A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for February 2015

[PHOTO] On the TTC, Lindsay Kelk, and the stock photography both use

Take the TTC 192 Airport Rocket bus to Pearson.

I saw the above ad advertising the TTC’s 192 Airport Rocket bus and was struck by its familiarity. Where had I seen this image before?

That TTC ad was stock photo for the cover of a fun 2011 Lindsay Kelk novel.

It was the image on the cover of a trade paperback edition of British author Lindsay Kelk‘s 2011 novel The Single Girl’s To-Do List, that’s what.

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Written by Randy McDonald

February 28, 2015 at 7:00 pm

[ISL] “Damn Ice Dams: A Weekend Spent”

Prince Edward Island Peter Rukavina has a <ugreat, funny photo post describing how he saved the roof of his Charlottetown home from the recent record snowfall.

It snowed. And snowed. And snowed. Over a metre of snow over a couple of weeks. So that by last weekend our back yard looked like this:

Back yard + Snow

That’s a 5 foot fence, to give you a sense of the how deep the snow is.

And that’s a tree, not a bush.

And so we ended up with a lot of snow on our roof.

And with my eye off the ball, paying attention to the snow on the ground, not the snow on the roof, we started to get ice dams forming along the gutters.

By Friday afternoon we started to fear that the ice dams would result in water getting into our house, and so it was time for evasive action.

Catherine made a round of calls to teams of shovelers that we’d used before, but we were not alone in our plight and they all replied with “maybe we can get to you by Monday.”

So it was up to me.

Feeble old me. Action.

Go, read.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 28, 2015 at 3:00 am

[URBAN NOTE] “Fabricland Marks a Changing Neighbourhood’s Last Cheerful Stand”

Torontoist’s Kaitlyn Kochany reacts to the Fabricland in Honest Ed’s, erected in the basement and set to last along with the store. It’s a nice essay about a changing neighbourhood and a homey topic.

Toronto’s newest Fabricland—and at 16,000 square feet, also its largest—is located in the basement of Honest Ed’s, at the corner of Bloor Street West and Bathurst Street. Go past the kitchen supplies and the jumble of tiny gold Buddhas, and head downstairs to where the Polish cookies used to be. Now, there are rows of buttons, neon thread, and pink urethane cushions available for sale. If you’ve been inside any other Fabricland, you know what to expect: the lighting is fluorescent, the music is canned, and the fabric is plentiful.

There are fabrics for clothings, for home decor, for handicrafts, for finishing touches. There are gossamer tulles and heavy brocades. There are fun furs and feather boas, a million different buttons, and the same depressed-looking knitting section that every Fabricland store offers. There are some surprises, like a quilting cotton printed with a map of the Canadian rail corridors and sleek examples of public transit (which gives the impression that Calgary might have a bullet train!), and a huge roll of zebra-print fleece. The salespeople are friendly. The clientele is mostly women, mostly middle-aged. There are no windows.

There’s a certain brio inherent in opening a store with a limited lifespan: this Fabricland will close at the end of next year, when Honest Ed’s vacates the corner block it has dominated for 67 years, and a new condo development moves in. We’re used to thinking of pop-up stores as being in service of the new and the hip, but this particular short-term tenant is trend-proof. The pattern books suggest items like blousy jackets that would look at home on the set of The Cosby Show, and wide-legged pants particular to the late-1990s raver style. Leafing through one of those books is like hopping into a time machine you have to assemble yourself. There are a few designer gems, like Rachel Comey and Donna Karan, but those require some serious digging to find.

If it sounds like I’m being hard on Fabricland, I’m not. Growing up with an interior-designer mother, I spent more than my fair share of time wandering among the bolts of Stratford, Ontario’s Fabricland. (Fabric stores often rival hardware stores for places that are utterly uninteresting to children.) Fabric is the raw material of creativity: a seasoned eye can look at a bolt of fabric and see a couch, a new pair of pants, or a quilt. But these stores offer no toys and no books, and there are only so many patterned flannelettes one can fondle before even the most well-behaved child will slide onto the floor and throw a temper tantrum just for something to do.

[URBAN NOTE] “Should We Care About Douglas Coupland?”

Torontoist’s Sarah Hagi reacts to Douglas Coupland, now with an exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum. Her suggestion that his best ideas are in the past strikes me as a bit unfair: might his more recent ideas still be pretty good? I have to go see the exhibit, regardless.

Coupland is best known for his iconic novels like Generation X (1991), which coined the term that defined 1990s youth culture, but before all that he started off as a formally trained visual artist and designer. Taking place at the Royal Ontario Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, the pop art–inspired whimsical exhibition everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything is where his work as a novelist and visual artist clearly intersect.

In one section we are shown his novels Girlfriend in a Coma and Generation X—only, Coupland has lovingly chewed them up into pulpy hornets’ nests. The nests were so convincingly crafted, they were hard to tell apart from the real nests he left atop the display.

Then there’s a section called “The Brain” that takes up a large chunk of the exhibition, which displays various knickknacks collected over a decade and divided into three hemispheres that hint at the brain’s bilateral symmetry. The piece itself is remarkable, made up of thousands of objects, including street signs and miniature kitchen furniture, all representing different experiences in the artist’s life—from being born on a Canadian military base in West Germany to growing up in middle-class Vancouver.

Spending a few minutes in the exhibit, you quickly realize why its title is so broad—Coupland’s work is anything and everything. It’s also for anyone, with many pieces appealing to the general audiences. This feels a bit too safe, but the exhibit’s accessibility makes sense: Coupland’s status as a national treasure is something that couldn’t have been achieved without catering to a wide audience. In a culture of hot takes and unpopular opinions, his pieces feel somewhat refreshing; Coupland isn’t trying to be the first to make a statement, but instead focuses on interpreting major 21st-century events. This message was amplified by paintings about 9/11 that were created so to only be properly seen through the lens of a smartphone camera (which didn’t exist in 2001).

Written by Randy McDonald

February 28, 2015 at 12:13 am

[LINK] “Facebook flags aboriginal names as not ‘authentic'”

CBC’s John Bowman notes how Facebook’s policies requiring the use of actual names is, after getting transgendered people, harming First Nations people.

Facebook requires its users to use a profile name that’s the same as the name they use in real life, but some indigenous people say the social network is rejecting their real names because they don’t conform to its standards.

Earlier this month, Dana Lone Hill, a member of the Lakota people living on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, tried to log in to her Facebook account. She was met with an error message asking her to change her name.

The message read: “It looks like the name on your Facebook account may not be your authentic name.”

Lone Hill’s name is one she shares with her mother. Facebook required her to send in three pieces of identification to prove that her real name is real. Eventually, the social network reactivated her account.

Lone Hill wrote about her experience on the Last Real Indians blog, and she found she wasn’t the only aboriginal person to who had run afoul of Facebook’s “real name” policy.

In October, a number of people — with names like Lance Browneyes and Shane Creepingbear — had had their accounts suspended because of their names.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 28, 2015 at 12:10 am

[LINK] “Ceres’ Deepening Mysteries”

At the Planetary Society Blog, Marc Rayman describes how, as the Dawn probe approaches Ceres, that dwarf planet is revealing more mysteries.

The Dawn spacecraft is performing flawlessly as it conducts the first exploration of the first dwarf planet. Each new picture of Ceres reveals exciting and surprising new details about a fascinating and enigmatic orb that has been glimpsed only as a smudge of light for more than two centuries. And yet as that fuzzy little blob comes into sharper focus, it seems to grow only more perplexing.

Dawn is showing us exotic scenery on a world that dates back to the dawn of the solar system, more than 4.5 billion years ago. Craters large and small remind us that Ceres lives in the rough and tumble environment of the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and collectively they will help scientists develop a deeper understanding of the history and nature not only of Ceres itself but also of the solar system.

Even as we discover more about Ceres, some mysteries only deepen. It certainly does not require sophisticated scientific insight to be captivated by the bright spots. What are they? At this point, the clearest answer is that the answer is unknown. One of the great rewards of exploring the cosmos is uncovering new questions, and this one captures the imagination of everyone who gazes at the pictures sent back from deep space.

Other intriguing features newly visible on the unfamiliar landscape further assure us that there will be much more to see and to learn — and probably much more to puzzle over — when Dawn flies in closer and acquires new photographs and myriad other measurements. Over the course of this year, as the spacecraft spirals to lower and lower orbits, the view will continue to improve. In the lowest orbit, the pictures will display detail well over one hundred times finer than the RC2 pictures returned a few days ago (and shown below). Right now, however, Dawn is not getting closer to Ceres. On course and on schedule for entering orbit on March 6, Earth’s robotic ambassador is slowly separating from its destination.

“Slowly” is the key. Dawn is in the vicinity of Ceres and is not leaving. The adventurer has traveled more than 900 million miles (1.5 billion kilometers) since departing from Vesta in 2012, devoting most of the time to using its advanced ion propulsion system to reshape its orbit around the sun to match Ceres’ orbit. Now that their paths are so similar, the spacecraft is receding from the massive behemoth at the leisurely pace of about 35 mph (55 kilometers per hour), even as they race around the sun together at 38,700 mph (62,300 kilometers per hour). The probe is expertly flying an intricate course that would be the envy of any hotshot spaceship pilot. To reach its first observational orbit — a circular path from pole to pole and back at an altitude of 8,400 miles (13,500 kilometers) — Dawn is now taking advantage not only of ion propulsion but also the gravity of Ceres.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 28, 2015 at 12:08 am

[LINK] “Russia to keep its part of space station after its duty ends”

The Dragon’s Tales linked to this Associated Press report suggesting Russia’s interest in undocking the modules it built for the ISS in 2024, with the aim of using them for its own station.

Russia’s space agency expects the International Space Station to stay in orbit through 2024, and plans to create its own space outpost with its segment of the station after that.

Roscosmos’ scientific council concluded Tuesday that several Russian modules could eventually be undocked to “perform the task of ensuring Russia’s guaranteed presence in space.”

The ISS, run by the United States, Russia, the European Space Agency and other international partners, is set to remain operational at least through 2024. Russia’s own Mir space station was deorbited in 2001 after 15 years as Moscow sought to concentrate its resources on the ISS.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 28, 2015 at 12:04 am