Jan. 18th, 2017
- Bad Astronomy's Phil Plait mourns the death of Apollo astronaut Gene Cernan and calls for a return to the Moon.
- Beyond the Beyond's Bruce Sterling wonders what future historiography will look like when it's assumed that British imperialism in South Asia was a bad thing.
- blogTO highlights an impressive new condo tower planned for Mississauga.
- D-Brief looks at how a literal heartbeat can transform the perception of an individual by race.
- The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper examining the potential for exoplanets orbiting red dwarfs to be habitable, finding that there seem to be no deal-breakers.
- Language Hat shares the reflections of Russian-born author Boris Fishman who reads his novel, written in English, translated into the Russian.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money links to a paper looking at the potential for industrial espionage to actually pay off.
- The LRB Blog considers what will happen to Cuban migration now that Cuban migrants to the United States have no special status.
- The NYRB Daily looks at post-revolutionary Cairo through film.
- Savage Minds considers the grounds for potentially treating artificial intelligences as people.
- Torontoist looks at two rival schools of medicine in 19th century Toronto.
- The Volokh Conspiracy notes that Washington D.C.'s Freedom Plaza can be cleared of protests.
- Window on Eurasia notes the potential financial catastrophe of Russia's declining villages, and looks at Belarus' national identity.
Ben Spurr Toronto Star article is frustrating, especially after my experience in Montréal with the STM smartcards. Why is this technology so impossible to implement?
Jerzy Jarmasz was on track to have his son at school on time when the pair arrived at Dufferin subway station Monday morning.
But there was just one problem: when they tried to leave by the Russett Ave. exit, the one closest to the school, they couldn’t get out.
Bothof the new Presto smart-card-enabled fare gates that the TTC recently installed there were out of order and would not open.
[. . .]
According to TTC spokesperson Heather Brown, there are now 376 fare gates at 41 of the agency’s subway stations, and about 12 per cent of them don’t work at any given time.
That’s an improvement from November, when about 18 per cent of the gates were offline at any given moment.
Brown said various problems can cause the gates to fail unexpectedly. The figures also include a small number of gates that are deliberately taken offline, she said.
Steve Munro's analysis of traffic and scheduling patterns on the 514 Cherry route is not flattering for the TTC. Functionally, it is less an independent route and more a somewhat exotic variation on the King line.
The 514 Cherry car has been running since June 2016. Although originally planned as a net new service, budget for the route fell victim to the 2016 round in which headroom for the “new” service was created by reallocating vehicles from 504 King. The purpose was to concentrate service on the central part of King where there is higher demand, but in practice, the original schedule did not work out. In November 2016 the headways on 514 Cherry were widened to compensate for longer-than-planned running times.
The 514 Cherry car has been something of an afterthought for the TTC in several ways. Planning and construction for it began years ago, but implementation was delayed until after the Pan Am Games were out of the way and the Canary District began to populate with residents and students in the new buildings. Another major blow has been the failure to build the Waterfront East LRT which is intended to eventually connect with the trackage on Cherry Street as part of a larger network. In effect, the spur to Distillery Loop is treated by the TTC as little more than a place for a scheduled short turn of the King Street service, much as trackage on Dufferin Street south of King is for the route’s western terminus.
Riders bound for the Distillery District face two challenges. One is that the older streetcars do not have route signs for 514 Cherry, only a small dashboard card wrapped over the “short turn” sign. Tourists might be forgiven for wondering if a 514 Cherry will ever show up. As new streetcars gradually appear on this route, this problem will decline, but it is an indication of the half-hearted way service was introduced that good signage was not part of the scheme.
If Tess Kalinowski's reported analysis of patterns of real estate transactions in Toronto over the calendar year is correct, I may have missed my chance to buy a house yesterday.
The choice of homes may be limited in the dead of winter, but consumers waiting for the hot spring market should know that January actually provides the best chance for snagging a bargain.
Seven years of sales data on about 650,000 Toronto-area transactions, shows Tuesday is probably the day this year when buyers will pay the least for a home, according to an analysis by TheRedPin real estate brokerage.
That's because there is residual inventory — homes that didn't sell in October and November, sometimes because they were over-priced, said Tarik Gidamy, co-founder and broker of record with TheRedPin.
"(Sellers) who are desperate — who have bought a house already and need to sell what they've got — are willing to take a cheaper price simply because the supply of buyers is not 100 per cent there yet," he said.
Based on the seven-year averages, TheRedPin found that Toronto-area homes in January sold for nearly $70,000 less, compared to the spring housing market, which peaks in May.
CBC News' John Reiti reported on Toronto city councilor Jim Karygiannis' call for a tax to be levied on foreign buyers of Toronto real estate.
Torontoist has pointed out that even if this tax achieves its limited goal of cooling down the market, it cannot be the only response.
A Toronto councillor is renewing calls to implement a foreign buyers tax to cool down the city's red-hot real estate market.
Coun. Jim Karygiannis, who held a Thursday news conference alongside a McMaster University economist, has sent a letter to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne asking for permission to slap a five-per-cent tax on foreign buyers.
Ontario has balked at the idea of taxing foreign buyers over concerns that such a tax could significantly hurt the value of homes that people already own. The province is also keeping an eye on Vancouver's market, where a 15 per cent foreign buyers tax came into effect on Aug. 2, 2016.
"We're not taxing our own folks," Karygiannis told reporters at city hall.
Torontoist has pointed out that even if this tax achieves its limited goal of cooling down the market, it cannot be the only response.
Some real estate groups in the city have come out against implementing a tax here, warning that a “knee-jerk” reaction isn’t the answer. And that might be the case, but if a move like this might prevent Toronto market from reaching the absurd levels Vancouver has seen in recent years—where seven-figure prices on real estate are the norm—it could be worth looking into.
So many Torontonians are already priced out of home ownership, and it’s worth considering all options to make sure the situation doesn’t get worse. But a tax won’t fix everything: there are bigger issues to consider in the landscape of Toronto’s unaffordable housing situation. If imposing a new tax will alleviate some of the pressure, it could decrease housing demand, but it doesn’t solve the supply side of the problem. City Council needs to commit to more than just asking the provincial government to deal with it, and no one policy is going to solve an issue as nuanced as housing affordability.
Brad Wheeler's feature in The Globe and Mail about the fate of Hugh's Room reads like an elegy to this much-appreciated venue.
Richard Carson stands outside Hugh’s Room, having a smoke and talking about the specialness of his west-end music venue that now is in limbo because of financial problems.
“What I wanted to do here was to create a place where artists wanted to play, where staff wanted to work and where music fans wanted to be,” he says, looking off at the grey sky. “Some nights, I would stand back and watch those three things come together, and, I tell you, it was magical to see.”
With that, Mr. Carson, who opened the city’s premier folk club in 2001, shakes his head worryingly and stubs out his cigarette.
Just then, a friend who’s chipped in to fix an electrical problem in the building steps outside and pats Mr. Carson on the back as he walks by. “Hang in there, Richard,” he says. “Hang in there.”
The club owner laughs softly to himself. Hang in there? He’s been doing exactly that for nearly 16 years.
The Guardian is the latest news organization to cover the erosion of Lennox Island, chief Mi'kmaq reserve on Prince Edward Island, into the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Ashifa Kassam's article. Between erosion and rising sea levels, it's an open question as to whether one of the most noteworthy centres of Mi'kmaq culture left can last to the end of the century.
His hands tucked tightly in the pockets of his jeans, Gilbert Sark nodded at the ice-covered bay stretched out before him.
Decades ago, his grandfather – at the time one of the few in this First Nations community to own a truck – would spend winters ferrying people across the frozen bay to Prince Edward Island. One wintry day, the truck hit a patch of soft ice, sending it plunging into the frigid waters below.
His grandfather didn’t make it out of the truck in time. “That bay has claimed a lot of people,” said Sark. “Now it’s claiming land.”
For as long as anyone can remember, life on Lennox Island – a community of some 450 people on the east coast of Canada – has been set to the rhythm of the waters that lap its shores of red sand. But climate change is drastically altering this relationship, sending sea levels rising, pelting the small island with fiercer and more frequent storms and bringing warmer winters that eat away at the ice cover that traditionally protected the shores for months at a time.
The result is impossible to ignore. “We’re losing our island,” said Sark. A survey of the island carried out in 1880 counted 1,520 acres of land. In 2015, surveyors mapped out 1,100 acres of land on Lennox Island – suggesting more than 300 football fields worth of land have been swallowed by the sea within the span of a few generations.
Sark pointed to the shoreline next to the cemetery where his mother and many other members of his family are buried. “There used to be a field right there. We used to play football in that area.”
The community recently spent tens of thousands of dollars to save the graveyard from the encroaching waters, building a wall made up of three layers of rock. “They had to fix it or there would be caskets going out into our bay,” said Sark. “It was that close.”
The scars of the island’s battle against climate change are visible across this low-lying island. Local people recall playing baseball where boats now bob in the water; homes that once sat 20ft from the shore now teeter precariously close to the sea. The shoreline has crept up to the edges of the community’s decade-old sewage lagoon, sparking concerns that a storm surge could send waste into Malpeque Bay, a world-renowned site for harvesting oysters.
Toronto Life shared First Nations educator Eddy Robinson's account of how his experiences of First Nations spirituality changed his life. There's definitely something to this, I think, about the transformative effect of the processes and procedures involved. My memory of the time spent in a Mi'kmaq sweat lodge while during field research for an undergraduate paper is one of my fondest of my young adulthood.
I didn’t have a happy childhood. My Cree father, a residential-school survivor, and my Ojibwa-Anishinabe mother split when I was three and sent me to live with my grandparents. I slept on a cot in their living room, and my little brother’s crib was in the hallway. When I was 10, I moved back in with my mom in a subsidized housing complex at Pape and Danforth. We argued all the time. A few months later, I reconnected with my dad, who was living in Sault Ste. Marie. When I was 14, after a particularly nasty fight with my mom, I hopped on a Greyhound bus and went to stay with my dad and his girlfriend. That didn’t work out, so they put me up in a tiny one-bedroom apartment and bought me groceries once a week. Soon I was drinking and smoking weed. I was arrested several times—for stealing, for fighting, for selling drugs—and spent four months in juvie. Eventually, I was remanded back into my mother’s custody. I wasn’t thrilled about it, but I knew she’d let me do what I wanted.
When I moved back to Toronto at age 15, my grandparents insisted that I prepare for my confirmation at St. Ann’s Catholic Church near Gerrard and Broadview, where they were parishioners. The church has a Native People’s Parish, which combines Catholicism with elements of Indigenous spirituality. The church leaders incorporate sage-burning ceremonies into Mass, for instance, and translate hymns into Indigenous languages. As part of my confirmation, the priest insisted that I go on a vision quest—a ritual that lasts anywhere from 24 hours to a week. You’re left alone in the wilderness without food or supplies, and you pray to the Creator for guidance and wisdom.
On the night of my vision quest, I set up my tent at Dreamer’s Rock, a sacred place on Manitoulin Island. I was skeptical. I just thought I’d be abandoned outside, bored, hungry and alone. To my shock, I had a vision that night. It was an old man, standing beyond my tent. He looked like he was beckoning me. I didn’t recognize him, but I believe he was a manifestation of First Nations culture—my culture—which was waiting for me to embrace it.
The Toronto Star's Jayme Poisson and David Bruser report on the latest about the pervasive mercury contamination in the vicinity of the Grassy Narrows First Nation in northern Ontario.
The Chief of Grassy Narrows First Nation is asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to commit in writing to cleaning up the mercury that has contaminated the river near his community.
Late Monday, a spokesperson for Trudeau said the federal government will take action to deal with the Grassy Narrows mercury contamination “once and for all.”
“I am pleased to see Trudeau finally stepping up and accepting his responsibility to solve the ongoing mercury crisis that my people have endured for three generations,” said Chief Simon Fobister.
“We have seen many politicians and their promises come and go, and still our river is poisoned with mercury. I call on Trudeau to clearly commit in writing to clean our river until our fish are safe to eat. Trudeau must commit to a short timeline and a sufficient budget to make our dream of a healthy river a reality. Our youth yearn to see our river cleaned soon. Trudeau must not frustrate their hope.”
The federal government will work closely with the province and First Nations leaders to address mercury contamination that has plagued the northern community for decades, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the Star. The vow of action followed requests for help from Chief Simon Fobister Sr., a New Democrat MP, and the recent publication by the Star of new test results showing contaminated land.
CBC reports decidedly noteworthy findings from the famous Bluefish Caves site in Yukon, suggesting that the Americas--or, at least, the portions of eastern Beringia that were ice-free--were inhabited for ten thousand years longer than previously thought.
Humans may have been living in Yukon's Bluefish Caves 10,000 years earlier than previously thought, new research from the University of Montreal suggests.
If confirmed, this would make it the oldest known archeological site in North America, representing the earliest evidence found so far of humans in North America.
New carbon aging tests were done on bones first discovered in the caves south of Old Crow, Yukon, in the 1970s.
The Bluefish Caves in Yukon lie in a region known as Beringia that stretched from the Mackenzie River in N.W.T. to Siberia nearly 24,000 years ago during the last ice age. Parts of it are now underwater.
The testing suggests that's when the human beings lived near the caves.