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3 Quarks Daily
80 Beats (Andrew Moseman, Brett Israel)
A BCer in Toronto (Jeff Jedras)
Acts of Minor Treason (Andrew Barton)
Andart (Anders Sandberg)
Alpha Sources (Claus Vistesen)
Amitai Etzioni Notes (Amitai Etzioni)
Amused Cynicism (Phil Hunt)
'Aqoul (The Lounsbury, Eerie and Matthew Hogan)
Arctic Progress (Anatoly Karlin)
Aufbau Ost (Melanie K.)
Bad Astronomy (Phil Plait)
BAGnewsNotes (Alan Chin, Nina Berman, and John Lucaites)
Bear Left
Behind the Numbers (Population Reference Bureau)
Beyond the Beyond (Bruce Sterling)
BlueJacket 1862
Bonoboland (Edward Hugh)
Bow. James Bow.
Broadsides (Antonia Zerbisias)
Burgh Diaspora (Jim Russell)
A (Budding) Sociologist's Commonplace Book (Dan Hirschman)
Gerry Canavan's blog
Castrovalva (Richard R.)
Centauri Dreams (Paul Gilster)
Charlie's Diary (Charlie Stross)
City of Brass (Aziz Poonawalla)
Crooked Timber
Crossing Toronto (Nick Merzetti)
.:czalex:. (czalex)
[daily dose of imagery] (Sam Javanrouh)
Daniel Drezner
The Dragon's Tales (William Baird)
Draxblog III (Dragan Antulov)
The Early Days of a Better Nation (Ken MacLeod)
Eastern Approaches (Economist blog)
Economic Woman (Allison Martell)
Francesca Elston
Emergent Urbanism (Mathieu Helie)
English Eclectic (Paul Halsall)
Eszter's Blog (Eszter Hargittai)
Everyday Sociology Blog
Extraordinary Observations (Rob Pitingolo)
False Positives (Ian Irving)
Far Outliers (Joel)
A Fistful of Euros
t h e FORVM
Future Babble (Dan Gardner)
Neil Gaiman's Journal Gay Guy, Straight Guy
Gene Expression (Razib et al)
GeoCurrentsEvents (Martin Lewis and Asya Pereltsvaig)
Global Sociology
The Glory of Carniola (Michael Manske)
Dan Goodman's journal
Grumpy Academic
Halfway Down the Danube (Douglas Muir et al.)
The Head Heeb (Jonathan Edelstein)
Hobson's Choice (James R. MacLean)
How to learn Swedish in 1000 difficult lessons (Francis Strand)
Hunting Monsters and inuit bikini scarlet carwash
Infinite Recursion (Stephen Degrace)
Inkless Wells (Paul Wells)
Intuitionistically Uncertain (Michel)
The Invisible College (Nicholas Li, Richard Norman, Otto Spijkers and Jason Strother)
Itching for Eestimaa (Guistino)
Ivor Tossell on the Web
Jim's Occasional Journal of Sorts (Jim Rittenhouse)
Joe.My.God (Joe)
Johnny Pez's blog
Karl Schroeder's blog
Keep Your Coils Clean (Patrick Banks)
Kieran Healy's Weblog
La Grande Anse (Yuri Dieujuste)
Language Hat
Language Log (Mark Liberman et al.)
Larkvi.com weblog (Sean Winslow)
law21.ca (Jordan Furlong)
Lawyers, Guns, and Money
The Long Game (Matt Warren
The Long View (John J. Reilly)
Lost & Found (Erin Gallé)
Love and Fiction (Clifford)
The Map Room (Jonathan Crowe
Marginal Revolution (Tyler Cowen)
Marginalia (Peteris Cedrins)
Mark MacKinnon's blog
Mark Simpson
mathewingram.com/work (Mathew Ingram)
Maximos' Blog (Russell Darnley)
Michael's Bloor-Lansdowne Blog
Michael in Norfolk: Coming Out in Mid Life More Words, Deeper Hole (James Nicoll)
murderingmouth (Mark Kratt)
Networks, Complexity, and Relatedness (Patti Anklam)
The Naked Anthropologist (Laura Agustín)
New APPS blog (group blog)
Nissology PEI (Hans Connor)
No Moods, Ads or Cutesy Fucking Icons (Re-reloaded) (Peter Watts)
Normblog (Norman Geras)
The Numerati (Stephen Baker
Open the Future (Jamais Cascio)
Otto's Random Thoughts (J. Otto Pohl)
Outsourced (Nick Moles)
The Pagan Prattle (Feòrag)
Passing Strangeness (Paul Drye)
patrickcain.ca (Patrick Cain)
pencilprism (Jen Tse) Personal Reflections (Jim Belshaw)
Photosapience Daily (Jerrold)
Pollotencheg (Ukrainian demography blog)
The Power and the Money (Noel Maurer)
Progressive Download (John Farrell)
Purse Lip, Square Jaw (Anne Galloway)
Quiet Babylon (Tim Maly)
Registan (group blog)
Russian Demographic Live Journal (Ba-ldei Aga)
A Rusty Little Box (Rebecca)
Savage Minds
Say It With Pie (Karen Whaley)
The Search (Douglas Todd)
Sharp Blue (Richard Baker)
Siberian Light (Andy Young)
The Signal
Slap Upside the Head (Mark)
Some Ramblings from Mr. Gueguen
Space and Culture
Michael Steeleworthy
Steve Munro
Strange Maps
Sublime Oblivion (Anatoly Karlin)
Supernova Condensate
Tall Penguin
Technology, Books, and Other Neat Stuff (Simon Bisson)
Technosociology(Zeynep Tufekci)
The Tin Man (Jeff)
Towleroad (Andy Towle)
The Undercover Economist (Tim Harford)
Understanding Society (Daniel Little)
Volokh Conspiracy
A Voyage to Arcturus (Jay Manifold)
Wasatch Economics (Scott Peterson)
Wave Without A Shore (C.J. Cherryh)
The Way the Future Blogs (Frederik Pohl)
Weird is Relative (Zarq)
Whatever (John Scalzi)
Window on Eurasia (Paul Goble)
Wis(s)e Words (Martin Wisse)
Words & Pictures (Mark Dandridge)
The Yorkshire Ranter (Alex Harrowell)
The Zeds (Michael Steeleworthy)
Zero Geography (Mark Graham)

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Thursday, August 28th, 2014
10:01 am - [PHOTO] Bear abandoned, in front of Flowers by Shyu, Dupont and Dufferin
Bear abandoned, in front of Flowers by Shyu, Dupont and Dufferin

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Wednesday, August 27th, 2014
7:06 pm - [BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • io9 argues that it's time to survey Uranus, notwithstanding its name.

  • blogTO describes the attractive-sounding art-friendly Harbord Laundry.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes archeological evidence suggesting that Vanuatu was settled three thousand years ago.

  • Joe. My. God. has comments about the Burger King-Tim Horton's merger that really bring American outrage over the shift of the resulting company to Canada for tax purposes home.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the creepy locker-room homophobias of ESPN.

  • Marginal Revolution notes that China is now officially building much more housing than it actually needs.

  • The Planetary Society Blog considers various designs for probes to Jupiter's moon of Europa.

  • Torontoist and blogTO note that Yorkville institution the Coffee Mill is closing down.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy reacts critically to a survey claiming three-quarters of whites have no non-white friends.

  • Window on Eurasia notes Russian concern that support for federalism in Ukraine might spread to Russia, observes the prominent role of Tatars in fighting for Russia in the First World War, and refers to the explicit concerns of Nazarbayev that Kazakhization not be carried too quickly lest the country risk Ukraine's fate.

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3:55 pm - [URBAN NOTE] "The view from a condo"
Kanishk Bhatia's June article at Spacing about the dynamic development of the condo-dominated neighbourhood of Fort York is a thoughtful consideration. When I moved to Toronto a decade ago and walked down there, I saw nothing but wasteland. So much change!

I sometimes pause to reflect on the change that has occurred on this particular plot of land between Bathurst Street and the Princes’ Gate (entrance to Exhibition Place) and bounded by historic Fort York to the north and Lakeshore Boulevard to the south. Much of this section of the city, together with surrounding land south of the rail corridor, was previously re-claimed from the lake and had a largely industrial character for decades. With the eventual displacement of industry, this “dead” space has been transformed into a new residential neighbourhood literally started from scratch – one of several such developments in Toronto in recent years. Today there are thousands of people living here who collectively represent a new chapter in Toronto’s continuing growth.

Unlike City Place to the east which has a relative “sameness” in terms of architectural style (due to much of it being built by a single developer), the ownership of plots was dispersed amongst four developers here, which has had the effect of a slightly more varied mix of building types sprouting up. The City of Toronto went through an extensive master planning process to guide the development of this new neighbourhood in line with its desired city-building principles around elements such as transit access, public realm elements and integration with existing heritage features.

While it could be argued that the term “neighbourhood” may be pre-mature given the area’s development is still very much a work-in-progress (new building construction is still on-going), one can start to see the early signs of a sustainable residential community taking shape. To be sure, it is easy to point out a number of shortcomings based on what exists today, such as the limited public amenities and lack of vibrant street life. However, given the still evolving nature of the development context, it might be wise to wait at least another 10 years before one can reasonably assess the success or failure of the city’s vision for this neighbourhood.

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3:51 pm - [LINK] "Putin's Threat to East Risks New Market Russia Has Cultivated"
Writing for Bloomberg, David Tweed and Ott Ummelas describe how Russian moves in Ukraine are undermining its relationship with non-Chinese East Asia, particularly Japan but also South Korea. (China, conversely, may do nicely.)

As a convoy of white trucks heading from Moscow to Ukraine raises alarm about a potential Russian invasion, Vladimir Putin is opening up a new front on his global chess board.

Putin sparked outrage in Japan with a military drill along Russia’s eastern frontier this week, reigniting a territorial dispute with his Asian neighbor that has festered since the Soviet Union occupied the Kuril Islands, which Japan calls its Northern Territories, at the end of World War II.

The move risks upending years of rapprochement and rising trade with Japan, according to analysts from Tokyo to Washington. It also suggests that Putin is willing to take his European playbook to Asia and subordinate Russia’s economic interests to the calling of power and prestige.

“The military exercises are about projecting confidence and strength,” said Michael Auslin, director of Japan Studies at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. “Putin wants Russia to be seen as a great player in the Pacific, otherwise it’s going to be eclipsed by China.”

[. . .]

Alienating Japan [. . .] raises the risk of Putin becoming even more reliant on China as a destination for Russian goods at a time when he’s running out of global allies. China is already Russia’s biggest trading partner, and three months ago the two countries signed a $400 billion gas-supply deal.

“In the case of China, it may further accelerate the process of Russian-Chinese relations becoming a China-dominated partnership,” said Arkady Moshes, head of the European Union’s Eastern Neighborhood and Russia research program at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs in Helsinki.

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3:44 pm - [LINK] "Shelving to Save a Book's Life"
Susan Coll's article at The Atlantic about the complexities of shelving books on the shelves of bookstores resonates with me.

The rules of shelving can seem arbitrary, even arcane, but the fundamentals are easy to learn: two hard covers, and no more than three paperbacks of the same title, on each shelf. The exception is the face-out. If the jacket is displayed horizontally, behind it you can stack as many books as can fit.

Turning a book face out is an act of tremendous power, or so it feels when you are working at an independent bookstore at a moment that has major chains shrinking and Amazon wreaking havoc with publishing’s already fragile ecosystem. In a bookstore, you can decide, unilaterally, without having to ask permission or sit in an hour-long meeting, to simply face out Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance because, well, because it’s one of your favorite books, and it also solves the problem of what to do with the space left by your desire to consolidate the David Mitchells, which means moving them all to the shelf below.

You can also show a little love to an obscure mid-list paperback you just discovered suffocating between two behemoth hardcovers—simply because it feels like the right thing to do. The positioning will likely only matter for a day or two before the next person doing some shelving undoes your handiwork, sticks three Fine Balances spine out, climbs the giant ladder, and puts the rest in overstock.

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3:42 pm - [LINK] "‘U.S. persons’ in Canada express fear and loathing of tax crackdown"
Douglas Todd's Vancouver Sun article relating to binational American-Canadian citizens and their complaints about controversial new taxation policies is worth reading.

I do have to say that this--at least the mandatory taxation of long-time Canadian residents and holders of Canadian citizenship who are also Americans by birth--sounds bad. Half of my links on Eritrea relate to the Eritrean government's much less sophisticated shakedowns of Eritrean diasporids. Or am I drawing too much similarity between the efforts of two different governments to tax their citizens abroad?

The sense of outrage, loathing and emotional tumult displayed by people in Canada who have direct or indirect U.S. connections reverberates on at least three major websites devoted to the battle against the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, best known as FATCA.

Americans in Canada have written about experiencing emotional breakdowns, marital discord, depression and alcohol dependence on FATCA-protest websites such as The Isaac Brock Society, Maple Sandbox and the Alliance for the Defence of Canadian Sovereignty. Using pseudonyms, they have called Uncle Sam a "global bully," an "oligarchy" and a "desperate fading empire."

Their fury has been heating up since July 1, when the Canadian government brought into effect a complex agreement with the U.S. that requires roughly a million people in Canada who are considered "U.S. persons" to file U.S. income tax statements — or face severe penalties. While many Americans in Canada will not be out of pocket because of FATCA, many will be hit with extra costs, including capital gains on the sale of their Canadian homes.

Upset with what they see as the Conservative government caving into pressure from the U.S. government in its global quest to root out tax "cheats", a group of Canadian citizens this week launched a lawsuit in Federal Court alleging the legislation is unconstitutional.

Two Ontario women with roots in the U.S. — Gwen Deegan of Toronto and Ginny Hillis of Windsor — took the risk of attaching their name to the lawsuit, which was sponsored in part by the Alliance for the Defence of Canadian Sovereignty and is being spearheaded by noted Vancouver constitutional lawyer Joe Arvay.

Deegan, who moved to Canada when she was five years old and has never had a U.S. passport, called Canada's complicity with FATCA "a literal betrayal." She maintained the country in which she was born, but has no meaningful ties, is "plundering" her retirement savings with an "absurd law."

One Metro Vancouver man has also come forward with how appalled he is by the behaviour of the U.S. and Canadian governments, even though he's not a signatory to the lawsuit. James Hamilton, a 55-year-old BC Hydro engineer who lives with his family in Coquitlam, joins many in demanding to know how the U.S. can get away with being the only major country in the world that taxes people based on citizenship, not residency. Hamilton believes the U.S. is engaged in "a big money grab" since its inadequate banking regulations helped throw the world into a financial crisis in 2008.

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12:55 pm - [PHOTO] Looking west on Water Street at Great George, Charlottetown
Looking west on Water Street at Great George, Charlottetown #princeedwardisland #pei #charlottetown #waterstreet #greatgeorgestreet #rain #summer

The brick facade of Gainsford House, which I photographed on last year's visit, is visible.

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10:09 am - [PHOTO] The CN Tower behind the BellMedia complex
The CN Tower behind the BellMedia complex, Queen Street West #toronto #Torontophotos #queenstreet #queenstreetwest #cntower #bellmedia

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Tuesday, August 26th, 2014
9:36 pm - [BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • 3 Quarks Daily considers the ethics of suicide.

  • Slate's Atlas Obscura blog shares photos of Second World War relics in Alaska's Aleutian islands.

  • The Big Picture shares images of Australia's doll hospital.

  • blogTO lists five things Toronto could learn from New York City.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes China's growing presence in Latin America and observes that apes and hmans share the same kind of empathy.

  • Joe. My. God. notes the coming out of an Irish beauty queen.

  • Marginal Revolution expects inequality to start growing in New Zealand.

  • Discover's Out There looks forward to the new age of exploration of Pluto and the rest of the Kuiper belt.

  • The Planetary Society Blog shares beautiful photo mosaics of Neptune from Voyager 2.

  • The Search examines in an interview the use of a hundred million photo dataset from Flickr for research.

  • Torontoist notes a mayoral debate on Toronto heritage preservation.

  • Towleroad observes that a pro-GLBT advertisement won't air on Lithuanian television because of restrictive legislation.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests Ukrainian refugees are being resettled in the North Caucasus to bolster Slav numbers and predicts the quiet decline of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

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7:02 pm - [URBAN NOTE] "For the love of Kensington"
I'm fond of Jason McBride's Toronto Life article from last month, containing interviews with four different Torontonians (and photos!) from Kensington Market on the subject of how that storied neighbourhood has evolved and is continuing to evolve. It's fun.

In the spring of 2012, with my best friend in hospital recovering from cancer surgery and my wife pregnant with our first child, I decided to join the ­Consciousness Explorers Club in Kensington Market. Founded by Jeff ­Warren, a journalist and meditation teacher, the club is dedicated to what he calls “playful spiritual exploration.” One aspect of this was an occasional sweaty dance party at Handlebar on Augusta, but the club also held weekly gatherings and more formal meditation classes in the living room of ­Warren’s Wales Avenue Victorian. A couple of dozen people routinely showed up, a ragtag group of doctors, writers, students, scientists and one youngish mother who sometimes hit the Hot Box pot café around the corner to get a buzz on before class. The novelist Barbara Gowdy, the playwright David Young and the filmmaker Ron Mann were among the regulars. In a room decorated with a large tapestry depicting a tiger, the floor a colourful sea of cushions, Warren led the group in a 40-minute guided meditation. After a tea break, he’d initiate a conversation around a theme—one week might be about notions of community, another week, the consciousness of animals. He called these conversations, which could be both enlightening and tedious, “collective wonderment.”

I had never meditated before in my life, and it took me several weeks to find a comfortable posture (three cushions helped). There was a lot of “sharing,” too, which I reflexively balked at but which became kind of liberating after I finally realized that there was nowhere to hide. And, to my surprise, that I didn’t want to hide. The discussions often got intimate—one guy talked a lot about his anxieties and drug addiction. At one point, I teared up as I meditated on an image of my unborn baby taking a bath. In its most sublime moments, it felt like seeing a shrink—if both you and the shrink were high on ecstasy. In other words, it was all quintessentially ­Kensington.

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4:01 pm - [LINK] "Naomi Lewis's 'my big Jewish nose' essay sparks controversy"
CBC describes the controversy surrounding an extended personal essay by Calgary woman Naomi Lewis, published in the Calgary Herald, describing her complex personal relationship with her nose.

In A Bridge Too Far: The story of my big Jewish nose, 38-year-old Lewis writes about her experience getting a nose job at age 14. She also shares the experiences and complicated relationships between others in her life and their noses.

She interviewed her mother, aunt, father and two cosmetic surgeons in the hope of presenting different perspectives on why some Jewish women feel compelled to get nose jobs.

"It's something that I've thought about quite a bit since it happened and I regretted it," Lewis told CBC Radio's Calgary Eyeopener.

"The more that I thought about it, the more it seemed related to a sort of internalized racism, a kind of after-effect of intergenerational trauma. I have a lot of Holocaust survivors in my family and I think that the cultural phenomena whereby Jewish women have more nose jobs than anyone else, historically, I think is related to that kind of persecution and a kind of internalized self-loathing."

In response to the essay, Calgary Rabbi Shaul Osadchey wrote an op-ed piece blasting it as a "defamatory, borderline anti-Semitic, and anti-multiculturalism article."

Osadchey said the article perpetuates offensive stereotypes that "lead to prejudice and discrimination on an individual level, which in term ultimately leads towards the gas chamber and the path of genocide."

My reaction, as a non-Jewish reader, was that this was a sensitive essay examining one woman's complex relationship with pervasive stereotypes and her own body. You?

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3:54 pm - [LINK] "In Thimphu"
At the London Review of Books blog, Gavin Francis looks at a bookstore in Thimphu, the capital of the still somewhat isolationist Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. Despite everything, books--and the world they represent--still come in.

At the Junction bookshop in Thimphu the manager is reading Sartre’s Age of Reason. ‘I’ve been trying to get hold of Nausea for months,’ she says, ‘but the Indian distributors won’t send it up.’ On a stand in the centre of the shop there are glossy photo books: cute, scruffy waifs; austere Himalayan panoramas; a coffee-table celebration of carved wooden phalluses (the Bhutanese strain of Buddhism employs phallic symbolism with zeal). These are the books laid out for souvenir shoppers. On the shelves, there’s a section dedicated to Ancient Greek drama, another to 19th-century Russian novelists (all in English translation). There’s a volume of Elizabeth Bishop, and some Freud. She has sold her last copy of Infinite Jest but still has a copy of The Pale King.

I take a copy of Barthes’s Mythologies over to the counter. On the floor is a stray dog, one of the custard-coloured mongrels that roll in Thimphu’s dirt by day and howl to one another at night. The manager strokes the dog’s patchy fur. ‘His name is Motay,’ her companion tells me. ‘It means “the fat one”. People here feed him because he barks only at the police.’

On the main square outside there are monks and nuns wearing burgundy robes; some have prayer wheels, others have cell phones. Most of the local men are wearing the gho, a robe with a knee-length skirt a little like a kilt, and the women the ankle-length kira. Bhutan wants its traditional dress to be more than a gimmick for the tourists: at many of the city’s institutions there are signs insisting ‘Formal Dress Only’.

I sit down with the Barthes and open to ‘The Lost Continent’, an essay that scolds the West for stereotyping and exoticising the East. ‘This same Orient which has today become the centre of the world,’ Barthes writes, ‘we see… all flattened, made smooth and gaudily coloured like an old-fashioned postcard.’

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3:50 pm - [LINK] "The Amazing Art on These Communist-Era Houses Was a Rebellion Back Then"
Wired's Margaret Rhodes describes how colourful houses in late-Communist Hungary were a sign of rebellion.

There’s a children’s book from 1977 called The Big Orange Splot. In it, all the houses on one block look the same. Until one day, when a pelican drops a bucket of orange paint on one roof. Instead of painting over it, and returning to the status quo, Mr. Plumbean decorates the roof—and then the facade, and then the yard—with wild, rainbow patterns. His neighbors think he’s lost his mind. But one by one they see the beauty in individual expression, however weird and wacky it may look at first.

The popular book sounds like an allegory about communism, and conformist lifestyles. And as it turns out, something similar happened in the Hungarian countryside in the 1960s, during the height of communism. The result—those decorated houses—are the subject of Hungarian Cubes, by Katharina Roters.

From 1965 to 1988, János Kádár ran things in Hungary. Unlike the leaders of the other Eastern Bloc countries, Kádár practiced a sort of relaxed strain of communism: the Hungarian People’s Republic had a free market, and was tolerant (more than Stalin, at least) of individual voices and public dissent. These policies ultimately became known as “Goulash Communism.” It’s fitting, then, that during the Goulash Communism era, a peculiar architectural trend took off: People started painting the facades of their houses with abstract shapes, in wild shades of color.

It might be more accurate to say a decorating, or public art movement, began to take off, because the architecture style in question began in the 1920s, long before Kádár’s time. It followed the principles of Communist urban planning: city blocks filled with square, economical row houses. They were designed for efficiency, meaning every house was the same, and every house was boring.

That didn’t last forever. In Hungarian Cubes, Roters documents those countryside row houses during Kádár’s reign, after residents started freewheeling with colors and shapes to make it so no two houses looked like. Roters noticed the painted “Magyar Kocka”, or Hungarian Cube, houses in 2003 after moving from Germany to a small Hungarian town. Some of the homes have trompe l’oeil paintings around the window, like facsimiles of shutters or trimming. Others look like abstracted images of sun rays, or harvested crops.

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3:48 pm - [URBAN NOTE] "East end Toronto a developer's dream: Hume"
Christopher Hume's recent Toronto Star article talking about the gentrification of eastern Toronto is worth reading.

The east is red — as in red hot. Suddenly it seems everyone in Toronto wants to be on the other side of Yonge St., an area avoided for generations.

The latest sign of the east end’s new-found desirability is a large mixed-use scheme proposed by Streetcar Developments, a firm with a long history in the district. The triple-towered project would occupy space south of Queen and Broadview.

Even more transformative is what’s unfolding in the West Don Lands. Under the administration of Waterfront Toronto, the 32-hectare site is fast becoming one of the city’s most intriguing new neighbourhoods. Organized around Corktown Common, a park that sits on a giant mound of earth created to control flooding on the Don River, the district was an industrial wasteland. The cement plant at King and River has been replaced now by elegant condos and social housing whose architecture is as laudable as its intentions.

The massive Athletes’ Village constructed for the 2015 Pan-Am Games will be turned into a student residence for nearby George Brown College once the jocks have departed. With narrow streets and extra-wide sidewalks, accessible park and transit, the Don Lands will be the first neighbourhood in Toronto to incorporate the best of 21st-century urbanism.

Though much remains incomplete, it’s a safe bet the new community will be a busy and vibrant place that attracts families as well as the usual hordes of young and upwardly mobile.

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12:39 pm - [PHOTO] Charlottetown City Hall, decked out for PEI 2014
Charlottetown City Hall, decked out for PEI 150 #princeedwardisland #pei150 #pei #charlottetown #cityhall #charlottetowncityhall

The main difference between this picture of Charlottetown City Hall and the picture I took during my 2013 trip is that this photo sees City Hall adorned with Canadiana-themed bunting. Presumably this is part of the PEI 2014 event celebrating the 150th anniversary of Canadian confederation.

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10:11 am - [PHOTO] Watching the World Cup in the Galleria
Watching the World Cup in the Galleria

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Monday, August 25th, 2014
11:00 pm - [LINK] "Healthy Words"
Alec Ash's post at the London Review of Books' blog about the popularity of science fiction in China touches upon something I'd last mentioned in 2007 in relation to Robert Sawyer's popularity in that country.

In 1902 Lu Xun translated Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon into Chinese from the Japanese edition. Science fiction, he wrote in the preface, was ‘as rare as unicorn horns, which shows in a way the intellectual poverty of our time’. Not any more. The Three-Body Trilogy by Liu Cixin has sold 500,000 copies in China since the first volume was published in 2006 (it will come out in English in the autumn). Liu, an engineer, is one of the so-called ‘three generals’ of contemporary Chinese science fiction, along with Wang Jinkang and Han Song.

‘Sci fi,’ Han says, ‘can express a lot that can’t be expressed in other literature.’ His most recent collection of stories, High Speed Rail, begins with a train crash that recalls the politically sensitive rail collision in Wenzhou in July 2011. In an earlier novella, Taiwan Drifts, Taiwan has broken free from its moorings and is on a literal collision course with the mainland. Unsurprisingly, much of Han’s work isn’t published in the People’s Republic.

or is The Fat Years (2009) by Chan Koonchung. Set in 2013, it depicts an ‘age of Chinese ascendancy’ following a massive global financial crash. But the month-long crackdown that launched the golden era is missing from the population’s collective memory, and the water supply is probably spiked with a drug to keep everyone mildly euphoric. ‘The people fear chaos more than they fear dictatorship,’ a high-ranking Party official says.

But not being published in China doesn’t mean not being read. A lot of ‘unpublished’ sci fi is freely available online, and censors are engaged in a permanent game of cat-and-mouse with allusive writers and readers alert to disguised meanings. ‘For a long time,’ Chan told me, ‘Chinese intellectuals used history as a fable to talk about the present. Now, the newer generation is using science fiction to write about the present.’ (There are a few venerable precedents: Cat Country by Lao She was published in 1932; an English translation came out last year. It’s set in a Martian civilisation of cat-like people addicted to ‘reverie leaves’, oppressed by both physically stronger foreigners and the architects of ‘Everybody Shareskyism’.)

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8:58 pm - [NEWS] Some Monday links

  • Al Jazeera notes the likely controversies surrounding a new Chinese cartoon spotlighting an Uighur concubine of a Chinese emperor, and looks at the deeper diversity of Martha's Vineyard.

  • Bloomberg notes the risk of Israel slumping into recession, reports on Burger King's interest in acquiring Tim Hortons, notes that Côte d'Ivoire is still trying to sell public debt, comments on the role played by Dutch anger over the MH17 plane attacl in organizing the European Union sanctions against Russia, and describes the slim hope for upcoming Russian-Ukrainian talks.

  • CBC Prince Edward Island reports on a shocking double homicide in eastern Prince Edward Island, a shooting of a father and his son.

  • The Forward wonders who leaked an Israeli cabinet consideration of the reoccupation of Gaza.

  • An older MacLean's report suggests that Tim Horton's depends on low-cost imported labour to sustain an ultimately unsustainable growth strategy. A much newer one reports on the defection of another Bloc Québécois MP.

  • The Toronto Standard notes that Rob and Doug Ford were the only people on city council to vote against a new practice facility for the Toronto Raptors.

  • Universe Today notes that the ESA has selected five landing sites for the Philae comet lander, and observes that NASA's New Horizons Pluto probe has just crossed the orbit of Neptune.

  • In the realm of photography, Wired reports on Humans of New York's new global coverage and examines street photography in New York City.

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7:02 pm - [BLOG] Some Monday links

  • blogTO reports on the latest doings of blood-painting artist Istvan Kantor.

  • The Dragon's Gaze posts links to a two-part study (1, 2) suggesting that there aren't any high-energy galaxy-dominating civilizations in the universe, at least not easily detectable ones.

  • Joe. My. God. notes that a serial killer of gay men in Seattle says he was trying to wreak vengeance for American policy in the Middle East.

  • Language Log analyses a fascinating study of pronoun use by gender on Facebook.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money marks the 200th anniversary of the burning of the White House in the War of 1812.

  • Personal Reflections' Jim Belshaw is tiring</u> of the use of slogans as a replacement for communication.

  • Livejournal's pollotenchegg maps the demographics of Kiev.

  • Towleroad reports on the furor prompted by Sam Smith's dismissal of dating apps like Grindr as not conducive to romance.

  • Transit Toronto celebrates the imminent return of streetcars to Spadina Avenue.

  • Window on Eurasia links to a Russian analyst who thinks that Stalin shouldn't have annexed Galicia to the Soviet Union, so as to prevent the formation of a separate and potentially anti-Russian Ukraine.

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3:25 pm - [URBAN NOTE] "Toronto’s elephants get back to basics in California"
The Toronto Star's Laura Armstrong reports that the Toronto Zoo's three elephants, relocated recently to a reserve in California, seem to be doing well in their new home.

It’s dry season in San Andreas, where California’s ongoing drought and prolonged excessively hot weather make a fire hose at the Performing Animal Welfare Society Wildlife Sanctuary a welcome escape for three African elephants as familiar with frigid winters as drawn-out summers.

Iringa buries her head in the ground and kicks her foot up in the air as she bathes in the steady stream. Toka wiggles down in the mud, throwing dirt with her trunk, basking in the oozing slime.

This is probably the first year the ground these two elephants call home hasn’t frozen, said sanctuary co-founder Ed Stewart. Iringa and Toka, along with a third elephant, Thika, moved from the Toronto Zoo to their warm, sprawling habitat last fall.

[. . .]

Despite protests from zoo staff, the elephants’ relocation was finally pushed through in late 2012, when city council reaffirmed its decision to move the mammals to the sanctuary, which takes in retired zoo and circus elephants. Barker funded the October 2013 transport.

In the nine months since their hotly-contested move, Iringa, 45, Toka, 44, and Thika, 33, have started acting like elephants in the wild rather than captive creatures, Stewart said.

“Natural behaviour is exhibited a lot, like every single day,” Stewart said. “Every day they resemble elephants in Africa.”

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