Archive for Vancouver Island

art brut

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , on July 6, 2019 by xi'an

Longhand [Pinot Grigio]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , on January 20, 2019 by xi'an

red sister [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 21, 2018 by xi'an

“It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy convent Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men.”

If it were a film, this book would be something like Harry Potter meets Clockwork Orange meets The Seven Samurai meets Fight Club! In the sense that it is set in a school (convent) for young girls with magical powers who are trained in exploiting these powers, that the central character has a streak of unbounded brutality at her core, that the training is mostly towards gaining fighting abilities and assassin skills. And that most of the story sees fighting, either at the training level or at the competition level or at the ultimate killing level. As in the previous novels by Mark Lawrence, which I did not complete, the descriptions of fights and deaths therein are quite graphic, and detailed, and obviously gory. But I found myself completely captivated by the story and the universe Lawrence created [with some post-apocalyptic features common with his earlier books] and the group of novices at the centre of the plot [even if some scenes were totally unrealistic within the harsh universe of Red Sister]. Despite the plot being sometimes very weak. or even incoherent.

“I’ve never deleted a page and rewritten it, some authors rewrite whole chapters or remove or add characters. That’s going to make it a lengthy process.”

As the warning from the author above makes it clear, the style itself is not always great, with too obvious infodumps and repetitions. And some unevenness in the characters that suddenly switch from pre-teens in a boarding school to mature schemers to super-mature strategists, from one page to the next. And [weak spoiler!] the potential villain is walking with a flashing light on top of her, almost from the start! Still, this book I bought on my last day on Van Isle, in the bookstore dense town of Sidney (B.C.) kept me hooked for a bit more than a day, from airport waits to sleepless breaks in the plane and the night after at home. And ordering the next volume of the trilogy almost immediately! One point reassuring in the interview of Lawrence is that he wrote the entire trilogy before publishing the first volume, contrary to Robert Jordan, George Martin, or Patrick Rothfuss!, meaning that his readers do not have to enjoy special time-accelerating powers to be certain to reach the date of publication of the next volume.

riddles on a line [#2]

Posted in Books, Kids, R with tags , , , , , , , on September 11, 2018 by xi'an

A second Riddle(r), with a puzzle related with the integer set Ð={,12,3,…,N}, in that it summarises as

Given a random walk on Ð, starting at the middle N/2, with both end states being absorbing states, and a uniform random move left or right of the current value to the (integer) middle of the corresponding (left or right) integer interval, what is the average time to one absorbing state as a function of N?

Once the Markov transition matrix M associated with this random walk is defined, the probability of reaching an absorbing state in t steps can be derived from the successive powers of M by looking at the difference between the probabilities to be (already) absorbed at both t-1 and t steps. From which the average can be derived.

avexit <- function(N=100){
 #transition matrix M for the walk
 #1 and N+2 are trapping states
 tranz=matrix(0,N+2,N+2)
 tranz[1,1]=tranz[N+2,N+2]=1
 for (i in 2:(N+1))
  tranz[i,i+max(trunc((N+1-i)/2),1)]=tranz[i,i-max(trunc((i-2)/2),1)]=1/2
 #probabilities of absorption
 prowin=proloz=as.vector(0)
 init=rep(0,N+2)
 init[trunc((N+1)/2)]=1 #first position
 curt=init
 while(1-prowin[length(prowin)]-proloz[length(prowin)]>1e-10){
  curt=curt%*%tranz
  prowin=c(prowin,curt[1])
  proloz=c(proloz,curt[N+2])}
 #probability of new arrival in trapping state
 probz=diff(prowin+proloz)
 return(sum((2:length(proloz))*probz))}

leading to an almost linear connection between N and expected trapping time.

the Hainish novels [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 9, 2018 by xi'an

 

When Ursula le Guin passed away earlier this year, I realised I had not read anything for her except for the Earthsea series. I thus ordered the two volume collection of the Hainish novels and short stories beautifully published by The Library of America. This boxed set has been at my bedside for the past six months and I completed reading the first volume while on Vancouver Island. The short novels (Rocannon’s World, Planet of Exile, City of Illusions) and both novels (The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed) are not part of a coherent cycle but relate to the same Universe, run by the mysterious Hains. Ursula le Guin herself describes the collection as a forest rather than a tree. There is nonetheless a strong common theme of displacement and of confrontation of one character with another culture, this character being often turned into the representative of his native culture. While the stories involve faster-than-light interstellar travel and mind reading and genetic engineering, their major thread is more of sociology or anthropology fiction than of science fiction. I enjoyed all these novels, both for their underlying common thread and for the massive diversity in the stories reported in the novels. If I had to pick only one, it would be The Dispossessed, as it merges a deeply realistic description of an anarchy run planet with the moving story of a top physicist faced with the individual doubts of pursuing research and the societal constraints imposed by a harsh arid planet and the pressure of the entire society. Albeit anarchist in principle, it still produces power structures and pressures, while being nationalistic at the planetary level by refusing any entry from another planet. In particular, I found most interesting the realisation by a group of friends that the society was no longer revolutionary and mostly replicating traditions and patterns. The reflections about scientific creativity and bareness in this novel as well as the power structures within academia are also most meaningful and should appeal to most researchers (and beyond!). Before the end of the Canadian trip, I was further able to read The Word for World is Forest in the second volume,  which is about the threat of destruction for a planet and its native humanoids, by Terrans seeking wood as the new gold. This theme has been reproduced in the subsequent sci’ fi’ literature, as in Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead, but the short novel remains striking (and in line with the permanent theme in Le Guin’s books of conflicting cultures and the difficulty to apprehend the fullness of the other culture(s)… Le Guin notes in the introduction to the second volume of the box that strong similarities have been pointed out about “a high-budget, highly successful film [which] resembles the book in so mamny ways that people have often assumed that I had some part in making it.  Since the film completely reverses the book’s moral premise, presenting the central and unsolved problem of the book, mass violence, as a solution, I’m glad I have nothing at all to do with it”. The film is Avatar, James Cameron’s 2009 blockbuster.

going on a bear [and a whale] hunt

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2018 by xi'an


Among many and diverse outdoor activities during our vacations on Vancouver Island, a rather unique trip was to go kayaking near Tofino to try to watch black bears. In a group of three sea kayaks, at dusk, with a fantastic guide. Bears foraging for crabs on the shore at low tide are not unusual but, as it happened, we were quite lucky to spot five different bears over the two hours we paddle along the fjord, including a big one standing on its back legs to catch berries. From a few meters away, this was an incredible sight! [About the title: We’re going on a bear hunt is a classic of children books.]
We were less lucky when whaling out at sea, only spotting a blow on the trip, even though we spotted many seals and a few sea otters. The most exhilarating wildlife experience of the Van trip was however swimming with seals on the northern coast of the island, where on several days one or two seals came to check on me while I was swimming in the ocean in the early morning. (Managing to avoid cold shock and hypothermia by only staying less than 20 minutes in the 17⁰ water.)

impressions soleil couchant [jatp]

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Running, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 25, 2018 by xi'an