October 6, 2014

“Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise a kid”

Filed under: Cancon, Randomness — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 18:18

Kathy Shaidle on the decline of Toronto’s “Village”, once the second largest gay neighbourhood in North America:

I wasn’t exactly “the only straight in the Village” but sometimes it felt that way. Back then, the stretch of Church Street from Bloor as far as Gerrard was replete with rainbow flags, gay-owned/friendly establishments, and their sometimes disturbingly clone-y patrons. Alongside bars like Sailor and the Barn Stables, gift shops dealt in pink triangle lapel pins and Joan Crawford-themed birthday cards. Zelda’s, with its drag-queen-trailer-park-themed décor, was a beloved brunch destination.

On residential offshoots like Charles and Maitland, homes and gardens were lovingly, even competitively, tended. For Pride (which grew in length from a single summer day to a whole month during my tenancy) and “gay Christmas” (Halloween), festive decorations were hung early and often. “Any excuse for a party” was a phrase you heard almost as frequently as “It’s five o’clock somewhere.” Even the rare misanthropic gesture screamed “gay,” like the fellow who strung colored lights on his balcony to spell out “FUCK XMAS.”

Then, slowly, over the course of a decade, “pop and pop” neighborhood anchors like the Priape sex shop gave way to tacky “breeder” franchises, like fake British pubs and pizza joints. Perversely, the Second Cup demolished its famous “steps,” which had long served as the Ghetto’s 24/7 public square.

The Village took on the grim, grimy atmosphere of an off-season amusement park.

If you’re thinking “AIDS,” think again. I would have predicted the same cause once upon a time, as the 1990s saw more and more skeletal figures shuffling along the sidewalks, until they became names inscribed on the memorial in the same notorious park where the living still stubbornly cruised for sex and drugs.

But gay and straight observers alike agree: it wasn’t low T-cells but low interest rates that emptied out the Ghetto. Lifelong renters — like me — could suddenly afford homes of their own, but not in Boystown, where even a dilapidated house listed in the high six figures. Gays started colonizing (and, predictably, beautifying) new neighborhoods where buyers could get more house for their money: Cabbagetown, Leslieville, and even the once unthinkable Parkdale (now nicknamed Queer Street West).

October 4, 2014

Kids, don’t try this at home

Filed under: Britain, Randomness — Tags: — Nicholas Russon @ 09:55

Published on 2 Oct 2014

#TheRidge is the brand new film from Danny Macaskill… For the first time in one of his films Danny climbs aboard a mountain bike and returns to his native home of the Isle of Skye in Scotland to take on a death-defying ride along the notorious Cuillin Ridgeline.

H/T to Roger Henry who said “Here’s some more of that insane bike-rider from Scotland [...] I kept expecting to hear someone say ‘He’s fallen in the water’.”

September 10, 2014

Ohio Amish Barn Raising – May 13th, 2014 in 3 Minutes and 30 seconds

Filed under: Randomness — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 17:11

Published on 14 May 2014

My husband, Scott Miller, shot this video with a Canon 60d Camera using a Pixel TW-282/E3 Wireless remote timer set at 20 second intervals. He shot 1600 pictures from 7:00am until 5:00pm and compressed the 10 hours into 3 minutes and 30 seconds. He even took the day off work to help :). The music in this video was found on the free YouTube music library. It is a song called Cruisin’, by Scott Vestal, off of the compilation album, Bluegrass ’95. To use this video in a commercial player or in broadcasts, please email licensing@storyful.com

July 10, 2014

Sometimes, “a phase” really is just a phase

Filed under: Randomness — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:21

Lindsay Leigh Bentley contrasts her own “tomboy” childhood with that of Ryland, who was born female but whose parents have transitioned her (at age 5):

I have no degree in early childhood development, nor have I studied psychology. I didn’t even graduate from College.

I am also not here to pass judgement on Ryland’s parents. I believe that they are doing what they believe to be the most loving thing for their child. I’m simply sharing my story because I see so much of my 5-year-old self in this child.

I was born the second daughter to two loving, amazing, supportive parents. They would go on to have 2 more daughters. The four of us couldn’t be more different, even down to our hair and eye color. Our parents embraced our differences and allowed us to grow as individuals, not concerned with the social “norms” for girls. I often joke that I was the boy my dad never had. My dad is a free spirit, 100% unconcerned with what people think of him, and he thought nothing of “out of the box” behavior. I function more as a firstborn than a second born (however, this does not make me the firstborn, amiright?)


I wanted to be a boy. Desperately wanted to be a boy. I thought boys had more fun. I felt like a boy in the way that our society views genders. I liked blue and green more than pink and purple. I remember sitting up as high as I could climb in our huge mulberry tree, bow & arrow in hand, trying to kiss my elbow (a neighbor lady had told me that if I could accomplish this, that I would turn into a boy, which was what I wanted in that moment, as a child, more than anything.)

Thankfully, my parents didn’t adhere to the archaic stereotypes that “boys like blue” and “girls like pink;” that “boys play with dinosaurs, and girls play with dolls.” Had they told me that liking these things made me a boy, I would have concluded that I was a boy.

They just let me be me. They let me be a girl who wore jeans more often than skirts. They let me play with slingshots rather than princess wands. They didn’t conclude that I was gay, or transgender. They didn’t put me in a box that would shape my future, at the expense of my own free will.

June 24, 2014

Stereotypes, “gaydar”, and sexual orientation

Filed under: Randomness, Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:38

In (of all places) the Toronto Star, Brian Platt says that “gaydar” is a real thing and that it works better for conservatives than for liberals:

In less than the blink of an eye, your subconscious “gaydar” makes a judgment about someone’s sexual orientation based entirely on facial traits — and it’s usually right.

So says the research of Nicholas Rule, a University of Toronto psychologist giving a talk on the subject this week as part of WorldPride. “The gist of it is that people can accurately judge someone’s sexual orientation from very minimal information about them,” Rule said in an interview.

“You only need to see a face for less than 40 milliseconds to judge sexual orientation with the same level of accuracy that you get if you take all the time in the world.

“To put that in perspective, it takes 400 milliseconds to blink your eye.”

Facial “gaydar” is 65-per-cent accurate on average, according to Rule and his co-researchers at U of T’s Social Perception & Cognition Laboratory. These judgments can be reliably made based on the eyes alone, though facial shape and texture are also big factors.

“Conservatives are more accurate than liberals in making these judgments when they study a face, because conservatives are more likely to use stereotypes,” Rule said. “Of course, stereotypes are often wrong, but they do have what we call kernels of truth. Liberals tend to not want to use stereotypes in making judgments, and it impairs their accuracy.”

June 15, 2014

Men and women really are different

Filed under: Randomness — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:10

CH posts a pair of charts derived from user information (which may or may not be accurate) on the dating site OkCupid, showing the preferences of men and women for dating partners over time:

Men and women are different 1

Women’s preferences for men over time

As women get older, in general they prefer older men. Seems reasonable, right? CH acidly comments “Cougar glorification agit-prop to the contrary notwithstanding, women are not keen on dating men younger than themselves”. But men are not at all the same (at least for the OkCupid crowd):

Men and women are different 2

Men, at least in this sample, are all feelthy horndogs who like younger women. And that doesn’t change much the older they get…

May 18, 2014

QotD: Liqueurs

Filed under: Quotations, Randomness — Tags: — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

The story of liqueurs continues with a few more of the herbal type. In this context the word herb needs to be interpreted pretty broadly. Wherever drink is made, enterprising chaps will take some of the local spirit — distilled from grain, grapes, other fruit, rice or whatever it may be — and flavour it with almost anything they find growing near by. Many of these concoctions never travel from their home village, and no wonder. In the Dordogne area they produce a beverage called Salers, flavoured with the root of the yellow or mountain gentian, of which they have plenty. Well, there may be nastier drinks but I don’t care to imagine them.

Other agents used in liqueurs of this general type include tea, aloes, hazelnuts, thistles, cocoa, snake root, bison grass, lavender, soya beans and nutmeg, not to speak of tangy stuff like pyrethrum and rhizomal galangae — actually the last two help to produce the pleasantly burning or “warm” taste most liqueurs have.

The distinctively clean and fresh flavour of peppermint is at the heart of one of the most popular of all liqueurs, crème de menthe, of which there are numerous brands. It comes in two versions, the white or transparent and the more familiar artificially coloured bright green. Either is best served with crushed ice and drunk through a straw. If you find it too sweet, try cutting it with an equal part of cognac. When made with the white kind this is knows as the Stinger, once called for by no loss a drinks pundit than James Bond.

Peppermint is supposed to help digestion; so is aniseed, used to flavour all manner of anise liqueurs and anisettes. Marie Brizard is the most famous of them. The firm recommded it as part of a long drink with ice and fresh lemon juice, topped up with plenty of soda water. There’s no accounting for taste is what I always say.

Fans of Italian food, and others, will know about Sambuca, which is flavoured with a herb giving an effect very similar to aniseed. There’s rather a shy-making ritual that involves floating a few coffee beans on the top of your glass and putting a match In the surface to the drink, thus singeing them slightly.

Another Italian liqueur, Galliano, has gained a good deal of ground over the last few years, not as a drink on its own but as a constituent of the famous or infamous cocktail the Harvey Wallbanger, named after some reeling idiot in California. It’s basically a Screwdriver with trimmings, in other words you stir three or four parts fresh orange juice with one part vodka and some ice, then drop a teaspoonful or so of the liqueur on top.

My own favourite in this group is kümmel, flavoured with caraway seed, smooth, and best drunk slightly chilled and straight — as a liqueur, in fact.

Kingsley Amis, Everyday Drinking: The Distilled Kingsley Amis, 2008.

May 16, 2014

Improving “privilege awareness” at Harvard

Filed under: Randomness, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:02

Conor Friedersdorf talks about a new privilege awareness exercise for new grad students at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government:

Such exercises are not without insight or merit (though I find it hard to believe that first-year graduate students at Harvard haven’t encountered this sort of thing before). It surprises me not at all that Harvard insiders would craft the exercise to highlight where they ostensibly stand relative to their fellow Harvard classmates.

As a Harvard outsider who will one day live under a governing elite populated by today’s KSG first-years, I’d only ask for one addition to the “step forward, step back” exercise. Prior to the day it is conducted, KSG should take out some ads in local media: $50 dollars available for the first 500 non-Harvard students to show up at the campus football field at an appointed time. Let them gather, black, white and brown; men and women; straight and gay. The hoi poloi and the KSG freshmen should all mass together behind one end zone. Then the stadium announcer should say, “If you’re not a Harvard student, stay where you are. And if you are a Harvard student, take 95 steps forward, until you’re at the 5 yard line by the far end zone.”

Once all the KSG freshmen are lined up straight at that 5 yard line, everyone can do the “step-forward, step-back” exercise as before. I submit that my augmented approach will afford a more accurate understanding of privilege as it operates at Harvard.

May 14, 2014

The rich boozehound’s guide to globetrotting

Filed under: Britain, Business, Randomness — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:07

Got lots of money burning a hole in your bank account? Want to show off just how filthy stinking rich you are? Like spending your however-earned-or-inherited loot on fancy booze? Then there’s a million-dollar booze vacation you’ll probably like:

UK-based travel company Holidaysplease is offering a luxury world drinking tour in which you can learn and demonstrate the art of conspicuous consumption.

Starting and ending in London — although pickups are possible elsewhere — the ultimate hedonistic, money-no-object vacation takes in the world’s best hotels, swankiest restaurants and most exclusive bars in 10 upmarket destinations.

En route, drinkers take in the universe’s most ludicrously expensive niche beverages.

In Monaco, members of the bottomless budget brigade will mingle with other surreally high net individuals at the high end Hotel Hermitage Monte-Carlo and party at Flavio Briatore’s Billionaire Sunset Lounge in the hotel Fairmont Monte Carlo, quaffing selections from the $565,000 “in-house Armand de Brignac Dynastie” champagne collection.

It all comes complete with fawning waiters and diamond-filled ice buckets.

“We spend the first three nights in London in the five-star Corinthia Hotel and hang out in the Playboy Club, Park Lane, Mayfair,” says Byron Warmington of Holidaysplease.

Hef once said: “Life needs to be lived with a sense of style.”

As a taste of things to come, surrounded by grinning Bunnies, guests will sample the glam high life and swallow what’s reported to be the second most expensive drink in the history of mixology.

The Legacy cocktail includes 1788 Clos de Griffier Vieux Cognac, which comes in at $21,000 for a 40 ml shot.

It also includes ancient Kummel liqueur, vintage orange Curacao and four dashes of circa 1900 Angostura bitters.

February 13, 2014

When did “Child Find” morph into “Missing Persons”?

Filed under: Cancon, Randomness — Tags: — Nicholas Russon @ 08:29

Some of my utility bills come with return envelopes (yes, even in this day of internet banking, lots of bill payments still go through the old-fashioned mail system). At least one of them uses the back of the return envelope to print Child Find alerts, with a photo and information about the missing child. This seems like a good idea, although the most recent example seems to be a bit of a stretch:

Child Find envelope

First, the information says that the missing child was twenty years old when last seen … have we officially decided that childhood lasts into the twenties? Second, the missing person has been missing for a pretty long time — since 1988 — and it seems unlikely that this photo will have much more than a casual resemblance to her current appearance (assuming that she’s still alive, of course).

February 6, 2014

He’d have gotten away with it, except for those pesky girls

Filed under: Cancon, Randomness — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:56

Being shy can be a handicap for certain kinds of activities. It can prevent you from doing things you might otherwise want to do. Shockingly, however, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal doesn’t think that you should get special treatment just because you’re afraid to be the only guy in a class full of women:

Sexual politics have erupted again in Toronto’s ivory tower as another male student has lost a bid to be excused from a class with women without losing marks, this time because he’s shy.

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has dismissed a complaint by University of Toronto student Wongene Daniel Kim, who accused his professor of discriminating against him as a male when she docked him marks for not coming to class because he was too shy to be the only guy.

The second-year health science major arrived at the opening of a Women and Gender Studies course for which he had signed up in the fall of 2012 — “It had spaces left and fit into my timetable” — only to discover a room full of women and nary a man in sight.

“I felt anxiety; I didn’t expect it would be all women and it was a small classroom and about 40 women were sort of sitting in a semicircle and the thought of spending two hours every week sitting there for the next four months was overwhelming,” said Kim, 20, adding he manages a part-time job with women because there are also other men.


However the tribunal ruled his complaint did not warrant a hearing.

“The applicant has not satisfied me that his claimed discomfort in a classroom of women requires accommodation under the (Ontario Human Rights) Code,” wrote adjudicator Mary Truemner. “He admitted that his discomfort is based on his own ‘individual preference’ as a shy person … and stated he thought they (the women) would not be willing to interact with him because of his gender.”

This was “merely speculation as he never gave the class, or the women, a chance,” wrote Truemner, vice-chair of the tribunal.

Kim had no evidence of being “excluded, disadvantaged or treated unequally on the basis of” his gender, she said.

H/T to Joey DeVilla who posted on Facebook, “Way to perpetuate the feckless Asian nerd stereotype, Kim. After all the work I did dispelling it!”.

December 13, 2013

No regerts

Filed under: Randomness — Tags: — Nicholas Russon @ 08:17

I really missed out on a great long-term investment when I didn’t put all my retirement savings into a tattoo removal chain:


H/T to Joey DeVilla for the image.

December 9, 2013

Proving (again) that any moron can do well at “fantasy” sports

Filed under: Football, Randomness — Tags: — Nicholas Russon @ 11:21

An excellent week for my picks in the Ace of Spades HQ fantasy football pool at Yahoo! That’s still a relatively big lead for the player who has been top-of-the-rankings from week 1, though:

Fantasy Football Ranking 2

November 20, 2013

An app like this may justify the existence of Google Glass

Filed under: Randomness, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:38

I have a terrible memory for people’s names (and no, it’s not just early senility … I’ve always had trouble remembering names). For example, I’ve been a member of the same badminton club for nearly 15 years and there are still folks there whose names just don’t register: not just new members, but people I’ve played with or against on dozens of occasions. I know them … I just can’t remember their names in a timely fashion. David Friedman suggests that Google Glass might be the solution I need:

I first encountered the solution to my problem in Double Star, a very good novel by Robert Heinlein. It will be made possible, in a higher tech version, by Google glass. The solution is the Farley File, named after FDR’s campaign manager.

A politician such as Roosevelt meets lots of people over the course of his career. For each of them the meeting is an event to be remembered and retold. It is much less memorable to the politician, who cannot possibly remember the details of ten thousand meetings. He can, however, create the illusion of doing so by maintaining a card file with information on everyone he has ever met: The name of the man’s wife, how many children he has, his dog, the joke he told, all the things the politician would have remembered if the meeting had been equally important to him. It is the job of one of the politician’s assistants to make sure that, any time anyone comes to see him, he gets thirty seconds to look over the card.

My version will use more advanced technology, courtesy of Google glass or one of its future competitors. When I subvocalize the key word “Farley,” the software identifies the person I am looking at, shows me his name (that alone would be worth the price) and, next to it, whatever facts about him I have in my personal database. A second trigger, if invoked, runs a quick search of the web for additional information.

Evernote has an application intended to do some of this (Evernote Hello), but it still requires the immersion-breaking act of accessing your smartphone to look up your contact information. Something similar in a Google Glass or equivalent environment might be the perfect solution.

Proving that any moron can do well at “fantasy” sports

Filed under: Randomness, Sports — Tags: — Nicholas Russon @ 08:23

I’m actually doing quite well in the Ace of Spades HQ football pool at Yahoo this year:

Fantasy football ranking

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