbec a town near my hometown in rural Normandy. With a slight misspelling to avoid legal issues I presume. It made for a nice read in the long trip to Oaxaca even though it is filled with impossibilities and incoherences. The crux of the story is an interesting medieval myth called l’armée furieuse (the Wild Hunt) that tells of a spectral army crossing the North of France and picking dammed souls soon to die. The wild hunt is also called la mesnie or maisnie Hellequin, from the name of the Lord leading the spectral army. According to a English monk from a Norman monastery in the 1100’s. Myth that some in current era want to exploit to cover real crimes. As in the previous novels of Fred Vargas that I read there is an interesting undercurrent of exposing the machinery of a rural community, with highly unorthodox police officers. Not that I recognized much of my hometown atmosphere. And the Deus ex Machina represented by a local count [historically speaking, Orbec is only a barony] and the industrial plot were by far too implausible! (With a geographical inaccuracy of setting La Touques river nearby. And of mentioning a train station in Cernay, to end up on a very picky note.)

Argentan half-marathon [1:26:03, 22nd/329, 4th V2/63, 15⁰]

Posted in pictures, Running with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2018 by xi'an

Despite failing to reach the podium this year in my V2 category, a predictable first as I get closer to move to the next category, V3, or “senior grandmaster”, and missing by a few seconds my 1:25 target, I was rather happy with this half-marathon, having run at my pace the whole race, with none of the low passages I had in previous races and instead feeling quite well in the last kilometers, where I left the first female runner. Weather was perfect, with no sun, no rain, and no wind in the second half. The three V2 runners in front of me were much faster (1:22, 1:24, and 1:25:21) than those of the previous years, an illustration of the law of small numbers found in these races…