Archive for biking

a rush to grade

Posted in Kids, pictures, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2020 by xi'an

MCMC, variational inference, invertible flows… bridging the gap?

Posted in Books, Mountains, Running, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2020 by xi'an

Two weeks ago, my friend [see here when climbing Pic du Midi d’Ossau in 2005!] and coauthor Éric Moulines gave a very interesting on-line talk entitled MCMC, Variational Inference, Invertible Flows… Bridging the gap?, which was merging MCMC, variational autoencoders, and variational inference. I paid close attention as I plan to teach an advanced course on acronyms next semester in Warwick. (By acronyms, I mean ABC+GAN+VAE!)

The notion in this work is that variational autoencoders are based on over-simple mean-field variational distributions, that usually produce a poor approximation of the target distribution. Éric and his coauthors propose to introduce a Metropolis step in the VAE. This leads to a more general notion of Markov transitions and a global balance condition. Hamiltonian Monte Carlo can be used as well and it improves the latent distribution approximation, namely the encoder, which is surprising to me. The steps of the Markov kernel produce a manageable transform of the initial mean field approximation, a random version of the original VAE. Manageable provided not too many MCMC steps are implemented. (Now, the flow of slides was much too fast for me to get a proper understanding of the implementation of the method, of the degree of its calibration, and of the computing cost. I need to read the associated papers.)

Once the talk was over, I went back to changing tires and tubes, as two bikes of mine had flat tires, the latest being a spectacular explosion (!) that seemingly went through the tire (although I believe the opposite happened, namely the tire got slashed and induced the tube to blow out very quickly). Blame the numerous bits of broken glass over bike paths.

to bike or not to bike

Posted in Kids, pictures, Running, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2020 by xi'an

A recent debate between the candidates to the Paris mayorship, including a former Health minister and physician, led to arguments as to whether or not biking in Paris is healthy. Obviously, it is beneficial for the community, but the question is rather about the personal benefits vs dangers of riding a bike daily to work. Extra physical activity on the one hand, exposition to air pollution and accidents on the other hand. With an accident rate that increased during the recent strikes, but at a lesser rate (153%) than the number of cyclists in the streets of Paris (260%). While I do not find the air particularly stinky or unpleasant on my daily 25km, except in the frequent jams between Porte d’Auteuil and Porte de la Muette, and while I haven’t noticed a direct impact on my breathing or general shape, I try to avoid rush hours, especially on the way back home with a good climb near Porte de Versailles (the more on days when it is jammed solid with delivery trucks for the nearby exhibition centre). As for accidents, trying to maintain constant vigilance and predicting potential fishtails is the rule, as is avoiding most bike paths as I find them much more accident-prone than main streets… (Green lights are also more dangerous than red lights, in my opinion!) Presumably, so far at least, benefits outweight the costs!

…place Dauphine…il est cinq heures, Paris s’éveille [jatp]

Posted in pictures, Travel, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 21, 2019 by xi'an

a chance (?) encounter

Posted in Kids, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , on July 16, 2019 by xi'an

As I was cycling to Paris Dauphine, a few days ago, I spotted someone sitting on a bench and working on a laptop who suspiciously looked like… Andrew Gelman! As I knew Andrew was in Paris that week, and as we were reasonably close to Dauphine, this did not sound like a zero probability event. I thus stopped to check that indeed this was the real Andrew, who happened to be in the vicinity and had decided to run this double blind experiment as to whether or not we could spot one another. While I am reasonably aware of my surroundings when cycling (as a matter of mere survival), my radar rarely extends to people sitting on benches, especially when I am riding the middle white line on the boulevard. As I was further a wee bit late that day, I should have been in my office by the time Andrew sat there. A chance encounter, hence, or a super subjective inference from the author of BDA!