Archive for Philadelphia
This was bound to happen sooner or later, given my addiction to tea and sleepless nights, so I eventually managed to spill a cup of tea over my Mac… I had been working for a few hours in my hotel room in Philadelphia, completing an ABC paper with Jean-Michel Marin and Robin Ryder. We had been running experiments in R with Jean-Michel over the past days and I wanted to check some details with him about some graphs he sent me, so we got into a Skype conversation. At the same time, I was running an alternative R code to compare with his, and starting a new ‘Og entry about a current campaign against road accidents. And drinking my fifth or sixth cuppa of the morning. I suddenly realised dawn had come and stood up to raise the blinds next to my desk. Completely forgetting about the earphones on my head. The obvious then occurred: the earphone cord stretched, pulling the teacup over and I turned back to see the keyboard covered with tea… Disaster! I tipped the computer over and grabbed the hotel hairdryer to try to dry it as quickly as possible (apologies to the next room neighbour!). Contrary to all advices, I did not turn the Mac off but kept running the R program instead to add to the heat of the dryer. In retrospect this was quite silly and I am lucky to get out with only two keys not working!
The Delta flight from Paris to Philadelphia was a mix of new and old, of highs and downs, with an exit seat (doubly exit in that I was first out of the plane and through custom!), a plug for my computer and free wireless connection (a first!), and, on the down side, an old-fashioned plane and crew, terrible food, worst-ever tea that tasted like dish-washing water and a flight attendant wishing us “enjoy!” each time she was pouring water… Since we arrived one hour earlier and I reached my hotel next to Wharton before the scheduled landing time, I should not complain, however..
Today and tomorrow, I am attending a conference in Wharton in honour of Larry Brown for his 70th birthday. I met Larry in 1988 when visiting Cornell for the year—even using his office in the Math department while he was away on a sabbatical leave—and it really does not feel like that long ago, nor does it feel like Larry is any close to 70 as he looks essentially the same as 22 years ago! The conference is reflecting Larry’s broad range of research from decision-theory and nonparametrics to data analysis. I am thus very glad to celebrate Larry’s birthday with a whole crowd of old and more recent friends. (My talk on Rao-Blackwellisation will be quite similar to the seminar I gave in Stanford last summer [except that I have to talk twice as fast!])
While in Philadelphia, I tried to keep on French time (to avoid jetlag on my way back) by waking up between 2am and 3am every morning. This worked out quite well (and gave me an additional window for efficient study!). However, since I am back, I have been faced with the weird phenomenon that I wake up at 2:40am every morning and cannot go back to sleep! This is quite annoying and had never occurred previously. Maybe my brain got somehow so wired to this “emergency wake-up call” before 3 that it needs time to erase it!
This extended week in the department of Statistics at Wharton has been quite fruitful for me! Partly due to the extra four hours of work I was getting every night by remaining (almost) on French time, partly due to the warm welcome I received from the department, partly due to having to prepare this course on likelihood-free methods and rethinking about the fundamentals (the abc?!) of ABC (and partly due to resisting buying Towers of Midnight on Tuesday morning at dawn!). The feedback I got during the course, mostly from Wharton faculty, was invaluable and I also appreciated the invitation to chat with the students at the lunch student seminar about my research experience (although it must have been mostly boring for them!) It was also a wonderful opportunity to catch up with friends of more than 20 years… In short, a great “working vacation”!