“The Trump administration has dropped the federal government’s challenge to a nationwide injunction issued last year that blocked the fulfillment of Obama administration guidelines stating that transgender students’ access to bathrooms and other gender-segregated school facilities was protected under existing federal civil rights law.” NYT, Feb 11, 2017
“President Trump vowed on Thursday to overturn a law restricting political speech by tax-exempt churches, a potentially huge victory for the religious right and a gesture to evangelicals, a voting bloc he attracted to his campaign by promising to free up their pulpits.” NYT, Feb 2, 2017
Archive for The New York Times
As Paul Krugman put it in a NYT editorial, from there things can only get worse: one of the first decisions of Donald Trump as President was to ban US foreign aid to health providers abroad who discuss abortion as a family-planning option. As a senseless defiance to the millions of women who had marched across the World the day before. In support of women’s rights everywhere.
In connection with the current Olympics in Rio, the New York Times produced a sequence of graphs displaying the dominance of some countries for some sports, like the above for long distance running. I find the representation pretty poor, from using a continuous time perspective for 30 Olympic events, to an unexplained colour codes singling out a few countries, to an equally unexplained second axis, with an upward drift above that does not seem to make sense…
And yet another series [suggested by Amazon] I chose at random after reading the summary… The Grisha trilogy was written by Leigh Bardugo and is told by Alina Starkov, a teenage orphan from the fantasy land of Ravka [sounds like Russia, doesn’t it?!] who suddenly discovers powers she did not suspect when fighting supernatural forces. And embarks on a bleak adventure with her childhood friend to safe their country from dark forces. A rather standard trope for the fantasy literature.. The books read well, in a light sense (or mind candy variety, to borrow from the Three-Toed Sloth blog) if addictive. I went over the first one, Shadow and Bone, within a travel day to München and back. Certainly not a major trilogy. And still, those books attracted massive and enthusiastic reviews (one for each book, from different young readers) in The Guardian! And another one in the NYT, nothing less… The explanation is that what I did not get before starting the trilogy [but started suspecting well into the first volume] this is a young adult (or teenager) series. Or even a children’s book, according to The Guardian! So do not expect any level of subtlety or elaborate plots or clever connections with our own world history. Even the Russian environment is caricaturesque with an annoying flow of kvas and tea and caftans. One character is closely related to Rasputin, the ruling family reminds me of the Romanovs, old and grumpy babushkas pop in now and then, the heroes hunt a firebird, &tc. And still the addiction operates to some level. [Try at your own risk and give the books to younger readers if it does not work!]
In connection with the big snow storm of last weekend in the U.S. North-East, The New York Time published an airport survival guide that includes a comprehensive Best Dining section on each major airport. Sections that I find somewhat hilarious in turning what is just the thing to avoid (why would you need food before sitting in a plane for several hours?!) into a hype! Here are some particularly crunchy and savoury quotes (and a mention of the brewery that makes the famous Fat Tire!):
“Less healthy but perhaps more popular, Garrett Popcorn Shops, also in 2 and 3, specialize in the Garrett Mix, a blend of cheese and caramel popcorn.”
“At B Gates, Elway’s steakhouse is popular for its burger as well as Colorado-raised steaks, and New Belgium Hub serves microbrews from the Fort Collins brewer.”
“There is a strong Cuban accent in Miami’s airport restaurants, beginning with four Café Versailles, branches of the Little Havana landmark.”
“At its culinary rival, Terminal D, Bisoux will box your croque monsieurs and other bistro fare to go.”
(with the last one managing to stuff two French grammar mistakes in one line).
Just read in my Sunday morning New York Times that George R.R. Martin had no clear idea when the sixth volume of a Song of Ice and Fire will be published. Not a major surprise given the sluggish pace of publishing the previous volumes, but I thought maybe working on the scenario for the TV Series Game of Thrones would have helped towards this completion. Apparently, it just had the opposite effect! While, as Neil Gaiman once put it in the most possible delicate way, “George Martin is not your bitch” and, writers being writers, they are free to write when and whatever they feel like writing, there is this lingering worry that the sad story of the Wheel of Time is going to happen all over again. That the author will never end up the series and that the editor will ask another fantasy author to take over. Just as Brandon Sanderson did after Robert Jordan died. Thus I was musing over my tea and baguette whether a reverse strategy wasn’t better, namely to hire help now just to … help. Maybe in the guise of assistants sketching scenes for primary drafts that the author could revise or of an artificial intelligence system that could (deep) learn how to write like George Martin out of a sketchy plot. Artificial writing software is obviously getting against the very notion of an author writing a book, however it is plausible that by learning the style of this very author, it could produce early versions that would speed up the writing, while being tolerable by the author. Maybe. And maybe not. Winter is simply coming at its own pace…