A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for January 2011

[LINK] “South Sudan’s tricky name game”

What will independent South Sudan be called? Percy Zvomuya takes a look at the question in South Africa’s Mail & Guardian.

Azania — these were some of the tantalising names that were being touted for the new state comprising the southern provinces of Sudan. Alas, the grey-suited politicians made a beeline for the obvious: South Sudan.

Juwama was perhaps the least attractive of the options: a portmanteau term for Juba, Wau and Malakal, the three main cities of the south. It just doesn’t roll off the tongue like Tanzania, which amalgamates the names of mainland Tanganyika and the island of Zanzibar.

Explaining why they were sticking with the tried and tested, Benjamin Marial, South Sudan’s information minister, said, “that is the majority preference — it’s the easiest for the time being; there are already many things with that name”, referring to government agencies. “Should the people of South Sudan in the future want a new name, they’ll have that chance.”

Poor Azania, Black Consciousness disciples are probably lamenting — it never quite makes it. Its origins are obscure, but some scholars think it was used by Persians, perhaps Arabs, to refer to Africa’s darker-skinned peoples.

An internet search reveals that a number of African states have names alluding to the complexions of their inhabitants. Sudan itself is derived from the Arab phrase bilad as-sudan, “land of the blacks”.

Race, topography, indigenous languages–all have been used to produce the names of countries.

Go, read.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 31, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Posted in Assorted

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[LINK] “At Flickr, fending off rumours and Facebook”

Please tell me I won’t have to back up my Flickr account over at Google Picasa.

Speculation in technology circles that Yahoo might close or sell Flickr, its photo-sharing service, prompted an emphatic denial this month.

“Is Yahoo committed to Flickr?” Blake Irving, Yahoo’s product chief, wrote in a message on Twitter. “Hell yes we are!”

The confusion over Flickr’s future was perhaps understandable. Yahoo had just recently disclosed plans to shut down or otherwise dispose of several other Web products, including the bookmarking service Delicious, and some users feared Flickr would be next.

A pioneer in combining photos with social networking features, Flickr is facing a stiff challenge from newer services. In addition to fighting rumours, it is having to work hard to keep its users returning as Facebook widens its lead as the popular destination for sharing party, vacation and family snapshots.

Although Flickr is well known and still widely used, its traffic is shrinking. Unique visitors to Flickr in the United States fell 16 per cent, to 21.3 million, in December compared with a year earlier, according to comScore. Meanwhile, for that same time frame, use of Facebook’s photo features grew 92 per cent, to 123.9 million users.

Flickr’s trajectory largely dovetails that of Yahoo, which is struggling to re-emerge from years of underperformance. Carol A. Bartz, the company’s chief executive, is leading a turnaround effort that includes jettisoning products that are not central to her strategy of emphasizing Yahoo’s strengths.

Other than the recent support on Twitter, Yahoo’s top executives have barely mentioned Flickr publicly for some time. Few top executives actually have a public Flickr account.

No one questions Flickr’s appeal to photographers who post, admire and comment on a wealth of artistic images, many of which are magazine quality. Where Flickr is faltering is with people who want to store and share more mundane snapshots.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 31, 2011 at 3:21 pm

[OBSCURA] “1342 – [old] news”

1342 – [old] news
Originally uploaded by allanparke

Flickr’s allanparke has this great picture showing the newspaper boxes of Toronto. From left to right, there’s a box for the daily Metro Toronto, the evening t.o.night, weekly NOW Toronto, the Toronto Star daily, two newspaper boxes holding a variety of free flimsy weeklies and monthlies, the Toronto Sun, 24 hours, eye weekly, and another newspaper box with free weeklies and monthlies. Curiously, nothing from the National Post or Globe and Mail.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 31, 2011 at 11:18 am

[PHOTO] Henry Moore on the street

One of the largest collections of the works of English sculptor Henry Moore can be found at the Art Gallery of Ontario”. One, “Two Large Forms” (1966-1969), is on the AGO’s streetcorner, at the southwest of the intersection of Dundas and McCaul. It makes for an arresting sight: when I photographed it in the middle of last month, a woman was trying to keep her children from using the sculpture as a playground. She shouldn’t have: what else is public art for but play?




Written by Randy McDonald

January 30, 2011 at 10:43 pm

[PHOTO] Spadina Compass

Spadina Compass (1)

Spadina Compass (2)

Spadina Compass (3)

The compass, intricately spraypainted and with a weaving Celtic-style border, was to be found the middle of last month on the northeast corner of Spadina and Queen Street West.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 29, 2011 at 6:01 pm

[H&F] “Baseball Teams as Early-Modern States”

How are different baseball teams like different early-modern states? Co-blogger The Oberamtmann makes the case for each team over at History and Futility.

The Yankees, for instance.

New York Yankees: Austrian Habsburgs

While not always spending their immense resources efficiently to attain it, the Yankees/Habsburgs consider it worth the prestige afforded through the imperial crown. Idealistic and almost mystical histories provide the Yankees/Habsburgs with a sense of purpose and a naturally powerful demeanor. While not always victorious, their power and influence leads to awe, respect, and resentment from both allies and enemies. Even in down times, then, the Yankees/Austrian Habsburgs can use their historic influence to rally free agents/Imperial defense and taxes to their cause. Any moments of weakness, however, are seized by their rivals and lead immediately to calls of imminent demise, but old historiographical assumptions of inefficiency denoting stagnance and internal corruption are increasingly overturned. Incredible abilities to bounce back from some of the most crushing blows, like having Vienna besieged or Andy Pettitte retire.

  • George Steinbrenner before his first suspension: Ferdinand II
  • Before his second suspension: Ferdinand III
  • Thereafter: Leopold I
  • Hank Steinbrenner pre-shutting up: Joseph I
  • Hank Steinbrenner post-shutting up: Francis-Stephen of Lorraine
  • Hal Steinbrenner: Maria Theresa
  • Wallenstein: Alex Rodriguez (can also be Dave Winfield)
  • Mariano Rivera: Prince Eugen of Savoy

And more worryingly, from my perspective, the Blue Jays.

Toronto Blue Jays: Russia

Striking out from a place that gets very, very cold in winter, the Blue Jays/Russia enjoy a competitive advantage in the form of a potentially huge fan base/population, although mobilizing it is probably impossible. One could suggest that their inner problems are insurmountable, with new and old empires in the same division/as European neighbors. Being about a generation behind in current thought (c’mon, building a team focused on power hitters? What, is it 1998?) it might seem to many that the Blue Jays/Russia will never reach its potential. However, an incredible crop of young pitchers and stabilization in the offensive results of young position players/tough, intelligent and unyielding Czars just might bring strong success sooner than anyone else thinks. Help comes in the former of completely unexpected jumps forward, in the form of unloading Vernon Wells/building St. Petersburg.

  • Alex Anthopolous: Peter the Great (heck, after that trade, he can be Catherine the Great too)

Go, read, laugh, cringe.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 29, 2011 at 3:54 pm

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[LINK] The Egyptian Internet outages

Originally uploaded by randyfmcdonald

Originally available here as part of the 27 January 2011 Renesys blog post “Egypt Leaves the Internet” by James Cowie, this shows the way in which Egypt was detached from the Internet.

We have examined the takedown event more closely, looking at the sequence in which Egyptian service providers removed themselves from the Internet. The following plot shows the number of available networks for each of the significant providers, between 22:00 and 23:00 UTC last night (midnight to 1am Cairo time).

Our new observation is that this was not an instantaneous event on the front end; each service provider approached the task of shutting down its part of the Egyptian Internet separately.

* Telecom Egypt (AS8452), the national incumbent, starts the process at 22:12:43.
* Raya joins in a minute later, at 22:13:26.
* Link Egypt (AS24863) begins taking themselves down 4 minutes later, at 22:17:10.
* Etisalat Misr (AS32992) goes two minutes later, at 22:19:02.
* Internet Egypt (AS5536) goes six minutes later, at 22:25:10.

First impressions: this sequencing looks like people getting phone calls, one at a time, telling them to take themselves off the air. Not an automated system that takes all providers down at once; instead, the incumbent leads and other providers follow meekly one by one until Egypt is silenced.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 29, 2011 at 12:00 am