A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for January 2014

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly points writers to evidence that editing can be a harsh and thorough process: a photograph of one of her own drafts.
  • Centauri Dreams notes that a recent study of the distribution of different sorts of asteroids in the asteroid belt suggests that the planets in the early solar system were exceptionally mobile, with Jupiter’s inward migrations perhaps tossing enough icy bodies our way to give Earth oceans.
  • Discover‘s The Crux points out alleged photographic evidence of an alien base on the Moon is no such thing.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to Stephen Hawking’s paper on black holes, which apparently argues they don’t destroy information so much as garble it.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a recent study suggesting that the Alpha Centauri system is quite full of dust.
  • The Financial Times‘ World blog notes that the dustup over Oxfam and Scarlett Johansson’s involvement as spokesperson for an Israeli company making use of West Bank resources highlights Israel’s growing issues.
  • Joe. My. God. notes a recent Washington Post-ABC poll suggesting that Hillary Clinton is far and away the Democratic Party’s favourite for the 2016 presidential election.
  • Dave Brockington of Lawyers, Guns and Money takes issue with Niall Ferguson’s argument that Britain should have stayed out of the First World War.
  • Marginal Revolution notes a recent paper suggesting how Catalonia might progress to independence from Spain, in the context of shared debt.
  • Thought Catalog’s Shawn Binder writes about how homophobia can intrude even within same-sex relationships.
  • Torontoist notes a major billion-dollar development at Spadina and Front that would literally create a new neighbourhood.
  • Towleroad observes that billionaire Cecil Chao has withdrawn the dowry he offered to potential suitors of his lesbian and coupled daughter Gigi, without acknowledging her actual relationship.

[PHOTO] Charlottetown Cenotaph, looking north

Charlottetown Cenotaph, looking north

The Charlottetown Cenotaph faces north onto University Avenue, from the rear of Province House.

Constructed on July 16, 1925, in memory of all from the province who gave their services in the day of our country’s need.

This monument was designed by sculptor G.W. Hill and cost $16,000; $11,500 paid for by the city and the remainder by public donation. Additional lettering was added at a later date to recognize WWII and the Korean conflict.

Compare my 2008 post, pairing the cenotaph with the Boer War monument hidden on the other side of the provincial legislature.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 31, 2014 at 7:21 pm

[URBAN NOTE] On Saks Fifth Avenue’s replacement of The Bay

BlogTO‘s Derek Flack’s post on the planned opening of a Saks Fifth Avenue store in the Yonge/Queen location of the Bay was remarkable news, as Torontoist’s Jamie Bradburn had noted in his nice history of that particular retail location.

For years, the crosswalk between Simpsons and Eaton’s on Queen Street was nicknamed “the cattle crossing” because of the high volume of shoppers flowing between downtown Toronto’s rival department stores. By the end of next year, those pedestrians (along with those using the skywalk above) may be shuffling between Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom.

Less than two weeks after Nordstrom announced it would replace Sears, Hudson’s Bay Company announced that it will be selling its landmark store at Queen and Yonge and the adjoining Simpson Tower to Toronto Eaton Centre owner Cadillac Fairview. Under the $650-million deal, HBC will continue to lease the site for the next 25 years.

Shoppers will notice a major change by fall 2015: a fifth of the 750,000 square foot store will become Canada’s first Saks Fifth Avenue location. HBC, whose corporate parent bought the high-end American department store last year, previously indicated that the Hudson Bay store at Bloor and Yonge would be converted into Saks. According to the Star, Cadillac Fairview CEO John Sullivan convinced HBC CEO Richard Baker that, with Nordstrom coming to the Eaton Centre, Saks would be a good fit for the mall.

The changes announced this morning mark the latest chapter in the site’s history as a department store. Robert Simpson launched a dry goods business on the west side of Yonge Street a few doors north of Queen in 1872, then moved a block south in 1881. Simpson’s new store quickly burst out of its confines, and for nearly a century, the company bought adjoining properties to allow for its continued expansion.

[. . .]

Just as rival Eaton’s expanded rapidly on the north side of Queen Street, Simpsons built numerous extensions that stretched the store west toward Bay Street. The poshest expansion was a nine-storey, art deco–inspired addition that opened in 1929. Its centrepiece was the Arcadian Court restaurant, which Simpsons officials added to retain the lunch trade the store feared losing to the recently opened Royal York Hotel and the Eaton’s store under construction at Yonge and College (now College Park).

I’ve mentioned in passing the planned opening of a Nordstrom’s in the Eaton Centre location where Sears used to be (and before Sears, Eaton’s). I’m largely OK with the apparent trend for distinctive Canadian retail chains to disappear … and yet.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 31, 2014 at 7:11 pm

[CAT] “What Do Cats Think About Us? You May Be Surprised”

National Geographic‘s interview with John Bradshaw, a British biologist whose new book Cat Sense has gotten quite a lot of buzz. Perhaps most controversial is his claim that cats don’t recognize human beings as a separate kind of being, that they see humans as simply large cats.

What do you do in your research?

A lot of observation—watching groups of cats to see how they interact with one another and deducing their social structure. [I watch] cats in colonies that are free-ranging, and in animal shelters where quite a number will be housed together—you get interesting dynamics [when new cats are introduced].

I’ve also done slightly more manipulative things, such as studying the way cats play with toys, or testing cat [behaviors] at different times of the day. [I also observe] relationships with owners, interviewing them and giving them questionnaires to find out how they perceive their cats.

Why did you conclude that cats don’t “get us” the way dogs do?

There’s been a lot of research with dogs and how dogs interact with people. [It’s] become very clear that dogs perceive us as being different than themselves: As soon as they see a human, they change their behavior. The way a dog plays with a human is completely different from [the way it plays] with a dog.

We’ve yet to discover anything about cat behavior that suggests they have a separate box they put us in when they’re socializing with us. They obviously know we’re bigger than them, but they don’t seem to have adapted their social behavior much. Putting their tails up in the air, rubbing around our legs, and sitting beside us and grooming us are exactly what cats do to each other. (Also see “How Cats and People Grew to Love Each Other.”)

I’ve read articles where you’ve said cats think of us as big, stupid cats. Is that accurate?

No. In the book [I say] that cats behave toward us in a way that’s indistinguishable from [how] they would act toward other cats. They do think we’re clumsy: Not many cats trip over people, but we trip over cats.

But I don’t think they think of us as being dumb and stupid, since cats don’t rub on another cat that’s inferior to them.

I’ll be looking out for this book.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 31, 2014 at 4:48 am

Posted in Assorted

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[BRIEF NOTE] On how the Canadian Senate is inevitably partisan, no matter what Trudeau claims

This news story caught everyone’s attention yesterday. The Liberal Party of Canada formally renounced its senators.

Justin Trudeau has expelled from his caucus every single Liberal member of the upper house and has declared there is no longer any such thing as a Liberal Senator.

The Liberal leader said the former members of the Liberal Senate caucus will sit as Independents, and they will have no formal ties to the Liberal parliamentary machinery apart from through their friendships.

Trudeau’s decision will see some lifelong Liberals and key party operators and fundraisers removed from the party’s caucus and forced outside its inner circles – a foundation-shaking decision in a business where power is derived from membership in a political club and the ability to access its best back rooms.

“The only way to be a part of the Liberal caucus is to be put there by the people of Canada,” Trudeau said.

[. . .]

“The Senate was once referred to as a place of sober, second thought. A place that allows for reflective deliberation on legislation, in-depth studies into issues of import to the country, and, to a certain extent, provide a check and balance on the politically driven House of Commons.

“It has become obvious that the party structure within the Senate interferes with these responsibilities.”

Trudeau proposed the Senate should be made non-partisan, to better serve Canadians. He suggested an “open, transparent, non-partisan process” that would see all senators named to the Red Chamber sit as Independents.

As interviews with senators over the course of the day made clear that these senators, formally independent as they may now be, are actually remaining aligned to the Liberal Party. This should be no surprise, as Wonkman’s thorough analysis of the background of senators shows.

Far from being a house of independent experts, the best way to get appointed to the Senate is to run for office—even if unsuccessfully. 46.7% of appointees are former candidates for provincial, territorial or federal office.

Every Prime Minister (with the notable and singular exception of Paul Martin) has worked aggressively to appoint only loyal members of their own parties. (And even Paul Martin could only bring himself to appoint Progressive Conservatives, a party which thereafter existed only in the Senate.) If you aren’t prepared to swear loyalty to the government of the day, you will not even be considered for appointment.

On a personal note, this makes me deeply, deeply suspicious of claims to the effect that the Liberal senators have been “freed” by being booted out of the Conservative caucus. Of these 32 newly-minted “Liberpendants”, 43% have previously run for the party at the provincial or federal levels, and a further 25% have been on the Liberal payroll in unelected positions. But this aside, every single one of them was appointed by a Liberal PM, and the vast majority were appointed by Jean Chretien—who, as my research emphasizes, did not manage to appoint a single non-Liberal.

Not only did these appointments come disproportionately from a very small group of people who are unrepresentative of the whole of Canada (Liberal candidates and Liberal staffers), but even those who were chosen from outside this group were evidently chosen in large part because of their loyalty to the party. (After all, if you chose 75 people at random and made them into Senators—as Chretien did—what are the odds that 72 of them would be card-carrying Liberals, with a further 3 Independents?)

And how does someone in that position suddenly go “Independent”?

Is there anything truly progressive about this? If anything, by cutting formal ties between the Liberal Party and its senators, Trudeau has made the relationship more opaque and unaccountable.
Former Reform Party leader Preston Manning’s new openness to tearing down the Senate if public opinion would like it is much more honest.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 31, 2014 at 3:49 am

Posted in Canada, Politics

Tagged with , , ,

[LINK] “New poll has Wynne’s Liberals leading, but still looking at minority”

The Globe and Mail‘s Adrian Morrow reports on the strength of the Liberals. Premier Wynne is well-liked and visible, whereas the Tory’s Hudak isn’t very personable and I don’t think enough people think a NDP government is a good idea.

Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals are holding on to a steady lead in popular support, a new poll suggests, but remain in minority government territory ahead of an election that could come as early as this spring.

The Progressive Conservatives, meanwhile, are duking it out with the New Democrats for second place as the Ontario Premier bests both the PCs’ Tim Hudak and the NDP’s Andrea Horwath in public perceptions of her leadership.

Out of 500 Ontarians surveyed by Nanos Research, 36 per cent are prepared to vote Liberal, compared to 28 per cent support for the Tories and 27 for the NDP. These numbers represent a change of less than a percentage point for the Liberals since September, while Mr. Hudak’s party is down by three points in the same period and Ms. Horwath’s is up by one.

“The longer Wynne is the Premier, the more she looks like a Premier – and we haven’t seen any major gaffes out of her adminstration,” Nanos Research chairman Nik Nanos said in an interview. “The Liberals have been relatively united behind her.”

Mr. Hudak, meanwhile, has spent a lot of time fighting divisions in his party, including a spat over controversial right-to-work policies that led to the firing of a candidate last week. And now, he must battle Ms. Horwath to hold on to his place as principal opposition leader.

“For the Conservatives, it’s very important for them to be positioned as the main challengers to the Liberals – to have numbers in the same range as the NDP is not ideal,” Mr. Nanos said. “It’s harder for a movement to unseat a government, to have momentum, when it’s not clear which opposition party is the main challenger.”

Such numbers may explain why the Tories have stepped up their attacks on the NDP in recent days, Mr. Nanos said. A PC radio ad released earlier this week in Niagara Falls, where a by-election campaign is underway, attacks the NDP while making scant mention of the Grits.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 31, 2014 at 3:16 am

Posted in Canada, Politics

Tagged with , , ,

[URBAN NOTE] On Rob Ford, jailhouse beatings, and budget debates

There are no words.

  • The first story, from Global News.
  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is being sued for his alleged role in the jailhouse assault of his sister`s former partner.

    Ford’s lawyer Dennis Morris confirmed to Global News Wednesday that a statement of claim had been filed against the mayor, alleging that he was behind the alleged jailhouse assault of Scott MacIntyre, the former partner of Ford’s sister.

    The Ministry of Correctional Services, former Don Bosco football player Aedan Petros and former assistant coach of the Don Bosco football team Payman Aboodowleh have also been named in the statement.

    [. . .]

    MacIntyre was attacked in March 2012 by some inmates while he was being held at the Metro West Detention Centre after uttering threats against the mayor.

    MacIntyre’s statement of claim says he told the mayor to “be careful” how he treated him while leaving his home in January 2012 because he knew “things about Ford and his family which had not been made public.”

    [. . .]

    “Ford and Aboodowleh conspired to have the plaintiff threatened, and subsequently brutally beaten, while he was incarcerated in [Metro West Detention Centre],” according to the statement of claim.

    [. . . A] video showing the mayor in a violent, drunken rage was purchased and published by the Toronto Star in November.

    In the video, the mayor is in a fit, slapping his legs and shouting about an unidentified person.

    “When he’s dead, I’ll make sure that motherf—er… I need f—ing 10 minutes to make sure he’s dead,” Ford can be heard saying in the video.

  • The second story, from CBC News.
  • Toronto city council has passed its 2014 budget, ending an often fractious, day-long debate that saw officials trading barbs over libraries, fire trucks, security guards and — once again — subways.

    The budget passed by a vote of 35-9 shortly after 9 p.m. ET Thursday, after some 11 hours of debate by the 45-member council.

    Mayor Rob Ford, his brother, Coun. Doug Ford, and budget chief Frank Di Giorgio were among those who voted against it. The mayor had earlier submitted a handful of cost-cutting motions, some of which set the stage for tense, even angry exchanges throughout the day.

    [. . .]

    The budget debate is expected to continue into Thursday night, and possibly until Monday. Council will not sit on Friday because of the Lunar New Year.

    Written by Randy McDonald

    January 31, 2014 at 3:11 am