Archive for Cancún

off to Oaxaca! [workshop 18w5023]

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2018 by xi'an

This morning I am off to Oaxaca, Mexico, for a week-long workshop which aims at bringing together a mixed audience of statisticians who are using and developing computational methods, researchers involved in computational statistical mechanics and its applications (e.g., materials science, biophysics), and applied mathematicians studying numerical methods used in the field of application from a mathematical viewpoint. As a co-organiser, with Gabriel Stolz and Luke Bornn, I hope that the workshop will truly see the start of a pragmatic cross-fertilization between fields through the exchange of ideas and methods such as research lectures, discussions, and practical sessions based on benchmark systems. This is also my first time at the Casa Matemática Oaxaca, as opposed to my several stays at BIRS, and I am quite excited to discover the place (although the workshop will take place in an hotel as the conference facilities are still under completion after that many years!) and the surroundings. (This is also my second visit to Mexico after the ISBA conference in Cancún in 2014.)

BIRS call for Oaxaca

Posted in Kids, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , on September 26, 2017 by xi'an

Here is a call for support from Nassim Goussoub, Scientific Director of BIRS:I would  like to call upon you to consider aiding the people of the State of Oaxaca. As you may know, through their support for BIRS-CMO, the people of Oaxaca have welcomed the World’s mathematical sciences community with open arms. With the plans to build a permanent facility under way, they are destined to be our hosts for years to come. I therefore ask you to contribute — if you can. Here are some of the foundations accepting donations.

  1. Francisco Toledo’s Foundation, IAGO (Instituto Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca) https://www.paypal.me/donativoistmo

  2. International Community Foundation(ICF) https://donate.icfdn.org/npo/international-disaster-relief-fund

  3. Global Giving https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/mexico-earthquake-and-hurricane-relief-fund/

  4. Red Cross Mexico https://www.cruzrojamexicana.org.mx 6. Unicef Mexico https://www.unicef.org/mexico/spanish/

ISBA 2016 [logo]

Posted in pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2015 by xi'an

Things are starting to get in place for the next ISBA 2016 World meeting, in Forte Village Resort Convention Center, Sardinia, Italy. June 13-17, 2016. And not only the logo inspired from the nuraghe below. I am sure the program will be terrific and make this new occurrence of a “Valencia meeting” worth attending. Just like the previous occurrences, e.g. Cancún last summer and Kyoto in 2012.

However, and not for the first time, I wonder at the sustainability of such meetings when faced with always increasing—or more accurately sky-rocketing!—registration fees… We have now reached €500 per participant for the sole (early reg.) fees, excluding lodging, food or transportation. If we bet on 500 participants, this means simply renting the convention centre would cost €250,000 for the four or five days of the meeting. This sounds enormous, even accounting for the processing costs of the congress organiser. (By comparison, renting the convention centre MCMSki in Chamonix for three days was less than €20,000.) Given the likely high costs of staying at the resort, it is very unlikely I will be able to support my PhD students  As I know very well of the difficulty to find dedicated volunteers willing to offer a large fraction of their time towards the success of behemoth meetings, this comment is by no means aimed at my friends from Cagliari who kindly accepted to organise this meeting. But rather at the general state of academic meetings which costs makes them out of reach for a large part of the scientific community.

Thus, this makes me wonder anew whether we should move to a novel conference model given that the fantastic growth of the Bayesian community makes the ideal of gathering together in a single beach hotel for a week of discussions, talks, posters, and more discussions unattainable. If truly physical meetings are to perdure—and this notion is as debatable as the one about the survival of paper versions of the journals—, a new approach would be to find a few universities or sponsors able to provide one or several amphitheatres around the World and to connect all those places by teleconference. Reducing the audience size at each location would greatly the pressure to find a few huge and pricey convention centres, while dispersing the units all around would diminish travel costs as well. There could be more parallel sessions and ways could be found to share virtual poster sessions, e.g. by having avatars presenting some else’s poster. Time could be reserved for local discussions of presented papers, to be summarised later to the other locations. And so on… Obviously, something would be lost of the old camaraderie, sharing research questions and side stories, as well as gossips and wine, with friends from all over the World. And discovering new parts of the World. But the cost of meetings is already preventing some of those friends to show up. I thus think it is time we reinvent the Valencia meetings into the next generation. And move to the Valenci-e-meetings.

To Susie [by Kerrie Mengersen]

Posted in pictures, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , on August 21, 2014 by xi'an

[Here is a poem written by my friend Kerrie for the last ISBA cabaret in Cancun, to Susie who could not make it to a Valencia meeting for the first time… Along with a picture of Susie, Alicia and Jennifer taking part in another ISBA cabaret in Knossos, Crete, in 2000.]

This is a parody of a classic Australian bush poem, ‘The Man from Snowy River’, that talks of an amazing horseman in the rugged mountain bush of Australia, who out-performed the ‘cracks’ and became a legend. That’s how I think of Susie, so this very bad poem comes with a big thanks for being such an inspiration, a great colleague and a good friend.

There was movement in the stats world as the emails caught alight
For the cult from Reverend Bayes had got away
And had joined the ‘ISBA’ forces, and were calling for a fight
So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.

All the noted statisticians from the countries near and far
Had flown into Cancun overnight
For the Bayesians love their meetings where the sandy beaches are
And the Fishers snuffed the battle with delight.

There were Jim and Ed and Robert, who were ‘fathers of the Bayes’
They were known as the whiskey drinking crowd
But they’d invented all the theory in those Valencia days
Yes, they were smart, but oh boy were they loud!

And Jose M Bernardo came down to lend a hand
A finer Bayesian never wrote a prior
And Mike West, Duke of Bayesians, also joined the band
And brought down all the graduates he could hire

Sonia and Maria strapped their laptops to the cause
And Anto, Chris and Peter ran – in thongs!
Sirs Adrian and David came with armour and a horse
While Brad and Gareth murdered battle songs

And one was there, a Spaniard, blonde and fierce and proud
With a passion for statistics and for fun
She’d been there with the founders of the nouveau Bayesian crowd
And kept those Fisher stats folk on the run

But Jim’s subjective prior made him doubt her power to fight
Mike Goldstein said, ‘That girl will never do,
In the heat of battle, deary, you just don’t have the might
This stoush will be too rough for such as you.’

 But Berger and Bernardo came to Susie’s side
We think we ought to let her in, they said
For we warrant she’ll be with us when the blood has fairly dried
For Susie is Valencia born and bred.

She did her Bayesian training in the classic Spanish way
Where the stats is twice as hard and twice as rough
And she knows nonparametrics, which is useful in a fray
She’s soft outside, but inside, man she’s tough!

She went. They found those Fisher stats folk sunning on the beach
And as they grabbed their laptops from the sand
Jim Berger muttered fiercely, ‘right, twist any head you reach
We cannot let those Fish get out of hand.’

Alicia, grab a Dirichlet and break them with a stick
Chris, it’s easy, just like ABC
And Sylvia, a mixture model ought to do the trick
But just you leave that Ronnie up to me.

Jose battled them with inference and curdled Neyman’s blood
And Ed told jokes that made them shake their head
And posteriors lined like beaches like sandbags for a flood
And Jim threw whiskey bottles as they fled.

And when the Bayesians and the Fishers were washed up on the sand
The fight was almost judged to be a tie
But it was Susie who kept going, who led the final charge
For she didn’t want objective Bayes to die

She sent the beach on fire as she galloped through the fray
Hurling P and F tests through the foam
‘til the Fishers raised surrender and called the fight a day
And shut their laptops down and sailed for home.

And now at ISBA meetings where the Bayesians spend their days
To laugh and learn and share a drink or two
A glass is always toasted: to Susie, Queen of Bayes
And the cheering echoes loudly round the crew.

She will be remembered for setting Bayesian stats on fire
For her contributions to the field are long
And her passion and her laughter will continue to inspire
The Bayesian from Valencia lives on!

Bangalore workshop [ಬೆಂಗಳೂರು ಕಾರ್ಯಾಗಾರ]

Posted in pictures, Running, Statistics, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , on August 3, 2014 by xi'an

IISc2As I am now back home after a rather lengthy and somewhat eventful trip [getting too early to Bangalore airport with 3 hours to spend in the nice and very quiet lounge, followed by another 5 hour wait in the very nice but no so quiet Bombay airport lounge, no visit to the cockpit this time!, and then the usual sick passenger blocking all trains from Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport for one hour, reaching home to find my 97-year old neighbour fallen in her kitchen and calling for help!], I cannot but reflect on the difference between my two trips to India, from the chaos of Varanasi to the orderly peace of the campus of the Indian Institute of Science of Bangalore and even to some extent of the whole city of Bangalore, all proportions guarded. Even managing to get a [new] pair of [new] prescription glasses (or rather spectacles) within three days!

I thus found this trip much less stressful and much profitable, from enjoying the local food to discussing with Indian statisticians. The purpose of the IFCAM workshop was to bring both groups together for potential joint projects funded by IFCAM (at the travel level). While I found most talks were driven by specific applications, esp. in genomics, there are directions where we could indeed collaborate, from capture-recapture to astrostatistics. So it may be that I’ll be back in India in a near future!

Cancún, ISBA 2014 [day #3]

Posted in pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , on July 23, 2014 by xi'an

Cancun13…already Thursday, our [early] departure day!, with an nth (!) non-parametric session that saw [the newly elected ISBA Fellow!] Judith Rousseau present an ongoing work with Chris Holmes on the convergence or non-convergence conditions for a Bayes factor of a non-parametric hypothesis against another non-parametric. I wondered at the applicability of this test as the selection criterion in ABC settings, even though having an iid sample to start with is a rather strong requirement.

Switching between a scalable computation session with Alex Beskos, who talked about adaptive Langevin algorithms for differential equations, and a non-local prior session, with David Rossell presenting a smoother way to handle point masses in order to accommodate frequentist coverage. Something we definitely need to discuss the next time I am in Warwick! Although this made me alas miss both the first talk of the non-local session by Shane Jensen  the final talk of the scalable session by Doug Vandewrken where I happened to be quoted (!) for my warning about discretising Markov chains into non-Markov processes. In the 1998 JASA paper with Chantal Guihenneuc.

After a farewell meal of ceviche with friends in the sweltering humidity of a local restaurant, I attended [the newly elected ISBA Fellow!] Maria Vanucci’s talk on her deeply involved modelling of fMRI. The last talk before the airport shuttle was François Caron’s description of a joint work with Emily Fox on a sparser modelling of networks, along with an auxiliary variable approach that allowed for parallelisation of a Gibbs sampler. François mentioned an earlier alternative found in machine learning where all components of a vector are updated simultaneously conditional on the previous avatar of the other components, e.g. simulating (x’,y’) from π(x’|y) π(y’|x) which does not produce a convergent Markov chain. At least not convergent to the right stationary. However, running a quick [in-flight] check on a 2-d normal target did not show any divergent feature, when compared with the regular Gibbs sampler. I thus wonder at what can be said about the resulting target or which conditions are need for divergence. A few scribbles later, I realised that the 2-d case was the exception, namely that the stationary distribution of the chain is the product of the marginal. However, running a 3-d example with an auto-exponential distribution in the taxi back home, I still could not spot a difference in the outcome.

Off from Cancun [los scientificos Maya]

Posted in pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , on July 22, 2014 by xi'an

Maya1The flight back from ISBA 2014 was not as smooth as the flight in: it took one hour for the shuttle to take us to the airport thanks to a driver posing as a touristic guide [who needs a guide when going home?!] and droning on and on about Cancún and the Maya heritage [as far as I could guess from his Spanish]. Learning at the airport that out flight to Mexico City was delayed, then too delayed for us to make the connection, with no hotel room available there, then suggesting to the desk personal every possible European city to learn the flight had left or was about to leave, missing London by an hair, thanks to our droning friend on the scientific Mayas, and eventually being bused to the hotel airport, too far from the last poster session we could have attended!, and leaving early the next morning to Atlanta and then Paris. Which means we could have stayed for most of the remaining sessions and been back home at about the same time…
Maya2