A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for August 2015

[LINK] “The Federation and the Telescopic Haze of Violence”

Over at Reddit’s Daystrom Institute forum, one poster made an unsettling post relating to the Fermi paradox in the Star Trek setting.

We know it’s possible, even with 21st century technology, to make observations of worlds on the far side of the galaxy. By the 24th century, it would stand to figure that any number of expansive interstellar civilizations, including the Federation, would be able to make far more detailed observations of the galaxy’s world and beyond. We also know that any number of devastating events, including the destruction of planets and the detonation of stars, occur with some frequency in the setting. If we can potentially detect catastrophic events like these with foreseeable technology, what about the Star Trek universe? What does knowing of these catastrophes do to even optimists?

[I]t’s interesting to consider that a big space faring culture, like the Federation, with its MIDAS Array and all the rest, in addition to spying on questionable Romulans and observing the weirdnesses of negative space wedgies, is also, apparently, receiving a steady static crackle composed of acts of ancient and distant violence, frequently of genocidal proportions. A starship heading into an unexplored sector might not know much beyond the locations of its constituent stars and planets- and that a hundred years ago, there was a fierce exchange of torpedo fire that resulted in the warp core breaches of a dozen ships- a fact made clear when the light from those incidents finally crossed the Federation frontier. A star on the opposing rim of the galaxy goes supernova, and bears the telltale spectral marks of trilithium- what happens to the public mood when the first thing the Federation learns about a distant civilization is that it died badly? Does it further their commitment to peace, when the wages of violence are so apparent across the galaxy? Are they afraid of assailants wholly unknown but for the echoes of their weapons across the ages- echoes that Starfleet might seek to copy, or prepare against, or seek to legislate with its antagonists to ban before they “exist”? What does it mean for a Federation crew to go seeking out what they know to be the graveyard of a species that died to the last soul within hours of each other from mutagenic weapons? Is there a wreath-laying ceremony for the cultures they never got to know, save for their final spectroscopic scream?

My comment there suggested that, perhaps, this might be one critical factor encouraging known civilizations to behave responsibly and not use metaweapons. No one wants their civilization to become a long-range telescopic footnote in some distant civilization’s explanation of the Fermi paradox.

(I shudder to think of real-world applications of this.)

Written by Randy McDonald

August 31, 2015 at 7:23 pm

[CAT] On Nitama, Tama, and the Kinokawa railway station

In April 2010, I reported the the story of Tama, a cat who had become master of a railway station in the Japanese city in Kinokawa.

Station-Master Tama

In June of this year mentioned that Tama had died at the ripe old age of 16. Happily, as reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Tama has been officially replaced by deputy Nitama.

A Japanese railway station famous for its stationmaster cat has appointed another feline as its replacement.

The station’s previous cat, Tama, was mourned at a lavish funeral after she died from heart failure in June having patrolled Kishi station, south-west of Osaka, for eight years.

Tama quietly patrolled the station dressed in a custom-made cap and uniform and became a popular mascot who attracted tourists from across Japan.

The new cat — reportedly named Nitama — will take over where its much-loved predecessor left off.

The station hopes the new cat will continue to bring more visitors to the struggling local railway.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 30, 2015 at 3:57 am

[CAT] Shakespeare, as seen by webcam

Shakespeare, as seen by webcam

Written by Randy McDonald

August 30, 2015 at 2:36 am

Posted in Photo

Tagged with , ,

[VIDEO] Starships set to “Starships” by Nicki Minaj

Earlier this month, Marcus Rowlands on Livejournal shared a fun fan video, a music video for Nicki Minaj’s 2012 hit song “Starships” featuring clips from the science fiction of the past half-century.

Rowlands also linked to another version of the video, this one featuring only pre-1969 clips.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 29, 2015 at 9:57 pm

[META] What blogs do you read?

What blogs do you read?

Let me know in the comments. I like coming across new things.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 29, 2015 at 3:54 am

Posted in Meta, Writing

Tagged with , , ,

[VIDEO] Bureau of Proto Society

Bureau of Proto Society is amazing. I found it via io9 (http://io9.com/a-group-of-historians-debates-how-the-world-ended-but-1727359489):

The short anime comedy Bureau of Proto Society takes us to a post-apocalyptic bunker, when the last remnants of humanity live isolated from the world. The bunker’s historians gather each day to try to debate how the world ended—and once you see their historical sources, you’ll understand their confusion.

Sadly, this short, by writer/director Yasuhiro Yoshiura (Patema Inverted) isn’t embeddable, but you can watch it at the Japan Animator Expo website, where it will be available for the next few weeks. (Click the English flag in the upper right hand corner if you don’t speak Japanese and be aware that theres a minute-long opening before the actual short starts.) It’s a very funny film, packed with pop culture references, and snazzy ending.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 29, 2015 at 1:35 am

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper suggesting that stars commonly ingest hot Jupiters.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on the spread of robots.
  • Far Outliers shares terms for making shoyu.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that Ashley Madison nearly bought Grindr.
  • Language Log notes the changing usage of “hemp” as a political term.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the plan to save New Orleans by abandoning the Mississippi delta.
  • The Russian Demographics blog notes the genetic distinctiveness of the Denisovans.
  • Towleroad notes the pulling-down of a Warsaw rainbow monument.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes the American debate over birthright citizenship.

[URBAN NOTE] “How to Bring a Wheelchair to a Sex Club: A look at Toronto’s Deliciously Disabled”

Torontoist’s Kaitlyn Kochany has a nice article examining the Deliciously Disabled movement, on-line and in sex clubs.

First of all: it wasn’t an orgy. Despite what you might have read in the Sun, the Star, and Vice, the party that went down at Buddies in Bad Times on August 14 is more correctly referred to as a “play party.” The 125 people who sold out the event could flirt, dance, laugh, be in various stages of undress, make out—and they could have sex, too, if they were all consenting adults.

Why was this a big deal? Those 125 people were attending Deliciously Disabled, the first fully accessible play party in Canada, if not the world. The party was different from the usual hook-up club scene in a number of ways. There were attendants onsite, to help operate Hoyer lifts and move people from wheelchairs to couches or beds and back again. There were volunteers who provided ASL translation. The bathrooms and entryways could accommodate 300-pound motorized wheelchairs. And, for the first time, people living with disabilities were at the centre of a sexual event designed to include them right from the beginning. “This event and space was for me. I was not an afterthought,” says Andrew Morrison-Gurza.

Morrison-Gurza is a Richmond Hill-based consultant who focuses on sexuality and disability. Earlier this year, he created Deliciously Disabled to further his work, which includes blogging and speaking about his lived experience as a queer man with cerebral palsy. “The brand started back in January, when I did a shoot for Now Magazine’s Love Your Body issue. They didn’t have anyone with a disability and I approached them.” After the shoot, the magazine asked Morrison-Gurza how he wanted to be described in his bio. At first, he went with his usual “queer and disabled” explainer. “And then I said, nope, you know what? I’m going to say I’m deliciously disabled.” A brand was born.

Stella Palikarova, who works on experiences and expressions of disability, came up with the idea for the play party. Last fall, she partnered with Oasis Aqualounge and began searching for venues that could accommodate disabled guests. (Oasis, with its narrow doorways and many stairs, wasn’t going to work.) “I did some poking around in terms of what, if any, accessible sex clubs exist in Toronto. I came up short.” The theatre-slash-event space Buddies in Bad Times was finally chosen after months of searching.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 28, 2015 at 7:44 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “How to ‘get’ and repair Uno Prii Annex grooviness”

The Globe and Mail‘s Dave Leblanc describes how 44 Walmer Road, a tower built in the 19860s from designs by architect Uno Prii, has been sensitively repaired.

Reporting for The Annex Gleaner in May, 2001, modern-architecture enthusiast Alfred Holden lamented the loss of the “curvilinear, circle-patterned balcony railings” at 44 Walmer Rd., and called them the 1969 apartment building’s “most artful and distinguishing feature.”

An Annex resident himself, Mr. Holden had written often about the whimsical designs of Estonian-born architect Uno Prii (1924–2000) and had interviewed the architect at his home, where sculpture, pottery and paintings by Prii’s own hand were in full view.

Mr. Holden argued that, just as the Eaton Centre’s flock of geese were off-limits to alterations – artist Michael Snow successfully sued mall management in 1982 when the fiberglass waterfowl were dressed in red ribbons for Christmas – architectural elements such as metal balcony railings could, perhaps, be considered art as well.

He urged unhappy building residents, who had spoken to a law student, to make waves and create a precedent.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 28, 2015 at 7:43 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Exploring Black Creek, Toronto’s mini-LA River”

Spacing Toronto’s Jake Tobin Garrett has a nice photo essay exploring the largely channelized Black Creek.

I’ve been reading a lot about the LA river recently because of the announcement that Frank Gehry is working with the City of Los Angeles on plans to revitalize the river (plans that some say may clash with previous plans to renaturalize part of it.) So I decided to check out one of Toronto’s own mini-LA rivers, Black Creek.

My first glimpse of Black Creek was before I knew it was Black Creek. I saw it as I passed by on the new UP Express on my way to Newfoundland for a friend’s wedding last month. There, outside the window of the train, I saw a large concrete channel marching down the centre of a street, a trickle of water down its middle. What is that, I thought. It looked so un-Toronto to me.

Turns out it’s part of Black Creek, one of Toronto’s most polluted waterways and the smallest subwatershed of the Humber River, into which it flows.

According to this little history on the Black Creek Conservation Project website, Black Creek was channelized following Hurricane Hazel in 1954 as a way to prevent flooding and whisk stormwater away faster. It was apparently fully surrounded in its open concrete channel by 1965. The effect is pretty dramatic. It’s horrific and beautiful at the same time, in the way that weird, concrete urban things often are where nature has started to reinsert itself in all the little nooks and crannies.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 28, 2015 at 7:40 pm