Archive for April, 2012

mad statistic

Posted in R, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , on April 30, 2012 by xi'an

In the motivating toy example to our ABC model choice paper, we compare summary statistics, mean, median, variance, and… median absolute deviation (mad). The latest is the only one able to discriminate between our normal and Laplace models (as now discussed on Cross Validated!). When rerunning simulations to produce nicer graphical outcomes (for the revision), I noticed a much longer run time associated with the computation of the mad statistic. Here is a comparison for the computation of the mean, median, and mad on identical simulations:

> system.time(mmean(10^5))
   user  system elapsed
  4.040   0.056   4.350
> system.time(mmedian(10^5))
user  system elapsed
12.509   0.012  15.353
> system.time(mmad(10^5))
   user  system elapsed
 23.345   0.036  23.458

Now, this is not particularly surprising: computing a median takes longer than computing a mean, even using quicksort!, hence computing two medians… Still, having to wait about six times longer for the delivery of a mad statistics is somehow…mad!

art brut

Posted in pictures, Running with tags , , on April 29, 2012 by xi'an

The Redeemer (Jo Nesbo)

Posted in Books, Travel with tags , , , , , , on April 28, 2012 by xi'an

I picked this book in Oxford two months ago with some reticence because of “The next Stieg Larsson” sticker on it… Indeed, I did not like the underlying message of the Larsson Millenium trilogy, even though I admired the efficiency of the story-telling. Now, The Redeemer is the first book by Jo Nesbo I read and I rather liked it, at least conditional on the serial killer genre. Maybe the fact that it takes place in Oslo, a city I particularly like, makes it more interesting. Maybe the convoluted psychological features of the detective Harry and of the killers are much more convincing than in Larsson‘s books.

And our prejudices solve cases. Because they are not based on lack of knowledge, but on actual facts and experience. In this room we reserve the right to discriminate against everyone, regardless of race, religion, or gender. Our defence is that it is not exclusively the weakest members of the society  who are discriminated against (…) Since we work with probabilities and limited knowledge, we cannot afford to ignore knowledge wherever we find it.” J. Nesbo, The Redeemer (p. 143)

The central character is the detective, Harry Hole, who is looking as much for his true self than for the murderer. He is fighting against alcoholism, which almost had him thrown out of the police, against religious fanaticisms, against corruption within the force, against turning sexual encounters into longer term relationships and against regrets about his separation from his girlfriend Rakel, but (minor spoiler!) falls short of winning all those battles. Other characters are also well-built, from the professional assassin to the highly various actors from the Salvation Army. And the underlying theme of young girls’ abuses make the quest for the assassin more dramatic, with the endings completely unexpected. (If somewhat unrealistic.) I also like the understated way the story unfolds, which sounds very suited to snow-encased Oslo (even though some of its harsher aspects emerge at times). I should have read the three previous novels by Jo Nesbo in the series, but The Redeemer can easily be read as a stand-alone. Not perfect, but quite enjoyable and definitely gripping.

camera miracles: once, not twice!

Posted in Books, Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2012 by xi'an

As I mentioned in a post last February, I almost lost my (Nikon Coolpix L26) camera to the cloaca maxima, in Roma. It however remained (miraculously) within reach inside the manhole there… Well, this kind of miracle does not happen twice (or only in Roma…)  and I have now lost the camera for good! When climbing Tower Ridge, after the first belay to go up Douglas gap, I took it out of my pocket to take a few pictures of the beginning of the ridge and of the fantastic view of that side of Ben Nevis. As I was mostly paying attention to Kenny going up the blocks above us (to make sure of my holds there), I did not look as I put my camera back inside my overpants and it slid out of the pocket, swiftly accelerating down the snowy slopes to disappear into Coire na Ciste… There was no way we were going to check whether or not it was retrievable, so I called myself a few well-chosen names and we continued our climb along the ridge without further delay. In fact, I had another camera in my bag, my older and bulkier Konica Minolta Dimage Z20, but it was impossible to get hold of it in most places (as I would have had to unpack) and it anyway ran out of battery (which explains why I have so few pictures of the top of the Ben and of the unbelievable [and rare] views of the Highlands invading the ‘Og in the past days!).

Here is thus the last picture taken from my lost camera, a view of the Aonach Eagach ridge from the bottom of Glencoe (and the start of the trail to the Lost Valley). Apart from this miracle in Roma, I have been rather unlucky with cameras lately, loosing first my favourite one in a New York taxi, then this one on Tower Ridge. Actually, I consoled myself with the fact that the quality of this Nikon Coolpix L26 camera was rather unsatisfactory, behaving poorly in anything but clear weather and having grown a mark (fungus?) on the lens (after falling in the snow during my X’mas ski trip). Mark that is clearly visible on the right of  the ptarmigan picture below. Anyway, I will now have to look for a new camera, hopefully supported by ‘Og’s readers (!) via the links to and there, which earn me a monetary gain [of 4% to 7%] if a purchase [of any product] is made within the 24 hours following the entry on Amazon through this link, thanks to the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to


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