Last Thursday night, after a friendly dinner closing the ICMS workshop, I was rushing back to Pollock Halls to catch some sleep before a very early flight. When crossing North Bridge, on top of Waverley station, I then spotted in the crowd a well-known face of a fellow statistician from Cambridge University, on an academic visit to the University of Edinburgh that was completely unrelated with the workshop. Then, today, on my way back from submitting a visa request at the Indian embassy in Paris, I took the RER train for one stop between Gare du Nord and Chatelet. When I stood up from my seat and looked behind me, a senior (and most famous) mathematician was sitting right there, in deep conversation with a colleague about algorithms… Just two of “those” coincidences. (Edinburgh may be propitious to coincidences: at the last ICMS workshop I attended, I ended up in the same Indian restaurant as Marc Suchard, who also was on an academic visit to the University of Edinburgh that was completely unrelated with the workshop!)
Archive for RER
Just like my astronomy colleague from Brighton, I do wonder why so little snow on the ground creates so much havoc on the transportation network. RER trains have been crawling at a snail-like pace, buses cancelled and trams inoperative for the past few days. I presume this is because there is no degree of freedom left in the way those public transportation systems are operated. They are bursting at every possible seam for lack of sufficient investment in material and people, and, as a result, cannot handle any event that would require any extra manpower (like running the trains all night long to keep the rails free from snow and ice…) The electricity company EDF has started relying on its (young) retirees in cases of major crises and I think the rail companies should do the same.
The trip to Hamburg had started inauspiciously: a heart attack (someone else’s heart) in the métro (RER) has frozen the train traffic completely on Tuesday and I was lucky to find a taxi that managed to drive me to the airport in the nick of time. As there were warnings of strike in the Hamburg airport today, I decided to pack early and left DESY long enough in advance to reach the aiport by public transportation: it is only once I cleared security and sat at the gate that I realised I had forgotten my PC power box/cord in my room at DESY. What a drag! Anyway, I managed to buy a universal adapter in Paris on my way back from the airport and still to attend Adam Johansen’s seminar on Rao-Blackwellisation of particle filters at the Big’MC seminar. An interesting exploitation of missing variable structures within missing variables in a hidden Markov chain! (I missed the reason for the O(NM) computing time, though.) On the way home, I reflected on how little I had seen of Hamburg: a nice train system, a green and pleasant suburban area south of DESY towards the Elben (Groß Flottbeck), while running this morning, and…the airport! I wish I had had the opportunity and the time to get a glimpse of downtown Hamburg.
[From the voluble and loud woman sitting behind me in the Paris métro and talking to her companion:]
– Maintenant, les enfants, c’est du souci, la drogue, les études, le chômage… Je les plains les jeunes, ils ont une sale vie.
– Et puis maintenant ils font des mariages qu’ils préparent un an à l’avance. On ne peut pas rester comme ca dans le bruit pendant un an!
– (when the train stopped due to an alarm signal) C’est sûrement un malaise d’un voyageur. Ou quelqu’un qui s’est fait agresser.