Archive for Budapest

The Cairo Affair [book review]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 28, 2017 by xi'an

After reading the Tourist trilogy, I decided to embark upon another spy novel by Steinhauer and took this book to India as another “emergency” book. Meaning as a way to escape delays and waits during our travel. While this is not a major change from the above trilogy, which I really liked, The Cairo Affair reads well and thus fits its purpose. Some of the appeal of the book is its immersion in very recent geopolitical events in Libya (far from over by now) and Egypt. (I presume there are a lot of other spy novels taking advantage of these major shifts, so this is not a major incentive for the book!) Another appeal is the connection with places I visited as a (real) tourist, from Budapest, to Croatia, to Cairo, even though I got a much more fragmented picture of the latter in the few days I spent there. While the underlying plot ends up being very thin (spoiler?!), I also liked the extreme ambiguity of the main character, whose motivations are never really revealed, possibly unknown even to herself. This major aspect of the novel makes for shortcomings on the realism plane. Worth a plane ride, definitely.

Séminaire Probabilités, Décision, Incertitude

Posted in Books, Running, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , on February 4, 2014 by xi'an

RER B composition, Saint-Michel, Feb. 10, 2012Last Friday, I gave a seminar at the Séminaire Probabilités, Décision, Incertitude, which is run by IHφST, the institute for history and philosophy of sciences and techniques of the Université of Paris 1. I decided to present my Budapest EMS 2013 talk at a slower pace and by cutting the technical parts. And adding a few historical titbits. It took me two hours and I enjoyed the experience. I cannot tell for the audience, who seemed a bit wary of mathematical disgressions, but I got comments on the Lindley paradox and on the contents of Ari Spanos’ Who’s afraid… Here are the slides again, in case Slideshare freezes your browser as it does mine…

As a side anecdote, the seminar took place in an old building in the core of the Saint-Germain des Prés district. The view from the seminar room on the busy streets of this district was quite eye-catching! (Not as distracting as the one from a room in Ca’ Foscari where I gave a seminar a few years ago facing the Venezia Laguna and windsurfers practising…)

snapshot from Budapest (#5)

Posted in pictures, Running, Travel with tags , , , , , on August 4, 2013 by xi'an

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snapshot from Budapest (#4)

Posted in pictures, Travel with tags , , on July 30, 2013 by xi'an

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snapshot from Budapest (#3)

Posted in pictures, Running, Travel with tags , , , on July 28, 2013 by xi'an

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snapshot from Budapest (EMS 2013 #4)

Posted in pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , on July 26, 2013 by xi'an

sunset on the Danube, Budapest, July 23, 2013Last day at EMS 2013! I started the day with an attempt to run inside the big necropolis on the east of town (Nemzeti sirkert), attempt that failed as I was too early. I then delivered my ISBA Thomas Bayes memorial lecture, with an amazing number of people (amazing conditional on the fact that it was delivered at 9am the morning after the banquet, on the last day of the conference, that it was a memorial historical talk which could be (mis-)perceived as Bayesian propaganda, and that I had put my slides on line already!). I managed (in I hope a comprehensible and not-too-boring way!) to cover most of the slides, skipping some ABC details, in the allotted hour, and not forgetting the historical note (Teller was born here) and the local ABC picture… Many aspects of past and current Bayesian statistics were missing: Fabrizio Ruggeri pointed out prior elicitation and Xiao-Li Meng [who wore a special tie with Thomas Bayes’ picture!] George Box. As an aside, has anyone versed in image analysis ever tried to link Thomas Bayes somehow doubtful portrait with his father’s? They do not look the least related to my unexpert eyes…

The rest of the day went very quickly, with a Bayesian computation session on SMC and exact approximations, and an afternoon consisting of Larry Brown’s talk on linear models as approximations (bringing a new light on the topic!) and of Xiao-Li Meng’s talk on measuring the impact of priors through a new information device. While I attended the “Future of Statistics” panel like most of the remaining participants, the future remained rather foggy, as I could not make my mind between the optimist side pointed out the growing need of statisticians at every level and the pessimist view that those jobs were mostly taken by poorly trained non-statisticians… In conclusion, I enjoyed the meeting for its diversity and range of talks, as well as its fantastic location of course!

snapshot from Budapest (EMS 2013 #3)

Posted in pictures, Statistics, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , on July 25, 2013 by xi'an

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Here is the new version of the talk:

And I had a fairly interesting day at the conference, from Randal’s talk on hidden Markov models with finite valued observables to the two Terrys invited session (Terry Lyons vs. Terry Speed) to the machine learning session organised by a certain Michal Jordan (on the program) that turned out to be Michael Jordan (with a talk on the fusion between statistics and computability). A post-session chat with Terry Lyons also opened (to me) new perspectives on data summarisation. (And we at last managed to get a convergence result using a Rao-Blackwellisation argument!) Plus, we ended up the day in a nice bistrot called Zeller with an awfully friendly staff cooking family produces and serving fruity family wines and not yet spoiled by being ranked #1 on tripadvisor (but visibly attracting a lot of tourists like us).