A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for July 2013

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

Today’s post is a big one.

  • Acts of Minor Treason’s Andrew Barton photographs a small-town Ontario vestige of the now-defunct Zellers retail chain.
  • Crooked Timber’s Ingrid Robeyns writes about the new kings of the Netherlands and Belgium.
  • Will Baird at The Dragon’s Tales has a few links to interesting papers up: one describes circumstellar habitable zones for subsurface biospheres like those images on Mars; one argues that Earth-like planets orbiting small, dim red dwarfs might see their water slowly migrate to the night side; another suggests that on these same red dwarf-orbiting Earth-like worlds, the redder frequency of light will mean that ice will absorb rather than reflect radiation and so prevent runaway glaciation.
  • Eastern Approaches reflected on the Second World War-era massacres of Poles by Ukrainians in the Volyn region.
  • Geocurrents examined the boom in export agriculture in coastal Peru and the growing popularity of the xenophobic right in modern Europe for a variety of reasons.
  • GNXP argues that language is useful as a market of identity and that the term “Caucasian” as used to refer to human populations is meaningless.
  • Itching in Eestimaa’s Palun argues that, given Soviet-era relocations of population into the Baltic States, much emigration might just be a matter of the population falling to levels that local economies can support.
  • Language Log has a series of posts examining loan words to and from East Asian languages: Chinese loans in English (too few?), English loans in Japanese (too many?), Japanese loans in English (quite a lot).
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer argues that not only is the United States not trying to prolong the Syrian civil war, but that the United States should not arm them for the States’ own good. (Agreed.)
  • Registan’s Matthew Kupfer approves of the selection of Dzhohar Tsarnaev’s photo on the front page of Rolling Stone as being useful in deconstructing myths that he, and terrorism, are foreign.
  • Savage Minds considers how classic Star Trek seems out of date for its faith in an attractive and liveable high modernity.
  • Strange Maps’ Frank Jacobs examines the concept of the eruv, the fictive boundary used by Orthodox Jews to justify activity on the sabbath.
  • Window on Eurasia quotes writers who wonder if Central Asian states might continue to break up and suggest that Tatarstan might have been set for statehood in 1991 and should continue to prepare for future events.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell argues that human bias as expressed in opinion polls is, depressingly, not just a matter of easily-remedied ignorance.

[LINK] “Jahar’s World”

Journalist Janet Reitman‘s Rolling Stone article “Jahar’s World is a must-read. Just saying.

Written by Randy McDonald

July 23, 2013 at 4:00 am

[BRIEF NOTE] On Alex Colville and To Prince Edward Island

Canadian painter Alex Colville died today

The renowned Canadian artist Alex Colville has died at home in Wolfville, N.S., on Tuesday. He was 92.

[. . .]

His wife, Rhoda, who is often shown in his paintings -—as the woman looking through binoculars in To Prince Edward Island or nude in the light of the fridge in Refrigerator 1977 — died in December 2012.

Colville’s work often displays commonplace moments from his own life — himself and his wife walking on a beach or himself standing with his car. But there is something sombre or even ominous about the images.

[. . .]

While Colville’s images seemed to be taken directly from reality, he drew them from multiple sketches and studies, planning a perfect composition before he began to paint.

The painting process could take months — with layer upon layer of thinned paint painstakingly applied dot by dot to a primed wooden panel.

“Behind his words, as behind his art, you can sense elaborate webs of thought. And, also like his paintings, he stands quite alone, beyond category. It’s impossible to speak with him for a few hours without feeling his powerful sense of self. He is, it seems, a free man.” Robert Fulford wrote in Toronto Life in 2000.

The tranquil scenes are deceptive, because something about the relationship between figures or the nature of the landscape will convey loneliness, isolation, parting, work, leisure, estrangement, love.

“I see life as inherently dangerous. I have an essentially dark view of the world and human affairs .. Anxiety is the normality of our age,” Colville was quoted as saying.

My favourite painting of his is his 1965 To Prince Edward Island. The National Gallery of Canada’s page touches upon the mystery lurking behind the image. Who is the woman? What is she looking at, in what direction? Is everything as it seems? I’m quite used to the ferries of Prince Edward Island, having ridden them from an early age, but Colville’s problematization of the simple ferry ride caught my attention at a very early age.

Alex Colville, To Prince Edward Island

Written by Randy McDonald

July 18, 2013 at 3:48 am

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • Centauri Dreams takes a look at Pluto.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to a paper suggesting that the “young faint sun paradox” can be explained by high but not very high levels of carbon dioxide and methane on the early Earth.
  • Eastern Approaches argues that Poland isn’t going to become the Saudi Arabia os shale gas any time soon.
  • Far Outliers takes a look at overlooked interracial fluidity and family in the American South.
  • Inkless Wells’ Paul Wells, writing at MacLean’s, wants greater press access to the Lac-Mégantic catastrophe.
  • Language Log takes a look at the failure of artificial intelligence as evidenced by the nonsensical conversations of a pair of Siri bots.
  • The Planetary Society Blog has a guest writer suggesting that even under NASA’s budget strictures, a Uranus probe could be possible.
  • Noel Maurer at The Power and they Money makes the case that arming the Syrian rebels shouldn’t be done, in that the outcomes produced by non-supply–a weakened regime or a weakened transition–are less threatening to American interests.
  • Towleroad links to a paper suggesting that homophobia is associated with fear of unwanted sexual advances.
  • Window on Eurasia quotes a Russian writer who argues that, if the Soviet Union had survived, immigration to Russia would have been substantially heavier and more politically controversial.

[PHOTO] Yard flowers

Yard flowers

Written by Randy McDonald

July 12, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Posted in Photo, Toronto

Tagged with , ,

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • Centauri Dreams notes the thinking of Martin Rees and Freeman Dyson on the diaspora of life beyond Earth, noting that it’s going to require as much adaptation to new environments as it will (would?) the adaptation of existing environments.
  • D-Brief notes theory about planetary system formation suggesting that suggestive gaps in protoplanetary discs of gas and dust don’t necessarily reveal planets.
  • The Dragon’s Tales’ Will Baird links to the recent paper suggesting that tide-locked red dwarf planets are much more likely to be habitable than previously thought.
  • Geocurrents analyses the possibility that Iran might be divided between a conservative Persian-speaking core and reformist peripheries.
  • GNXP’s Razib Khan notes evidence from Ethiopia suggesting that there has been immigration into Africa as well out of the continent.
  • Registan describes a Chinese copper mining project in Afghanistan that never quire took off.
  • Savage Minds’ Rex reviews William McNeill’s biography of historian Arnold J. Toynbee.
  • Strange Maps maps the leading causes of death by continent.
  • Supernova Condensate describes the possibility of life-supporting environments on Europa, not only in the subsurface ocean but in lakes located in the ice crust.
  • Window on Eurasia quotes a Tatar nationalist who argues that Tatarstan can be to Russia what Lithuania was to the former Soviet Union, i.e. the unit which breaks the country apart.

[URBAN NOTE] Six links and one photo about Monday’s rain and flood

  • Acts of Minor Treason’s Andrew Barton noted the sheer density of the rain falling and notes that at least flooding destruction was limited. No deaths, too!
  • blogTO’s Chris Bateman describes Toronto’s history of floods, starting in the 20th century with the infamous Hurricane Hazel of 1954.
  • Also at blogTO, Derek FLack narrates a slideshow of 15 photos illustrating fraught moments during the rain storm.
  • blogTO’s Flack also shares some of the most striking images of the flood posted on Instagram.
  • Torontoist’s Hamutal Dotan shares photos of the rescue of 1400 passengers from a flooded GO Train (for non-Torontonians, suburban commuter light rail).
  • Also at Torontoist, Angela Misri raises the question of Toronto’s preparedness for this and other disasters.

From Wikipedia comes Eastmain‘s photograph of flooding in the Dufferin Street underpass at Queen Street.

Written by Randy McDonald

July 11, 2013 at 12:44 am

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • Budding Sociologist Dan Hirschman notes that competing estimates over the size of the Chinese economy means that no one knows whether China’s economy, or the United States’, is the largest in the world.
  • Crooked Timber’s John Quiggin notes the predicament case of James Cartwright, a retired American general under investigation for leaking information about Stuxnet to the press. Quiggin argues that Cartwright stands out from others in that he has many enemies.
  • Far Outliers’ Joel observes that tension between African-American settlers in Liberia and Africans living in the future republic was rife from the beginning.
  • Geocurrents’ Asya Pereltsvaig writes about how the Serbo-Croatian language community has been subdivided into national language communities largely, but not only, because of the collapse of Yugoslavia.
  • GNXP’s Razib Khan blogs about a DNA study suggesting to him that, in the 6th century, Bengal assimilated a substantial agricultural population with links and ancestry in Southeast Asia.
  • Language Hat notes that at one point, the Persian language was a lingua franca as far away as South Asia.
  • Underlining that the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 could have succeeded only if the Soviets–and Stalin–went along with its, Lawyers, Guns and Money’s Robert Farley observes that it just wasn’t possible to supply the Polish partisans by air.
  • Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen quotes from Tarek Osman who argues that the Islamization of the new regimes in the Middle East isn’t inevitable.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer celebrates the 4th of July and also shares pictures of his young son Seretse.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that two million Buddhists living in Russia–Buryats, Tuvans, Kalmyks, and others–pay allegiance to the Dalai Lama, who hasn’t visited Russia perhaps because of Chinese pressure.

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • blogTO covered, with abundant photos, last night’s substantial rainstorm. (126 millimetres, I was given to understand by CBC this morning.)
  • Crooked Timber celebrates its tenth anniversary.
  • Geocurrents’ Asya Pereltsvaig maps the origins of servicement in the American military. It turns out that saying that they come from red states is an oversimplification (among other things).
  • GNXP notes that the “aquatic ape” theory of human origins is accurate at least inasmuch as human populations, unlike chimpanzee populations, aren’t divided into separate subspecies by major rivers. (We can swim.)
  • Marginal Revolution starts a comment thread speculating as to how democracy might disappear from the world.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer notes that Argentina isn’t going to follow the American precedent and start electing judges.
  • Charlie Stross wonders about the future of democracy inasmuch as party politics is declining while a meta Ruling Party takes over.
  • Science blogger Supernova Condensate is also going to blog about his experience as a scientist working in Japan.
  • Towleroad’s coverage of the news that two American cancer patients also infected with HIV were apparently cured of the latter via a bone marrow transplant is correct in noting that this provides clues for a cure.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests that terrorist threats against the Sochi Olympics in Russia by Chechens will lead to a tightening of Russian control over the North Caucasus.

[PHOTO] Dupont and Dufferin, 4 o’clock in the morning

This slice of the world late at night is something that you, too, can discover for yourself if when you really need to use the WiFi at a conveniently located McDonald’s late at night when your home connection has died.

Dupont and Dufferin, 4 o'clock in the morning

Written by Randy McDonald

July 9, 2013 at 3:29 pm