A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for June 2013

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • Anthropology.net’s Kambiz Kamrami notes a recent study suggesting that human intelligence is a product not of the need to adapt to new environments but rather to the need to manage large and complex social organizations. The smarter the species, the larger the viable size of the group.
  • Bag News Notes has a photo essay describing the plight of the Batek of Malaysia, beset by the cutting down of their forest.
  • Crooked Timber’s Corey Robin documents the strong support of economist Friedrich Hayek for Pinochet and his dictatorship in Chile, while the more right-leaning audience at Marginal Revolution reacts.
  • The Dragon’s Tales broke for me the news of the discovery of three potentially Earth-like worlds orbiting nearby Gliese 667C, while Centauri Dreams comments here and here.
  • Eastern Approaches notes the shenanigans in the Czech Republic, as the president is trying to appoint a government to his liking against the protests of parliamentarians.
  • Far Outliers describes the Crusaders’ conquest of Constantinople in 1204.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money’s Scott Lemieux is appropriately polite to Ralph Nader.
  • Normblog links to an extended New York Times story describing the human cost of the civil war in Syria, on both sides.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer notes the success of Venezuela in the Chavez years in reorienting its oil exports from the United States to China.
  • Registan’s Kendrick Kuo notes China’s strategies in presenting conflict in Xinjiang as terrorist or sppontaneous violence, without connecting to root causes of ethnic conflict.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the ongoing assimilation of ethnic Russians even in Russophile Belarus.

[PHOTO] Where once there was a McDonald’s

The apartment tower at 20 Prince Arthur is now fully visible through the new gab in the Bloor Street landscape west of Avenue Road.

Once, a commercial stretch including one of the first McDonald’s outside the United States was here, but earlier this year it was torn down to make way for the Exhibit Condos.

Where once there was a McDonald's (1)

Where once there was a McDonald's (2)

Written by Randy McDonald

June 26, 2013 at 5:52 pm

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • BlogTO asks what Kensington Market’s future is. The consensus in the comments seems to be that it really needs to shake up and clean up.
  • Eastern Approaches notes the cleanish elections in Albania, a country seeking eventual European Union membership.
  • Guest blogger at Lawyers, Guns and Money Colin Snider observes that one interesting thing about the recent mass protests in Brazil is the way that they have mobilized society generally.
  • Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen notes that the growth in divorce rates in China is more rapid than the growth in marriage rates.
  • At Maximos Web, the author considers how Bali has been transformed by progress and development.
  • New APPS Blog’s Mohan Matthen considers the philosophy and the history of the restaurant.
  • Registan considers the roles of first Russia then a more pragmatic China in helping the United States deal with Afghanistan.
  • Zero Geography’s Mark Graham points and links to a new paper of his mapping the appearances of geotagged zombie outbreaks as a marker of social change.

[PHOTO] Red and grey on the subway floor

The new subway cars have floors with visually interesting patterns.

Red and grey on the subway floor

Written by Randy McDonald

June 25, 2013 at 11:16 am

Posted in Photo, Toronto

Tagged with , , ,

[LINK] “Queer Russia”

Open Democracy has a nice feature on GLBT rights and history in Russia and the former Soviet Union, including a variety of interesting essays like Alexander Kondakov’s analysis of two decades of public opinion polls (anti-gay sentiment has been declining) and Ksenia Leonova‘s interview of a closeted twenty-something Chechen. The article I’ve seen shared on Facebook is Alyona Soiko’s “Brokeback in Belarus”, dealing with a gay couple living in rural Belarus describing how they came together.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 25, 2013 at 3:58 am

[LINK] On anti-gay and other protests in Bulgaria

Depressing news from Bulgaria. It turns out Garth Greenwell‘s Towleroad report this is one of those news stories where I’m unhappy to learn that an acquaintance was involved, happily someone who escaped without physical injury.

I was shocked to learn that in Plovdiv, the country’s second largest city, an LGBT film festival was violently disrupted by hooligans. The film festival (the city’s first) had already been a source of controversy, with the local Metropolitan of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church declaring that LGBT people “destroy the souls of our children”—rhetoric that is not at all uncommon here. When a local soccer club—powerful social groups in a country obsessed with the sport—denounced the festival as “gay propaganda,” the mayor of the city responded not by defending principles of human rights or freedom of expression, but instead by declaring himself “categorically opposed to all events that divide the citizens of Plovdiv.”

[. . .]

Over the last ten days, Sofia has experienced large anti-government protests each evening, with thousands of people marching peacefully through the city center. Acknowledging the burden placed on the city by the demonstrations, and told that security could not be guaranteed, the organizers of Sofia Pride decided to postpone the parade that had been planned for Saturday. Much to their surprise, an anti-gay parade took place as scheduled, with a few dozen demonstrators walking down Vitosha Boulevard, the center of the city’s fashionable shopping district.

Saturday evening, a small group of LGBT activists took part in the anti-government protests, carrying signs bearing messages such as “Let’s be united,” “I’m protesting without homophobia or xenophobia,” and “Gay, bi, hetero, trans: Love each other.” (#Обичайтесебе, “love one another,” is a hashtag associated with the anti-government protests.) They also passed out a large number of small flags, featuring on one side the Bulgarian flag and on the other a rainbow peace flag.

I was in the protest on Saturday, but among the tens of thousands of protesters I never managed to connect with this group. According to my friends’ reports and those that have appeared in the press, while these activists were sitting on the ground beside Eagle Bridge, a landmark of the city and a major gathering place for protesters, a man grabbed many of their signs and destroyed them. They were then harassed by several other demonstrators and accused of passing out “gay propaganda.” The police intervened to tell the LGBT protesters to “stop being provocative” and to go home; they then left the group alone and unprotected.

When the hooligans returned, one LGBT activist was physically assaulted, though not injured, and serious violence was only averted by the intervention of passers-by. By all accounts it was a terrifying moment, and one that could have been terribly worse.

Greenwell places anti-gay protests and sentiment in Bulgaria in the context both of rising homophobia in the Russian sphere of cultural influence as well as to growing anti-government protests–the latest Eastern Approaches post wonders if another election might be imminent.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 25, 2013 at 2:21 am

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • The Dragon’s Tales’ Will Baird speculates that life on Mars, which plausibly got started earlier thanks to quicker cooling, was devastated by multiple devastating impacts.
  • Far Outliers’ Joel examines the 11th century of Constantinople and Venice, a relationship that was shifting as Venice gained strength.
  • Geocurrents takes a look at religious diversity in Ethiopia, making the interesting point that in addition to Christian-Muslim conflict there is also conflict between Ethiopian Orthodox Christians and Protestants.
  • The Inuit Bikini Monster notes that a cat in Mexico is running for a mayoral position.
  • John Moyer makes the point that fantasy literature isn’t necessarily escapist, not least because terrible things happen.
  • Language Hat notes that, for plausible and understandable reasons, the phrase “a sight for sore eyes” is starting to refer to something bad.
  • Marginal Revolution wonders whether traditional dress in the Gulf States is a marker of identity, and to what extent.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer thinks that Edward Snowden made a good choice by seeking refuge in Ecuador, a sufficiently democratic and low-crime Latin American polity.
  • Torontoist notes that Toronto city police is trying to work on improving the relationship with Somali-Canadians after the recent raid.
  • Towleroad notes that late gay writer John Preston has given the Maine city of Portland a new slogan.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy talks about rising nationalism among Burmese Buddhists. Sadly, many commenters talk about how Muslims must be controlled.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the ongoing demographic issues of Russia and Belarus.

[URBAN NOTE] “The rainbow connection”

The Grid‘s Sarah Liss had a fantastic front page article pairing six pairs of queer Torontonians, one of the pair old and the other younger.

Kim Chee Lee

Age: 81.

Identifies as: Gay. Chapbook writer; tap-dancer; volunteer; gardener; former time-study analyst.

Aisha Waheed

Age 20.

Identifies as Queer. Twin; badass poet; storyteller; lip-syncer; chocolate-covered almond aficionado.

Aisha: There’s not a lot of queer Muslim visibility, and if there’s one less person hating themselves for being queer and Muslim because of seeing someone else out there, then that’d be really great. It’s not that I necessarily want to be that role model, I just want to be, like, “Hey, don’t hate yourself! There is a community! You’ll reach it eventually.”

Kim Chee: I have some friends who are Muslim, but they’re in the closet, and they don’t go to any gay things or activities.

A: Not many of us can be out. There’s a risk of homelessness, a risk of rejection, a risk of bullying. It’s a safety thing. You risk so much more if you come out. With a lot of queer youth, [I’ve heard], “I came out when I wasn’t ready,” or “I was really pressured to come out.” [People say] you should be out, because that’s one less thing you have to hide or lie about, but being out is much more complex.

K: I came out when I was seven or eight. My adoptive father had four wives, and one of them couldn’t have children, so they gave me to her as a gift, and she took care of me from the ages of four to 12. One day, [I told her], “When I look at boys, at men, I have kind of a fuzzy feeling, and I don’t know what that means.” She said, “You just like men, that’s all. You’re gay!” She was very supportive. That’s why I say I’m one of the luckiest old guys in the world. I was schooled in China, lived in Winnipeg, and came to Toronto when I was 24. To make a long story short, the first day I arrived at my job, I got picked up by this guy who’d just arrived from England. I lived at the YMCA, because in those days the YMCA had rooms. “Oh,” he said, “maybe we should get a place together.” And that was my first husband, at 24.

A: When you first arrived here in Toronto, what was the queer scene like?

K: Well, everything was underground, all the dance places, the St. Charles [Tavern], the bars. My friends would go to the gay dances on Friday nights and Saturdays, and they’d always look to their left and their right before they went in. I asked why they were doing that, and they said, “Just in case someone sees us.” They were hiding. They didn’t want people to know they were going to these places.

The whole piece is a fantastic example of contrast-and-compare.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 24, 2013 at 7:55 pm

[LINK] “New Horizons Spacecraft ‘Stays the Course’ for Pluto System Encounter”

Universe Today’s Ken Kremer notes the happy news that NASA’s New Horizons probe isn’t likely to be damaged by dust in a Pluto system that turned out to be more complex and full of stuff than was thought on new Horizons’ launch.

Following an intense 18 month study to determine if NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft faced potentially destructive impact hazards during its planned 2015 flyby of the Pluto binary planet system, the mission team has decided to ‘stay the course’ – and stick with the originally planned trajectory because the danger posed by dust and debris is much less than feared.

The impact assessment study was conducted because the Pluto system was discovered to be much more complex – and thus even more scientifically compelling – after New Horizons was launched in January 2006 from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

Two years ago researchers using the iconic Hubble Space Telescope discovered two new moons orbiting around Pluto, bringing the total to 5 moons!

It was feared that debris hitting the moons could have created dangerous dust clouds that in turn would slam into and damage the spacecraft as it zoomed past Pluto at speeds of some 30,000 miles per hour (more than 48,000 kilometers per hour) in July 2015.

“We found that loss of the New Horizons mission by dust impacting the spacecraft is very unlikely, and we expect to follow the nominal, or baseline, mission timeline that we’ve been refining over the past few years,” says New Horizons Project Scientist Hal Weaver, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, in a statement.

After both the team and an independent review board and NASA thoroughly analyzed the data, it was determined that New Horizons has only a 0.3 percent chance of suffering a mission destroying dust impact event using the baseline trajectory.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 24, 2013 at 7:50 pm

[PHOTO] Train entering Eglinton station northbound, west track, Friday night

At Eglinton station during regular hours of operation, the northbound train usually enters Eglinton station on the east track. After 12:30 am, however, the tunnel north of Eglinton has been closed for repairs, making Eglinton the end of the line; this train later reversed and headed south. This started in February 2009 and is slated to continue to the end of this year.

Train entering Eglinton station northbound, west track, Friday night

Written by Randy McDonald

June 24, 2013 at 4:26 pm