Tour de Dufferin

Moo! These cows are really friendly to people who stop by for a visit.

There’s a lot to see on Dufferin Street before you get to the end of the road. Once you get out of the city and past the worst of suburbia, the street progresses through several distinct and varied phases as it marches north through horse farms and wooded valleys before running out of space in the heart of the Holland Marsh.

I started my trip (two trips, actually; one in a chilly rain and the other in glorious warmth and sunshine) at the TTC’s Downsview station, riding through a quiet industrial area before hopping onto Dufferin at Steeles and riding as far north as I could go.

Until I made this ride, I’d only ever seen Dufferin north of Steeles a handful of times, and always on my way to or from Pardes Shalom Cemetery (and once almost 20 years ago when I went to Eaton Hall for a wedding). I wasn’t expecting much, but was pleasantly surprised to find that the worst of the sprawl is, for the moment anyway, contained to the south of the cemetery and that the countryside really opens up to the north, allowing Dufferin to retain its rural feel.

The relentless march of suburbia to the south finally melts away into farmland as you pass through Vaughan

I’ll also add that we must have had a really good spring and summer so far because all of the vegetation—whether wild or farmed—was greener and lusher than I remember seeing in a long time. I wanted to stop for pictures almost constantly, which isn’t exactly the best way to get home on time.

I ride outside the city fairly frequently, but this was the first time that I stuck to a single road to its end and documented the journey. I’ll be doing it a few more times as the summer progresses. The gallery below contains the highlights from the Tour de Dufferin. Enjoy.

[Note: the gallery images may not display properly from an RSS reader. Please visit Dodgeville directly to view the gallery. I’m looking for an elegant solution to this, but I’m not sure that there is one.]

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Who knew?

Ontario Sawdust

From the Who Knew? files comes Ontario Sawdust, distributors of quality sawdust from a variety of wood-based products, according to their web site. I always thought that sawdust was a waste material that, while useful for many things, didn’t require any kind of specialized distribution. After all, you can pretty much make your own for free.

Ontario Sawdust says that they pick up (and pay for!) raw material, but I wonder if they’d come all the way down to Toronto for occasional donations from a home workshop. It would nicely solve the problem of what to do with the waste from my shop. The City of Toronto won’t collect sawdust as garbage, and some kinds of wood (like Walnut) will kill everything if you use them as mulch.

Meet the new Dodgeville, same as the old Dodgeville

The old design gives way to the new

If you visit Dodgeville directly rather than through an RSS reader, you may have noticed that the site has gotten a minor redesign. The old theme, originally based on MistyLook, had served me well, but I thought it was time for a change. The new look is based on MagicBlue, a fully GPL‘d theme. The layout remains basically the same, but less dead space at the top of each page means that more content is visible on first load.

There are still a few kinks to work out, but I doubt that most people will notice. Please let me know if it displays hideously in your browser. Among other things, the new theme supports tags and makes posting galleries much easier. You’ll be seeing more of them in the future.

End of the Road: Dufferin Street

This is the first in an occasional series showing what lies at the end of some well-known (or not-so-well-known) Toronto streets.

Dufferin Street continues as a dirt road a few hundred metres north Graham Sideroad

Dumpsters at the end of Dufferin Street

Dufferin Street stretches from its start at British Columbia Drive all the way past Graham Sideroad in the Holland Marsh before ending its 55 km journey at a rubbish pile.

Coming up: a tour of Dufferin north of Steeles.

Update: I’ve posted the complete tour.

The last thing I need is a new hobby

My Bocote pen

But I took a pen-turning seminar anyway, and made this pen at it last weekend. It’s made of bocote. It came out far better than I thought it would. It has flaws, but as its proud father I’ve naturally chosen to overlook them and declare it the best pen ever.

I’ve been interested in turning pens for some time now, but have always been a little confused by the process. And despite being quite comfortable in a wood shop, I’ve never really used a lathe before. All that talk of mandrels and gouges always leaves me confused. The seminar was a learning experience on both fronts, making me more comfortable on a small lathe and with the process of making a pen.

Fair warning: if you’re reading this and I normally give you a Christmas (Hanukkah, Festivus, etc.) present, chances are pretty good that you’ll be getting a one-of-a-kind pen this year.

I’ve begun spending more time in the shop again and will have another post about a slightly bigger, bike-related project soon.

I see faces #14

Tilley hat face

My Tilley Hat looks out on the world disapprovingly.

At Doors Open last month, Risa lost me in a crowd at the TTC’s Greenwood Shop. She told me later that I blended into a large sub-species that all but dominated the location that day: middle-aged men wearing Tilley Hats and carrying cameras. And we’re damned proud of it, too.

The end of civilization as Sue-Ann Levy knows it

According to Sue-Ann Levy, the world is going to end tomorrow because she is going to have to pay $0.05 for every plastic bag she gets from a store. Her column earlier this week all but proclaimed it so, listing this gem among her complaints:

Nevertheless, I don’t know how we can possibly be expected to remember to cart some sort of plastic bag around with us everywhere to hold purchases we might make on impulse.

Speaking only for myself here, I remember to “cart some sort of […] bag” with me the same way I remember to cart my wallet around every day: I put it in my pocket before I leave the house.  In fact, there are lots of things that I remember to take with me every day: my wallet, watch, keys, and Leatherman chief among them. It’s really not rocket science. I assume that Sue-Ann carries a purse with her everywhere and will learn soon enough to keep a little reusable bag tucked away in there. I also expect that she will admit this to absolutely no one.

An aseptic life

When I was young, the stories of so-called bubble boys were considered to be tragedies, living without contact with the outside world because contact with the germs could kill them. These days, living as a bubble boy is a lifestyle choice for some.

The plastics industry recently released a study (PDF) under the alarming headline “Reusable grocery bags may pose public health risk.” Yikes. But just a second here, this doesn’t really pass the smell test.

Just a few short weeks ago, the plastics industry was extolling the virtues of plastic bags: they’re the most environmentally friendly choice, so practical and extensively recycled that they form the very foundation of Western civilization. Hell, they even recommend  that we all “Say YES to reus[ing]” plastic bags! That Big Plastic has suddenly changed its tune from “we’re so good” to “they’re so bad” is telling, and is a real sign of desperation. I’m glad to see that the plastics industry is stooping to this kind of FUD in a last attempt to scare people into using disposable bags.

Just how FUDdy is the plastics industry’s shrieking on this matter? Well, their study claims an “elevated bacterial count of 1,800 colony-forming units (CFU)” on a 16 square inch sample of a reusable bag. Sounds bad. But what does that really mean in context? Well, for starters, the study compares the bacteria level on reusable bags to the safe level in drinking water. That’s pretty pointless seeing as bags (reusable or not) are not drinking water. But let’s play along anyway.

In particular, the study claims that the level of 1,800 CFU is “three times the level of 500 CFU considered safe per millilitre of drinking water.” That is factually true, but one millilitre is not a lot of water: it’s about a fifth of a teaspoon. So a single teaspoon of drinking water can have as many as 2,500 CFU and still be considered safe. A whole cup of water? More than 117,000 CFU and it’s still safe. So to put a different interpretation on their own study, a cup of safe, filtered, potable water may contain sixty-five times the bacteria count found on their scariest, dirtiest reusable bag. Rinsing that bag off would stand a good chance of making it dirtier. Maybe drinking that reusable bag wouldn’t be so bad after all.

The rest of their comparisons are equally suspect: mould on the surface of the bag is compared to mould per cubic metre of air; coliforms on the bag (5) are compared to the recommended level in a millilitre of drinking water (0) instead of the safe level in Ontario (5 per 100 ml from a well). And so on, and so on.

It’s difficult to take anything in the paper seriously, and it’s too bad that none of the mainstream media outlets that reported on the paper really took the author or the industry to task. Most of them chose instead to merely rewrite the press release’s lurid headline and repeat the claims without providing any context. Everyone involved here ought to be ashamed: the plastics industry for commissioning the paper, the researcher for putting his name to this disgraceful and alarmist tripe, and the reporters for not raising a critical eyebrow. Adapt or die, all of you.

For what it’s worth, I’ve been using the same two reusable bags at the grocery store and farmers’ market for about 6 years now. They’ve never been washed. Are they covered in bacteria? Almost certainly. But so is everything else in the world. Unless you’re lucky enough to be a bubble boy.

The Globe visits Dodgeville

Roads to nowhere, paths of discovery

For those of you who didn’t catch it, Dodgeville was featured in Dave LeBlanc’s Architourist column in Friday’s Globe and Mail. Mr. LeBlanc (to use the Globe‘s house style) and I spent a sunny Sunday afternoon last month exploring three abandoned bits of Toronto infrastructure: old Don Mills Road, Pottery Road, and the DVP on-ramp at York Mills. Good times.

Climbing the ladder

Monument in Mount Pleasant Cemetery

This is one of my favourite monuments in Mount Pleasant Cemetery. Like the last one that I highlighted, it depicts children at play. Or maybe at work in this case. I’m sure that I’m completely missing all kinds of symbolism here—why one leg of the ladder is cut off above the ground and why one of the climber’s boots is on the ground while he continues to ascend with a sock half off his foot, for starters—but I still appreciate the work that went into both the design and the execution. More views below the fold.

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