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[URBAN NOTE] Five links about Toronto neighbourhoods, past and present and future

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  • Metro Toronto‘s David Hains reports on a new interactive map of Trinity-Bellwoods Park designed to help users find other people in that large complex space.
  • You’ll never have to spend 20 minutes trying to find your friend in Trinity-Bellwoods Park again.

    New York-based cartographer (and former Toronto Star employee) William Davis loves Toronto, and so he knows this is one of the city’s great summer frustrations. It’s because of the geographically complicated, but very popular park, that he and Tom Weatherburn made an interactive map for Torontonians to share their location.

    All users need to do is drag and drop a “here” pin on a map of the park. It can be accessed for free at the MapTO website, a personal project with Weatherburn that features quirky and interesting maps on a variety of city subjects.

    The Trinity-Bellwoods map is overlaid with easy-to-read icons, including a dog at the dog bowl, a baseball at the baseball diamond, and beer mugs where people like to hang out.

  • The Toronto Star‘s Jennifer Pagliaro describes the catastrophic state of repair of far too many of the houses of Toronto Community Housing.
  • Half of Toronto Community Housing developments will be in “critical” condition in the next five years without additional funding for repairs, according to an internal database provided to the Star.

    Already, the data shows more than 30 social-housing properties are in serious disrepair. Of 364 developments — which include houses and groupings of low-rise buildings and towers — 222 developments are ranked in “poor” condition, with dozens edging on critical condition, based on a standard ranking used by the housing corporation.

    Those critical sites are homes for more than 3,000 individuals and families.

    The data shows a pervasive problem at a time when the city is grappling with how to keep thousands of units open with a $1.73-billion funding gap.

    Of the 364 developments, more than 100 were offloaded onto the city by the province more than a decade and a half ago without money needed to cover the repairs. Of the buildings in the critical and poor categories, more than a third were downloaded by the province.

  • Back in August, Yasmine Laarsroui wrote for Torontoist about the potential for the housing co-op model to help solve the Toronto housing crisis.
  • Those affected by the lack of rent controls left young professionals, like reporter Shannon Martin, with no option but to turn to more extreme alternatives, such as couch-surfing.

    Young people seeking more reliable housing options are turning to co-op housing—at least, those lucky enough to get a unit.

    Toronto renter Donald Robert moved into Cabbagetown’s Diane Frankling Co-operative Homes in September 2016 and speaks highly of his experience.

    Robert pays $1,300 for a large two-bedroom unit with access to an underground parking and a small gym, almost $500 cheaper than the average one-bedroom unit in Toronto. Robert explains that, “the best part though has been the community here. Everybody says ‘hi.’”

  • Also back in April, John Lorinc wrote in Spacing about the oft-overlooked musicality of the lost neighbourhood of The Ward.
  • If you try to imagine your way back into the early 20th century streets and laneways of The Ward — the dense immigrant enclave razed to make way for Toronto’s City Hall — you might pick up the sounds of newsies and peddlers hawking their wares, the clanging of the area’s junk and lumber yards, and shrieking children playing on the Elizabeth Street playground north of Dundas.

    Those streets would also reverberate day and night with a jumble of languages — Italian, Yiddish, Chinese. The dialects and accents of these newcomers were considered to be not only “foreign,” but also proof (to the keepers of Toronto’s Anglo-Saxon morality) of the area’s worrisome social and physical failings.

    But despite the fact that many mainstream Torontonians saw The Ward as an impoverished blight on the face of the city, the neighbourhood resonated with energy and culture and music — evidence of the resilience of the stigmatized newcomers who settled there in waves from the late 19th century onward.

    Photographers recorded fiddle players and organ grinders with their hurdy gurdies, playing as mesmerized children listened. After their shifts ended, one 1914 account noted, labourers whiled away their free times playing mandolins or concertinas as they sang rags and the Neapolitan songs so popular at the time.

    “When sleep in crowded rooms seems all but impossible,” journalist Emily Weaver observed in The Globe and Mail in 1910, “the people of ‘The Ward’ are astir till all hours, and the Italians amuse themselves by singing in their rich sweet voices the songs of their far-away homelands or dancing their native dances to the music of a mandolin or guitar in the open roadway beneath the stars.”

  • The Toronto Star‘s Azzura Lalani describes how the rapid growth of young families in Leslieville threatens to overload local schools. What will the Downtown Relief Line do?
  • As the mother of a 16-month-old boy, Michelle Usprech is looking to leave the Financial District where it’s just “suits and suits and suits,” for a more family friendly vibe, and she’s got her eye on Leslieville.

    But one of Toronto’s most family-friendly neighbourhoods may be a victim of its own success as signs from the Toronto District School Board have cropped up, warning parents in Leslieville their children may not be able to attend their local school because of possible overcrowding, school board spokesperson Ryan Bird confirmed.

    Those signs warn that “due to residential growth, sufficient accommodation may not be available for all students,” despite the school board making “every effort to accommodate students at local schools.”

    [. . .]

    It’s a concern for some parents, including Kerry Sharpe, who lives in Leslieville and has a four-month-old daughter named Eisla.

    “It’s still early days for me,” she said, but, “it is a concern. Even daycare, that’s hard to get into, so I don’t see it getting any better.”

    [BLOG] Some Wednesday links

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    • Beyond the Beyond notes an image of a wooden model of Babbage’s difference engine.
    • James Bow talks about the soundtrack he has made for his new book.
    • Centauri Dreams considers ways astronomers can detect photosynthesis on exoplanets and shares images of Fomalhaut’s debris disk.
    • Crooked Timber looks at fidget spinners in the context of discrimination against people with disabilities.
    • D-Brief notes that Boyajian’s Star began dimming over the weekend.
    • Far Outliers reports on a 1917 trip by zeppelin to German East Africa.
    • Lawyers, Guns and Money argues that there is good reason to be concerned about health issues for older presidential candidates.
    • The NYRB Daily reports on Hungary’s official war against Central European University.
    • The Russian Demographics Blog notes the origins of modern immigration to Russia in internal Soviet migration.
    • Savage Minds shares an ethnographer’s account of what it is like to look to see her people (the Sherpas of Nepal) described.
    • Strange Maps shares a map speculating as to what the world will look like when it is 4 degrees warmer.
    • The Volokh Conspiracy argues that the US Congress does not have authority over immigration.
    • Window on Eurasia suggests Russia’s population will be concentrated around Moscow, compares Chechnya’s position vis-à-vis Russia to Puerto Rico’s versus the United States, and looks at new Ukrainian legislation against Russian churches and Russian social networks.
    • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell notes how Evelyn Waugh’s writings on the Horn of Africa anticipate the “Friedman unit”, the “a measurement of time defined as how long it will take until things are OK in Iraq”.

    [BLOG] Some Monday links

    • Centauri Dreams reports on asteroid P/2016 G1, a world that, after splitting, is now showing signs of a cometary tail.
    • The Everyday Sociology Blog considers outrage as a sociological phenomenon. What, exactly, does it do? What does it change?
    • Joe. My. God. reports on a new push for same-sex marriage in Germany, coming from the SPD.
    • Lawyers, Guns and Money examines the Alabama government’s disinterest in commemorating the Selma march for freedom.
    • Marginal Revolution looks at Oxford University’s attempt to recruit white British male students.
    • At the NYRB Daily, Masha Gessen warns against falling too readily into the trap of identifying conspiracies in dealing with Trump.
    • pollotenchegg maps the distribution of Muslims in Crimea according to the 1897 Russian census.
    • Savage Minds takes a brief look at ayahuasca, a ritual beverage of Andean indigenous peoples, and looks at how its legality in the United States remains complicated.
    • Elf Sternberg considers the problems of straight men with sex, and argues they might be especially trapped by a culture that makes it difficult for straight men to consider sex as anything but a birthright and an obligation.
    • The Volokh Conspiracy considers how the complexities of eminent domain might complicate the US-Mexican border wall.
    • Window on Eurasia reports on protests in Russia and argues Belarus is on the verge of something.

    [URBAN NOTE] “U of T assistant prof reviving Mohawk language”

    The Toronto Star‘s Jesse Winter reports on how linguist Ryan DeCaire, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, is taking part in an ambitious revival of the Mohawk language.

    When Ryan DeCaire was a kid, he couldn’t speak his own language.

    Growing up in the Wahta Mohawk Territory near Bala, Ont., he’d often hear his elders speaking the mysterious tongue, but he never knew what they were saying.

    “You’d hear it spoken sometimes, and you always wonder ‘oh, that’s my language but I can’t speak it,’ ” he says.

    Now 29, DeCaire has not only learned to speak Kanien’kéha — the Mohawk language — but he’s leading a revival of it in the heart of downtown Toronto.

    In July, DeCaire joined the University of Toronto’s Centre for Indigenous Studies and the linguistics department as an assistant professor. He’s teaching the first-ever Mohawk language classes at the university, and helping to revive a language that eight years ago he feared might die out forever.

    Written by Randy McDonald

    March 5, 2017 at 8:30 pm

    [BLOG] Some Sunday links

    • Language Hat reports on the Wenzhounese of Italy.
    • Language Log writes about the tones of Cantonese.
    • Lawyers, Guns and Money writes about the costs of law school. (They are significant, and escalating hugely.)
    • Marginal Revolution reports on the problems facing the Brazilian pension system, perhaps overgenerous for a relatively poor country facing rapid aging.
    • Neuroskeptic reports on the latest re: the crisis of scientists not being able to replicate evidence, now even their own work being problematic.
    • Personal Reflections considers the questions of how to preserve the dignity of people facing Alzheimer’s.
    • The Russian Demographics Blog notes a Financial Times article looking at the impact of aging on global real estate.
    • Spacing Toronto talks about the campaign to name a school after Jean Earle Geeson, a teacher and activist who helped save Fort York.
    • At Wave Without A Shore, C.J. Cherryh shares photos of her goldfish.
    • Window on Eurasia notes growing instability in Daghestan, looks at the latest in Georgian historical memory, and shares an article arguing that Putin’s actions have worsened Russia’s reputation catastrophically.

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

    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”

    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