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August 2015

Events That Reign Supreme

August 31, 2015 | Ann | Comments (0)

 A brief history of the Dufferin Gate at the CNE grounds Posted by Chris Bateman / JANUARY 28, 2012 on blogTO

Dufferin Gates - CNE Grounds, Toronto (September 1, 2005) from Wikimedia Commons. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Today marks the end of August. The CNE season is nearing its end of another successful run.  

As seasons go, the hot and heavy humidity along with the gloriously warm sunshine will eventually be replaced by shorter days, cooler temperatures, and bright yellow and red hues of autumn.

As the weather transitions, three upcoming events are worth anticipating.  

But, before delving into these three events for September, please take a moment to remember the passing of a significant historical figure. Joseph Bloore passed away on August 31, 1862 at the age of 73.  He was laid to rest in Toronto's Necropolis Cemetery. Toronto's Bloor Street was named after this early Canadian businessman and brewer. Historical records appear unclear as to whether or not Joseph Bloore chose to attach the "e" to the end of his surname or explain the reason for his fierce searing gaze.  

More historical images of that period relating to Joseph Bloore are available from the Toronto Public Library website or through a direct link from Joseph Bloore's portrait below. 

More resources from the Toronto Public Library pertaining to Joseph Bloore
Picture taken in 1850.  Image courtesy of the Toronto Public Library

Also, have a look at this interesting article on Joseph Bloore written on May 8, 2015 called, Early brewer the basis for Bloor Street’s name, by the Gleaner Community Press newspaper and Chris Bateman's October 26, 2013 article on BlogTO called, What Yorkville looked like when it was still a village.

Here is a suggested title written by Cynthia Patterson and published by the Toronto Public Library in 1986 called, Bloor-Dufferin in pictures, which provides a detailed historical account along with a lush collection of pictures on the local history of that area.

Bloor-Dufferin in pictures by Cynthia Patterson


The first event in September arrives on Monday, September 7, 2015. Labour Day is recognized as the last civic holiday ending the summer season and welcoming the beginning of the Fall season and a brand new school year. This day also means that the library and many other establishments will be closed for this holiday.  

For more information on Canada's Labour History, please visit the Canadian Museum of History website. Here are some worthwhile titles on various types of Labour in Canada:

A good day's work:  in pursuit of a disappearing Canada Discounted labour: women workers in Canada, 1870-1939 Canadian working-class history: selected readings, 3rd ed. Working people, 5th ed. rev. and updated
Labouring Canada: class, gender, and race in Canadian working-class history Rebel Youth: 1960s Labour Unrest, Young Workers, and New Leftists in English Canada Workers and Canadian history Hard time: reforming the penitentiary in nineteenth-century Canada

The second event arrives two days after Labour Day into the midweek. On Wednesday, September 9, 2015, Queen Elizabeth II will officially break the record for the longest reign by any British monarch in history. Queen Victoria, Elizabeth's great great grandmother, over a century ago, held the longest reign which was 63 years, seven months and two days long. To appreciate these two fabulously long-living female monarchs, glance through their lives from their detailed biographies listed below:

Queen Victoria: a life of contradictions Becoming Queen Queen Victoria: gender and power Shooting Victoria: madness, mayhem, and the rebirth of the British monarchy
Our Queen Dressing the Queen: the Jubilee wardrobe Long live the Queen! - Britain in 1953 The Queen: Elizabeth II and the monarchy

The third event is the return of Sunday hours after the Labour Day weekend. The hours for Sundays will resume from 1:30 pm to 5 pm at the District and Reference libraries including the North York Central Library on Sunday, September 13, 2015. For students beginning a new year, these extra hours means a big difference in the quality of time for study and research. For students requiring a boost of insight on improving their studying skills, here is a list of useful titles:

How to study, 5th ed College rules!: how to study, survive, and succeed in college The complete idiot's guide to study skills Study smarter, not harder
Critical thinking skills: developing effective analysis and argument Study skills for dyslexic students The secrets of top students: tips, tools, and techniques for acing high school and college Presentation skills for students

As events go, this post hopes to address an appreciation of the history of the man behind the Bloor Street name, the importance of human labour, an interest in the history of the monarchy, and the resumption of Sunday library hours to aid in developing study skills in preparation for the new Fall year.  

Canadian Opera Company Talk: La Traviata

August 28, 2015 | Muriel | Comments (0)

Canadian Opera Company Talk:

Looking for Love in Verdi's La Traviata

Tuesday, October 6, 2015 at 7:00 p.m.

North York Central Library Auditorium


A high-class Parisian courtesan, her lover and his father run the gamut from love at first sight to tragic loss in the world's most popular opera.  Join Opera Canada editor Wayne Gooding as he introduces the Canadian Opera Company's new production of Verdi's perennial favourite. 

Please call 416-395-5639 to register for this free program.

La Traviata Renee Fleming     La traviata     La Traviata Salvatore Cordella

Verdi's Operas      Verdi the Operas and Choral Works      Experiencing Verdi

Be sure to visit NAXOS, the online music library available through Toronto Public Library, and listen to great music spanning medieval to modern - classical, jazz, electronic, world music and more, and find expert educational content.


Free Science Events in Toronto for September 2015

August 27, 2015 | Jeannette | Comments (0)

The 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 September calendar (PDF).

September's highlights include:

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

At the library, September's highlights include:

Can't attend a program or want to read more about the topics covered? Try some of these titles:

The hot sauce cookbook   Bird sense   Pluto   Food junkies

Wild city   The kingdom of fungi   Healthy brain, happy life   The astronomy bible


Who Cares If It Rains?

August 21, 2015 | Jane | Comments (0)

Sometimes, it is just what you pay attention to. Ever wondered, for example, how people saw the constellations – shapes of bears, hunters, scorpions, while we see undifferentiated masses of stars? That is if we’re lucky enough, here in the well-lighted city, to see the stars at all?

photo credit: Cap't. Fatty Goodlander


So it is with weather lore. For farmers, who depend on the weather to put bread on the table, and for fisher-people, whose safety depends on accurate readings of the sky and water, consistent weather indicators are of huge value. So they pay attention. For myself – noticing to the extent that I get myself appropriately clothed is as far as this goes.

You’ve likely heard about some of these weather truisms though:

Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky at morning, sailor’s warning. (This one is mostly true.)

If March comes in like a lamb it goes out like a lion. If it comes in like a lion, then it goes out like a lamb. (This one isn't true beyond chance.)

My neighbor down the street said that the Mountain Ash tree two blocks away was loaded with berries, indicating, in her Scottish family lore, that the coming winter will be harsh and long. There are several sayings recorded in Weather Lore: a Collection of Proverbs that attest to similar weather wisdom: 

Mountain many rains, many rowans*.

Ash many rowans, many yawns*.

Hedge fruit many haws,                 Mountain Ash Tree

Many snaws.                                            

Many sloes

Many cold toes

Many hips and haws

Many frosts and snaws.

(*Rowans are Mountain Ash berries, Yawns are grains of wheat, oats or barley.)



Every culture and landscape has its own lore, usually passed along as an easy-to-remember rhyme. Even if the accuracy of such lore is suspect, it still has value in giving a sense of control when we have very little.

And so the enduring affection for the Farmer’s Almanac, which is still published, more than 220 years after its first printing. The almanac has enough of a following to suggest it still has significance as a foreteller of weather. The Almanac's website claims 80% accuracy, which if true beats the claims of TV weather stations, which are accurate about 60% of the time. Such comparisons are very hard to make though, because what is measured in each case is seldom the same.

The Almanac maintains its allure by keeping its forecasting formula in a locked black box. Weather blackbox

In contrast, the Met Office (the main meteorological agency in the U.K) boasts that it has transparency with respect to its methods and accuracy. But in truth neither the Old Farmer's Almanac nor the Met Office, nor Environment Canada nor the US National Weather Service can truly say they can accurately predict the weather more than a few days out. 

This is because the weather, and how it comes to be, is so complex. Penn State scientist Fuqing Zhang points out that the amount of data meteorologists have from all over the world - temperature, humidity, wind speed, satellite images and so on - are all collected at different times, using different scales of measurement. Computers can help with calculating parts of the results, but finding appropriate ways to put the data together to get helpful predictions is an imperfect art. 


Image result for butterfly against white background        Consider the "butterfly effect", the popular term for "sensitivity to initial conditions."  Edward Lorenz described this phenomenon in the 1960s and 70s. The delicate wing beat of a butterfly in Brazil, it was said, could dramatically affect weather weeks and miles away. In other words, tiny variables in a system, whether meteorological or some other complex system, could dramatically change outcomes.                    

Even further confounding the accuracy of the forecasts we get on local weather stations are reports from the people at (authors of the popular book of the same title) that people don't really care about weather report accuracy. When one Freakonomics blogger asked a TV station manager about how the station ensured reliability, the manager said “All viewers care about is the next day. Accuracy is not a big deal to viewers.” Maybe this is true . . . unless you're a farmer or you fish for a living. 


Volunteering Benefits

August 17, 2015 | Emoke | Comments (2)

Volunteering and society in the 21st centuryHave you ever wanted to volunteer for a cause you believe in, but your other time commitments, such as school, work, family, etc. got in the way?

I'm sure we have all felt this way in our busy adult lives. I started my volunteer work after finishing my studies. With no more schoolwork to keep me busy all the time, I finally decided to devote my extra time, or days off work to various causes. Some of those have been for my own pleasure or interest, such as volunteering at an art gallery, and some efforts have been more about giving back to the community and helping with a cause I really believe in, like working in a women's centre.

For me, there have been vastly different advantages for working in both types of settings. The art related job allowed me to be surrounded by a subject that I love and keep my interest and passion for art alive and ongoing. This type of volunteer job is what I would consider the "fun" and entertaining type. The personal rewards are: education, creative stimulation, etc.

The other type of volunteer work I have done, I would consider to be the more "humanist" approach, that deals with spending your free time helping a cause that you feel passionate about, and consider important for all of society to pay attention to, and work towards improving. Helping disadvantaged and abused women (violence against women) really taught me that we should never take our lives for granted. There are those of us going through serious challenges, and are in need of much support from others as they can get. This support can come from family, friends or strangers, hence, the volunteers.

My next type of volunteer venture leans more towards the second type I have described, but is quite unique to me. I will be working with children in a school setting in the near future by mentoring them on their lunch hour. Working with children raises a whole new set of challenges. These are individuals whose lives are still being shaped, and may have already gone through their own difficulties. They require a helping hand, or simply a friend, to sit down with them and listen and share. Every child should have a fair and equal chance at life, and although this is not the case in our world, at least having someone to talk with about their lives (if they choose), can make them feel that somebody cares.

There are also many volunteer opportunities at your local library branch. These include helping with adult literacy, homework help for teens, helping newcomers with homework, helping children with their reading and learning skills, and so on.

For further information about volunteering and the various types available, please see the following materials from the Toronto Public Library:

Volunteer : a traveller's guide to making a difference around the world.  Wide-open world : how volunteering around the globe changed one family's lives forever   Wildlife & conservation volunteering : the complete guide   The complete idiot's guide to volunteering for teens

Volunteering at home and abroad : the essential guide for nurses   World volunteers : the world guide to humanitarian and development volunteering   Archaeo-volunteers : the world guide to archaeological and heritage volunteering   Voluntary Sector Organizations and the State

The Physicist, the Billionaire and the Biggest Question

August 14, 2015 | Maureen | Comments (7)

Is there life beyond earth? Physicist Stephen Hawking believes there is no greater question. Hawking and Russian billionaire Yuri Milner have forged an alliance of brains and bucks to search for extraterrestrial life. Milner is giving $100 million to fund the search for creatures from outer space. The Breakthrough Initiatives project will use powerful radio telescopes, and get help from volunteers all over the world. Some of the money will go to SETI@home (SETI stands for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). Do you want to be part it? You can let your computer analyze radio telescope data when you aren't using it. Check out SETI@home if you're interested.

If you scoff at the idea of life on other planets, consider the findings of Nasa's space observatory, Kepler, which was launched in 2009. Data from Kepler suggests there may be as many as 40 billion planets orbiting in the Goldilocks zone (or habitable zone) around their respective stars. The discovery of extremophiles on earth - organisms that live in environments previously thought too harsh to support life, suggests there might be a lot more than 40 billion possibilities. The discovery earlier this summer of an earth-like planet about 1,400 light years away, in the constellation Cygnus, will surely add fuel to our visions of bug eyed monsters and little green men.

Just think: on a planet orbiting some distant star, perhaps under the light of triple moons, some mindless wet lump may be dragging itself from the mud, just beginning to ooze up it's evolutionary path. Or is some cold intelligence already in transit across the vast darkness of outer space -- an alien armada intent on colonizing the earth? Consider the immortal words of H. G. Wells, at the beginning of his classic novel of first contact between humans and extraterrestrials, The war of the worlds: Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.

I hope I live to see the day humans make first contact with extraterrestrial life -- even if it's just a humble (or not so humble) microbe. You only have to look at some of the bizarre life forms here on earth to realize it's going to be pretty weird out there.

Consider the goblin shark (Mitsukurina owstone):

Goblin sharkImage: Creative Commons

Or the thorny devil (Moloch horridus), an Australian lizard:

  Thorny devil Image: Creative Commons

Or how about the purple frog (Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis), which lives in India?

Indian purple frogImage: Creative Commons

Or the naked mole rat (Heterocephalus glaber), which lives in East Africa:

Naked mole ratImage: Creative Commons

Or the blobfish (Psychrolutes marcidus) which looks like it inspired the Doctor Who costume department:

BlobfishImage: University of Washington Conservation

What will extraterrestrial life be like? Will our first close encounter be with powerful yet benevolent beings who will give us fabulous new gadgets, solve all our problems and give us eternal life? Or will they be reptilian predators with metal melting saliva whose only interest in us will be as incubators for their young (as in the Alien movies)? Science fiction writers have long envisioned first contact between humans and extraterrestrials. Below are some books on this theme. You'll get no plot descriptions from me -- I'm no spoiler. If you know your science fiction, match the alien to the book. Here's your loot bag of aliens: deadly microorganisms, homicidal vegetation, a dad impersonator, spidery creatures, helpful devils, a "woman" with a thing for hitchhikers, a sentient planet, blind aliens of the deep, yellow eyed telepaths, monolith builders, and the ever popular martians with tentacles.  

No I do not provide the answers at the end of this post. If you want the answers, you'll have to read the books! I do, however, reveal the identity of the most beautiful life form in the universe...

The Andromeda strain Childhood's End 2001, a space odyssey Contact


The war of the worlds Solaris The day of the triffids The-Martian-Chronicles


Under the skin Something coming through Spin The sparrow


A Darkling sea Armada Calculating God The three-body problem

Drum roll, please! Even if we search every planet in this vast universe, we won't find a life form more beautiful than the cat. (I know, librarians and their cats again. Sorry for being a living cliché.) This is probably what H. G. Wells meant in the fantastic opening paragraph of the War of the worlds  --  I bet the "envious eyes" of his aliens were envying earth cats.

If you'd like to learn more about the possibility of extraterrestrial life, consider borrowing the 4 DVD set, Life in our universe. It's a part of the Great Courses series, and is taught by Dr. Laird Close, an award-winning Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

I recently enjoyed watching the DVD Into the universe with Stephen Hawking, especially the segment on extraterrestrial beings. Very imaginative!



Supertaster or Eating Disorder?

August 7, 2015 | Jeannette | Comments (2)

I wrote a blog post two years ago about my daughter being a picky eater. She is now three and a half and she is still a picky eater. Luckily, she has expanded her food preferences a little to include some leafy green vegetables and tofu. But it still has been a struggle to get her to try new things.

I recently came across an article from The Globe and Mail talking about a new type of eating disorder. Added to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, avoidant-restrictive food intake disorder sufferers are particularly sensitive to food with certain textures or smells. They often prefer carb-heavy foods and bland foods with minimal texture or flavour. Yes, yes and yes. Give me a bowl of plain pasta and I will devour it. But add sauce, seasoning and flavour (or as I like to call foreign mystery things) then no thanks.

I was shocked that being a picky eater could actually be an eating disorder. Does my daughter and I both have an eating disorder? That sounds really serious.

I talked to a colleague about this and she said that I may just be a supertaster. A what?

I found an article from The Wall Street Journal explaining that supertasters generally experience taste more intensely. They have a heightened sense of taste. So they are more sensitive to bitter tastes and fatty foods, avoiding foods like broccoli, coffee, and chocolate while preferring foods that are blander. Yes, yes and yes.

1 in 4 people are supertasters. It is more common in women than men, and in Asian and African-Americans than Caucasians. Also, it is a genetically inherited trait. Oh.

So am I a supertaster then? Well, there is a test that can be done to find out. Both BBC Science and Scientific American have similar methods of testing this.

The test essentially sees how many papillae, where taste buds are located, there are within a quarter-inch diameter circle. People who have more papillae are supertasters.

I went home and did the test… And I found 28-32 papillae within the designated circle. So, I guess I am a borderline supertaster?

It is really interesting how much genetics plays in our food preferences. Being a picky eater, I tried to introduce my daughter to different foods and flavours quite early on. Yet, she sticks to the bland foods that I prefer. My maternal grandma is also a picky eater. So, I guess that sort of explains everything.

Whether it's an eating disorder, supertaster or neither, the most important thing is to maintain a healthy weight and eat a balanced diet. Both my daughter and I eat balanced diets, though limited in variety. So I guess that's ok?

For more interesting reads on taste and food preference, take a look at these books:

How flavor works  Neurogastronomy  The psychology of eating and drinking  Suffering succotash

Taste buds and molecules  A taste of molecules  Taste matters  Taste what you're missing

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