Mooseter Science

Time Moose Scape goes dumpster diving

You remember the Moose in the City, don’t you? For six glorious months in 2000 more than three hundred moose statues stood watch over Toronto, succesfully saving us from the shame of having flying pigs instead. Although some locals didn’t fully appreciate the fibreglass wildlife, I’d rather have the moose than any of the subsequent visitors to our fair city, including aphids, SARS, and Chilean soccer players.

Rudolph the red-nosed mooseMost of the moose had disappeared by the end of the year, but a few can still be found on display around the city. I recently stumbled upon this poor fellow behind the Ontario Science Centre, covered in dust and jammed up against a wall behind piles of discarded shipping pallets and recycling bins, begging for some dignity in retirement.

Time Moose Scape began life sponsored by none other than the very organization that callously threw him outside like so much trash. Oh, he tried to stay on their good side by getting a new paint job, donning a new suit and bow tie, trimming off his gangly antlers, and even going so far as to have a giant red clown nose surgically attached to his snout. It was all for naught. More enamoured by the latest plastination and big boat toys, Time’s masters cruelly cast the gritty seven-year-old out into the world to fend for himself.

Like any abandoned child, Time has remained close to the only home he’s ever known, scrounging for food and affection in the nearby recycling bins, eventually settling among the empty water bottles and flattened cardboard boxes. But despite the hard turns his life has taken, he keeps a smile on his face. That big red nose could have become a mark of his failure, but Time has chosen to wear it as a badge of courage. It proudly proclaims that one day he will be back among the adoring children inside.

A version of this article originally appeared on Torontoist.

Ambition revisited

That’s a big meal

Several months after writing about an ambitious beaver in the Don Valley, I finally got around to making a close-up visit to his meal at the forks of the Don. The trunk of this tree is about 70 cm (28 inches) in diameter and the Beav has eaten through about a third of it. The exposed band that you see here is about 45 cm (18 inches) tall. He’s eaten a lot of tree, but still has quite a bit to go before he can start the serious work of damming up the West Don. Good luck!

Riding the Bike Train

Overlooking the Niagara River from Queenston Heights

Risa and I rode the inaugural Bike Train to Niagara Falls yesterday. We joined dozens of passengers in loading our bikes into the baggage car for the regularly-scheduled Saturday morning train from Union Station. Some, like us, were just tootling around town for the day. Others were staying for a night or two, heading into the U.S., or cycling all the way back to Toronto.

Two hours after we got underway, following a relaxing train ride through the Golden Horseshoe, we arrived fresh and ready for an afternoon of cycling around Niagara. We had a picnic lunch, rode along the Niagara Parkway to Queenston Heights, took a tour at the Sir Adam Beck Generating Station, and generally lazed about for the day.

The train ride back home was just as relaxing as the ride there. Both stood in stark contrast to the average frustrating summertime Saturday drive down the QEW.

There was no shortage of enthusiasm yesterday, with several of our fellow travellers lining up to take pictures of their bikes being loaded onto the train. It’s actually a bit of a sad commentary on the state of our transportation systems when so many people can be so excited about something as simple as taking your bike somewhere without a car.

For anyone considering taking the Bike Train, I’d really recommend that you stay somewhere in Niagara Region overnight or longer. We had commitments for Sunday and couldn’t stay for the weekend, but still wanted to show our support for the service by heading out for the day. Too many bike-friendly services have come and gone over the years without my getting a chance to use them even once. So with this year’s announcement of the Bike Train, I’ve decided to support as many as I can while they’re still around. With any luck, the Bike Train will avoid the fate of everything from the Rochester ferry to BikeShare, all fallen victim to my inability to purchase tickets or memberships in a timely manner.

And yes, I’m still planning to make good on my threat to ride home from Niagara Falls after another Bike Train adventure later this summer.

Just monkeying around

How’s it hanging?

One of my neighbours keeps monkeys, hanging them from the utility wires along the street. There were only a few until last year, when the population exploded to the current dozen or so lining almost the entire block.

Shortly after we all learned through a Fixer column last year that one of the locals was taking the proliferation of monkeys a little too personally, a petition was affixed to the pole closest to the monkeys’ home pleading for the continued presence of the playful primates.

Watching the world And a koala too

The monkeys have since spread so far along the street that it’s hard to miss them unless you’re staring at your feet for the entire block. So I have to admit to a bit of amusement at learning that the Toronto Psychogeography Society walked right past without seeing them last week.

In fairness, many of the monkeys were camouflaged by trees at the time and the Society did their stroll under cover of darkness.

A version of this article originally appeared on Torontoist.



Chernobylesque. For some reason, that’s the word that’s been stuck in my mind since I took this picture of the stacks rising at the beautiful Portlands Energy Centre last month. It’s not even that it looks particularly like a disaster zone. It’s just a sensation that the visual evokes. How lucky we are to have it on our waterfront.

Unlike many who are not exactly in love with the PEC, I’m glad that they didn’t use the empty Hearn Generating Station to house a new power plant. When the port lands eventually become a community, Hearn will make one kick-ass community centre, market, museum, shopping gallery, or some combination thereof.

If The Powers That Be absolutely must have a new power plant on the waterfront, I’d rather have it in some anonymous steel box that we’ll be ecstatic to tear down when the time comes. And honestly, better a new power plant than a new power centre.

How hot is it?

Too hot to fly

It’s so hot that even birds of prey are sitting under the trees trying to get some shade.

I saw this large hawk today in E.T. Seton Park, just behind the Science Centre. It flew a short distance away when I pulled out my camera but settled under another nearby tree and seemed quite content to sit in the shade. I’m really not very good at identifying birds, but after staring at all of the pictures in my Peterson’s, I’d guess that this one is a red-tailed hawk. It seemed too large to be a fledgling but it behaved like one.

Just out for a leisurely stroll…

Out standing in his field

…while mother/father/brother/sister observes from a nearby tree.

Another hawk watches carefully

By-law roulette #2

Section 349-23 (PDF) of the Toronto Municipal Code declares that:

No person keeping pigeons shall permit the pigeons to stray, perch, roost or rest upon lands, premises or buildings of any person or upon any public place in the City, except on the property of the person keeping the pigeons.

So all we have to do is figure out who owns all the pigeons in the city and ask him to confine his birds to his own property? We should be rid of them any day now.

Cyclist's revenge redux

I wrote about my encounter with a delivery truck driver in an earlier post. With the two of us living and working in the same neighbourhood, it was inevitable that our paths would cross again. That came on Saturday, a scant three days after our first encounter.

This time, we were headed in opposite directions on Danforth. He was turning his van left at an advanced green. I was in my customary position at a red light, straddling my bike in the centre of the curb lane. Indeed, it’s the very stance I’d maintained during our first meeting.

In stark contrast to Wednesday’s shouts and frustration, we exchanged only smiles and friendly waves on Saturday before heading our separate ways. Surely this shared gesture counts as a small victory in the battle to get motorists and cyclists to respect one another. Maybe we can all just get along after all.

Life out of balance

(I liked the headline from my recent Torontoist post on the same subject that I’m reusing it.)

Rock towers in the Humber River
Peter Riedel could hardly have chosen a better location to ply his trade. I’ve seen rock balancers in the eastern beaches, in the western beaches, and even at the Ex, but this is the first time I’ve seen one working the Humber River. Literally in the river.

The artist and some of his creationsThe Humber cascades over a low waterfall in Étienne Brûlé Park before bubbling just a few centimetres deep across a short stretch of river rock. The only sounds here come from the rushing river and picnicking families. Visitors to the park on a busy Sunday afternoon include cyclists, walkers, joggers, and skaters. And then there’s the guy crouched in the middle of the river with a rock in his hands, surrounded by some 50 rock towers of every imaginable description.

Riedel, who has been balancing rocks on the Sunnyside Beach seawall for three seasons, recently moved up the Humber to take advantage of the idyllic setting, the abundant raw material, and the permanence the river lends to his work. He found Sunnyside less than ideal with the constant din of nearby traffic on Lake Shore and the Gardiner breaking his concentration and the constant danger that his towers would be toppled by careless passersby and malcontents. In contrast, it’s hard to imagine anyone accidentally bumping into a rock tower in the middle of a river.

The phallic sectionDaryl Maddeaux, who builds impressive towers at the Ex and other special events, once answered a query from the crowd by saying that rock balancing is more about patience than skill, and that anyone could do it. Since then, I’ve always wanted to try my hand at it. Unfortunately, I’m fairly certain that I don’t have the patience. For the moment, I’ll settle for the home version I received as a gift last year.

50 perfectly-balanced towers in the river

More than 50 towers dotted the river by the time Peter was done that day.

The view from afar

From afar and backlit, the towers look like people standing in the river. Only one of them in the picture above actually is a person.

There’s no trickery involved in rock balancing, just patience, skill, and artistry. Maddeaux always makes a point of knocking down his towers at the Ex by lobbing little pebbles at them, to demonstrate that the towers are held together by nothing but gravity and even the slightest shift will topple them. Life, out of balance.

A version of this article originally appeared on Torontoist.