Author Archives: ChrisNolan.ca

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Learning about Snowflakes

A couple of years ago we got Kenneth G. Libbrecht‘s Field Guide to Snowflakes book out of the library and I was fascinated.  After a few failed attempts at capturing our own flakes and getting them under a microscope we moved on from the topic for that winter.

Last winter we augmented our usual kirigami snowflake cutting by doing up a large 3-d snowflake craft to help decorate for the holidays.Large Snowflake Craft

snowflake necklaceThis winter we’ve been participating in a homeschooler group that North York Central Library has been hosting (Wednesday afternoons 1:30-3pm for those who want to stop by — thanks Janet & Sharon) and for our first two weeks we picked Snow and Winter as our theme.   A highlight for me was when I made a giant kirigami flake out of some flipboard paper and my daughter wore it as a necklace, and then later as a skirt.  It reminded me of this ballerina snowflake craft (note: even though they said the craft was only for Moms, I looked past their discrimination) I had come across (which we’ve done too).

sample snow crystalsIf you haven’t seen any of Ken’s books, or his informative website over at SnowCrystals.com, I suggest you look into them, even if you just hit up his kids activity page.  I made a tumblr post back in Dec that included a bunch of animated gifs that their lab made showing the crystals forming too.  I’ll include below a list of some other books and resources that can further your journey on learning about snowflakes and the fun to be had with them.

A chart of commonly agreed upon types of snow crystals

A chart of commonly agreed upon types of snow crystals

Feedback on Changes to Checkout Desk at North York Central Library

I wanted to share some feedback regarding the checkout desk construction I noticed on Friday at North York Central Library.  It might only apply to us, but I imagine others who checkout large # of items (kids books?) and those in wheelchairs might also be affected.

Of all the checkout locations available, there is only one I’m comfortable using and it has been altered.  It is only one of two that is low enough for the kids to participate in, and is the only one with enough space to handle the high-volume of items we typically have.  The extra wood-type level that has been added to the front section of the circle area prevents me from sliding our piles along the counter as we are checking out.  Days when we have 20 or 30 items (picture books for the win!) it is rather involved to pile 8 or 10 on the RFID reader, move that pile over, repeat two or more times, then sort the items so they can then fit well into our bags.  The extra bevel prevents the sliding (need to slide far enough away that it doesn’t get picked up again by a switch in card), and I suspect whatever is going to be installed on that space will limit any piling and sorting area.

I imagine that checkout spot is also the designated wheelchair checkout spot and I can’t speak for them but I imagine it might be an issue too, though not as much because there is no knee space in the section covered by the new block.

Plus to me, the aesthetic of the mixed materials (the stone type desk, topped with the almost matching colour non-stone) doesn’t convey the library as a place of culture and high standards I imagine it to be.

I understand we are an extreme user, and you can’t always take these edge cases into account when extending and improving things for the majority of patrons, but I wanted to share my feedback.

Thank you for your consideration.

[[ A note I sent to the circulation head at my local library ]]

Want to be my neighbour? 5 Options on the block atm

Follow-up to previous post from last year, 5 options are on the market at the moment if you’d like to be my neighbour.

Many options on the block at the moment.  2 new builds, 2 existing homes and one for lease.  On Ellerslie Ave between Tamworth and Senlac (one is two houses the other side of Senlac).

From east to west:

  • New build 183 Ellerslie (MLS# C2775924) listing at $1,689,000
  • New build 188 Ellerslie Ave (MLS# C2783699) re-listed with new agents after months of not selling (MLS#C2639633).  New price $1,749,000
  • For Lease 197 Ellerslie Ave (MLS#C2769820) for $1,800 a month
  • 205 Ellerslie Ave (MLS#C2784832) listed yesterday for $975,000.  Lot is listed at 57’ feet, which if split in the future would in theory be less than the previously allowed split size.  Nice enough place it might stay to be lived in instead of destroyed like so many others on the street
  • On the other side of Senlac 274 Ellerslie (C2774630) listed last week and I believe reduced since then but not 100% sure, now $849,000

Remembering Albert E. Nolan, Squadron 435 Burma

remembrance day poppy lest we forgetToday is Remembrance Day in Canada and I was sharing a story about my Grandfather, Albert Nolan (deceased 2003-01-13) with the kids.  He used to talk very little about the war, but as a boy I knew he served in Burma (and I didn’t know where Burma was then, but I know now he was stationed at Tulihal near Imphal India over the border from Burma), flew airplanes, and once crashed the plane.  My cousins and I would make up stories about him dog-fighting or something exciting like we’d seen in movies, but as a teen I learned the plane had run out of gas and simply didn’t make it over a hill.  Prompted by an email from my Uncle, I’ve done a bit of research and here are some notes and photos I’ve found.

The “Burma Campaign” as it is known now saw 8,000 Canadians in India and Burma.  My grandfather was part of “The Dakotas”.

Nos. 435 and 436 Squadrons, two medium-range transport squadrons based in India which flew their first operational missions in December 1944 and January 1945. The squadrons were comprised of C47 Dakota transport aircraft (the military version of the Douglas DC 3). The “Dak,” as it was affectionately called, was tough, reliable, extremely stable and able to take considerable punishment from ground fire.”

435_Transport_and_Rescue_SquadronThe Chinthes (Chin-thay), whose motto was Certi provenhendi (Determined on delivery), ran supply missions, often kicking the supplies out of the plane as it flew over the ground forces.  The chinthe is a legendary leogryph creature which guards the temples in Burma. The motto refers to the unit’s activities as a transport squadron.  They continue today as the 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron  stationed at CFB Winnipeg.

Another interesting resource I came across was this VEMRA page which had over a hundred photos from scrapbooks of the time.  In the list I discovered my grandfather was part of ‘”A” Flight 12’, it seemed there were 16 ‘flights’ in ‘A’ group and some ‘B’ group flights.  I include a couple of photos from that page where they show a Dak being worked on, and the cockpit.  Review their slideshow for pictures of men at work and rest, and some of their living conditions.

I found reference to two books written about the 435 Squadron, one listed here is by R Pittet titled “Determined on Delivery” and another on a used book site with no authorship information.

New Arguments

Please take a few minutes to read this observation from J. Michael Straczynski.

“If I might be permitted an observation.

You, reading this on your monitor, or your smart phone or your tablet, you who have the latest iOS or Windows or Linux, you who track the latest apps and sites and watch with rapt attention as the Higgs Particle surrenders its secrets…you, who believes you are living in the twenty-first century.

You are wrong. We are not living in the twenty-first century.

We are living in the 1960s. We’ve been living there for the last fifty years. I don’t care what the calendar tells you, you’re wrong.

How do I know this?

Because right now, at this very second, we’re having the very same arguments, over the very same things, that we argued about in the 1960s, and the 70s, and the 80s, and the 90s, and the Oughts. And nothing’s been done, nothing’s been decided.

It’s just the same old arguments, over and over, for FIFTY YEARS.

We’re still arguing about equal pay for women.

Still arguing about environmental issues versus corporate laissez faire.

About whether or not some sexual practices should be allowed.

About excessive government secrecy and spying.

About voting rights and citizenship for minorities.

About bomb blasts and body counts.

About casual cruelty masquerading as policy.

Arguing about the rights of gays.

About a trigger-happy military.

About who is the latest suspected socialist.

About the media as source of all social ills.

About the war on drugs.

About health care.

About social security.

About birth control.

About evolution.

About nuclear power.

About abortion.

About guns.

And I’m tired of it.

I’m not saying these discussions aren’t important. Obviously they are.

But can we get on with it? Can we actually decide some of the things on the list given above and move on to NEW questions?

Can we move out of the 1960s?

Can we have some new arguments?

I would love to see new arguments.

I would love to see Congress wrestling with whether or not to declare our Mars colony the 51st state.

Would love to see filibusters and debates over whether someone who has received 51% of his body mass from artificial sources still constitutes a human being.

Arguments over whether the new mega-high-speed rail that puts the ones in Japan and China to shame should go from LA to New York or Miami.

About voting rights for synthetic people.

About the FDA’s analysis of mindbridge implants that let two people stay mentally joined forever.

About new safety standards for air-cars.

About deployment of the 45th Robotic Division past their warranties.

Those would be wonderful arguments to have. New, fresh, inspiring arguments.

We’ve been arguing about the same things, over and over, for fifty years. The same drumbeat, the same talking points, the same positions and policies and nothing ever gets done because it’s in no one’s INTERESTS to get anything DONE, because for as long as those same arguments continue, those with a visceral stake in the outcome of those arguments will continue to come out to the polls to vote in those whose viscera says the same thing about the same issues.

And so we roll on, decade after slow decade, with neither side resolving anything even when they run the table, with influence over all three branches of government.

Fifty years. Arguing over the same things for fifty years is like eating the same meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner for five decades. Soon the taste buds diminish and fail and you don’t even realize what you’re eating anymore.

If you’d said to me as a kid in the 1960s that we’d still be arguing over these things in 2013 I’d have laughed in your face. Impossible. We’ll resolve at least some of these things by then. Has to happen. Got to. The alternative is ludicrous.

Do you…you the person who has read this far without going off to tweet or instagram or download, you the person who actually believes you are living in the twenty-first century…want to be having these same arguments fifty years from now? Do you want to still be living in the 1960s in 2063?

Do you want a hundred years of arguing without resolution?

Do you think we can do better?

We have to do better. This can’t be it. This can’t be the end of the American experiment, sucked down into a century of social quicksand.

We have to be better than that.

We have to be.

New arguments.

New arguments.

God of microscope and test tube, god of provender and starlight, stern god who maketh quantum quandaries as much as the architecture of butterfly wings, let us have some new arguments.

I realize it is much to ask.

But it is long past time to ask.”

 — JMS

“Stand tall and proud, if you love this place.”

Having a bad day?  Life got you down? Watch and listen to this song by 15-year-old High River resident Hannah Shields as she sings “When The River Starts to Rise” about hope and resilience in the face of overwhelming adversity.

“Hold you head up.  Put a smile on your face.
Stand tall and proud, if you love this place.”

Most of the rest of the world has already forgotten the devastating floods that affected tens of thousands of people near Calgary this past summer, but the town of High River is still rebuilding and life is far from ‘normal’ for those living and working there.

She started work on the song a day or two after she and her family evacuated their home with little more than the clothes on their backs.  Hopping from friend’s house to hotel every day or two, not knowing what was happening to their home, she was resilient.   After finally getting clearance to return to their home weeks later, her room had been under water and most everything she was familiar with was destroyed.  Except her guitar, which they had managed to store on the top level of the house before they departed.  She retrieved it, and was happy.  She was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel and she “will refuse to sink.”

Her song was made a reality with the support of a great team of friends and family, Director Trevor Smith says shooting the video was a way to “keep our mind off the struggle of rebuilding”.  While you may shed a tear (or start to sob) watching When the River Starts to Rise, know that Hannah has helped you to be a bulwark against future troubles.

“Hold you head up.  Put a smile on your face.
Stand tall and proud, if you love this place.”

Disclaimer: Hannah is my niece.  I’ve lived in High River.  My mother, grandmother, and brother’s families are featured in the video.  I’m a proud Uncle.

Maxim Vakhovskiy’s Black Venus Portraits

In continuing the recent theme of portraits of powerful women, here is a selection of Maxim Vakhovskiy‘s figure portraits featuring women and their babies.  Check out his book, Black Venus and many of his other stunning photographs on his tumblr.

tumblr_m4ao25Kxko1rs3g5co1_500tumblr_m6nb1pUikD1rs3g5co1_500tumblr_m4nwc6MVOS1rs3g5co1_400tumblr_m4chdzVKkW1rs3g5co1_500tumblr_m4bo4iQjwA1rs3g5co1_500tumblr_m4ao30LO3A1rs3g5co1_400tumblr_m675kgTFTY1rs3g5co1_400tumblr_m4ao2ne7BF1rs3g5co1_400tumblr_m4amoyXlVN1rs3g5co1_400

Wolf Whistle and Cat Calling Awareness

Photography student Hannah Price was first catcalled shortly after moving to Philadelphia in 2009 and was thrown off guard.  She reacted by taking the portraits of the men who were doing the cat calling and has put together a gallery exhibit entitled “City of Brotherly Love”.

NPR’s Codeswitch as an interview with her titled A Photographer Turns Her Lens On Men Who Catcall, and the Morning News as a piece titled My Harassers.

A video with the photographer done for her exhibit at the Stockton Art Gallery is worth viewing as well.

stop telling women to smileTatyana Fazlalizadeh took her displeasure of having to suffer this behaviour nearly daily to the streets themselves.  She began a series of posters she put up around her Brooklyn neighbourhood as her way of speaking back to her harassers and this has spawned the Stop Telling Women to Smile project.   After a successful Kickstarter campaign last month, she is taking the posters on the road.  You can also buy some posters to put up in your neighbourhood too.

There are stories all over the web from women who do not appreciate this behaviour: a project last year simply called Catcalled collects the experiences of a set of women over a set period of time, and blogger Nic has a well articulated article on her experiences.

Have you been catcalled or wolf whistled?  How did it make you feel?  What is an acceptable form of compliment in your opinion?  On the flip side, men, do you wolf whistle and if so, why?

Where does a mother end, and her child begin?

Ana álvarez-errecalde‘s latest work, SIMBIOSIS/Symbiosis, shows a mother breastfeeding a child, linked at the hip.  So integrated are these two beings, they are a single identity, that of Spider-Man.

Does a mother retain her self when she has a child?  Is she so completely absorbed into the child’s world that she no longer has her own identity?  Can she find a balance, or should she wait until the child is grown?  Are mothers Superheroes?

Mothers of the world, how does this image speak to you?

ana álvarez-errecalde's Simbiosis

ana álvarez-errecalde’s Simbiosis

I recently shared another piece of Ana’s artwork, Birth of My Daughter, which has been getting a lot of attention around the world.  May her images continue to resonate in the hearts and minds of all who view them.

Teach Me How To Breastfeed Rap Video

Tanefer Lumukanda is a hospital-based Lactation Consultant who wanted to explore new ways in educating and encouraging new moms all over on how to breastfeed.  She came up with a Rap Video: Teach Me How to Breastfeed (also on Youtube).

She writes about the experience at the MomsRising blog.

For more information on Breastfeeding see Jack Newman’s resources and the Government of Canada’s top reasons to breastfeed, or contact your local La Leche League.