A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • Centauri Dreams looks at the exocomets of Beta Pictoris.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper on the luminosity of cold brown dwarfs.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to one paper suggesting that Polynesian migration up to the 14th century depended on a pleasant global climate and links to another describing the discovery of a Polynesian canoe from 1400 CE in New Zealand.
  • Eastern Approaches notes that coal is facing serious pressure in central Europe, even in Poland.
  • Far Outliers notes how the Chinese northeast is once again a promised land for North Koreans.
  • Inkfish notes that at least one species of fish plays.
  • Marginal Revolution suggests that Jewish sects see such fierce leadership because they have become so consolidated.
  • Language Log reports that apparently it is harder to learn to read Arabic than it is to read Hebrew.
  • Language Log comments on the decent nature of Mark Zuckerberg’s Chinese.
  • The Planetary Society Blog notes China’s test of a moon mission.
  • pollotenchegg maps the divisions of Luhansk in the east of Ukraine.
  • Spacing Toronto’s John Lorinc suggests we Torontonians can learn much from Calgary and its mayor Naheed Nenshi.

[PHOTO] Canada Geese in High Park, Toronto

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Canada Geese in High Park, Toronto (1)

Canada Geese in High Park, Toronto (2)

Canada Geese in High Park, Toronto (3)

Written by Randy McDonald

October 24, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Posted in Photo, Toronto

Tagged with , , , ,

[URBAN NOTE] “Immigration and Visible Minority Status Shape Toronto Election Turnout, Study Finds”

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Desmond Cole’s analysis at Torontoist, illustrating with numerous telling charts, of nationality and ethnicity and race as factors in Toronto politics, is telling. Plenty of links at the Torontoist site.

In their publication “Who Votes in Toronto Municipal Elections?” Ryerson University professor Myer Siemiatycki and geographic analyst Sean Marshall explore how immigration, visible minority status, income, and home ownership affected residents’ likelihood of voting in the last three municipal elections. Their findings show that neighbourhoods and wards with higher proportions of immigrants and visible minorities tend to have lower turnout rates.

Siemiatycki ranked Toronto’s 44 wards by turnout and then looked at the percentage of immigrants in each ward. In the 10 wards with the lowest turnout, immigrants comprised an average of 63 per cent of the population, visible minorities 62.7 per cent. Immigrants made up 37 per cent of the population of the top 10 wards for voter turnout, visible minorities just 27 per cent.

“The short answer is, not enough of us turn out to vote,” said Siemiatycki in an interview earlier this month. The report states that “voter turnout over the last three Toronto municipal elections averaged 42.7%, compared to a 61.6% turnout average in the last three federal elections.” But Siemiatycki expressed particular concern about the lower turnout rates among immigrants and residents of visible minority status.

“One very likely explanation is that the composition of elected officials and candidates is not representative of the communities,” Siemiatycki explained, noting that only five of Toronto’s 45 city council members belong to a visible minority group, and that this pattern of disproportionate representation exists across the GTA. “This sends a signal that our elections and politics are the domain of some people and not others,” said Siemiatycki.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 24, 2014 at 1:08 am

[LINK] “The case for Northern devolution”

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Writing for Open Democracy, Paul Salveson makes an argument for the establishment of devolved regional assembly in the North of England, part of a more general federalization of the United Kingdom and a response to the marginalization of the north. It’s worth noting that reactions in the comments is hostile to this idea, with an English Parliament being mooted as an answer.

What do the English want?

It’s widely recognised that England is a highly centralised nation with power and resources increasingly concentrated on London and the south-east. The historic ‘north-south’ divide is getting bigger and virtually every index of deprivation shows the North (Yorkshire and the Humber; North-West and North-East) becoming poorer in comparison to the South-East. The Scottish referendum campaign has forced the political establishment to accept further devolution for Scotland and the ‘English Question’ – how to re-balance England itself so London and the South-east becomes less dominant – has shot up the agenda. The response from the political establishment has been to avoid creating any new directly-elected bodies but instead to devolve some powers and resources to ‘combined authorities’ in Northern city regions. Some of these already exist, for example in Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire. They bring together the local authorities in their respective areas, with the council leaders forming a leadership group. They have growing budgets covering a range of sectors, including transport and economic development. While it could be argued these are a pragmatic response to existing needs, their big problem is the lack of accountability. Indirectly-elected bodies such as these give greater powers to officers and effectively remove any semblance of popular participation. Further, almost by definition, ‘city regions’ have an excessive focus on the main city conurbations and less emphasis on the more peripheral urban centres and rural areas.

The alternative is ‘democratic devolution’ to the regions, with elected assemblies having similar powers to Wales and Scotland. They should be elected by PR to allow a better balance between town, city and rural hinterland. It has been suggested that this merely creates ‘another tier of bureaucracy’ but surely regionalisation should be an opportunity to radically reduce the size of the central civil service, with fewer MPs at Westminster. Further, it should involve a fundamental re-organisation of the dogs’ dinner that is English local government, with smaller and more accountable local authorities which reflect people’s local identities. Again, critics have said that there is no ‘public appetite’ for regional assemblies and cite the 2004 referendum in the North-East as proof. Yet ten years is a very long time and we’ve since seen the success of devolution in the UK. And the original ‘offer’ in 2004 was not only a top-down fix but offered little concrete advantages.

Popular regionalism needs to reflect strong historic identities and be of a manageable size. In the North of England, it means accepting that there are three ‘regions’ – Yorkshire, the North-east and North-West (at least). They have many things in common and need stronger physical links – through improved transport infrastructure and telecommunications – but also economic and other forms of co-operation. The political implications of this are assemblies for Yorkshire, the North-East and North-West who co-operate with each other on a number of issues.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 23, 2014 at 10:48 pm

[LINK] “Are Digital Magazines Dead?”

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My reaction to Ryan Jones’ article republished in Wired was something like “Are digital magazines actually a thing at all?” (Are they?)

When pondering the future of digital magazines, the “I’m not dead yet” scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail may come to mind. Is the digital magazine industry ready to be carted off with the rest of the dead? Gregg Hano, CEO of MAG+, wrote a great piece pointing out the fact that we are actually just in the infancy of digital magazines. Digital magazines at the moment only represent a small portion of total magazine circulation, but their subscriber base doubled from 2012 to 2013 (AAM semiannual periodical snapshot report). Coincidentally, there is a rise in the number of digital magazines published each year, especially in international markets.

It is often forgotten that the digital publication industry has only been around since 2010. This should come as no surprise considering it is also the birth year of the modern tablet industry. As is to be expected with any emerging market, it takes several years for the pioneers of the digital magazine age to develop an earnest understanding of the underlying technologies. At the same time, digital magazines are far less static than traditional publications, given the devices they are viewed on and the intimacy of the user experience. Understanding how to properly produce content for such a new, yet familiar medium has been an exercise in passion and patience requiring a set of skills that takes years to develop.

Digital publications must also deal with a number of barriers that other publishing avenues have never encountered. Unlike their print counterparts, these publications have to abide by the consumer uptake of a small subset of digital devices. A mere 3% of the US population owned a tablet following the initial iPad release in 2010. In the first part of 2013 that number approached 34% (Pew Research Internet Project). The barriers for digital magazine distribution are thus decreasing. At the same time digitizing platforms are broadening the scope of where digital magazines can be published, such as within websites and on smartphones.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 23, 2014 at 10:45 pm

[LINK] “As Online Viewing Soars, Internet TV Will Soon Be the Only TV”

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Wired‘s Marcus Wohlson predicts the collapse of broadcast television.

More people are watching TV online than ever—a lot more. Viewers may not be cutting the cable cord altogether, but growth in the number who want to watch TV over a different set of pipes is surging, according to a new report from Adobe. If anyone was still wondering why HBO and CBS plan to offer an online-only option, the trend is clear: the internet is where people want to watch. In more and more homes, online TV isn’t a geeky novelty, a sidelight to the traditional version. It’s just what TV looks like now.

Adobe is in a position to know because its software runs the platform that nearly all US cable customers use to log into the online versions of their subscriptions, according to the company. Researchers tracked 165 online video views and 1.53 billion logins over a year, and they found that total TV viewing over the internet grew by 388 percent in mid-2014 compared to the same time a year earlier—a near-quintupling. And the increase is more than just a few diehards binge-watching: the number of unique viewers well more than doubled, growing 146 percent year-over-year.

Eventually cable will follow bunny ears into the basement of dead technology, and online TV will be called something else: plain old TV.

According to analyst Tamara Gaffney, three factors are drove this growth: more apps and sites for watching, more content to watch on those apps and sites, and the World Cup. Sports act as as kind of “appetizer” whetting viewers’ appetites for the flexibility and breadth of online TV, Gaffney says. The World Cup was an especially strong lure because the internet was the only way to watch so many games that traditional TV lacked the bandwidth to show. But Gaffney said once viewers came for sports, they stayed for everything else.

“Households generally connect because of sports,” she says. “But then when they start to use online television, they start to branch out.”

Written by Randy McDonald

October 23, 2014 at 10:42 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Class divisions at heart of this campaign”

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Spacing Toronto’s John Lorinc write a nice post examining quieter issues of class and race which contaminate Toronto politics.

During the scrum following Friday night’s shouty debate about priority neighbourhoods, a Global News reporter asked John Tory if he believed that white privilege exists. Tory, in a clip that ricocheted around the city all weekend, denied it, and then attempted to backtrack by talking about the importance of giving people living in communities like Jane-Finch a “hand up.”

At another debate at the C.D. Howe Institute a few weeks ago, Tory also stated that racism wasn’t a factor. Yet despite such denials, discussion over the role of race in this election — which began with the deluge of odious attacks against Olivia Chow — only intensified after Ward 2 candidate Munira Abukar, who is challenging Rob Ford and Andray Domise, tweeted disturbing images of a campaign flyer with her face scrawled out above the words, “Go home.” Kristyn Wong-Tam has also received a stream of hateful correspondence that blends racism and homophobia.

Anyone who professes surprise that the election has exposed this side of the city needs to re-examine their assumptions. Yes, Toronto is a remarkably diverse, and impressively peaceful, city. We haven’t had the sort of racially-fueled riots that tore up suburban areas in Paris and London in recent years. But it doesn’t follow that the absence of such explosive responses to grinding poverty, social exclusion and racial profiling means that all is well.

Still, the racism narrative is complicated. The Fords gave a lot of people permission to publicly express themselves in ways that they might not have indulged in a different political climate. Moreover, the psycho-geography of racism in Toronto is linked to culture, religion, location, and the social-professional origins of specific newcomer communities. This story plays out in lots of different ways.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 23, 2014 at 10:39 pm

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