The ROM and evolution

Kensington Avenue sign

Wandering through Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is an enjoyable way both to experience the diversity of life and appreciate the degree to which its history has come to be comprehensible for human beings. From the grand displays of ancient bones to the more abstract explanations of taxonomy and evolutionary history, the place is a monument to the scientific understanding of the world. Given the power of that discourse – derived from the exceedingly high level of evidence provided by physical remains, genetics, and the study of living creatures – it makes it all the more astonishing that anybody out there believes that the Earth is 6,000 years old, that all the creatures on it were created simultaneously, and that evolution is not a powerful ongoing process that explains our biological origins.

Over and above matters of scientific understanding, the story told by the ROM is also enormously more compelling than the story of creation by an omnipotent god. The latter may have fireworks, but the former has a lot more power and beauty. It makes the creation story look like a bad Hollywood film that happens to star someone famous: the Waterworld of theories.

Spring in Toronto

Muppet in distress

This weekend, I am visiting Toronto, which always induces comparisons with Ottawa in which the capital city comes off looking badly. I like subways and shops that are open past 6:00pm. If this dire economy can provide space in Toronto for someone with no particular interest in private enterprise, perhaps I will find a way to relocate myself here over the course of the next few years.

Also, one quality for which Toronto should be praised is the availability of Gingerbons spicy and sweet ginger candy. They taste like a fantastic amalgamation of ginger and honey, and I have only ever seen them in a bulk food store on Bloor Street, a couple of blocks east of Jane.

Now, off for a late, greasy diner breakfast.

Demise of a lens

The day after being re-united with my 50mm f/1.8 prime lens, I managed to break it into two pieces by accidentally smashing it into a wrought iron railing. Because of the Toronto snowfall, I was carrying my camera in ziploc bag. Due to the careless movement of my arm, a lens that I have used for years met what may be an untimely end.

I will investigate whether it is possible to have the two halves re-joined. If not, I will have to consider whether it is more sensible to replace the f/1.8 lens or buy the more expensive but more solidly constructed f/1.4 variant.

[Update: 29 January 2009] The word is back from the camera repair people. They estimate the chances of repairing the lens for less than the cost of a new lens at approximately zero. Also, it would take six to eight weeks. Eventually, I suppose I will buy a new 50mm lens.

4^2 + 3^2

On the occasion of my 25th birth{}day (intentionally misspelled to protect against spam robots), I will briefly enumerate the best things that happened in the past year:

  1. Spending the summer with Emily
  2. Surviving an Ottawa winter, without losing any fingers or toes
  3. Visiting Montreal and Toronto many times
  4. The well-attended party in North Van last December
  5. Taking about 10,000 photos (a few of them quite good)
  6. Meeting some friendly locals
  7. Being visited by some non-local friends
  8. Learning a lot about climate change, the environment, and government
  9. Adventures in beardedness
  10. Seeing both my parents in Ottawa
  11. Writing a lot about climate change
  12. Camping, canoeing, scaring geese, eating pike
  13. New Year’s at Nick’s
  14. Interacting with voles, bulldogs, Goliath beetles, groundhogs, and Mr. Mistoffolees
  15. NYC and Vermont
  16. Cycling along rivers and canals
  17. Moving from a cubicle to an office; mitigating an office flood
  18. Spending time with my aunt, uncle, and cousins in Bennington
  19. Paying down student debt (though not so much as to not get a new computer and camera)
  20. Reading several good books
  21. Seeing Obama get elected
  22. Formally graduating from Oxford
  23. Having 46,157 blog visitors, including 1,234 on August 4th, using 32,119 different computers.
  24. Introducing Sasha to roller-coasters
  25. Spending time with Tristan, Gabe, Alison, and Meaghan

Hopefully, the coming year will involve the same sort of contact with friends and family, though a few Grand and Operatic Events of Colossal Magnitude and Importance would not go amiss.

To any friends currently in Toronto

If you are a friend of mine and happen to be in Toronto today, please let me know. Emily and I are having a joint birthday party at Tristan’s house, and your phone call or email will lead to directions being sent to you.

Please don’t be offended if you haven’t already received a personal invitation. It is quite challenging to keep track of who is where at what time.

Vegan curry is promised.

Three more days in the big T

Until Wednesday evening, I will be in Toronto for a conference. Does anybody know about any interesting plays, shows, art exhibitions, and so forth that are ongoing in the city now or happening during that timespan? Options that are inexpensive and unusual would be preferred.

My days will be full, but the evenings are pretty much completely free. Photos from the expedition will emerge when next I can bring my camera and my main computer into contact with one another.

Two Toronto discoveries

My weekend in Toronto yielded knowledge of two new interesting places:

The first is a Louisiana Cajun restaurant called Southern Accent. It is located at 595 Markham Street, near the Honest Ed discount store. Their serving staff are very friendly and accommodating, the decor is pleasantly unusual, and the food is novel and tasty.

The second is an excellent used book store called A Good Read. It is located at 341 Roncesvalles Avenue. It is a boutique-style shop, rather than an encyclopaedic warehouse like Chapters, and it seems to be stocked almost exclusively with the kind of books you would feel lucky to find in a normal used book shop. I picked up a massive tome on the history of cryptography that I mean to work through over the course of many lunch hours.

Back in rainy Ottawa

After an excellent weekend in Toronto visiting family and Tristan, I am back in Ottawa – reheating my apartment from its emission-reducing occupant absence chill. This is one of those calculations that is so difficult, when it comes to minimizing one’s carbon footprint: does it take less power to let your flat cool for three days and then heat it up again, or just to maintain the temperature across that span of time. I haven’t done the thermodynamic calculations, but my intuition suggests that cooling and re-heating is the better option.

Time spent enjoying the culinary skills of some of my cousins has encouraged me to buy some unfamiliar ingredients and see what havoc I can wreak before becoming competent in their use. The activity may help to offset the ever-diminishing prospects for cycling in this darkening city.

Three city tour

Vancouver skyline

During the next three weeks, I am doing a bit of a tour of eastern Canadian cities. From tonight until Sunday, I will be in Montreal. I will be busy with work until Friday, but should have the weekend to appreciate the city. Montreal is definitely one of the most interesting places in Canada. It always seems more culturally vibrant than Toronto or Vancouver, particularly in the summer. If anybody knows of interesting events happening in Montreal during the upcoming weekend (concerts, art shows, plays, etc), I would really appreciate knowing about it.

From the evening of November 9th until the evening of the 12th, I am going to be in Toronto. While that is mostly for purposes of visiting family, I would also be keen to meet up with friends who will be around then. Six weeks after that, I will be in Vancouver.

Getting a bit of such travel in before this whole region becomes an ice cube seems like a good idea. That said, it has apparently been an unusually warm fall (bad news for the pine trees). Right now, it is 20°C outside, and it has been uncomfortably warm to bicycle uphill in a jacket recently, even in the middle of the night. I haven’t found it problematic to be walking to and from work in a dress shirt and no jacket, except where sudden downpours or puddle-splashing trucks have left me sopping. My historical chart suggests that temperatures at this time of year should be about 9°C. The fourteen day trend suggests that they will be getting closer to that vicinity pretty soon.