Monday, April 5, 2010

Margin Notes: Holidays, Pranks, Sidewalks, Cats

A history of Toronto Transit Commission streetcars in the form of Presidents' Conference Committee (PCC), Peter Witt, and Canadian Light Rail Vehicle (CRLV) cars were in the Beaches Easter Parade on 4-April-2010

TORONTO, ONTARIO - It has become an Easter tradition for me to head to the eastern part of Toronto that I so rarely visit for the Beaches Easter Parade down Queen Street East. While the record warm temperatures likely had a lot to do with the happy mood this year, the giveaways of chocolate and candy always seem to leave people feeling especially friendly, even for Toronto. Many more pictures from the parade will be forthcoming.

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Holiday traditions seem to be alive and well in Seattle, Washington. The amazing feat of raising $500,000 from mostly small businesses to ensure that Seattle will have an annual fireworks display on Independence Day, done by the Dave Ross talk show on KIRO-FM in almost exactly one day, has several points of interest. First, the process was started by Tom Douglas, who ironically had been fired by KIRO-FM as a weekend host of a cooking show recently, calling in to the Dave Ross show to suggest the effort and make the first pledge of $5000, showing that there's something to be said for maintaining relations with former co-workers. Then, while Starbucks and Microsoft stepped forward with matching funds for half the amount, just about everything else was raised from small businesses. This shows that providing more ways for small businesses to work together--whether for legal lobbying, purchasing of health care plans, or giving money to civic causes--can really enhance the public experience. Government ought to take note.

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The other major holiday last week was April Fool's Day, and I am usually on the lookout for the best jokes. However, this year was remarkably tame. In the broadcast media, probably the only truly notable prank was the BBC Today show reporting that Shakespeare was actually French. Another especially good joke was a post on a well-known railfanning site that Union Pacific, which has painted a number of locomotives in special paint schemes including a recent unit with Boy Scout logos, was going to do a rainbow-painted unit in honor of its gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered employees. It reflects poorly on the railfan community that the post was so poorly received that it had to be removed.

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A "Monolithic Sidewalk" sign was noted on Queen Street East at Victoria Park in Toronto, Ontario on 4-April-2010

This sign was no joke. While walking back from the parade, I found a number of "monolithic sidewalk" signs like the one above in Scarborough. While a monolithic sidewalk apparently means that the curb and sidewalk are poured as a single slab of concrete, what these signs mean is that there is no room to place snow between the road and the sidewalk without blocking the sidewalk, and thus crews cannot push snow to the side of the road. I guess the interpretation is that the snow removal crew is supposed to treat the sidewalk as monolithic with the road, but is that really the clearest way to mark such a situation?

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The monolithic sidewalk might be too small for more than just snow piles. A story on CBC television last week reported that nearly 60% of house cats in North America are obese, a rate higher than even that of their owners; dogs were not that far behind at 45%. Most veterinarians say it comes down to the same things as for humans--eat healthier food and get more exercise.

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