Archive for Canada
Just a reminder about the incoming deadline of January 31 for the CANSSI/INCASS postdoctoral grants. Those are restricted to members of CANSSI member institutions, though:
For the 2016-2017 year, up to two CANSSI Postdoctoral Fellowships will be awarded to suitable statistical sciences candidates working in CANSSI member institutions. Candidates should have received their PhD after March 31, 2013, and must have fulfilled all PhD requirements by the time of taking up the award.
I have spent the day and more completing and compiling slides for my contrapuntal perspective on probabilistic numerics, back in Montréal, for the NIPS 2015 workshop of December 11 on this theme. As I presume the kind invitation by the organisers was connected with my somewhat critical posts on the topic, I mostly The day after, while I am flying back to London for the CFE (Computational and Financial Econometrics) workshop, somewhat reluctantly as there will be another NIPS workshop that day on scalable Monte Carlo.
Je veux revoir le long désert
Des rues qui n’en finissent pas
Qui vont jusqu’au bout de l’hiver
Sans qu’il y ait trace de pas
I have now read through Salman Rushdie‘s version of the tales of 1001 nights (which amount to two years, eight months, and twenty-eight nights—this would make exactly two years and nine months if the last month was a month of February!, not that it particularly matters). It is a fantastic tale, with supernatural jinns playing an obviously supernatural role, a tale which plot does not matter very much as it is the (Pandora) box for more tales and deeper philosophical reflections about religion and rationality. It is not a novel and even less a science-fiction novel as I read it in some reviews.
“It was the ungodly who had been specified as the targets but (…) this place was not at all ungodly. In point of fact it was excessively godly.”
What I liked very much, besides the literary style and the almost overwhelming culture (or cultures) of the author—of which I certainly missed a large chunk!—, in two years, eight months, and twenty-eight nights is the mille-feuille structure of the story and the associated distanciation imposed upon the reader against a natural reader’s tendency to believe or want to believe despite all inconsistencies. An induced agnosticism of sorts most appropriate to mock the irrationality of religious believers, jinns and humans alike, in a godless universe: while jinn magic abounds in the book, there is no god or at least no acting god that we can detect. But gods and religious beliefs are exploited in the war of the jinns against the hapless humans. There are just as many levels of irony therein, which further contribute to skepticism and disbelief.
“Many, including the present author, trace the beginnings of the so-called “death of the gods”, back to this period.”
The book is also very much embedded in today’s world, for all its connections with medieval philosophy and the historical character Ibn Rushdn (whose name was borrowed by Rushdie’s father to become their family name) or Averroes. The War on Terror, the Afghan and Syrian rise of religious fundamentalists, the Wall Street excesses, even the shooting down of the Malaysian airline MH17 by Ukrainian rebels, all take place in the background of the so-called war of the jinns. Which makes the conclusion of the book highly pessimistic if in tune with the overall philosophical cynicism of the author: if it really takes magical forces and super-heroes to bring rationality to the world, there is little hope for our own world…
“He passed a woman with astonishing face makeup, a zipper running down the middle of her face, `unzipped’ around her mouth to reveal bloody skinless flesh all the way down her chin.”
A last remark is that the above description of an Halloween disguise reminded me of the disguise my friend Julien Cornebise opted for a few years ago! No surprise as this is exactly the same. Which shows that Rushdie and he share some common background in popular culture.