Sunday, August 23, 2009

Margin Notes: Wasps, Cold, Music, Bicycles

A wasp nest was located on an electrical meter along Marlborough Place in Toronto, Ontario on 22-August-2009, a sign of "wasp summer"

TORONTO, ONTARIO - There has been a lot of talk in Toronto this summer about wasps, replacing fruit flies as the most common insect conversation around town. The mild winter apparently led to an increase in survivors that have multiplied this summer. Indeed, I've noticed wasps hanging around my front door and even flying around the construction site at Roundhouse Park. What I hadn't seen were any of their nests, until I discovered a really obvious one (pictured above) on an electrical meter on a house on Marlborough Place during a Heritage Toronto walk on Saturday.

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Derek Boles, the Toronto Railway Heritage Association's historian, spoke about the Canadian Pacific North Toronto station (in the background) during a Heritage Toronto walk on 22-August-2009

That Heritage Toronto Walk was the "Marlborough to Summerhill" walk led by Ed Freeman and Derek Boles. A major highlight of the route is the former Canadian Pacific North Toronto station, now known as Canada's largest liquor store, the Summerhill LCBO. Boles has literally written a book on the structure, so it was quite informative to hear him speaking about the building. More pictures from this Heritage Toronto walk will be forthcoming on my photo site in a few weeks.

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The Summerhill LCBO does sell Coors Light, but probably not many Torontonians are eager to buy that beer this week. The company has just pulled a series of billboards in British Columbia proclaiming that its beer is "Colder Than Most People From Toronto." If people from Toronto are cold, then what are people from Boston and New York? Approaching absolute zero?

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Zero seems to be the number of songs standing out as classic "summer songs" this year. The role played by the Beach Boys' "I Get Around" in 1966, OMC's "How Bizarre" in 1997 or Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" as recently as 2006 seems to be still up for grabs this year. At least, that's what Maura Johnston told NPR's All Things Considered today, and I have to agree. Johnston notes that a key aspect is how the song sounds coming out of a car passing by, which rules out several candidates and led her to believe that Michael Jackson may even deserve the honor for this year posthumously.

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A whole family of six rode a set of connected human-powered wheeled vehicles down Queen's Quay in Toronto, Ontario on 21-August-2009

Cars do not seem to be the classic transportation in Toronto this summer; I've been pleasantly surprised at the number of bicycles noted. It's still not Amsterdam or even Portland, Oregon, but my impression is that there are a few more, and one this week rather shocked me. I've seen tandem bicycles for two people before, sometimes with a trailer for a child, but I had never seen a family of six moving with a single human-powered wheeled vehicle before as I did on the Toronto waterfront this Friday, shown above. I suspect this took considerable customization to achieve.

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