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Welcome to the personal website of Andrew Turnbull. This outpost features tons of stupefying and trivial things pertaining to various and diverse interests of mine. Chances are, if there's something I know about or like that doesn't much other representation on the 'net...there's a bit of it here.

The front page updates every week. And it is just a static page.


11 February 2019

Some interesting things I saw last week

[5 [Draft, do not cite without permission of the Queen of England]

4 February 2019

[Dead Superstore Mall]

Here is another evocative shot from the dead Superstore Mall of London, Ontario. Rust is visible on the framework of the skylight, though peeling paint is not.


28 January 2019

[LOL on pavement]

21 January 2019

What do I do when I'm morose in the middle of winter? I go out and look for something interesting to photograph, that's what.

[Former Dominion store]

I started out by pointing myself westward on London's Hamilton Road, which is always a good place to begin. Sure enough, I hadn't even gotten out of town before I saw something interesting that I hadn't noticed before: This building still had a faint "Dominion" labelscar visible on the side more than three decades after it last housed a Dominion grocery store!

[Village Ford]

Eventually I got as far as Dorchester...which was home to what might be the smallest Ford dealership anywhere in this hemisphere. How small? This small. This is the full extent of the service building, showroom, and front lot. And it serves double-duty as a gas station!

[Middlesex County 32]

Half a block away from the Ford dealer, I photographed an old Middlesex County route marker sign with the flat-topped "3" that all Ontario road signs used to have. These are always interesting.

[House in Dorchester]

Next up in Dorchester was a house that reminded me eerily of the one I grew up in. This was more than just a house, though: A stone plaque in the front lawn marked the property as being home to "The Signpost"...the local weekly newspaper. That discovery led me to the Signpost website, which might be the only media-outlet website I've seen in nine years that renders correctly on SeaMonkey 1.1!

[Mustang drive-in theatre] [Mustang drive-in theatre]

Two turns and twenty minutes after Dorchester, I stumbled across The Mustang...a drive-in theatre on the outskirts of London that opened in 1953 and somehow, miraculously, remains open for business today! Or at least, it would be open if it wasn't the middle of the off-season. There's not much call for outdoor movies on a freezing January day...

[Dead Superstore Mall] [Dead Superstore Mall]

All things must eventually come to an end, and my quest of the day ended pretty close to where it began: On the south side of London, Ontario. The final topic of interest was the Superstore Mall: A very strange, very dead retail construct that's completely vacant today apart from a few "big box" and office tenants carved out of the south anchor store.

This place intrigued me. From what little I've been able to dig up about it online, this mall has origins that trace to a 1960s existence as Treasure Island Mall. Later it reportedly became home to Loblaws Superstore, which imparted its name to the entire shopping centre. But Loblaws left in the 1990s, and the last interior tenants were gone by the mid-'00s. The south anchor has been given a façadectomy, so it's no longer representative of its time as a Loblaws Superstore...assuming that's what it was, of course.

Maybe I'll someday figure out the history behind this place. Maybe not.


14 January 2019

[:-(]

Oh, what is happening to my hair? My forehead didn't always go that far back! Why am I going bald? Is this the stress of the last 8 years biting me at last?


7 January 2019

The front page of this website is a static HTML document that I edit in a text editor. It's about as low-tech as it gets. And it works great for the purposes at hand: I can view and preview it on my home computer in the exact same way as I can on the server. I fully understand and comprehend each bit and line of HTML and CSS code I use, with no amount wasted. The page is a scant 38kb in size, exclusive of images. Since there's no client-side scripting, I don't have to worry about the content being unreadable on older browsers. Since there's no database and no server-side scripting, I can pay for hosting with my pocket change...and if my server went down tomorrow, I'm secure in the knowledge that I could upload the site to another host and be back in business within seconds.

Unfortunately, no server-side scripting also means no permalinks, no automatic pagination, no comments, and no socializing...which makes this website a lonely place. It's also a little difficult to "broadcast" my updates out to visitors...and of all the features of content-management systems conductive to this end, the one I miss having the most is an RSS feed.

In the mid-2000s, RSS seemed on the threshold of becoming a killer feature. It had the potential to empower people by putting chronologically-sorted information from disparate, self-hosted sources at every Internet user's fingertips. The critical flaw stopping it was the lack of any straightforward, non-intimidating way for most people to make use of the technology...until Mozilla unveiled Live Bookmarks, and made RSS feeds as easy to use as a few clicks on the menu bar. Or so I thought.

[Live Bookmarks!]

Of course, we know what happened after that. RSS feeds didn't change the world. It had a brief burst of popularity, buoyed by support from tech and social media companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, and Twitter...then these companies saw the open RSS standard as a threat to their walled-garden business models, and quietly back-pedaled on the functionality. In 2011, Mozilla began obfuscating Live Bookmarks in Firefox. Thanks to the dearth of other straightforward, non-intimidating aggregators and clients, the field of RSS readers began to be dominated by Google Reader around this time...then in 2013, Google Reader was shut down.

I refuse to let a good technology die without protest. But, how do you generate an RSS feed for a site like this? One way would be to code it by hand, copying over each paragraph from one document to another...but that would be excruciating! Another way is to use a third-party parser like Feed43...but that flies in the face of my DIY ethos. The how-to steps seem straightforward enough:

  1. Make a copy of this HTML page.
  2. Strip out the header, footer, and most of the HTML markup.
  3. Add XML format tags in all the right places.
  4. Parse the dates in the correct format.

You'd think that this could be done with a batch script or macro. Maybe it can. But I don't yet know how to realize this.

Any ideas? Drop me a line.


31 December 2018

[Middlesex College, London, ON]

2018 was not a good year in the world, and there's no point in pretending otherwise.

But it wasn't bereft of redemption or hope, especially with regard to my personal situation. How shall I count the ways?

  • 2018 was the year the Democratic Party gained control of the U.S. House of Representatives over Tr*mp's fascist enablers. This happened in the face of massive, systematic voter suppression and district gerrymandering waged to preserve white-supremacist political power, and it happened without any help from the two states (West Virginia and Wisconsin) that I once called home.
  • 2018 was the year in which I successfully completed my graduate classes, and earned my master's degree in library and information science from the University of Western Ontario.
  • 2018 was the first year in my life that I spent entirely outside the United States.
  • 2018 was the year in which I applied for permanent residency here in Canada.

Four out of four? That's not a bad score.


Feeling disoriented? Here's the site map that used to be on the front page.







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