Archive for The New York Times

graphics for the New York City marathon

Posted in Running with tags , , on November 1, 2015 by xi'an

Central Park, New York, Sep. 25, 2011As the first runners are starting the race in Staten Island, here are six graphics published in the NYT about the NYC marathon, pointed out to me by my friend Darren. The first one is a great moving histogram that I cannot reproduce here, following the four batches of runners. And the unbearably slow last runner! The second graph is an almost linear increase in the number of women running the race (which, by extrapolation, means that the NYC marathon will be an all-female race by 2068!). The third graph is a square version of a pie chart, which shows that the second largest contingent after the US runners is made of French runners (7%), way above Canadian runners (2.7%). The fifth graph shows spikes in the age repartition of the runners, at 30, 40, 50, and 60: since it is unlikely to be a reporting bias, unless id’s are not controlled when registering, which would be strange given the awards are distributed by five year block age groups, this may be due to people making a big case of changing decade by running the marathon or by runners who take advantage a new age group to aim for the podium. The latest explanation is very unlikely as it would only apply to elite runners and as it should also induce a spike at 35, 45, etc. (Incidentally, I checked the winner’s time in my category, 55-60, and last year a Frenchman won in 2:48:19, which means I would have to run at about the speed of my latest half-marathon to achieve this speed…) The last graph is also quite interesting as it follows the winning times for male and female runners against the current world record across years, showing that the route is not the most appropriate to break the record, in contrast with Berlin where several records got broken.

moral [dis]order

Posted in Kids, Travel with tags , , , , , , on October 3, 2015 by xi'an

“For example, a religiously affiliated college that receives federal grants could fire a professor simply for being gay and still receive those grants. Or federal workers could refuse to process the tax returns of same-sex couples simply because of bigotry against their marriages. It doesn’t stop there. As critics of the bill quickly pointed out, the measure’s broad language — which also protects those who believe that “sexual relations are properly reserved to” heterosexual marriages alone — would permit discrimination against anyone who has sexual relations outside such a marriage. That would appear to include women who have children outside of marriage, a class generally protected by federal law.” The New York Time

An excerpt from this week New York Time Sunday Review editorial about what it qualifies as “a nasty bit of business congressional Republicans call the First Amendment Defense Act.” A bill which first line states to be intended to “prevent discriminatory treatment of any person on the basis of views held with respect to marriage” and which in essence would allow for discriminatory treatment of homosexual and unmarried couples not to be prosecuted. A fine example of Newspeak if any! (Maybe they could also borrow Orwell‘s notion of a Ministry of Love.) Another excerpt of the bill that similarly competes for Newspeak of the Year:

(5) Laws that protect the free exercise of religious beliefs and moral convictions about marriage will encourage private citizens and institutions to demonstrate tolerance for those beliefs and convictions and therefore contribute to a more respectful, diverse, and peaceful society.

This reminded me of a story I was recently told me about a friend of a friend who is currently employed by a Catholic school in Australia and is afraid of being fired if found being pregnant outside of marriage. Which kind of “freedom” is to be defended in such “tolerant” behaviours?!

Why Runners Get Slower With Age

Posted in Kids, Running, Travel with tags , , , , , , on September 16, 2015 by xi'an

Argentan, Apr. 17, 2011“The differences were striking. With each passing decade, the runners’ stride length and preferred speed dropped by about 20 percent.”

This morning at breakfast I read this New York Times article on the impact of age on running abilities. The perfect article to get me in the right post-birthday mood! The results of a physiological study reported in this article are not crystal-clear, but they primarily show that “older runners used their ankle muscles less but not other muscles more.”  A point on which I have no opinion, although I think I now run more from the front of my feet than I used to run, if the imposition on my running shoes is informative: the sole under the big toe is the first part to wear out! Then, at lunch, I went to train with my friends of the Insee Paris Club on 1km splits, with a good soul playing the pacemaker on the last lap. And helping me to achieve an average 3:31 average I was not expecting! Too bad I only have one serious training left before the traditional Argentan half-marathon, early October…

another viral math puzzle

Posted in Books, Kids, R, University life with tags , , , , , , , on May 25, 2015 by xi'an

After the Singapore Maths Olympiad birthday problem that went viral, here is a Vietnamese primary school puzzle that made the frontline in The Guardian. The question is: Fill the empty slots with all integers from 1 to 9 for the equality to hold. In other words, find a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h,i such that


With presumably the operation ordering corresponding to


although this is not specified in the question. Which amounts to


and implies that c divides b and i divides gxh. Rather than pursing this analytical quest further, I resorted to R coding, checking by brute force whether or not a given sequence was working.

if (ord[1]+(13*ord[2]/ord[3])+ord[4]+
ord[9])-10==66) return(ord)}

I then applied this function to all permutations of {1,…,9} [with the help of the perm(combinat) R function] and found the 128 distinct solutions. Including some for which b:c is not an integer. (Not of this obviously gives a hint as to how a 8-year old could solve the puzzle.)

As pointed out in a comment below, using the test == on scalars is a bad idea—once realising some fractions may be other than integers—and I should thus replace the equality with an alternative that bypasses divisions,


leading to the overall R code

for (t in 1:factorial(9)){
  if (a[1]>0) sol=rbind(sol,a)}

and returning the 136 different solutions…

back from New York

Posted in Kids, pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 5, 2015 by xi'an

ColumbiaA greatly enjoyable [if a wee bit tight] visit to Columbia University for my  seminar last Monday! (And a reasonably smooth trip if I forget about the screaming kids on both planes…!) Besides discussing with several faculty on our respective research interests, and explaining our views on replacing Bayes factors and posterior probabilities, views that were not strongly challenged by the seminar audience, maybe because it sounded too Bayesiano-Bayesian!, I had a great time catching up (well, almost!) with Andrew, running for one hour by the river both mornings, and even biking—does not feel worse than downtown Paris!—with Andrew a few miles to a terrific tiny Mexican restaurant in South Bronx, El Atoradero where I had a home-made tortilla (or pupusa) filled bexmexwith beans and covered with hot chorizo! (The restaurant was selected as the 2014 best Mexican restaurant in New York City by The Village Voice, whatever that means. And also has a very supportive review in The New York Times.) It was so good I (very exceptionally) ordered a second serving of spicy pork huarache, which was almost as good. And kept me well-fed till the next day, when I arrived in Paris. And with enough calories to fight the cold melted snow that fell when biking back to the office at Columbia. I also had an interesting morning in a common room at Columbia, working next to graduate students and hearing their conversations about homeworks and advisors (nothing to gossip about as their comments were invariably laudatory!, maybe because they suspected me of being a mole!)

Domaine de Mortiès [in the New York Times]

Posted in Mountains, Travel, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 7, 2015 by xi'an


“I’m not sure how we found Domaine de Mortiès, an organic winery at the foothills of Pic St. Loup, but it was the kind of unplanned, delightful discovery our previous trips to Montpellier never allowed.”

Last year,  I had the opportunity to visit and sample (!) from Domaine de Mortiès, an organic Pic Saint-Loup vineyard and winemaker. I have not yet opened the bottle of Jamais Content I bought then. Today I spotted in The New York Times a travel article on A visit to the in-laws in Montpellier that takes the author to Domaine de Mortiès, Pic Saint-Loup, Saint-Guilhem-du-Désert and other nice places, away from the overcrowded centre of town and the rather bland beach-town of Carnon, where she usually stays when visiting. And where we almost finished our Bayesian Essentials with R! To quote from the article, “Montpellier, France’s eighth-largest city, is blessed with a Mediterranean sun and a beautiful, walkable historic centre, a tourist destination in its own right, but because it is my husband’s home city, a trip there never felt like a vacation to me.” And when the author mentions the owner of Domaine de Mortiès, she states that “Mme. Moustiés looked about as enthused as a teenager working the checkout at Rite Aid”, which is not how I remember her from last year. Anyway, it is fun to see that visitors from New York City can unexpectedly come upon this excellent vineyard!

would you wear those tee-shirts?!

Posted in Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , on January 25, 2015 by xi'an

Here are two examples of animal “face” tee-shirts I saw advertised in The New York Times and that I would not consider wearing. At any time.


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