Tour of the Universe was the best ride this 1980s kid ever took

The 1980s were a pretty sweet time to be a lower-middle class kid in Ontario. Marineland (which I now know was a terrible place for the whales, dolphin and deer they held captive there) and African Lion Safari were only a few hours away, for most of us. Canada's Wonderland, our first major theme park, opened its gates in 1981 and there were miniature golf courses, freaking everywhere. Not a one of them held my Star Wars-focused attention like Tour of the Universe did.

Housed in the basement of the CN Tower, Tour of the Universe was a space flight simulation ride set in the far-flung year of 2019. Upon entering Spaceport Toronto, passengers would be issued a round-trip ticket to Jupiter before passing through security, intergalactic customs and being subjected to a medical—inoculation against the Ganymede Rash and Alien Dropsy were a must. Upon entering your shuttle to Jupiter and strapping in, you'd be subjected to a quick, immersive space adventure: the 'trip' took place on a large screen inside of the cabin built out of the bones of a 747 flight simulator that was moved around on hydraulics in time to the action on the forward display. It was the first ride of its kind, anywhere in the world. American kids would have to wait a number of years for a similar experience when Disneyland picked it up and retooled it as Star Tour.

Image via YouTube Read the rest

Uber drivers in Toronto unionizing to take on The Man

Working for a ride-sharing company like Uber or Lyft can be a tough gig that offers low pay, long hours that keep drivers on there road and away from the people they love and, at times, wheeling under dangerous working conditions. In some parts of the world, pissed off drivers have walked off the job and protested their crappy working conditions and demanded--and I know this is crazy--a living wage. Up here in Canada, we tend to do things with a little more of a socialist flare.

From Gizmodo:

First announced on Monday, Uber drivers based in Toronto expressed their intention to join the United Food and Commercial Workers, a 250,000-strong trade union which operates in both Canada and the U.S. The actual number of drivers who had signed cards was not released, but during a press conference this afternoon, UFCW Canada staffer Pablo Godoy claimed their support had hit the “high hundreds” and were growing rapidly.

The move comes at a time when Toronto's city counsel is attempting to sort out a balance between cab companies and the ride share operations that have been drinking their milkshakes. With this in mind, there couldn't be a better time for Uber drivers to invest in the power of a union. That said, there's still a number of legal issues to be ironed out before Toronto's Uber drivers are rubber stamped as a bona fide part of the union and afforded the protections that membership in UFCW provides.

Given the amount of trouble that Uber has had in recent years in locales like New York where the city has implemented strict living wage laws for ride share drivers and in Cancun, where they were forced to suspend operations to keep their people safe from pissed off taxi and colectivo drivers, its possible that the company might just consider not giving it's Toronto employees a tough time, at least in the short term: even giant, plundering corporations need a breather from all the bullshit they generate, every now and again. Read the rest

Remembering Velma Demerson: Grand soul, feminist, human rights advocate and writer

[Velma Demerson was jailed in 1939 and by the Ontario government for the "crime" of having a Chinese boyfriend; sixty years later, she began an ultimately successful legal challenge seeking reparations; I'm pleased to present this remembrance for Demerson by Harry Kopyto, the campaigning human rights lawyer, who served as one of her advisors -Cory]

On Monday May 13, 2019, Athena Mary Lakes, better known as Velma Demerson, died from old age in a Vancouver hospital at the age of 98. She is best known for her successful legal battle culminating in 2002 against the Ontario Government for incarcerating her in Toronto in 1939 for almost a year. The reason for her incarceration? She was found morally “incorrigible” under the Female Refuges Act for living with a Chinese man, Harry Yip, whom she married after her release. Their son, who was born while she was in jail, was taken away from her until after her release. Read the rest

To do in Toronto: the Retro Futures exhibit at Metro Reference Library

Toronto's Metro Reference Library is hosting a Retro Futures exhibition until July 28, filled with exhibits from the collection of the Merril Collection (previously), the largest science fiction reference collection in any public library in the world. Read the rest

Halifax! I'm speaking at Atlseccon on April 24 (then Toronto, Ottawa, Berlin and Houston!)

I'm coming to Halifax to give the closing keynote on day one of Atlseccon on April 24th: it's only my second-ever visit to the city and the first time I've given a talk there, so I really hope you can make it! Read the rest

Toronto! I'm at the Metro Reference Library tonight at 7PM with my new book RADICALIZED! Next up: Chicago, San Francisco, Portland/Ft Vancouver...

We had a hell of an event last night at The Strand in NYC, and I'm about to head to the airport for my flight to Toronto for tonight's event at the Metro Reference Library, hosted by the Globe & Mail's Barry Hertz; then it's Chicago's C2E2 festival and then to Berkeley for an event with the writer and photographer Richard Kadrey, and then the Revolutionary Reads program at Fort Vancouver's Clark College (just outside of Portland, OR); and then the tour takes me to Seattle and Anaheim! I hope you'll come out and say hi! (Image: Vlado Vince) Read the rest

NYC! I'm coming to The Strand tonight at 7PM with my new book RADICALIZED! Next up: Toronto, Chicago, San Francisco...

Thanks to everyone who came to last night's launch event at San Diego's Mysterious Galaxy! The next stop on my tour is an event at 7PM at The Strand in NYC where I'll be appearing with the award-winning investigative journalist Julia Angwin, who is pinch-hitting for Anand Giridharadas, who has had a family emergency. Read the rest

I'm going out on tour with my new science fiction book RADICALIZED and I hope to see you!

Radicalized is my next science fiction book, out on March 18 from Tor Books: it contains four novellas about the hope and misery of our moment, from refugees resisting life in an automated IoT hell to health care executives being targeted by suicide bombers who have been traumatized by watching their loved ones die after being denied care. Tor Books is sending me on tour with the book in the US and Canada and I hope you can make it to one of my stops! Read the rest

A recursive plaque honoring the installation of a plaque honoring the installation of a plaque honoring the installation of...

Hugh writes, "This plaque commemorates its own commemoration." (Photo by Dr Vicky Forster): "This plaque was commemorated on October 10, 2018, commemorate its own commemoration. Plaques like this one are an integral part of the campaign to support more plaques like this one. By reading this plaque, you have made a valuable addition to the number of people who have read this plaque. To this day and up to the end of this sentence, this plaque continues to be read by people like yourself. -Heritage Toronto 2018" (Thanks, Hugh!) Read the rest

Toronto cops can frequently get your public transit history without a warrant

Metrolinx, the provincial agency that supplies the Presto cards used to pay for public transit rides in Toronto, has continued to hand over riders' travel history to Toronto-area cops without asking for a warrant. Read the rest

Sorting the spin from the facts: how big can the surveilling city that Sidewalk Labs plans for Toronto get?

Cory published a writeup of my research showing Google offshoot Sidewalk Labs’ plan to build a surveilling city in Toronto involves a much, much larger chunk of land than publicly disclosed (in fact about 2,600 acres of prime Toronto waterfront!). It flushed out a response from the high-priced US PR firm Berlin Rosen, apparently acting on behalf of Sidewalk Labs: Read the rest

Google's secretive, data-hungry private city within Toronto will be much larger than previously disclosed

Google's Sidewalk Labs convinced Toronto to let it build an all-surveilling "smart city" on a small patch of lakefront and then promptly shenaniganized things, breaking all its privacy and transparency promises and prompting a mass exodus of its advisory board members and other watchdogs. Read the rest

Toronto 2033: science fiction writers imagine the city of the future

Toronto 2033 is a shared-world science fiction anthology edited by the incomparable and multi-talented Jim Munroe (previously), where authors like Zainab Amadahy, Madeline Ashby, Al Donato, Kristyn Dunnion, Elyse Friedman, Paul Hong, Elan Mastai, Mari Ramsawakh, Karl Schroeder and Peter Watts were challenged to imagine a future for the city. Read the rest

CBC's longstanding tech columnist condemns the broadcaster's cozy relationship with Facebook

Jesse Hirsh the CBC Toronto's longstanding and deservedly respected tech columnist, a fixture for many words, interpreting the tech news of the day for the public broadcaster's nonexpert audience, explaining how tech's turns and twists are relevant to their lives. Read the rest

Advisor quits Google Toronto's "smart city" project over privacy concerns

Google sister company Sidewalk Labs is building a creepy, heavily surveilled "smart city" in the midst of Toronto. Read the rest

Court nukes Ontario's Trumpian government bid to gut Toronto city council

Doug Ford is the laughable bumblefuck who was elected Premier of Ontario by a roster of cheap Trumpian tricks and (literally) a promise to make beer cost $1 in the province (this promise was not fulfilled). Read the rest

Toronto's aural panic: why we need digital rights now

Last week, my city became a garbage fire. Within 48 hours of a mass shooting on Toronto's Danforth Avenue, City Council had passed a motion to purchase the American acoustic surveillance system ShotSpotter, making Toronto the first Canadian municipality to adopt the technology. As Americans already know, the system is designed to monitor "at risk" (read: poor and black) neighbourhoods for potential gunshots, which it geolocates and pushes to local law enforcement personnel for a substantial fee. Of course, ShotSpotter would have done nothing to prevent the tragedy on the Danforth and there are real questions about its effectiveness as a gunshot detection system, but why let facts get in the way of a rash political decision?

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