A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for June 2012

[PHOTO] Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge is a magnificent work of architecture.

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Looking south towards Lower Manhattan.

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Looking west towards the Manhattan terminus.

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Looking north towards the Manhattan Bridge.

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Looking south towards Ellis Island.

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Tourists pass by the first of the great caissons.

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Photography ensues.

Brooklyn Bridge (7)

Looking towards Brooklyn.

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Written by Randy McDonald

June 29, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Photo

Tagged with , ,

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • 80 Beats notes suggestions that odd carbon-14 ratios in classical Japanese manuscripts and records of a red cross in the night sky from Anglo-Saxon England indicate that there may have been a supernova visible from Earth in 774.
  • Extraordinary Observations is skeptical about the prospects for farming in urban areas in the United States, taken in isolation.
  • Anti-Semitic and anti-Romani sentiment in Hungary is detailed, those two populations’ histories explored, at Geocurrents.
  • A New APPS Blog post suggests that feminism might be unpopular with some men because they’re not familiar with working women in their own lives, drawing from the author’s personal experiences as well as broader analysis.
  • Border disputes between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and the underlying patterns of disorder they reflect, is the theme of a Registan post.
  • Technosociology suggests that the Muslim Brotherhood’s transparent communication of electoral results in Egypt may have been responsible for the acceptance of the vote by the military.

[PHOTO] Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge is a magnificent work of architecture.

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Seven more photos.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 29, 2012 at 8:59 am

Posted in Assorted

Tagged with , ,

[LINK] “Former Prime Minister Joe Clark lauds Mulcair, criticizes Harper foreign policy”

Joe Clark, the Progressive Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of Canada at the head of a minority government for nine months in 1979 and 1980, has just made some strongly pro-NDP statements. These statements aren’t necessarily surprising, since Clark comes form the “Red Tory” tradition–the left of the old Progressive Conservatives, basically–but the fact that they’ve been made at all is interesting. Is Canada in fact heading for NDP Prime Minister Thomas Mulcair?

At a recent event organized by McGill University’s Institute for the Study of International Development, the former prime minister shared his opinions about the Harper government and about the NDP’s newly elected leader.

Clark, who opposed the Progressive Conservative/Reform Alliance merger, says it’s clear that the “strong and positive traditions” of the Progressive Conservatives have been forced aside.

“It’s certainly clear in international affairs, where its focus has been very narrow on the military and on trade,” he said according to the McGill Daily.

“Much of the emphasis upon CIDA, which had been upon actual development dealing with poverty, has been replaced now by a supportive role [in] trade arrangements, not necessarily in the poorest countries.

“Our relations with many parts of the world where we had historically strong partnerships have deteriorated.”

Clark, 72, was also critical of Harper’s dictatorial style.

“I’m astounded, frankly astounded, by the degree to which Parliament and Cabinet acquiesce in following, without any apparent questioning, the prime minister’s lead,” he said in a rare display of candor.

“Prime ministers have always been strong in our system, but almost all others have respected their parties and their parliaments more than Prime Minister Harper does.”

On the other hand, Clark says he’s impressed with NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair.

“I don’t know [NDP leader Thomas] Mulcair, except to watch him, and I’ve been very impressed. I think, if he is a difficult personality, as some people say, this grueling leadership campaign was very good for him, because it forced him to come to terms with his critics and his challenges,” Clark said.

“And he’s clearly able to take on a strong parliamentarian [like Stephen Harper]. I’m interested in his potential, and we’ll just see what happens.”

Written by Randy McDonald

June 29, 2012 at 3:59 am

[URBAN NOTE] “OneCity Plan Reviewed”

Toronto transit expert Steve Munro has a detailed analysis at his blog of the OneCity plan, taking a look at each of the proposed new routes and other major investments. (A related post at Torontoist by him takes a look at the political consequences of the plan, Munro thinking that it includes enough different elements for enough different councillors’ neighbourhoods to gain mass acceptance.)

Munro’s for OneCity, notwithstanding its issues. His words:

The funding scheme requires Queen’s Park to modify the handling of assessment value changes, and they are already cool to this scheme. Why OneCity proponents could not simply and honestly say “we need a 1.9% tax hike every year for the next four years” (not unlike the ongoing 9% increases to pay for Toronto Water infrastructure upgrades) is baffling. A discussion about transit is needlessly diverted into debates about arcane ways of implementing a tax increase without quite calling it what it is.

On the bright side, Toronto may leave behind the technology wars and the posturing of one neighbourhood against another to get their own projects built. Talking about transit as a city-wide good is essential to break the logjam of decades where parochialism ruled. Couple this with a revenue stream that could actually be depended on, and the plan has a fighting chance. Ah, there’s the rub — actually finding funding at some level of government to pay for all of this.

Rob Ford’s subway plan depended on the supposed generosity of Metrolinx to redirect committed funding to the Ford Plan (complete with some faulty arithmetic). Similarly, the OneCity plan depends for its first big project on money already earmarked by Metrolinx to the Scarborough RT to LRT conversion. If this goes ahead, we would have a new subway funded roughly 80% by Queen’s Park and 20% by Toronto. Not a bad deal, but not an arrangement we are likely to see for any other line.

On the eastern waterfront, there is already $90m on the table from Waterfront Toronto (itself funded by three levels of government), and OneCity proposes to spend another @200m or so to top up this project. Whether all $200m would be City money, or would have to wait for other partners to buy in is unclear.

Toronto must make some hard decisions about a “Plan B” if the Ottawa refuses to play while the Tories remain in power. Even if we saw an NDP (or an NDP/Liberal) government, I wouldn’t hold my breath for money flowing to Toronto (and other Canadian cities) overnight. A federal presence is a long term strategy, and spending plans in Toronto must be framed with that in mind.

Sitting on our hands waiting for Premier McGuinty or would-be PM Mulcair to engineer two rainbows complete with pots of gold landing in Nathan Phillips Square would be a dead wrong strategy. Bang the drum all we might for a “one cent solution” or a “National Transit Strategy”, Toronto needs to get on with debating our transit needs whether funding is already in place or not. Knowing what we need and want makes for a much stronger argument to pull in funding partners.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 29, 2012 at 3:29 am

[LINK] “Cassini Finds Likely Subsurface Ocean on Saturn Moon”

The latest news from the ongoing Cassini mission to Saturn and its moons is fascinating. The prospect that Saturn’s moon Titan, like (most famously) Jupiter’s moon Europa, might host a water ocean beneath its surface warmed by ice is fascinating in itself, never mind its implications for possible life on Titan. Combine this with the cornucopia of complex chemical reactions occurring on Titan’s hydrocarbon-covered surface under a nitrogen-methane sky, and very interesting chemistry might be at work.

Researchers saw a large amount of squeezing and stretching as the moon orbited Saturn. They deduced that if Titan were composed entirely of stiff rock, the gravitational attraction of Saturn would cause bulges, or solid “tides,” on the moon only 3 feet (1 meter) in height. Spacecraft data show Saturn creates solid tides approximately 30 feet (10 meters) in height, which suggests Titan is not made entirely of solid rocky material. The finding appears in today’s edition of the journal Science.

“Cassini’s detection of large tides on Titan leads to the almost inescapable conclusion that there is a hidden ocean at depth,” said Luciano Iess, the paper’s lead author and a Cassini team member at the Sapienza University of Rome, Italy. “The search for water is an important goal in solar system exploration, and now we’ve spotted another place where it is abundant.”

Titan takes only 16 days to orbit Saturn, and scientists were able to study the moon’s shape at different parts of its orbit. Because Titan is not spherical, but slightly elongated like a football, its long axis grew when it was closer to Saturn. Eight days later, when Titan was farther from Saturn, it became less elongated and more nearly round. Cassini measured the gravitational effect of that squeeze and pull.

[. . .]

An ocean layer does not have to be huge or deep to create these tides. A liquid layer between the external, deformable shell and a solid mantle would enable Titan to bulge and compress as it orbits Saturn. Because Titan’s surface is mostly made of water ice, which is abundant in moons of the outer solar system, scientists infer Titan’s ocean is likely mostly liquid water.

[. . .]

The presence of a subsurface layer of liquid water at Titan is not itself an indicator for life. Scientists think life is more likely to arise when liquid water is in contact with rock, and these measurements cannot tell whether the ocean bottom is made up of rock or ice. The results have a bigger implication for the mystery of methane replenishment on Titan.

“The presence of a liquid water layer in Titan is important because we want to understand how methane is stored in Titan’s interior and how it may outgas to the surface,” said Jonathan Lunine, a Cassini team member at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. “This is important because everything that is unique about Titan derives from the presence of abundant methane, yet the methane in the atmosphere is unstable and will be destroyed on geologically short timescales.”

A liquid water ocean, “salted” with ammonia, could produce buoyant ammonia-water liquids that bubble up through the crust and liberate methane from the ice. Such an ocean could serve also as a deep reservoir for storing methane.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 29, 2012 at 2:56 am

[LINK] “Former Prime Minister Joe Clark lauds Mulcair, criticizes Harper foreign policy”

Joe Clark, the Progressive Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of Canada at the head of a minority government for nine months in 1979 and 1980, has just made some strongly pro-NDP statements. These statements aren’t necessarily surprising, since Clark comes form the “Red Tory” tradition–the left of the old Progressive Conservatives, basically–but the fact that they’ve been made at all is interesting. Is Canada in fact heading for NDP Prime Minister Thomas Mulcair?

At a recent event organized by McGill University’s Institute for the Study of International Development, the former prime minister shared his opinions about the Harper government and about the NDP’s newly elected leader.

Clark, who opposed the Progressive Conservative/Reform Alliance merger, says it’s clear that the “strong and positive traditions” of the Progressive Conservatives have been forced aside.

“It’s certainly clear in international affairs, where its focus has been very narrow on the military and on trade,” he said according to the McGill Daily.

“Much of the emphasis upon CIDA, which had been upon actual development dealing with poverty, has been replaced now by a supportive role [in] trade arrangements, not necessarily in the poorest countries.

“Our relations with many parts of the world where we had historically strong partnerships have deteriorated.”

Clark, 72, was also critical of Harper’s dictatorial style.

“I’m astounded, frankly astounded, by the degree to which Parliament and Cabinet acquiesce in following, without any apparent questioning, the prime minister’s lead,” he said in a rare display of candor.

“Prime ministers have always been strong in our system, but almost all others have respected their parties and their parliaments more than Prime Minister Harper does.”

On the other hand, Clark says he’s impressed with NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair.

“I don’t know [NDP leader Thomas] Mulcair, except to watch him, and I’ve been very impressed. I think, if he is a difficult personality, as some people say, this grueling leadership campaign was very good for him, because it forced him to come to terms with his critics and his challenges,” Clark said.

“And he’s clearly able to take on a strong parliamentarian [like Stephen Harper]. I’m interested in his potential, and we’ll just see what happens.”

Written by Randy McDonald

June 28, 2012 at 11:59 pm