A big, fat surprise from 1621

A book written in the 1600s, specifically for print, is easier to read on my iPad Mini. Here’s why …


I was concerned that I might not finish reading the book before it is due back at the library, so I sought and found an EPUB version I could keep on my iPad. Trying it out, it became instantly clear that the fat paperback could be returned. The iPad wins.

  • The EPUB lets me search the whole text, instantly.
  • With the EPUB, definition look-ups are a tap away. Fewer interruptions.
  • I usually have my iPad with me, to read while waiting or having coffee.
  • I don’t need a wifi signal, the book is on my iPad.
  • The iPad is much easier to lug around.
  • There is no due date on my iPad.
  • The text is much clearer (and backlit) on the iPad.

BTW. I am enjoying Burton’s book as much as I hoped. I thought Thoreau was the original source of the phrase “Castles in the air”. Nope. There it is, penned by Burton, hundreds of years earlier. Was he first?

I estimate that I will perhaps understand half of what Burton has put into his pages, there are so many Latin quotations and references to obscure (to me) gods and ancient classical sources. I may look up some of them, but for the most part, I am quite satisfied with Burton’s own thoughts and observations. It is not a melancholy book to read.

Beach area whodunit

The old tree didn’t have a chance. Three different forces combined to bring it down.

beaver-treeI hope you can see the teeth marks.

A passerby saw me examining the scene. “Beavers,” she declared. “Their habitat is further up the bay, where the boats are, but the yacht club people hate them. One boater is particularly bad. They must have moved this way to get away from him.”

So the tree is collateral damage in a war between yachters and beavers. (I wish it could have been otters, for a rhyme.) Anyway, a third force, the City, sprayed the Orange Dot of Death on the victim and lopped off its limbs. You thought the park was a place for a peaceful walk, didn’t you?

Posh postal address

Early prototype for Canada Post’s effort to end to-the-door delivery? This stands at the entrance to Woodbine Beach Park, depriving the postie of a nice walk to the door of the Ashbridge’s Bay Yacht Club.


Plans to have all of us trekking to Canada Post litter magnets have been put on hold by the federal government, at least temporarily.

Did you know that Deepak Chopra is the head of Canada Post? I kid you not.

Toronto downs and ups

It’s a familiar pattern, but a bit novel for Coxwell. An old corner store plays out its final role as a sales office for developers before the wreckers take it down. This assembled real estate deal includes the buildings shown below … no great loss (except, maybe, the mature tree).


The project will be going in at Coxwell and Dundas, across the street from our local cop shop. A row of townhouses replaced a gas station on the south west side of the intersection, a few years ago, but Coxwell has been pretty static. That may be changing, now.

We forget so quickly what used to stand where new condos are erected, I am making a few notes. Here’s a strip along Queen East, near Woodbine. Soon-to-be condos with retail on the street level.


The little barbershop was quaint. The other businesses were not particularly interesting. Away they go, but will they be replaced by merchants and services that create street life? The Beach strip is losing out to Leslieville, a little to the west.

One thing the Beach strip of Queen Street really needs is a bit of night life. We’ve tried to take visitors to dinner. Almost everything closes early.

A feel good movie about the environment?

imageYes, it is possible to resist “rip and ship” exploitation of natural resources. I heartily recommend the Hot Docs documentary film HAIDA GWAII: ON THE EDGE OF THE WORLD.

Not only do you get encouraging news about how the Haida people are winning back stewardship of their islands, you get to see a stunningly beautiful part of the world.

Bonus! You get to watch it in a good, old, proper, movie theatre. Treat yourself.


And since you’re near the corner of Bloor and Bathurst, remember to cast an eye over the landmark facade of famous Honest Ed’s department store. It won’t be there forever.


Let’s not ratify the TPP

A very nasty, last minute piece of work by the outgoing Harper government was the signing of the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. Negotiations of the text are over but we are not bound by the agreement unless it is ratified by Parliament.

I found this on Project Gutenberg when I went to get a PDF copy of The Anatomy of Melancholy. (See post below).

The TPP is passed, and not ratified
Project Gutenberg is concerned about a new international treaty, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It has been reported as completed, but the countries involved still need to ratify the treaty for it to apply to that country. There is still time to resist the negative impact on the Public Domain, within each country. The near-final text, with analysis, is available at [WikiLeaks].

It would have been better for Canada to have continued to negotiate the terms of the TPP, but Harper signed off on it during the election campaign, days before he was thrown out of office. Now our best option is not to ratify it and to remain outside the agreement until changes can be made.

Heavier than expected

I had a hunch that a book on melancholy would not be light reading, but I admit to surprise at the size of the fat, 1400+ page paperback.


The Anatomy of Melancholy
by Robert Burton 1577–1640

The Toronto Public Library has one circulating copy and there are 5 people waiting for it. I waited months. The title was unknown to me until I saw mention of it on the Open Culture website. I figured it might be worth reading a book published in 5 editions during the author’s lifetime and still being published more than 300 years after his death.

Having only read the introductions and first few pages, I won’t be attempting a review (relieved, are you?) but I am excited by the book. The author was a victim of melancholy and set about writing his masterpiece as a way of treating his own condition.

It was written in English, but is liberally sprinkled with Latin, most of which will escape me unless I reference translations at the back. No matter; the introduction promises me rich, entertaining and often amusing descriptions of human folly still relevant today. English literary history is peppered with other great writers who have taken from Burton.

The man knew his subject. The abstract in the first few pages describes melancholy as all of these: sweet, mad, sour, harsh, fierce, divine and damn’d.

I am advised to read slowly at first, to get a feel for the rhythm of the writing, so that I can pick up the pace as I progress. Off I go, then, “The seat of black choler to see“.

A popular language choice


I have been helping a friend learn to make audio-visual aids on his Mac, so he can volunteer to teach English to newcomers to Canada. This led me to explore what’s already available through our library system. Not only did I discover Mango Languages, I found the makers have a sense of humour. Apparently Learning to Talk Like A Pirate is one of the most popular courses.

You need a library card to log in and use the service but you can see how it works below.

There are, of course, many, many real resources for learning English. Here’s a page full.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!