Archive for Sweeden

Sequential Monte Carlo workshop in Uppsala

Posted in pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , on May 12, 2017 by xi'an

A workshop on sequential Monte Carlo will take place in Uppsala, Sweeden, on August 30 – September 1, 2017. Involving 21 major players in the field. It follows SMC 2015 that took place at CREST and was organised by Nicolas Chopin. Furthermore, this workshop is preceded by a week-long PhD level course. (The above picture serves as background for the announcement and was taken by Lawrence Murray, whose multiple talents include photography.)

Italian shoes

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , on February 11, 2012 by xi'an

This week I read a second Henning Mankell novel (lent to me by my daughter), Italian shoes. It is more a tale than a novel, in that characters act and talk as in parables (in the same sense MacCarthy’s The Crossing is a parable). So it is mostly unrealistic. Nonetheless, I enjoyed Italian shoes very much, primarily because of the unappealing central character, a retired surgeon living as a recluse on an island, who is forced to reassess all his previous choices when faced with one, then two, then three strong women. (A very vague connection with Tea Bag at one point, not really of importance.) At some point the story drifts towards some survival communities that reminded me very much of Paasalina, with this weird fascination for closeted communities living in the middle of the forest. This is certainly not the strongest part of the book, but it brings a new major character and a transition to the third part, with yet a new major character and the return to the island which is more like a new beginning…

The Shadow Girls [a.k.a. Tea-Bag]

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , on January 22, 2012 by xi'an

This book is called Tea-Baig in Swedish, French and Spanish, but not in English where it is called The Shadow Girls. (Maybe because of the sexual innuendo?) And not yet published or even advertised on amazon. This is the first novel of Henning Mankell I read (I picked it from my daughter’s bedside book-pile). Meaning I had never read a detective Wallander book… The author is a fairly interesting character, deeply involved in cooperation with Africa through various cultural projects. Including spending half the year in Maputo, Mo[c/z]ambique, directing a local theatre, Teatro Avenida. This puts the book into perspective, even though I read it prior to getting all those items of information.

Even though I did not find Tea-Bag perfect in terms of its story, in the sense that it is more allegorical than realistic, esp. with regards to the unlikely involvement of the Swedish writer into the women writing class, and the subsequent involuntary “rescue” of those women, it told the story of three (legal and illegal) migrant women in a highly personal and convincing manner. The different writing styles of those women seems [to me] well-rendered in the book. The part about Tania, the migrant from Russia (or Latvia?), reminded me very vividly of Pudhishtus, or Purge, I reviewed last year, about a young woman fleeing a prostitution ring and arriving at her grand-mother’s farm re-awaking a dreary past for the latter. (I found Purge deeper than Tea-Bag in that much more than the awful plight of the young woman was at stake. But Tea-Bag is, in a way, more optimistic about human nature than Purge…) I quite liked the ending of the book, with the demonstration that good will alone (of the writer) is not going to change (for the better) the situation of those migrant women and that their future is still to be drawn… Not a book with an obvious message, then, more of bearing witness to the hard facts. With a long-lasting impact. Recommended.

The Millenium Trilogy (tome 2)

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , on June 20, 2010 by xi'an

Salander was at a loss. She actually was not interested in the answer. It was the process of solution that was the point. So she took a piece of paper and began scribbling figures when she read Fermat’s theorem. But she failed to find a proof for it.

Enforcing a prediction made on the earlier post, I have read through the second Millenium Trilogy volume, Stieg Larson‘s The Girl who played with fire , due to a chance encounter in the convenience shop of the hotel in Benidorm. My overall impression is better than after reading The girl with the dragon tattoo, maybe because there are less raw cruelty scenes, maybe because the hunt-within-the-hunt plot is more compelling, maybe because the action mostly takes place in the present.

By the time Andrew Wiles solved the puzzle in the 1990s, he had been at it for ten years using the world’s most advanced computer programme.

The book feels much more fast-paced than the previous one, it only covers a few calendar days where the police is searching for the “asocial” Lisbeth Salander, who is searching for a Russian sex-trafficker, who is himself searching for Salander! The very first bit taking place in the West Indies is completely unnecessary and does not even play a role in the rest of the novel (except to let us know that Salander was away, can face a tropical storm, seduce a teenager, and kill an abusive husband!). This volume tells us a lot about Salander’s childhood and the reasons why she and her mother ended up in psychiatric institutions. I also like how the book depicts the way the gutter press presents the worst possible picture of Salander from the very few tidbits leaked by the chief investigator (“lesbian Satanist psychopath”).

And all of a sudden she understood. The answer was so disarmingly simple. A game with numbers that lined up and then fell into place in a simple formula that was most similar to a rebus. She gazed straight ahead as she checked the equation.

Now, the inconsistencies and implausibilities I deplored in the first volume are there to be found  as well. First and foremost, Salander is again acting as a super-woman in this novel, mastering parallel financial networks and computer hacking, fashionable clothing and German and Norwegian accents, home modelling (in case you cannot access an Ikea catalogue, the book provides the whole series of references, maybe a Swedish habit of replacing e.g. bookcase by Billy, etc…) and chess playing, fighting techniques (against two Hell’s Angels, no less!) and, best of all!, number theory. I do not understand the motivations of the author for including this mathematical connection (unless maybe he thinks autists all make good mathematicians [when the opposite is closer to the truth!]) but he presumably read some piece on Andrew Wiles’ resolution of Fermat’s Theorem and decided that Salander could as well get a go at it! Hence a sequence of (rather dumb) mathematical quotes about equations and a few idiotic sentences like the ones above. It sounds like the author (or at least Salander) believes that Fermat had a complete proof of his theorem…and of course that Salander, unlike the four-century-some of mathematicians who vainly tried before her, can recover this proof! I have no competence in hacking but the tricks used by Salander to penetrate the whole police force computer network sound rather primitive and unlikely to work, even when obtaining the password from a police officer. Similarly, the fact that private detectives get incorporated within the police team with no suspicion nor limitations and that the first leak ends up with one officer being incriminated instead of a private detective does not sound plausible. The greater picture, namely that all characters are connected, is a weakness of many detective stories, but the book seems to be recycling about every useful character from the previous volume! At last, the relation between Blomkvist and Salander is not well-done, as it is very predictable in Salander being over-reacting vis-à-vis Blomkvist’s long-term relation with Erika Berger and in Blomkvist being completely unaware of this…