Category: Uncategorized

Studying For Exams

By , January 6, 2020 4:19 pm

Try out some of these methods. They are scientifically proven to work.

Studying for Exams Jan_2020

Bells on Danforth

By , June 25, 2017 7:31 pm

Val’s car came out for its second appearance, the first being Halloween, this Saturday for Bells on Danforth. It has been repainted in anticipation of the East York Canada Day Parade on Saturday.


By , November 6, 2016 9:45 pm

I recently had the pleasure of a short visit to Ottawa. Val joined me after the OHASSTA conference. Preparations are definitely on for Canada 150 – the 150th birthday of our country, in case you didn’t know. There’s construction everywhere – it feels like Toronto.

The weather was absolutely perfect for fall and there were still some red, orange and yellow leaves. The scenery around Parliament Hill is worth the trip.


parliament hill resized

courtesy of Val Dodge



You can tell who is holding the camera

We had an interesting visit to the War Museum.  The special exhibit Deadly Skies – Air War, 1914 – 1918  was really informative. I learned so much about all kinds of uses of air technology in the war: balloons, zeppelins, airplanes for battle, airplanes for observation. I looked at detailed reconnaissance maps made from aerial photos. I saw how even the Red Cross got into the spirit of battle by selling little pieces of destroyed German zeppelins to raise funds. Overall, though I found it fascinating, I was saddened by the overwhelming realization of how far war pushes technology. When the war started pilots were dropping bombs out of their planes by hand. By war’s end, there were multiple types of bombs and they were massive.

For my last year’s grade 12 students who inquired into “was World War I really a world war?”, I’d like to report that the air war actually began in the Far East when Japan bombed the  warships at port in the German territory of Tsingtao in China in 1914.


Wakamiya, Japanese ship carrying airplanes that attacked Tsingtao.


A word about the architecture of the War Museum: it is meant to throw you off somewhat, but I felt it to the maximum. I had to leave after spending too much time in its bunker-like lower level where all the tanks, trucks, and artillery pieces are kept. While we were there they were setting up for a Habitat for Humanity gala. Quite the incongruous setting. They called it ‘Steel Toes and Stilettos.” Well, I’m sure they raised a lot of money for a good cause.

Auction from Habitat’s 2015 gala.


Hallway leading downwards to lower hall in War Museum.


Having spent a lot of time photographing the National Gallery from the outside on Saturday, we made it in on Sunday. It’s a beautiful building,  but once again, I found that I reacted negatively to all the concrete. On the plus side, we enjoyed the Toronto-centric exhibit Cutline: The Photography Archives of the Globe and Mail (that national newspaper). This photo shows the proposed extension of Eglinton Avenue east of Brentcliffe Road. My mom should appreciate this – her new condo complex is located approximately where the CPR line meets the extension. Of course this photo is pre-Inn on the Park (opened 1963) as well as pre-condo (2004). The two streets of houses north of the extension appear to be Thursfield Crescent and Rykert Crescent. The western portion of the extension was actually built in 1956, according to


Don Mills and Eglinton

Photo courtesy of Val Dodge

Val keeps saying he’d like to return to Ottawa in the summer some day. I don’t think next July 1st, 2017 will be a good time – it’s apparently booked up already!


A Surprising Book for Ms G

By , May 12, 2015 9:17 pm


Wade Davis, Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest. Knopf Canada, 2011.


I don’t like the thought of mountain climbing; it makes my palms sweat. I do like Wade Davis.  That would explain why I picked up a hard cover edition of this 578-page behemoth a few years ago at my local Book City. Thinking back, I was probably also very attracted to the “Great War” part of the title having been on a World War One kick.

Despite the subject matter’s initial lack of appeal, it grew on me. Remembering back to The Wayfinders (which I sometimes use in HSB class – Challenge and Change in Society – to introduce the discipline of anthropology) I recall Davis’ beautiful way with words. Sentence construction, or rather, poor sentence construction, can be a real stumbling block for me in getting through a book. Not so this one. Davis is sleek and clever without being pretentious. Even when the subject matter is pretentious it doesn’t seem so, such as the detailed descriptions of the snooty English public school educations of the lead characters. Or the champagne that they ship across the world to be carried up Mount Everest by Sherpas.

The Great War is part of the subtitle but really deserves top billing. The war in which most of the climbers of the first three British expeditions in the 1920s fought is the glue that binds them all and sets their characters.  In that sense it’s the context of the story. However, it builds to so much more. Getting to the summit becomes a battle in itself, three times: classic “man versus nature” stuff (weren’t we all taught that it’s one of the universal themes of literature back in grade seven?). It turns out that it does make for a gripping theme. At first the mountain-climbing-phobic reader finds little interest in the actual expedition. Drawn in bit by bit, or rather foot by foot or camp by camp, the loyal reader is nearly cheering for Mallory to reach the summit even though the tragic end is already known. Biting wind, blinding sun on snow, inept supply chains, broken oxygen apparatus – they cannot defeat the experience and sheer will of Mallory.

In the end it’s not about conquest of nature. It’s about respecting the power of the mountain. Without shoving that theme in the reader’s face Davis makes the point.

Davis also uses an anthropologist’s eye combined with a historian’s brain to reveal the ways the British perceived the Tibetans and their seemingly strange rituals. Being the master of all trades, Davis additionally highlights the photographic firsts that occurred on the mountain and the lengths that photographers went to to take and develop their breathtaking shots.

Since I read The Wayfinders I have said that Wade Davis has the perfect job: National Geographic writer and photographer. As a history teacher, sometimes anthropology teacher, and very amateur photographer, I am jealous.






February 13 Presentations

By , February 12, 2015 9:22 pm

Hello. Thanks for attending. Here are my presentations.




Here is the Idle No More lesson. Thanks to my co-writer, Rick Chang, also from York Mills. We’d love to hear your feedback.



Bells on Danforth

By , September 21, 2014 12:30 pm

Here are some pictures from Bells on Danforth, a bike-advocacy event that my husband, Val, helped organize. It is a group ride from Danforth and Woodbine to city hall, and it joins up with Bells on Bloor and Bells on Yonge. This year it culminated in Bikestock, musical performances at city hall. Photos courtesy of Val Dodge.

Mr. Levy’s Last Day

By , April 5, 2014 10:15 am

Sorry for the delay in getting these pictures up. Good luck, Mr. Levy!



Latest Books Read

By , January 5, 2014 1:34 pm

Margaret MacMillan, The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914. Toronto: Allen Lane, 2013.

Product Details

Having been looking forward to this book by the author of Paris 1919 which I enjoyed so much, I picked it up shortly after it was released. The timing coincided with my grade 12 lessons on the origins of World War One. Unfortunately I had only read a few early chapters by the time of the lessons. However, there will be changes next time, for sure, notably in the way I present Serbia and the major powers’ interests in the Balkans.

Many reviewers call it highly readable; that it is. It plowed along introducing a plethora of characters and their unique foibles – the chapter on Wilhelm II is called “Woe to the Country that has a Child for King!”-  and historical events and their precedents set. By the chapters on the two Balkan Wars just ahead of 1914 I had a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. Of course I knew what was coming but more importantly I felt like I was constantly being pulled in two directions: they will, they won’t.

Like the churning left hand of a piano piece the forces set in place seemed too strong to overcome: imperialist rivalries, the bravado of nationalism, the strategy of war plans, the webs of opposing alliances. Meanwhile the right hand had its own melody largely sung by intriguingly drawn characters – foreign ministers, kings, military figures – many of whom even within their own country didn’t communicate effectively with each other. These individuals seemed to be at once marching toward war and trying to avoid it.

MacMillan’s ultimate conclusion is that the war was not inevitable because the major players had the ability to make choices and decisions. Her masterful portrayal of the tension between the driving left hand and the free right hand was successful, in my opinion, in that it kept me hanging on every word until the very end. However, I do feel that the left hand came across more strongly, almost contradicting her own thesis. But my read may be biased by where I am in my own historical thinking; in teaching students to see causation of historical events in a sophisticated way I have asked them to look beyond the actions of individuals toward larger social forces. MacMillan has reminded me that I shouldn’t negate the influence of powerful individuals.




Jung Chang, Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China. Toronto: Random House Canada, 2013.

Product Details

In the last few years I have read a lot about late imperial China, mostly in standard school textbooks and books found in school libraries. The usual picture that is painted is one of corruption, decline and conflict with reform held back by the dowager empress Cixi. Jung Chang’s new biography of Cixi offers a different view as can be seen from its subtitle: the concubine who launched modern China. If she and her newly available Chinese sources are to be believed the usual history books have it wrong.

As I often say to my history students, the problem with biography is that it doesn’t always take historical context into account enough to satisfy historians.  Having recently read an excellent biography of Karl Marx that succeeded in that rare feat, I was only somewhat disappointed by the amount of wider historical context surrounding the dowager empress. Chang did a good job of charting the rise of the Manchu dynasty, gave some context on the Confucian morals present in the court, and clearly portrayed the rise of Japan as an Asian power and China’s main threat. She offered a bit on traditional gender roles in China – I didn’t know that Manchu girls such as Cixi did not have their feet bound. While China at the time had to deal with the commercial and religious interests of Europeans and Americans, Chang didn’t paint a fully developed picture of  the imperialism of the era.

I will admit that I have been fascinated by life inside the Forbidden City since I visited there in 1987, early on in China’s opening to the west. While I read the book my mind was full of sumptuous images from the film of the same time, The Last Emperor. It all looked so glorious: the ceremony, the rituals, the costumes, the silk. Over and over Chang reports that even though Cixi was clearly the most powerful and important person in China during her decades and decades of rule (direct or indirect), she never came in the main gate of the city. That was reserved for men only. That certainly created a lot of sympathy for her as a person. Chang did a wonderful job, as a biographer should, of constructing Cixi’s complex and oddly appealing character. She had a young woman thrown into a well and she tried to use the chaotic Boxers against the western powers, yet by the end of her rule she was trying to push China toward a constitutional monarchy. Unfortunately for her she cared too much about saving the Manchu dynasty, which is ultimately what did away with the promise of achieving constitutional monarchy within nine years.

I will wait for corroboration of a lot of the claims Chang makes about the dowager empress’s policies, but  I certainly have a new found respect for her as a person and as a woman in a non-traditional position.






Laundry Cat

By , November 26, 2013 9:11 pm

A few weeks ago we heard a commotion and a cry from the basement. We went to look.



Little curious miss Shadow had somehow jumped into the laundry bag hanging on the bannister.



She had to be “removed” from the bag by Val.

Curious cat.

Ms. G Shows Up At Prom

By , May 18, 2013 12:05 pm

I made it. Here’s the evidence. You all looked amazing.

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