A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘education

[URBAN NOTE] “How six undergrads saved U of T’s rare books”

leave a comment »

The Toronto Star‘s Ellen Brait reports on how first-year engineering students at the University of Toronto came up with a solution to save the books of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library.

When 750,000 volumes of rare books are imperiled by condensation, it’s time to think outside the building.

Since at least 2004, the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library – which houses books including all four of Shakespeare’s folios and a papyrus from the time of Christ – has had a condensation problem. The insulation inside the library has been slowly degrading and condensation has been building up, according to Loryl MacDonald, interim director of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library. This also resulted in fluctuations in the temperature, something that can be detrimental to books that need climate controlled environments.

“Over time with those types of conditions mould can grow and affect some of the rare books,” said MacDonald.

The library consulted numerous architecture firms and was told the same thing again and again: construction had to be done in the interior. This would require the books, some of which are in fragile condition, to be moved and the library to be temporarily closed.

Desperate for a different solution, John Toyonaga, manager of the Bindery for the library, saw an ad for a first year problem-solving engineering class and decided to throw the library’s problem into the mix.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 18, 2017 at 7:00 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “U of T students flock to ancient language Ge’ez course, funded in part by The Weeknd”

leave a comment »

NOW Toronto‘s David Silverberg takes a look at the course in Ge’ez, a liturgical language of Ethiopia, newly offered by the University of Toronto thanks to funding by Ethiopian-Canadian rapper The Weeknd.

How does someone teach a language when we have no idea what it might actually sound like?

That’s one of the questions for U of T’s Robert Holmsted, who’s teaching the university’s course on the liturgical Ethiopian language Ge’ez.

In its first semester at U of T, his class has five undergraduates and five graduate students enrolled, and several more students auditing the class. They all realize that deciphering ancient languages can help us learn about a country’s ancient past.

Manuscripts in the language, which hasn’t been spoken in 1,000 years, date from as far back as the sixth century BCE. In fact, contemporary scholars of such ancient languages may not be able to ascertain the true sound of the language at all.

Holmstedt agrees that no one can truly know how centuries-old languages were pronounced, but we can get some clues from other Semitic tongues.

“Without recordings, we have to do our best to reconstruct the sound from Semitic languages,” he says. “We make an approximation and can never know for sure.”

Written by Randy McDonald

February 16, 2017 at 8:45 pm

[URBAN NOTE] Alex Bozikovic on the impending demolition of Davisville Public School

leave a comment »

In “School’s Out”, The Globe and Mail‘s Alex Bozikovic looks at how the mid-century Davisville Public School building is set to be demolished, largely because of the Toronto District School Board’s disinterest in preserving its heritage properties.

A spaceship landed on Millwood Road. That’s how an imaginative child might see Davisville Public School: a pointy-winged product of a distant civilization that loves syncopated windows and hyperbolic paraboloids.

In fact, the North Toronto school is the product of a distant civilization: Ours, in 1962, when public buildings had real budgets and Toronto’s school board believed its architecture should represent the value of public education.

Now, it’s slated to be torn down.

The structure, which houses both Davisville Junior Public School and Spectrum Alternative Senior School, will be replaced by a new building right next door; the Toronto District School Board will tear down the old one when construction is finished in 2020, to make room for a schoolyard and driveway. For the affluent and fast-growing area, this is a victory. The current school is overcrowded. The new building will be larger, with a community centre and bigger schoolyard.

But there is also a loss for the city: an unnecessary demolition of a building that has economic and environmental value, and real cultural worth. “It’s a treasure,” says architect Carol Kleinfeldt, one of the leaders of an informal activist group that is agitating to save the building. “And this is the school board’s own heritage.”

If the building had been designated heritage by the city, “we would be having a very different conversation,” says Catherine Nasmith of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario. But the school board’s internal process ignored the building’s heritage value and skipped past the city’s heritage-preservation apparatus.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 13, 2017 at 9:30 pm

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

leave a comment »

  • Centauri Dreams looks at ongoing research into the sizes of Alpha Centauri A and B.
  • Dangerous Minds notes Finland’s introduction of a new Tom of Finland emoji.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper speculating as to the fate of icy dwarf exoplanets in white dwarf systems.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on the intensification of the war in Ukraine’s Donbas.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog asks readers how they study.
  • Language Log looks at the structure of yes-no questions in Chinese.
  • The NYRB Daily looks at the consequences of the Trump travel ban.
  • The Planetary Society Blog considers impact craters as potential abodes for life.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer does not quite understand renters’ fears about new developments in their neighbourhoods.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy considers the court ruling against Trump’s refugee order.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests prospects for long-term economic growth in Russia have collapsed, and notes the sharp fall in real incomes in Asian Russia.

[LINK] “Students affected by travel ban look to Canada”

leave a comment »

MacLean’s carried Laura Kane’s Canadian Press article noting the beginning in a surge of applications to Canadian institutions of higher education from students which have been already affected by Trump’s visa rules, or who might be.

Mahdi Ebrahimi Kahou was awarded a full scholarship last year to complete his PhD in economics at the University of Minnesota, a top-five U.S. school in his field.

But last Friday, the Iranian citizen said he watched his dream evaporate with a stroke of U.S. President Donald Trump’s pen.

“I don’t know how to explain the feeling, to be honest,” he said. “I can’t do anything. I can’t concentrate. I can’t study. Everything is hectic.”

Ebrahimi Kahou is now part of what Universities Canada calls a “surge” in applications to Canadian institutions by U.S. students, in the wake of Trump’s executive order banning entry of citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries for 90 days.

Some schools have moved quickly to extend application deadlines for foreign students, including McGill University’s graduate law department and Brock University. Others said late applications from qualified applicants will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Ebrahimi Kahou, 29, holds a graduate degree from the University of Calgary, and his common-law wife and five-year-old stepdaughter live in Alberta. Trump’s order means the man can’t leave Minneapolis to visit his loved ones for at least the next three months.

Shortly after the order came into effect, Ebrahimi Kahou contacted Kevin Bryan, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management who had published a blog post offering to help economics or strategy students affected by the travel ban.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 4, 2017 at 8:40 pm

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • ‘Apostrophen’s ‘Nathan Smith writes about how allies should not accidentally inflict trauma.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at Juno’s findings from Jupiter.
  • Dangerous Minds shares the photos of mid-20th century Japanese surrealist Kansuke Yamamoto.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper suggesting the large majority of potentially habitable exoplanets have not been sterilized by gamma ray bursts.
  • Language Hat links to a New Yorker short story examining life in a university linguistics class.
  • Language Log argues, based on some questionable evidence, that either Chinese will transition to a Romanized script or English will start to displace written Chinese.
  • The Map Room Blog links to the MacLean’s review of the Nova Scotia Community College’s Centre of Geographic Sciences.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw reflects on the history and future of Denmark’s relationship with Australia.
  • Savage Minds wonders what future the traditional anthropological academy has under Trump.
  • Towleroad links to a crowdfunding effort for Leo Herrera’s film Founders, which will imagine a gay world unmarked by AIDS and where now departed luminaries of the 1980s and 1990s continue to exert influence. The last I checked, Herrera is already two-thirds of the way to his thirty thousand dollar goal.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • Bad Astronomy shares photos of the ripple made by moon Daphnis in the rings of Saturn, as does the Planetary Society Blog.
  • The Broadside Blog questions whether readers actually like their work.
  • Centauri Dreams notes evidence for the discovery of a Jupiter-mass planet in the protoplanetary disk of TW Hydrae.
  • Dangerous Minds links to the 1980s work of Lydia Lunch.
  • Far Outliers reports on how the Afghanistan war against the Soviets acted as a university for jihadists from around the world.
  • Kieran Healy looks at some failures of Google Scholar.
  • Language Hat reports on a fascinating crowdsourced program involving the transcription of manuscripts from Shakespeare’s era, and what elements of pop history and language have been discovered.
  • The LRB Blog compares Trump’s inauguration to those of Ronald Reagan.
  • The Map Room Blog links to an exhibition of the maps of Utah.
  • Understanding Society reports on a grand sociological research project in Europe that has found out interesting things about the factors contributing to young people’s support for the far right.
  • Window on Eurasia reports on instability in the binational North Caucasian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, describes the spectre of pan-Mongolism, and looks at the politicization of biker gangs in Russia.