The short course I gave in Les Diablerets, Switzerland, was highly enjoyable, at least for me!, as it gave me the opportunity to present an overview of the field, just before our workshop in Banff and to stay in a fantastic skiing area for four days! While I found out that my limited skiing skills are gone even more limited, the constant fresh snow falling during my stay and the very small number of people on the slopes made the outdoor highly enjoyable, the more because the temperatures were quite tolerable. The above picture was taken on the only morning it did not snow, with a nice cloud inversion over the valley separating France and Switzerland.
Archive for ski
MCMSki IV is about to start! While further participants may still register (registration is still open!), we are currently 223 registered participants, without accompanying people. I do hope most of these managed to reach the town of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc despite the foul weather on the East Coast. Unfortunately, three speakers (so far) cannot make it: Yugo Chen (Urbana-Champaign), David Hunter (Penn State), Georgios Karagiannis (Toronto), and Liam Paninski (New York). Nial Friel will replace David Hunter and give a talk on Noisy MCMC.
First, the posters for tonight session (A to K authors) should be posted today (before dinner) on the boards at the end of the main lecture theatre. And removed tonight as well. Check my wordpress blog for the abstracts. (When I mentioned there was no deadline for sending abstracts, I did not expect getting one last Friday!)
Second, I remind potential skiers that the most manageable option is to ski on the Brévent domain, uphill from the conference centre. There is even a small rental place facing the cable-car station (make sure to phone +33450535264 to check they still have skis available) and renting storage closets…
We are a few days from the start, here are the latest items of information for the participants:
The shuttle transfer on January 5th, from Geneva Airport to Chamonix lasts 1 hour 30 minutes. At your arrival in the airport , follow the “Swiss Exit”. After the customs, the bus driver (handling a sign “MCMC’Ski Chamonix”) will be waiting for you at the Meeting Point in the Arrival Hall. The bus driver will arrive 10 minutes before the time of the meeting and will check for each participant on his or her list. There may be delays in case of poor weather. The bus will drop you in front of or close to your hotel. If you miss the bus initially booked, you can get the next one. If you miss the last transfer, taking a taxi will be the only solution (warning, about 250 Euros!!!)
The registration will start on Monday January 6th at 8am, the conference will start at 8.45am. The conference will take place at the Majestic Congress Center, located 241 Allée du Majestic, in downtown Chamonix. There are signs all over town directing to Majestic Congrés. (No skiing equipment, i.e., skis, boots, boards, is allowed inside the building.) Speakers are advised to check with their chair in advance about downloading their talk.
The Richard Tweedie ski race should take place on Wednesday at 1pm, weather and snow permitting. There will be a registration line at the registration desk. (The cost is 10€ per person and does not include lift passes or equipment.) Thanks to Antonietta Mira, there will be two pairs of skis to be won!)
Almost immediately after I published my comments on his paper with David Dunson, Xiangyu Wang sent a long comment that I think worth a post on its own (especially, given that I am now busy skiing and enjoying Chamonix!). So here it is:
Thanks for the thoughtful comments. I did not realize that Neiswanger et al. also proposed the similar trick to avoid combinatoric problem as we did for the rejection sampler. Thank you for pointing that out.
For the criticism 3 on the tail degeneration, we did not mean to fire on the non-parametric estimation issues, but rather the problem caused by using the product equation. When two densities are multiplied together, the accuracy of the product mainly depends on the tail of the two densities (the overlapping area), if there are more than two densities, the impact will be more significant. As a result, it may be unwise to directly use the product equation, as the most distant sub-posteriors could be potentially very far away from each other, and most of the sub posterior draws are outside the overlapping area. (The full Gibbs sampler formulated in our paper does not have this issue, as shown in equation 5, there is a common part multiplied on each sub-posterior, which brought them close.)
Point 4 stated the problem caused by averaging. The approximated density follows Neiswanger et al. (2013) will be a mixture of Gaussian, whose component means are the average of the sub-posterior draws. Therefore, if sub-posteriors stick to different modes (assuming the true posterior is multi-modal), then the approximated density is likely to mess up the modes, and produce some faked modes (eg. average of the modes. We provide an example in the simulation 3.)
Sorry for the vague description of the refining method (4.2). The idea is kinda dull. We start from an initial approximation to θ and then do one step Gibbs update to obtain a new θ, and we call this procedure ‘refining’, as we believe such process would bring the original approximation closer to the true posterior distribution.
The first (4.1) and the second (4.2) algorithms do seem weird to be called as ‘parallel’, since they are both modified from the Gibbs sampler described in (4) and (5). The reason we want to propose these two algorithms is to overcome two problems. The first is the dimensionality curse, and the second is the issue when the subset inferences are not extremely accurate (subset effective sample size small) which might be a common scenario for logistic regression (with large parameters) even with huge data set. First, algorithm (4.1) and (4.2) both start from some initial approximations, and attempt to improve to obtain a better approximation, thus avoid the dimensional issue. Second, in our simulation 1, we attempt to pull down the performance of the simple averaging by worsening the sub-posterior performance (we allocate smaller amount of data to each subset), and the non-parametric method fails to approximate the combined density as well. However, the algorithm 4.1 and 4.2 still work in this case.
I have some problem with the logistic regression example provided in Neiswanger et al. (2013). As shown in the paper, under the authors’ setting (not fully specified in the paper), though the non-parametric method is better than simple averaging, the approximation error of simple averaging is small enough for practical use (I also have some problem with their error evaluation method), then why should we still bother to use a much more complicated method?
Actually I’m adding a new algorithm into the Weierstrass rejection sampling, which will render it thoroughly free from the dimensionality curse of p. The new scheme is applicable to the nonparametric method in Neiswanger et al. (2013) as well. It should appear soon in the second version of the draft.
I am now in Chamonix, a week before MCMSki IV. The town is packed with tourists from all over Europe, English being the dominant language. There is not much snow so far, even though some runs reach town. (I did ski in the nearby Les Houches today and the red runs were either icy or very thin, with stones and grass showing here and there…) Since the town is quite pricey in comparison with other French ski resorts, esp. in terms of rental, let me point out the special store of Technique Extrême, with very low rates, located a few blocks away from the conference centre.
I am currently trying to see whether or not we could get special rates for the daily passes. I checked whether ski passes could be sold at the registration desk, but the only solution was for me to buy them in advance, so I gave up on that. If you arrive on Sunday my advice is to buy the pass from one of the cablecar stations (which close about 5pm). You can also buy it on line. And pick it later from a cablecar station booth…
The programs of the talks, posters and workshop are now printed and available on Speaker Deck (talks, posters, workshop). Please let me know if you spot anything wrong (even though it will not be reprinted!). This is presumably the last news item till Jan. 5 as I am almost off to Chamonix for a week of
hard work preparing the conference happily skiing with my family, looking forward seeing some participants in the coming week in the streets of Chamonix and all of them/you on Monday, Jan. 6, 8:30! (Snow is falling right now, so there should be no issue with finding open runs…)