Archive for the Wines Category

The Magicians [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids, Travel, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 17, 2016 by xi'an

While in Melbourne, I heard a recommendation for Lev Grossman’s The Magicians and the next day, while checking the Melbourne Writers Festival bookstore, found the book (rather than the Kristoff volume I was seeking), bought it, and read it within a few days.

‘Brakebills will remind readers of Hogwarts, though with more illicit fondling. Grossman has written what could crudely be labeled a Harry Potter for adults.” , NYT

So is this an Harry Potter for adults?! First, I think Harry Potter can be read by adults (if I qualify as adult!). This remark presumably means the book should not be read by young readers, maybe, due to recurrent sex and alcohol consumption, plus some drugs and an overall depressive tone.

Back to Harry Potter, there is the same magical boarding school feeling, even though it is located in upstate New York on the Hudson river.  And not in Scotland. With an equivalent to Quidditch, an evil magician, exams, surly teens, one or two love triangles, &tc. If in a more modern and American way. The difference with Harry Potter is that it also doubles as Narnia! A Narnia eventually turned wrong and sour, but nonetheless a strong similarity of stories and ideas. Of course, this parallel could be seen as an attempt at deconstruction, exhibiting the inconsistencies in the original novels, but it is so subtle it does not feel like it. There are the same encounters with sentient animal creatures, who never reappear after, the same call for Kings and Queens, as in Narnia. This lack of depth at exploring the connections between Harry Potter, Narnia and even some aspects of the Wheel of Time is frustrating in that something great could have come of it. And then… then… comes the worst literary trick in my list, the call to a subterranean quest with endless monsters and accidents! (I obviously exclude Tolkien’ Moria episode from this list!!!) Concluding with the evil character dumping information in the last battle to explain missing bits and pieces in the story.

So, in conclusion, not such a magical book, even though I read it within a few days thanks to my 39 hour trip back to Paris. The Magicians remains too teeny for my taste, hearing self-deprecating depressive monologues occurs way too often to make the main character congenial, and the story has not enough depth or structure to be compelling. A reviewer rightly pointed out it feels like fandom fiction. Rather than a universe on its own. (As for instance Aaronovitch’ Rivers of London series.)

[Royal] Series B’log

Posted in Books, Statistics, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , on September 12, 2016 by xi'an

[Thanks to Ingmar for suggesting the additional Royal!]

RSS wineLast week, I got an email from Piotr Fryzlewicz on behalf of the Publication Committee of the Royal Statistical Society enquiring about my interest in becoming a blog associate editor for Series B! Although it does not come exactly as a surprise, as I had previously heard about this interest in creating a dedicated blog, this is great news as I think a lively blog can only enhance the visibility and impact of papers published in Series B and hence increase the influence of Series B. Being quite excited by this on-line and interactive extension to the journal, I have accepted the proposal and we are now working on designing the new blog (Series B’log!) to get it on track as quickly as possible.

Suggestions towards this experiment are most welcome! I am thinking of involving authors to write blog summaries of their paper, AEs and reviewers to voice their expert opinions about the paper, anonymously or not, and of course anyone interested in commenting the paper. The idea is to turn (almost) all papers into on-line Read Papers, with hopefully the backup of authors through their interactions with the commentators. I certainly do not intend to launch discussions on each and every paper, betting on the AEs or referees to share their impressions. And if a paper ends up being un-discussed, this may prove enough of an incentive for some. (Someone asked me if we intended to discuss rejected papers as well. This is an interesting concept, but not to be considered at the moment!)

London mural [Sacramento]

Posted in Books, pictures, Travel, Wines with tags , , , , , , on September 7, 2016 by xi'an

off to Australia

Posted in pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 22, 2016 by xi'an

south bank of the Yarra river, Melbourne, July 21, 2012Taking advantage of being in San Francisco, I flew yesterday to Australia over the Pacific, crossing for the first time the day line. The 15 hour Qantas flight to Sydney was remarkably smooth and quiet, with most passengers sleeping for most of the way, and it gave me a great opportunity to go over several papers I wanted to read and review. Over the next week or so, I will work with my friends and co-authors David Frazier and Gael Martin at Monash University (and undoubtedly enjoy the great food and wine scene!). Before flying back to Paris (alas via San Francisco rather than direct).

Anselmann Riesling

Posted in Kids, Wines with tags , , on August 20, 2016 by xi'an

Assistant Professor position @ WU

Posted in Mountains, Statistics, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , on August 15, 2016 by xi'an

wien2There is an opening for an assistant professor non-tenure position in Vienna, WU, in Sylvia Früwirth-Schnatter’s group. With deadline September 7, 2016. The requested profile is

– PhD in applied mathematics or in statistics with a strong mathematical background
– Enthusiastic interest in research in Bayesian statistics, exemplified through publications in international journals in topics including, but not limited to, Bayesian non-parametric methods, Bayesian inference for high-dimensional and complex data, Bayesian time series analysis and state space modelling, efficient Markov chain Monte Carlo methods
– Interest in applications in economics, finance, and business
– Excellent programming skills (e.g. in R or Matlab)
– German language skills are not a prerequisite

Here are the details for those interested in this exciting opportunity!

Forte di Bard

Posted in Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 4, 2016 by xi'an

After our aborted attempt at Monte Rosa, Abele Blanc treated us to a quick visit to Forte di Bard, a 19th Century military fortress in the Valley of Aosta [a first version of which was razed by Napoleon’s troops in 1800] on top the medieval village of Bard. Ironically, the current fortress never saw action as Napoleon’s siege was the last invasion of the kingdom of Savoy by French troops.

The buildings are impressive, so seamlessly connected to the rock spur that supports them that they appear to have grown out of it. They reminded me of Vauban’s fortresses, with the feeling that they were already outdated when they got built. (On the French Savoy side, there is a series of fortresses that similarly faced no battle as they were designed to keep the French out, becoming overnight useless when this part of Savoy was ceded to France in exchange for its support of the unification of Italy. For instance, there is such a fort in Aussois, which now houses an hostel, a gastronomical restaurant [we enjoyed at O’Bayes 03], and a via ferrata…)

The fortress has been recently and beautifully renovated with the help of the Italian State and of the European Union. It houses conferences and art exhibits. Like those on Marc Chagall and Elliot Erwitt that we briefly saw, missing the massive museum of the Alps… A few dozen kilometers from Torino, it would be a perfect location for a small workshop, albeit not large enough for a future MCMski.