Friday, 19 July 2013

Glass Floor

The Tower
Billy Bishop Toronto city airport as seen from the observation deck
CN Tower is the icon of Toronto. A trip to this city is never complete without a visit to this towering monument. View of the city from its observation deck is certainly grand but any tall building can offer such a sight. However, there is one thing in this tower that makes its tour a truly breathtaking experience. Standing on its glass floor and looking down to more than 1100 feet below is enough to trigger acrophobia or fear of heights in most people. It is a kind of eerie feeling. Your eyes would tell that you are safe but your mind finds it hard to believe. I would recommend visiting it early in the morning on weekdays when very few people are there. You will need to muster some courage to be first on the glass floor.

Glass floor and the hesitation of grown-ups
But on second thoughts, this is not too important either. You would see children and teenagers jumping on the floor while it would be hard for older persons to overcome their apprehension. Now, statistically speaking, a child or a younger person has more to lose in term of the average number of year left to enjoy, while an older person has very little to lose in this context. So logically, a senior person should be more of a risk taker, but practically very opposite happens. This is a paradox to me. What do you think?

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Black Squirrels

On the watch

When I first spotted a black squirrel here in Toronto, I thought, wow this is another strange thing about Canada. I added this to my collection of other peculiar items like vehicles driving with lights turned on during daytime, inverted power switches and door handles, absolute lack of honking et cetera. But weirder was the sight of black and grey squirrels playing and running side by side. Different species usually don’t mingle together and symbiotic relationships are rare. A little research (googling) and an afternoon at Queens Park showed that black squirrels are just a melanistic version of regular grey squirrels. Now melanism is the development of black pigmentation in the skin. It is direct opposite of albinism where lack of pigmentation gives appearance of white skin. While albinism is known to express in large number of animals including humans, melanism is rare. Black Panther is one example which is a pigmented form of leopard. 

Black and grey squirrels playing hide and seek at Queens Park

Black squirrels get their coloring from a mutant pigment gene and it can range from jet black to brown black. Environmental advantages like cold tolerance and better concealment from prey have resulted in their higher populations in eastern Canada but these are not common in other areas. Due to their rarity, several US educational institutions and towns are using black squirrel as their official mascot.

A black squirrel trying to meld with tree bark

Anyway, it was fun chasing and photographing squirrels under cool shades of cedar and maple trees at Queens Park. Both varieties of squirrels seem to go along rather happily like their human counterparts in multicultural Toronto.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Canada Day

July 1st is the Canada’s birthday so it was a federal holiday yesterday. In 1867, Canada became a kind of separate country instead of being a colony, although some powers remained with the British parliament until 1982. There were daylong celebrations all over Toronto. First, there was a 21 gun salute at Queens Park (actually three guns fired seven rounds each). One gun seemed a vintage from the Second World War and it was being manned by veterans.

Audience was given earplugs for the spectacle.

Then the orchestra played the ‘Looney Tunes Overture’. I am still unable to find the relevance but Uncle Dan says that is because we are a nation of loonies. (By the way, Dan is my neighbor here at Victoria Park and he believes in all kinds of conspiracy theories).

Afterwards, there were musical programs and other activities in the grounds of the legislative assembly of Ontario.

Then there were fireworks in the evening as usual.

Lyrics of the Looney Tunes Overture:

Overture, cut the lights
This is it, the night of nights
No more rehearsing or nursing a part
We know every part by heart

Overture, night of nights
This is it, we'll hit the heights
And oh what heights we'll hit
On with the show this is it!