Archive for the Mountains Category

CIRM in dire need of help

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Running, Statistics, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2020 by xi'an

The International Mathematics Conference Centre, CIRM, located in Luminy, Marseille, France, has been deeply disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Up to 60 % of the events planned there have been cancelled so far and all remaining conferences have gone virtual or at best hybrid, open to a remote audience, including in an interactive way. This has required important and unexpected investments. Furthermore, this crisis happened at the worst possible moment as CIRM had just finished doubling its infrastructure capacities. This is why I strongly support the call from the French Mathematical Society (SMF) to make a donation to CIRM before the end of the year, especially from researchers who benefited from its hospitality and unique environment.

a journal of the plague year [grey November reviews]

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 21, 2020 by xi'an

Read Evil for Evil, K.J. Parker’s second tome in the Engineer trilogy, published in 2009! Surprisingly, I remembered enough of the first volume for the story to make sense and I enjoyed it, for the same reason I liked Sixteen ways to defend &tc., namely for its attention to logistics and medieval industry taking over the muscle-display of standard equivalents, plus the self-demeaning attitude of most characters, again a welcome change from the standards! The pace of the story sometimes get bogged down, though.

Slowly cooked pulled pork with a hellish amount of red peppers, meaning I ended up eating most of it by myself over a few days. Tried cauliflower risotto, and liked it. Took my mom to a nice restaurant in Caen, À Contre Sens, after an oyster breakfast with her on the quays of a nearby Channel harbour, with a surprise lunch based on local (Norman) products. Finding hardly anyone in the restaurant due to COVID regulations made the experience even more enjoyable. And such a difference from the previous Michelin we sampled this summer!

Wasted hours watching the US presidential vote counting slowly unraveling, computing & recomputing from the remaining ballots the required percentage of Biden’s votes towards catching up, and refreshing my NYT & Fivethirtyeight webpages way too often. And remain fazed by an electoral system stuck in a past when less than 50,000 men elected George Washington.

Cleaned up our vegetable patch after collecting the last tomatoes, pumpkins, and peppers. And made a few jars of green tomato jam, albeit not too sweet to be used as chutney!

Watched the TV series The Boys, after reading super-positive reviews in Le Monde and other journals. Which is a welcome satire on the endless sequence of super-heroes movies and series, by simply pushing on the truism that with super-powers does not come super-responsibility. Or even the merest hint of ethics. Plus some embarrassing closeness with the deeds and sayings of the real Agent Orange. Among the weaknesses, a definitive excess of blood and gore, ambiguous moral stands of the [far from] “good” guys who do not mind shooting sprees in the least, and some very slow episodes. Among the top items, the boat-meet-whale incident, “Frenchie” from Marseille almost managing a French accent when speaking some semblance of French, and Karl Urban’s maddening accent that’s a pleasure to listen even when I understand a sentence out of two, at best.


my talk in Newcastle

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Running, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2020 by xi'an

I will be talking (or rather zooming) at the statistics seminar at the University of Newcastle this afternoon on the paper Component-wise approximate Bayesian computation via Gibbs-like steps that just got accepted by Biometrika (yay!). Sadly not been there for real, as I would have definitely enjoyed reuniting with friends and visiting again this multi-layered city after discovering it for the RSS meeting of 2013, which I attended along with Jim Hobert and where I re-discussed the re-Read DIC paper. Before traveling south to Warwick to start my new appointment there. (I started with a picture of Seoul taken from the slopes of Gwanaksan about a year ago as a reminder of how much had happened or failed to happen over the past year…Writing 2019 as the year was unintentional but reflected as well on the distortion of time induced by the lockdowns!)


away from CIRM

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Running, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 5, 2020 by xi'an

Due to the new lockdown measures enforced in France and in particular in Marseilles, the CIRM workshop on QMC and randomness has turned virtual, and I will thus give my talk on Coordinate sampler : A non-reversible Gibbs-like sampler from Paris. Rather than from the Luminy campus after an early morning run to the top of Mont Puget as we used to do on the previous workshop there. With versions of PDMP running on QMC (which makes sense when considering the deterministic component of the sampler).

a journal of the plague year [October reviews]

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2020 by xi'an

Read two more “little red” books from Éditions Guérin/Paulsen, the fantastic Chamonix editor, namely, Lénine à Chamonix by François Garde, a former Secretary-General of the Government of New-Caledonia, and Les Hallucinés (Un voyage dans les délires d’altitude), by Thomas Venin. The first book is a collection of short stories related to mountains, ranging from the realistic to the fantastic, and from good to terrible. I think in particular of the 1447 mètres story that involves a Holtanna like big wall in Iceland [good start then!], possibly the Latrabjarg cliff—although it stands at 1447 feet, not meters!, and the absurd impact of prime numbers on the failure of the climbing team. Lénine à Chamonix muses on the supposed day Vladimir Illitch “Lenin” Ulyanov spent in Chamonix in 1903, almost losing his life but adopting his alias there [which clashes with its 1902 first occurrence in publications!]. The second book is about high altitude hallucinations as told by survivors from the “death zone”. Induced by hypoxia, they lead hymalayists to see imaginary things or persons, sometimes to act against their own interest and often to die as a result. The stories are about those who survived and told about their visions. They reminded me of Abele Blanc telling us of facing the simultaneous hallucinations of two (!) partners during an attempt at Annapurna and managing to bring down one of the climbers, with the other managing on its own after a minor fall resetting his brain to the real world. Touching the limits of human abilities and the mysterious working of the brain…

Cooked several dishes suggested by the New York Times (!), including a spinach risotto [good], orecchiette with fennel and sausages [great], and malai broccoli [not so great], as well as by the Guardian’s Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes, like a yummy spinash-potatoe pie. As Fall is seeping in, went back to old classics like red cabbage Flemish style. And butternut soups, starting with our own. And a pumpkin biryani!

Read Peter Hamilton’s Salvation, with a certain reluctance to proceed as I found the stories within mostly disconnected and of limited interest. (This came obviously as a disappointment, having enjoyed a lot Great North Road.) Unlikely I read the following volumes in the series. On the side, I heard that fantasy writer Terry Goodkind died on Sept. 17. He had written “The Sword of Truth” series, of which I read the first three volumes. (Out of 21 total!!!) While there were some qualities in the story, the setting was quite naïve (in the usual trope of an evil powerful character that need be fought at all costs) and the books carry a strong component of political conservatism as well as extensive sections of sadistic scenes

Watched Tim Burton’s 2012 Dark Shadows (terrible!) and a Taiwanese 2018 dark comedy entitled Dear Ex (誰先愛上他的) which I found rather interesting and quite original, despite the overdone antics of the mother. I even tried Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd for a few minutes, being completely unaware this was a musical!