Archive for the Travel Category
I was (exceptionally) working in (and for) my garden when my daughter shouted down from her window that John Nash had just died. I thus completed my tree trimming and went to check about this sad item of news. What I read made the news even sadder as he and his wife had died in a taxi crash in New Jersey, apparently for not wearing seat-belts, a strategy you would think far from minimax… Since Nash was in Norway a few days earlier to receive the 2015 Abel Prize, it may even be that the couple was on its way home back from the airport. A senseless death for a Beautiful Mind.
As I have always been curious about my ancestry, I made a DNA test on 23andMe. While the company no longer provides statistics about potential medical conditions because of a lawsuit, it does return an ancestry analysis of sorts. In my case, my major ancestry composition is Anglo-Irish! (with 39% of my DNA) and northern European (with 32%), while only 19% is Franco-German… In retrospect, not so much of a surprise—not because of my well-known Anglophilia but—given that my (known, i.e., at least for the direct ancestral branches) family roots are in Normandy—whose duke invaded Britain in 1056—and Brittany—which was invaded by British Celts fleeing Anglo-Saxons in the 400’s. What’s maybe more surprising to me is that the database contained 23 people identified as 4th degree cousins and a total of 652 relatives… While the potential number of my potential 4th degree cousins stands in the 10,000’s, and hence there may indeed be a few ending up as 23andMe—mostly American—customers, I am indeed surprised that a .37% coincidence in our genes qualifies for being 4th degree cousins! But given that I only share 3.1% with my great⁴-grandfather, it actually make sense that I share about .1% to .4% with such remote cousins. However I wonder at the precision of such an allocation: could those cousins be even more remotely related? Not related at all? [Warning: All the links to 23andMe in this post are part of their referral program.]
This morning, on my way to the airport (and to Montpellier for a seminar), Rock, my favourite taxi-driver, told me of a strange ride he endured the night before, so strange that he had not yet fully got over it! As it happened, he had picked an elderly lady with two large bags in the vicinity after a radio-call and drove her to a sort of catholic hostel in down-town Paris, near La Santé jail, a pastoral place housing visiting nuns and priests. However, when they arrived there, she asked the taxi to wait before leaving, quite appropriately as she had apparently failed to book the place. She then asked my friend to take her to another specific address, an hotel located nearby at Denfert-Rochereau. While Rock was waiting and the taxi counter running, the passenger literally checked in by visiting the hotel room and deciding she did not like it so she gave my taxi yet another hotel address near Saint-Honoré where she repeated the same process, namely visited the hotel room with the same outcome that she did not like the place. My friend was then getting worried about the meaning of this processionary trip all over Paris, the more because the lady did not have a particularly coherent discourse. And could not stop talking. The passenger then made him stop for food and drink, and, while getting back in the taxi, ordered him to drive her back to her starting place. After two hours and half, they thus came back to the place, with a total bill of 113 euros. The lady then handled a 100 euro bill to the taxi-driver, declaring she did not have any further money and that he should have brought her home directly from the first place they had stopped… In my friend’s experience, this was the weirdest passenger he ever carried and he thought the true point of the ride was to escape solitude and loneliness for one evening, even if chatting about non-sense the whole time.
Post-doctoral Position in Spatial/Computational Statistics (Grenoble, France)
A post-doctoral position is available in Grenoble, France, to work on computational methods for spatial point process models. The candidate will work with Simon Barthelmé (GIPSA-lab, CNRS) and Jean-François Coeurjolly (Univ. Grenoble Alpes, Laboratory Jean Kuntzmann) on extending point process methodology to deal with large datasets involving multiple sources of variation. We will focus on eye movement data, a new and exciting application area for spatial statistics. The work will take place in the context of an interdisciplinary project on eye movement modelling involving psychologists, statisticians and applied mathematicians from three different institutes in Grenoble.
The ideal candidate has a background in spatial or computational statistics or machine learning. Knowledge of R (and in particular the package spatstat) and previous experience with point process models is a definite plus.
The duration of the contract is 12+6 months, starting 01.10.2015 at the earliest. Salary is according to standard CNRS scale (roughly EUR 2k/month).
When early registering for Seattle (JSM 2015) today, I discovered on the ASA webpage the very sad news that Bruce Lindsay had passed away on May 5. While Bruce was not a very close friend, we had met and interacted enough times for me to feel quite strongly about his most untimely death. Bruce was indeed “Mister mixtures” in many ways and I have always admired the unusual and innovative ways he had found for analysing mixtures. Including algebraic ones through the rank of associated matrices. Which is why I first met him—besides a few words at the 1989 Gertrude Cox (first) scholarship race in Washington DC—at the workshop I organised with Gilles Celeux and Mike West in Aussois, French Alps, in 1995. After this meeting, we met twice in Edinburgh at ICMS workshops on mixtures, organised with Mike Titterington. I remember sitting next to Bruce at one workshop dinner (at Blonde) and him talking about his childhood in Oregon and his father being a journalist and how this induced him to become an academic. He also contributed a chapter on estimating the number of components [of a mixture] to the Wiley book we edited out of this workshop. Obviously, his work extended beyond mixtures to a general neo-Fisherian theory of likelihood inference. (Bruce was certainly not a Bayesian!) Last time, I met him, it was in Italia, at a likelihood workshop in Venezia, October 2012, mixing Bayesian nonparametrics, intractable likelihoods, and pseudo-likelihoods. He gave a survey talk about composite likelihood, telling me about his extended stay in Italy (Padua?) around that time… So, Bruce, I hope you are now running great marathons in a place so full of mixtures that you can always keep ahead of the pack! Fare well!