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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.


25 February 2018

[Nighty Night advertisement]

Relax? In these times? That's easier said than done.


18 February 2018

I'm happy to say that this week is my six-month anniversary of leaving the United States.

[PUC Water Main Valve]

I didn't take this picture this week (the lack of snow on the ground is proof of that), but this week's London artifact is a water-valve sign bearing the ornate monogram of the city's onetime Public Utilities Commission. The PUC was abolished in 1993 due to municipal restructuring, so anything bearing the initials is a historic artifact now. These signs appear scattered all around the city, in commercial and residential areas alike.

[Louisiana 1985 motorcycle] [Quebec 1985]

On the license plate hobby front, there's very little that goes on in the dead of winter...but I recently managed to plug two holes in my collection nevertheless! The Louisiana motorcycle plate is the very last plate I needed to complete my 1985 birthyear U.S. state motorcycle run. It was tough to get: Louisiana is a difficult state to collect, and due to multiyear registration only half the vehicles in the state ever received an 85 sticker.

The Quebec plate is also for my birthyear run, and rectifies my embarrassing lack of an ABC 123-format plate for the province. Incidentally, both Louisiana and Quebec were historically part of New France and have a sizable Francophone population.


12 February 2018

[Former McCormick factory]

This building just might be the most imposing industrial artifact in London, Ontario: It's the former McCormick biscuit and candy plant on Dundas Street, which dates to 1914.

With acres of glistening glass block and glazed tile covering the facade, the building really does leave a strong visual impression. Unfortunately, there are no biscuits or candies to be found here: The property has been standing empty since McCormick's corporate overlords went out of business ten years ago; and though redevelopment plans for the property have been discussed, nothing has happened as of yet.

[Former McCormick factory] [Former McCormick factory]

5 February 2018

Yes, it's a creepy, abandoned Tim Hortons.

[Creepy, abandoned Tim Hortons]

If the apocalypse comes to Canada, it will probably look something like this. :-P


29 January 2018

[You are Welcome/No Trespassing signs]

Mixed messages in London, Ontario.


22 January 2018

[Ontario truck plate with narrow die] [Ontario truck plate with wide die]

[Ontario truck plate die variations]

Which province name do you prefer: ONTARIO, or O N T A R I O? If you picked ONTARIO, you picked the rarer variation of the two.

O N T A R I O was used on all plates from 1968 to 1972, annual truck plates from 1973 to 1980, and the vast majority of black-on-white multi-year truck plates from 1980 to 1994.

ONTARIO, meanwhile, is the squarer and narrower die introduced for passenger plates in 1973. It made odd and unpredictable appearances on non-passenger plates as well, surfacing on farm plates in 1979, dealer plates in 1981, and diplomatic plates in 1981 and 1984-86.

On black-on-white truck plates, the narrow die made scattered appearances off and on for nearly 15 years. Eric Tanner reports it appearing as early as the EC series (within the realm of the initial 1980 allocation); however, most plates with the narrow die hail from the K, L, M, or N series and date to the mid '80s. The narrow die reappeared yet again in the X and Y series of the early 1990s, shortly before the fully-embossed design was discontinued and an era of perplexing variation came to an end.

Why did this happen? Well, the plate shop at the Millbrook prison was set up with multiple hydraulic presses to handle a high manufacturing volume. One press may have had the narrow die, one or more presses may have had the wide die, and individual truck plate orders may have ended up divided between them.

Whether for pleasure or for punishment, I've started tracking the die variations. Here's what I have so far:

Style Low High
Wide O N T A R I O AJ8-046 EC5-615 
Narrow ONTARIO EC6-071*
Wide O N T A R I O ED4-672 KP4-666
Narrow ONTARIO KR4-998 KS8-703
Wide O N T A R I O KT6-571 KX4-366
Narrow ONTARIO KY6-653 KZ3-884
Wide O N T A R I O KZ8-341 LB8-204
Narrow ONTARIO LB9-842 LC5-195
Wide O N T A R I O LE2-099 LF4-907
Narrow ONTARIO LH2-109 LL8-490
Wide O N T A R I O LN2-608 LS9-794
Narrow ONTARIO LV5-471
Wide O N T A R I O LW6-318
Narrow ONTARIO LY2-436 MF7-879
Wide O N T A R I O MH6-194 ML9-839
Narrow ONTARIO MM4-155 MS2-722
Wide O N T A R I O MS5-953 MV1-737
Narrow ONTARIO MV7-728 NJ2-713
Wide O N T A R I O NL6-569 XL6-865
Narrow ONTARIO XX1-199
Wide O N T A R I O YA5-751 YM9-170
Narrow ONTARIO YM9-894
Wide O N T A R I O YM9-999
Narrow ONTARIO YO7-301 YW2-980
Wide O N T A R I O YX4-422
Narrow ONTARIO YZ2-943

* reported by Tanner

Are you in possession of an Ontario 1980-94 truck plate outside these ranges? Can you narrow down any of these cutoffs, or find new break points to add between the old ones? If so, I'd love to hear from you!


[Gallery of Plate Displays]

I'm proud to make a grand content addition today: Gallery of Plate Displays, showcasing highlights from the license plate hobby events I've attended over the last 11 years.

Remember the days when Flickr could make lightweight photo galleries like these?


15 January 2018

[Pick a side road sign]

I feel as if I'm being pulled to multiple paths at once...


8 January 2018

[Ontario 1956 road signs] [Ontario 1956 road signs]

These road sign images appeared in the 1956-57 edition of the Ontario Motor League Road Book. Some interesting take-aways from this...

  • Both red stop signs and yield signs would have been new concepts in 1956. That may have been why they were emphasized here.
  • The pictured styles of "No Parking" and parking regulation signs have long been replaced in Canada, but still remain current in the U.S., where they're essentially living fossils.
  • The legend on speed-limit signs was changed from the American-style "Speed Limit" to the conveniently bilingual "Maximum" at some point post-1956, but pre-metricization.
  • I'm a little surprised that destination signs in Ontario had already adopted their current white-on-green colour scheme in 1956. In the U.S., most signs of this sort remained black-on-white until the 1970s.

Back in 2010, I did extensive research into historical U.S. road sign regulations and created the Field Guide to American Traffic Signs. Canadian traffic signs have long been broadly similar to their stateside equivalents, but they're more graphical, metricated, and contain a few unique designs. As we can see here, this streak of uniqueness extends into the past, too...

  • Blue school-zone and school-crossing signs were never used in the U.S., and the "home plate" shape that Ontario used in 1956 wasn't adopted in the American MUTCD until 1971. (Blue pentagonal school-crossing signs are also used in Japan, so I wonder who influenced who?)
  • Holy smoke, Canadian crossbuck signs were once yellow? (Or was this a printing error?)
  • The "Speed 20 Limit Over Tracks" sign is a truly unusual design that I've not seen anywhere before. Was this a variation on the circular Railroad Crossing advance warning sign (also long-gone in Canada, if it was ever used there at all), or something else entirely?

Going back in time even further, the Ontario Motor League Road Book offered these interesting pictures in its 1927 edition:

[Ontario 1927 road signs]

Note the early version of the Ontario provincial highway marker: Any crowns or royal references were still a few years away. This stark triangular sign is startlingly similar to the Wisconsin state route marker of the same era, so again...who influenced who?

License plate news from The Ontario Project:

[Ontario A] [Ontario V]
  • Ontario's recent license plate history may amount to 45 years of blue and white monotony, but the low numbers are always interesting! AAA-458 hails from the first letter series in the first batch of plates issued out of the head office in Toronto in 1973. 075-VYJ may look less spectacular, but it's even more significant: It's one of the first 100 numbers issued on the reflectorized base in 1994 (which began at plate number 001-VYJ). Both plates are from the Mike Franks collection.

1 January 2018

[All Gender Washroom]

Toronto, Ontario.

Sometimes Canada is so far ahead of the U.S. socially that it's not even funny.


25 December 2017

[Toronto city hall] [Toronto streetcar] [Toronto street corner] [Glenn Gould and I]

I'm back from a few days' respite in Rob Ford's reactionary crack-smoking the beautiful, progressive, culturally-diverse, world-class city of Toronto. Some thoughts...

  • Streetcars! Toronto has the best public transportation system I've seen in this hemisphere, with no fewer than four modes available: Streetcars, subways, buses, and commuter trains.
  • There's nowhere to park, but there's no need there to own a car. There's also no need to visit with a car: You can ride a train to Union Station from just about anywhere in the country.
  • Toronto is a very walkable city, and it feels like it's planned on a human scale. The transitions between neighbourhoods are seamless and scattered with so many parks that you scarcely realize, even downtown, that you're in the centre of the world.
  • Given how far ahead the city is in other transportation aspects, Toronto has a strange deficiency of bike lanes and paths. That said, it seemed to take more than a lack of dedicated routes to keep Toronto cyclists from the outdoors...
  • Toronto is a rail buff's paradise. Not only are there trains, subways, and streetcars galore, but there's also a railway museum in the heart of downtown.
  • Lake Ontario has a moderating effect on the climate of the city. The streets may be clear in Toronto on the same day a blizzard blows in London.
  • City Hall is supposedly connected to the rest of downtown by underground PATH, but security gets excited if you actually try to go this way.
  • Rush are from Toronto, and I'm enough of a geek that I sought out the steps of the Ontario Legislative Building for this very reason. (I gave up trying to find the fire hydrant from the Signals album cover.)
  • There is an enormous equestrian statue of King Edward VII in Queen's Park that someone had irreverently stuck a sticker to the forehead of.
  • I didn't go inside the CN Tower.
  • Did I mention that Toronto still has streetcars?
  • License plate sightings were pretty slim. I managed to see a couple of the sought-after red Consular Corps plates, but alas they were on moving vehicles...so no photos.
  • Toronto is a big, big place to take in. After four days, I felt I had barely scratched the surface.
  • The organizers of Pride Toronto banned police floats from the event. Good.
[A GeoCities page in Netscape 4 on Windows 3.1]
  • In other matters, The Andrew Turnbull Network went online fifteen years ago this week! Back in 2002, I was still in rural West Virginia and hadn't graduated from high school yet. Netscape now and forever!

License plate news from The Ontario Project:

[Ontario CD]
  • A third batch of Waldale-made plates has been observed in the late CD (and presumably, early CE) series. Like the second batch that surfaced earlier this year, the third batch uses a close facsimile of the Ontario die set and is identifiable chiefly by smaller boltslots and squarer corners.
  • I've collected photographs of all the major letter series in the seven-digit passenger format from 1997 to present! With that done, I'll be free to concentrate on older plates and commercial truck plates next.

18 December 2017

[Kohl's arch-roof store]

I no longer live in Wisconsin, nor do I have any desire to step foot there again so long as back-stabbing white Christian bigots make up the majority of the electorate in the state.

This week, however, I revisited those trodden grounds long enough to revise a page I once created to document one of the distinctive streetside architectural artifacts to be found there: Kohl's Arch-Roof Food Stores. New pictures, links, and information; from Madison, Janesville, and more.

By the way, the store pictured above actually isn't in Wisconsin. It's in an inner-ring suburb of Chicago, Illinois!


11 December 2017

[Andrew Turnbull]

Hello! I'm in an end-of-term crunch, so here's a picture to hold you over until I have time for more updates.

"So turn to the mirror there, and blow yourself a kiss. It goes just like this. You've done it a thousand times. It's as easy as drinking wine, only now it's blood..." -FNM, 1987.


4 December 2017

[Bell phone booth in London]

I haven't seen a public phone booth in the United States in over a dozen years. And for at least half of those dozen years, it's been excruciatingly difficult to find a pay phone of any kind.

Yet in Canada, both live on.

Just don't expect a door.


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


As of January all older posts have been split off to an archive page.






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