Archive for The New York Times

Sceaux@NYT

Posted in pictures, Running, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 5, 2020 by xi'an

on an absurd climbing competition

Posted in Kids, Mountains, pictures, Running, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 1, 2020 by xi'an

The New York Times has a very interesting piece on why Adam Ondra, arguably the best sport climber in the World, who climbed the very first 9c route in 2018, with a supernatural move involving hanging head down, actually has little hope of winning the Olympics. Assuming there will be Olympics this year. It is essentially because there is only one single medal for the sport, merging the radically different skills of bouldering, lead climbing and the absurd addition of speed climbing, which involves a single route, always the same, not particularly hard (6b) but to be climbed as fast as possible. To be a top contender on two categories is already pretty rare, with Ondra an exception. To master all three… Only cumulated athletic categories like heptathlon or pentathlon compare, but they come on top of existing competitions for every single of the seven or five events they are made of. Ondra came second or first in bouldering and lead, but closer to last for speed climbing. At least he made it through the qualifications.

the exponential power of now

Posted in Books, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2020 by xi'an

The New York Times had an interview on 13 March with Britta Jewell (MRC, Imperial College London) and Nick Jewell (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine & U of C Berkeley), both epidemiologists. (Nick is also an AE for Biometrika.) Where they explain quite convincingly that the devastating power of the exponential growth and the resulting need for immediate reaction. An urgency that Western governments failed to heed, unsurprisingly including the US federal government. Maybe they should have been told afresh about the legend of paal paysam, where the king who lost to Krishna was asked to double rice grains on the successive squares of a chess board. (Although this is presumably too foreign a thought experiment for The agent orange. He presumably prefers the unbelievable ideological rantings of John Ioannides. Who apparently does mind sacrificing “people with limited life expectancies” for the sake of the economy.) Incidentally, I find the title “The exponential power of now” fabulous!

the ninth house

Posted in Books, Kids, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 6, 2020 by xi'an

“Monsters often operate metaphorically in fantasy. We can banish those literal monsters, but to banish the figurative monster at the same time does a tremendous disservice to readers, because trauma doesn’t finish with the last page of a book,. And for those of us who live with any kind of trauma in our past, the idea of purging it in some kind of magical way is offensive.” L. Bardugo, Bustle, Oct 9, 2019

As I had rather enjoyed the style of her YA Grisha series (despite a superficial scenario and equally superficial Russification of the fantasy universe there), I followed another Amazon link to Leigh Bardugo’s first “adult” novel. (Which denomination means not purposedly “young adult”!) The Ninth House. After a highly laudatory New York Times book review.

The story is rather unsurprising at one level, namely a college town (Yale, New Haven), “secret” societies (nine of them), some happy (?) few having access to magical powers, a parallel world, ghosts and demons, a freshwoman coming from a highly traumatic past and an unprivileged background, brushing with much more privileged classmates and catching up amazingly well in English literature and languages (but staying away from STEM, why is that?!), not so much an anti-hero as the author would us like to believe but who single-handedly solves a murder (or a few) and exposes some of the murderers for her own sense of justice. With a pending sequel to seek a missing paladin and mentor. With an elaborate enough style and enough twists and surprises in the plot to keep the reader hooked, especially readers with a past or a present in said college town. Or another Ivy League town.

However, there is more depth to the book than a mere exploitation of successful tropes, in that the main character is building meaning all along the book, with her supernatural abilities more curse than blessing and a massive past trauma that cannot heal and threatens to define her. Which makes the above statement from the author quite powerful. I thus found the book equally powerful, despite not being a big fan of ghost and horror stories, to the point of looking for the next installment, whenever ready.

bats [and viruses]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2020 by xi'an

science under attack [it only gets worse #1074]

Posted in Kids, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 6, 2020 by xi'an

A chilling overview by the New York Times on the permanent and concerted attacks by the Trump administration on science and the scientific duties of the U.S. Government. [This post was written a week ago, before a much scarier and literal as well as extra-judicial attack took place.]

“Political appointees have shut down government studies, reduced the influence of scientists over regulatory decisions and in some cases pressured researchers not to speak publicly. The administration has particularly challenged scientific findings related to the environment and public health opposed by industries such as oil drilling and coal mining. It has also impeded research around human-caused climate change, which President Trump has dismissed despite a global scientific consensus.”

“The administration’s efforts to cut certain research projects also reflect a longstanding conservative position that some scientific work can be performed cost-effectively by the private sector, and taxpayers shouldn’t be asked to foot the bill.”

“…some of the Trump administration’s moves, like a policy to restrict certain academics from the E.P.A.’s Science Advisory Board or the proposal to limit the types of research that can be considered by environmental regulators, “mark a sharp departure with the past.” Rather than isolated battles between political officials and career experts, these moves are an attempt to legally constrain how federal agencies use science in the first place.”

“In addition to shutting down some programs, there have been notable instances where the administration has challenged established scientific research. Early on, as it started rolling back regulations on industry, administration officials began questioning research findings underpinning those regulations (…) Many top government positions, including at the E.P.A. and the Interior Department, are now occupied by former lobbyists connected to the industries that those agencies oversee.”

garbage in the air

Posted in pictures, Travel, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 6, 2019 by xi'an

As I am flying today to Seoul, for the Fall meeting of the Korean Statistical Society, a somewhat interesting paper in the New York Times about switching to alternatives for airline catering (if not air travel), starting with the figure that a passenger generates on average 1.5kg of waste per flight. And pointing out the conflicting issues in recycling food waste in most countries as they see it as imported waste and potential imported pathogens.and biohazards… While getting rids of plastic items is a tiny step in the right direction, especially because airlines do not sort between different kinds of garbage, a major step would be to avoid replacing them by another disposable item, especially heavier ones. From getting rid of providing food and drink (except water) on short and medium-haul flights to aim at healthy foods that do not require packaging or utensils. Like fruits. And asking passengers to carry their own garbage when leaving the plane could also enhance the realisation of the amount of garbage they thus produced. (On a recent early morning flight between Paris and Birmingham, the plane supposedly could not leave until the late delivery truck had brought croissants and drinks, as if passengers could not have abstained for the 55mn the flight lasted, especially when most of them were sleeping…) Nowadays. I usually travel with a water bottle that I fill before boarding after security and often skip meals on flights, but it invariably proves difficult to ask flight attendants to use my own reusable cup rather than a single-use plastic cup.