Thursday, August 7, 2014

Tunnel Visions: The Detroit People Mover

Every once in a while I hop out of Toronto, land in some other city with some other light- or heavy-rail transit system, and look around at different ways of getting around by rail, whether it's on the ground, under it, or above it all.




It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that Detroit has historically been a bit ambivalent toward higher-order transit. In the early 20th century, when cities like New York, Chicago, and Boston were investing in heavy transit systems, Detroit deftly dodged efforts to build a subway. Early plans to run trains in the medians of the city's major arteries never left the paper they were written on, and by 1956--when Detroit was the fifth-largest city in the United States and even Cleveland was laying rails in the ground--the city's last streetcar line was replaced by buses, since that sort of thing was in style at the time.

Detroit's transit deficit wasn't helped by the suburban exodus that took off after the Second World War, and which to some degree continues to this day. Higher-order transit didn't make inroads in the city until 1975, when it joined the Downtown People Mover Program. The notion of a downtown circulator isn't an unusual one--the Chicago Loop is one of North America's earlier examples, and the closely-spaced stations along the Yonge-University-Spadina line fulfill a similar role in downtown Toronto. Detroit was one of many cities that applied for federal grants through the program, and in the end it was one of only three left standing.1

Today, the Detroit People Mover chugs along, gliding above the streets of downtown Detroit with a sound familiar to those who've ridden the rails in Vancouver or Scarborough, like a whisper from another world about what might have been.


System


The Detroit People Mover track parallels Beaubien Street in the eastern portion of downtown.

In terms of architecture and general layout, Detroit and Chicago are closely reminiscent of each other; not surprising, as they're both Midwestern cities that first came to prominence during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. That similarity with Chicago--if you've been there, or if you've read my earlier Tunnel Visions article about it--can also help ground the nature of the Detroit People Mover. Imagine the Loop in downtown Chicago, where trains from half a dozen lines roll in from the outer city and suburbs to deliver their passengers to the core--now remove all of those extra lines that feed passengers into it.

The total length of the DPM is barely three miles, strung in a loop that weaves through the skyscrapers of downtown Detroit from GM's headquarters at the Renaissance Center on the riverfront and goes as far north as Grand Circus Park, though it's still well removed from the section of highway that surrounds downtown and is only about a fifteen-minute walk from the river anyway. Also, when I say the route goes through the buildings, I'm being literal--aside from some stations that are built into the sides of certain larger buildings, a significant section of track is entirely enclosed within Cobo Center, an experience that reminded me of the coincidentally-named Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover at Disney World and how it passes inside Space Mountain.

The system also operates unidirectionally: when it was first opened the trains ran counter-clockwise, but as posters still visible across the network trumpet, it now runs clockwise "and even faster!" While the half-as-wide trackbed makes it easier for the People Mover to filter through downtown Detroit, it does introduce something of a calculus to using it--if you want to go somewhere nearby, but you'd have to ride around the entire loop to reach it, it might just be easier to walk it.

One of the things that struck me as odd about Detroit was how Michigan Central Station, the city's former rail hub and now well-known for its "ruin porn" qualities, was rather isolated from downtown. It's 2.5 kilometers from Campus Martius--for a Toronto comparison, it would be as if Union Station was at King and Strachan--and though it was served by streetcars on Michigan Avenue back in the day, and Amtrak ran commuter trains to it until declining ridership forced their cancellation back in 1984, it feels cut off from the fabric today. That leads into one of the big things keeping the People Mover from being anything more than it is: aside from a stop near Rosa Parks Transit Center, where local and suburban buses and even the tunnel bus from Windsor take on passengers, nothing feeds into the People Mover. Even the prospective commuter rail link between Detroit and Ann Arbor would only go as far as the Amtrak station, and would be dependent on the M-1 streetcar line--which started construction just last week--to connect people with downtown.

As it is, though, a lot of those streetcar riders might just bypass the People Mover anyway.


Stations



Bask in the 1980s ambience of the People Mover's Broadway station.


There are thirteen stations--for good luck, of course--strung along the Detroit People Mover like pearls, but I don't know many people who board trains via crystallized calcium carbonate retreived from some kind of mollusk, and if you know any pearls that have their own turnstiles you're odder off than even I am. They're all rather small, considering they only have one track to worry about, and are rather short as well. It felt to me like there was the room to maybe squeeze a third car in there, even if passenger numbers justified it, which they don't, and then you'd have to worry about whether or not you should warn alighting passengers to mind the third rail.

Once you're inside, there's not much to them; granted, I didn't visit every station Detroit has to offer, but I think the ones I ended up at were representative. They're entirely unstaffed, which the SkyTrain back west has in common, and each station is well-appointed with public art, but to me they felt somewhat... hollow. Quiet. They're not built with significant traffic in mind, and though stations do have their architectural flourishes, they struck me as rather bare-bones and minimalistic. The ones I travelled through were pretty spotless, but then, it's a lot easier to keep something clean when you don't have a constant stream of people coming through and scuffing things up. 

Still, the stations often didn't feel connected to the surrounding neighborhood--this is partially an artifact of how so many of them are built into or adjoining larger buildings, and partially because some of them seem to have been designed specifically so that they don't have to interact with what's around them. My prime experience with this was at Greektown Station, which serves one of downtown Detroit's more touristy enclaves. From the platform there's a staircase that leads down to street level, but when I'd done what I went to Greektown to do and headed back to the People Mover, I found that the door I'd come through was exit-only. There's another entrance, an elevated one connected to the building across the street that houses the Greektown Casino, but for the life of me I could not find it--in the end, it was easier for me to follow the track to the next station. 

I only encountered other people on the platforms a handful of times, and Renaissance Center Station was the only one where there would reliably be others waiting with me--and since the RenCen includes a 70-storey hotel, and two different conventions were going on the week I was there, I'm not sure it's representative either. I don't think the GM employees make that much use of it either, given the 1970s-level profusion of parking lots and parking structures nearby. The rest of them made Toronto's Ellesmere Station look like Grand Central.


Equipment


An ad-wrapped People Mover train glides over the streetscape.

Detroit is one of three cities that makes use of ICTS2 as the foundation of its rail transit network, and of those it was the most recent to start them rolling. It uses the same 1980s-era Mark I trains that Vancouver started with and which the Scarborough RT still relies on, but in exclusively two-car trains. Inside the cars seem like they've been left the way they came from the factory, with the walls and seats all resolutely beige, and the exteriors are all taken over by whole-car wrap advertisements. Detroit's cars do have small plastic "armrests" that divide the otherwise wall-length bench seating into groups of ones and twos, something I've never encountered in Vancouver or Scarborough. The operators also seem unusually obsessed with making sure riders don't lean on the doors--one set I found had no fewer than three stickers to that effect, but let's be honest; most people probably don't bother to read them anyway.


Ease of Access and Ease of Use



One would be forgiven for mistaking this for an entrance to Greektown station. It isn't--it really isn't.


One thing that surprised me right off about the People Mover was that unlike transit systems in most other cities I've been to, signage wasn't primarily in the dominant language of the area. There are plenty of examples of trilingual signage on the People Mover, written in English, Spanish, and Arabic--which isn't surprising, given the size of the Chaldean-Assyrian diaspora community in the Detroit area. But there's not much to read, though. System maps seemed few and far between, but then, it's not particularly easy to get lost on a line that loops back on itself again and again.

Access to the stations is governed by turnstiles that exclusively eat Detroit People Mover tokens--about the size of a quarter, and one can be yours for the low, low price of $0.75. I can't remember the last time I rode anything with a fare under a dollar... those kiddie back-and-forth rides you'd find in front of mall arcades, maybe. The token vending machines themselves look like the arcade change machines I used as a kid--hell, considering the People Mover opened in 1987, they were probably manufactured by the same company.

As far as my observations went, accessibility was pretty universal across the People Mover stations, with elevator access from street level to the platform. Considering the system was built in the late 1980s, it better have such access--it's not as if it's a product of the benighted, barbarous 1950s.


Conclusion


The Detroit People Mover is, fundamentally, a mover constantly searching for people--and it doesn't always find them. One of my rides was at 10:45 AM on a weekday, through Financial District Station, and aside from me the train was completely empty. During the course of my background research, I found a few sources indicating the People Mover has come close to being shut down, and it wouldn't surprise me if it yet came to pass. I mean, Detroit is full of potential, but right now it's held back by a mountain of problems. When you watch a train glide by a grand, towering, turn-of-the-century skyscraper that is in fact completely empty, or when you look past the platform at a building that's as thoroughly decked out in graffiti as is possible for one that probably doesn't have working elevators anymore, sometimes it feels like you're looking between universes--where the People Mover is an artifact of a city that could have been, quietly rolling above the city that is.

1 The other two are the Metromover in Miami and the Jacksonville Skyway. Like Detroit, the Jacksonville system lacks major transit connections outside its service area.
2 Yeah, I know they're calling it "INNOVIA Metro" now, but that's just rebranded corporate bafflegab anyway.


Previous Tunnel Visions

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Fresh Appearance

There may be one or two of you out there who're interested in what I'm on about. If that's the case, great! My latest short story--well, novelette, really--"Each Night I Dream of Liberty" is now available in the October 2014 issue of Analog. You can find it in bookstores and online, and if you're in Toronto you can also pick it up from the Union Fruit Market in Union Station or borrow an electronic copy from the Toronto Public Library.

Also, I've just come back from Detroit and Detcon1. It was pretty rad. Here, I brought back this photo of a seagull for yinz.


Fly!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Tailings of the Golden Age #1: Blitz Against Japan

"Blitz Against Japan," by Robert Moore Williams
Appeared in Amazing Stories, September 1942

"Who thought he had developed a secret weapon that was going to end the war," York harshly corrected. "He talks some politician into using pressure in Washington so he could get a trial. He brings his weapon out of Hawaii and installs it on two battleships. He says it will knock planes out of the sky as far as they can be seen, that it will smash the biggest battleship that was ever floated. He takes the battleships out for tests. Blooie! Two battleships gone. Only they were our battleships, the ones on which the weapon had been installed. This might not have been fatal if only the Japs had not chosen the very next day to attack the islands, with every carrier, every cruiser, every destroyer, and every battleship they had, not to mention a couple of hundred transports loaded with troops. We were two battleships short, two ships that might have meant the difference between victory and defeat. That's why we lost the Hawaiian Islands. That's why I'm damning Riemann..."


Here's a fun fact--I bought this issue of Amazing Stories specifically because this was the cover story. I knew it would not be particularly pleasant, and I was not proven wrong.

Picture this: it's Monday, December 8, 1941, smoke is still rising after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and just like that the war that's been raging for two years already has pulled the United States in. It was a conflict that some saw coming--hell, the October 1933 issue of Wonder Stories includes a story that posits the eruption of a war between the US and Japan in 1940--but even if you see the punch coming, that won't make it hurt any less if it hits. That's when you start smarting over it, maybe wondering why it happened at all, but more importantly figuring out how you're going to get back at the guy who swung at you.

That's the atmosphere in which Robert Moore Williams wrote the novelette "Blitz Against Japan," a story you've probably never heard of. Appearing as it does in the September 1942 issue of Raymond Palmer's Amazing Stories, which would itself have hit the stands by August at the latest, fresh wounds ooze through this story. Palmer himself called it "inspired and smashing." With the bright light of morning seventy-two years later falling on it, though, its more problematic aspects are thrown into sharp relief--and damn if there aren't a lot of them.

"Blitz Against Japan" is set in a dark, unpleasant future: specifically, 1943. The Pacific War, at least, is not going well for the United States--Hawaii has been captured, the Pacific Fleet has been sunk, and a gigantic Japanese invasion force is bearing down on the West Coast. We're introduced to our protagonist, Lieutenant Dave York, as he discovers the invasion fleet in a scout plane with a radio shattered in a dogfight with Zero fighters, races to bring the news back to the last American carrier in the Pacific only to find it sinking, runs out of gas within sight of the California coast, and ditches in the water rather than leave his back-seat buddy Red Johnson afloat and alone. They get picked up by a fortuitous seaplane, at least, so it's all good--I mean, except for the whole "the good guys are up against the wall" theme, which is hardly unique to this story. In fact, one of the things that came to mind while reading this story was that this was reminiscent of The Last Starfighter, except with less CGI and a hell of a lot more casual racism. 

Aside from the near-future setting, the story's main science-fictional element comes after York and Johnson return to land, when Johnson lets slip that his uncle, an inventor and scientist named Reimann, is looking for pilots for a secret weapon project that's so secret not even the US government knows about it--shades of the Manhattan Project, certainly. Reimann, we were told earlier to fill space before York and Johnson were picked up by the seaplane, had invented a weapon--the "radium projector"--capable of destroying planes and battleships with equal ease, but the weapon ended up destroying two US battleships instead... and wouldn't you know it, the Japanese attacked literally the next day and conquered Hawaii! The fact that York blames the conquest on Reimann, and not the monumentally massive intelligence failure that allowed the entire Imperial Japanese Navy to attack Hawaii with complete surprise, says a lot about the care with which this story was put together--though it could also be Williams commenting on Pearl Harbor.

So, Riemann has this secret weapon, but he's persona non grata among the military brass because of the battleship incident, and so York and Johnson decide to go AWOL--a capital offense during wartime!--and track down Riemann's secret laboratory, hidden at a horse ranch near San Francisco that Riemann himself owns, because who would ever think to look there? It's there that York discovers the secret weapon: a refined version of the radium projector, a radiation beam which can "accelerate the action of the forces normally present in the metal that cause it to disintegrate." These whiz-bang ray guns come mounted on rocket ships, because in 1942 everyone knew that rocketry was the wave of the future, even if they weren't sure how exactly it would come about. Riemann's rockets, despite having no wings--hell, from the bit visible on the cover, they don't have any control surfaces at all--will be enough to turn the tide of the war.

Then the Nazi saboteurs, fresh from sabotaging the original radium projectors, show up. That's right, what the hell did you expect? This is a war story after all. Here we also see the only female character in the story, York's girlfriend Rita, who exists primarily to sob, be called "kitten," and follow York to the secret laboratory, thereby leading the Nazi saboteurs right there as well. Thankfully, York received literally seconds of training on these experimental aircraft that bear no resemblance to anything he's ever flown before. It's just in time, because the big Japanese invasion of Los Angeles is proving to be only a feint, but before he can launch the Nazis invade the lab and start monologuing! They even let the characters listen to radio reports about how the Japanese are attacking San Francisco with poison gas--specifically, poison gas "released from thousands of hidden generators," only released after all the Japanese residents were evacuated, and the result of a plan that had taken years of preparation. Because, you know, every Japanese person in the United States was a deadly danger and a sleeper agent for Tokyo. The United States would never do anything so heinous as put innocent civilians in internment camps behind barbed-wire fences, so obviously those civilians must not be innocent at all! Everything falls into place, and the American people can believe they're doing the right thing.

That's hardly the way to go, though! The good guys manage to get the upper hand long enough for York to hop into one of these experimental rockets, fire up the engines, induce an oscillation because he's got no idea what he's doing, and slam into the side of a mountain. Wait, no, that's what would really happen.


 
Video: what really happens when you put an untrained person behind the wheel of a rocket.

Nevertheless, York manages to get the rocket in the air and keep it there. The Japanese fleet has assembled off San Francisco for the invasion, but with almost every plane on the West Coast fighting at Los Angeles, it's up to York to defend the Frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada. He gets a carrier in his sights, triggers the radium projector--and nothing!

Then there's one of the mid-scene scene breaks that happened all the goddamn time in 1930s and 1940s pulp stories, and we find it in fact did something. Then we encounter the Japanese, who start talking like characters from racist propaganda, or racist shoe advertisements. ("What happened to honorable carrier?" "Regret that this lowly one must report to honorable admiral that one carrier has been sunk.") I know that the Japanese language is really up about honorifics, but seriously, people. We then get reflections on how one 1940s destroyer could have sunk the Spanish Armada, and seeing as how the only danger York is in comes from his own skill at piloting, Williams had to throw in a final enemy worthy of his newfound power: the head Nazi spy, who appears in one of the other rockets. This epic duel of the fates lasts for an astonishing six paragraphs before the Nazi is shot down, and afterward the conclusion is obvious. The Japanese fleet is annihilated, and with its newfound advanced technology America is on the march for Tokyo.

In all, not exactly the sort of story that had a lot of staying power. Like the pulps themselves were seen by many, it's fundamentally disposable: meant to be read and then chucked away, tied absolutely to its time. It's not particularly strong, science-fictionally speaking--aside from the rockets and the radium projector it's just invasion literature, though SF has historically owed a lot to that genre. Kenneth Hite once described Gernsback's Amazing Stories as being filled with "odes to antigravity machines," and that's the sort of viewpoint that's echoed in "Blitz Against Japan." It's an entire story about how no matter how much we may screw up and get things wrong, if we put our faith in Blast Hardcheese--by which I mean technology--we'll make it through in the end.

Beyond that, it's just weird. The key to suspending any disbelief whatsoever for this story is to understanding the viewpoint of early 1942. In the United States, Japan was by and large a mystery--in his editorial, Palmer mentions that not even photos of the Zero fighter were available for artist Robert Fuqua to use as reference, though aside from minor details in the wing shape it's remarkably accurate. People were willing to believe that Japan was a juggernaut that would roll across the Pacific, that fifth columns of spies and saboteurs would hamper the war effort, and that the United States was weak and vulnerable. From a modern, historical perspective, it's flatly impossible. Japan did not have the resources to overwhelm the United States, but worst-case scenarios will always prosper in wartime.

This story did get one thing right, though: Japan's defeat came by way of nuclear weapons. Just not the kind you're thinking of.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Tailings of the Golden Age: Introduction

Recently there's been a lot of talk about the Golden Age of Science Fiction, and how the field has changed since the days of Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein. That it has changed is something everybody agrees on; it's the nature of that change that feeds modern fires. Beyond that, though, the nature of the Golden Age is harder to pin down than a smeerp in heat. There are plenty of folks who look back to it as a grand, idealized time when arguments like those we deal with didn't happen.

Golden ages aren't just about what we remember, lionize, or pine for, however. What's just as illuminating is what we choose to forget, and god damn have we forgotten a lot about the Golden Age of Science Fiction. Not entirely without reason, in some respects--while editors of the time did print things that are still talked about today, if you open a Golden Age magazine at random you're not likely to find a table of contents filled with familiar names. Fact is, you're going to find things that might challenge your view of what it was like.

Myself, I keep my eyes open for pulp magazines still in readable condition--you'd be surprised how well eighty-year-old pulp paper holds up under the right conditions--so that they can illuminate history. I'll be starting a new series of reviews using them as a source, looking at science fiction published between 1931 and 1964 that catches my attention. Look for it here soon.


history: it's rad

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I've Got A New Project

I'm not going to tell you what it is yet--it's only just begun to take shape--but you'll start seeing it here once it's ready to be seen.

Here's a hint, though.

I'm excited.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Politics of Science Fiction

It felt like I'd had just enough time to catch my breath before yet another controversy enveloped science fiction. I swear, sometimes it makes me pine for days past, when I was bashing my keyboard just because and I was entirely ignorant of what all those Real Writers were up to in their golden palaces flying through the rarefied heights.

Except there never was a time like that. Nor was there ever a time before politics in science fiction. But that didn't stop Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds from weighing in in USA Today of all places recently, in a column about how, in his mind, there's no place for politics in science fiction.

My brief rebuttal: bullshit.

My longer rebuttal: this is some bullshit, man.

First off, for the record, I speak as a writer who's recently published a blatantly political science fiction story: "Three Years of Ashes and Twenty Years of Dust" in Strange Bedfellows. I tell you, it was hard coming up with a proper mode for that, but only because Hayden Trenholm was looking for stories in which politics and ideology were front-and-center. Politics are never strangers to science fiction, or writing of any kind--most often they're just hanging back in the shadows, lurking at the edge of the page, guiding the author's arm as the story takes shape. Hell, I have personal experience with that as well: my upcoming story, "Each Night I Dream of Liberty," is set on a sea-based libertarian community. I'm no libertarian, and that absolutely colors the work. I'm pretty confident that if the same notion the story runs on was taken up by a libertarian author, it would not particularly resemble what I produced.

Fish don't notice the water, except when they find themselves flopping on the bottom of a boat. People don't notice the air, except when we take a walk through the airlock without a spacesuit. In that vein, readers don't notice politics in science fiction, so long as those politics match their own.

Politics has always been with science fiction. For someone who knows the sordid history of science fiction fandom, the notion of it being otherwise is ridiculous: the very first World Science Fiction Convention, way back in 1939, was characterized by the wholesale ejection of multiple members of the Futurians, one of the New York fan groups active at the time, after the distribution of a pamphlet that railed against how "the event was run by coercion and dictators."

The problem with politics are the assumptions you carry along with them, that are hidden beneath them like contraband under blankets. Take how Reynolds starts off his column, about how in the Good Old Days™ when Men were Men (and when Women often had to write under Male Pseudonyms to be taken seriously), science fiction was open and diverse, headlined by people as varied as Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert Heinlein.

Because if a bunch of white men doesn't represent diversity, really, what does?

Reynolds mentions Larry Correia, one of this year's Hugo nominees, that he's been getting a lot of blowback. Thinking about it, though, considering that he posted a recommended nomination slate that included Toni Weisskopf, editor at Baen Books and whose post a while back fanned the flames with its talk of cultural divides between "us" and "them," and swine-that-walks-like-a-man Vox Day, aka Theodore Beale, who was kicked out of SFWA last year for using its Twitter feed to disseminate one of his racist screeds... well, what the hell conclusion did he expect me and others to draw? Something other than the winks and nods that say "come on, let's really get those lefties spun up in a tizzy."

Working to nominate people to the Hugo slate who are widely known specifically because of political stances they have taken is not an apolitical act.

there must be a controversy, I'm posting again

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ad Astra 2014 Schedule

As I look outside, winter is very, very, very gradually lifting away from the part of the world I can see--by which I mean most of the snow is gone and the harbor isn't frozen over anymore, even though it remains staggeringly cold--and that means that Convention Season is about to start for another year! First up on my block is Ad Astra, Toronto's local science fiction and fantasy fan convention, even though it's being held up in the remote wilderness of Richmond Hill: close enough to the Arctic Circle as to make no difference at all.

This'll be the first time I've been a participant there, though. They've put me on two panels, and I will be reading from my new story "Three Years of Ashes and Twenty Years of Dust" as part of the official launch of Strange Bedfellows by Bundoran Press. If you're going to be in the neighborhood, perhaps you'll check them out!

Mining in Space - Saturday, April 5, 2:00 PM, Aurora
Bundoran Press Launch Event - Saturday, April 5, 9:00 PM, Book Launch Room
That Drives Me Crazy! - Sunday, April 6, 1:00 PM, Aurora

Thursday, March 6, 2014

My View on the Ross Thing

You may have heard of the latest controversy to engulf the science fiction community--after all, not only is it less than a week old, this one has been picking up some mainstream media coverage, to the extent that six of the first ten hits for his name deal with it. That's because it pivots around how, for eight hours or so last Saturday, former British TV presenter Jonathan Ross was tapped to host the Hugo Awards at this year's Worldcon, Loncon 3. It was only eight hours because that's how long it took for him to back out of it after the news of his being tapped set off a Twitter storm.

If you've never heard of Jonathan Ross, you may be wondering why he was reacted to in such a manner. He has, in fact, run into no shortage of controversies himself, one of them getting him suspended from the BBC for six months. But that is, in itself, a huge factor in what went down. I get the distinct impression that the Loncon 3 chairs didn't fully appreciate that this isn't just another British con, but a Worldcon drawing thousands of people from all over the world--though mostly North America and Western Europe--many of whom would have never heard of this guy who used to be on the telly. Many of whom had only the stories of his controversies to inform them, and given what the sf community has been through in the last few months, a lot of people out there are understandably on hair triggers.

As an experienced presenter, and knowing that he would be representing Loncon 3 in his interactions with the sf community, Ross should have known how to approach the situation professionally and how to introduce himself to people with no prior experience of him. Instead, this is what we got:


My first introduction to and impression of Jonathan Ross, ladeez and germs.

When you're caught in an incipient controversy, there's one simple rule--don't feed it. Resnick and Malzberg turned the SFWA controversy from eye-rolling and grumbles to flame wars by saying that people rolling their eyes and grumbling at them were liberal fascists trying to censor them. Rob Ford made a mockery out of his status as a crack aficionado by constantly denying that he smoked crack until finally telling reporters that they hadn't "asked the right question." Ross didn't appreciate this, and so he got burned.

But it's more than that, I think. In this, it seems like there's also a measure of fame's blinders. I see plenty of people like Neil Gaiman bemoaning the reaction that Ross received, but how much of this came from an unexamined opinion that everyone would know Ross for Ross? I didn't. I only know Ross from his tweets, and I don't care if Neil Gaiman calls him a friend--I think he's a jerk.

When people voice their concerns about you, the proper response is not to insult them or accuse them of slander. It only makes you look out-of-touch and, frankly, a bit sad.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Photo: Snow Memorial

Toronto got a fair dump of snow a couple of weeks ago on Wednesday, the sort of snow I got used to in Central Ontario but which didn't seem to track down south all that often. University Avenue was a white mess, and not even the American Consulate had shovelled (shoveled?) its barrier-protected patch of sidewalk, and it made the entire area take on a winter cast that doesn't come around all that often. Here, the South African War Memorial stands solid against a storm-obscured skyline.


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This means that you are free to Share (to copy, distribute and transmit the work) and to Remix (to adapt the work) under the following conditions: Attribution (you must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor, but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work), Noncommercial (you may not use this work for commercial purposes), and Share Alike (if you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one).

Friday, February 14, 2014

Photo: Snow Squirrel

It's been a while since I posted a critter photograph, but the Toronto winter doesn't make the local critters any less busy. I found this squirrel dashing up and across trees at Mel Lastman Square in North York, during the flurries we had a couple of weekends ago. Most of the ones I took got compromised by motion blur, but I think this one works well.

Why am I posting so uncharacteristically late in the day, you might ask? To keep you on your toes, mostly!


I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby release it under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

This means that you are free to Share (to copy, distribute and transmit the work) and to Remix (to adapt the work) under the following conditions: Attribution (you must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor, but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work), Noncommercial (you may not use this work for commercial purposes), and Share Alike (if you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one).