Archive for Venezia

a journal of the plague year [post-december reviews]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 13, 2021 by xi'an

Read a (French) novel by Fred Vargas, Sous les Vents de Neptune, after finding it in the book depository near my office. And enjoyed it very much, partly because it was partly taking place near Ottawa [which I visited many times while my wife was completing her EE Master there] and partly because of the author’s ability to make us doubt the main character and to keep the suspense tight enough for most of the book. There are a trip to Montréal to attend a concert and a journey to Detroit and back to find a lost relation, both reminding me of drives on these roads more than 30 years ago. What annoyed me though was the caricaturesque depiction of the locals, with a Québecois French that sounded overdone. Checking for a local perspective on that aspect, I found a book review in Le Devoir of 2004 sharing the reservation on that aspect, if with humour.  (I would also have rather done without the super-hacker character à la Lisbeth Salander.)

Watched Still Life (三峡好人) a 2006 film by Jia Zhangke, as it was proposed in the list of my local cinema (which I support during the endless lockdown of cinemas and theatres in France). This is an amazing film, which at the same time feels incredibly remote or alien… It follows two characters arriving by boat on the at the Three Gorges Dam under construction in search of a runaway spouse. The search for their respective spouse takes place among the demolition of the old Fengjie, soon to be drowned under 150 meters of dam water. This demolition makes for a unique soundtrack, workers hammering in cadence as blurred black shades against the sky. The dialogues are full of long silences, except for the background hammering, and it often feels theatrical. But the characters maintain a strong dignity throughout the film and the depiction of the last days of Fengjie is gripping. The film received the 2006 Venezia Golden Lion.

Cooked a few Venetian dishes from a Venetian cookbook that was my Xmas gift. And finished that way past-the-date polenta boxes. Managed to escape unscathed from both the bûche and galette weeks! And found that cooking spelt bread with spelt yeast was unbelievably easy, taking less time to work on the dough than to reach the closest bakery!

Could not manage to achieve a coherent discussion with some anti-vaxxer relatives over the Xmas break. And gave up, still hoping they would change their mind.

Watched the first episodes of The Expanse, which started as a collection of eight novels and eight shorter works, before turning into a TV series which won the 2020 Hugo Award. Enjoyable if a rather conventional setting, with the usual disregard for space physics! Reminded me very much of the Takeshi Kovacs novels.  To quote from Wikipedia, “Ty Franck began developing the world of The Expanse initially as the setting for a MMORPG and, after a number of years, for a tabletop roleplaying game.” Some of the actors are terrific (even though Steven Strait’s Holden painfully reminds me of Kit Harrington’s Jon Snow, to the point I wondered for a while if they were the same actor…)

Insane craving for food

Posted in pictures, Travel, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 18, 2020 by xi'an

Within a couple of weeks, I read two related US stories about ordering food from an insanely far destination, like hand-made frozen pizza from Napoli, Italia, or like one startup called Goldbelly ships frozen food made by some restaurants nationwide. (With a motto of Whatever [food] they dream of, wherever they are.) While I am not consistent in consuming non-local food and drinks, like my mass orderings of Italian wines and Darjeeling teas, and while I’d love to get a new taste of Toukoul’s Ethiopian dishes, a creamy sepia risotto from Da Franz, an okonomiyaki from any street stall in Osaka, and many many other dishes from all over the World, it sounds to me rather debatable to have a special single meal prepared on the other side of the World and delivered immediately to one’s table… Furthermore, one of the perks of dining at fine restaurants is exactly to dine at fine restaurants, not in one’s own room, and having starred chefs’ dishes ending up in reheated frozen plastic containers is certainly killing a major share of the experience.

Gagner la guerre

Posted in Books, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 2, 2020 by xi'an

Within a few sunny days of being consigned at home [by the “war” against the epidemics], I went through Jaworski’s Gagner la Guerre [To the victors go the spoils], which I had discovered in the list of the 101 favourite novels of Le Monde readers (or rather of whoever replied to the call since the survey was not restricted to Le Monde subscribers).  While I still have no clue how the book ended up at the 67th position in the list (!), next to Yourcenar’s fabulous L’Œuvre au Noir, I am still glad that this list pointed out the very existence of this book. Although not much more enlightened as to whom would include it in the “best novels ever”. (Warning: As the novel has not been translated from French into other languages, the review  below may be of limited appeal to most readers!)

A possible explanation for this paradox is that Jaworski is originally a creator of role-playing games and hence famous among some role-playing communities as well, who could have mobilized efficiently enough to bring him within the 101. The plot shows some influence of this role-playing expertise as the central character, a despicable, violent, sexist, xenophobic, rapist, murderous, anti-hero Benvenuto, moves from one danger to the next, while visiting the continent imagined by the author and meets characters from one fantasy race after the other: elves, dwarfs, near-orcs. Reminding me very much of the races in Warhammer, since fighting styles associated with each conveniently identified the different parts of the country. The home town of Benvenuto is a mix of Italian Renaissance state-cities, between Sienna and Venezia. Run by a Senate of rich families, fighting a Southern kingdom closely resembling the Ottoman empire, as in Guy Gavriel Kay’s Children of Earth and Sky. If in a much grittier style. It also reminded me of the fabulous Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards series, incl. Republic of Thieves. Sorcery is also involved here, whose role only appears progressively throughout the novel. Despite my usual annoyance at this choice, the writing style of the author, who also is a teacher of French literature in high school, always a first person narrative, ends up being a strength of the book, involving a rich multitude of language levels, from the vernacular to the antique, revealing as well a multitude of layers in Benvenuto (who finds himself anything but welcome from most places he visits!, including my living-room!!). None of them palatable however. To be perfectly clear, the book is an addictive page turner, despite an accumulation of details that sometimes delay the action, but which are nonetheless essential to make the book universe more substantial and complex. Highly recommended for French-speaking fans of grimdark pseudo-historical fantasy (over the legal age)!

Ca’ Foscari closed due to 19nCoV scare

Posted in pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , on February 23, 2020 by xi'an

An email from the Rettore I just received on my Ca’ Foscari account, announcing the University is closed over all its campi due to some cases of Coronavirus in the Veneto region:

Care colleghe e cari colleghi tutti, care studentesse e cari studenti,

abbiamo avuto ieri e oggi la notizia di diversi casi di infezione da Coronavirus 19nCoV in Veneto, una situazione che prevede misure appropriate e la massima attenzione.

Invito innanzitutto l’intera comunità accademica a seguire con grande scrupolo le prescrizioni che l’unità di crisi regionale ha emanato, ed emanerà sulla base della evoluzione del contagio. Si raccomandano in particolare le seguenti misure di prevenzione (nota OMS e linea indirizzo MUR):
• Lavare spesso le mani con acqua e sapone o gel disinfettanti
• Quando si tossisce o starnutisce, coprire la bocca e il naso con il gomito o fazzoletto usa e getta, lavandosi poi le mani
• Evitare il contatto con chiunque abbia febbre e tosse.

Riguardo alle attività accademiche, al fine di ridurre le possibilità di contagio, si dispone – secondo le indicazioni del Presidente Luca Zaia e in coordinamento con le università del Veneto –  la sospensione delle lezioni e degli esami in tutte le sedi dell’università, a Venezia, Mestre, Treviso e Roncade dal 24/02 al 29/02 compresi. Biblioteche e aule studio saranno chiuse dal 23/02 al 01/03.
Il recupero delle lezioni e degli esami verrà comunicato quanto prima sul sito web di Ca’ Foscari e sui canali di comunicazione ufficiali.
Per il personale tutto,  docente e non docente, le attività si svolgeranno regolarmente, fatte salve le ordinanze locali che vincolino la mobilità delle persone.
L’Ateneo è in continuo contatto con l’unità di crisi e con i ministeri competenti, e provvederà ad aggiornare le misure oggi vigenti sulla base dell’evoluzione della situazione.
Il Rettore
Michele Bugliesi

generalised Poisson difference autoregressive processes

Posted in pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2020 by xi'an

Yesterday, Giulia Carallo arXived the paper on generalised Poisson difference autoregressive processes that is a component of her Ph.D. thesis at Ca’ Foscari Universita di Venezia and to which I contributed while visiting Venezia last Spring. The stochastic process under study is integer valued as a difference of two generalised Poisson variates, made dependent by an INGARCH process that expresses the mean as a regression over past values of the process and past means. Which can be easily simulated as a difference of (correlated) Poisson variates. These two variates can in their turn be (re)defined through a thinning operator that I find most compelling, namely as a sum of Poisson variates with a number of terms being a (quasi-) Binomial variate depending on the previous value. This representation proves useful in establishing stationarity conditions on the process. Beyond establishing various properties of the process, the paper also examines how to conduct Bayesian inference in this context, with specialised Gibbs samplers in action. And comparing models on real datasets via Geyer‘s (1994) logistic approximation to Bayes factors.