Thursday, March 31, 2011

My friend Sylvia's Westie puppies.

[wpvideo Jovzznan]

They're 9 months old, named Sam and Dean, and little cuteniks! Couldn't get them to sit still for a picture, so here's a short video.

Allan post up at Simcoe's Gentry

Thinking about visiting Allan Gardens this spring?  Check out my new post over at Simcoe's Gentry to learn a little about the history of the site.

[Photo courtesy Stephen Allen, under Creative Commons.]


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Genealogical volunteer work.

I have been interested in genealogy for most of my adult life and since moving to Toronto in 2007, have gotten involved with the Toronto branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society.  In the past year, I've joined the Enquiries team, a small group that responds to requests for information that come in to the Branch from researchers around the world who would like assistance accessing records available in local libraries and archives.  I have done "look-ups" at the North York Central Library (mostly the Canadiana Room) as well as the Archives of Ontario and these are of great help to me as I learn about how to access these records while doing the work.

Recently, a request came in for records from the London Insane Asylum. The Archives of Ontario holds these records and they are available in a couple of forms.  Lists of patients are available in their original notebooks, stored in archival boxes, and I was able to take digital photographs of these for our client.


The actual case files are on microfilm, and the film-readers are driven by computers that let you save the images to an external storage device like a USB stick or portable hard drive.  

I find this kind of research very interesting and I try to undertake a few lookups for my own personal research when I'm at the Archives or library.

Late last year I was asked to blog for Simcoe's Gentry, a project of the Toronto Branch that is documenting the original Park Lots granted under Lord Simcoe in the Town of York.  Their website is an ongoing repository of research, and the blog will help to introduce people to the work.  The first post was in February and is here. You can scroll through the posts using the navigation at the upper right of that page.  This is a very interesting project and I'm getting to know a lot about the history of Toronto.

[1851 Township of York - The original map can be seen at the Toronto Reference Library (call number 912.71354b68)]

Finally, I have taken on the role of Twitter-mistress for the branch, sending out announcements of interest to our followers every couple of days. These can include meeting reminders, course information, history or heritage events of interest to genealogists in Toronto, and links to new online resources.  We set up the account in late January and hit 100 followers today, which suggests that we are offering a service of value to both our members and other followers with similar interests. You can follow us at

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Exciting find in Jordan...


"Ancient sealed books, discovered in a Jordanian cave, may shed new light on the early years of Christianity."

Go to the link above to see more images of this wonderful find.  Story here.

Monday, March 28, 2011

It's Monday....what am I reading?

Seems like I mainly get to this blog on Mondays, but I've been more active on Facebook and Twitter these days.  It's so quick to post links and updates via those other two media, and I"m getting lazy in my dotage.

Anyway, it's been an interesting week on the book front. Giving up TV for Lent has vastly increased my reading time, so I've been going great guns on the Seasonal Reading Challenge over at Goodreads.  I've finished up a few books:

  • In the Kitchen by Monica Ali.  A tale of a chef in an upscale London hotel restaurant, Ali's writing is crisp and enjoyable.  
  • Make Me a Woman by Vanessa Davis, a compilation of her hilarious comic strips detailing her life in sometimes painful accuracy 
  • Tangles: A Story About Alzheimer's, My Mother, and Me, a biography in the form of a graphic novel,  by Sarah Leavitt 
  • Refresh, Refresh by James Ponsoldt, another graphic novel about teenage boys in Oregon, waiting for their fathers to return from deployment
  • Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt. Detailed review to follow soon (I hope).

...and audiobooks:

  • The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie.  I read all of her mysteries as a kid, but have forgotten all the plots.  This is a good one!
  • Glory in Death by J.D. Robb.  The second in this series of detective novels set in NYC in 2058.  Written by Nora Roberts under a pen name, these are fast, easy reads (listens?).
  • Dinner with Friends by David Margulies.  This Pulitzer Prize-winning play is not really an audiobook but a recorded play.  It involves two couples, one of whom is divorcing.  The pace is quick, the conversation very realistic, and the acting excellent.  

Currently, I'm reading the third Flavia de Luce mystery, A Red Herring Without Mustard, by Canadian Alan Bradley.  I love this series that centres around 12 year old Flavia, set in '50s England.  She lives with her father, two older sisters, and a cook and a butler in a crumbling house and they are falling onto hard times.  Flavia makes use of her wits and her dead Uncle Tar's laboratory to solve local crimes.  Extremely well-written and engaging.  

I'm listening to The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Set in a post-apocalyptic future, this is not normally a book that I'd pick up, but I've read so many glowing reviews of the series that I decided to give it a go.  I'm only about 10% of the way in, but it has grabbed me and yanked me into it's dystopian world.  It's part of a trilogy, so there'll be more to come!

Books up next:

  • Bride of New France by Suzanne Desrochers.  I think I read a review of this somewhere and put it on my hold list.  It details the life of a couple of young women sent to Canada as "filles du roi"
  • Alice, I Think by Susan Juby.  Someone wrote that the Alice series were some of their favorite books for girls and I thought I'd pick one up and check it out.  It won a bunch of awards when it was first published in 2003.
  • Left Neglected by Lisa Genova.  Recently published, I must have read a good review about this somewhere and put it on my hold list!  I wish the library would allow for comments when we put books on hold so I could remember why I requested them!

And audiobooks:

I just received a review copy of Tide Road by Valerie Compton from the publisher (thanks to Goodreads book giveaways), so I'll have to fit that in somewhere soon.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Trombones are Endangered!

I think my Michael will reverse this tragic trend...


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tangles....a mini book review.

Tangles: A Story About Alzheimer's, My Mother, and MeTangles: A Story About Alzheimer's, My Mother, and Me by Sarah Leavitt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A remarkable story of a woman's journey alongside her mother who struggled with Alzheimer's. I would highly recommend this to anyone facing a similar situation...the story is told with truth and love, and is a realistic portrait of the feelings of family members caring for a loved one.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Floor design for Stratford's Camelot....Beautiful!

Nino Ricci's Open Letter to Globe & Mail

The following is an open letter addressed to The Globe and Mail‘s editor-in-chief, John Stackhouse, and its publisher, Phillip Crawley, regarding the serious financial crisis the newspaper is apparently currently weathering.

22 March 2011

John Stackhouse, Editor-in-Chief
Phillip Crawley, Publisher
The Globe and Mail

Dear Sirs:

I am writing to express my deep concern at the troubling and increasingly inescapable evidences that Canada’s august and historic national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, has fallen on hard times, and, further, to offer my apologies if I myself have been in any way responsible for the newspaper’s present difficulties.

Allow me to explain.

Last September I was commissioned to write a travel article for the special relaunch edition of The Globe and Mail that appeared on newsstands on October 2nd, 2010. (Let me just add as a sidenote: Love the gloss!) To my delight, I was able to negotiate a fee for the article that was well in excess of the frugal freelance rates The Globe is normally obliged to pay in the digital age, and indeed was nearly at the level of the premium rates that used to be in effect when I first started freelancing twenty years ago. At The Globe’s insistence I was also allowed to put all my expenses on my own credit card rather than on The Globe’s, thus accumulating points toward eventual free travel. Since my expenses included international flights, the points I was able to rack up were considerable, enough, say, for round-trip business class travel between Toronto’s island airport—were it not that political considerations make using that facility awkward—and the airport at Buttonville (had it not closed).

I had cause to regret exacting such onerous conditions from your newspaper, however, when, nearly two months after I submitted an invoice, I had yet to receive any payment or reimbursement. Enquiries to The Globe soon made clear where the problem lay: Due to cutbacks, I was told, the accounting office that dealt with payments to freelancers had suffered numerous layoffs, by that point reduced to a single secondary school student logging the community service hours she needed in order to graduate. I became concerned, on learning this, that it had been unduly selfish of me to have negotiated a fee increase or indeed to have insisted on reimbursement of my expenses, given the travel points I had accumulated. This concern grew to alarm when, after four had passed and still no payment was forthcoming, The Globe was unable to provide any new explanation for the delay, which suggested that not only had its accounts office been gutted, but its public relations office as well. Now nearly six months have elapsed and my enquiries have ceased to receive a response of any sort, leading me to fear that despite the hope expressed in The Globe’s October relaunch, of which I was proud to be a part, whole wings of the newspaper’s offices now stand abandoned, victims of the unreasonable demands of greedy freelancers like myself.

My intention in writing to you, then, is not to lament my own fate but to express my fear and regret for yours. As a writer, I am accustomed to living frugally, and have come to believe I am a better person for it. We all know writers who through one fluke or another have come into sums of money approximating a living wage only to descend at once into profligacy, indulging in Mexican all-inclusives or brand-name clothing or, worse, allowing a distasteful optimism and joy of life to creep into their work. I have no desire to be among that class. Nor, indeed, is the carrying of debt of any great concern to me, since for the past number of years I and my wife, also a writer, have lived almost exclusively on the line of credit afforded to us by the unreasonable rise in real estate values in our city over the past decade. Unlike our unhappy neighbours to the south, whose economy was laid low by credit line excesses, we Canadians seem to have managed to limit our use of credit to the sort of bridge financing that recessions or the non-payment of fees sometimes make necessary. For writers, the arrangement is especially propitious, and indeed may represent the solution to every problem of arts funding that has ever plagued this country. Here is how it works: Every month my wife and I borrow as much money as we need to maintain the lifestyle we have grown accustomed to, our only obligation being that we make a monthly interest payment that can itself, wonder of wonders, be borrowed from our credit line. The added bonus is that should we ever reach our credit limit—which at current rates is not likely to happen before the fall, or even later, should we decide to suspend the university educations of our two eldest children—we need only turn over our home to our bank, and our entire debt is expunged.

So my concern here, as I say, is not for myself, but for your venerable newspaper, and, more particularly, for your own situations, given that people on fixed incomes like yourselves often have much less leeway in organizing their finances than those of us who are self-employed. Should it be then, that my unreasonable demands for payment have in any way compromised your newspaper’s finances or interfered with the speedy processing of your own paycheques, please let me know and I will at once cease and desist in those demands.

Yours sincerely,

Nino Ricci


Monday, March 21, 2011

It's Monday....what am I reading?

I've got two pretty good books on the go.

  • I'm about three-quarters of the way through In the Kitchen by Monica Ali, a novel about a chef working in an upscale London hotel, stresses in his personal life, and some peculiar activities that are going on around him.  It's well-written and engaging, and the cast of characters that inhabit his kitchen and his life are intriguing and, if not likeable, multi-dimensional and interesting to read about.   Ali is the also the author of Booker-shortlisted Brick Lane, a wonderful novel about a family of Asian immigrants (also set in London) that was also made into a film. 
  • I've been listening to my second J.D. Robb novel, Glory In Death.  This is a series written under one of Nora Roberts pen names, and is set in a New York of 2058.  With a copyright of 1995 (that's over 15 years ago!), some of the futuristic details seem a little dated, but they're a fun read.  These are sort of the thriller equivalent to Harlequins but are excellent listening while folding laundry and walking the dog.  

Next up are Love the One You're With by Emily Giffen, Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt, and The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie in audiobook format.

    Check out my updated Where Am I Reading? map, as well as my Goodreads profile where I'm trying to get better about posting reviews of things I've read.

    Oh, and the wonderful vintage graphics in my last few posts are from The Graphics Fairy.  She has wonderful, free images to download for blogging, scrapbooking, and all manner of crafty endeavours!

    Janet's bookshelf: read

    We Have Always Lived in the CastleInnocent GravesSecrets of EdenLogicomix: An Epic Search for TruthLittle Green Dresses: 50 Original Patterns for Repurposed Dresses, Tops, Skirts, and MoreThe Good Apprentice

    More of Janet's books »

    Janet Berkman's  book recommendations, reviews, quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists

    Friday, March 18, 2011

    His Illegal Self by Peter Carey: my review from Goodreads.

    His Illegal SelfHis Illegal Self by Peter Carey
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    Reviewers' problems with following the narration were perhaps mitigated with audiobook version that I listened to. I found this a completely absorbing novel, with facts that are revealed slowly and a point of view that changes between the two main characters. Set in the 70s, mother-figure Anna/Dile, kidnaps Che/Jay, and takes him from his privileged New York home to the outback of Australia. Their relationship, as well as the one with their friend/protector, Trevor, forms the main core of the story. I found the emotions very believable and enjoyed the political drama against which the novel is set.

    Narration by Stefan Rudnicki is outstanding.

    View all my reviews

    Wednesday, March 16, 2011


    F1000004 by manzoh
    F1000004 a photo by manzoh on Flickr.

    ...photographed by his brother, Alex, using his new-to-him pentax.

    Monday, March 14, 2011

    Today's earworm....

    10 Teach me, O Lord_ Teach me, O Lor.m4a

    ...the anthem we sung during the Offertory yesterday.  William Byrd's Teach Me, O Lord, sung here by the Hereford Cathedral Choir.

    Gorgeous modulation during the Gloria (about 2:30).

    Friday, March 4, 2011

    Thursday, March 3, 2011

    A cure for the common cold? Yes, please...

    I think I'm starting to crawl out from under this heavy blanket of my cold.  My sinuses are feeling much better today and I don't have a headache, although that may be due to the migraine meds I took last night before bed.  I missed the Evelyn Glennie concert because I was just too sick to get myself there and it seems like it was a wonder.  Sigh.


    This morning, a correspondent told me about a cure that she learned of in Cuba:  a handful of mint leaves, steeped in boiling water, with some honey.  I don't have any fresh mint, but she suggested dried would also work so I've consumed a great mug of that and am hoping for the best. I'm off the cold meds, but may need some pain relief if the headache returns.  

    Michael's last Kiwanis event with the school orchestra was this morning, so I had to get dressed and out to transport him, his tuba, and a couple of friends to the venue.  I'm on call to pick him up sometime around noon when it's over and then I'll run some errands.  I'm quite behind in my to-do list but I'm simply knackered with this this cold.  I haven't been this ill for a long time, possibly due to the mega-doses of Vitamin C that I take for something completely different (or has that been disproven?).  Z brought home fixings for dinner last night and assembled everything which was sweet.  Leftovers are available for lunch so I can take it easy. 

    I"ll make a chicken pot pie with cornbread crust for dinner (a one-pot meal, and quite easy).  I've got nothing else on until tomorrow night when the man-child has a gig with the big band at Hart House (Jazz @ Oscar's, 9-11:30 pm). 

    Feeling like another cup of tea...

    Wednesday, March 2, 2011

    Evelyn Glennie: How to listen to music with your whole body

    Looking forward to her performance with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra tonight in the first concert of their New Creations Festival, celebrating the music of John Adams.

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    In like a lion?


    Crikey! It's March already.

    I've been felled by an evil cold...yesterday was pretty much a write-off except for urgenices like dog-walking, dropping man-child's forgotten lunch off at school, paying bills, and cobbling together dinner. Not feeling much better today, but must get some groceries and clean the horrendously vile kitchen that Michael neglected to do last evening.

    Being sick did allow me to finish off a book for the end of the Winter Reading Challenge over at Goodreads, and I finished up with 600 out of a possible 975 points.  I must say that people who make it to the full 975 points must either (1) read all day, (2) read a lot of easy books, or (3) skim/cheat.  Or maybe they just don't do anything else.  But it's fun and I'm looking forward to the Spring Challenge that starts today. My current reading list is here, although not all the tasks have been defined yet. I'm starting with Iris Murdoch's The Good Apprentice (audio) and Lorna Goodison's book of short stories By Love Possessed. I'm going to try to manage my hold list at the library to permit some time to read books that I own (and can then get rid of) as we're getting into double-stacked bookshelves and I'd really like to clear a bunch out.  I use BookCrossing to get rid of a lot of books, and am releasing one today.

    Travel plans are shaping up for the spring. Michael is going on a Rome-Sicily trip with his Latin teacher and a bunch of classics students over March Break so we've got a few things to do to get that organized, including getting his cellphone unlocked so that he can buy a SIM card over there. Z and I are heading to England in April and I need to do some work on the paper we're writing and book some accomodation for the time we're there after the conference. I'm thinking that, given the short amount of time we'll have, we'll skip London altogether and try to visit Kent, Canterbury, plus a night in Ashford hear where some of my ancestors are buried. Once again, we find ourselves travelling over the Easter weekend so we'll need to take in to account that things may be closed.

    Carry on!