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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

[BLOG] Some Sunday links

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  • Language Hat reports on the Wenzhounese of Italy.
  • Language Log writes about the tones of Cantonese.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money writes about the costs of law school. (They are significant, and escalating hugely.)
  • Marginal Revolution reports on the problems facing the Brazilian pension system, perhaps overgenerous for a relatively poor country facing rapid aging.
  • Neuroskeptic reports on the latest re: the crisis of scientists not being able to replicate evidence, now even their own work being problematic.
  • Personal Reflections considers the questions of how to preserve the dignity of people facing Alzheimer’s.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog notes a Financial Times article looking at the impact of aging on global real estate.
  • Spacing Toronto talks about the campaign to name a school after Jean Earle Geeson, a teacher and activist who helped save Fort York.
  • At Wave Without A Shore, C.J. Cherryh shares photos of her goldfish.
  • Window on Eurasia notes growing instability in Daghestan, looks at the latest in Georgian historical memory, and shares an article arguing that Putin’s actions have worsened Russia’s reputation catastrophically.

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

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  • Centauri Dreams looks at the SPECULOOS red dwarf observation program.
  • The Crux examines VX nerve agent, the chemical apparently used to assassinate the half-brother of North Korea’s ruler.
  • Dangerous Minds shares photos of the inhabitants of the Tokyo night, like gangsters and prostitutes and drag queens.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money examines Donald Trump’s tepid and belated denunciation of anti-Semitism.
  • Language Log looks at the story of the Wenzhounese, a Chinese group notable for its diaspora in Italy.
  • The LRB Blog looks at the by-elections in the British ridings of Stoke and Copeland and notes the problems of labour.
  • The Map Room Blog shares a post-Brexit map of the European Union with an independent Scotland.
  • Marginal Revolution reports that a border tax would be a poor idea for the United States and Mexico.
  • The NYRB Daily looks at the art of the medieval Tibetan kingdom of Guge.
  • Otto Pohl notes the 73rd anniversary of Stalin’s deportation of the Chechens and the Ingush.
  • Supernova Condensate points out that Venus is actually the most Earth-like planet we know of. Why do we not explore it more?
  • Towleroad notes Depeche Mode’s denunciation of the alt-right and Richard Spencer.
  • Whatever’s John Scalzi considers the question of feeling empathy for horrible people.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the thousands of Russian citizens involved with ISIS and examines the militarization of Kaliningrad.

[URBAN NOTE] “An Honest Farewell: goodbye Honest Ed’s, hello Toronto’s diverse future”

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NOW Toronto‘s Susan G. Cole reports on An Honest Farewell, this weekend’s ongoing festivities surrounding the closing of Honest Ed’s. I really do like this urban initiative, and I have been and will be taking part in it: I went to the community market in the old Bad Boys space just now, and tomorrow morning I will be doing the art maze. (Photos, among other things, will be coming from me.)

AN HONEST FAREWELL a festival celebrating inclusiveness, community and social innovation, at Honest Ed’s (581 Bloor West), Thursday to Sunday (February 23 to 26). $16.50 for some events. Buy tickets and/or register at torontoforeveryone.com.

We know it’s coming. We might even admit that it’s about time. But many of us are dreading it: that moment when Honest Ed’s goes down. Not the store – that happened last year – but the building, that crazy edifice festooned with neon that flashed garishly at the corner of Bloor and Bathurst.

But the Centre for Social Innovation is turning this sad moment in Toronto history into an opportunity. An Honest Farewell, their multi-day culture fest, celebrates the past, present and future with the accent on building a city that is joyously inclusive.

The fact that I’m talking to co-producers Hima Batavia and Negin Sairafi just days after U.S. President Trump has announced his travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries lends the project a new urgency. T.O. is always promoting its diversity, but with xenophobes taking over below the 49th parallel, protecting that inclusiveness takes on new meaning.

“My passport says Iran,” explains Sairafi, angered by the confusion the executive order has created. “So I can’t travel to the States. Then again, maybe I can. It’s a privilege to be able to travel and to have a Canadian passport, but it’s still ironic that I’m working on a project like this and having to face the reality of what people are going through around the world. It makes our work – and especially what we do after this – so much more important.”

When Sairafi mentions what comes after An Honest Farewell, she’s referring to the fact that the fest says goodbye to an iconic edifice but also launches CSI’s Toronto For Everyone (TO4E) campaign to build a city committed to inclusiveness.

But the focus for four days beginning February 23 is a cultural blitz that transforms the one-time bargain emporium into an arts extravaganza and venue for public debate on the city’s future.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 24, 2017 at 10:30 pm

[BLOG] Seven links on the TRAPPIST-1 system

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News of the remarkable density of planets, including potentially Earth-like planets, in the system of nearby ultra-cool dwarf TRAPPIST-1 spread across the blogosphere. This NASA JPL illustration comparing the TRAPPIST-1 worlds with the four rocky worlds of our own solar system, underlining the potential similarity of some worlds to the worlds we know like Venus and Mars and even Earth, went viral.

Supernova Condensate provided a good outline of this system in the post “A tiny red sun with a sky full of planets!”.

One interesting thing is that TRAPPIST-1 is tiny. Really tiny! It’s a class M8V ultracool red dwarf, which really is about as small as a star can get while still being a star. Much smaller and it wouldn’t be able to even fuse hydrogen. I’ve put it side by side with a few other familiar celestial objects in this image. As you can see, it’s a little bigger than Jupiter. It’s actually roughly the same size as HD189733b, a much studied hot jupiter, and noticeably smaller than Proxima, our friendly neighbourhood red dwarf. Lalande 21185 is on the larger end of the scale of red dwarfs, and is also one of the few you can actually see in the night sky (though you’ll need a dark sky to find it).

Ultracool red dwarfs really are tiny, but they’re also extremely long lived. Quietly burning stellar embers which exemplify the old saying that slow and steady wins the race. Because these little stars don’t burn their fuel too quickly, and because they’re low enough in mass to be fully convective, they can burn for trillions of years. Long after the Sun exhausts the fuel in its core, flares into a red giant and then cools silently in the darkness, TRAPPIST-1 will still be burning, providing warmth for it’s little planetary entourage.

Not much warmth, mind you. TRAPPIST-1’s handful of planets are huddling around their parent star as if it were campfire on a cold night. The entire star system would fit inside Mercury’s orbit and still have cavernous amounts of room to spare. So close are those planets, that they have years which pass by in mere Earth days. The shortest has a year which is just 1.5 Earth days long. The longest year length in the system is still less than a month.

aureliaOf course, I say Earth days, because these planets don’t have days as such. They’re so close to their parent star that they’re certain to be tidally locked. The gravitational forces are sufficiently different that they cannot rotate at all. One side constantly faces the tiny red sun in the sky, and the other side constantly faces outwards towards the cold night. It’s quite likely that the night sides of these planets may be frozen in a permanent winter night, never gaining enough warmth to thaw. Half a planet of permanent Antarctica.

Supernova Condensate was kind enough to produce an illuminating graphic, hosted at “Model Planets”, comparing the TRAPPIST-1 system to (among others) the Earth-Moon system and to Jupiter and its moons. The TRAPPIST-1 system is tiny.

The Planetary Society Blog’s Franck Marchis wrote a nice essay outlining what is and is not known, perhaps most importantly pointing out that while several of the TRAPPIST-1 worlds are in roughly the right position in their solar system to support life, we do not actually know if they do support life. Further research is called for, clearly.

Centauri Dreams’ “Seven Planets Around TRAPPIST-1” has great discussion in the comments, concentrating on the potential for life on these worlds and on the possibility of actually travelling to the TRAPPIST-1 solar system. The later post “Further Thoughts on TRAPPIST-1” notes that these worlds, which presumably migrated inwards from the outer fringes of their solar system, might well have arrived with substantial stocks of volatiles like water. If this survived the radiation of their young and active sun, they could be watery worlds.

The cultural implication of these discoveries, meanwhile, has also come up. Jonathan Edelstein has written in “We Just Got Our ’30s Sci-Fi Plots Back” about how TRAPPIST-1, by providing so many potentially habitable planets so close to each other, would be an ideal setting for an early spacefaring civilization, and for imaginings of said. If a sister world is scarcely further than the moon, why not head there? Savage Minds, meanwhile, in “The Resonance of Earth, Other Worlds, and Exoplanets”, hosts a discussion between Michael P. Oman-Reagan and Lisa Messeri talking about the cultural significance of these and other discoveries, particularly exploring how they create points of perceived similarity used as markers of cultural import.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • At Antipope, Charlie Stross wonders–among other things–what the Trump Administration is getting done behind its public scandals.
  • blogTO notes a protest in Toronto aiming to get the HBC to drop Ivanka Trump’s line of fashion.
  • Dangerous Minds reflects on a Talking Heads video compilation from the 1980s.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money reflects on a murderous attack against Indian immigrants in Kansas.
  • The LRB Blog looks at “post-Internet art”.
  • Lovesick Cyborg notes an attack by a suicide robot against a Saudi warship.
  • Strange Maps links to a map of corruption reports in France.
  • Torontoist reports on Winter Stations.
  • Understanding Society engages in a sociological examination of American polarization, tracing it to divides in race and income.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes the many good reasons behind the reluctance of cities around the world to host the Olympics.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that where the Ingush have mourned their deportation under Stalin the unfree Chechens have not, reports that Latvians report their willingness to fight for their country, looks at what the spouses of the presidents of post-Soviet states are doing, and notes the widespread opposition in Belarus to paying a tax on “vagrancy.”
  • Arnold Zwicky looks at the linguistic markers of the British class system.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

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  • blogTO notes that the redevelopment of Toronto’s Port Lands is continuing.
  • Crooked Timber argues that climate denialism exposes the socially constructed nature of property rights.
  • D-Brief notes the reburial of Kennewick Man.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes there is no sign of a second planet around Proxima Centauri.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money looks at life in Texas.
  • The LRB Blog analyzes Milo’s stumble.
  • Marginal Revolution considers the levels of disorderliness different societies, like Sweden, can tolerate.
  • The NYRB Daily reports on the poisoning of a Russian dissident.
  • The Planetary Society Blog suggests Voyager 1 picked up Enceladus’ plumes.
  • Peter Rukavina writes of his mapping of someone’s passage on the Camino Francés.
  • Supernova Condensate looks at the United Arab Emirates’ plan to build a city on Mars in a century.
  • Torontoist reported on a protest demanding action on the overdose crisis.

  • Towleroad describes the plight of Mr. Gay Syria in Istanbul and reports on the progress of same-sex marriage in Finland.
  • Understanding Society considers the complexity of managing large technological projects.
  • Window on Eurasia links to one Russian writer arguing Putin should copy Trump and links to anotehr suggesting the Russian Orthodox Church is overreaching.

[ISL] “Shetland Islands toy with idea of post-Brexit independence”

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Euractiv carries an AFP report looking into the possibility that Scotland’s Shetland Islands might, in the case of the United Kingdom falling apart, try to separate from Scotland to form a sort of West Nordic microstate thanks to the oil in the archipelago’s waters.

Of all the consequences of the Brexit vote, the fate of the Shetland Islands in the North Atlantic and their oil fields and fisheries may not top the list for negotiators in Westminster and Brussels. But it soon might.

But the prospect of a new bid for Scottish independence as Britain leaves the EU is making some residents of these rugged islands think again about whether they would be better off alone.

“It would be wonderful,” Andrea Manson, a Shetland councillor and a leading figure in the Wir Shetland movement for greater autonomy, told AFP.

The movement’s name means “Our Shetland” in the local Scots dialect, a derivation of Middle English which has replaced the islands’ original Germanic language, Norn.

The remote archipelago, already fiercely independent in spirit, is geographically and culturally closer to Scandinavia than to Edinburgh, and politically more aligned with London and Brussels.

In the past 1,300 years, Shetland has been overrun by Scandinavian Vikings, pawned to Scotland as a wedding dowry by Denmark, subsumed into the United Kingdom in 1707, and dragged into the European Economic Community against its will in 1973.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 22, 2017 at 7:00 pm