Archive for boar

a journal of the plague year² [away!!!]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 25, 2021 by xi'an

Read the last two volumes in The Witcher series, The Tower of Swallows and The Lady of the Lake, with some difficulty as I found them [again] overly stretched. Plus recycling a whole lot of older myths, like the Arthurian tale of The Lady of the Lake to start with. But the major battle scene in the final volume is worth reading and very cinéma-esque… And the slugguish construction of the characters’ arcs eventually make sense. If a bit too much of a happy ending imho. And I also read [much faster, mostly while in Marseille] the third book of the Eastern Bloc series by Olen Steinhauer, 36 Yalta Boulevard (the local equivalent of Lybyanka), a bit less exciting, if covering another aspect of the Eastern block countries at the time of the Czechoslovakian uprising in 1968. Less interesting because of the convoluted guilty-non-guilty scenario. Quite interesting for impersonating this time Sev,  the most ideological of the members of the detective team, for taking place in Vienna part of the time. Less realistic because by rendering Sev so realistically human and compelling, his blind adhesion to the Party line does not make sense, the more when exposing the corruption and double game of some of his superiors.

Did not cook much in the past weeks, first for being at CIRM (with an escape to Cassis for a nice if not fabulous dinner by the harbour) and then for going through the fruit and veggies crates we bought in Aveyron on our way back home (after carrying South-East wine South-East!). Would have enjoyed tasting some boar meat at CIRM, given how prevalent the animals are on the campus (with apparently no warning for guests).

Watched Strangers 2, the second season of the Korean TV series. Which I enjoyed even more than the first one. With the central characters being the same but (appearing) older and a stronger and less broken scenario, centering on the power struggle between police and public prosecution. And less of the chaebol‘s power struggle and recurring corruption. Plus a more central and less caricaturesque role of women. It is still unclear if and when the Season 3 will happen.

ISBA 2021 grand finale

Posted in Kids, Mountains, pictures, Running, Statistics, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 3, 2021 by xi'an

Last day of ISBA (and ISB@CIRM), or maybe half-day, since there are only five groups of sessions we can attend in Mediterranean time.

My first session was one on priors for mixtures, with 162⁺ attendees at 5:15am! (well, at 11:15 Wien or Marseille time), Gertrud Malsiner-Walli distinguishing between priors on number of components [in the model] vs number of clusters [in the data], with a minor question of mine whether or not a “prior” is appropriate for a data-dependent quantity. And Deborah Dunkel presenting [very early in the US!] anchor models for fighting label switching, which reminded me of the talk she gave at the mixture session of JSM 2018 in Vancouver. (With extensions to consistency and mixtures of regression.) And Clara Grazian debating on objective priors for the number of components in a mixture [in the Sydney evening], using loss functions to build these. Overall it seems there were many talks on mixtures and clustering this year.

After the lunch break, when several ISB@CIRM were about to leave, we ran the Objective Bayes contributed session, which actually included several Stein-like minimaxity talks. Plus one by Théo Moins from the patio of CIRM, with ciccadas in the background. Incredibly chaired by my friend Gonzalo, who had a question at the ready for each and every speaker! And then the Savage Awards II session. Which ceremony is postponed till Montréal next year. And which nominees are uniformly impressive!!! The winner will only be announced in September, via the ISBA Bulletin. Missing the ISBA general assembly for a dinner in Cassis. And being back for the Bayesian optimisation session.

I would have expected more talks at the boundary of BS & ML (as well as COVID and epidemic decision making), the dearth of which should be a cause for concern if researchers at this boundary do not prioritise ISBA meetings over more generic meetings like NeurIPS… (An exception was George Papamakarios’ talk on variational autoencoders in the Savage Awards II session.)

Many many thanks to the group of students at UConn involved in setting most of the Whova site and running the support throughout the conference. It indeed went on very smoothly and provided a worthwhile substitute for the 100% on-site version. Actually, I both hope for the COVID pandemic (or at least the restrictions attached to it) to abate and for the hybrid structure of meetings to stay, along with the multiplication of mirror workshops. Being together is essential to the DNA of conferences, but travelling to a single location is not so desirable, for many reasons. Looking for ISBA 2022, a year from now, either in Montréal, Québec, or in one of the mirror sites!

ISBA 2021 low key

Posted in Kids, Mountains, pictures, Running, Statistics, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 2, 2021 by xi'an

Fourth day of ISBA (and ISB@CIRM), which was a bit low key for me as I had a longer hike with my wife in the morning, including a swim in a sea as cold as the Annecy lake last month!, but nonetheless enjoyable and crystal clear, then attacked my pile of Biometrika submissions that had accumulated beyond the reasonable since last week, chased late participants who hadn’t paid yet, reviewed a paper that was due two weeks ago, chatted with participants before they left, discussed a research problem, and as a result ended attending only four sessions over the whole day. Including one about Models and Methods for Networks and Graphs, with interesting computation challenges, esp. in block models, the session in memoriam of Hélène Massam, where Gérard Letac (part of ISB@CIRM!), Jacek Wesolowski, and Reza Mohammadi, all coauthors of Hélène, made presentations on their joint advances. Hélène was born in Marseille, actually, in 1949, and even though she did not stay in France after her École Normale studies, it was a further commemoration to attend this session in her birth-place. I also found out about them working on the approximation of a ratio of normalising constants for the G-Wishart. The last session of my data was the Susie Bayarri memorial lecture, with Tamara Roderick as the lecturer. Reporting on an impressive bunch of tricks to reduce computing costs for hierarchical models with Gaussian processes.

ISBA 2021.3

Posted in Kids, Mountains, pictures, Running, Statistics, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2021 by xi'an

Now on the third day which again started early with a 100% local j-ISBA session. (After a group run to and around Mont Puget, my first real run since 2020!!!) With a second round of talks by junior researchers from master to postdoc level. Again well-attended. A talk about Bayesian non-parametric sequential taxinomy by Alessandro Zito used the BayesANT acronym, which reminded me of the new vave group Adam and the Ants I was listening to forty years ago, in case they need a song as well as a logo! (Note that BayesANT is also used for a robot using Bayesian optimisation!) And more generally a wide variety in the themes. Thanks to the j-organisers of this 100% live session!

The next session was on PDMPs, which I helped organise, with Manon Michel speaking from Marseille, exploiting the symmetry around the gradient, which is distribution-free! Then, remotely, Kengo Kamatani, speaking from Tokyo, who expanded the high-dimensional scaling limit to the Zig-Zag sampler, exhibiting an argument against small refreshment rates, and Murray Pollock, from Newcastle, who exposed quite clearly the working principles of the Restore algorithm, including why coupling from the past was available in this setting. A well-attended session despite the early hour (in the USA).

Another session of interest for me [which I attended by myself as everyone else was at lunch in CIRM!] was the contributed C16 on variational and scalable inference that included a talk on hierarchical Monte Carlo fusion (with my friends Gareth and Murray as co-authors), Darren’s call to adopt functional programming in order to save Bayesian computing from extinction, normalising flows for modularisation, and Dennis’ adversarial solutions for Bayesian design, avoiding the computation of the evidence.

Wes Johnson’s lecture was about stories with setting prior distributions based on experts’ opinions. Which reminded me of the short paper Kaniav Kamary and myself wrote about ten years ago, in response to a paper on the topic in the American Statistician. And could not understand the discrepancy between two Bayes factors based on Normal versus Cauchy priors, until I was told they were mistakenly used repeatedly.

Rushing out of dinner, I attended both the non-parametric session (live with Marta and Antonio!) and the high-dimension computational session on Bayesian model choice (mute!). A bit of a schizophrenic moment, but allowing to get a rough picture in both areas. At once. Including an adaptive MCMC scheme for selecting models by Jim Griffin. Which could be run directly over the model space. With my ever-going wondering at the meaning of neighbour models.

ISBA 20.2.21

Posted in Kids, Mountains, pictures, Running, Statistics, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 30, 2021 by xi'an

A second day which started earlier and more smoothly with a 100% local j-ISBA session. (Not counting the invigorating swim in Morgiou!) With talks by junior researchers from master to postdoc level, as this ISBA mirror meeting was primarily designed for them, so that they could all present their work, towards gaining more visibility for their research and facilitating more interactions with the participants. CIRM also insisted on this aspect of the workshop, which was well-attended.

I alas had to skip the poster session [and the joys of gather.town] despite skipping lunch [BND], due to organisational constraints. Then attended the Approximate Bayesian computation section, including one talk by Geoff Nicholls on confidence estimation for ABC, following upon the talk given by Kate last evening. And one by Florian Maire on learning the bound in accept-reject algorithms on the go, as in Caffo et al. (2002), which I found quite exciting and opening new possibilities, esp. if the Markov chain thus produced can be recycled towards unbiasedness without getting the constant right! For instance, by Rao-Blackwellisation, multiple mixtures, black box importance sampling, whatever. (This also reminded me of the earlier Goffinet et al. 1996.)

Followed by another Bayesian (modeling and) computation session. With my old friend Peter Müller talking about mixture inference with dependent priors (and a saturated colour scheme!), Matteo Ruggieri [who could not make it to CIRM!] on computable Bayesian inference for HMMs. Providing an impressive improvement upon particle filters for approximating the evidence. Also bringing the most realistic Chinese restaurant with conveyor belt! And Ming Yuan Zhou using optimal transport to define distance between distributions. With two different conditional distributions depending on which marginal is first fixed. And a connection with GANs (of course!).

And it was great to watch and listen to my friend Alicia Carriquiry talking on forensic statistics and the case for (or not?!) Bayes factors. And remembering Dennis Lindley. And my friend Jim Berger on frequentism versus Bayes! Consistency seems innocuous as most Bayes procedures are. Empirical coverage is another kind of consistency, isn’t it?

A remark I made when re-typing the program for CIRM is that there are surprisingly few talks about COVID-19 overall, maybe due to the program being mostly set for ISBA 2020 in Kunming. Maybe because we are more cautious than the competition…?!

And, at last, despite a higher density of boars around the CIRM facilities, no one got hurt yesterday! Unless one counts the impact of the French defeat at the Euro 2021 on the football fans here…