October 29, 2011

Canadian Air and Space Museum to be evicted in favour of ice rinks

Filed under: Cancon, History, Space, Technology, WW2 — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 12:20

A sad tale at the CBC website about the impending eviction of the museum and other tenants of the historic (but not historically designated) DeHavilland plant in Downsview:

A building that played a major role in the production of aircraft for the Allies in their fight against Hitler during the Second World War is facing the wrecking ball.

It’s located in Toronto’s Downsview Park and is described in federal heritage documents simply as “CFB Plant .1, Building .1.”

Just one month after the federal government celebrated Canada’s aviation history by reintroducing the name, “Royal Canadian Air Force,” it was sending an eviction notice to a building where RCAF planes were assembled.

Built in 1929, the plant housed the operations of the de Havilland Aircraft company which provided 17 per cent of Canada’s planes during the war years.

[. . .]

David Soknacki, the chairman of Parc Downsview Park, says the building at 65 Carl Hall Road is not currently classified as a heritage building.

Up until Oct. 26., the Canada’s Historic Places website listed the facility as “a recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations and its architectural and environmental value.”

Then the listing disappeared.

H/T to Michael O’Connor Clarke for the link.

The Halloween fun-snatchers

Filed under: Randomness, Religion — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:43

Tristin Hopper has a scary list of all the folks who are out to prevent any fun from happening this October 31st:

This Halloween, some Barrie, Ont., elementary students will not go to school dressed as witches, goblins or zombies — but in simple shades of orange and black. The dress code is “an effort to respect the diverse value of … families,” according to a letter sent out by one school.

Similar ”orange-and-black” days have been decreed around Ottawa schools this year by parents and teachers. In parts of Quebec, costumes are permitted — but junk food restrictions have barred teachers and administrators from distributing candy to students.

[. . .]

Since the 1970s, Halloween fears have mostly involved tainted treats; razor blades in apples and chocolate bars injected with rat poison. Spooked by rumours of sabotaged Halloween candy, dozens of municipal councils enacted trick-or-treating bans, and home-baked treats quickly became a quaint relic. But to date, the only confirmed case of tainted Halloween candy occurred in 1974 when Houston dad Ronald Clark O’Bryan murdered his eight-year-old son as part of a life insurance scam by spiking a package of Pixy Stix with cyanide.

[. . .]

Halloween’s pagan origins have earned it official scorn from most major religions, and when trick-or-treaters come to the door of Calgary-area pastor Paul Ade, they walk away not with candy, but with a Bible.

Mr. Ade is the founder of JesusWeen, a Christian alternative to Halloween gaining traction in Canada, the United States and the U.K. Instead of chocolate bars and lollipops, JesusWeen participants hand out Bibles, pieces of scripture or other Christian-themed gifts. JesusWeen participants can even dress up — although as superheroes and princesses rather than witches or ghosts. “We as Christians believe in life, not death,” Mr. Ade explains.

[. . .]

In the United States, religious calls to ban Halloween reached a boiling in the 1990s as a retaliation to efforts by the American Civil Liberties Union to scrub any mention of religion from the school system. In 1989, a small county in Florida banned Halloween on the grounds that it was a pagan religious holiday. By century’s end, dozens of school boards across the country had followed suit. Anti-Halloween sentiment soon spread to Canada. In 1998, three Thunder Bay Catholic schools banned Halloween for promoting “evil” values.

Windows XP, the operating system that refuses to die

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 11:08

Ars Technica looks back on the long, long history of Microsoft’s Windows XP:

Windows XP’s retail release was October 25, 2001, ten years ago today. Though no longer readily available to buy, it continues to cast a long shadow over the PC industry: even now, a slim majority of desktop users are still using the operating system.

Windows XP didn’t boast exciting new features or radical changes, but it was nonetheless a pivotal moment in Microsoft’s history. It was Microsoft’s first mass-market operating system in the Windows NT family. It was also Microsoft’s first consumer operating system that offered true protected memory, preemptive multitasking, multiprocessor support, and multiuser security.

The transition to pure 32-bit, modern operating systems was a slow and painful one. Though Windows NT 3.1 hit the market in 1993, its hardware demands and software incompatibility made it a niche operating system. Windows 3.1 and 3.11 both introduced small amounts of 32-bit code, and the Windows 95 family was a complex hybrid of 16-bit and 32-bit code. It wasn’t until Windows XP that Windows NT was both compatible enough — most applications having been updated to use Microsoft’s Win32 API — and sufficiently light on resources.

In the history of PC operating systems, Windows XP stands alone. Even Windows 95, though a landmark at its release, was a distant memory by 2005. No previous PC operating system has demonstrated such longevity, and it’s unlikely that any future operating system will. Nor is its market share dominance ever likely to be replicated; at its peak, Windows XP was used by more than 80 percent of desktop users.

More on Malthus

Filed under: Books, Economics, History, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:57

Tim Harford poses and answers some common questions about the much-talked-about 7-billionth birth:

There will be 7bn of us come Halloween? You’re kidding.

Someone at the UNPFA has a sense of humour, it seems. This is a terrifying prospect to some and cheery for others, while most of us find it irrelevant. Halloween seems appropriate.

This is a statistical projection, and statistical projections don’t have a sense of humour.

But they do have margins of error. The UNPFA doesn’t even know whether the seven billionth person will be born in 2011. Even the UK is currently relying on 10-year old census data. There are places in the world where the data are decades old and we’re just guessing at the population. Still, such celebrations — if they are celebrations — do pass the time.

[. . .]

So Malthus was wrong?

Even Robert Malthus realised that there was such a thing as birth control. His more excitable successors, such as Paul Ehrlich, author in 1968 of The Population Bomb, have been fairly thoroughly rebutted by subsequent events. Dan Gardner, author of the fascinating Future Babble, summarises Ehrlich’s three scenarios for the 1980s as “everybody dies” (starvation-triggered nuclear war), “every third human dies” (starvation-triggered virus) and in the optimistic scenario “a billion people still die of starvation”.

This week in Guild Wars 2 news

Filed under: Gaming — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:19

I’ve been accumulating news snippets about the as-yet-to-be-formally-scheduled release of Guild Wars 2 for an email newsletter I send out to my friends and acquaintances in the Guild Wars community. Another slow week for GW2 news. I’m hoping that this means that ArenaNet has been busy with the closed alpha and that we’re therefore closer to the beta.


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