Archive for Spain
Following a discusion I had with Victor Elvirà about Spanish books, I ordered a book by Arturo Pérez-Reverte called a Day of Wrath (un día de cólera), but apparently not translated into English. The day of wrath is the second of May, 1808, when the city of Madrid went to arms against the French occupation by Napoléon’s troops. An uprising that got crushed by Murat’s repression the very same day, but which led to the entire Spain taking arms against the occupation. The book is written out of historical accounts of the many participants to the uprising, from both Madrilene and French sides. Because of so many viewpoints being reported, some for a single paragraph before the victims die, the literary style is not particularly pleasant, but this is nonetheless a gripping book that I read within a single day while going (or trying to get) to San Francisco. And it is historically revealing of how unprepared the French troops were about an uprising by people mostly armed with navajas and a few hunting rifles. Who still managed to hold parts of the town for most of a day, with the help of a single artillery battalion while the rest of the troops stayed in their barracks. The author actually insists very much on that aspect, that the rebellion was mostly due to the action of the people, while leading classes, the Army, and the clergy almost uniformly condemned it. Upped estimations on the number of deaths on that day (and the following days) range around 500 for Madrilenes and 150 for French tropps, but the many stories running in the book give the impression of many more casualties.
Over the past weekend, several men were killed in Spain. By running bulls. Most in the streets of Pamplona. And one in a bullring. The argument behind those events is to invoke “tradition“. Which means it happened for several centuries. Starting (?) with the Minoan bull leapers. But that does not make an argument when live are at stake and animals turned into killing machines (and often injured in the process). A lot of other absurd and cruel traditions have rightly disappeared over the years… The European Union does not yet prohibit this animal mistreatment although it prohibits EU funds to be used as support, but it should as it is high time bull running and bull fighting are prohibited everywhere in Spain (as bull fighting currently is in both Catalunya and the Canary Islands). [I realise this is not the number one problem in the World and that many more people died the same weekend of deaths that could have been avoided, it is just that it would be so simple to eliminate this one (dis)reason.]
The second and third days of AISTATS 2016 passed like a blur, with not even the opportunity to write my impressions in real time! Maybe long tapa breaks are mostly to blame for this… In any case, we had two further exciting plenary talks about privacy-preserving data analysis by Kamalika Chaudhuri and crowdsourcing and machine learning by Adam Tauman Kalai. The talk by Kamalika was covering recent results by Kamalika and coauthors about optimal privacy preservation in classification and a generalisation to correlated data, with the neat notion of a Markov Quilt. Other talks that same day also dwelt on this privacy issue, but I could not be . The talk by Adam was full of fun illustrations on humans training learning systems (with the unsolved difficulty of those humans deliberately mis-training the system, as exhibited recently by the short-lived Microsoft Tay experiment).
Both poster sessions were equally exciting, with the addition of MLSS student posters on the final day. Among many, I particularly enjoyed Iain Murray’s pseudo-marginal slice sampling, David Duvenaud’s fairly intriguing use of early stopping for non-parametric inference, Garrett Bernstein’s work on aggregated Markov chains, Ye Wang’s scalable geometric density estimation [with a special bonus for his typo on the University of Turing, instead of Torino], Gemma Moran’s and Chengtao Li’s posters on determinantal processes, and Matej Balog’s Mondrian forests with a Laplace kernel [envisioning potential applications for ABC]. Again, just to mention a few…
The participants [incl. myself] also took one evening off to visit a sherry winery in Jerez, with a well-practiced spiel on the story of the company, with some building designed by Gutave Eiffel, and with a wine-tasting session. As I personally find this type of brandy too strong in alcohol, I am not a big fan of sherry but it was nonetheless an amusing trip! With no visible after-effects the next morning, since the audience was as large as usual for Adam’s talk [although I did not cross a machine-learning soul on my 6am run…]
In short, I enjoyed very much AISTATS 2016 and remain deeply impressed by the efficiency of the selection process and the amount of involvement of the actors of this selection, as mentioned earlier on the ‘Og. Kudos!