After a merciless robocalling campaign, months of behind the scenes schmoozing, and whistle stop visits from Senators Duffy and Wallin (remind me to double-check those expense forms), Don and Humber—my picks for tunnel boring machine names—carried the day, along with Dennis and Lea. I’m happy to confirm that I’ll be splitting my incredible winnings equally with everyone who helped achieve this victory by voting, mumbling their general support, or just ignoring me entirely. Please submit your mailing addresses ASAP so that I can drop your full share of absolutely nothing into the mailbox.
The only part of my priceless winnings that I can’t divvy up with everyone is Wednesday’s trip into the launch pit at Black Creek Drive and Eglinton Avenue for the launch ceremony. There were actually four winners in total who were invited to the ceremony: one person who had suggested Dennis and Lea, and three of us who had all suggested Don and Humber. We got to wander around the coolest construction site in the city for the low, low, price of having to listen to a couple of speeches. Then in recognition of the enormous contributions that my fellow TBM-namers and I made to the project, we (along with several workers much more deserving of the honour) signed our names to the belly of the beast before sending it on its way:
Glen Murray, the Minister of Infrastructure, announced proudly that the TBMs for the Crosstown line were built right here in Ontario. What he didn’t announce was that the plant where they were built is closing next year. Caterpillar seems to make a habit of buying up local manufacturers only to shut them down.
The tunnel boring machines were both impressive in size yet smaller than I expected. I somehow thought they’d be bigger, but I guess the thing with TBMs is that they pretty much have to be the same size as the tunnel they’re digging.
Dennis is the first TBM to start, and Lea, seen above, will be up next. Don and Humber will be starting to dig toward Yonge Street from Brentcliffe Road in about a year and a half.
[Update, Monday, November 19: The voting period has been extended by two days until Wednesday. I can only assume that Don and Humber are racking up too many votes for Metrolinx to count them all. Also, it can't bode well for my receiving my fabulous prizes if they're already deviating from the published contest rules. I suspect my winnings will be whittled down to just half of the originally promised nothing. Or possibly even less. Still, remember that your vote will ensure our combined victory. Original post from November 14 follows.]
I don’t usually deploy this blog’s legions of fans (and by legion, I mean three old guys sitting on stools in the corner) for nefarious purposes, but I’d like to encourage everyone to go to the voting page for the Crosstown LRT’s tunnel boring machines naming contest and vote for the entry that I submitted, Don and Humber. Just one vote per person, and voting ends on Monday at 4:00 p.m.
What was my inspiration for Don and Humber, you ask? Disappointment with the names for the current TBMs tunnelling the Spadina subway extension moved me to action. I suppose that Torkie, Yorkie, Holey, and Moley are good enough names, but nothing about them really screams “Toronto” to me. Okay, “Yorkie” is sort of a shout-out to history and the subway’s destination, but it’s just a bit too cutesy when combined with its mate, Torkie. Holey and Moley are so generic that they might as well be menu items at Tim Horton’s. In contrast, Don and Humber are two rivers that have historically defined Toronto and are each relatively close to the end points of the Crosstown tunnels. See what I did there? A historically important pair of names, relevant to the project at hand, and instantly recognizeable to any Torontonian. What could be better?
Only one of the other semi-finalists, “Dennis and Lea” takes its entry from something local (the Mount Dennis and Leaside neighbourhoods at the ends of the tunnels). That seems obscure enough that no one will get it. Even Google thinks that “Dennis and Lea” is a reference to the failed engagement between Dennis Quaid and Lea Thompson a quarter of a century ago. Seriously, who’s going to vote for that?
And what riches await if my names are chosen? The grand prize consists of “recognition through [...] a press release” and has “no monetary value.” The prize is also non-transferrable and, yes, I have to answer a skill-testing question to claim it. And naturally, Metrolinx “reserves the right to substitute a prize of equal or greater monetary value” should they be unable to award these unfathomable riches, so I could just get a big cup of nothing—minus the cup and the press release. Vote early, vote
often once, and spread the word if you’re so inclined.
To help drive traffic (and thus ad revenue), a lot of websites tease their stories on the front page either by cutting off the story just before the salient part or by writing an ambiguous headline. Here’s a perfect example from the Star’s website this morning, teasing the results of last night’s Over the Rainbow on CBC:
See? In an actual newspaper that was more concerned with telling you the news than selling your eyeballs to advertisers, that headline would be sporting a name in place of the ellipsis. (Indeed, the story’s URL gives it away, but many people wouldn’t notice.) Instead, you have to click through just to see the headline, right? Except that someone forgot to tell the Star’s advertisers how this whole teaser thing works:
If anyone at the Star noticed the incongruity of a teaser headline with a spoiler right underneath it, they just doubled down on the ad instead of losing the coy headline:
Someone really needs to tell a Star editor that there’s no point in teasing the headline if it’s surrounded by the story. Okay, a semi-silly teasing headline on a website, no big deal. That would have been that, except that the Star did the same thing in today’s dead tree edition, placing the spoiler not just on the same page as the teaser, but in a wraparound that covered the teaser up:
A lot of ink and bluster have been spilled over yesterday’s confrontation between Councillors Giorgio Mammoliti and Gord Perks. I won’t add to it other than to say that Jack Lakey, the Star’s Fixer, wrote a blog post detailing a spat between his younger self, when he worked the City Hall beat, and Mammoliti:
At one point [Mammoliti] told me – in front of other people in the council chamber – that I wrote the stories because I was anti-Italian. And then he walked away.
I was livid, not just at the comment, but at his timely evacuation of the danger zone.
In those days, I was a lot more jumped up and charged with testosterone. It was a serious challenge not to chase him down.
I called aside his executive assistant at the time, a good guy named Anthony Cesario, and asked him to pass along a message to George: If he ever said anything like that again, I’d drop him.
I was quite capable of it, and George knew it; he never came near me for months afterward.
If he’d followed through, Lakey would certainly have come to be known as The Fixer, but different reasons than he is now.
The Ten Thousand Villages store on Danforth really wants you to know that there’s no cash in the store to steal after hours. So much so that they don’t just leave the empty till open behind the counter, but they put it at the front door so you can see for yourself that it’s completely cash-free without going to all the bother of actually breaking down the door to look. Unless, of course, it’s just a ruse and all the cash is still sitting in the real till behind the counter.
Way back in the Internet dark ages of 1999, I applied for a job as a system administrator at SamsCD.com, AKA Sam the Record Man. After a few years of building my skills through slave labour, short-term contracts, teaching, and one-off projects, it would have been my first honest-to-goodness 9-5, on-the-payroll, full-time permanent job. I was over the moon when they called back for an interview. Not because the job ad posted to tor.jobs seemed terribly interesting, but because, come on, it was a chance to work for Sam the Record Man! My temperament just isn’t cut out for retail, so sitting in a dark closet running their computers would be perfect.
Almost from the time I was old enough to stand, I’d tag along with my mother on her regular trips to Sam’s. For ten years, she’d emerge with an armful of Max Bygraves and Al Jolson, and I’d bounce out with anything ranging from a sound effects album (do I want the one with train pulling into the station or the lion roaring?) or a single coveted blank cassette to Bob & Doug McKenzie’s Great White North album. When we moved back to East York after three years in Scarborough, I started making my own weekly pilgrimages to Sam’s. For fifteen years, I’d been heading down to Yonge Street to buy the latest Metallica, ferret out an old John Lee Hooker album, or just to browse aimlessly. I’d almost always walk out with a CD or two—often many more—whenever I walked through the doors and entered the maze. I barely noticed HMV’s arrival down the street, A&A shutting down next door, or the various comings and goings of Cheapies. Sam’s, with its ever-growing and rambling layout, was my place, and I didn’t really care about the others. Going down to Sam’s was, and remains, the only Boxing Day shopping I’ve ever done. So yeah, I wanted to work for them.
I walked into an interview in a Toronto Carpet Factory office with fourteen-foot windows, twenty-foot ceilings, and two guys who were completely cluefree. The technical questions were so softball that someone who had never seen a computer could have answered them. I impressed sufficiently to progress to a second interview with a manager who was not only very clueful, but offered me my choice of jobs: take the SamsCD position, which he assured me would be boring and below me; or take a position at a sister company that was more challenging and (he may not have known this at the time) way beyond my previous experience. What a dilemma: take a job at a company I’d always wanted to work for, or take a job that I’d actually like. After thinking about it for a couple of days, I opted to take the more challenging job. It was a tough decision to make at the time, but ultimately the right one.
Although I wouldn’t be working at Sam’s directly, I’d still be providing administration services through the sister company. Among other things I did for them, I got to upgrade Sam’s hardware and software, recover the primary server when their pseudo-admin mounted a blank partition over /usr on a running system (if you know Unix, you know that’s no good), sit in a handful of meetings discussing the server load and performance problems, and ultimately power off their four servers when the ecommerce venture was shuttered. Sam’s would eventually re-launch with a new website, but the damage from HMV, Amazon, and Napster was already done. So although I never worked directly for Sam’s, I can say that I had a small hand in keeping their systems going for a while. And I ended up with the two streetcar ads above. Maybe this will be the year that I finally mount them for display.
I’ve only been into record stores a couple of times since Sam’s finally closed five years ago. Sure, I still buy music, but only online; HMV and Sunrise are pale imitations of the Sam’s experience. I’d like to think that if Sam’s was still around, I’d still be making regular trips to pick up the latest blues releases, get my hands on an Edgar Winter album, or just see what’s on the racks this week. I never browse Amazon or Chapters, I just search for the thing I want and add it to my cart. There’s no sense of discovery, no joy. Just consumption. Although the passing of music and many other traditional businesses into the online world has largely provided me with a career, it’s a shame that so many kids will grow up thinking that the only thing worth lining up for is this year’s iPhone and will never experience a Boxing Day crush at Sam’s.
Rest in peace, Sam.
“Hoarding for Humanity” sounds like a joke at first, possibly yet another depressing show exploiting people with psychological problems on formerly-good channels like A&E or TLC. Yet there’s the sign, staring at me from the hoarding in the mall, all but begging me to make fun of it.
It turns out that Hoarding for Humanity really is a thing, an offshoot of Habitat for Humanity that sees construction hoarding reused instead of being tossed into the landfill. Locally, the Scarborough Town Centre and Square One malls are participating in the program.
Love the concept. Love the name even more.
If you’ve ever wanted to smell like a blogger (and honestly, who hasn’t?), your wait is over thanks to Shirley May’s newest budget-conscious fragrance, Blog pour homme. Sorry ladies, no Blog for you! Joining Shirley May’s signature men’s fragrances Hunk, Army Fight (your very own chance to smell like napalm in the morning!), and Obama, Blog’s blend of “rosemary, Artemisia, lavender, basil, lemon verbena, bergamot and lemon” is the olfactory equivalent of snark, humour, bemusement, passive aggression, cycling, and love of signs.