Jonathan Crowe

My Correct Views on Everything

Various and Sundry (Again)

My third book review for AE was posted earlier this week: this time I look at Elements, a short story collection by Suzanne Church. (To reiterate: AE is where I’ll be reviewing Canadian science fiction; anything that is neither will likely fall outside that purview. Bear that in mind when deciding whether to send me a review copy.)

It is now a virtual certainty that Jennifer and I will be attending Ad Astra next month. There was some doubt about it in terms of whether she’d be sufficiently recuperated to attend, but she is, so we will. I’m not doing any programming or anything; our plan is simply to socialize.

The other conventions we plan to attend this year are Readercon and Can-Con. I was too slow to sign up for World Fantasy before it reached the membership cap; Sasquan conflicts with the start of Jennifer’s school year; and we’re watching our pennies too much this year to attend anything further afield.

The next issue of Ecdysis is running awfully late (I’d originally intended for it to be out three months ago), but it’s very nearly done. Honest. It might even be worth the wait.

Backbench Conservative Hijinks, and How to Respond to Them

Utter stupidity on the part of backbench Conservative MPs has been making the news lately. New Brunswick Southwest MP John Williamson had to apologize for offensive comments about the temporary foreign workers program — viz., that “it makes no sense to pay ‘whities’ to stay home while we bring in brown people to work in these jobs.” And Lawrence Toet, the MP for the Elmwood—Transcona constituency in Winnipeg, is being pilloried for a constituency mailer that includes this ludicrous, with-us-or-with-the-terrorists false dichotomy:

Now, it’s right that they be publicly called to account for these acts of asshattery. But roasting them on social media only accomplishes so much, and for only so long. Far more effective, especially in an election year, and permanent, to work toward their defeat at the polls.

To that end, here are the major party candidates running against Messrs. Williamson and Toet.

In Elmwood—Transcona, the NDP candidate is Daniel Blaikie, the son of longtime MP and NDP icon Bill Blaikie. (Just in case you thought only the Liberals indulged in dynastic politics.) Given the history of the riding, he’s probably the best bet. The Liberals are running audiologist Andrea Richardson-Lipon.

New Brunswick Southwest is normally a safe Conservative seat, though who knows now? Karen Ludwig is running for the Liberals. There doesn’t seem to be an official list of NDP candidates, but Wikipedia says Andrew Gordon Graham is running for them again.

At Ceres

Ceres in Half Shadow

As of today the Dawn spacecraft is now in orbit of Ceres. Because Dawn’s trajectory puts it in the dwarf planet’s shadow, it’ll be the middle of next month before se start seeing better-resolution images than we’ve seen so far as it approached. The above images were taken from 40,000 km away on February 25.

Meanwhile, early images of Ceres have already been assembled into a preliminary equirectangular mosaic:

Ceres (mosaic)

No labels yet, because nothing’s been named yet: this is the first time we’ve seen these features. But Gazeteer of Planetary Nomenclature says that, in keeping with Ceres’ origin as the name for the Roman goddess of agriculture, Ceres’ craters will be named for “[g]ods and goddesses of agriculture and vegetation from world mythology”; other features will be named for agricultural festivals.

Unruly Places (Off the Map)

Book cover: Unruly Places Alastair Bonnett’s Unruly Places (first published in the U.K. as Off the Map) is a light, entertaining exploration of some of the world’s more unusual places. Bonnett, a social geography professor at Newcastle University, has written 47 short essays about locations that, in the grand scheme of things, don’t make any sense: the exceptions, the asterisks, the ink blots (in at least one case literally) on the map.

These range from the deeply frivolous to the profoundly injust: from bits and pieces of New York City transformed into environmental time capsules and art projects to places meaningful to the author; from rendition sites and pirate bases to Bedouin settlements in the Israeli Negev desert; from destroyed landscapes to Potemkin cities. The places often feel almost science-fictional; and in fact several of them evoked settings in existing science fiction works, like Christopher Priest’s Dream Archipelago and Maureen McHugh’s Nekropolis.

All in all, a pleasant diversion for the geographically minded, though I did have one quibble: the book calling latitude and longitude “Google Earth coordinates,” as though degrees are as proprietary as limited to the KML format.

Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies
by Alastair Bonnett
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Viking Canada, July 2014
Buy at Amazon: Canada, U.S. | Kindle: Canada, U.S.

Off the Map: Lost Spaces, Invisible Cities, Forgotten Islands, Feral Places and What They Tell Us About the World
Aurum Press, April 2014
Buy at Amazon UK | Kindle

Emily Garfield’s Map Art

Emily Garfield: Branching Networks (Cityspace #178)

Emily Garfield’s art is a pen-and-watercolour exercise in the cartography of imaginary places. Her drawings “are inspired by the visual language of maps, as well as the fractal similarity that cities share with biological processes such as the patterns of cells and neurons.” Above: “Branching Networks (Cityspace #178).”

Map Anniversaries

Apollo 14: Mitchell Studies Map

Google Maps turned 10 years old on Sunday — a milestone observed by Samuel Gibbs in the Guardian. See also Liz Gannes’s retrospective at Re/Code. My reaction on launch day was pretty effusive — I was blown away mainly by the user interface. But it wasn’t immediately dominant: it took roughly four years for Google to surpass MapQuest in traffic.

Meanwhile, the Pro version of Google Earth, which used to cost $400/year, is now free. Google Earth itself launched in June 2005, so is approaching its own 10-year anniversary, but it began its existence a few years earlier as Keyhole EarthViewer 3D.

Speaking of map anniversaries, National Geographic Maps is marking its centennial.

The photo above marks another anniversary: It shows Apollo 14 astronaut Ed Mitchell consulting a map during his second lunar EVA on February 6, 1971. Apollo 14 returned to Earth 44 years ago yesterday.

Nikon’s Astrophotography Camera

Nikon D810A Nikon has just announced its first digital SLR optimized for astrophotography: the D810A. Like the D810 on which it’s based, it’s a 36-megapixel, full-frame camera. Unlike the D810, but like the Canon EOS 60Da and digital SLRs modified by third parties, its infrared filter is optimized to let in hydrogen-alpha wavelengths crucial to photographing emission nebulae and star-forming regions that emit light in those frequencies. It’s also capable of taking exposures up to 15 minutes long and has a new preview mode that simulates 30-second exposures.

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Daniel Reeve, Film Cartographer

Someone was responsible for the maps developed for the film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and other movies (on-screen and in promotional materials), and that someone is Daniel Reeve, a freelance artist who also did a lot of the letterwork and calligraphy. Via Boing Boing.

Arrest, Charges in N.B. Python Case

Remember the incident in Campbellton, New Brunswick in August 2013, in which a 14-foot African Rock Python escaped from its cage at an unaccredited zoo/pet store and killed two small boys? There’s been a development: the owner of the facility, Jean-Claude Savoie, was arrested in Montreal yesterday. He was released the same day but will appear in court in Campbellton on April 27. Only then will we know what charges he’s facing: the authorities aren’t saying at this time. The investigation is still under way. But it’s a fairly good guess that Savoie is facing criminal charges of some sort, rather than charges under provincial wildlife law — the window for laying those charges has apparently already passed.

Previously: About the Python in New Brunswick; Campbellton Python Incident Update; At the Pointy End of a Moral Panic; More Updates on the Python Incident; Python Truthers Are a Problem.

The Oldest Known Snake

What is the definition of a snake? If you said “legless reptile” you’d be wrong: there are two families of legless lizard as well as amphisbaenians (which are just weird, especially these things). If I remember correctly, a snake is defined by its skull, which differs from other squamates: it’s thin, delicate, mobile and articulated. It was that definitive skull that led a team of researchers, headed by University of Alberta paleontologist Michael Caldwell, to identify four species dating from 140 to 167 million years ago as snakes rather than lizards, putting the emergence of snakes far earlier in the prehistoric past. (Snakes were previously thought to have evolved around 100 million years ago: the gap in the fossil record is not really surprising given how poorly delicate snake skeletons fossilize.) The findings suggest that the snake skull may have evolved before snakes lost their legs. Article abstract. News coverage: CBC News, Discovery News, Live Science, University of Alberta.

Older Entries

CBC Ottawa and Medical Quackery
Irregular Verbs and My Doing Book Reviews in General
Fuel Economy and Transmissions
Charlie Hebdo in Context
Books Read in 2014
Peregrine or Merlin
Atlas of Canada
Review: Following the Ninth
The Patterson Projection
Various and Sundry
A New Species Hiding in New York City
Geologic Maps of Vesta
The Biggest Venomous Snake Ever
‘This Year Is Different’
Gift Guide: 10 Map Books of 2014
Ecdysis 4
Threatened Status Proposed for Black Pine Snake
Gene Wolfe Interviewed