Archive for Soviet era

snapshot from Budapest (#5)

Posted in pictures, Running, Travel with tags , , , , , on August 4, 2013 by xi'an

IMG_0498

nach Berlin [bankrott!]

Posted in Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , on September 16, 2012 by xi'an

I have started to make preparations for the Winter Simulation Conference (WSC) in Berlin next December, like booking a (cheap) plane, finding a (cheap) flat thru Airbnb, and registering for the conference… However, when checking on the conference website, I was rather shocked to discover that the registration fee is $720 for non-members of sponsoring societies! (I am glad to be an ASA member as the registration fee down to $570.) I cannot really fathom the reason for this unusually high fee, the highest I ever paid for a conference. It indeed “includes access to all sessions, attendee bags, a USB stick or CD containing the conference proceedings, all coffee breaks, and a conference reception.” While I’d be happy to do without the useless “bags, coffee breaks and conference reception” package, this all-inclusive offer still does not add up to $720… By far. So either the organising society is making a profit by charging so much, or it picked such a luxurious hotel that it had to charge all participants enough to avoid making a loss. In both cases, not my vision of a conference run by an academic society… There is a clear tendency over the years to steadily increase conference rates and make conferences a source of profit for either the organisers or the organising society, tendency that I strongly object to.

By contrast, let me stress that MCMSki IV should have a fee of about 150 euros for the same duration (and in a highly touristy place in the heart of winter!). And all “ABC in…” have been free so far!

Puhdistus

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , on November 28, 2010 by xi'an

I read Purge (Puhdistus in Finnish) by Sofi Oksonen (in French) this summer when flying to San Francisco from Vancouver. This is a strong and gripping novel, as others have noticed before me. It takes place in post-communist Estonia where a widow of a (very lower-ranking) member of the communist nomenklatura is forced into considering her past choices and the lies she made to herself and to others when her grand-niece pops in, pursued by Russian-mafia-style gangsters who had enslaved her into a cruel prostitution scheme in Germany… This may sound like a cheap plot but the slow unravelling of the old woman’s (horrific) deeds and of the compromises she was led to endure makes for a much deeper read. There is also an historical level about Estonia being as ruthlessly occupied by Soviet soldiers as by Nazis, and about the hopeless fight of the local partisans followed by massive deportations to the Russian Far East. The book is thus multifaceted and the end, although predictable, is a nice tale of redemption for the old Aliide Truu who would otherwise appear as a remorseless criminal… An impressive and recommended tour-de-force! (Note that, despite some misguided criticisms found on Amazon, this is not a thriller!)

Purge
by Sofi Oksanen
Old Aliide Truu lives alone in a cottage in the woods, pestered by flies she wishes would leave her in peace. Her isolation is interrupted when she spies a young woman under a tree in her garden. The girl is strange; arriving in the dead of night, bruised, dirty and shoeless – why is she at Aliide’s door? Overcome by curiosity the old woman decides, warily, to take her in. Zara is on the run from men who tortured, raped, and sold her into slavery. Her only possession is a tattered photograph of her grandmother and another woman; in which Aliide recognizes herself and her sister. Horrified, she begins to realize that the past she has long tried to forget has finally caught up with her – Purge is a hauntingly intimate portrait of one family’s shame against a backdrop of European war. It is a fiercely compelling novel about what we will accept just to survive and the legacies created by our worst experiences.