Archive for the Mountains Category

Darjeeling shortage

Posted in Mountains, Travel with tags , , , , , , , on January 31, 2018 by xi'an

When looking for Darjeeling tea in the recent days, I found out that the summer (or second flush) harvest has been very limited due to a 104 day strike in the region linked with the call for the creation of a Gorkhaland state and the separation from West Bengal. I remember discussing the issue last year in Darjeeling, with guides and taxi drivers, who were calling for the recognition of their cultural specificities, including the use of Nepali in local schools rather than Bengali. What amazes me a lot in this strike is the engagement of the tea garden workers, who have certainly few alternatives if any in terms of income sources. Unless I misread the situation and they were barred from attending the gardens… (Of lesser concern is the rise of the tea prices by a factor of ten for the highest quality leaves.) Hopefully, the tea gardens will recover from being left to grow wild for such a long while. And from workers leaving the region to find work elsewhere.


ABC in Edinburgh

Posted in Books, Mountains, pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2018 by xi'an

As mentioned earlier on the ‘Og, there will be a satellite workshop ABC in Edinburgh, prior to the main ISBA meeting, taking place on Sunday, 24 June, 2018. The workshop is the last item of a series of “ABC in…” workshops on approximate Bayesian computation (ABC) and likelihood-free inference, which started with ABC in Paris in 2009! In this iteration, contributed talks and contributed posters can be submitted prior to May 1. (And there is a [extra] registration fee of 50 euros. And the deadline for early registration at ISBA 2018 is March 31, at the rather sharp rate of £380 for ISBA members.)The workshop is aimed at specialists and novices interested in statistical inference with complex models where exact computation of the likelihood function is not possible. The meeting will bring together researchers and practitioners in approximate Bayesian computation, likelihood-free inference, and related methods to discuss recent work on theoretical underpinnings, computational advances, and applications.

The invited speakers are

I am looking forward the workshop, having already booked my accommodation in the good City of Edinburgh.

(Disclaimer: I am not part of the scientific committee this round.)


flying over Afghanistan [jatp]

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , on January 8, 2018 by xi'an

self-portrait on a railway board [jatp]

Posted in Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , on December 31, 2017 by xi'an

dimmed Star Wars

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , on December 25, 2017 by xi'an

As a familial tradition of the end of the year movie, I went with my daughter to watch the second (or eighth) movie in the series. As I had heard and read several highly positive reviews on the originality of the scenario and the sharpness of the photography, I was expecting a lot from the movie. And hence was quite disappointed by the quasi-absence of scenario (never a major strength in the series anyway!) and by the pre-teens dialogues, some situations reminding me of the worst Star Trek episodes, like the very final ludicrous scene in the space shuttle… Some parts are total failures, like the expedition to the casino planet. Or the final battle scene that lasts for evvvvver… Or the initial battle scene that lasts about as long. Or the fight with the lobsters, endless! And do not even think of mentioning the Disneyian pongs. And as usual the utter disdain for any law of physics. Like a moon going from full to crescent on the same night (minor spoiler!).  Terrible, all in all, except for the scenery of the Irish island, Skellig Michael, with its very primitive monastery, which reminded me of St Kilda… And a few actors surviving the disaster.

the dark side of the “work hard party harder” spirit[s]

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Running, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , on December 20, 2017 by xi'an

Now, following the blogs of the past days about harassment at ISBA meetings, reposting Pierre’s blog about the strong unbalance between men and women attending these meetings, and then the ISBA first action towards making ISBA meetings safe(r), or more inclusive, here are some completely personal reflections on why I think the culture of “work hard party harder” that permeates these meetings needs to change. Towards “more Bayes, less booze”, to repeat from an email I received in the past few days… (As in every entry on this blog, except maybe those few pointing out factual mathematical errors, but this need be stressed, this is indeed a personal view on the topic, reacting to the news, for which I claim absolutely no expertise or superiority of any kind above other viewpoints. And certainly no representativity. Especially not of the safeISBA Task Force opinions. Comments more than welcome, more than usual!)

So… I have been attending five of the Valencià (pre-ISBA) meetings, from the early 1990’s till 2010, all located in Spanish coastal resorts, from Peñíscola to Benidorm. As is obvious to anyone having attended one of those meetings [and not being submitted to harassment or unwanted pursuits on their first and last experience there], there was a tremendous feeling of belonging to a community. An exciting, strong, exhilarating community unlike any other statistical meeting. Here were people working exactly in my field, ready to share ideas, discuss posters for hours, and possibly shred one another to pieces when diverging on a point of theory, while remaining good friends. Plus being party animals able to drink and dance the whole night, till the wee hours when I was myself getting out of bed for my morning run… Definitely impressive. (Actually, it is at one of these meetings that I first heard the motto “work hard party harder”.) All very exciting, with a size small enough that one could feel connected to all participants by more than science. With a blurry boundary between academia and social network, between work and party. Without truly realising on my part that the resulting freedom of discussions and actions in this environment was not absolute and definitely not the same for everyone. Even though the overwhelming majority of participants were and are fine individuals, and that many friendships and collaborations started there.

Academia offers this paradox of a sensation of great freedom (to teach, research, publish, discuss anything you wish) controlled by many others (like editors, publishers, grant committees, conference organisers) that you cannot afford to antagonise too much. And hence that the feeling of a single-happy-family-of-forever-friends bumps into this constraint of reality, especially when the positions of two participants differ by much in seniority or culture. Or, primarily, gender. Because as Pierre was saying, as a man, I was never the victim of any misconduct or abuse of power. And hence could continue enjoying long poster sessions and fierce discussions without any worry of staying too long other than impacting my running the next day… While some friends of mine rather remember unwanted attentions at their very first meeting, with harassment from some organisers as well…
There were many aggravating factors to this potential for harassment, from the deleterious atmosphere of beach towns like Benidorm, to having all participants located in the same (monstrous) hotel, to holding poster sessions late at night, with excessive drinking a strong possibility, even though, as a friend was emailing me last morning, “it is too easy to blame alcohol consumption” as the sole culprit, and the availability of nightclubs and bars for after-poster-sessions… To continue quoting from this friend, she rightly suggested “swinging the pendulum back to more work hard” and less institutionalised partying. While keeping ISBA meetings definitely fun and terribly exciting. And plain safe. I am thus looking forward to the policies being developed to ensure ISBA 2018 in Edinburgh [clearly not a beach town!] is meeting all terms, and regains its attractivity for all members. All of them.

over the Bernese Alps [jatp]

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 4, 2017 by xi'an

Great views of the Bernese and Grisonese Alps on both legs of my trip to and from Venezia. Flying over Les Diablerets, Bormio and many other places I visited over the years..