Archive for the Travel Category

the invasion of the American cheeses

Posted in Travel, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2018 by xi'an

Part of the new Nafta agreement between the USA and its neighbours, Canada and Mexico, is lifting restrictions on the export of American cheeses to these countries. Having tasted high quality cheeses from Québec on my last visit to Montréal, and having yet to find similar performances in a US cheese, I looked at the list of cheese involved in the agreement, only to discover a collection of European cheese that should be protected by AOC rules under EU regulations (and only attributed to cheeses produced in the original regions):

Brie [de Meaux or de Melun?]
Burrata [di Andria?]
Camembert [missing the de Normandie to be AOC]
Coulommiers [actually not AOC!]
Emmenthal [which should be AOC Emmentaler Switzerland!]
Pecorino [all five Italian varieties being PDO]
Provolone [both Italian versions being PDO]

Plus another imposition that British Columbia wines be no longer segregated from US wines in British Columbia! Which sounds somewhat absurd if wine like those from (BC) Okanagan Valley or (Washington) Walla Walla is to be enjoyed with some more subtlety than diet cokeOwning a winery apparently does not necessarily require such subtlety!

399 safe[[r] for now]

Posted in Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2018 by xi'an

BNP12

Posted in pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 9, 2018 by xi'an

The next BNP (Bayesian nonparametric) conference is taking place in Oxford (UK), prior to the O’Bayes 2019 conference in Warwick, in June 24-28 and June 29-July 2, respectively. At this stage, the Scientific Committee of BNP12 invites submissions for possible contributed talks. The deadline for submitting a title/abstract is 15th December 2018. And the submission of applications for travel support closes on 15th December 2018. Currently, there are 35 awards that could be either travel awards or accommodation awards. The support is for junior researchers (students currently enrolled in a Dphil (PhD) programme or having graduated after 1st October 2015). The applicant agrees to present her/his work at the conference as a poster or oraly if awarded the travel support.

As for O’Bayes 2019, we are currently composing the programme, following the 20 years tradition of these O’Bayes meetings of having the Scientific Committee (Marilena Barbieri, Ed George, Brunero Liseo, Luis Pericchi, Judith Rousseau and myself) inviting about 25 speakers to present their recent work and 25 discussants to… discuss these works. With a first day of introductory tutorials to Bayes, O’Bayes and beyond. I (successfully) proposed this date and location to the O’Bayes board to take advantage of the nonparametric Bayes community present in the vicinity so that they could attend both meetings at limited cost and carbon impact.

preprints promote confusion and distorsion, and don’t blame journalists!

Posted in Books, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , on October 4, 2018 by xi'an

“…anyone considering publicizing a preprint have a responsibility.”

On my way to the airport, flying to B’ham, I read an older issue of Nature that contained this incredible editorial entry from Tom Sheldon Tim Horton, calling for regulation of preprints or worse, for the reason that journalists could misunderstand their contents and over-hype a minor or worse wrong claim. Taking as mistaken illustration the case of the Séralini et al. paper, about the Monsanto maize, which happened to be published under “embargo” conditions and reproduced in most media before a scientific storm erupted on the lack of significance of the samples. This call is unbelievably cheeky and downright absurd as it shifts the responsibility away from the journalists to the scientific community, throwing the “check your sources” principle of investigative journalism down the drain. As if the only reason for immediately publishing front-page discoveries is not to beat the competition and attract more readers…

The irony of seeing this piece in Nature is that a few pages later, there is a news entry on German and Swedish institutions breaking negotiations with Elsevier, as the publisher refuses to join a global package of open source publications. Nothing seems amiss about this nice aspect of scientific publishing with the author of this editorial, nor with the further reports of retraction of published paper in the same issue. Presumably because journalists have already moved to the next hot discovery by the time the retractions at last appear…! And to answer the final question of “Should all preprints be emblazoned with a warning aimed at journalists that work has not been peer reviewed?”, no, no, and no: preprints are not written for journalists or the general public. Unsurprisingly, the tribune induced outraged reactions from Nature readers.

a jump back in time

Posted in Books, Kids, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 1, 2018 by xi'an

As the Department of Statistics in Warwick is slowly emptying its shelves and offices for the big migration to the new building that is almost completed, books and documents are abandoned in the corridors and the work spaces. On this occasion, I thus happened to spot a vintage edition of the Valencia 3 proceedings. I had missed this meeting and hence the volume for, during the last year of my PhD, I was drafted in the French Navy and as a result prohibited to travel abroad. (Although on reflection I could have safely done it with no one in the military the wiser!) Reading through the papers thirty years later is a weird experience, as I do not remember most of the papers, the exception being the mixture modelling paper by José Bernardo and Javier Giròn which I studied a few years later when writing the mixture estimation and simulation paper with Jean Diebolt. And then again in our much more recent non-informative paper with Clara Grazian.  And Prem Goel’s survey of Bayesian software. That is, 1987 state of the art software. Covering an amazing eighteen list. Including versions by Zellner, Tierney, Schervish, Smith [but no MCMC], Jaynes, Goldstein, Geweke, van Dijk, Bauwens, which apparently did not survive the ages till now. Most were in Fortran but S was also mentioned. And another version of Tierney, Kass and Kadane on Laplace approximations. And the reference paper of Dennis Lindley [who was already retired from UCL at that time!] on the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium. And another paper by Don Rubin on using SIR (Rubin, 1983) for simulating from posterior distributions with missing data. Ten years before the particle filter paper, and apparently missing the possibility of weights with infinite variance.

There already were some illustrations of Bayesian analysis in action, including one by Jay Kadane reproduced in his book. And several papers by Jim Berger, Tony O’Hagan, Luis Pericchi and others on imprecise Bayesian modelling, which was in tune with the era, the imprecise probability book by Peter Walley about to appear. And a paper by Shaw on numerical integration that mentioned quasi-random methods. Applied to a 12 component Normal mixture.Overall, a much less theoretical content than I would have expected. And nothing about shrinkage estimators, although a fraction of the speakers had worked on this topic most recently.

At a less fundamental level, this was a time when LaTeX was becoming a standard, as shown by a few papers in the volume (and as I was to find when visiting Purdue the year after), even though most were still typed on a typewriter, including a manuscript addition by Dennis Lindley. And Warwick appeared as a Bayesian hotpot!, with at least five papers written by people there permanently or on a long term visit. (In case a local is interested in it, I have kept the volume, to be found in my new office!)

clothespin and bike woes

Posted in pictures, Running, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , on September 30, 2018 by xi'an

The past week at Warwick was a pleasant (pre)start of semester (with hardly any student around), pleasant except from a biking perspective, as I was essentially three days without a bike, from having to recover it at a friend’s at the end of my first morning run, where it had been kindly stored over the summer break, to facing once again a flat tyre, to running after a safe and dry storage location as my Department is about to move to a new and smaller building. Where bikes are not allowed indoor, apparently. (Sometimes, it feels like the University of Carwick!) And the new bike hub at Coventry train station had no free fob. Nothing major as I am living once again in the maths houses, quite a quick walk to the Department, but mildly annoying and disrupting my routine. As it happened, the flat tyre was the result of my riding over the spring of a clothes peg (or clothespin, as in the above sculpture in Phillie), lying the wrong way on the ground, which acted as a perfect caltrop! (My friend and bike wizzard Nick fixed the tyre and changed the tube as soon as I reached the  Department with the wheel, but annoying it was.)

Mount Baker in the sky [jatp]

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 23, 2018 by xi'an