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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.

January-March 2018 Archive

25 March 2018

[CN Tower]

Yes, I have been back to Toronto recently.

The spring end-of-term crunch is coming up soon, however, so it may be a while before I can do any long-form writing about it...

18 March 2018

[The War's First Sunday (March 23, 2003)]

The following post was originally written in 2013, when I still lived in the United States. Upon the fifteenth anniversary of Bush's war crimes, it's as poignant and relevant as ever.

This week is the tenth anniversary of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and George W. Bush's unprecipitated invasion of Iraq. The invasion that destabilized a hunk of the middle east, killed almost 4500 soldiers and maimed over 32,000, killed over 100,000 civilians, torched the last bits of international goodwill for the USA, and drained an estimated $728,000,000,000 (that's billions for you) out of our collective coffers. It also deferred resources from a war that was already on in Afghanistan, devoted to apprehending the actual perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks: After slipping away in Tora Bora, it's funny how quickly bin Laden was forgotten about.

I can extend a bit of amnesty to the Andrew Sullivans and Hillary Clintons of the world who supported the war and later realized that it was a mistake. That's more credit than I can give to two-fifths of America who won't even do that. But although the lack of justification is crystal clear today, it was also crystal clear in 2003. There were no WMDs. There was no threat that Saddam Hussein posed to affairs outside his own borders. The UN weapons inspections were working. There were plenty of people saying just that, and I was one of them.

I was in the midst of my senior year of high school at the time (PikeView, West Virginia, class of '03). But dare to ask for comments about current events from the Jesus-soaked redneck schlubs who called themselves peers?

"I think it's great that we're defending freedom."

"Talk about IF the war is justified? Well, that's your problem!"

"Ooh, I just HATE it when people like celebrities say that they 'oppose the war.' I could just wring their necks!"

No actual critique of actual issues occurred. To them, the impact of war consisted of boycotting France, raking the Dixie Chicks over coals, and engaging in Rambo-style fantasies about the USA kicking ass. 9/11 also entered the equation, under the Big Lie that Iraq had anything to do with it.

Some of them took the sentiments to heart, and went off to war. Some of them went off under more-justifiable sentiments a few months earlier. Some of them died. Almost all of them were shaken by the experience. Almost all were put through paces and stretched to the breaking point.

To this day, it astounds me that we fought in Iraq. It astounds me that elected officials delved into buckets of lies, whims, and nothing but to make their case, and it astounds me that the same leaders justified shredding the Constitution, condoning torture, and suspending habeus corpus in the aftermath. It astounds me how quickly so much of the general populace was primed up into a fury and gladly sold on a war with no clear objectives, no plan for achieving them, and no clear exit strategy.

And it astounds me that some still think that all of this was fine, dandy, and which case, I have two things to say:

Fuck you.

A handful of years and hundreds of miles from the place I grew up, this poem appears embedded in the sidewalk. Andrea Musher was Poet Laureate of Madison, Wisconsin from 2001 until 2006, and the piece was dedicated in 2011.

11 March 2018

[Use of Rollerblades prohibited in buildings]

Don't wear your Rollerblade® brand inline skates in the buildings of the University of Western Ontario, no matter how fun and tempting it may be.

Other brands of inline skates, however, are perfectly OK!

4 March 2018

[D.B. Weldon Library]

This week's London artifact is the D.B. Weldon Library at the University of Western Ontario.

As you might expect just from looking at it, this monolithic concrete building was built in 1972. Inside, it's a confusing labyrinth of narrow aisles and staircases that go nowhere. Its brutalist aesthetics clash horribly with the gothic architecture that surrounds it on the Western campus. And...I like it.

Just take a look at some of these 1970s-vintage details. It's a gem:

[D.B. Weldon Library] [D.B. Weldon Library] [D.B. Weldon Library]

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.

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