Archive for Normandy

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…

La Rochambelle, 15000⁺ women in pink! [38:53, 118th & 8th V2…]

Posted in Kids, pictures, Running, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2018 by xi'an

Aessentially every year in the past decade, I have run the 10K in Caen for Courants de la Liberté, with 5000⁺ runners, on once again a new route, still completely intra muros in the city of Caen, and mostly flat, with highlights Guillaume’s medieval castle and Men Abbey,  the gothic St. Pierre church,  and a few other churches. It went reasonably well if not great (although I ran the first 5K’s in 19:02) as I ended up at a mediocre position (8th) in my category, which is not surprising with some runners now 9 years younger than I! (The runner next to me is the first V3.) Weather was much better than last year, if still too hot. I however primarily want to congratulate my mom and my mother in-law for walking the 6⁻ km Rochambelle the previous evening  in great cheer despite the rain and the crowd. I could not spot them on the picture above…


semi-marathon d’Argentan [1:27:27, 22/356, 2/65]

Posted in Kids, Running, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2017 by xi'an

As a new anniversary of the beginning of this ‘og, here comes and goes my yearly half-marathon in Argentan, Normandy, which was the 33rd edition of the race and my 19th participation there…

“Ah, le fameux Robert de l’INSEE qui vient faire chier chaque année!”

This was not one of my best races, by far, and the [fake] news that this was going to be the last edition did not help. There were fewer runners than in the earlier races, meaning no protection on most of the route from what seemed like a constant headwind, as I ran by myself from the third kilometre. And I was tired from too much training (and not enough sleeping) the past week in Warwick. Or not enough training the previous week in Vienna. Anyway, this was not a great race and the local V2 [Grand Master] runner who greeted me with the above good-natured apostrophe when I passed him on the second km ended up one minute ahead of me. I could have even stopped at mid-race, were it not for a deficient watch operation, that kept me thinking I could keep with my earlier time [3:39 – 3:50 – 3:59 – 3:53 – 4:00 – 4:28 – 4:11 – 4:06 – 4:04 – 4:07 – 4:24 – 4:39 – 4:01 – 4:12 – 4:05 – 4:14 – 4:03 – 4:16 – 4:17 – 3:58 – 0:25] till the finish line when I found a 4mn difference with the official time! Despite the low participation of 356 runners, and with the support of runners from England, the town of Argentan has vowed to keep the race on for next years, calling for volunteers to man the route and the arrival hall. Till next time, then, hopefully!

a trip back in time [and in Rouen]

Posted in Kids, pictures, Running, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2017 by xi'an

On Monday, I took part in a celebration of the remarkable career of a former colleague of mine in Rouen, Gérard Grancher, who is retiring after a life-long position as CNRS engineer in the department of maths of the University of Rouen, a job title that tells very little about the numerous facets of his interactions with mathematics, from his handling of all informatics aspects in the laboratory to his support of all colleagues there, including fresh PhD students like me in 1985!, to his direction of the CNRS lab in 2006 and 2007 at a time of deep division and mistrust, to his numerous collaborations on statistical projects with local actors, to his Norman federalism in bringing the maths departments of Caen and Rouen into a regional federation, to an unceasing activism to promote maths in colleges and high schools and science fairs all around Normandy, to his contributions to professional training in statistics for CNRS agents, and much, much more… Which explains why the science auditorium of the University of Rouen was packed with mathematicians and high schools maths teachers and friends! (The poster of the day was made by Gérard’s accomplices in vulgarisation, Élise Janvresse and Thierry Delarue, based on a sample of points randomly drawn from Gérard’s picture, maybe using a determinantal process, and the construction of a travelling salesman path over those points.)

This was a great day with mostly vulgarisation talks (including one about Rasmus’ socks..!) and reminiscences about Gérard’s carreer at Rouen. As I had left the university in 2000 to move to Paris-Dauphine, this was a moving day as well, as I met with old friends I had not seen for ages, including our common PhD advisor, Jean-Pierre Raoult.

This trip back in time was also an opportunity to (re-)visit the beautifully preserved medieval centre of Rouen, with its wooden houses, Norman-style, the numerous churches, including Monet‘s cathedral, the Justice Hall… Last time I strolled those streets, George Casella was visiting!