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July 2014

Free Science Events in Toronto for August 2014

July 26, 2014 | Jeannette | Comments (0)

FlowerThe Science and Technology Department of North York Central Library compiles a monthly calendar of free science and applied science events in Toronto. Applied science includes health, gardening, pets and food; all subjects found in the department's collection. Here is the August calendar (PDF).

August’s highlights include:

  • August 7: Testing Einstein’s Remarkable Theory, Dr. Aaron Zimmerman will discuss two famous predictions of General Relatively: the bending of starlight by the Sun, and gravitational waves. Enjoy a planetarium show after the lecture.
  • August 16: Wheels on the Danforth, this event hosts Toronto’s only on-the-street judged car show. Featuring an assortment of classics, exotics, tuners, muscle cars, hot rods and motorcycles.
  • August 24: Wild Blueberry Festival, cook, taste and celebrate blueberries with chef demos, a wild blueberry pie bake-off and workshops for the whole family.

The Toronto Public Library also offers many free science and applied science events:

August’s highlights include:

This is for the birds

July 25, 2014 | Carolyn | Comments (3)

I recently returned from a vacation where I spent a lot of time watching birds - mostly seabirds. A National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America was my trusted companion as I learned to identify terns, cormorants, herons and osprey.

A good identification book is a necessity for anyone interested in watching, identifying and learning about birds, and there are many guides available at library branches.

Columbia Jay from Birds of America. Public domain image.One of the earliest, and most celebrated, guides for North American birds is Birds of America by John James Audubon.

Audubon was a naturalist who identified several new species of birds, but he is best known for the beauty and detail of the paintings he created for his book.

Toronto Public Library owns a rare copy of Birds of America, "a four volume double-elephant folio set of 435 hand-coloured, engraved prints." The TD Audubon Collection, one of TPL's most  important and valuable possessions, is housed at the Toronto Reference Library. Prints can be viewed by appointment at 416 393-7156.

The Library owns several other editions of Birds of America, including an ebook version that has embedded recordings of birdcalls.

One advantage to using websites is that you can listen to bird calls, which helps with identification. Here are a couple of sites I've found useful:

All About Birds is a project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a non-profit organization dedicated to the study, appreciation and conservation of birds. The National Audubon Society publishes an Online Guide to North American Birds.


There are lots of apps for birders, though not many are free. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a free app called Merlin which helps identify over 400 of the most common North American birds.

Apparently the holy grail of bird identification is a Shazam-like app that would identify the bird calls recorded by users. Several prototypes are available, but the technology hasn't yet been perfected. I can understand how exciting this might be for dedicated birders, but as a casual observer of birds and a newcomer to their world I'm happy just to spend the occasional hour watching and listening to these creatures whose world intersects so closely with our own.

If you're interested in learning more about birds, check out the print or eBook version of these books:

The Bird Detective The Thing With Feathers Bird Sense

For identification, try one of these guides:

The Sibley Guide to Birds National Geographic field guide to the birds of North America Birds of Canada

And finally, if you're interested in bird calls and songs:

The Stokes field guide to bird songs. Eastern region

The Fruit Hunters

July 24, 2014 | Cathy | Comments (0)

Summer is the best season of the year—not only for the warm, sunny weather, but because of all the fresh fruits and vegetables. During her talk on Nutrition and Brain Health, Dr. Carol Greenwood recommended that half of our plate of food should be vegetables and fruit.  And forget concentrating on the latest superfood—eat the fruit or vegetable that you like the best.  Letting produce rot in your fridge will not be doing your body any good. Studies have shown that eating the fruit or vegetable is more beneficial than popping a vitamin.   

For an entertaining look at how seriously some people view fruit, enjoy a free screening of the documentary, The Fruit Hunters, at North York Central Library on Wednesday July 30, 2014 at 6:30 p.m.  No registration required.

Fresh FruitsImage courtesy of

'Rock Star' Author Coming Home to North York

July 18, 2014 | Maureen | Comments (2)

Dyer's Bay 2014 080I like to match my vacation reading to my vacation destination. My pleasure in the book is enhanced, and my appreciation for the scene around me is deepened. Recently, I brought Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda with me on a trip to the rocky shores of Georgian Bay, the setting for much of the book. The story revolves around three characters: Bird, a Huron warrior who seeks vengeance for the death of his wife and daughters at the hands of the Iroquois; Snow Falls, a young Iroquois girl Bird abducts and adopts, and Christophe, a Jesuit missionary intent on turning the "savages" away from their satanic ways and towards Christ.

This is a dramatic tale of warring tribes, and clashing cultures, set at a crucial point in history, the beginning of French colonization in the 1600s. But it is also about the everyday life of the Huron, the cycles of planting and harvesting the "three sisters" (squash, corn and beans), their spiritual beliefs, such as the conviction that everything in the natural world -- animals, trees, lakes -- has a spiritual force, or orenda, and their customs, such as the Feast of the Dead, in which the bones of the dead are dug up, lovingly cleaned, and richly dressed and displayed in a festival of gift giving, mourning and feasting that lasts for days.

In interviews, Boyden has said that one of the reasons he wanted to write the book was to make it clear that before European colonization there were complex societies living in North America for thousands of years. Reading The Orenda made me want to know more about these societies, their beliefs and customs, and their early interactions with Europeans. The books Boyden read when doing research for the novel would be a great place to start. At the end of the novel, Boyden lists some of the books which he said "deeply enriched" his work. I was delighted to discover that every book Boyden credits in his acknowledgments is available in the Toronto Public Library. Here is the list:


Words of the Huron. John Steckley.

The Jesuit relations: natives and missionaries in seventeenth-century North America. Allan Greer.

The children of Aataentsic: a history of the Huron people to 1660. Bruce G. Trigger.

The death and afterlife of the North American Martyrs. Emma Anderson.

Huronia: a history and geography of the Huron Indians, 1600-1650. Conrad E. Heidenreich.

Huron-Wendat: the heritage of the circle. Georges E. Sioui.

An ethnography of the Huron Indians, 1615-1649. Elisabeth Tooker. (reference only, at North York Central Library, Canadiana Department, and Toronto Reference Library)

If you enjoyed The Orenda, or Boyden's other critically acclaimed books, Three day road, Through black spruce, or Born with a tooth, get a nice bright marker and circle Tuesday September 30 on your calendar. That's the day Joseph Boyden, the "literary rock star" (as dubbed by Now Magazine) who grew up in North York is coming home to speak at North York Central Library. The fun begins at 7:00 p.m. Please call 416-395-5639 to register for this free program.

The Orenda is available in the following formats:

Three day road is available in the following formats:

Through black spruce is available in the following formats:

Born with a tooth (short stories) is available in the following formats:

Cooking with Kids

July 11, 2014 | Jeannette | Comments (0)

My daughter’s first favourite toy was not a rattle or stuffed animal. Instead, she enjoyed playing with items in the kitchen, like storage containers, pots, pans and utensils. When she started crawling, we had to lock up all the cupboards to prevent her from helping herself to these items. We usually left a few items that we thought were safe for her to play with in her play area. Even toy versions of kitchen products did not compare to the real ones for her.

toys vs. real kitchen products
Even toy versions of kitchen products did not compare...

She is now two and a half years old. And her love for the kitchen is still the same. She enjoys helping me with lunch and dinner preparations. She loves to wash vegetables and measure and mix ingredients.

My daughter watching cupcakes bake in ovenSo over the past week I tried baking cupcakes with her. This was our first time baking together. This was MY first time baking ever. Being a newbie, I took the easy route and bought a box of cupcake mix. Nonetheless, she still had a great time cracking eggs, measuring ingredients and mixing and pouring the batter. We had such a great time that I’ve decided to try real recipes from scratch for our next cooking adventure.

Here are some books with great recipes to cook with children:

At the farmers' market with kids  Baking with tiny tots  Cooking Italian with kids  Cooking together  Cooking with kids  Little cooks  Ready, steady, spaghetti  We can cook

I’ve made copies of a couple of recipes I want to try with her. I think cooking with your child is beneficial and a great learning experience. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of cooking with my mom.

This will be a great activity to do with your kids over the summer. If you’re still looking for ways to keep your kids occupied, join the library’s TD Summer Reading Club for great fun, programs, activities and books.


Marketing 101 at the World Cup

July 10, 2014 | Charlene | Comments (0)

Uruguay and Costa Rica FIFA World Cup 2014
Credit: Danilo Borges/Portal da Copa

According to a recent Forbes article, 'World Cup Soccer: 770 Billion Minutes of Attention', the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ expects to have a viewership of 3.2 billion. That means, the entire tournament would attract 770 billion minutes of people's attention if they watch one entire game.

The article further states, "FIFA has the potential to generate $23 billion in revenues from TV ads, billboards, and sponsorships in a month. In other words, this would make FIFA the seventh largest business in the world..."

It's not a surprise that sponsors such as Adidas, Coca-Cola and Sony are willing to cap on the viewership. This is the ultimate event to get people around the world talking about your product.

Most prestigious events such as the World Cup, and Superbowl all have "official sponsors". Television and media companies also buy the rights to either broadcast or rebroadcast the games. Advertisers in turn buy air time to promote their product.

So how do these companies market and promote their brand especially with all the competition?  The key is to keep the audience engaged, so they can remember the brand. To stand out, advertisers tap into people's passion for the sport. And this type of brand recognition and identity will determine who comes out on top. Companies like Nike and Adidas have the money to use high profile players but can small businesses compete with them? 


Following are some key strategies to use to overcome limited resources:


1. Know your audience 

Nike uses a simple tagline "Risk Everything" for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. So far, over 16 million people have viewed Nike's "The Risk Everything" YouTube video. The video features the top 3 Soccer players, Critiano Ronaldo, Neymar Jr. and Wayne Rooney and ends with a simple and powerful message that "pressure shapes legends."

Nike's consistent message in its ad campaigns and advertisements translates into brand awareness.  For any business to succeed, they must first know their target audience and then capitalize on its customer base.  This means knowing who your customers are, what their likes and dislikes are and how they communicate.

Nike Logo 
Credit: Craig Sunter

2. Uniqueness

A company must know what makes their product unique. Your brand, identity and logo should set you apart from your competitors.  Nike has that unmistakable swoosh logo, and Hyundai has that unusual "H". A brand that is distinct from others, has a higher chance of being recognized and remembered.


3. Tap into feelings of emotion

Here is where the World Cup sets itself apart from all other major sporting events. Because of it's global appeal, advertisers are taking advantage of nationalism. This is clearly evident in Nike's marketing campaign.  In Coca-Cola's ads, they are selling the spirit of community, happiness and nostalgia. In both cases, these companies are tapping into the audience's love for their nation and sport.


4. Tap into social media outlets

Social media is another area of interest for advertisers and the audience. The World Cup is generating more tweets than the 2012 London Olympics. Arguably, making it the most "cluttered social conversation ever". After the Luis Suarez's "biting incident" during one of the matches, companies quickly bought promoted tweets under the #Suarez hashtag.

Social media plays a significant role in how we get our information. It is how many of us connect, interact and express ourselves. Businesses can take advantage of this by getting its customers to follow them via social media. They can also promote their product by adapting or reacting to events in real time such as the World Cup.  Getting your audience to talk about their favourite teams generate interest and brand awareness.

38450                     Credit: Oliver Kahn


5. Grab their attention

Guerrilla marketing is another way to distinguish yourself. Some companies, such as Nike and Beats are marketing their product around the World Cup event even though they are not official sponsors.   

A great example is, "The Game before the Game" YouTube video with Brazilian superstar Neymar Jr.

In it, he is wearing the Beats by Dre headphones. FIFA banned the headphones from World Cup stadiums for licensing reasons.  This gave the company a lot of exposure and attention.  Even I have to admit that I wanted one of these headphones after watching the video. Successful advertisements are the ones in which people remember you. 


6. Leadership

Any business must have effective leadership to set the tone and guide it along the path to success. Whether it is thinking outside the box or building teamwork, effective leaders are useful for a brand's success.

Successful marketing campaigns can give a company competitive edge and brand recognition. Both large and small companies can use these strategies. Consistency, creativity, adaptability, and passion are all important ingredients in building a successful product.


To find out more about marketing your company's success, check out our Small Business resource section and add these titles to your booklist:

    Guerrilla Marketing Field Guide The Digital Marketer What Great Brands Do  YouTube Marketing Power

UFO or Weather Balloon? Choose one.

July 7, 2014 | Ann | Comments (2)

Click for curious titles on Human Alien encounters! (image courtesy of Frank Kovalchek on a creative commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)

One summer night in July of 1947, residents reported witnessing an unidentified flying object (UFO) crash down in the northern outskirts of Roswell, New Mexico. This event was aptly termed, The Roswell Incident. According to military reports, the examination of the crash site concluded that the flying object discovered was, in fact, no more than remnants of a weather balloon.

Click for titles on air balloons!(Image of Transsosonde weather balloon from Wikimedia Commons.  Image holds no copyright under Public Domain Mark 1.0.)

Residents of Roswell claimed to have observed unusual lights in the sky, bizarre-looking pieces of debris where the spacecraft crashed, and strange-looking bodies extracted from the crash site. The website for The International UFO Museum Research Center (The UFO Museum) located in Roswell, New Mexico briefly illustrates reports taken from witnesses and the military who were there. 

Our collection features interesting titles on the Roswell Incident:

Dreamland: travels inside the secret world of Roswell and Area 51 The Roswell encyclopedia Roswell final declassification (DVD) UFOs:  the Roswell incident


Which interpretation is closer to the truth: reports from the public that witnessed this event or the report from the military? Some critics say that the residents of Roswell could have made up this story to gain national fame. The opposing view is that the military deliberately covered up an actual alien crash so as to test and utilize alien technology for political and military gains. 

A third view that favours the presence of the UFO comes from Jesse Marcel, Jr.'s (2009) book, The Roswell Legacy:  the untold story of the first officer at the 1947 crash site, where Marcel describes the events that his father, the first military officer there at the crash, witnessed and affirmed that the debris is believed to come from an extraterrestrial origin.

The Roswell legacy:  the untold story of the first military officer at the 1947 crash site


If this incident was indeed a government cover up, the following titles offer strong support for this argument:

The NASA conspiracies:  the truth behind the moon landings, censored photos, and the face on Mars UFOS and the national security state:  chronology of a cover-up 1941-1973 Witness to Roswell:  unmasking the 60-year cover-up Crash-when UFOs fall from the sky:  a history of famous incidents, conspiracies, and cover-ups


Unsure what to believe?  The following suggestions may help to ponder over this issue:

Think:  why you should question everything I don't know:  in praise of admitting ignorance and doubt (except when you shouldn't) Conspiracy panics:  political rationality and popular culture The borderlands of science:  where sense meets nonsense


Our collection also includes some amazing magazines on UFOs, science, critical thinking, and the awe-inspiring unearthly news.

Skeptic Magazine ForteanTimes magazine The Futurist magazine The Skeptical Inquirer magazine


Another approach to turn science fiction into scientific reality is by developing extraterrestrial capabilities through technological innovation.  In the near future, say the year 2023, humans may endeavour to live on Mars. Then it would indeed be us who will become the aliens (and Martians) of tomorrow.

Titles on Mars (Artistic depiction of human exploration of Mars.  This file is in the public domain because it was solely created by NASA. NASA copyright policy states that "NASA material is not protected by copyright unless noted".)

Even with limited information to support the existence of extraterrestrial life, some people (including scientists) still gaze into the night hoping to catch a glimpse of an alien aircraft rocketing across the sky. Perhaps these willowy creatures may choose to revisit Earth--and not perish on our terrain as a result.

Summer-time Entertaining

July 5, 2014 | Cathy | Comments (0)

The types of food I serve in the summer are different from those I make for fall or winter entertaining.  I seldom use the oven, as it heats up the house too much, except to bake desserts.  No-bake pie crust? No thanks.  I make quick, easy to prepare appetizers and salads.  And of course, all types of meat, vegetables and fruit are grilled on the barbecue.  But, I drink the same wines year-round and realize what I drink is not the best match for the food served.  I've been following various wine columns, especially for new Vintages releases.  But what to do when the local LCBO stores have run out of the new release after one week and you're unwilling to drive to New Liskeard to stock up?  Why, you visit the library, of course. 

Lesley Provost is a sommelier and wine consultant.  Certified by both the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers (on whose board she also serves) and the Court of Master Sommeliers, she holds a Level 4 Diploma from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust.  Lesley Provost
So Lesley knows her stuff!  Lesley will be sharing her knowledge with tips and recommendations for hot weather drinking, I mean summer-time entertaining at North York Central Library on Wednesday July 16, 12:10-12:50 p.m.  Bring your lunch and join us.

In the meantime, for warm weather food ideas, take a look at the following titles:

The no-cook, no-bake cookbook : 101 delicious recipes for when it's too hot to cook Everyday grilling : 50 recipes from appetizers to desserts Cooking from the farmers' market

To read up on wines, check these out:

Grapes & wines: a comprehensive guide to varieties and flavours by Oz Clarke The 500 best-value wines in the LCBO 2014 by Roderick Phillips The one minute wine master: discover 10 wines you'll like in 60 seconds or less by Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan

Reading for delight, reading without shame

July 4, 2014 | Maureen | Comments (10)

While we waited for the elevator, a colleague asked me, “What are you reading these days?” It’s just the sort of question you’d expect one librarian to ask another, and it should have been easy to answer.  But I did some quick math and realized I had six books on the go!

Wild: from lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed. The true story of a woman’s 1,100 mile solo hike from the Mojave Desert to Washington State.

True Grit, by Charles Portis. In 1873 fourteen year old Mattie Ross sets out to bring her father’s killer to justice in the American south.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour book store, by Robin Sloan. Clay Jannon gets a job as a clerk at a mysterious San Francisco book store that has ties to a cult-like secret society.

Failure to thrive, by Suzannah Showler. Sounds weird, but I was attracted to this new Canadian poetry book by a beautiful poem about a rotting whale carcass.

The pleasures of reading in an age of distraction, by Alan Jacobs. A professor of English literature offers some simple advice: “read at whim, read what gives you delight, and do so without shame...”

Finally, and WITHOUT shame:

Buffy the vampire slayer. Season 9, Volume 2, by Joss Whedon. Buffy Summers, of television fame, lives on slaying vampires in this graphic novel.

  Wild   True Grit   Failure to thrive
  Mr_Penumbra   Pleasures of reading   Buffy Picture

I hadn't realized what a weird combination of books they were until I added them up in my head. My reading choices reminded me of my dad, who was known for his stomach churning food combinations, like eating canned peas with ice cream. How did I pick this clashing combo, which, in fashion terms, would be like wearing plaid, poka dots and paisley all at the same time? By taking the advice of professor Jacobs: “read at whim, read what gives you delight, and do so without shame...”

How lucky I am to have access to such a vast smorgasbord of books with my library card. It makes following Professor Jacobs's advice easy. The Toronto Public Library allows you to borrow 50 physical items at one time, as well as 30 ebooks. That’s potentially 80 stories playing out in your head! Not that I’m recommending that. Few among us could keep 80 books straight in our heads. Even with a modest six books on the go, I can imagine the confusion:

Buffy tracks a pack of vampires along the Pacific Crest Trail. She meets a hiker named Cheryl, who is wearing bizarre duct tape sandals. Pitying her, Buffy lets her tag along, and they track the vampires down to the seaside, where they’ve nested in the dead body of a beached whale to hide from the sun. Inside their stinky lair, the vamps are about to feed on a professor of English literature who'd been examining the whale to enhance his reading experience of Moby Dick. Buffy hurls the professor to safety and he falls against the exact rib that activates the whale, which is actually an alternate universe portal. They appear in a place where fictional beings are real, right at the moment when young Matty Ross, busting with grit, is about to shoot the coward Tom Chaney, who murdered her father and stole his horse. But Matty is distracted by the professor who is jumping for joy, believing he has died and been flown to literary heaven via celestial whale transport, and she accidentally shoots Mr. Penumbra, who is wandering around with his nose in a book.

Not a pretty picture, is it? From now on I think I'll limit myself to no more than two books at once. Maybe three. Four if I’m on vacation. If you have a story about a shameless or excessive reading experience, please share. I can’t be the only one who has gotten themselves into a reading pickle.

By the way, I recommend every one of these books. Just not all at once.

Internet Television with XBMC

July 3, 2014 | Cathy | Comments (2)

Would you like to learn how to save money on your entertainment costs?  Approximately 16% of adults have 'cut the cord' -  they don't watch television and use view on demand services like Netflix and Hulu instead. These services let you watch what you want to see, when you want to see it by streaming video over the Internet. Since all content is now produced in digital format, more and more is available online.  The problem is how to find what you want and how to view it on your big screen TV or portable device. Commercial products like Xbox One and Apple TV promise to become your digital media center but there is an open source alternative - XBMC.


With XBMC you can watch streamed television shows and movies or local video files on your TV. XBMC was designed for display on a large screen and to work with common remote controls. 
A lunchtime presentation at North York Central Library on July 8 shows you how XBMC works and what the setup and installation options are and what problems can occur.  Bring your lunch and join us!




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