A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for October 2009

[FORUM] What’s your stance on the supernatural?

Today’s suggested question of the day at Livejournal.com is seasonally quite appropriate.

Have you ever participated in a seance? If not, would you consider it? What spirit would you summon and what question would you ask them? Do you believe we can get messages from the dead?

I’ve never done a seance, although I did get a tarot card reading in 2004 and might easily be coaxed into taking part at such an event. Messages from the dead? I know that I’m materialist enough not to believe in that or other similar things, like psychic powers (yes, Haruhi). They’re fun, fantasy, little else if little at all.

And you?

Written by Randy McDonald

October 31, 2009 at 7:42 pm

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[PHOTO] Crossing the Don

Crossing the shrunken Don River that separates central from eastern Toronto from above on the Dundas Street streetcar, one comes across first the river itself then the Don Valley Parkway.

Crossing the Don (1)
Originally uploaded by

Crossing the Don (2)
Originally uploaded by

Written by Randy McDonald

October 31, 2009 at 3:10 pm

[PHOTO] Church and Wellesley Sunset

I took this photo looking west from near the intersection of Church and Wellesley. I’m particularly proud of this one.

Looking west into the sunset along Wellesley
Originally uploaded by

Written by Randy McDonald

October 30, 2009 at 8:06 pm

[DM] “A brief note on demographics and sex and fear and envy”

I’ve a post up on Demography Matters that takes a brief look at how some demographics scaremongers fearing a country’s being cverwhelmed by migrants both fear and envy the invaders’ ability to overwhelm the decadent natives: they’re so efficient that they represent an excellent model for the natives as the scaremongers would like them to be.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 30, 2009 at 4:47 pm

[LINK] “Climate change report ‘irresponsible,’ Prentice says”

Dealing with climate change plays deeply into Canada’s major regional divisions. And guess where the government draws its support from?

Federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice said there is no way Western Canadians could absorb the deep economic hit projected by the report’s environmentalist authors – the David Suzuki Foundation and the Pembina Institute.

He said their assumptions are way off: The long-term economic conditions they forecast will be avoided by working with the Americans on a continental climate-change plan.

“The conclusions [the report] draws are irresponsible,” said Mr. Prentice in an interview with The Globe and Mail from Kingston, where he was meeting with provincial and territorial environment ministers. Specifically, he said Canadians will not accept the report’s advocacy of emission targets for 2020 that would reduce Canada’s gross domestic product by 3 per cent nationally and 12 per cent in Alberta from business-as-usual estimates.

The report, which was financed but not endorsed by the Toronto Dominion Bank, provides the estimated costs for Canada to meet the Conservative government’s own target to reduce emissions to 20 per cent below 2006 levels by 2020, as well as a more stringent target advocated by environmentalists.

The projections rely on an economic modelling scheme designed by Mark Jaccard & Associates, which produced similar models for the federal government.

The report said meeting the government’s target would require a cap on emissions and a penalty – or “carbon price” – on industry that rises from $40 to $100 per tonne of CO{-2} emissions. The environmentalists’ target would start at $50 per tonne in 2010 and rise to $200 per tonne by 2020.

Mr. Prentice insisted Thursday that Canada’s target can be achieved by harmonizing with U.S. proposals that are currently estimated to be about $28 per tonne.

“The kind of economic consequences you see in this report are not necessary if this is done in an orderly way,” he said, noting the costs must be acceptable in all regions. Mr. Prentice also said Canada will not cap emissions alone and that he expects the U.S. Senate will not approve new climate rules until next year.

Western Canadian provinces, it should be noted, especially Alberta, contribute a wildly disproportionate share of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions thanks to their oil and natural gas extraction industries, while Ontario’s prominent on account of its industrial heft.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 30, 2009 at 1:36 pm

[LINK] “News website chain expands into Canada”

This looks interesting.

Examiner.com, a U.S. chain of news websites written by amateur journalists, has expanded into Canada, hoping to carve a niche in “hyperlocal” content.

While the Canadian edition has been live since August, it’s officially launching today with a campaign to recruit bloggers – which it calls “examiners” – in five cities who will get paid according to how many times Internet surfers view their articles.

“This will allow us to see how the concept of hyperlocal information resonates in other key North American cities with new audiences who share diverse interests,” CEO Rick Blair said. The publication, based in Denver, is one of several experiments in making money with free online content as newspapers continue to lose readers and advertising dollars.

This northward foray is the first phase of an international expansion by the company. Barely 19 months old, the firm boasts a presence in 162 communities in the U.S.

According to Blair, the website has attracted 16 million unique views and was named the fastest-growing news website in August by Nielsen Online. Within a year, the number of unique users grew 342 per cent, according to the audience tracking firm.

Examiner.com relies on local writers to provide content relevant to their communities.

“Our Examiners are local insiders and influencers who provide reliable intelligence and resources on local and category-specific topics,” the website says.

The company boasts 21,000 contributors, most of whom have been active in the past 90 days, Blair said. The application page suggests posting three to four articles a week.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 30, 2009 at 1:30 pm

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[LINK] “Irony of United losing bag not lost on Carroll”

As Christine Negroni in notes in Halifax’s Chronicle-Herald, United Airlines could have done better than to have lost the luggage of Dave Carroll, a Nova Scotia-based musician now famous for his music video criticizing the airlines’ response to a damage claim that he’d filed.

David Carroll’s boyish face has become a symbol for the embattled consumer ever since baggage handlers at United Airlines broke his guitar on a flight last summer and the airline refused to pay for the repair.

Frustrated, the singer-songwriter created a music video titled United Breaks Guitars that became an Internet sensation.

The video got the attention of United Airlines and the Canadian guitarist met with top level executives, who promised to do better. But Mr. Carroll’s already tenuous confidence in United’s promises has faltered because, on arriving in Colorado over the weekend to speak at a conference on customer service, his old nemesis was at it again.

One of the three bags he’d checked in Saskatchewan failed to arrive when he did.

For more than an hour on Sunday, Mr. Carroll said he was told he could not leave the international baggage claim area at Denver International Airport because his bag was delayed, not lost, and he must be there to claim it when it came down the conveyor belt.

“I’m the only person pacing around this room,” Mr. Carroll said, describing how he was caught between the order from United to stay and a U.S. Customs official telling him to go.

Responding to the episode, United Airlines spokeswoman Robin Urbanski wrote in an email, “We will fully investigate what regretfully happened.”

The rest of his story is hardly unique, as many air travellers can attest. The bag, containing some musical equipment, shoes and CDs, became a frequent flyer, meandering across international borders inching ever nearer to Mr. Carroll’s destination in Colorado Springs, but not quite arriving.

But the bag’s journey is far less interesting than its owner’s. Mr. Carroll has gone from modest popularity in Canada to an internationally known spokesman for the disrespected consumer. His father-in-law, Brent Sansom, has become his business advisor to help him sort thousands of requests to speak and perform.

But there could have been no more appropriate audience to hear the latest instalment in the ongoing adventure between Mr. Carroll and United Airlines than the group of customer service executives to whom he spoke on Tuesday — albeit without his dress shoes and the United Breaks Guitars CD packed in his still undelivered suitcase.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 30, 2009 at 1:26 pm

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[LINK] “Photo ID”

This article, written by dan Falk for the University of Toronto Magazine, describes something amazing.

Computer science professor Aaron Hertzmann, PhD student Evangelos Kalogerakis and others have developed an algorithm that can analyze a series of photos and determine where they were taken. The program – the first of its kind, Hertzmann says – isn’t designed to identify individual images, although it can make a rough guess at one-off photos. Rather, its power lies in its ability to identify a whole series of images, if it knows the sequence in which they were taken.

Hertzmann’s program exploits the enormous image database of the popular photo-sharing website, Flickr.com. On Flickr, people have the option of “tagging” photos to indicate when and where they were taken. Hertzmann’s program uses these tags – mini-summaries of the photo-taking habits of thousands of Flickr users – to determine where photos were taken.

“If you take a picture of some city street, it could be anywhere in the world,” Hertzmann says. “But if half an hour later you take a picture of Big Ben or the Eiffel Tower, then it becomes much clearer where that first picture was taken.”

On a recent holiday, Hertzmann photographed the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, an ancient Greek amphitheatre in Athens. A day later he photographed a nearly featureless seascape off Santorini, with just a sliver of coastline showing. Taken individually, the program does just fine with the Odeon photo because many people have posted similar shots to Flickr; it puts a dot on a world map at Athens. But the seascape could be anywhere. Without any additional information, the program puts dots all over the world’s seas. Feed the program both photos – along with the time frame in which they were shot – and suddenly it recognizes the seascape as being from the Aegean and puts a dot near Santorini. (The program knows not only that Santorini is close to Athens, but also that it’s a popular target for Flickr photographers who have recently visited Athens.)

Written by Randy McDonald

October 30, 2009 at 9:18 am

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[LINK] Some Friday links

  • blogTO’s Rick McGinnis writes about a changing Little Italy that, despite what many commenters are saying, really does look rather bad.
  • Centauri Dreams blogs about the wonders and perils of nuclear fusion-using starships.
  • Co-blogger Claus Vistesen at Demography Matters blogs about the declining mobility of the famously mobile American population.
  • Daniel Drezner has some interesting speculation about the dynamics behind the Russian-Iranian relationship.
  • A Fistful of Euros’ Edward Hugh observes that the French economy seems to be doing very well indeed, with stable and sustainable domestic consumption and the possibility of financial outlays being under control in the long run.
  • The Invisible College’s Tobias Thienel examines the mechanics behind Honduras’ lawsuit against Brazil in the International Court on Justice based on the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa’s hosting of ousted president Manuel Zelaya.
  • Mark MacKinnon blogs about how the Berlin Twitter Wall, put in place by the city of Berlin to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, was taken over by Chinese internet users protesting firewalls in their country.
  • Slap Upside the Head reports that anti-queer sentiments are fast becoming minority opinions in the Canadian populace and notes that the Canadian military has allowed non-heterosexuals in its ranks for 17 years without problems.
  • Steve Munro links to a report examining the idea of extending the Yonge subway line north into the Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill.
  • Strange Maps reproduces an interesting map of an empire based on pan-Turkish and pan-Islamic ideals at the same time.
  • Over at Torontoist, Quin Parker highlights the intruiging prelmiinary design plans for the Steeles West subway, the first TTC station to be built at least partly outside of Toronto.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy’s Eugene Volokh examines the interesting question of whether or not a same-sex married couple in Iowa benefits or not from the spousal right not to testify in a federal lawsuit.

[PHOTO] True Love Café, 290 Dundas Street East

True Love Café, 290 Dundas Street East
Originally uploaded by rfmcdpei

Located in the rather rough neighbourhood of Dundas and Sherbourne in greater St. James Town/Regent Park, the sight of the True Love Café (290 Dundas Street East) never fails to make me smile.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 30, 2009 at 6:22 am

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