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Events That Reign Supreme

August 31, 2015 | Ann | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

 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.  

Free Science Events in Toronto for September 2015

August 27, 2015 | Jeannette | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

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


Volunteering Benefits

August 17, 2015 | Emoke | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

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 (4) Facebook Twitter More...

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) Facebook Twitter More...

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

Elizabeth Posthuma Simcoe, 1762-1850

July 31, 2015 | Ann | Comments (10) Facebook Twitter More...

This upcoming civic holiday honours the first Lieutenant Governor, John Graves Simcoe. A detailed biography on John Simcoe is available on the Historical Narratives of Early Canada website which provides a good account of his military and historical achievements.  

Blog: Celebrate Simcoe Day. Scenic Sensations Await!
John Graves Simcoe. Courtesy of the Archives of Ontario. 

Credit in the development of Upper Canada could be shared with his adoring young wife, Elizabeth. This post will glance through Elizabeth Posthuma Simcoe's unique contributions in art, writing, and her support in shaping this new Canadian frontier.  

The Toronto Project: The Elizabeth Simcoe Archives
Elizabeth Simcoe, 1790 and drawn by her friend, Mary Anne Burges  in water colour taken from The Library and Archives Canada, no. 1972-118-2

Born in Northamptonshire, England on September 22nd in 1762, Elizabeth arrived into the world filled with bittersweet anticipation. Her father, Colonel Thomas Gwillim passed away several months before Elizabeth's birth while posted to Germany on January 29, 1762.  No specified cause was recorded on the manner of his death. Elizabeth's mother, Elizabeth Sophia Gwillim, died within 24 hours after childbirth. In this midst of this deep sadness, her aunt, Margaret Spinkes, took over the care of her baby niece. Both the aunt and the aunt's mother chose to name her Elizabeth Posthuma--her first name in honour of her mother and her middle name to reflect the passing of her parents. 

On June 14, 1769, her aunt Margaret married Admiral Samuel Graves. They met in the previous winter. The Admiral was 56 years of age and a childless widower. Margaret Spinkes was 42 years old. The Admiral saw Elizabeth as the child that he was unable to have and both aunt and uncle raised Elizabeth with the best of all intentions. 

Entry on Samuel Graves in the Fort Lauderdale Chapter Newsletter Vol. 45, No. 2 (February 2012)
Admiral Samuel Graves (1713-1787), by James Northcote. This file has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights.

As Elizabeth was growing up, her family encouraged her to develop a positive outlook on life by providing various resources for her to explore. She developed her writing skills and wrote voraciously to family and friends far and wide; she explored the countryside on foot and on horseback and wrote copious details of her journeys; and she developed her artistic skills in sketching and painting. She also studied botany and that knowledge dovetailed nicely with her interest in painting landscapes.   

In 1777 when Elizabeth turned fifteen years old, she met a handsome commanding officer twice her age. At the age of 30, the wounded Lieutenant Colonel, John Graves Simcoe, returned to England to convalesce after the British Army's defeat in Yorktown. Admiral Graves extended an invitation for John Graves Simcoe to stay at Hembury Fort House while recuperating. Since Elizabeth had a large dowry, the aunt and uncle paid careful attention to the men who showed an interest in her.  In John Grave Simcoe's case, John's parents were close friends. Admiral Graves was the godfather of John Simcoe and had Admiral Graves' surname for his middle name.  

Over time and daily interaction in residence, both John and Elizabeth quickly fell in love to the delight of Margaret and Admiral Graves. The two remained in contact and by September 1782, John and Elizabeth became engaged. On December 30, 1782 they were married. Soon after they were married, Elizabeth purchased five thousand acres of land and built a forty-room mansion and called it Wolford Lodge.

Fast forward to nine years later, after the births of five daughters between 1783 and 1790, her first son, Francis, was born in 1791--two more daughters (one in Toronto and the other in England) and one more son was born (in England) later for a total of nine children). In the same year, her husband accepted an assignment to travel to Upper Canada as the new Lieutenant Governor. Ensuring that her children were cared for, her children either remained at Wolford Lodge and stayed with other family or they came along with her.  

Elizabeth Simcoe began painting Canadian landscapes and waterways. She captured the Magdalene Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence on her journey to Quebec City.

Isle of Entry [one of the Magdalene Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence] by Elizabeth Simcoe, Archives of Ontario, I0006864
Isle of Entry in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Courtesy of the Archives of Ontario

When the couple arrived in Quebec on November 11th of 1791, Elizabeth sketched her first sleigh ride which she expressed as quite 'jolty' and the journey as very cold.   

Officers and Canadian Carrioles, Elizabeth Simcoe on Aquarelle paper
Officers and Canadian Carrioles. Courtesy of the Archives of Ontario

As the Simcoes settled in Quebec, on December 26th, The Constitutional Act of 1791 came into being and was the first step in amalgamating the land for this new country. On June 5, 1792, the Simcoes continued on their journey through Upper Canada in Ottawa and stayed at the Chateau de Ramezay which could be one of the oldest buildings in Canada.  

Government House: Chateau de Ramezay, Montreal by Elizabeth Posthuma Simcoe, 1792
Government House, Chateau de Ramezay in Montreal. Courtesy of This work is in the Canadian public domain.

She wrote in her journal:

Sun. [June] 17th—The joy I felt in finding myself in spacious apartments was checked the next day by finding the heat more insufferable than I had ever felt. The thermometer continued at 96 for two days, and the heat was not ill-described by a sentinel who exclaimed, "There is but a sheet of brown paper between this place and hell." In the town are abundance of merchants' storehouses, the doors and windows of which are iron, and many of the houses, as well as churches, are covered with tin. By these circumstances, I believe, the heat is increased. The Government House is built on arches, under which are very large offices, which might be made very comfortable summer apartments. (The Diary of Mrs. Simcoe, 1911)

The Simcoes traveled to Kingston and briefly considered Kingston as the capital of Upper Canada but the location and geography did not appear to be suitable.  Days later, they sailed to Niagara where Elizabeth captured the breathtaking Falls in water colour. The family stayed here in Newark (today is called Niagara-On-The-Lake) for several months. On January 16, 1793, her daughter, Katherine, was born.

Niagara Falls, Ontario by Elizabeth Simcoe, summer 1792  item reference code F 47-11-1-0-71
Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada. Courtesy of the Archives of Ontario.  

She wrote in her journal her impression of the Falls:

On the American side the river passing over a straight ledge of rock has not the beauty of the circular form or its green colour, the whole centre of the circular falls being of the brightest green, and below it frequently seen a rainbow. (The Diary of Mrs. Simcoe, 1911)

Even today, her words appear to ring true. Many current visitors can attest to the same visual beauty from its roaring depths.

In July, her ship, the Mississauga, entered the Toronto Harbour.  

Looking south towards Gibralter Point, showing firing of salute
Looking south towards Gibraltar Point. Courtesy of the Toronto Public Library

John and Elizabeth explored this region by canoe, horseback, and on foot and John noted that this harbour appears well protected by the Toronto Islands in the south and he named spit on the Island, Gibraltar Point.  

Sadly, not all of Elizabeth's journey was positive. Elizabeth's daughter, Katherine perished on April 1792 at 14 months old.  She was buried in the Old Garrison Burying Ground which is currently a park renamed Victoria Memorial Square near Fort York.    

On a happier note, her first son Francis Simcoe survived the Frontier. The family created a lovely castle in his honour and named it, Castle Frank.  

Elizabeth Simcoe Watercolour: Castle Frank, 1796 in Archives of Ontario
Castle Frank, 1796. Courtesy of the Archives of Ontario

Sadly, Castle Frank is no longer standing and through time, several changes to the landscape occurred. On September 11, 1796, the family returned to England and never returned to Canada to enjoy this residence.    

Elizabeth's diary entries are worth reading and revisiting. Consider perusing these interesting titles to appreciate her remarkable journey:

Elizabeth Simcoe's Canadian journey Elizabeth Posthuma Simcoe, 1762-1850: a biography John Graves Simcoe, 1752-1806: a biography Toronto During The French Regime
"Our young soldier": Lieutenant Francis Simcoe, 6 June 1791-6 April 1812 Toronto: biography of a city The Niagara companion - explorers, artists and writers at the Falls, from discovery through the twentieth century Mrs. Simcoe's diary

On this special day, consider riding to the Toronto Islands by ferry and visiting Gibraltar Point, gaze down the brilliant green Falls in Niagara, Ontario, stroll through Fort York and watch the British soldiers march in formation, and reflect on Elizabeth's journeys as you wander along the Castle Frank Brook on your travels. Much of the Canadian and Toronto traditions were inspired by John Simcoe and then brought to life in muted colours and lively written text by Elizabeth Simcoe centuries ago.  

Enjoy the long weekend!

Free Science Events in Toronto for August 2015

July 30, 2015 | Jeannette | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

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 August calendar (PDF).

August's highlights include:

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

At the library, August's highlights include:

  • August 1 & 2: Maker Festival, at Toronto Reference Library. Two days of discovery, experimentation and innovation. Learn more about 3D printing, wearable technology, robotics, woodworking and more.
  • August 4: Garden Club, at S. Walter Stewart branch. For teens 13 - 18. Get your hands dirty and plant, grow and maintain the library's new flower garden.
  • August 21: Play with... 3D Selfies, at Fort York branch. Learn how to create 3D self-portraits using our Xbox Kinect scanner and software. Get a 3D scan of yourself that can be saved and printed using a 3D printer later on.
  • August 22: Easy Homemade Baby Food, at York Woods branch. Participants will learn how and what to feed their babies in the first year. Learn how to introduce solids, how to make baby food at home and proper storage.
  • August 26: Project Animal Farm: An Investigator's True Story, at Brentwood branch. Author, Sonia Faruqi will discuss her experiences investigating animal farms around the world. She will offer a riveting and revealing look at what truly happens behind farm doors and she will describe the impacts of factory farms on animal welfare, human health and the environment.

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

The life and love of cats  Health and healing after traumatic brain injury  ROM field guide to butterflies of Ontario   The big book of maker skills

Everyday garden solutions  3D printing  The amazing make-ahead baby food book  Project animal farm

Starry starry nights

July 24, 2015 | Carolyn | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

In summer I love to look at the night sky, and the Perseid meteor shower in August is, for me, the highlight of the season. Don't take my word for it; here's what NASA has to say: "The Perseids, which peak during mid-August, are considered to be the best meteor shower of the year. With very fast and bright meteors, Perseids frequently leave long "wakes" of light and color behind them as they streak through the Earth's atmosphere." 

Snowy Range Perseids Meteor Shower, courtesy of David Kingman via a Creative Commons Licence

 Snowy Range Perseids Meteor Shower
Photo courtesy of David Kingman via Creative Commons Licence

Meteor showers occur several times every year when the earth passes through bands of comet debris. This year should be especially good for viewing the Perseids because the crescent moon won't brighten the sky.

Getting away from urban light pollution enhances the stargazing experience. Dark sky sites are light-restricted areas where it's easier for visitors to appreciate the wonders of the night sky.

I love meteor showers because I can see them without a telescope. You don't need any equipment to look at sky at night, but using binoculars or a telescope will let you observe objects in more detail.

This year, for the first time, I'm going to see the night sky from the southern hemisphere. I figured I might need a little help getting oriented to a new skyscape and, of course, there's an app for that. Actually, there are many apps. This article was helpful when I was choosing a night sky app for my iPad; for Android users this advice might be useful.

If you're interested in learning more about astronomy, you can meet fellow stargazers, ask questions, and learn about equipment at local events and meetups. And of course resources are available at your local library:  

The Beginner's Observing Guide: an introduction to the night sky for the novice stargazer



Magazines for amateur astronomers are available in many libraries, or through our website: 

August 2015 - Sky & Telescope ASY150801  


This Month in Music History: One of the Greatest Songs of All Time

July 17, 2015 | Maureen | Comments (4) Facebook Twitter More...

Bob Dylan
This image is in the public domain
There are songs that demand we crank up the volume when they come on the radio. There are songs that make you drop whatever you’re doing, songs you give yourself up to completely. Bob Dylan’s Like a rolling stone is one of those songs. You can’t resist singing along, but not in the way you’d sing Kumbaya or This little light of mine. This song sounds like anger, confrontation, challenge, contempt. It could be the sing-along song for the enraged. It should have been included on the recordings that Voyager 1 and 2 are carrying out to the stars as messages for extraterrestrials. Physicist Stephen Hawking suspects that extraterrestrials would conquer and colonize us if they discovered our existence, but if they heard the searing in-your-face intensity of this song they'd turn their invasion fleet around and find some other planet to mess with. With all due respect to Chuck Berry, the cheery rock song Johnny B. Goode (also on the Voyager recordings) sure wouldn’t scare off those bug eyed monsters. 

Like a rolling stone was released on July 20, 1965. It was a watershed moment in music history. Defying the song length convention of commercial radio (three minutes or less), the song was more than six minutes long and like nothing anyone had heard before. The two drum beats that begin the song “sounded like somebody kicked open the door to your mind” Bruce Springsteen said, when he was inducting Dylan into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Mysterious lines of poetry burned through radio speakers to the sound of an improvised organ riff and Mike Bloomfield’s lead guitar: You used to ride on a chrome horse with your diplomat / Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat. Who was the diplomat? Who was Napoleon in rags? Who was Miss Lonely?

Dylan performed the song for the first time at the Newport Folk Festival, on July 25, 1965, shocking some members of the audience by bringing a band on stage for his three song set. Some die hard folkies felt betrayed when the poster boy of their movement, who'd penned the folk anthem Blowin' in the wind, went electric. Some people in the audience booed. Myths have grown around this infamous rock and roll performance, including the oft repeated story of Pete Seeger, a beloved patriarch of folk music, threatening to sever Dylan’s electric current with an ax. You can see footage of Dylan’s performance at Newport in Martin Scorsese’s documentary on Dylan, No direction home.

A few years ago, Rolling Stone magazine put together a list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. Like a rolling stone was number one.

The Toronto Public Library collects sheet music for your use. Would you like to know how to play Like a rolling stone and other Bob Dylan songs? The two books below can help.

The Best of Bob Dylan The best of Bob Dylan. (sheet music, including Like a rolling stone, All along the watchtower, Forever young, If not for you, Blowin' in the wind, Tangled up in blue.
  The best of Bob Dylan chord songbook. (sheet music, including Like a rolling stone, All along the watchtower, Subterranean homesick blues, My back pages, Mr. tambourine man.
Bob Dylan Chord Songbook


Highway 61 revisited The basement tapes - complete
CD. Highway 61 revisited opens with Like a rolling stone. Set of 6 CDs.
 No direction home  Bob Dylan Don’t look back
DVD. Directed by Martin Scorsese. DVD. Critically acclaimed documentary directed by D. A. Pennebaker.
Dylan Goes Electric Like a rolling stone - Bob Dylan at the crossroads Chronicles Bob Dylan Another side of Bob Dylan

If you want to know more about Stephen Hawking's chilling thoughts on extraterrestrials, watch this DVD:

Into the universe with Stephen Hawking

Summer 2015 Travels Part 2: Beautiful Lisboa Portugal!

July 6, 2015 | Emoke | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...


Lisboa, Portugal

My second vacation of the summer took me to Portugal's dynamic and beautiful capital, Lisbon. Being a librarian and all, I went well prepared with notes I had prepared, icluding an itinerary after having read through one of the Society And Recreation Department's (North York Central Library- 3rd floor) travel guides, Fodor's Travel- Portugal.


During my two-week stay there, I had the privilege to alternate between city days and day trips to historic towns and beach resort towns.

Some of the most beautiful ocean cliff views can be seen in Portugal. One happy accident had me taking a ferry ride across the Rio Tejo to a city called Almada, where we had the most delicious seafood rice dish (Arroz de Marisco) and then took a walk to an elevator lift that takes you to a cliff-side bar looking over the ocean and providing an incredible view of Lisbon on the other side.

Portugal is not the typical European destination to visit, but once you visit, it is as if you have discovered a hidden travel secret. For it has pretty much everything I can think of when imagining a perfect vacation. It has beautiful city life and great shopping (leather sandals and antique jewelry particularly stand out), delicious food (succulent seafood dishes and the traditional pastry, Pastel de nata with espresso), warm weather, beautiful beaches (which can be reached by a very efficient public transportation system in under an hour). In terms of the arts, what really stood out for me was the architecture and jewelry design.

Just on my trip alone, I visited at least a handful of palaces, castles and towers, on day trips to Queluz (National Palace of Queluz), Sintra (which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site) (National Palace of Sintra, Park and Palace of Pena), and Lisbon itself (Castelo de S. Jorge- National Monument) and in Santa Maria de Belém, the Belém Tower, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Some of the great beaches seen were: Guincho (where a James Bond film was filmed in 1969), Cascais, and Estoril.

The city of Lisbon really stands out with its cobblestone and tile- patterned ground, intricate monuments and buildings, and orange-red roofed housetops. Any view of the city is quite impressive, as you see the ocean in the background, a beautiful bride across the Rio Tejo, and the characteristic red- roofed homes.

Lisbon is also great to get lost in its winding streets, full of unique Portuguese shopping and seafood restaurants, and not to mention the countless bakeries and coffee shops as we call them, or Pastelerias, as they are called there.

The public transportation also includes trams, which some say are reminiscent of San Francisco. And even though some days, we would walk till we dropped, exploring Lisbon on foot is really the best way to get close to the action.

European vacations are really close to my heart (not just because I was born there), but because as with any European vacation I have ever had, the usual love for life, and slower-paced intense appreciation for some of the best things in life (art, music, food, cafes, architecture, friends, beauty, city, and nature) were all fully present to the max in Portugal.

Obrigado Lisboa!

Pastel de nata
Pastel de nata
Arroz de Marisco
Arroz de Marisco
National Palace of Sintra
National Palace of Sintra
Park and Palace of Pena
Park and Palace of Pena
Castelo de S. Jorge
Castelo de S. Jorge
Belém Tower
Belém Tower
Guincho beach
Guincho beach
Cascais beach
Cascais beach
Estoril Beach
Estoril Beach
Beautiful Lisbon waterfront
Beautiful Lisbon waterfront

Please find books (and ebooks) on Portugal and Lisbon that can be borrowed from the Toronto Public Library below:

Lisbon book  Lisbon book 2  Lisbon book 3  Portugal Book 1 

Portugal Book 2  Portugal Book 3  Portugal ebook  Portugal Book 4

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