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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.

July-September 2020 Archive

???+28 ????? 2020

I did not "move" to Canada. International boundaries may be invisible from the sky and arbitrary from the ground, but one does not casually "move" across them like one moves across a dance floor.

I spent two years investigating Canada's confusing and impenetrable immigration system, deciphering inscrutable measures of CRS scores, points, and NOC codes that native-born Canadians never have to worry about, trying to see if—not how—it was possible to leap the hurdles and blaze a path to permanent residency before age-based penalties slammed the door in my face.

I applied to three graduate schools. I scraped together tens of thousands of dollars, both to afford exorbitant non-resident tuition fees and to prove to the Canadian government that I had enough funds to sustain myself with. I uprooted myself from familiar surroundings to a place where I had no close family or friends. I took fifteen graduate-level classes at maximum course load, knowing that time was of the essence and that I didn't have a plan B. I endured stressful moments engaging with officials in customs offices. I took a language test. I took a medical test. I submitted dozens upon dozens of forms. I lived for two years under shifting statuses with end dates. I wouldn't have gone through any of this if I hadn't thought it was worthwhile. I wouldn't have gone through any of this if it hadn't been what was necessary to put even a little bit of distance between my life and a living hell in the United States.

It was not the Election of 2016 that drove me to do this. Yes, 2016 was the final straw, but it wasn't the catalyst that set me off. The catalyst was the Election of 2014.

2014 was the election in which I realized that I couldn't escape the day-to-day nightmare inflicted by the "Milwaukee is trash" racists, Catholic forced-birthers, and rabidly antisemitic Lutheran voters of Wisconsin simply by scooting over to Minnesota or New York and counting on federal control and demographic change to eventually make things right.

2014 was the election in which a critical mass of voters (with the help, four years earlier, of my own neighbours and extended family in Wisconsin) delivered control of federal judicial appointments to McConnell-Tr*mp's white-supremacist, climate-denialist Republican Nazi Party for the kill.

2014 was the election in which I realized that 2016 was going to be the last chance to right the country's ship and inch it back from the precipice of fascism it was teetering on the brink of. A precipice that my own neighbours and extended family had dug, and were doing everything in their power to push the ship into. And of course, you know how that turned out.

The US loosely pretends to be a democracy, which is utterly laughable. The Senate itself is the most obvious exhibit of the contrary, and is a place where 7 million centre-left Californians have less political pull than 130,000 far-right Wyomingites because of the land they're living on. It's also the enabler of the single most illegitimate and oppressive construct of authority in the country: The Supreme Court.

Through the branch of the Supreme Court (and lower federal courts, to a degree), the U.S. government is effectively a collective monarchy of oligarchs and bigots with absolute control and reigns measured in the spans of human lives. If this isn't unjust, I don't know what is.

I lived my life in the United States in fear of the Supreme Court. In 2000, it ruled that anti-queer discrimination was fine and dandy just so long you were the Boy Scouts of America. 2000 is also when Bush happened, "elected" unilaterally by the same court. His administration established a domestic police state, sabotaged action on climate change, perpetuated war crimes, and destabilized the entire middle east. Bush was a proto-Tr*mp through and through, and it makes me livid that his cruel and corrupt administration lived on through the majority actions of his allies and appointments on the Supreme Court for seven of Obama's eight years.

The U.S. Supreme Court is the reason why "corporate personhood" is a thing, why "corporate religion" is a thing, why your right and ability to vote at all is twisting in the wind. And this was before Tr*mp even happened.

Those who control the courts are those who have absolute, unfettered control of U.S. policy and law. The courts control whether people like me have the freedom to live life to the fullest, or are condemned to die. And for all but one of those last 20 years, the controllers of the Supreme Court have been Tr*mp's progenitors. Congress and a (different) president could enact the most progressive legislation in the world, and it would all be for nought since the Supreme Court reserves the ability to strike down all of it in a moment's whim.

Worse, for many vulnerable people, there's no way to escape the court's pernicious influence: It's national. And this comes in spite of the fact the United States is an entity with no national social contract, whose cities and nether regions are united by nothing other than inertia. Through the Supreme Court, the rights of people in progressive locales are continually threatened by the actions of a few.

The Supreme Court is the reason why I spent the evening of 2 November 2004 shaking, sleepless, and filled with horrible trepidation about the future. It's the reason why I was shaking, sleepless in 2014 and 2016. And after years of living in the U.S., I've been scarred to the degree that even just hearing the words "Supreme" and "Court" together, regardless of context, is enough to make me wince and shudder.

Yes, there were times in the last 20 years when the Supreme Court did do the right thing and empowered the oppressed instead of enabling the oppressors. These times happened rarely, by sheer chance, and invariably by a single nail-biting vote. And ever since the Election of 2014 placed control of new court appointments in white supremacists' hands, ONE inopportune death, ONE inopportune retirement has been enough to endanger millions of lives and permanently destroy social progress in the U.S.

Since 2016, the United States of America has been locked in a "worst case scenario" timeline. After K*v*n*gh happened, the Supreme Court effectively gave Tr*mp his Enabling Act. The rest of the country just doesn't know it yet.

This wouldn't be happening if the U.S. had adopted safeguards such as single fixed terms or mandatory retirement clauses that would have made court turnover a natural and regular routine, instead of dictated by death.

This wouldn't be happening if the U.S. wasn't a failing state that spent the last 40 years refusing to reform its institutions, refusing to amend its constitution, and refusing to do anything at all that might have a tangible societal benefit, because white supremacy.

And this wouldn't be happening if American white people didn't vote for Nazis. (And a special Fuck You to my neighbours and at least one cousin in Wisconsin, probably two, who did just that.)

I'm past pulling punches, and I'm done mincing words. Barring the possibility of reform, either abolish the Supreme Court or abolish the United States of America.

???+14 ????? 2020

Allure of the blue school signs II

[Blue school zone sign]

Last year (which might as well have been a decade ago), I used this space to discuss the blue school signs that were once prevalent on the streets and roads of Canada. I also posed three questions that I hoped to find the answers to:

  • When precisely did fluorescent yellow replace blue in the Canadian school sign standard?
  • Where else have blue school signs persisted on the road?
  • When did the 1956-era "word" designs get replaced with purely graphical designs?

While I still don't know the answer to the third quandry, I've made headway on the others. Fluorescent yellow school signs made their advent in Canada around the turn of the century (as in the US), with a fair amount of chronological overlap: I've seen yellow signs marked with dates as early as 1999, and blue signs dated as late as 2001.

In southern Ontario and the country at large, blue signs are little more than a memory long since banished from the road. Happily, northern Ontario is the exception to the rule! In fact, I've been surprised by how often I've seen straggling blues on road trips since retreating to Thunder Bay. I suppose with towns and cities here being as isolated as they are, anything goes! Here's the score:

Place School Zone
School Crossing
Fort Frances 6
Geraldton 1
Heyden 1
Kenora 2
Lappe 2
Marathon 1
Thunder Bay 1
Vermilion Bay 2

[Blue school zone sign]

Some of the signs I've seen are old enough to even feature this more-detailed (1960s-era?) graphic, which is Rare with a capital R. The change to the simplified form seems to have been mid-1980s, as far as I can tell.

Where else could older signs like these lurk? Does any of this even matter in the end? Who knows. See you in another week.

???+7 ????? 2020

[Cube decorated to look like a die at a scenic bluff overlooking Thunder Bay]

Time still has no meaning, but I want to get back in the habit of posting an image every week nevertheless. And that's probably all, since the only writing I have in me is to feel like screaming "FUCK!" over and over.

??? ????? 2020

[letterbox covered with stickers]

??? ????? 2020

I don't know what month it is any more. It no longer feels like March, since the banks of snow are long-gone and business doors are (slowly, and somewhat foolishly) re-opening. Yet, it sure doesn't feel like July. Everything feels...wrong.

[Safeway store]

Wrong or not, I've had my first chance in months to really get out of town, keeping my social distance from people the entire time (as I'm usually prone to do, anyway). With new places come new pictures, and with new pictures come new updates. From the annals of Supermartifacts:

The Artifacts of Loblaws, Part 2

  • 647 Government St., Dryden, ON
  • 538 Park St., Kenora, ON
  • 635 Southdale Rd. E., London, ON (picture added)

The Artifacts of Safeway

  • 36 Whyte Ave., Dryden, ON
  • 75 Whyte Ave., Dryden, ON
  • 400 1st Ave. S., Kenora, ON
  • 133 Main St. S., Kenora, ON

school bus
Bluefield High School yearbook, 1973

What else is new? With my magic archivist's powers, I was able to find a treasure trove of historic yearbook scans from the places I once called home. Combing through the lot, I was able to find 20 rare images to add to last month's magnum opus, all for the purposes of research and education: The History of School Transportation in Mercer County, WV. This will probably be the end of updates for the project.

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