Archive for May, 2009

Comments on Theory of Probability revisited

Posted in Statistics on May 26, 2009 by xi'an

“…it would require that a procedure is dismissed because, when combined with information which it doesn’t require and which may not exist, it disagrees with a procedure that disagrees with itself.”

Stephen Senn just sent us his comments on the Statistical Science paper about Jeffreys’ Theory of Probability. Besides being awfully nice, these comments mostly focus on Laplace’s succession law which, as posted earlier, is an endless source for debate! Stephen notes the trick of keeping weights at the extremes, also exploited by Berger, Bernardo, and Sun. (For a change, black crows are substituted to black swans.)

Add-on to my favourite books

Posted in Books with tags , , on May 25, 2009 by xi'an

Although this is likely to be boring to most by now, here are a few more books I could not find on my bookcases but would have liked to add to my list of favourites,

  • Scott’s Ender’s game, a fascinating study on war as a videogame and incidentally about childhood;
  • Golding’s Lord of the Flies, another incredible delve into the core of human behaviour outside society, much more than about childhood. I do think William Golding used boys as allegories of humans because the quick reversal from civilization to animalism is more credible at that age;
  • Stevenson’s Kidnapped, another of my favourite books as a teenager;
  • Pears’ An Instance at the Fingerpost, a not so well-known tale of “everything”, including love, blood (transplant), politics, cyphers, Oxford, Cromwell, witches, and of course God! The core of the plot is reminding me of Borges’ Three versions of Judas…much more than Eco’s The Name of the Rose;
  • Paasilina’s Forest of the Hanging Foxes (which surprisingly does not seem to be translated into English), with a completely hilarious trio of unlikely characters in the Finn woods. The writer equivalent of Kaurismäki’s delirium!
  • Miller’s Canticle for Leibowitz, a post-apocalyptic novel about mixing science with religion, and somehow exposing religion as a civilising cement in dark ages. As Scott’s Ender’s game, it goes beyond the [science-fiction] genre;
  • Rawicz’s The Long Walk, an incredible riveting tale of escape from Soviet goulag in Siberia all the way south to India, across the Gobi desert and the Himalayas. So incredible that it seems Rawicz did not told his story but someone else’s, as I just discovered. Of course, besides this possibility of being an hoax, the book has a rather poor style. But that someone (Rawicz? Glinski?) could cover 6000 kilometers under the most horrendous conditions with hardly any food and no equipement makes for an exceptional read!
  • Conrad’s The Secret Agent, for its psychological study of radical characters and above this its fundamental pessimistic views of the human nature. In a sense, it is connected to this other great novel, Dostoievski’s The Possessed, but the mundane details of Conrad’s book make me rank it higher ..
  • Dinesen’s Winter Tales, again maybe considered as a minor part of the World literature, but so hauntingly different from anything else;
  • Kipling’s Kim, certainly his best novel and a great depiction of Victorian India.

Glorious morning!

Posted in Kids with tags , , on May 24, 2009 by xi'an

pancakesAh, a glorious lazy Sunday morning breakfast outside, with homemade pancakes and rhubarb marmalade… Plus a warm sunny weather and a pile of unread newspapers, including an interesting piece about beavers reappearing in Belgium. What else could I look for?!

Ps-The rhubarb grows in my garden (see picture) and the pancakes can be made in ten minutes from 1.5 cups of flour and of milk, plus one egg, a tablespoon of melted butter and of sugar…

Beyond the acceptable…

Posted in University life with tags , , on May 22, 2009 by xi'an

I came across this video yesterday about an exam at the Université de Besancon being interrupted by a group of students, calling themselves the Brigade de la Grève (the strike brigade) who systematically block exams across the campus to enforce their call for a “neutral” semester (meaning that everyone would get their credits for this semester without any grade)…

I find this story quite appalling in that a self-nominated committee can decide to stop exams on the basis they are on strike and so should the other students and so should the professors. I am also quite relieved this has not happened to me because I do not think I would react as moderately as the professor in the video

That this professor has to justify his action (of organising an exam) to the gang of half-articulate brigadiers (or that one student seriously finds it amazing that he could go against the decisions of the general assembly) is reminding me of China’s “cultural revolution” where Red Guards would bring their teacher to volunteer their auto-criticism. (The very denomination “Brigade” stinks of a para-military orientation!) This is the final step in an escalation of protests where others´ opinion can no longer be respected, as also shown by the numerous blockades/pickets organised by students on strike or calls to boycott Le Monde because the journal was not sufficiently favourable to the protests… Actually, given the discourse of the students in the video, I am not certain they have any higher goal than expressing a general protest against the current government.

Brands, brands, brands…

Posted in Kids with tags on May 19, 2009 by xi'an

bensimmon1burberry2

burberry1bensimmon2

I am always amazed at the time wasted by my kids at getting the “right” brand and at the fascination those brands exert on them! As above for instance the Burberry scarf my daughter found in a closet at home and can no longer leave, rain of shine!, or those Bensimon shoes she definitely had to get before the latest school party…

converse1gsr1

gsr2converse2

And obviously the same applies to my son, just ten-fold!!!, with Converse shoes and G Star Raw jeans…

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