Archive for New York

`Paris is in anarchy’ [cycle woes]

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2021 by xi'an

An overblown view of the cycling war in Paris, from New York! I read with amusement the report on how Xing a Parisian street is a matter of life or death, when anarclists go through red lights while shouting at pedestrians… Actually, the figures show that the number of accidents involving cyclists (as victims or culprits) has only gone up by 30% when the traffic has increased by 70%. And I could not find an online trace of a pedestrian killed by a cyclist over the past years. Based on my weekly 130 kilometer biking average, mostly to and from Paris Dauphine, I do not perceive a major tension between pedestrians and cyclists, maybe because I am not entering the centre of town (and give priority to pedestrians at both green and red lights). The danger in my experience comes rather from other cyclists’ unpredictable paths, (psychopath) mopeds that run on cycle paths, and cars turning right without checking for bicycles. But I concur with the point made in this article of a poor network of cycle paths, with too many discontinuities, bad surface, inexistent maintenance (esp. in winter months when wet leaves accumulate there and all year long for broken glass and metal parts), and the deadly pavés! Which are unpleasant for road bikes (ask the Paris-Roubaix runners!), slippery, esp. when frosted (speaking from experience), and damaging to tubes and ties. As it happens, I have had thee tube punctures over the three past weeks, two of which were due to running over a particularly uneven pavé or entering a cycle path with a very high step. (And a total of six since April. Making me reconsider using an heavier mountain bike instead. After switching unsuccessfully to anti-puncture road tyres…)

sampling with neural networks [seminar]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , on March 29, 2021 by xi'an

Tomorrow (30 March, 11am ET, 16 GMT, 17 CET) Grant Rotskoff will give a webinar on Sampling with neural networks: prospects and perils, with links to developments in generative modeling to sample distributions that are challenging to sample with local dynamics, and the perils of neural network driven sampling to accelerate sampling.

Expectation Propagation as a Way of Life on-line

Posted in pictures, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2020 by xi'an

After a rather extended shelf-life, our paper expectation propagation as a way of life: a framework for Bayesian inference on partitioned data which was started when Andrew visited Paris in… 2014!, and to which I only marginally contributed, has now appeared in JMLR! Which happens to be my very first paper in this journal.

The Magicians [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids, Travel, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 17, 2016 by xi'an

While in Melbourne, I heard a recommendation for Lev Grossman’s The Magicians and the next day, while checking the Melbourne Writers Festival bookstore, found the book (rather than the Kristoff volume I was seeking), bought it, and read it within a few days.

‘Brakebills will remind readers of Hogwarts, though with more illicit fondling. Grossman has written what could crudely be labeled a Harry Potter for adults.” , NYT

So is this an Harry Potter for adults?! First, I think Harry Potter can be read by adults (if I qualify as adult!). This remark presumably means the book should not be read by young readers, maybe, due to recurrent sex and alcohol consumption, plus some drugs and an overall depressive tone.

Back to Harry Potter, there is the same magical boarding school feeling, even though it is located in upstate New York on the Hudson river.  And not in Scotland. With an equivalent to Quidditch, an evil magician, exams, surly teens, one or two love triangles, &tc. If in a more modern and American way. The difference with Harry Potter is that it also doubles as Narnia! A Narnia eventually turned wrong and sour, but nonetheless a strong similarity of stories and ideas. Of course, this parallel could be seen as an attempt at deconstruction, exhibiting the inconsistencies in the original novels, but it is so subtle it does not feel like it. There are the same encounters with sentient animal creatures, who never reappear after, the same call for Kings and Queens, as in Narnia. This lack of depth at exploring the connections between Harry Potter, Narnia and even some aspects of the Wheel of Time is frustrating in that something great could have come of it. And then… then… comes the worst literary trick in my list, the call to a subterranean quest with endless monsters and accidents! (I obviously exclude Tolkien’ Moria episode from this list!!!) Concluding with the evil character dumping information in the last battle to explain missing bits and pieces in the story.

So, in conclusion, not such a magical book, even though I read it within a few days thanks to my 39 hour trip back to Paris. The Magicians remains too teeny for my taste, hearing self-deprecating depressive monologues occurs way too often to make the main character congenial, and the story has not enough depth or structure to be compelling. A reviewer rightly pointed out it feels like fandom fiction. Rather than a universe on its own. (As for instance Aaronovitch’ Rivers of London series.)

Cayuga 1989

Posted in Kids, Travel, Wines with tags , , , , , on August 20, 2015 by xi'an

cayuga

%d bloggers like this: