Friday News: NYT changes book coverage, Amazon Web Services outage, strong girls, and astronomer Maria Cunitz
Changes In ‘New York Times’ Books Coverage, Explained – Although I’m trying not to see this as the beginning of the end of book reviews, it’s a hard sell. Pamela Paul, editor of the New York Times Book Review, is trying to sell the “deprioritization” of book reviews as a democratizing and expansive shift for the Times. Now it’s all about “coverage.” I (half) jokingly wondered if the push to review more genre fiction helped catalyze this change, but I can’t help but see it as about money more than democratizing book reviews. How much of this “coverage” will fall under the broad umbrella of advertising and/or promotion/marketing?
Paul stressed that the Times is actually expanding its books coverage, with the intent of becoming more “strategic” in how it covers particular books. Previously, the paper had three separate desks that covered books entirely independent of one another—the Business Day, which is where publishing reporter Alexandra Alter was assigned; the Daily Critics, comprised of Michiko Kakutani, Dwight Garner, and Jennifer Senior; and the Sunday Book Review—with very little communication between teams. That will now change, with all books coverage falling under a single Books Desk umbrella.
In simple terms, the Times is moving from a review-oriented strategy to a strategy that aptly covers categories that are of interest to their readers but are “review-proof,” or wouldn’t necessarily benefit from a 1,200-word review in the New York Times Book Review. (Examples include, with exceptions, mysteries, parenting books, business books, or health books.)
Previously, Paul said, the Times‘ books coverage consisted “85% of reviews” with the rest being “a mix of profiles, industry news, features, and bestseller lists.” This approach, she said, resulted in “a lot of duplication.” In other words, at a Times that has rapidly expanded its digital strategy, the question will no longer be, she said, “Does this book merit a review,” but rather, “Does this book merit coverage?” – Publishers Weekly
Amazon S3 problem caused by command line mistake during maintenance – And yet another reminder of how much of the internet Amazon controls made the rounds yesterday when a number of web services were temporarily disabled. I don’t understand all the technical details, but the upshot seems to be that someone entered the wrong command and inadvertently took a chunk of the servers down. But at least it didn’t happen on live tv.
The Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) team was debugging a problem in the S3 billing system on Tuesday morning when one team member “executed a command which was intended to remove a small number of servers for one of the S3 subsystems that is used by the S3 billing process,” Amazon wrote in a post-mortem describing the incident. That’s when things went wrong. “Unfortunately, one of the inputs to the command was entered incorrectly and a larger set of servers was removed than intended. The servers that were inadvertently removed supported two other S3 subsystems.” . . .
Apparent victims of the outage included The AV Club, Trello, Quora, IFTTT, Open Whisper Systems, and websites created with Wix. Some people also reported problems with Internet-connected devices such as an oven, remote light controllers (including one powered by IFTTT), and a front gate. – Ars Technica
Daily Juggle: New book captures girls in their natural state — strong and confident – Persist through what seems like a rambling introduction to the story of Kate Parker’s book, Strong is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves, because the payoff is worth it. Parker was working on improving her photography, taking pictures of her daughters, when she noticed that they were most compelling when they were not posing or even prepped for the photos. She realized that these images of girls were strong and confident, and she wanted to “celebrate” them for who they are, to send the message, “You don’t need to be pretty, perfect or compliant to be loved.” Of course, when she showed her images at a gallery, no one bought them, and so Parker ultimately ended up putting a book together. Which Pioneer Press Molly Guthrey saw as an advanced copy and ended up wanting to interview Parker:
“I [Parker] had this opportunity to do this gallery show, where I had to to put my 20 strongest images together,” Parker said. “I noticed, once I stepped back, that the images that were the strongest, the ones that resonated the most, were the ones where the girls were being themselves — which meant dirty hair, not brushed; fierce and not smiling for the camera; not ingratiating themselves, not trying to be cute. They were just being themselves — strong — they had a presence.” . . .
I [Gurthrie] started to cry as I looked at the photos; maybe because girls can still wear their self-confidence naturally. They don’t need to be strong to keep going, strength is still their natural state.Their quotes hit me just as hard as their photos. Quotes like:
“Many girls grew up dreaming of a hero to save them. I grew up dreaming of becoming one.” – Pioneer Press
The 17th-Century Lady Astronomer Who Took Measure of the Stars – Speaking of strength and being oneself, this profile of Maria Cunitz, whose work Urania Propitia made her one of the most accomplished mathematicians and astronomers of the 17th century. Fluent in seven languages (German, Latin, Polish, Italian, French, Hebrew, and Greek), Cunitz was highly educated and intellectually supported by both her father and her husband, inciting speculation about how many other women would have reached Cunitz’s level of scientific influence for what one historian describes as the “earliest surviving scientific work by a woman on the highest technical level of its age.” [The earliest? Really?]
In 1609, German astronomer Johannes Kepler published Astronomia Nova, which laid the groundwork for the revolution that would come to be known as Keplerian astronomy. But at the time, few astronomers embraced his three laws: that planets move in elliptical orbits with the sun as the foci, that the center of the sun and the center of a planet sweep out equal area in equal intervals of time, and that the amount of time a planet takes to orbit is directly related to its distance from the sun.
Cunitz was one of the few that saw the truth in Kepler’s laws of planetary motion; even Galileo did not accept Kepler’s law of ellipses. However, Cunitz found flaws in Kepler’s 1627 Rudolphine Tables, a catalogue of stars and planetary tables with complex directions for calculating planetary positions. She set out to correct and simplify Kepler’s calculations by removing logarithms. Cunitz finished her first and second tables in 1643 and the third in 1645.
Published in 1650 at her and her husband’s own financial expense, Urania Propitia was longer than Kepler’s original Rudolphine Tables at 286 pages. She published the book in both Latin and the vernacular German, which made it an accessible work of astronomy outside of university walls and helped to establish German as a scientific language. – Smithsonian