Spadina Ave.

No is not enough

Later today, Kathleen Wynne will sit down with media from across the province to talk about the transit funding tools she’ll push for. After that, Andrea Horwath will probably denounce her.

Metrolinx has said we need $2 billion per year to keep commutes just in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area from worsening. Andrea Horwath will say that new taxes and tolls will add to the burden of working families across Ontario and she’ll be right. She will then say that can get all that by closing corporate tax loopholes and that is crazy. Last year corporations contributed about $9.5 billion to the provincial budget; 20% is a lot to raise anyone’s taxes by. And we haven’t even done anything for Ottawa, London, or any of the dozens of smaller transit systems across the province.

When Andrea Horwath says that taxes will be burdensome, what she’s actually saying is that taxes are unpopular. If she repeats it today, what she’ll be saying is that she’s more interested in the leadership than in leading. And she’ll be saying that she lacks the courage or conviction to invest in this province’s future.

Tim Hudak and the brothers Ford act like they believe in magic words and talismans (efficiencies, casinos, gravy) that will pour out money for whatever ails the province. Andrea Horwath’s fixation on corporate tax loopholes is the same. If she actually wanted to make the funding plan for transit more progressive, she would do exactly that: work with the premier on a more progressive plan, and do the hard work of bringing the province around to it.

Later today, Kathleen Wynne will announce that she is willing to put her popularity on the line for the future of the province. After that, we’ll see whether Andrea Horwath is willing to do the same. If she isn’t, and her MPPs aren’t either, that should tell Ontarians all we need to know for the next election.

Storytime!

I’m commissioning 3 short stories to launch a branching narrative project soon. The stories can be about anything, and can be linear; I’ll be looking for strong, identifiable characters and solid narratives that are accessible to lots of readers, including young readers.

March 30th Deadline for writing samples
April 3rd Writers chosen and notified
April 25th Deadline for stories

Interested? I’m taking writing samples (past work, not spec work – I’m a freelancer too!) until March 30th. From the submitted samples, I’ll choose 3 writers, who I’ll notify on April 3rd. If you’re selected, you’ll have until April 25th to submit your story.

Stories should be around 1200+ words, 200$, and work will be put on the internet under a Creative Commons – ShareAlike 3.0 license. Since these are foundations for branching narratives, it’s best if there are some natural decision points on which the story can be broken in to pages.

Submit your writing samples to senning@puppydogtales.ca!

The Essential (New) Doctor Who

Following on my Star Trek: TNG guide, here’s the best of the 2005-era Doctor Who.

  • 1×02 – The End of the World
  • 1×06 – Dalek
  • 1×07 – The Long Game
  • 1×09-10 – The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances
  • 1×12-13 – Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways
  • 2×04 – The Girl in the Fireplace
  • 2×08-09 – The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit
  • 3×01 – Smith and Jones
  • 3×03 – Gridlock
  • 3×04-05 – Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks
  • 3×08-09 – Human Nature/Family of Blood
  • 3×10 – Blink
  • 3×11-13 – Utopia/Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords
  • 4×06 – The Doctor’s Daughter
  • 4×9-10 – Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead
  • 4×08 – Midnight
  • 4×17-18 – End of Time

Starting here, the season arcs became more important. Episodes that are arc-essential but not as good are italicized.

  • 5×01 – The Eleventh Hour
  • 5x0405The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone
  • 5×07 – Amy’s Choice
  • 5×10 – Vincent and the Doctor
  • 5×11 – The Lodger
  • 5×12-13 – The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang
  • 6×01-02 – The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon
  • 6×04 – The Doctor’s Wife
  • 6x0506The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People
  • 6×07 – A Good Man Goes to War
  • 6×08 – Let’s Kill Hitler
  • 6×09 – The Girl Who Waited
  • 6×11 – The God Complex
  • 6×12 – Closing Time
  • 6×13 – The Wedding of River Song
  • 7×01 – Asylum of the Daleks
  • 7×03 – A Town Called Mercy
  • 7×05 – The Angels Take Manhattan

 

Posted from Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

The Essential Star Trek: The Next Generation

If you’re looking for good TV, here’s the essential Star Trek:TNG.

Note: If there’s interest, I can do short recommendations for some of the best episodes.

  • 1×06 – Where No One Has Gone Before
  • 2×03 – Elementary, Dear Data
  • 2×09 – Measure of a Man
  • 2×16 – Q Who
  • 3×03 – The Survivors
  • 3×04 – Who Watches the Watchers
  • 3×14 – A Matter of Perspective
  • 3×15 – Yesterday’s Enterprise
  • 3×26-4×02 – Best of Both Worlds + Family
  • 4×04 – Suddenly Human
  • 4×08 – Reunion
  • 4×13 – Devil’s Due
  • 4×15 – First Contact (just because aliens get hot for Riker)
  • 4×21 – The Drumhead
  • 4×25 – In Theory
  • 5×02 – Darmok
  • 5×05 – Disaster
  • 5×14 – Conundrum
  • 5×19 – The First Duty
  • 5×23 – I, Borg
  • 5×25 – The Inner Light
  • 6×05 – Schisms
  • 6×06 – True Q
  • 6×09 – The Quality of Life
  • 6×10/6×11 – Chain of Command
  • 6×15 – Tapestry
  • 6×19 – Lessons
  • 6×24 – Second Chances
  • 7×10 – Inheritance
  • 7×12 – The Pegasus
  • 7×15 – Lower Decks
  • 7×16 – Thine Own Self
  • 7×25/7×26 – All Good Things

And episodes that aren’t as good but should be watched anyway:

  • 1×09 – The Battle
  • 1×13 – Datalore
  • 1×20 – Heart of Glory
  • 2×14 – The Icarus Factor
  • 2×20 – The Emissary
  • 3×07 – The Enemy
  • 3×25 – Transfigurations
  • 4×11 – Data’s Day
  • 4×16 – Galaxy’s Child
  • 4×19 – The Nth Degree
  • 5×03 – Ensign Ro
  • 5×07/5×08 – Unification
  • 5×24 – The Next Phase
  • 6×04 – Relics
  • 7×08 – Attached
  • 7×09 – Force of Nature
  • 6×08 – A Fistful of Datas
  • 7×17 – Masks
  • 7×20 – Journey’s End
  • 7×23 – Emergence

A new flag for Ontario

With Scotland threatening to leave the United Kingdom, We Made This mused about what the new Union Flag, sans St. Andrew’s Cross of Scotland but finally adding Wales, would look like:

They were not entirely serious.

They concluded with this thought:

Just spare a thought for all the flag-makers, and not just the ones for the UK, but for all the other nations and colonies that feature the Union Flag in the canton (the upper left hand quadrant) of their flags.

Fortunately for Canada, Pearson took us through the flag debate back in 1964. But wait, Manitoba and Ontario (loyal she remains) weren’t too happy with our modern Maple Leaf and decided to get their own red ensigns. B.C., in 1960, got its own flag based on the coat of arms which also contains a Union Flag!

Uh oh

Well let’s see what we can do about that. We all like a maple leaf, right? Even Americans, supposedly, slap one on their backpacks. Well, if one maple leaf is good, how about 3?!

Isn’t that just the Pearson Pennant? Shut up, no. It follows the 1:2:1 Canadian triband and isn’t blue. Jerk.

Ontario! Fuck yeah! Straight from our coat of arms! Or maybe we want to try the modern treatment? What’s more modern than Switzerland?

Sexy! But wait, we don’t want the other provinces to think that we’re getting all “Centre of Confederation” again. Don’t we have a botanical symbol of our very own, maybe one that’s ridiculously sensitive and pretty rare? Maybe it serves as our provincial symbol and went through an unnecessary and ill-advised redesign which we’ll ignore?

Well, that looks a bit familiar, doesn’t it? If you’ve been an Ontarian for more than a decade maybe it’s giving you a bit of warmth in your heart or head? Maybe you’re swelling a bit of pride, or is that just your sinuses?

Yes, the old OHIP card is a bit of an obsession.

Did you know that Ontario probably derives from the Wyandot Ontarí:io meaning “great lake” or Iroquoian skanadario, “beautiful water?” The lake, of course. The province takes its name from the lake. Of course. I guess we’re lucky we don’t live in Toronto, Erie. Well, how about some of that beautiful water?

Hudson’s Bay on the top, the Great Lakes down below. Symbolism everyone!

Oh, what’s that British Columbia and New Brunswick? You’ve already got waves on your flags? Yeah, let’s talk about it when yours represent anything potable.

Hmm. Well, did you know that Ontario’s colours are green and gold? Apparently. Not that we’ve used it anywhere except the coat-of-arms. Well, why not the flag?

It’s yellow on the inside because of stamen. The stamen are very big because… fertility? Symbolism?

Wait, what are we, Saskatchewan?

If we get too close to Saskatchewan, will Manitoba feel uncomfortable?

Right.

I know what you’re saying. “Well, none of these makes me want to repel a Fenian raid or anything. But can’t you show me something that’s more… trainwreck?” Why yes, yes I can:

Vexillological joke! If that doesn’t get me laid, nothing will!

Jocelyn Bell Burnell

A post for Ada Lovelace Day.

A woman was the first to identify a pulsar (and the next three after that). Reading through 96 feet of radio charts every day, Jocelyn Bell Burnell identified a regularly repeating bit of “scruff” which came from the same direction in space every day.

Jocelyn Bell Burnell. Photo from the Wikimedia Commons by Harry the Dirty Dog, in the public domain.

After either:

  1. being excluded from lab meetings in which her supervisor advanced the theory that they were receiving a transmission from aliens (the popular recounting)
  2. walking in on a high-level meeting in which her supervisor and his colleagues laughed about the possibility (her own retelling),

she went through the charts and found another repeating radio source at the same frequency. After Christmas, she found two more.

It should be noted that she feels she’s earned exactly as much credit as she deserves because, again, she’s about the only one who does. Six years later, the 1974 Nobel for physics was awarded to astronomers for the first time – her supervisor and her colleague. In fact, her supervisor was cited by the Nobel committee “for his decisive role in the discovery of pulsars.” On the Nobel, she has said, “Thirdly, I believe it would demean Nobel Prizes if they were awarded to research students, except in very exceptional cases, and I do not believe this is one of them.” But then she continued, “Finally, I am not myself upset about it –after all, I am in good company, am I not!”

In the BBC 2010 series Beautiful Minds she said:

One of the things women bring to a research project, or indeed any project, is they come from a different place, they’ve got a different background. Science has been named, developed, interpreted by white males for decades and women view the conventional wisdom from a slightly different angle — and that sometimes means they can clearly point to flaws in the logic, gaps in the argument, they can give a different perspective of what science is.

Jocelyn Bell Burnell brought her perspective in to a nascent field; she was involved in naming, developing and interpreting it. Human knowledge is richer for her mind and her work.

Addendum

Wasn’t it very rare to have a woman Ph.D. candidate in science back then? Well, here’s an anecdote from the Belfast Telegraph:

There was a tradition among the students that when a female walked into a lecture theatre all the guys stamped and whistled and called and banged the desk. And I faced that for every class I walked into for my last two years.

Posted from Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Vegan Shepherd’s Pie with Squash Crust

My choir had a Thanksgiving potluck this weekend full of great food, good company, booze, and surprising musical talents. I wanted to bring a shepherd’s pie (my favourite fall food) but with the surfeit of potato I went for a different crust. Basically, I combined and simplified a lentil shepherd’s pie recipe from my favourite vegan blog (It Ain’t Meat, Babe) with a squash mash from new, awesome find Really Nice Recipes. Here’s the combo:

Serves 3-4
Prep + Cook time (parallelized): 90 min

Ingredients

  • 400g squash (1 acorn, but the less sweet the better; use more for larger casserole dishes)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • ½ teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 cup brown lentils (black beans are great for a larger grain texture; adjust water and cooking time)
  • 1/3 cup barley,
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 3 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup broth

Steps

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Halve the squash and scoop out the seeds. Cover the squash in olive oil, place a garlic clove in each half and sprinkle with oregano, and dashes of salt and pepper. Pop it in the oven and bake until soft (~30 min).
  2. Boil the lentils (use 2-3 cups of broth, 20+ minutes if starting from dry lentils) and add barley, bay leaf, rosemary, and vinegar ~10 minutes before ready.
  3. Slice the celery and onions, and cut the carrots in 1″ (2cm) quarter-circle wedges. Sauté to softish (coincidentally, ~10 minutes!).
  4. Combine the lentils and veggies, leave to simmer. The squash should be done by now – remove from oven, scoop the soft flesh in to a mash-friendly container, then mash away.
  5. The lentils should be soft and fillingy by now. Pour in to a casserole dish then glob squash mash to cover. You should bake for a while to get the squash a bit drier, but that isn’t strictly necessary. You can also put this in the fridge at this stage where it’ll probably keep well for days, but remember to leave plenty of time for reheat as it has quite a bit of thermal mass.
separation

A Separation

A Separation isn’t a court room drama, it’s a terribly intimate story about the ways children interpret the world their parents make, driven by half-truths told in court. The characters are fascinating, honest (to the camera) and sympathetic (sometimes to each other); even one reprehensible for what she does, and fails to do, is understandable though hard to forgive. The film is beautifully shot, revealing the layers both of the characters and the city they inhabit. And its at its best when the credits roll leaving with a mystery. Not the one untangled through the story, but the one it wound towards inevitably.

Posted from Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Tully

Tully

Tully


When I first saw Tully, she was lying by the side of the sidewalk in a park in Macao. She was beautiful, her eyes closed, her head resting on a long blade of grass. She was also thin, though I didn’t realise how thin until I petted her.
That was also when it became obvious that she was ill. Her eyes didn’t open and she couldn’t even meow; she just moaned. The grass stuck to her nose.
It took a few tries to find someone who would help but the person who eventually did help, Carla, called her friends to find the right organization to call and was an incredible help and support for both Tully and I. Thank you, Carla.
The incredible people at AAPAM, who sent out a volunteer for her and took her in, let me know that she died the morning after. Because she couldn’t smell, she hadn’t been able to eat. She just didn’t have the energy to pull through. I’m glad she had a kind group of volunteers who made her comfortable in her last hours.

Posted from Macau, Macau, Macau.