Archive for RER


Posted in pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 12, 2020 by xi'an

local mayhem, again and again and again…

Posted in Kids, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2019 by xi'an

The public transports in France and in particular in Paris have now been on strike for three weeks. In connection with a planned reform of the retirement conditions of workers with special status, like those in the train and metro companies, who can retire earlier than the legal age (62). As usual with social unrest in France, other categories joined the strike and the protest, including teachers and health service public workers, as well as police officers, fire-fighters and opera dancers, and even some students. Below are some figures from the OECD about average retirement conditions in nearby EU countries that show that these conditions are apparently better in France. (With the usual provision that these figures have been correctly reported.) In particular, the life expectancy at the start of retirement is the highest for both men and women. Coincidence (or not), my UCU affiliated colleagues in Warwick were also on strike a few weeks ago about their pensions…

Travelling through and around Paris by bike, I have not been directly affected by the strikes (as heavy traffic makes biking easier!), except for the morning of last week when I was teaching at ENSAE, when I blew up a tyre midway there and had to hop to the nearest train station to board the last train of the morning, arriving (only) 10mn late. Going back home was only feasible by taxi, which happened to be large enough to take my bicycle as well… Travelling to and from the airport for Vancouver and Birmingham was equally impossible by public transportation, meaning spending fair amounts of time in and money on taxis! And listening to taxi-drivers’ opinions or musical tastes. Nothing to moan about when considering the five to six hours spent by some friends of mine to get to work and back.

reactionaries behind wheels

Posted in pictures, Running with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2018 by xi'an

France was hit by hundreds of blockades yesterday, sometimes with dramatic consequences, as a reaction to the planned ecological tax on gas announced by the French government. As in every occasion French drivers are impacted by new laws or taxes, from reducing the legal speed limit to installing new radars, to tolls for trucks, they react like a Swiss watch, blocking streets and highways, often with success in the end. As in the previous “bonnets rouges” movement (making me wonder why these actions are always connected with clothes!). While being highly privileged to be able to bike to work (or to use the local trains, when they run) and to shop locally, I am struck by the doubly myopic of the protesters, myopy of not seeing the larger picture of the urgent need to cut the addiction to cars  with obvious negative consequences in the short term and myopy of seeing these protests as “spontaneous” and “politically neutral” despite the immediate recuperation by the fringe political parties. And thus hope the French government will hold on that measure (despite its poor record so far in terms of ecological policy).

“those” coincidences

Posted in pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 21, 2014 by xi'an

waverleyLast 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!)

talk in Orsay (message in a beetle)

Posted in Kids, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , on April 5, 2014 by xi'an

IMG_0161Yesterday (March 27), I gave a seminar at Paris-Sud University, Orsay, in the stats department, on ABC model choice. It was an opportunity to talk about recent advances we have made with Jean-Michel Marin and Pierre Pudlo on using machine-learning devices to improve ABC. (More to come soon!) And to chat with Gilles Celeux about machine learning and classification. Actually, given that one of my examples was about the Asian lady beetle invasion and that the buildings of the Paris-Sud University have suffered from this invasion, I should have advertised the talk with the more catchy title of “message in a beetle”…

This seminar was also an opportunity to experiment with mixed transportation. Indeed, since I had some errands to run in Paris in morning I decided to bike there (in Paris), work at CREST, and then take my bike in the RER train down to Orsay as I did not have the time and leisure to bike all the 20k there. Since it was the middle of the day, the carriage was mostly empty and I managed to type a blog entry without having to worry about the bike being a nuisance…. The only drag was to enter the platform in Paris (Cité Universitaire) as there was no clear access for bike. Fortunately, a student kindly helped me to get over the gate with my bike, as I could not manage on my own… Nonetheless, I will certainly repeat the experience on my next trip to Orsay (but would not dare take the bike inside/under Paris per se because of the (over-)crowded carriages there).

art brut

Posted in pictures, Running with tags , , , on June 29, 2013 by xi'an


snowed-in Paris

Posted in pictures with tags , , , , , , , , on March 17, 2013 by xi'an

Fontaine des Innocents, Paris, March 12, 2013Just 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.