Archive for Glasgow

David Cox (1924-2022)

Posted in Books, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2022 by xi'an

It is with much sadness that I heard from Oxford yesterday night that David Cox had passed away. Hither goes a giant of the field, whose contributions to theoretical and methodological statistics are enormous and whose impact on society is truly exceptional. He was the first recipient of the International Prize in Statistics in 2016 (aka the “Nobel of Statistics”) among many awards and a Fellow of the Royal Society among many other recognitions. He was also the editor of Biometrika for 25 years (!) and was still submitting papers to the journal a few month ago. Statistical Science published a conversation between Nancy Reid and him that tells a lot about the man and his amazing modesty. While I had met him in 1989, when he was visiting Cornell University as a distinguished visitor (and when I drove him to the house of Anne and George Casella for dinner once), then again in the 1990s when he came on a two-day visit to CREST,  we only really had a significant conversation in 2011 (!), when David and I attended the colloquium in honour of Mike Titterington in Glasgow and he proved to be most interested in the ABC algorithm. He published a connected paper in Biometrika the year after, with Christiana Katsonaki. We met a few more times later, always in Oxford, to again discuss ABC. In each occasion, he was incredibly kind and considerate.

the dark remains [book review]

Posted in Books, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2021 by xi'an

When I left Birmingham a month ago, I spotted The Dark Remains, a book by Ian Rankin and the late William McIlvanney featuring Laidlaw, a unique Glaswegian detective featuring in his other books. Which I of course bought on the spot. (Ironically, along with the latest Ishiguro!) The book had been started by McIlvanney but left unfinished, which is where Rankin took over, as a big fan of McIlvanney, the designated father of tartan noir. This is a prequel to the other three Laidlaw novels, taking place in the early years of Laidlaw, at a time he was still living with his family, and it starts as a brewing war between two Glasgow gangs, with a fantastic immersion in the Glasgow of the 1970’s. The conclusion of the story is somewhat disappointing but the atmosphere and the reflection on the attitudes of the era are making it a great book. I actually stopped searching for Rankin’s touch almost from the start.

As an aside, the meaning of the title is unclear to me: is the Dark that remains or are the remains dark..? Reading from the Scotsman, it seems this is a typical French miscomprehension!


Posted in Books, Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , on November 15, 2021 by xi'an

The Quaker [book review]

Posted in Books, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 6, 2021 by xi'an

I ordered The Quaker, a book by Liam McIlvanney mostly because Liam is the son of WIlliam McIlvanney, whose Glasgow’s Laidlaw trilogy I found stunning. I was intrigued by the attempt at following in his father’s Tartan Noir steps. To make the link stronger this book won the 2018 (William) McIlvanney Prize for crime book! While there are many similarities between the stories, if only because they both take place in Glasgow in the 1960’s, where slums were gradually demolished to become high rises (themselves demolished much later in one of Ian Rankin’s stories, if in Edinburgh), where the police was partly corrupted by local gangsters, and where (im- and e-) migration was spinning the demographics of the city, the styles are different and The Quaker does not read as a clever pastiche. It is definitely a unique and brilliant book, from the vivid depiction of the Glasgow of these times (possibly helped by the fact that many locations were familiar to me from my several visits at the University of Glasgow), to the pretty convincing plot, to the psychological depths of many (male) characters. The women in the story are indeed mostly victims of the serial killer or witnesses, possibly towards reflecting the state of gender inequality in the 1960’s (as far as I remember there were more women at the fore in WIlliam’s books), with the inclusion of a victim of the Magdalene asylums. The outlying nature of the main detective is another feature common to father and son: while McCormack does not carry philosophy books to work, he remains apart from the other detectives, including a secret that threatens both the case and his career.

parking riddle

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, R, Statistics, Travel with tags , , , , , , on October 23, 2020 by xi'an

The Riddler of this week had a quick riddle: if one does want to avoid parallel parking a car over a six spot street, either the first spot is available or two consecutive spots are free. What is the probability this happens with 4 other cars already parked (at random)?

While a derivation by combinatorics easily returns 9/15 as the probability to fail to park, a straightforward R code does as well

  for(t in 1:1e6){


> round(choose(6,2)*F/1e6)
[1] 10
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