Feb. 16th, 2017

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Amazing Fantasy #15 (August 1962), on metal


The first appearance of Spider-Man, in the August 1962 issue of Marvel comic anthology Amazing Fantasy, was printed on metal and sold as a sort of poster at Queen West store Rusteak.
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  • blogTO shares some secrets about the TTC.

  • Centauri Dreams notes how exoplanet HAT-P-2b somehow induces pulsations in its parent star.

  • Citizen Science Salon looks at a new crowdsourcing effort to find Planet Nine from old WISE images.

  • Dangerous Minds reports on a marijuana bouquet delivery servce.

  • The Dragon's Gaze reports on the detection of the atmosphere of super-Earth Gliese 1132b./li>
  • Language Hat examines the different source languages for neologisms in Russian.

  • Language Log reports on an obscene Valentine's Day ad from Sichuan.

  • The LRB Blog reports on the search of Syrians in Istanbul for health care.

  • Marginal Revolution reports on the fascist experimentations of economist Franco Modigliani.

  • The NYRB Daily reports on the stunning war art of Paul Nash.

  • Window on Eurasia notes that non-Russian republics tend to have better health indicators than the average, and warns of the potential instability that could be triggered by the failure of Putin's vision for Trump.

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The Toronto Star reports on one strongly negative element from the fire two days ago at Yonge and St. Clair of the Badminton & Racquet Club: It deprived many stores in the area of much-needed business on Valentine's Day.

It was a rotten Valentine’s Day for many businesses near a blaze that devoured a building in midtown Toronto.

Especially hard hit were the flower and card shops that rely on sales from the holiday.

“Yesterday was Valentine’s Day and I’m a greeting card store, so you can only imagine that it definitely hit us hard,” said The Papery owner Marla Freedland, whose business sells cards and stationery.

The six-alarm blaze, which ignited Tuesday morning, tore through the historic Badminton and Racquet Club of Toronto until firefighters contained it in the evening. They stayed on-scene all night, and the fire was under control as of 5:45 a.m., said Chief Matthew Pegg of Toronto Fire Services.

“The two days of Valentine’s Day take care of the month of February. It’s not quite like Christmas, but for two days it’s like that,” she said of February 13 and 14.

Her business, at St. Clair and Yonge St. was closed at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, and didn’t reopen until 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
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Steve Munro writes, generally with approval, of the various plans proposed for King Street by Toronto city planners.

Inspired by trial street interventions by other cities, Toronto looks to take a short-cut in reaching a demonstration of what is possible with pilot configurations using a minimum of construction. This has several advantages. A trial avoids the lengthy, complex and finality of a formal proposal assessment, which can take years before anyone has a chance to learn whether a scheme actually works. A pilot can use temporary, movable installations such as planters, signs and road markings that can be quickly changed for fine tuning, to test alternate arrangements, or to undo the changes. Residents, businesses and politicians can buy into a trial hoping to see improvement, or at least to determine that side-effects are tolerable for the broader goals, without fearing they are locked into major expense and upheaval that might not work.

This is a refreshing change from endless studies producing little action, with the only downside being that some changes are simply beyond the limitations of a pilot. If a trial works well enough, then more lasting changes requiring construction can follow.

King is not a street like others in Toronto where transit priority has been attempted. Spadina, St. Clair and Queens Quay are all wider, and options for increasing road space on King are few. Traffic patterns and business needs differ on each street, and a layout that works in one place may not be appropriate for others. Equally, the benefits or horrors of these streets do not necessarily apply on King.

The city has three proposed layouts for a transit-first King Street. At this stage they exist only as general schemes, not as detailed, block-by-block plans. On that fine-grained level any new scheme will succeed or fail. Even if a plan achieves transit improvements, too many small annoyances, too many details overlooked could collectively derail a scheme. The planners flag this as a need for both a “micro and macro” view of the street – the big picture of better transit, and an awareness that every block, every neighbourhood along the street is different.

Common to all plans is a substantial reduction in the space available for cars and trucks. Some areas now used for loading, drop offs and cab stands would be repurposed either as through traffic lanes with no stopping, or as expanded sidewalk space into what is now the curb lane. Left turns would be banned throughout the area.
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The Toronto Star's Jennifer Pagliaro reports on how the new Toronto budget comes with a 2% property tax increase, raising some funds but apparently not enough to keep various Toronto public services needed running.

With council poised to approve a budget Mayor John Tory said kept property taxes at “reasonable” rates, critics said they would have trouble sleeping with cuts impacting the city’s most vulnerable.

A council meeting went late Wednesday night as members debated a budget some called “fair” and others contended was “unsustainable.”

Council did earlier approve a residential property tax rate hike that totals 3.29 per cent, or $90 extra for the average homeowner.

An attempt to prevent the elimination of 10 front-line shelter staff positions — at a time when those havens are exceeding capacity targets and those who rely on them struggle to find more permanent housing — failed 19-25. The mayor and all but one of his executive members voted against it.

Councillor Joe Cressy moved a motion that council keep the 10 frontline positions, by voting to increase the 2017 operating budget for shelter, support and housing administration by just over $1 million, by pulling funding from a property tax stabilization reserve fund.
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David Rider writes at the Toronto Star about how Victoria University, a component of the University of Toronto, owns a Bloor Street West address but pays no property tax owing to mid-20th century legislation. This is news to a lot of people.

The owner of top-dollar land under a swanky Yorkville mall pays zero property taxes to the city — a multimillion-dollar anomaly that infuriated councillors fighting over “scraps” to fund vital services.

Victoria University, a federated college of the University of Toronto, owns 131 Bloor St. W. in the heart of the posh “Mink Mile” shopping strip. Revenue Properties leases the land and owns The Colonnade — 71,156 square feet of apartments plus luxury shops, including Cartier, Chanel and Escada — atop it.

The 1951 Victoria University Act exempts all the college’s land but not commercial buildings. The U of T enjoys the same exemption but voluntarily pays the city about $240,000 a year in lieu of taxes for a few small commercial properties.

City staff estimate the Victoria exemption cost taxpayers $12.2 million between 2009 and 2015.

“This (tax-exempt) designation was meant for property used for education — not to have a profit centre,” said Kristyn Wong-Tam, the local councillor.
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What can be said but that this news, reported by blogTO's Derek Flack, is utterly terrifying?

Rental rates for Toronto apartments have skyrocketed over the last six months. With a housing market that's smashed records over the past year, it's little surprise that the cost to rent is also ballooning at an alarming rate.

According to data collected by apartment listings site PadMapper, the median cost of a one bedroom apartment in Toronto has gone up almost 24 per cent over the last six months, climbing from $1,310 in September 2016 to $1,620 this February.

For two bedroom apartments, the median price was $1,680 last September, while it's now $2,060. This represents an all-time high according to the company's statistics.
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NOW Toronto's David Silverberg takes a look at the course in Ge'ez, a liturgical language of Ethiopia, newly offered by the University of Toronto thanks to funding by Ethiopian-Canadian rapper The Weeknd.

How does someone teach a language when we have no idea what it might actually sound like?

That's one of the questions for U of T's Robert Holmsted, who's teaching the university's course on the liturgical Ethiopian language Ge'ez.

In its first semester at U of T, his class has five undergraduates and five graduate students enrolled, and several more students auditing the class. They all realize that deciphering ancient languages can help us learn about a country's ancient past.

Manuscripts in the language, which hasn't been spoken in 1,000 years, date from as far back as the sixth century BCE. In fact, contemporary scholars of such ancient languages may not be able to ascertain the true sound of the language at all.

Holmstedt agrees that no one can truly know how centuries-old languages were pronounced, but we can get some clues from other Semitic tongues.

"Without recordings, we have to do our best to reconstruct the sound from Semitic languages," he says. "We make an approximation and can never know for sure."
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The Globe and Mail's Dominika Lirette reports on the support of the British Columbian government for funding a study looking into the feasibility of a high-speed rail route connecting Vancouver with Oregon's Portland.

British Columbia’s Transportation Minister says the province supports Washington State’s decision to study the feasibility of a high-speed rail line from Portland to Vancouver.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee has allotted $1-million (U.S.) from his 2017-19 state budget to examine the costs and benefits of building a system to carry travellers 400 kilometres an hour with stops in Seattle and Bellingham. A report is due in December.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone said it’s “far too premature” to talk about a potential financial commitment to a high-speed rail line, but he said the province is interested in the idea.

“The Premier sent a letter to Governor Inslee recently, extending provincial support for the state of Washington’s decision to actually do some due diligence, some analysis on this proposed high-speed rail link, and we certainly support them doing that,” Mr. Stone said.

He noted that that an agreement signed last year between British Columbia and Washington State, known as the Cascadia Innovation Corridor, highlights transportation as a key priority.

The study will examine the design and cost of a high-speed rail system, the potential demand and whether it would be economically viable. A budget document outlining the study says the high-speed rail system, if built, could connect with east-west routes in the state, as well as a similar system, in California.
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The Toronto Star's Curtis Rush writes about the Cayman Islands' hockey team, staffed heavily by Canadian expats.

After trading long Canadian winters for the perpetual summer of this luxurious Caribbean tax haven, Bill Messer was content to enjoy the soft sands and warm waters of island living. The only thing he really missed was hockey.

So in 2003, when he saw a television report about the nascent World Pond Hockey Championship, he began plotting a strategy to get a team from his adopted home ready to play in his native country, Canada.

The initial response to his inquiry, however, felt like a cold slap in the face.

The tournament organizer, Danny Braun, warned Messer in an email that it was frigid up in Canada and that hockey was a very fast, very rough game.

As he read the email, Messer said, he realized that he had not made it clear to Braun that he was Canadian.
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Raizel Robin's long-form article in Toronto Life, "The $1-Billion Hellhole", makes the case that the very new Toronto South Detention Centre--only three years old!--is already terribly dysfunctional thanks to any number of problems from staff issues to design flaws, this after having been built at tremendous financial cost to the province.

Before the South opened on January 27, 2014, Ontario’s provincial jails were notorious for being overcrowded, medieval, violent places. The second Don Jail, completed in 1958, wasn’t much better than the original: rats and cockroaches scurried about and black mould grew on walls. Three inmates were often crammed into four-by-eight-foot cells meant for two, with the third man sleeping on the floor, his head next to the toilet. The Toronto West Detention Centre in Rexdale, built in 1976 and retrofitted in the 1990s, was almost as overcrowded and had become a money pit.

In 2008, the Liberals under Premier Dalton McGuinty approved plans for a new, more progressive facility. McGuinty wanted Ontario’s jails to reflect modern incarceration philosophy, which emphasizes rehabilitation over punishment. The new superjail, the Toronto South Detention Centre, would be capable of housing 1,650 inmates—50 per cent more capacity than the Don and the West combined­—making it Canada’s second-largest jail, after the Edmonton Remand Centre. When it came to selecting an architect, the Liberals chose Zeidler, the prestigious firm behind the Eaton Centre’s soaring galleria and the old Ontario Place.

Visit the South today and, were it not for the receptionists seated behind protective glass or the chairs bolted to the floor, the airy three-storey reception area, with its exposed brick and skylit entryway, could pass for a condo lobby. The 73,000-square-metre building, which is LEED Silver certified with a ground-source heat exchanger and low-flush toilets, occupies the site of the former Mimico Correctional Centre in south Etobicoke. Behind the main building are three seven-storey, sand-coloured towers, set off from each other at slight angles. The effect is more chic New Mexico college than imposing superjail.

Inside, there are spaces for Aboriginal inmates to hold sweat lodge or smudging ceremonies, two multi-faith spaces with footbaths for Muslim inmates, a state-of-the-art 35-bed infirmary and a 26-bed mental health assessment unit. The seven-by-16-foot cells are spacious compared to the Don. The units, made up of 20 cells each, are split into two floors and arranged around a communal living room like motel suites surrounding a pool.

Initially, the South seemed like a double-pronged victory for the Liberals: the facility was praised for its design, and the construction process was relatively cost-effective—an important consideration for a government trying to slay a $10.5-billion deficit and manage the fallout from the gas plant scandal. Still, the total bill to the taxpayer was hefty: $1.1 billion, which was to be paid out over 30 years.
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Blondie's new single "Fun" came out on the 1st of this month, but Towleroad noted yesterday that their outer space-themed video had come out just then.



I really like it. This song is one of the things, incidentally, that made me decide to buy tickets for Blondie's show this July here in Toronto. (Garbage will be touring with them, too!)

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