Human-made March Break

By , March 16, 2016 9:41 am

I usually take a few pictures of whatever looks pseudo-alive on our visit to the cottage at March Break. This year I went in the opposite direction, searching out macro snapshots of manufactured items. See if you can identify the following:

reflectors, fence measurements, road safety sign, fence label, pattern on telephone box, wire coil, fence hinge, community mailboxes.

The Sixth Extinction – Book Review

By , January 31, 2016 5:48 pm

 

 

Elizabeth Kolbert’s book was a welcome Christmas gift from Mr. Mahoney. He knows I like science and the environment and good writing. I promptly read it in a few days after Christmas was over when I was recovering from eating so much.

Reading Kolbert’s book on mass extinctions of species, one must wonder whether the earth will ever recover from humans’ folly. Or rather, will species, who, through no fault of their own, find themselves out of luck, out of habitat, out of oxygen, out of adaptation techniques, whatever.

Ask the bats of North America, frogs and toads throughout the world, long lost mastadons, or coral in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Kolbert chooses an interesting array of animals and plants to survey in her quest to verify if we really are in the midst of another in a series of mass extinctions that have occurred throughout earth’s history. Accordingly, as a science journalist, not a scientist, she must seek out the advice and guidance of many leading scientists, including a lot of geologists.

I particularly appreciated the geologic angle given my interest in Charles Darwin. Darwin, the father of evolution by means of natural selection, was influenced by the work of Charles Lyell. Lyell was an early geologist that proposed that earth changes slowly over time. Kolbert brings him into the extinction argument as he was one of the first people to propose a theory of how extinctions actually work. She spends a lot of well worth it time tracing the history of the theory of extinction. One wouldn’t think that was interesting but it was.

I feel guilty about saying that I enjoyed this book immensely. A resident of this current world should not be happy about a book that makes it clear how much we have changed it, for the worse. While Kolbert doesn’t focus in on climate change specifically, she does give a lot of attention to ocean acidification, a topic not too many of us know about, and one that is a sort of correlation to climate change. I was never particularly interested. Now I’ll definitely want to watch David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef, recently on CBC.

It’s not a book that offers solutions. For that, readers might want to follow up with something like Mike Berners-Lee’s How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything.  For a vegan such as myself, the book that really got me on the road to thinking about how the environment affects my daily life through food is Michael Pollan’s 2006 masterwork, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I’m not critical of Kolbert for not suggesting how to solve our problem. What she is doing is changing attitudes, something that is absolutely necessary before behaviour can be changed. Near the end of the book she tells the sad stories of a certain raven and a very particular rhino. You really have to read the book to appreciate how poignant they are.

Like Mary Roach, author of Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, an investigation into the human digestive system (previously reviewed on this blog), Elizabeth Kolbert knows how to use her talents as a writer along with her skill as a researcher to bring a subject alive (no pun intended in this case).

The Sixth Extinction: highly recommended.

 

 

 

 

Last Day of Class – January 2016

By , January 31, 2016 12:53 pm

Here are some pics from our last day, sadly. Great class:)

CHW3M Course Survey

By , January 25, 2016 1:58 pm

Please follow this link to the course survey.

 

Many thanks:)

 

Ms. G

Historical Thinking Concepts in an Inquiry-Based Classroom

By , January 19, 2016 12:22 pm

OISE – Jan. 19, 2016

Thanks for attending. Please feel free to email me at risa@cabal.org if you have any questions.

Here are the two parts of my presentation:

OISE_Part1_Jan_2016_Historical_Thinking_Inquiry_Classroom

OISE_Part2_Jan_2016_Historical_Thinking_Inquiry_Classroom

Tut’s Tomb?

By , December 7, 2015 6:57 pm

Speculation abounds on whether Tut’s tomb was just a rush-job and was really a part of a larger tomb, maybe Nefertiti’s.

Tomb Article

Scientists on the Verge of Finding Queen Nefertiti’s  Secret Tomb, Daily Mail Online, Nov. 7, 2015, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3308292/Scientists-two-hidden-chambers-King-Tutankhamun-s-tomb-testing-temperature-tomb-s-walls.html (Dec. 7, 2015)

 

Pan Am Games

By , November 22, 2015 1:38 pm

I attended and fully enjoyed many Pan Am and Parapan events this summer. The summer started out with a huge event on the Bloor Viaduct, one block from our house – the torch relay passed through and there was a concert and the reveal of the Luminous Veil (lighting of the suicide barrier). It was so cool to be on the closed bridge with so many other people. On opening day we went over to City Hall to watch the opening ceremonies. For actual sports I was lucky enough to go to beach volleyball, indoor volleyball, sitting volleyball (gold medal men’s game), women’s wheelchair basketball, dressage, and show jumping. It seems so long ago now but it was an amazing summer.

Things I Have Liked Lately

By , November 8, 2015 4:54 pm

I really haven’t blogged for a long time. So here’s a quick list of things I have explored and liked.

 

JMW Turner: Painting Set Free

  • exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario

An interesting exhibit that explores Turner’s later, more creative and diverse years as a painter. Highlights beautiful scenes from Venice (a place I would like to go) and his incredible work with light that inspired the Impressionist painters (who I love).

 

J.M.W. Turner, Light and Colour (Goethe's Theory) - the Morning after the Deluge - Moses Writing the Book of Genesis, exhibited 1843

 

 

Camera Atomica

  • photography exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario

A very interesting view of how photography and the media have both recorded and shaped people’s view on nuclear power and nuclear war since the dawn of the atomic age. One photo in particular stood out for me; a 1950s image of a navy admiral and his wife cutting a cake in the shape of a mushroom cloud. Were they really so superficial and short sighted?

U.S. Military, Operation Priscilla, taken at the moment of the shockwave, 1957 / Camera Crew at Exact Moment of Shockwave Arrival, Nevada Test Site (detail), 1957

 

East Side Players – Wonder of the World

We went to see this hysterical play by David Lindsay Abaire at the historic Papermill Theatre at Todmorden Mills, just down the hill on Pottery Road. Best part: assistant stage manager Felicity Cormier – Val’s sister.

 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

How refreshing – a cabinet that looks like Canada, a ministry named ‘science’, government members with brains that are allowed to speak to the media! That are allowed to speak, period. Change is amazing.

Image result for justin trudeau cabinet swearing in

 

 

Skating Season

Patrick is back – yay. However, the guy makes me nervous because I never know when this quad-committing wonder will double a jump. I’ve seen him skate a few times in Stars on Ice. He’s no Kurt Browning yet. Kurt happens to be my all-time favourite skater! I was happy to hear he won Skate Canada. I do truly wish him luck. I’m excited about Canadian ice dancers as always. And so far I like David Pelletier as commentator on CBC.

After a year away from figure skating, Patrick Chan is still committed to reaching the top of his sport once again. Jamie Salé and David Pelletier perform their pairs free skate to win the Olympic silver medal at the XIX Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, Monday, Feb. 11, 2002.

 

Murdoch Mysteries

My favourite CBC show. My favourite show, period. I am very sad to see Dr. Grace leave. I guess it’s too much to have two women coroners in the early 1900s. While I’m very happy that Murdoch and Dr. Ogden are happily married, I hope her career won’t take a back seat.

Dr. Emily Grace

 

 

Pompeii: In the Shadow of the Volcano

  • exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum

A really thorough look at life in the early Roman Empire. I saw it once on teacher appreciation day at the ROM and I liked it so much that I took my grade 11 world history class. Unfortunately the guide talked too much and the kids didn’t get to see enough of the exhibit. Though she was very informative, she didn’t allow them to discover anything for themselves. One of my favourite items was the carbonized bread. Rome was all bread and circuses.

A wall painting of a wealthy man

 

Pan Am and ParaPan Games, Toronto, summer 2015

I was lucky enough to be a spectator at beach volleyball (men and women), indoor volleyball (men and women), show jumping, dressage, wheelchair basketball, and sitting volleyball (gold medal match). I had an amazing time almost all summer long. When I get my act together I will post some of my own photos. Val tells me he has purchased some Pan Am items from the auction. That worries me.

 

Nathan Phillips Square

 

Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s Jerusalem

I often peruse cookbooks, stopping to admire the photos and check out potentially vegan recipes. Rarely do I read a cookbook from cover to cover. In preparation for this year’s Thanksgiving lunch at our cottage, I read this entire book. I ended up making green bean, eggplant and rice dishes from it. I don’t know how everyone else felt but I loved the green bean salad with capers and intriguing spices and the rice with wild rice and chickpeas. The eggplant took way too much of my time for little reward. The cultural similarities between Israelis and Palestinians is fascinating.

 

A Chef’s Life

I’m not addicted to Netflix. I may be addicted to the PBS channel on our Roku. It allows me to watch A Chef’s Life, a PBS  show following the life and work of North Carolina chef Vivian Howard. So far in two seasons there has only been one dish I could actually eat. But I keep watching because Vivian Howard and her husband Ben Knight are very real. I looked into how long it would take to drive to Kinston, North Carolina from Washington, D.C., but it’s too long for a side trip on a potential March Break trip.

 

Fruit Chart

In my latest attempt to lose weight I have been trying to reduce my sugar intake. I found this chart quite interesting. We’ll see if it helps me.

Plant showing fibre and fructose of popular fruits

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/healthyeating/9987977/How-to-kick-the-sugar-habit-tips-and-low-sugar-recipes.html

 

Poldark

I found another PBS show (actually, another Masterpiece  show) to fill in the void when Downton Abbey is not available. All I will say is that scenery is beautiful. But I am awaiting the final season of Downton. Please let Anna and Mr. Bates find some happiness!

 

Cool Gray City of Love

By , July 20, 2015 9:17 am

 

Cool Gray City of Love by Gary Kamiya

Bloomsbury, 2013

 

I don’t tend to read happy or uplifting books. So it should come as no surprise that the gem of a book I just finished was not self-selected. Val got it as a gift from a friend of his who is currently living in San Jose, California. The book is a collection of 49 ‘sketches’ of San Francisco. I took posession immediately after it arrived in the mail a few days ago.

Before getting into the book, I want to contrast it with my usual types of books. Right now I am also reading (a.k.a. plodding through) Anne Applebaum’s Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956. I have been reading it on and off for about two or three months – it is that heavy. Though Applebaum is an amazing writer and fills her book with meticulous details about the events that brought Poland, East Germany and Hungary under Soviet control, she also fills her books with horrors. However interesting the stories are, they are sad and they just go on and on. It is for that same reason that I couldn’t finish her earlier book, Gulag: A History.

No wonder I grabbed Cool Gray City of Love and didn’t put it down until I finished it.

I was also deeply attracted because I have a thing for San Francisco. Most people know I’m not much of a traveler, yet I have been to the city by the bay four times (I know this is not much in the annals of travel but it is for me). Each time I’ve stayed somewhere different: touristy Union Square in a posh hotel, shoppy Union Street in a potentially seedy motel, upscale Cow Hollow in a nicer motel a block away from a granola-style restaurant, and Emeryville in a standard Hilton Garden Inn (doesn’t really count – it’s across the bay at the end of the Bay Bridge). Last time Val and I were in San Francisco, only for a day, it was a wonderful day. We picked one thing to do, walk up Telegraph Hill, and it happens that it’s Kamiya’s favourite place in San Francisco. Apparently there’s a lot more to it than the views.

Kamiya is one of those writers who fills his chapters with apropos literary references, few of which I get because I’m not a fiction reader. However, he mostly paints city pictures with his own cheeky little prose style. He meshes his personal experiences, either familiar recollections or new tours with experts both geological and historical, with the rather odd history of the city.  Socrates would have loved this guy having been a fanatical city dweller himself. What’s particularly nice and quite informative is that he goes back to the times when the Yelamu Indians lived on the peninsula and is very respectful of these now-disappeared people’s history.

The book’s genesis lies in Kamiya giving himself the task of ‘learning’ his own city, bit by bit, neighbourhood by neighbourhood. It surely didn’t hurt that he was also quite familiar with it through his years as a cab driver. What a way to learn a city, not just its places but its people. His cabbie stories don’t disappoint, especially the one about luring a gay fare away from a fellow driver. This view of the city gives him an ‘if these walls could talk’ advantage.

The other advantage Kamiya has is his sheer love of his city, warts, guts, glories and all. Natural and man-made, touristy and off the beaten path, he loves it all. He loves the mix of inspiring landscapes and spirited people. He loves their struggles to keep San Francisco unique and non-conformist. And he’s honest about the times when battles have been lost such as in the demolition of entire neighbourhoods in favour of highrises. The story of a neighbourhood called the Western Addition, which was home to Japanese families before they were forced to leave the west coast because of World War Two internment, is quite poignant. When the Japanese left, African Americans moved in. While not all the Japanese returned after the end of the war, some did and the question became what to do with them now that they were back and their homes and businesses were occupied. It reminds me of the story my grandmother used to tell of living in wartime Vancouver: all those nice Japanese people just disappeared.

Kamiya is critical of his city and some of its past decisions; he is not a booster in the 100% unquestioning sense. I can relate to this. I consider myself to live in the epicentre of a beautiful and functioning city. But that’s the view from where I am at Broadview and Danforth in my comfortable life. I don’t sit in traffic for two hours a day. I walk two minutes to the subway when I want to get somewhere downtown.

Toronto may not be knowable in the same way – it’s such a huge sprawling city and so much larger in population. Maybe the old City of Toronto (in which I live) could be approached this way.

The reason that Stephen W. of San Jose (formerly of Toronto and Kitchener) sent this book to Val is that he knows Val is a Toronto-lover. He thinks Val could write the Toronto version of Cool Gray City of Love some day. Val used to write a column on Torontoist.com about hidden places in Toronto. I can think of more than a few times when I’ve benefitted from his knowledge. When we first met he took me on a hike on the Don Valley trails – not the well-worn paths but places that were unknown, at least to Risa from North York. A few years ago he lead a bike tour through the laneways of the east side. A little history, a little geography, a big city made little.

A lot of Val’s love of the city has rubbed off on me. I feel like I know Gary Kamiya and I appreciate where he is coming from. I don’t mind that each one of the 49 chapters ends with his unabashed, almost embarrassing love for his city.

 

What Is It Like To Be 13 Again?

By , July 15, 2015 7:38 pm

Def_Leppard_July_2015_resized

I have long repressed a portion of my early teenage life. Back then, 1983 to be precise, I was obsessed with the band Def Leppard.

Thirteen is supposed to be a memorable age. I definitely do remember some parts of that year such as my Bat Mitzvah and the two pretty dresses I had for the service and the evening party at our house for which my mom made all the food. We (meaning my brother and I) still joke about her having leftover rice pilaf and chicken cacciatore in the freezer.

It was also the first year of junior high – new friends, new school subjects, new routines. And a locker! I had pretty much the same locker and homeroom on the first floor of St. Andrew’s Junior High for the next three years so that hasn’t left me: 7-8-9-G.

The part I have tried to keep bottled up in the past is that I was a giddy little girl who taped pictures from teenie magazines to her walls. Not just the walls, the cabinets, too. And the inside of the cabinets. Not just any band. Only Def Leppard. Joe Elliott in his Union Jack sleeveless shirt was my man.

Why? I have no idea. I guess because he was cute. Sure I liked the music. I guess.

Why has that moment from my past been so hard for me to deal with over the years? It makes me shudder to have been that girl in 1983. Over the years when Def Leppard songs have come on the radio I would quickly turn them off. Classic repression symptoms.

My interest in Def Leppard only lasted a short while. Soon after – I can still remember the day in grade eight – a friend introduced me to U2. So I moved on. In grade ten my English teacher, Mr. Polley, introduced me to music history through Simon and Garfunkel and I never looked forward again in my musical tastes.

In psychological parlance, I went home last night; Val and I went to a Def Leppard concert. Having been married to Val for nearly ten years now, I am aware of his own past with Def Leppard. He apparently went to a concert of theirs at Maple Leaf Gardens in 1991 and he has many of their albums (which seem to be constant re-releases of their previous two big albums) among his MP3 files.

So, was last night a terrifying Freudian moment of truth? No, I unabashedly enjoyed it along with the other 10 000 or so people. No more repression. Musical geniuses they are not (at one point I yelled in Val’s ear that they are a ‘lyrical tour de force’) but they do put on an enjoyably loud and energetic show. Val even remarked that the set was almost exactly the same as in 1991. Whatever. We didn’t go for the intellectual experience.

It seemed that the band (or at least their production company) was in the mood for memory lane as well as the backdrop to most of their show was still photos and video from their own vault. Looking at those photos, many of them from 1983 or thereabouts, was nostalgic; it felt like an invisible psychologist had arranged the whole therapeutic thing for me.

It turns out that memory lane is a good place to visit once in a while.

Note: I would go on the Def Leppard Hysteria on the High Seas Caribbean cruise with Val but I get vertigo.

 

 

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