- D-Brief considers if gas giant exoplanet Kelt-9b is actually evaporating.
- The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper that considers where to find signs of prior indigenous civilizations in our solar system. (The Moon, Mars, and outer solar system look good.
- Joe. My. God. reveals the Israeli nuclear option in the 1967 war.
- Language Log shares a clip of a Nova Scotia Gaelic folktale about a man named Donald.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the ongoing deportations of Hispanic undocumented migrants from the United States.
- The LRB Blog notes the brittle rhetoric of May and the Conservatives.
- The NYRB Daily mourns the Trump Administration's plans for American education.
- Savage Minds considers the world now in the context of the reign of the dangerous nonsense of Neil Postman.
- Strange Maps shares a map documenting the spread of chess from India to Ireland in a millennium.
- Window on Eurasia argues that the Russian government needs to do more to protect minority languages.
CBC News' Kerry Campbell shares news from the slowly-unfolding online gambling scandal, revealing the identities of the three politicians whose E-mails went mysteriously missing.
Chris LeClair. Melissa MacEachern. Rory Beck.
Those are the three names the Official Opposition was searching for when members asked government over and over during the fall sitting of the legislature — "whose emails were deleted?"
It wasn't anyone from the MacLauchlan government that provided the answers today however. It was Auditor General Jane MacAdam.
Her investigation into the province's failed e-gaming plan included a special section on government records management, which concluded safeguards to protect records were not being followed, thus, "government records can easily be destroyed."
In particular, MacAdam said in her report some emails from key players in the e-gaming initiative which should have been provided to her, were not.
Today MacAdam told the province's Standing Committee on Public Accounts those emails were from three accounts: those of LeClair, former chief of staff to Robert Ghiz; MacEachern, former deputy minister of innovation and also tourism and culture; and Beck, who passed away in 2012 while serving as clerk of executive council.
- blogTO shares some photos of Toronto in the gritty 1980s.
- The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper examining the habitable zones of post-main sequence stars.
- Far Outliers notes the ethnic rivalries among First World War prisoners in the Russian interior, and examines how Czechoslovakia got its independence.
- The Map Room Blog looks at the mapping technology behind Pokémon Go.
- pollotenchegg looks at how the populations of Ukrainian cities have evolved.
- Savage Minds considers anthropology students of colour.
- Transit Toronto notes
- Window on Eurasia suggests the post-Soviet states built Soviet-style parodies of capitalism for themselves.
blogTO notes this non-story.
How far would you go to catch 'em all in Toronto? Well, one man is heading straight to court. Yes, Mark Correia, the guy who was filmed playing Pokemon Go on the subway tracks is now facing a $425 fine and a charge under the TTC's bylaws. He's slated to appear in court on September 16.
Correia wasn't actually on the tracks chasing Pokemon. Instead, he was creating an online video, which aimed to poke fun at the great lengths players go to become Poke Masters.
Kartikay Mehrotra's Bloomberg article notes a potential downside to Pokémon Go: the end of secluded neighbourhoods.
Wahby Park in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, used to be a quiet spot for a dozen or so residents to go for a stroll around sunset. Then came hundreds of smartphone-wielding, garden-stomping Pokemon players.
Now a couple in the lakeside neighborhood is suing Niantic Inc. and Nintendo Co. for allegedly turning the park into a nuisance and a safety threat.
“We don’t feel safe sitting on our porch,” Scott Dodich and Jayme Gotts-Dodich said in their lawsuit.
They said they have been threatened by Pokemon Go players who hide in the bushes at dusk and return to the chase after police close the park and leave. The couple are seeking monetary damages and a ban on Pokemon in the park, according to their complaint filed Wednesday in San Francisco federal court.
After the game was launched in early July, “plaintiffs’ once quiet street degenerated into a nightmare," according to the complaint. The couple alleges that visitors to the park fail to respect the rules of the private neighborhood, parking in front of driveways, trespassing on well-manicured gardens and peering into windows.
- Bloomberg notes a raid of Amazon's Japan office by that country's competition agency.
- Bloomberg View looks at paranoia about Pokémon Go and suggests China is not trying to overturn the world order.
- CBC reports on the popular music and dance of Brazil's slums, and reports on the diet of ancient humans.
- The Inter Press Service notes that African farmers could feed the world, but first they need to work on their infrastructure.
- MacLean's shares the images of 25 Canadian websites of note in the days of the early Internet.
- Open Democracy calls for reform of British agricultural funding and reports on Venezuela's hard landing.
I really like Erin Anderssen's article in The Globe and Mail, also from mid-July, about time spending bonding with her son.
By the harbour, in front of the Bluenose Store, as a horse-drawn carriage carrying tourists clopped by, we captured a Jigglypuff. By the fire hydrant on Montague Street, a bouncing blue Nidoran was waiting. Not far away, a Pidgey was snagged, waiting dangerously in the middle of what was luckily a quiet thoroughfare. (Nothing like a digitally squashed Pidgey to take the fun out of things.) Coming around one corner, a Krabby – as in, a crab – surprised us. “There he is, there he is,” my son, Samson, whispered, forgetting, in the moment, that the Krabby couldn’t actually hear him. “I am sort of freaking out right now,” he confided to me.
It’s surreal playing Pokemon Go in the historic Nova Scotia town of Lunenburg, hunting virtual cartoon characters along the famous waterfront and brightly coloured, carefully preserved 18th-century houses. And yet, surprisingly fun. Two hours later, we had 27 Pokemon, and a level 5 ranking. This meant we could do battle in the nearest “gym,” which had been strategically placed by those clever game masters on the wharf, next to where the Bluenose would usually dock. On this Wednesday evening, the wharf was mostly empty, the famous schooner currently away from its home port. But every new visitor to Lunenburg eventually stops here; now every Pokemon Go player will, too. The founding families never imagined this.
It’s no understatement to say that Pokemon Go has become a worldwide obsession, sending Nintendo stock soaring. It’s already been downloaded more than the dating app Tinder, and is closing in on Twitter – even though it’s only, officially, available in the United States, New Zealand and Australia. Not that this has stopped any motivated gamer in Canada.
For a week, my son, who is 11, had been excitedly volunteering intel about the game, watching YouTube videos to learn how to play, and cleverly crafting the public relations case for why someone in the family should hack the system and get it on their phone. (He doesn’t have one of his own.) “It’s mother-son time,” he told me. “It’s really an app to go sightseeing with your kids.” “I can run around and burn off energy.” “We won’t get fat.” When he learned we were actually going to play, it was as if he’d chugged seven Red Bulls in one sitting.
Oliver Sachgau's Toronto Star article appeared last month, before Pokémon Go's official release and while I was preparing for my Island trip. It's an interesting story, based around interviews with Pokémon players and the meaning they get from the game and its culture.
I was really worried no one was going to show up to my party.
Just before 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, I had set up a sort of invite in Pokémon Go, telling people to meet me at 1 Yonge St. With luck, people would arrive to chat about Pokémon with me. They would arrive, right?
If you’re unfamiliar with Pokémon Go, it’s a mobile game that lets players catch virtual monsters by walking around in the real world and searching for them with their phones. People walk around in search for Pokémon — cartoon creatures that can look like anything from an electric mouse to a gigantic worm made of rock. (The game depicts the beasts against the backdrop of the player’s real-world environment, superimposing their image on pictures from the phone’s camera.)
Players battle them, catch them, train them, and collect items to help with the training from Pokestops — spots placed around the Pokémon Go map that correspond to real-world locations. the Toronto Star building, for example, has three Pokestops.
Technically, the game isn’t even available in Canada, but that hasn’t stopped people from finding ways to play it here, either by creating app store accounts in other countries or downloading unofficial versions of the app, all inspired by a game from 20 years ago.
“I was a Pokémon fan since I was a little kid . . . when I heard a new one was coming out I had to try it,” player Courtney Provan said.
This is amazing. From the Toronto Star's Oliver Sachgau:
After a few weeks of being the most popular mobile game in recent history, Pokemon Go is now facing backlash from the City of Toronto, who are trying to mitigate the crowds playing the game at the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal.
Hundreds of people have been camped out almost 24 hours a day at the park by the terminal, hunting for virtual pocket monsters on their phone. The park and surrounding area is also the site of nine pokestops – in-game locations where players congregate. Players have also been setting up lures – bait that attracts more virtual monsters to the stops.
The end result is a constant crowd of hundreds of players at all hours of the day and night, hoping to be the very best like no one ever before.
Matthew Cutler, spokesperson for Toronto’s parks and recreation department, said the city has reached out to Niantic, the game’s developer, to move some of the stops to other parks and ease the pressure on the ferry terminal.
“We love the game. We love what it’s doing in terms of bringing people into the public realm. We’re just of the mind that there may be a better park in the city for this kind of concentration of play,” he said.
- The Big Picture shares photos from Rio in advance of the Olympics.
- James Bow remembers Mel Hurtig, the recently dead Canadian nationalist.
- Centauri Dreams considers space-based collection of antimatter.
- Crooked Timber examines the tyranny of the ideal.
- Dangerous Minds looks at a charming early 1980s board game, Gay Monopoly.
- The Dragon's Gaze predicts future transits of Beta Pictoris b.
- The Dragon's Tales examines dwarf planet candidate 2015 RR245.
- Far Outliers shares some odd placenames found in the western United States.
- Language Hat reports on a new English/Yiddish dictionary.
- Language Log looks at how speakers of Slavic and Turkic communicate with each other across Eurasia.
- The Map Room Blog reports on an interesting-sounding exhibition on maps here in Toronto.
- Marginal Revolution considers a link between slow population growth and slow economic growth, and suggests land use policy in Tokyo is ideal for a large city.
- Steve Munro shares exchanges on GO Transit services in the Weston corridor.
- North's Justin Petrone shares his progress towards
- The NYRB Daily looks at how Russia and China in particular make extensive use of doping at the Olympics, and international sports generally.
- Savage Minds considers how writing can help anthropologists who have witnessed violence heal.
- The Volokh Conspiracy engages with the bloody legacy of Mao.
- The Big Picture reports from Boston's Methadone Mile.
- The Broadside Blog celebrates its seventh anniversary.
- Dangerous Minds shares vintage photos of Kate Bush.
- Language Hat considers the position of Chinese poetry.
- Otto Pohl reflects on his visit to Almaty.
- Torontoist reports on how Torontonians are hacking Pokémon Go.
Metro Toronto's Luke Simcoe describes Pokemon Go in a way that might even get me playing.
In their quest to catch ‘em all, Pokémon GO users in Toronto are rediscovering the landmarks, avenues and alleyways that make up their city.
“I had never been to the Jack Layton ferry terminal before, but I went there after work and got to see all these interesting things while trying to catch Pokémon for fun,” said Sushil Tailor, a self-described Pokémon fanatic who works downtown.
The augmented reality game – which Nintendo hasn’t been officially released in Canada yet – is based on a database of global parks, public art, heritage sites and popular buildings. Pokémon are more likely to be spotted near these locations.
“It's easy to marry urbanism with Pokémon,” Tailor said. “Walkable neighbourhoods directly correlate with running into more Pokémon, more landmarks, and more gyms.”
Rachel Lissner, founder of Toronto’s Young Urbanists League Facebook group, has been playing the game non-stop since Monday. From chasing a Torterra through the Christie Pitts pool to scouring Kensington Market in search of a Jynx, the game has Lissner exploring the city a bit more than usual.
- Bloomberg notes the decline of Japan's solar energy boom with falling subsidies, suggests 1970s-style stagflation will be back, looks at how an urban area in Japan is dealing with overcrowding, looks at Russia-NATO tensions, and examines how Ireland is welcoming British bankers.
- Bloomberg View looks at the return of Russian tourists to Turkey, notes Russia is not suffering from a brain drain, looks at the Brexit vote as examining the power of the old, and argues the Chilcot report defends Blair from accusations of lying.
- CBC reports on the end of Blackberry's manufacturing of the Classic.
- The Globe and Mail notes that, once, gay white men were on the outside.
- The Independent describes claims that refugees in Libya who cannot pay their brokers risk being rendered into organs.
- The Inter Press Service describes the horrors of Sudan and looks at how Russia will use Brexit to fight sanctions in the European Union.
- MacLean's reports on the opening up of the Arctic Ocean to fishing and looks at Winnipeg support for Pride in Steinbach.
- The National Post reports on the plague of Pablo Escobar's hippos in Colombia, looks at Vietnam's protests of Chinese military maneuvers, and examines Turkey's foreign policy catastrophes.
- Open Democracy notes the desperate need for stability in Libya.
- The Smithsonian reports on how video games are becoming the stuff of history.
Cade Metz' Wired article reports from Seoul, where a Google-designed AI defeated a veteran player of Seoul in a beautiful if unorthodox manner. There are new ways of knowing the world about.
At first, Fan Hui thought the move was rather odd. But then he saw its beauty.
“It’s not a human move. I’ve never seen a human play this move,” he says. “So beautiful.” It’s a word he keeps repeating. Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful.
The move in question was the 37th in the second game of the historic Go match between Lee Sedol, one of the world’s top players, and AlphaGo, an artificially intelligent computing system built by researchers at Google. Inside the towering Four Seasons hotel in downtown Seoul, the game was approaching the end of its first hour when AlphaGo instructed its human assistant to place a black stone in a largely open area on the right-hand side of the 19-by-19 grid that defines this ancient game. And just about everyone was shocked.
“That’s a very strange move,” said one of the match’s English language commentators, who is himself a very talented Go player. Then the other chuckled and said: “I thought it was a mistake.” But perhaps no one was more surprised than Lee Sedol, who stood up and left the match room. “He had to go wash his face or something—just to recover,” said the first commentator.
Even after Lee Sedol returned to the table, he didn’t quite know what to do, spending nearly 15 minutes considering his next play. AlphaGo’s move didn’t seem to connect with what had come before. In essence, the machine was abandoning a group of stones on the lower half of the board to make a play in a different area. AlphaGo placed its black stone just beneath a single white stone played earlier by Lee Sedol, and though the move may have made sense in another situation, it was completely unexpected in that particular place at that particular time—a surprise all the more remarkable when you consider that people have been playing Go for more than 2,500 years. The commentators couldn’t even begin to evaluate the merits of the move.
Then, over the next three hours, AlphaGo went on to win the game, taking a two-games-to-none lead in this best-of-five contest. To date, machines have beaten the best humans at chess and checkers and Othello and Jeopardy!. But no machine has beaten the very best at Go, a game that is exponentially more complex than chess. Now, AlphaGo is one win away.
- blogTO notes that you can now LARP at Casa Loma.
- Centauri Dreams notes the odd reddish marks on the surface of Saturn's moon Tethys.
- Crooked Timber takes issue with David Frum's misrepresentation of an article on Mediterranean migration.
- The Dragon's Gaze notes the discovery of the aurora of a nearby brown dwarf.
- The Dragon's Tales notes evidence of carbonation on the Martian surface and suggests the presence of anomalous amounts of mercury on Earth associated with mass extinctions.
- Geocurrents maps the terrifying strength of California's drought.
- Language Hat notes that Cockney is disappearing from London.
- Language Log notes coded word usage on the Chinese Internet.
- Marginal Revolution links to a paper examining the effects of hunting male lions.
- The Map Room links to new maps of Ceres and Pluto.
- The Planetary Society Blog examines the Dawn probe's mapping orbits of Ceres.
- Progressive Download traces the migration of the aloe plants over time from Arabia.
- Savage Minds notes how hacktivists are being treated as terrorists.
- Window on Eurasia notes how the Ukrainian war is leading to the spread of heavy weapons in Russia, looks at Russian opposition to a Crimean Tatar conference in Turkey, suggests that the West is letting Ukraine fight a limited war in Donbas, and looks at the falling Russian birthrate.
I discovered the above easter egg just recently. I've found that it has since been described by others, including by Lifehacker's Patrick Allan.
Amit Agarwal wrote about the game at Digital Inspiration when a tipster mentioned the discovery, and it's actually pretty fun! When you reach the "Unable to connect to Internet" screen in your Chrome browser, just hit the space bar to start the game and use the space bar to jump over incoming cacti. The game works on the Android version of Chrome as well. Just turn on airplane mode and tap the screen to start jumping. Instead of getting mad when you can't get a connection, you can blow off some steam playing an addictive game. My high score is 1,081—bring it on.
My score is not that high, yet.
The New Yorker's John Wolfson notes that, in the United States, casinos are starting to lose their shine. If everyone is legalizing casinos, then they stop become attractive sources of revenue. The decline of many established clusters of casinos, like New Jersey's Atlantic City, is almost inevitable if other casinos open up closer to potential markets.
Four of Atlantic City’s twelve casinos have gone out of business this year, including Revel, an estimated $2.3-billion jewel that opened just two years ago; another, the Trump Taj Mahal, has announced that it could close within weeks. An estimated eight thousand jobs have already been lost, and thousands more seem likely to follow. Since Christie’s 2010 press conference, the assessed value of all the property in the city has declined by nearly half.
While it would be easy to conclude that Atlantic City’s demise is the predictable result of decades of well-documented greed, corruption, and incompetent leadership, the city is in fact one of the first casualties of a nationwide casino arms race. Eager for new jobs and new revenues that don’t require raising taxes, states from coast to coast have turned to gambling: in 1978, only Nevada and New Jersey had commercial casinos; today, twenty-four states do. Atlantic City once had the densely populated Northeast all to itself, but now nearly every state in the region is home to casinos. And with both New York and Massachusetts poised to open massive new gambling resorts, the competition for the fixed number of gamblers there will only get tougher. “It’s a war,” Father Richard McGowan, a professor of management at Boston College who studies the gambling industry, said. “It’s remarkable to me how the states are fighting each other for gambling revenue.”
The first casino in Atlantic City opened in 1978. From that moment on, the city built its business by catering to gamblers from surrounding states. It held a casino monopoly on the region until 1992, when the Foxwoods tribal casino opened in Connecticut, and Rhode Island authorized slot machines at a racetrack not far from the Massachusetts border. A few years after that, slots appeared at racetracks in Delaware and West Virginia, and a second tribal casino, Mohegan Sun, opened in Connecticut. Even with the new competition, Atlantic City’s casino business grew at an impressive rate. “From 1983 to 1999, Atlantic City casinos were actually earning more than the ones on the Las Vegas strip,” David G. Schwartz, the director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, told me. “Las Vegas was very afraid. In the nineteen-eighties, Atlantic City looked like it was going to knock off Las Vegas.” Atlantic City gambling revenues went up year after year, without exception, before peaking at $5.2 billion in 2006.
That same year, the first casino in Pennsylvania opened. The state had long been a lucrative market for Atlantic City, which lies just sixty miles southeast of the Pennsylvania border. For decades, Pennsylvania’s leaders had watched with frustration as residents drove across the state line to wager an estimated billion dollars or more a year, contributing millions in tax dollars annually to New Jersey. Finally, in 2004, Pennsylvania authorized fourteen casino licenses (twelve have so far been awarded) in locations concentrated along the state’s eastern and western borders. By the end of 2007, the first full year Pennsylvania casinos were in operation, they had taken in a billion dollars and paid four hundred and seventy-three million dollars in taxes to the state. Atlantic City, meanwhile, experienced its first-ever decline, a drop of nearly six per cent. Business at the Pennsylvania casinos continued to expand over the next few years, while Atlantic City suffered. In 2012, Pennsylvania casinos generated $3.16 billion in revenue, surpassing New Jersey as the country’s No. 2 market.
Wired's Bo Moore has a nice article describing the genesis of the GLBT-friendly GX: Everyone Games gaming convention.
Growing up in rural Vermont, Matt Conn felt like an outcast.
“It was really tough growing up as both geek and gay,” he says. “I remember growing up, being super geeky, and I had to leave schools because I was so bullied and it was just really bad. And that was when I was like 9 or 10. So when I came to terms with my sexuality, I was so afraid: My life was already kinda not great, if I have to deal with being gay on top of that, I feel like I’m condemning myself to a life of shittiness.”
Conn had difficulty finding a community he identified and felt comfortable with. The geeks and gamers he fell in with seemed to be uncomfortable with his sexuality. The LGBT groups didn’t “get the geekiness.” In his college years came a ray of hope, online communities like gaygamer.net and Reddit’s r/gaymers. All of a sudden, Conn had access to thousands of other LGBT geeks like himself—but only online.
He looked, but did not find a gaming convention that hit the intersection of his and thousands of others’ queer geekiness, where LGBT geeks could feel open and comfortable without the fear of harassment, judgement, or any of the social pressures they face on a daily basis. So he made his own: GaymerX.
Now officially known as GX: Everyone Games—Conn wants to be clear that it’s about inclusiveness, not LGBT issues specifically—the convention is finishing up a successful Kickstarter drive today for its third annual convention. The outpouring of support illustrates that Conn’s show is filling a need felt keenly by many gamers.
“There’s a need for certain communities to feel safer,” said Mattie Brice, a game developer, media critic and former GaymerX panelist. “To feel explicitly welcome. And I think a lot of people don’t realize what is needed for people to feel welcome.”