A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for August 2009

[LINK] “Iraqi Air Force Discovered!!!!!”

Lawyers, Guns and Money’s Robert Farley linked to an unusual article from The New York Times.

Iraqi officials have discovered that they may have an air force, after all.

The Defense Ministry revealed Sunday that it recently learned that Iraq owns 19 Russian-designed MIG-21 and MIG-23 jet fighters, which are in storage in Serbia. The ministry said Iraqi officials are negotiating with the Serbs to restore the aircraft.

The Serbian government has tentatively promised to make two of the aircraft available “for immediate use,” according to a press release from the ministry. The rest would be restored on a rush basis, the ministry said.

Farley thinks that these planes, which will “constitute the entirety of the fighter capability of the Iraqi Air Force,” will play a useful role in that these MiGs could keep the Iraqi Air Force trained and active. And no, the one hundred-odd fighters flown to Iran during the Gulf War are very unlikely to be returned.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 31, 2009 at 9:13 pm

[LINK] “English Anglicans breathe new life into French chapels”

This AFP report, written by Suzanne Mustacich, is certainly interesting.

The priest is a married woman, the Anglican service is in English, yet the old stone chapel in Bordeaux is definitely 100 percent French Roman Catholic.

In southwest France, once a battlefield between medieval English and French armies, expats are breathing life into borrowed Catholic churches left empty by their local flocks, quietly sprouting a dozen Anglican congregations.

As sunlight filtered through the stained glass windows of the 19th century chapel, Reverend Gill Stratchan unpacked the chalice she would use for the Sunday service while her husband sorted prayer books.

“I was ordained a priest in a magnificent abbey in the Dordogne in 2007,” said Stratchan, a retired British schoolteacher resident in France since 1996.

Two Catholic priests and a bishop attended her ordination in their abbey. “It was a fairly unique situation for them to see a woman ordained,” she said.

But the broad-mindedness on the part of the French was not entirely unexpected. “What brings us together is stronger than what divides us,” said Father Lanuc, in charge of ecumenical relations for the Archbishop of Bordeaux.

“An English Anglican has the right to take Holy Communion in a French Roman Catholic church, which is not allowed anywhere else,” added Reverend Paul Vrolijk, Chaplain of the regional Anglican Diocese and unofficial diplomat.

Mustacich goes on to describe how the Anglicans of southwestern France, products of the recent large-scale emigration of Britons to this region, are fitting into a predominantly Roman Catholic area. The idea of female priests, for instance, is starting to cause some curiosity.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 31, 2009 at 8:59 pm

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[LINK] “Save this city”

Last Friday, The Globe and Mail‘s Trevor Cole covered the many problems and hopes for the future that the city of Hamilton, a once-industrial city perhaps an hour’s drive east of Toronto on Lake Ontario that has seen its famous steel mills start to close down and its rivalry with Toronto end in a decided defeat.

For anyone from the largest and wealthiest city in Canada-that would be Toronto, just 50 minutes away-what’s down is up in Hamilton. The waterfront and the inner city lie to the north; south spread the suburbs. That gets a bit confusing if you’re new to the place. So is the notion that Hamilton has aspirations, that becoming “one of the major cities in this country and in North America” could be destiny, not fantasy.

But it was only a few decades ago that Hamilton, “the ambitious city,” had not just Stelco and Dofasco but a cohort of blue-chip American companies that would make any city drool-Firestone, Westinghouse, Procter & Gamble, International Harvester, Life Savers, Levi Strauss. The smokestacks billowed until the evening air in the east end had a taste. Downtown, stores and restaurants thrived. Johnny Pops, head of the Papalia family, made Hamilton a hot spot of organized crime. If there’s one thing the Mafia likes, it’s the prospect of money, and Hamilton had plenty of prospects. Among all of Canada’s cities, it was the great steel hope, packing industrial muscle on a squat, sturdy frame. It wasn’t pretty, far from that, but it was a contender.

And then all that went away. Not suddenly, but relentlessly, through a series of body blows. As prosperity plumped nearby rivals such as Burlington, Oakville, Mississauga, Kitchener-Waterloo and-especially-Toronto, it skipped Hamilton completely, cruelly, until most of its big-name companies were gone, the stores along Barton Street deteriorated into dark and crumbling shells, downtown became a kind of forbidden zone, and even the Mafia couldn’t make any money. Nine years ago, an incantation penned by Tiny Bill Cody, a popular local musician, spoke to a city finally dropped to the mat. “Hamilton!…” the poem went, “Your opponents are always so huge/And you always lose. Stupid, heroic, blockhead.”

Internal political rivalries, the problems facing the retraining of factory workers for service-sector jobs, a suspicion of outside initiatives, and a downtown district in catastrophic decline, are all major factors against this. Conversely, attempts to rebrand Hamilton as an artistic centre might work. In the end, given the large number of commuters to Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area and the lack of a strong local economic base, becoming a Toronto bedroom community instead of a strong independent city might be the best options.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 31, 2009 at 3:40 pm

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[LINK] “As Internet turns 40, barriers threaten its growth”

Apparently it’s the 40th anniversary of the Internet.

Few were paying attention back on Sept. 2, 1969, when about 20 people gathered in Kleinrock’s lab at the University of California, Los Angeles, to watch as two bulky computers passed meaningless test data through a 15-foot gray cable.

That was the beginning of the fledgling Arpanet network. Stanford Research Institute joined a month later, and UC Santa Barbara and the University of Utah did by year’s end.

The 1970s brought e-mail and the TCP/IP communications protocols, which allowed multiple networks to connect — and formed the Internet. The ’80s gave birth to an addressing system with suffixes like “.com” and “.org” in widespread use today.

The Internet didn’t become a household word until the ’90s, though, after a British physicist, Tim Berners-Lee, invented the Web, a subset of the Internet that makes it easier to link resources across disparate locations. Meanwhile, service providers like America Online connected millions of people for the first time.

That early obscurity helped the Internet blossom, free from regulatory and commercial constraints that might discourage or even prohibit experimentation.

“For most of the Internet’s history, no one had heard of it,” Zittrain said. “That gave it time to prove itself functionally and to kind of take root.”

Even the U.S. government, which funded much of the Internet’s early development as a military project, largely left it alone, allowing its engineers to promote their ideal of an open network.

When Berners-Lee, working at a European physics lab, invented the Web in 1990, he could release it to the world without having to seek permission or contend with security firewalls that today treat unknown types of Internet traffic as suspect.

The author, Anick Jesdanun, goes on to observe that everything from content providers’ lockout of users to ISPs’ limitations on the amount of data that can be exchanged by a user to technical problems with transferring large amounts of data like video, has the potential to slow things down.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 31, 2009 at 3:33 pm

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[PHOTO] “Here in my car”

"Here in my car"
Originally uploaded by rfmcdpei

I snapped a picture of this, some kind of classic car that I’ve no idea how to identify (help?), outside of OISE, among other things a teacher’s college, on Bloor Street West.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 31, 2009 at 11:54 am

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[FORUM] How homogeneous are your online networks?

Continuing from yesterday’s post, I’d like to ask you how diverse–ethnically, geographically religiously, linguistically, sexually–your networks of online contacts are. My contacts are quite diverse, constituting–I’d like to think–a reasonably diverse group, though concentrated in the North Atlantic world among native speakers of English. What about yours?

Written by Randy McDonald

August 30, 2009 at 4:09 pm

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[FORUM] How homogeneous are your social networks ?

Recently, someone was surprised when I said that in my social network, I had a substantial minority of queer male friends but instead a substantial majority of straight male friends. I honestly didn’t understand his surprise for a few minutes, and was later surprised when I found that any number of sources on the Internet (1, 2, 3, 4) actually debated the question of whether it was possible at all. I’m likely enjoying the grace of late birth here, but I haven’t had reason to suspect that my sexual orientation has hindered me from developing relationships with straight guys, if anything giving me an emotional awareness and openness that let me make significant relationships of any kind at all. It’s not like I have to worrry about being beaten to death with a tire iron or being murdered and dismembered. A diverse crowd is good, and frankly, Toronto’s mostly at the point where sexual orientation is just one element of one’s personality among many. Other interests and tendencies and whatnot can take priority now.

My network’s diverse in some ways, mind. My pool of friends might have diverse sexual orientations, but almost all of them have at least undergraduate degrees, almost all of them speak English as a first language, and almost all of them are white. Needless to say, this stands out in Toronto. No one chose to have this happen, of course, it’s just that the social networks which led to friends and the befriending of friends’ friends and so on happened to fit those patterns. My online connections are rather more diverse, of course, but still.

This brings me to the central question of this forum: How homogeneous are your social networks? Are they weighted towards a language or a religion or a neighbourhood? Have your networks’ memberships been evolving? Tell all.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 29, 2009 at 3:05 pm

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