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December 2015

Free Science Events in Toronto for January 2016

December 29, 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 January calendar (PDF).

January's highlights include:

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

At the library, January's highlights include:

  • January 12: Food Junkies: The Truth About Food Addiction, at North York Central Library. Dr. Vera Tarman will discuss her book which focuses on the experiences of people coping with various forms of food addiction, and provides readers with practical information grounded in medical science.
  • January 25: Could Life Exist on Other Worlds?, at Annette Street branch. Using what we know about life on Earth, Lauren Hetherington explains how life could exist elsewhere in the universe and how we can look for it.
  • January 26: Arduino Meetup, at Scarborough Civic Centre branch. Arduino is a tool for making computers that can sense and control more of the physical world than your desktop computer. Come and meet like-minded open-source advocates, chat and create with other makers.
  • January 27: Meals on a Budget, at Leaside branch. Learn how to prepare meals on a budget, shop for deals, and minimize waste. Participants will create their own money saving strategies and take home sample homemade goods.
  • January 29: The Drug Discovery Process: From Benchtop to Pillbox, at Don Mills branch. Ever wonder how drugs evolve from basic ideas to medical treatments and why the process is so long? In this talk the transition of a scientific finding to clinical trials will be discussed, answering questions such as who pays for drug development and how do we know these drugs are safe?

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

Wonders of the winter landscape   Invasive plants   Mr. Jefferson and the giant moose   Food junkies

Life beyond earth   Arduino for beginners   The affordable feasts collection   The future of drug discovery


Whenever I Go to the Library, My Friend From Iran is There

December 28, 2015 | Deb | Comments (3)

My good friend, Laleh, is from Iran and every time I go to the library I see someone who reminds me of Laleh -- someone with dark, wavy hair and olive skin that never looks pale or washed out even in the middle of a sun-deprived Canadian winter, someone with a gracious manner and a ready smile. It’s easy to want to be more like someone else, and all I can say is that’s true for me with Laleh.

Cultures of the World IranLaleh and I first met over fifteen years ago at the daycare our sons both attended. Back then, our little boys looked so similar that we joked we could swap photos of them, pass off the other one as our own, and no one would be the wiser.

Much has changed since those days. For one thing, our boys have grown ... and grown ... and grown. They no longer look alike and they now tower over us, something they're always quick to point out.

There have been other changes too. Like everyone else around us, our families have faced difficult situations, the kind that come out of nowhere and suddenly -- starkly -- divide life into Before and After. We’ve been up in the mountains; we’ve been down in the valleys too.

Through it all, together and apart, Laleh and I have been consoled, entertained, distracted, and uplifted by books and reading. We’ve had food, too -- especially the wonderful meals that Laleh prepares and shares with a wide circle of family and friends, people I already know and people I’d like to know better.

* * * * * *

When I first came to work in the Children’s Department at North York Central Library, I was pleased to be in such a warm, friendly place -- not my real home, and yet home.

Was it the books and children and families -- all the great bustle and good cheer around me -- that made this place feel so right?  

I'm New HereYes, but it was more than that. And it had to do with my friend.

The first people I met in the library were a mother, a father and a young daughter who had come here, like Laleh’s family, from Iran. The two older women who asked me for a Farsi-English dictionary reminded me of Laleh’s older aunt. And at a Family Time program I led, I spoke with a young Iranian woman who looked so much like Laleh that I swore they had to be sisters, separated at birth.

Then there was the language -- the same language I’d heard spoken at the memorial service for Laleh’s father. I couldn’t understand this language, but that didn’t matter. It was both foreign and familiar, and it was here too.

* * * * * *

From There to HereWe are all, I think, looking for our tribe, our flock -- the group and place that accepts us for who we are, nurtures us, and brings out the best in us.

We get a lot from our flocks -- but we also get to give something back too. I've learned that with the people I know, including Laleh. And I found it out all over again, in the place where some of the things that matter most to me are.

I found it with the people who come to this place every day: the Iranian families, the South Asian grandparents, the Korean preschoolers, and the tiny Chinese babies.

I found my tribe at the library.

The Best Cookbooks of 2015

December 24, 2015 | Jeannette | Comments (0)

It's that time of the year again. I'm back with another post about the best cookbooks of the year. 

Just like the 2014 and 2013 posts, below are some of the best cookbooks of the year chosen by various sources (click on their name to view the full list and the reviews):


The Cuban table   How to cook everything fast   Indian for everyone   My kitchen year

Bon Appétit:

Bien cuit   The food lab   Near and far   New sugar and spice

The Globe and Mail:

A girl and her greens   The food of Oman   Olympia provisions   True north


The broad fork   Lucky Peach presents 101 easy Asian recipes   Mamushka   Zahav


Milk bar life   Oyster   The Larousse book of bread   Brodo

Do you have an e-reader, tablet or smart phone? You can read some of this year's favourite in e-book format:

The gluten-free revolution   My pantry   Gjelina   This is Camino

The NoMad cookbook   Sweet goodness   Tacos   The chili cookbook

The Mission Chinese Food cookbook   Root to leaf   At home in the whole food kitchen   The baking bible

Happy reading, happy eating, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Best Travel Destinations for 2016

December 21, 2015 | Carrie | Comments (1)


Best in travel 2016

If you'd like to jump start your travel plans and are looking for recommendations from the experts, you may want to take a look at Lonely Planet's  "Best in Travel 2016." 

Every year, Lonely Planet lists their top travel recommendations in a number of categories. "Best in Travel highlights not the places travelers are headed to next year, but the places our team determined they should visit,” says Tom Hall, Lonely Planet’s Editorial Director in a released statement

Top Country: Botswana

Botswana safari guide   watching wildlife Botswana and nambia

Number 1 on the list is Botswana. According to Lonely Planet, "Botswana is so full of life-changing experiences it would be easier to list the things that aren’t remarkable." Located in Southern Africa, Botswana is known for its expansive wilderness, breathtaking landscapes and magnificent wildlife and is one of the best safari locations in Africa. Botswana is a stable democracy with a growing economy and established tourist industry. Also on the list of top countries to visit are Japan (#2), Latvia (#5), Uruguay (#8) and Greenland (#9). 

Top Region: Transylvania, Romania

Transylvania Transylvania Romania

Topping the list of top regions to visit in 2016 is Transylvania, Romania. Chosen for its edgy art galleries, scenic Carpathian Mountains and abundant wildlife, Transylvania has many opportunities for skiing, wildlife watching and exploring medieval towns. Dracula enthusiasts will want to visit Sighişoara, the birthplace of  the historical Vlad Dracul. Also on the list are West Iceland (#2), Waiheke Island, New Zealand (#5) and Costa Verde, Brazil (#9)

Top City: Kotor, Montenegro

Montenegro Montenegro lonely planet   Montenegro rough guide

Kotor, Montenegro is the top city to visit in 2016 according to Lonely Planet. Chosen for its stunning views, charming cafes and delicious local food, Kotor has yet to be inundated with cruise ship travelers like nearby Dubrovnik. Described by Lonely Planet as "one of the most photogenic spots in all of Europe," Kotor is destined to become a popular destination in the future.

Also on the list are Quito, Ecuador (#2), Mumbai, India (#6) and Fremantle, Australia (#7).

Additionally, you may want to check out National Geographic's "Best trips 2016" which presents their top 20 recommendations of destinations to visit in the upcoming year.

Talk on Material Splendour: Materials and Techniques of 15th and 16th Century European Painting

December 18, 2015 | Muriel | Comments (0)


Talk on Material Splendour:

Materials and Techniques

of 15th and 16th Century

European Painting

Speaker: Betsy Purvis,
University of Toronto, Department of Visual Studies

Thursday, January 21, 2016 from 7 to 8 p.m.
North York Central Library Auditorium
Please register for this free program by calling 416-395-5639

Fra Angelico    Fra Angelico by Christopher Lloyd    Reconstructing the Renaissance    

Jan van Eyck Renaissance Realist    Van Eyck in Detail    Van Eyck

This talk explores how master craftsmen and painters of the era
manipulated their materials to create gleaming, elaborately tooled
gold background tempera paintings; brilliant, crisp fresco paintings;
and sensuous, jewel-like oil paintings.  We will look at a variety
of works by artist such as Beato Angelico, Jan van Eyck,
Michelangelo and Titian.

Michelangelo    Michelangelo the Vatican Frescoes    Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel

Titian His Life    Titian by Norbert Wolf    Titian

With a Sun Life Financial Museum + Arts Pass, you can go for
free to the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Royal Ontario Museum.

The Best Science Books of 2015 are...

December 11, 2015 | Carolyn | Comments (0)

This is a great time of year for readers. Lists of the best books of the year can help you plan your holiday reading and gift buying. In November we featured the Royal Society's 2015 Winton Prize winning and nominated popular science books. This month, a look at critics' choices for some of the best popular science books of 2015.


The Vital Question: energy, evolution, and the origins of complex life

Biochemist Lane, whose previous books include the prize-winning Life Ascending: the ten great inventions of evolution, argues that all multi-cellular life shares a common ancestor created by a single event. A comprehensive yet accessible exploration of a novel theory. According to Publishers' Weekly "The science is both a puzzle and a dance; Lane retains a sense of wonder as he embraces a bold hypothesis and delights in the hard data that gives it weight."



Silberman traces the history of autism from when it was first identified and named in 1943. He describes the evolution in our understanding - from viewing autism as a single disorder to a condition that exists on a spectrum - as well as the remarkable shift from it being considered a profound disability to today's more nuanced view which recognizes the unique gifts and abilities of autistic individuals.



In this widely praised memoir Macdonald recounts her year spent training a goshawk as she also mourned the death of her father. A history of falconry, an exploration of T.H. White's "The Goshawk", a meditation on loss and a portrait of a complex human-animal relationship: this beautiful, poetic books is all these things and more. 


A working pilot, Vanhoenacker is an ideal guide to the world of commercial aviation. He manages to restore a sense of the wonder of flight while providing a behind-the-scenes look at the workings of airlines and the lives of pilots. The Economist called this book "a highly readable account, as moving as it is unexpected".



Wulf's respect for her subject shines through in this biography. She describes a hugely influential explorer and naturalist who was ahead of his time in believing that the natural world is an interconnected web of life. He was early proponent of environmentalism whose ideas influenced Darwin and Thoreau. According to Kirkus Reviews "Humboldt was the Einstein of the 19th century but far more widely read, and Wulf successfully combines a biography with an intoxicating history of his times".



Gavin Francis is a physician who describes his book as “a journey through the most intimate landscape of all: our own bodies”. In each of the 18 chapters he describes a part of the body, from the brain to the toes. Filled with anecdotes and insights, this is a fascinating and humane book.


Technologies familiar to science fiction fans, such as cloning, time travel and teleportation are discussed in this accessible book by physicist Brian Clegg. Kirkus Reviews calls it "satisfying soul food for your inner geek: an enjoyable tour of science fact and fiction by a writer who obviously revels in both".
Here are a few more well-reviewed popular science books published in 2015:


Happy holidays - and happy holiday reading!

Alternative Holiday Activities!

December 7, 2015 | Emoke | Comments (0)

Healing with the ArtsDecember is the month of holidays. Christmas songs and decorations most obviously bombard us and take over. But what if you don't enjoy the holidays, or do not observe any of them?

If this is the time of year for you where you need a good distraction more than anything, I thought I would find some alternative activities for you to get you through the month!

The following will be my personal suggestions, and other ideas I have come across. If you follow my blogs, you will not be surprised that the first thing I can think of is to get out of town! Avoid the holiday shopping madness and escape to an exotic destination, not to spend a specific holiday with anyone, but just for your own personal enrichment. Perhaps take an exciting "alternative holiday" where you volunteer and give back to a specific group or community. I will recommend books at the bottom of this post from the library that can be borrowed with specific ideas for destinations.

Other activities you can enjoy are winter sports! Such as skiing, snowboarding, or my favourite; ice skating.

The other activity that I have personally started getting into is the adult colouring trend. I now own all of Johanna Basford’s books: Secret Garden, Enchanted Forest, and Lost Ocean. She is a Scottish illustrator who uses pens and pencils to create illustrations, predominantly in black and white outlines, which can be coloured in with pencils, crayons, thin markers, or pens. The drawings are very intricate and detailed, and the act of colouring in her drawings, finishing them or adding to them yourself or finding hidden treasures among them is completely therapeutic (at least for me). There has been some fuss in the media over her books, and art therapists have recommended the act of colouring to soothe nerves and lessen anxiety, tension, and stress.

This is a completely addictive activity (if you like this sort of thing and enjoy creative activities). I can see the holiday season being the perfect time to stay at home and stock up on these books (and other adult colouring books on the market) and quietly colour to your heart's content while others are busy pushing through the huge holiday crowds at the malls.

I hope you find these suggestions helpful to get through the month of December. These are just my personal suggestions, but please feel free to share in the comments below some of your personal favourites! Whatever you end up doing this time of year, stay warm and enjoy!

Daniel Rotsztain is a freelance artist, writer, and cartographer. Throughout 2015, Rotsztain visited every public library in Toronto and illustrated their exteriors, releasing the collection online. 

And please see the following related materials that can be borrowed from Toronto Public Library. 


The ethical travel guide  Hands-on holidays  Snow travel  Let it snow

  Healing with the arts  Art therapy and creative coping techniques for older adults  Volunteer vacations in Latin America  Wide open world how volunteering around the globe changed one family's lives forever

Bah Humbug? No Way! Stories and Music for Christmas

December 4, 2015 | Maureen | Comments (9)

Scrooges third visitorAnd so it begins. Ceaseless Christmas music in the stores. Aggressively cheerful sales people circle displays like piranhas. On my first Christmas shopping expedition this year, three different sales people in the same store tried to sell me the store card for ten bucks. Me: no…no…NO! The last sales pitch was so irritatingly relentless yet perky that Ebenezer Scrooge, that famous Christmas hater, took possession of me momentarily, and I said I had absolutely no use for the card, hated shopping, and hated malls. I’m surprised the old “bah humbug!” didn’t shoot from my lips. The young sales person looked like a little Christmas elf after being told that her grandma got run over by a reindeer and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Sorry little retail elf. I don’t mean to be a Christmas buzz kill. I really do love Christmas, and would never say, as Ebenezer Scrooge did, “Every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas' on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding.” Shopping brings out the worst in me. I look at all the stuff in the stores and see future garbage, lying in a landfill somewhere (Bah Humbug!) I can relate to Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardy. When Dumbledore looked in the mirror of Erised, which shows the most desperate desire of a person’s heart, he saw himself with a pair of warm, cozy socks. I'd see the same thing in that magic mirror --  I share Dumbledore's love of comfy socks. But I’d also see lots and lots of stories. Enough stories to last a lifetime. 

Christmas at the New YorkerAt this time of year I fancy Christmas stories, "in keeping with the situation" (to borrow the words of Scrooge's housekeeper, Mrs. Dilber.) I'm looking forward to the seasonal treat I requested a few days ago, now waiting for me at my library: Christmas at the New Yorker: stories, poems, humor, and art, which has work by John Updike, Garrison Keillor, E. B. White, and more, plus lots of New Yorker covers and cartoons. And here's a present for fans of the illustrious magazine: you can download issues of The New Yorker on the library website, using Zinio. Not just the current issue -- you can get yourself a virtual stack of issues to keep you content through the holidays.

One of the most unforgettable Christmas tales is O. Henry's The gift of the magi, which tells the story of a poor young couple who are desperate to get each other the perfect gift, despite their meager funds. You can find this short story in Christmas classics from the modern library. There are also eBook and eAudio book versions of the story:

The gift of the magi A Christmas treasury Favorite stories of Christmas past
eBook -- available via Hoopla eBook -- available via Hoopla eAudio book -- available via Hoopla

Cold winter nights put me in the mood for listening to stories by the lit Christmas tree. There's so much to choose from! As a radio junkie, I was happy to discover Christmas comedy recordings from National Public Radio, which you can get via Hoopla on the library website.

NPR holiday favorites Tinsel tales More tinsel tales

I’ve watched the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol dozens of times. I’ve yet to see a better Ebenezer Scrooge than actor Alistair Sim’s. But, (and this is a little embarrassing for a librarian to admit) I have never read the book by Charles Dickens. This year I’ll turn the lights out, and listen to this tale of ghostly visitation and redemption by the light of the Christmas tree. But which version should I choose? The one narrated by Martin Jarvis, the award winning British voice actor? “Jarvis simply dazzles” according to the Publishers Weekly review. Tempting, but I feel a strong pull towards the one narrated by kooky comic Jonathan Winters, which is a National Public Radio favourite. His is a “distinctive and charming” reading, according to the blurb.

A Christmas carol Rcb_9781598876277_270
Audiobook CD  eAudiobook available via Hoopla


A child's Christmas in WalesFor me, it wouldn’t feel like Christmas without A Child’s Christmas in Wales, a short, lyrical prose work by poet Dylan Thomas. One reason I’m a radio junkie is that I love the nuances of voice and speech – tone, warmth, accent and personal idiosyncrasy. What a treat it is to listen to A child’s Christmas in Wales read by the author. You can find this wonderful recording in Naxos Music Library. Use your library card to log on, and access the wealth of content there. If you'd rather read the story, consider the edition with illustrations by award winning artist Edward Ardizzone. Torontonians might enjoy Canadian mystery writer Howard Engel's comical parody of the Dylan Thomas classic. A child’s Christmas in Scarborough, tells of “uncles, aunts and cousins stuffed into an overcrowded living room, draining the punch bowl and scavenging for presents.”

Stuart McLean at the Vinyl Cafe the Christmas concertAnother audio gem is the Canadian Christmas comedy classic Dave cooks the turkey by Stuart McLean, host of CBC radio’s The Vinyl Café. Go ahead and read it if you insist – the library has the slim 22 page book. Weird that a librarian would try to dissuade you from reading anything at all, but in this case, I strongly urge you to listen to the audio version, rather than read the book. McLean’s characteristic folksy delivery and perfect comic timing adds so much. You'll find the audio version on the CD Stuart McLean at the Vinyl Cafe the Christmas concert.

If you like less nostalgia and more edge to your Christmas reading, consider these books:

Holidays on ice The dreaded feast writers on enduring the holidays The worst Noel hellish holiday tales

It wouldn't be Christmas without music. I stayed up far too late one night recently, searching for Christmas music "best of" lists online (secular, not sacred.)  Here are some of the titles that came up:

  • Christmas with Johnny Cash -- CD
  • A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra -- CD, Hoopla
  • An Oscar Peterson Christmas -- CD
  • Ella wishes you a swinging Christmas, Ella Fitzgerald. -- CD, Hoopla
  • Soul Christmas -- CD, Hoopla
  • Christmas Collection, The Carpenters. A "schmaltz blizzard of vaguely terrifying good cheer" according to Rolling Stone. CD, Hoopla
  • What a wonderful Christmas, Louis Armstrong and friends. Includes the comically sinister 'Zat you, Santa Claus'. CD, Hoopla
  • A Motown Christmas. Includes Michael Jackson singing "I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus" before his voice changed. Fantastic! Hoopla
  • James Brown's funky Christmas -- Hoopla
  • A Christmas gift for you from Phil Spector -- CD
  • Merry Christmas. Mariah Carey -- CD
A Charlie Brown Christmas If some Scrooge let me listen to only one Christmas music collection this year, it would be the Vince Guaraldi soundtrack to the 1965 animated television special A Charlie Brown Christmas. (It came up on many "best of" lists during my late night search.) It's available on Hoopla, or you can reserve the CD. Want to hear it right this second? Go to Naxos Music Library (Jazz). Merry Christmas, in keeping with the situation!





Related blog posts:


A child's Christmas in Wales.

Get into the holiday spirit with Hoopla music and movies.

I want a goat for Christmas.


Computing Mutations

December 1, 2015 | Jane | Comments (0)

The Human Genome Project finished mapping the three billion-or-so chemical base pairs that make the how-to-build-a-human instructions code in 2003. It was a monumental step. But of course each human’s code is unique, and the difficulty of “reading” the genomic map means that in some sense this was just the beginning.

Fast forward to 2015, and to Brendan Frey of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research at the University of Toronto. Frey has devised a method of identifying diseases such as cancer and neurological disorders such as autism by applying a computational approach. He and his research team use a computer tool that "scores how strongly genetic variants affect RNA splicing, a critical step in gene expression.” This technique requires an understanding of the biological processes involved with gene replication, but uses computer science to arrive at very accurate readings of the genome “book.” It is an exciting development that should revolutionize medicine.


Among his many apparent gifts - Frey has appointments in the departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the Banting and Best Department of Medical Research, and the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto. He is good at explaining things in ways the rest of us can understand. We hope you can come to hear him talk about his groundbreaking work.

How We Discovered a Hidden Genetic Code

Tues. Dec. 8, 2015

7:00-8:00 pm


North York Central Library

5120 Yonge Street

Toronto M2N 5N9


Science and Technology Dept.



And if you can’t make his talk (or even if you can), check out some of these books on the impact of genetics and genomics.

 Bioinformatics and Computational Biology  Deeper Genome Emerging Trends in Computational Biology  Geneticinfluencesonaddictionjpg  Genomicmessages  Inheritance 

Statistical methods for qtl Geneticgeographies  Handbook genetics and society   Introductiontogenomics


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