Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Bright Idea

Here’s another Canadian Super-kid we should all know about and cheer on. 

Did you or your kids experience science fairs? We did in our family and often found it hard to come up with topics that hadn’t been done to death by others over the years and yet were still age-appropriate and possible, given that we don’t all have science equipment handy. 

Ann Makosinski is 15-year old from Victoria, BC who has been enjoying and entering Science Fairs for many years. Now in Grade 10, she began 3 years ago to look at ways to harness energy and started to use Peltier tiles to produce energy. I had never heard of Peltier tiles, but apparently when you heat one side of the tile and cool the other side, the result is energy which can be useful – the greater the temperature difference, the more energy produced. 

This year, Ann, decided to use Peltier tile technology to see if she could create a flashlight that would be powered just by the heat of the hand. When her flashlight actually worked, she uploaded a video of it to YouTube and was thrilled when she got 200 views. Her outstanding success has won her the place as Canada’s only science fair student this year to go to the international Google Science Fair in California this September. And guess what! The YouTube views are now into the millions! 

Just in case you’re wondering what kind of kid she is and whether she spends all her time working on science projects in her bedroom, here’s what else she did over the course of her year in Grade 10: 

·        Played the headmistress in the school production of The Secret Garden

·        Read books, including Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina

·        Participated in the school film club and student council

·        Sang in the school choir and played in the orchestra

·        Took piano and theory lessons

·        Worked part-time as a math and reading tutor

·        Still had time to hang out with friends 

I wonder if the busyness of Ann Makosinski’s life is an example of the busier we are, the more we can accomplish!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Bed Nevis

When I was in Scotland I had the misconceived idea that I would be able to climb Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the UK on May 26, the day after finishing my 154 km West Highland Way walk. So I found the following article, copied from The Scotsman very interesting. You will note that the following antic occurred a whole month after I was planning to do the climb. Note also the snow!

Picture: HeMedia

Published on 28/06/2013 14:13
STAFF from budget hotel chain Travelodge heaved a replica of one of their new model rooms to the top of Ben Nevis - raising £50,000 for charity in the process.

The 36-person expedition climbed the 1,344 metre peak carrying all the component parts of the room including bed, duvet, and a chair with all money pulled in by the effort going towards Macmillan Cancer Support.

The team embarked on their quest at 6.30am on Thursday 27th June 2013 and it took them four hours to ascend Ben Nevis, two hours to construct the room and two hours and 30 minutes to descend. 
Paul Harvey, Travelodge Managing Director for Property & International said: “Travelodge is renowned for building innovative hotels and we certainly love a good challenge. So as part of our fundraising programme, we thought it would be a good idea to take our new Travelodge room to new heights and you don’t get any higher in the UK than the summit of Bed Nevis.”

The summit of Ben Nevis however is no stranger to hotel room. From 1894 to 1916 it was home to the Temperance hotel which provided accommodation for climbers during the summer months.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The North Berwick Law

On our recent trip to Scotland Don and I spent about a week travelling around in a rental car. We spent our first 2 nights in Edinburgh and one day travelled just outside of the city to visit Rosslyn Chapel, a site I had wanted to see since reading The Hiram Key about 15 years ago. I wasn’t disappointed – the architectural features were fascinating and I had some diagrams with me from the book to refresh my memory about what intrigued me so much. Didn’t take pictures though.   

Afterwards we went over to the coast to North Berwick (pronounced Berrick) where there is a links golf course of course. One of my plans for this week together was to do some walking so that when I started off on the West Highland Way I would still be adequately fit. So when I saw a pimple of a hill rising above the flat coastal town of North Berwick, we drove over that way. Don parked the car and pulled out his book and I headed off up the Law.

A law is a Scottish volcanic hill which has survived the scraping away action of glaciers from the Ice Age. The North Berwick Law rises just over 600 ft. above sea level. 

Since the path goes around the back of the Law, there wasn’t much of interest until the top where there’s a great view and a few structures. The gorse was blooming
and the crags were impressive.
A giant whalebone jaw has stood in this place since 1709, each being replaced as it rotted away. This one is a reproduction, put in place in 2008 after the previous rotted-out one was removed in 2005.

There were some ruins
a marker at the very top
and a World War Two bunker.
A great view of the outer part of the Firth of Forth from the top:


That island in the distance is Bass Rock or "The Bass", a breeding ground for gannets. It's approximately 2 km. offshore and about 5 km northeast of North Berwick. Here's a better picture taken by someone else.











Friday, July 19, 2013

Raccoon Antics

This is obviously not a GTA raccoon - they are much fatter. Maybe that's why this one is so intent on stealing cat food - he's reaaally hungry! Make sure you watch right to the end.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Obituary Writer

The Obituary Writer

Most of the books I read come from the very excellent library in Aurora. Whenever I spot a promising-looking book at the bookstore or see/hear an interesting review in the media or get a recommendation from a friend I look for it online at the library and add it to my hold list. Then, if I know I won’t be able to read it right away should it become available, I suspend the hold until I’m ready. That is how I get 95% of the books I read. 

What about the other 5%? Whenever I’m at the library, returning or picking up books, I check the nearby racks or sometimes the new book shelf for anything that looks interesting and that’s how I recently found The Obituary Writer by American writer, Ann Hood.

By the time we arrive at adult-hood most of us have experienced the crushing pain of loss. In her most recent novel, The Obituary Write, Hood explores loss and heartbreak in the lives of two women, one in post-San Francisco Earthquake, 1919 who is the obituary writer, the other, a young mother in the heady days of JFK’s 1960 inauguration. The author writes with such grace and intimacy that we rightly suspect the subject is one with which she has a more than passing familiarity.  

In 2004 Hood lost her 5-year old daughter to a strep infection. A terrible loss like this shouldn’t happen. When it does, the lives of families are swept asunder into chaos as they struggle to make sense of such an unbelievable blow and as they figure out how to carry on in spite of it. Hood’s gift of sharing the complex emotions of bereavement with intimacy and compassion enable her to create a story that is surprisingly neither unbearable nor painfully sad, but, instead, wonderfully illuminating.  

Each section of the book is prefaced with interesting and still-relevant bereavement advice from Emily Post’s 1922 book, Etiquette. As we jump between eras following each woman’s life we uncover the mystery of how these two are connected. At the end, reflecting on what we have just read, we hear the echoes of other losses in the novel. Perhaps we can now recognize and relate more skillfully to all the losses, both great and small in our lives and in the lives of those around us.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Marathon Run

Some people do the most amazing things!

Ray Zahab of Chelsea, Quebec has been training intensively over the last year to make the run of a lifetime: 2300 km. across the Gobi Desert (Mongolia and China). It would take me a lifetime - of course I'd be walking ;) but his plan is to cover the distance in 1 month.

Zahab, 44 years old, is not new to runs in the desert; seven years ago he ran 7500 km. across the Sahara Desert in 111 days.

His plan is to run 70 to 80 km. per day....in sand and facing extremes of temperature, sandstorms and severe winds. In doing so he hopes to be of inspiration to others to help them realize that they too can do something extraordinary in their lives. The way that he will do this is through his non-profit organization impossible2Possible .

Zahab will have a support vehicle that will hopefully meet up with him at the end of each day. He plans to video his interactions with people and to create videos of his campsite and food, editing and uploading footage at night onto his website, gobi2013.com .

Inspired in part by Chris Hadfield's recent ISS experience, he will blog and tweet to share his journey with us.

Zahab's story is told in more detail and much more eloquently than I can manage here . He and his running partner, Kevin Lin, started their run on June 23.

Some of the pictures already posted are interesting. Here, for example is the way to transport your horses efficiently in Mongolia.

and a bystander...

There are lots more photos on the website: gobi2013.com.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Tea Anyone?

From Linda: a good postscript to yesterday’s coffee preference poster:

Thursday, July 11, 2013


An iceberg cluster surrounds the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Ann Harvey on June 8, 2013, about 60 nautical miles east of Makkovik, Labrador. The coast guard says the largest iceberg cluster it has seen in recent years is drifting south off Labrador near the Strait of Belle Isle. 

July seems like a good time to think about icebergs. Remember the Peterman Ice Island ? About a 9 mi.² piece of ice became detached from the Petermann Glacier on Greenland and drifted southwards, calving smaller icebergs as it went. That was in 2010-2011 and problems with large ice fragments from the Glacier continued into 2012.

Now icebergs are in the news again - about 250 of them drifting southwards from Greenland, past Labrador and into the Strait of Belle Isle.

More icebergs are being reported than has been the case for many years, as many as 3 to 4 time more than in each of the last 5 years. It is thought that the large number of glaciers this year is attributable to those significant calving events of 2010 and 2012.

It usually takes three or more years for an iceberg to travel from Greenland to the Newfoundland coast. As you might expect, sea currents, air and water temperatures are all determining factors in the drifting and speed of travel of these unpredictable hazards to shipping. This year the icebergs are still quite far north as compared to other years, so not as many are being seen yet off NFLD. Possibly they will arrive just in time for tourist season this summer so folks who like those things can go out in tour boats for a visit.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Window into Autism

Have you read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon? It is a popular novel from 2003, written in the voice of a 15-year old boy with Asperger's syndrome and for me, really opened a window of understanding into what it's like to have a brain that is so differently wired.

 Carly Fleischmann is an 18 year old student in Toronto who is non-verbal. She has a normal twin sister, but Carly, diagnosed with severe autism at the age of 2, was not able to communicate with anyone until she was 11 and needed help. Thanks to the many therapies that she had undergone over the years, she was able to type the word, "help" and from that moment on the world changed for her and everyone around her.

Her dad has written a book, Carly's Voice, with her help (she wrote the final chapter herself). Here are a couple of Carly-videos that help to illuminate the autism experience.



Carly has a blog and is active in social media. She is of above-average intelligence and it seems a shame that so many people talk down to her, even now. She does all of her own typing, but with difficulty, since her motor skills are haphazard (that's why, as a child, she was unable to communicate with sign language).

Carly now communicates with a type-to-computer-to-voice program (what is that called anyway?) and has appeared in public numerous times, including on the Ellen DeGeneres Show and on other news journal programs in the US and Canada.
On the website, Carly's Voice , Carly has answered some questions and the answers may surprise you.

In September Carly will become an Arts student at the University of Toronto, with hopes of eventually becoming a journalist. I have a feeling that news will be more interesting from her point of view.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Even More Paper Sculptures


I really seem drawn to paper sculptures. They are so beautiful and I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to get them so perfect-looking.


Jen Stark is a US contemporary artist specializing in paper sculpture. Here are pictures of some of her works. I love the organic shapes and how the colours of each piece, though different, seem continuous. Rainbow colours are also very satisfying  - so inclusive!


Some of Stark’s work is currently on exhibit at the Cooper Cole Gallery in Toronto.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Still More Paper Sculptures

Diana Beltran Herrera is a Colombian artist who uses paper as her medium to create the most fantastic colourful birds. Each bird is crafted by hand, but they are not origami since they are created from many pieces of paper and not by folding.



She also draws and takes photographs, mainly of birdlife and habitat. Her exhibitions occur world-wide.



Thursday, July 4, 2013

More Origami

Have a look at these amazing creations by Nguyen Hun Cuong, a Vietnamese part-time artist, who says he began folding at around the age of 5 or 6. More of his work can be found on Flickr.

Astounding Origami by Nguyen Hung Cuong paper orgami
Astounding Origami by Nguyen Hung Cuong paper orgami
Astounding Origami by Nguyen Hung Cuong paper orgami
Astounding Origami by Nguyen Hung Cuong paper orgami
Astounding Origami by Nguyen Hung Cuong paper orgami
Astounding Origami by Nguyen Hung Cuong paper orgami

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Origami: The Crane

Origami has always fascinated me - the way a flat piece of paper can be turned into a 3-dimensional figure. Most of us have done some origami folding at some point in our lives. I first learned some simple figures when I was at summer camp as a teen at the same time as a Japanese girl was visiting and she taught us all some simple folds, ending up with telling us the story of the peace cranes and showing us all the steps to fold them. I also love all the special and beautiful origami paper that is used in the craft.

Following is the story of the Peace Crane. In the next post I'll show you some more recent origami art.

Story of the Peace Crane

Danuse Murty

Buddhist Council of NSW

For free distribution only

The origami crane has become an international symbol of peace, a Peace Crane, through the sad but inspiring life story of a young Japanese girl named Sadako Sasaki.[1,2]

Sadako was born in 1943 in Hiroshima, Japan. She was two years old when the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, on 6th August 1945.

Following that Sadako seemed to continue growing up well into a happy and healthy girl. In
the 6th grade she was one of the fastest runners in her school and her dream was to become a physical
education teacher.

But towards the end of November 1954, Sadako caught a little cold and lumps developed on her neck and behind her ears, swelling her face as if she had the mumps. Sadako was soon diagnosed with Leukemia, which people in Japan called "the atom bomb" disease. In February she entered the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital.

In August, while in the hospital, she was shown colourful paper cranes and told an old Japanese legend, which said that anyone who folds a thousand paper cranes would be granted a wish. Sadako hoped that by folding the paper cranes she would get well again. So she began making the cranes and
completed over 1000 of them before dying on October 25, 1955 at the age of twelve.

While making the cranes she also wished and helped towards world peace:

“I will write peace

on your wings
and you will fly
all over the world.”
(Sadako Sasaki)

Her classmates felt deeply sad to lose their dear friend. They discussed what they could do for her, and came up with the idea of building a monument to Sadako and all the children killed by the atom bomb. Young people all over Japan helped collect money for the project. In 1958, a statue of Sadako holding a golden crane was unveiled in Hiroshima Peace Park.

The children also made a wish that is inscribed at the bottom of the statue and reads:

"This is our cry,

This is our prayer,
in the world."

Since then people all over the world fold paper cranes and send them to the Sadako's monument in Hiroshima, in memory of Sadako and all children killed through wars.[1,3]

The story of Sadako and peace monument has inspired many people around the world to work towards world peace and to protect the seriously threatened Red-crowned Crane (Grus
japonensis) on which the origami crane and the Japanese legend are based.[3]

Cranes are among the species at the top of a wetland ecological pyramid and hence they are more vulnerable to extinction. Health of the crane population is often a good indicator of the health of the whole wetland ecosystem.[4,5]

Fulfilment of prayers and wishes for world peace depends on a healthy natural environment. Protecting our natural environment is a sign of true wisdom, since our own health and peace depend on it.[6]

1. Hiroshima Peace Site, 2009. The Special Exhibit, Sadako and the Paper Cranes.

2. Origami Fun, 2009. Animals, Crane.

3. Wikipedia 2009. Sadako Sasaki; Origami Crane; Redcrowned Crane. www.wikipedia.org

4. International Crane Foundation, 2009. Red-crowned Crane. www.savingcranes.org

5. Wikipedia 2009. Crane. www.wikipedia.org

6. Bodhi Tree 2009. Ebooks, The Book of Protection.



Monday, July 1, 2013

Happy Canada Day!

The following video was made by two friends in Kingston, Ontario who noticed that the LaSalle Causeway sounds different for each vehicle that crosses over. They did some clever editing and uploaded it to YouTube. 

More info here.