January 2nd, 2017

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • Anthropology.net looks at archeological findings revealing what people ate in the area of the Levant 780 thousand years ago.

  • D-Brief notes Amazon's patenting of mothership and drone technology.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper looking at how quickly hot Jupiters lose their atmospheres.

  • Far Outliers notes the numerology of 1979.

  • Language Hat links to an essay by a writer of Chinese origin talking about what it means to abandon writing in one's native language.

  • Language Log looks at European Union English's latest definitions.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money argues in favour of holding corporations responsible for their supply chains, worldwide.

  • Marginal Revolution notes a San Francisco restaurant that serves food on Ipads.

  • Steve Munro calculates the effect of uneven headways on TTC bus routes.

  • Neuroskeptic notes that creationists who claim Charles Darwin contributed to the extinction of Tasmanian Aborigines appear to be lying.

  • The NYRB Daily reports on an exhibition of the abstract art of Carmen Herrera.

  • Towleroad notes an effort to recreate the sounds of 18th century Paris.

  • Transit Toronto notes higher TTC prices.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests Putin's regime is increasingly totalitarian, argues the lessons some Russians take from stardom is that reforms lead to revolution, and notes Tatarstan's being hauled back into line.

  • Arnold Zwicky pays tribute to departed soc.motsser Harold Arthur Faye.

[META] More blogroll and news links

The start of a new year is a good time to add links to my blogroll, bloggish and otherwise.


[META] On one impending good reason to move from Livejournal

Dwight on Facebook linked to a Metafilter feature noting that the servers of Livejournal--the social networking and blogging platform I got started on, the social networking and blogging platform that I still use--has moved to Russia. In light of that country's issues with basic freedoms, it's probably worth considering ending blogging on this platform.

As of a few days ago, the IP addresses for blogging service LiveJournal have moved to 81.19.74.*, a block that lookup services locate in Moscow, Russia. Now users -- especially those who do not trust the Russian government -- are leaving the platform and advising others to leave.

For years, the online blogging community LiveJournal -- popular in Russia, Belarus, and the Ukraine -- has served as a key communications platform for Russian dissidents (the Committee to Protect Journalists earlier this month called on Russian authorities to release a LiveJournal user who has been sentenced to 2 years in prison for a critical blog post). Even after Russian company SUP bought it from California-based Six Apart in 2007 (previously), the fact that SUP continued to run the servers in the US meant that users felt relatively safe; a 2009 press release specifically said that LiveJournal, Inc.* would continue to run technical operations and servers in the United States (and claimed that 5.7 million LiveJournal users were Russia-based).

[. . .]

Tracerouting livejournal.com now points to a Moscow location and an ISP operated by Rambler Internet Holding LLC, the company that also owns SUP. (Former LiveJournal user Gary McGath says that a few days ago, he checked the IP location of livejournal.com, and it was in San Francisco.) LiveJournal's official news posts do not mention the change; users have begun to ask questions there and on their own journals.

[ISL] "How PEI’s oyster farmers reap cold, hard cash in an icy season"

The Globe and Mail's features Lindsay James' photo-heavy article looking at how North Shore fishers harvest oysters in winter. Fascinating stuff.

“Has anybody not fallen through?” says oyster farmer James Power, as he stands on 15 centimetres of ice in the middle of New London Bay, off the coast of Prince Edward Island.

Mr. Power’s question raises chuckles from his farmhands as they remember their own mishaps on the ice.

“You swim to the edge. It’s actually quite easy,” says Mr. Power, manager of Raspberry Point Oysters. “We’ve had people fall in who actually don’t even get wet they’re out so quick. Nine out of the 10 times that I fall in, it’s one leg and no one sees it. It’s more embarrassing than anything.”

On this December day, the sky is thick with clouds and PEI’s winter oyster harvest in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is in full swing. Hundreds of bays and coves that notch the island’s coastline are covered with ice, creating giant coolers for the prized treasure beneath.

Oyster farmers start when the ice is thick enough, carving holes in it with chainsaws before diving in to haul the oysters over the ice – all to meet the demand for PEI’s world-renowned oysters in wintertime, when they’re at their plumpest and sweetest.

In recent years, the province’s oyster industry has exploded, jumping in value from about $6.3-million in 2000 to $12.8-million in 2015. Last year, PEI produced 3,422 tonnes of farmed oysters, according to Statistics Canada, and this year, the province says it topped that with the biggest catch in history. (About 30 per cent of farmed oysters produced in Canada are grown on PEI, with the bulk of them going to wholesalers in Quebec and Ontario.)

[ISL] "Keeping the faith: How some churches stay busy after Christmas"

CBC News' Nicole Williams reports on the struggle of Island churches to have parishoners who attend holiday services attend non-holiday services, too.

For many Christians, attending church is a biannual tradition on two major holidays: Christmas and Easter — but many churches would like to see people in pews for the other Sundays of the year.

"We had over 600 people," said Karen MacCannell, a pastoral associate at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, a Catholic church in Cornwall, P.E.I., of Christmas weekend.

MacCannell said big crowds are typical at Christmas and Easter, where they need set up extra seating and even an overflow room in the church basement.

But it's not so much the case the rest of the year.

"It definitely fluctuates," said MacCannell.

[ISL] "Working Title: Indie movie filmed on P.E.I. released on YouTube"

CBC News' Sarah Betts reports on how some young Island filmmakers are getting their work out there. This is exciting stuff: the Internet age really can unleash much creativity.

When Charlie Steele didn't get accepted into film school, he knew there was only one thing he could do: make his own film.

Steele's first project, Working Title, was filmed on the Island and premiered at the Silver Fox Curling Club in Summerside on Dec. 22.

"I was really nervous and unsure of what I was going to do with my year and kind of my answer to that was, 'Well, if I didn't get accepted to film school, if I'm gonna keep up, I'd better start writing a project right now,'" he said.

The film was made using equipment and acting skills from people he only kind of knew before filming began.

Their Facebook profile is here.

[URBAN NOTE] "Cheque Day in the Downtown Eastside"

This multiply-authored feature in The Globe and Mail takes a vivid look at the worsening drug problem in the Downtown Eastside in the era of fentanyl and related opiates.

Deirdre is leaning against an alley wall, prepping a needle full of crystal methamphetamine that could be contaminated with fentanyl. She and a friend have paused to cheer as an employee of a nearby needle exchange rushes over to revive an overdosing man.

“Breathe bro, breeeeathe!” another bystander shouts as he gently slaps the man’s blue face while the employee preps oxygen and a syringe of naloxone that can reverse the deadly effects of opioids.

A small team of firefighters and paramedics take over. The first responders believe the man – Justin – is the one they revived in the same spot a day earlier.

Deirdre, who asked that her real name not be used, and her friend prepare their rigs and inject them into their arms, the scene in front of them no deterrent to the risk that could put them on the pavement in need of a similar lifesaving intervention.

It is 11:29 a.m. on a frigid Wednesday morning– the second-last Wednesday of December, when millions of dollars of social-assistance payments flood into the Downtown Eastside, or DTES. For recipients who regularly use drugs, this day – known in the neighbourhood as “Cheque Day,” “Welfare Wednesday” or “Mardi Gras” – dramatically increases their risk of a fatal overdose.

Though much of Canada has felt the effects of the fentanyl-driven overdose crisis, British Columbia has been hardest hit, experiencing more fatal overdoses this year than in three decades of record-keeping. The death toll is expected to climb to more than 800. Two weeks ago, eight overdose deaths were recorded in the Downtown Eastside in a single day.

[URBAN NOTE] "The Year in Housing: The Middle Class Can't Afford to Live in Cities Anymore"

Emily Dreyfuss' Wired article looks specifically at the situation in the United States, but the underlying trends are present in other countries like Canada. Past a certain point, I can imagine serious negative economic consequences: How can cities remain prosperous if so many people cannot afford to live within them?

In the center of Boston rises the small neighborhood of Fort Hill, on top of which sits Highland Park, designed in the 1800s by Frederick Olmsted.1 Patriots stored gunpowder here during the Revolutionary War, and a tower fit for Repunzel commemorates their efforts. The abolitionist writer William Lloyd Garrison fought against slavery from a house on this hill. And now the battle for urban housing affordability rages on these streets. It’s a microcosm of the battle playing out on a neighborhood level in every growing city in America: a battle between those who want to keep property values high, and those who want the chance to live in the cities that have the best economic prospects.

If cities want to retain a middle class, experts say, they will have to make it happen on their own.

The casualties in this war are mostly the middle class. In 2016, rents continued their years-long rise, incomes stratified further, and the average price to buy a home in major US cities rose. The strain pushed the middle class out of cities like Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Austin—the so-called “hot cities.” Some families move to the suburbs. Others flee for less expensive cities. But across the US, the trend holds: cities are increasingly home to high-rollers who can pay the high rents or down payments and lower income people who qualify for subsidized housing.

Macroeconomists say this a good problem to have. These cities are growing. People want to live in them. Stagnating economies in the Rust Belt might envy this kind of trouble. From the perspective of the overall wealth of cities, the middle class being pushed out doesn’t matter. But it matters on the human level, the neighborhood level. In Fort Hill, it means that a teacher at the local elementary school cannot afford to live in the neighborhood where she works. The effects on inequality, mobility, and the demographic composition of cities are very real, their causes multifold, and the solutions difficult.

Experts reading into president-elect Donald Trump’s proposed tax and housing policies—including his appointment of Ben Carson to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development—see little hope that the federal government will help reverse this course next year. If cities want to retain a middle class, experts say, they will have to make it happen on their own.

[LINK] "Neanderthals On A Boat"

Anthropology.net's Kambiz Kamrani reports on an exciting archeological finding from the Aegean, suggesting that Neanderthals or a different hominid population managed to reach the Greek islands.

Mousterian spearheads, a classic Neanderthal tool type, were excavated from the Stelida archeological site on the Greek island of Naxos by from McMaster University. There has been a long time belief that the first people to colonize this particular region were early farmers who arrived by boat approximately 9,000 years ago. These artifacts imply something much much different as they could be 250,000 years old. Archaeologist, Tristan Carter, co-director, comments on the these artifacts,

““The stone tools they were finding on the site looked nothing like the stone tools that had ever been found before on prehistoric sites in the Cycladic Islands.””

The Mousterian culture is Paleolithic. And these spear heads furnish evidence that humans reached the islands of the Aegean Sea a quarter million years ago and maybe earlier. If confirmed, it means the first people on Naxos were Neanderthals, or their probable ancestors, Homo heidelbergensis or maybe even Homo erectus. But how did they get there -Could these archaic hominins have travelled by boat?

[URBAN NOTE] "Customer calls police after Ossington dispensary allegedly robbed"

The Toronto Star's Emma Mcintosh and Ebyan Abdigir report on one new, wholly unnecessary, reason to be skeptical of dispensaries in Toronto: If they won't report violent crimes committed against them, there are obvious public safety issues.

Justin was paying at the counter of his local dispensary when he says about four masked men - one with a gun - burst through the door, screaming for him to get on the ground.

The alleged holdup happened around 10 p.m. Dec. 21 at the Canna Clinic on Ossington Ave. according to Justin, who said police told him not to publish his full name in the interest of his own safety.

About 20 customers and eight staff flattened themselves to the ground as the robbers cleaned the dispensary out of cash and marijuana, Justin said.

“I was petrified,” he said. “Everything was stripped when they were gone.”

When the ordeal was over, Justin said he left, assuming staff would call the police. But when he went by Thursday morning, he was surprised to find that wasn’t the case.

When he asked about the robbery at the counter, he said the staff either claimed they didn’t know about a robbery or denied outright that it had happened. After an employee finally admitted that a robbery had taken place, Justin said he asked if they’d called the police.

[LINK] "China to Shut Down Its Ivory Trade by the End of 2017"

National Geographic's Jani Actman reports on new hope from China re: the world trade in elephant ivory.

China will shut down its domestic ivory trade by the end of 2017, according to an announcement made today by the Chinese government.

The announcement comes more than a year after China's President Xi Jinping and United States President Barack Obama pledged to enact “nearly complete bans” on the import and export of ivory, an agreement Wildlife Watch reporter Rachael Bale described as “the most significant step yet in efforts to shut down an industry that has fueled the illegal hunting of elephants.”

It also follows a commitment made in October by the international community to close domestic ivory markets.

“This is the best New Year’s present I’ve ever had,” says Sue Lieberman, vice president of international policy for the Wildlife Conservation Society, a nonprofit based in New York City that works to help save elephants and other wildlife. “China is the world’s largest market, both of small ivory items and high-end, expensive ones.”

The global ivory trade has been banned since 1989, but during recent years large-scale poaching has resumed, and elephant numbers have fallen as low as 415,000. Advocates believe that legal domestic ivory markets perpetuate an illegal trade because older, pre-ban ivory can’t easily be distinguished from poached ivory.

[URBAN NOTE] "Burlington evidence room the final resting place for many ivory artifacts"

The Toronto Star's Peter Goffin reports on a very sad repository in Burlington for ivory objects, among others, caught by customs.

Lonny Coote sweeps his hand over a snow leopard pelt and a tin of caviar, reaches past a stuffed parrot, exotic medicines, $11,000 alligator shoes, and points to a tiny white figurine.

It’s ivory, delicately carved into a three-inch elephant and mounted on a little wooden platform. It sits next to a short elephant tusk.

“These were seized from 888 Auctions,” he says.

Coote is regional director of Environment Canada’s Wildlife Enforcement Directorate, the government body that polices the trade of endangered and threatened species.

His team’s “evidence room,” in a non-descript government building in Burlington, Ont., is the final resting place for hundreds of trophies, tchotchkes and fashion mistakes imported or exported illegally and confiscated by the government.

888 Auctions, a Richmond Hill-based seller of antiques, pleaded guilty on Nov. 14 to exporting the carved elephant, a small elephant tusk, and a leather case made from python skin.

The company and its director, Dong Heon Kim, were fined a combined $12,500 and sentenced to two years’ probation. Their endangered animal goods ended up in Coote’s evidence room.

[PHOTO] Thirteen photos of Honest Ed's, 31 December 2016

On Saturday the 31st of December, 2016, I visited Honest Ed's on its last day of operation. There was very little merchandise available for sale, tattered shopping bags and old signs and (odddly enough) 2016 Sunday missals aside. There were plenty of other fellow sightseers, even photographers. It was a nice shared experience, bidding goodbye to an institution that had been around for generations.

All of my photos are hosted on my Flickr account, and are also viewable in this Facebook album.

Honest Ed's, 31 December 2016



Closed off

Glamour of old

Taking photos

Signs for sale


63 Years

Thank you

"We don't want this"

Photography in The Alley

Looking west, Bloor at Bathurst