Archive for rhubarb

a journal of the [tolerated] plague and [mostly] pestilence year

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 31, 2022 by xi'an

Read Among Our Weapons by Ben Aaronovitch, the ninth installment in the Rivers of London urban fantasy series. Which I found superior to the earlier volumes. As the ninth novel in the series, it obviously shows some signs of fatigue in the relatively thin plot that painstakingly connects a series of no-spoilers with the Spanish Inquisition, in the convenient so convenient appearance of a new kind of magical being, and in the convoluted uncovering of this connection in the final pages. However, the witty remarks of Peter Grant still make me smile and his move to becoming a father is rather charming. Recommended for the comforting feeling of being reunited with a familiar.

Over the four week summer period “everyone” was away (on vacations), I managed to deal with long delayed projects, keep my Biometrika slate mostly clean, and work on an incoming grant. Plus, made an uninterrupted series of compotes from my neighbour’s fallen apples and rhubarb sticks from the local market, as I found a much faster way to bake them in the microwave oven, with no danger for kitchen pans! Observing in the process a phase transition phenomenon where the contents very suddenly change structure and the bowl overflows, despite my frequent stirring. And I found time to lazily bike with my wife on weekends to traffic-free Paris, incl. light dinners outside (except during heatwaves), like a nice and perfectly spicy Korean bulgogi near Denfert. Had some DIY experiences as well, incl. changing my 2000 Twingo car battery, which had run flat after at least three months of idleness (now that our children no longer drive it)! Which as usual induced several (dreaded) trips to the DIY store…

Watched Extraordinary Attorney Woo, which is a Korean TV series following an autistic attorney at law, which has some original features but leaves me uneasy about its rather charicaturesque depiction of autism. At least, addressing discrimination and sexism (albeit with mixed results, as in the stereotyped representation of both female heads of the law firms). And The Soul, a Taiwanese horror + sci-fi + noir movie whose foggy atmosphere was rather appealing but alas following a terrible scenario.

a journal of the plague year² [no end near]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2021 by xi'an

Read the beginning of The Grace of Kings, by Ken Liu, who also translated Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem, and Chen Qiufan’s Waste Tide. But I just could not find enough interest in the one-dimensional and cardboardesque characters or the shallow plot to finish his book. In a sense, it reminded me of Jin Yong’s Legends of the Condor Heroes, which I also could not finish.

Kept harvesting large amounts of raspberries, with a second round coming sound. And monitored the tomato patch rise, thanks to a very wet month. But compared with earlier years, the tomatoes are still far from being ready to eat. Hopefully they will resist our vacation break (if COVID permits!). We also harvested the first rhubarb stems in three years (that made for a marmalade) and our very first gherkins/cornichons.

Watched Possessed a fairly dark Korean TV series that seems to merge most of the tropes in the series I have watched so far, from the grumpy cop to the joker role, from evil spirits to slow-paced action, from numerous scenes in cars with tachometers reving up to hint at high speeds to even more scenes in a police station, &tc. Plus the characters giving in to horrible blackmail to “save” loved ones In short, in a sort of cheap trolley dilemna… Not a series I would recommend! And had a second look at The Witcher series, after painfully completing the books: it did not sound so great upon reflection, especially the threadbare battle scenes, even though some parts and characters made more sense after reading the whole series. But Dandelion (not connection with Ken Liu’s trilogy) is even more unbearable on a second run!

journal of the [second] plague year [deconf’d]

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 15, 2021 by xi'an

Read the third volume of Parker’s Engineer Trilogy, The Escapement. Which I found very slow-paced, with loads of mechanistic vocabulary I did not know, and it took me a while to read the book! Still, some sections are definitely worth reading, like the one on Necessary Evil, seen as the tolerance zone between exactitude and error, from and engineer viewpoint… And the final chapters are truly terrific, very dark and pessimistic, keeping me awake till the wee hours. Even though all pieces of the machinery fit too well in the end! But I also reflected on the ambivalent role of the very few women in this third novel, dooming the entire country while remaining stuck in the lover-wife-mother triangle, with no engineering or military role…

“He didn’t for one moment doubt the accuracy of the tables, but how on earth did the book’s author know these things? It could only be that, at some time in the past, so long ago that nobody remembered them any more, there had been sieges of great cities; so frequent and so commonplace that scholarly investigators had been able to collate the data-troop numbers, casualty figures-and work out these ratios, qualified by variables, verified by controls (…) to be inferred from the statistical analyses in a manual of best city-killing practice. Extraordinary thought (…) suppose the book was the only residue left by the death of thousands of cities, each one of them as huge and arrogant in its day as the Perpetual Republic—the Eternal City of this, the Everlasting Kingdom of that, squashed down by time and oblivion into a set of mathematical constants for predicting the deaths of men in battle.”

I also read La Saga des Écrins, by François Labande, in the iconic Guérin series, about the Écrins range in the French Alps, where we spent a fortnight last summer, a rather classical if enjoyable story of the climbers making firsts on the peaks of this “wild” area of the Alps. (As an aside, François Labande started Mountain Wilderness France, whose goal is to keep mountains as a place of wilderness and to clean them from artificial infrastructures.) The cover includes a very nice drawing of La Meige by Jean-Marc Rochette. I also read another delightful short story by P. Djèlí Clark, The Angel of Khan el Khalili. Obviously set in the same fantasy steampunk Cairo of the early 1900’s.

Still turning the crank of the new past machine, I made bigoli, the Venetian equivalent of soba noodles, with both an anchovies sauce and a clam sauce as well (if not from the Laguna!), a rhubarb clafoutis (not yet from our garden), Lebanese humus (without the skin!). Noticed a sharp rise in the price of BrewDog beers, thanks to the new taxes courtesy of Brexit! But still ordered a box of their Nanny State for the summer…

Watched the movie Jo-Phil: The Dawning Rage (!), which makes a great job of setting characters and installing a seedy atmosphere of violence and corruption but completely fails at delivering a convincing story, still gripping enough to watch till the end. And binge-watched a Korean TV series called Signal related to the stunning Memories of Murder (and a collection of real crimes in South Korea from the 1980’s to the last decade). While far from perfect, with a tendency to repeat some scenes twice, the usual theatrics of such series, and the paradoxes of temporal travel (!), the show is nonetheless one of the best Korean dramas I watched… Had  a quick look at the very Netflixy Shadow and Bones. To discover that the trilogy was merged with Six of Crows. Which is strange as the time lines completely differ. But logical if considering that Six of Crows is better written and paced than the earlier trilogy, albeit not outstanding. This is a 12⁺ YA read after all..!


last Indian summer rays…

Posted in Kids, pictures with tags , , , on November 2, 2014 by xi'an


Visit of an hedgehog

Posted in Kids, pictures with tags , on May 31, 2010 by xi'an

On Friday, a [visiting] friend of my kids pointed out to us an hedgehog crossing our lawn. We watched it for a while meandering in the grass before it vanished through the fence. The same (?) hedgehog came back on Saturday and it was quite unfazed by my presence, so I took a few pictures while it was visiting my rhubarb patch…

I am quite amazed that hedgehogs manage to survive on the very small patches of “nature” remaining around our densely urbanised suburb… (A wild boar made it to the local park a few years ago but this is another scale!) Two years ago, there was actually a family nesting into a pile of leaves but they did not show up last summer and early this year I saw one hedgehog killed on the nearby road. This could have been the mother of the current one… Which I hope will remain in the garden for a long while!

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