Archive for Sweden

a journal of the plague year [lazier August reviews]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 5, 2020 by xi'an

Read a wonderful collection of short stories set in the same universe and spirit as Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, The Ladies of Grace Adieu, by Susanna Clarke. With the same pleasure as I read the original novel, since the style is similarly subtle and refined, with a skilled work(wo)manship in relating the stories and a bittersweet pleasure in contemplating this alternative England where some magic lingered, although in a vanishing way. The first short story is incredibly powerful, especially for being a “first story” Susanna Clarke wrote for a writing course. To quote Neil Gaiman on his reception of the story, “It was terrifying from my point of view to read this first short story that had so much assurance. It was like watching someone sit down to play the piano for the first time and she plays a sonata.” Plus the book itself is beautifully made, from its old-fashioned binding to its pastiche of 19th century Romantic drawings. (I cannot make sense of the “Grace Adieu” village name, which would mean farewell to Grace or graceful farewell in French. Or yet thank Dog if misspelled as grâce à dieu…)

Followed a should-watch suggestion from a highly positive review on the New York Times and watched The Half of it, not to be confused with The Other Half which I did not watch… Nor the other The Other Half. The story is one of a love triangle (that the NYT relates to Cyrano, rather grandiloquently!, even though the notion of writing love letter for someone else and as a result the writer falling in love… is there indeed). Taking place in a sleepy little town on the Pacific North-West, near Wenatchee. The story is far from realistic, as far as I can tell, with almost invisible adults and with senior high teenagers behaving like adults, at least for the two main female characters, most of the teens working after class while also writing essays on Sartre and Plato, and discussing Remains of the Day for its philosophical implications. A wee bit unrealistic, with some allegoric scenes such as floating head to head in a hot spring, outing their love declaration like tragic Greek comedians in a full church. But the actresses are brilliant and escape the paper-thin constriction of their character into something deeper, by conveying uncertainty and then more uncertainty while building their own life into something grander. Not the unbearable lightness of being but certainly with enough substance to reach beyond the “charming queer love comedy” summarised in The Guardian.

Ate tomatoes from the garden for almost every lunch in August as there were so many, surprising free from bugs and birds. And had a toasted squash lunch, skin included. Peppers are still at the growing stage… And my young olive tree may have irremediably suffered from the heatwave, despite regular watering.

Also per chance noticed that the one-hundred year-old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared hilarious book had been turned into a film. And had an enjoyable time watching the understated play of this hundred-year old and his hundred year story. And listening to the multilingual if mostly Swedish original sound-track. (Incidentally, yet another intrusion of the 1930s eugenism with a racialist (!) doctor sterilising the central character to stop his fascination and experimentation with explosives.)

Rewatched Manhattan Murders Mystery, which I had not seen since it came out in the early 1990s. Once I got into the spirit that this was filmed theater, rather than fixating on the (ir)realism of the plot, it became hilarious (starting with the urge to invade Poland when listening to Wagner for too long) and I could focus on references to older movies, although I must has missed the bulk of these references. For instance, the pas de deux of Allen and Keaton at the melting factory has a strong whiff of Astaire and Rogers step-dancing. The shooting scene in the movie theater is explicitly linked with Orson Wells, seen behind the screen in The Lady from Shanghai.

PhD position for research in ABC in Chalmers University

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2020 by xi'an

[Posting a call for PhD candidates from Umberto Piccini as the deadline is June 1, next Monday!]

A PhD student position in mathematical statistics on simulation-based inference methods for models with an “intractable” likelihood is available at the Dept. Mathematical Sciences, Chalmers University, Gothenburg (Sweden).

You will be part of an international collaboration to create new methodology bridging between simulation-based inference (such as approximate Bayesian computation and other likelihood-free methods) and deep neuronal networks. The goal is to ease inference for stochastic modelling.

Details on the project and the essential requirements are at

The PhD student position is fully funded and is up to 5 years, in the dynamic and international city of Gothenburg, the second largest city in Sweden, As a PhD student in Mathematical Sciences you will have opportunities for many inspiring conversations, a lot of autonomous work and some travel.

The position will be supervised by Assoc. Prof. Umberto Picchini.

Apply by 01 June 2020 following the instructions at

For informal enquiries, please get in touch with Umberto Picchini

Tales from the Loop

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 10, 2020 by xi'an

Yet another indulgence during the coronavirus quarantine was watching the series Tales from the Loop (on Amazon Prime), a science-fiction show mixing the mundane with the supernatural, as far as space opera as one can imagine. No superheroes or super-villains, but simple glitches in an otherwise sleepy Midwest small town, operating a synchrotron that opens possibilities beyond the rules of physics, especially about time. A sort of minimalist dystopia. Some critics complained at the pace or the lack of plot, which is completely beyond the point imho, as the inner life of the characters overwhelms the need for action, if any, and leaves one with bittersweet regrets in the same way closing a Maupassant or a Brontë novel makes one feel sorry for the characters and their lost opportunities. Amazingly, the idea for the show started from the eerily beautiful digital paintings of Simon Stålenhag, where he inserted rusting robots and other futuristic but decaying elements in otherwise old-fashioned (I mean from the 1980’s!, with floppy disk computers!) semi-urban landscapes. The main characters are often children and teenagers, who either perceive better than their elders the surreal capacities of their environment or are yet able to question reality into a learning experience. Rarely a happy one, although the episode corresponding to the above painting is a moving exception. Each episode is directed by a different person, including Mark Romanek (who filmed the dystopian Never let me go) and Jodie Foster for the last one. Which explains for different moods from one to the next although there is never a discontinuity in the narrative. And the hauntingly beautiful music is from Philip Glass. Highly recommended!

Death won the last chess game [but it took a while]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , on March 30, 2020 by xi'an

xi’an’s number [repost]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , on August 18, 2019 by xi'an