Old Indian Line: Part 1

Indian Line looking north from near the CN tracks

Way up in the very northwestern corner of the city, the old Indian Line used to mark the boundary between Etobicoke and Peel Region (Mississauga and Brampton). The road carved its way through farm fields and across a bridge over the Humber River before continuing north past Steeles Avenue. Most of the old road was effectively wiped out by the initial construction and subsequent widening and extending of Highway 427 starting in the late 1960s and continuing through the early 1990s. Other portions of the road fell victim to realignments of Albion Road, Steeles Avenue, and Regional Road 50 heading north out of the city. But as with other abandoned roads in the city, a few stretches of the old roadway still exist. A tour and more pictures follow.

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Wasteful packaging #2

Lots of boxes

Shortly after I posted last month about wasteful packaging, we received another shipment of technology. Inside a single fairly large box were six smaller and very sturdy boxes. I could easily have stood on each one, much like I did with the power cord boxes from the previous shipment. Except these ones probably would have been strong enough to use as step stools in the kitchen. Inside each of these smaller boxes were two large, dense pieces of foam. Sandwiched between each pair of foam pieces was a single hard drive. Approximate ratio of the total volume of the hard drives compared to the total volume of the large box they were shipped in: 1:50. Approximate ratio of the weight of the product to the weight of the packaging: 1:5.

Can Sun really find no efficiencies here? The company claims that “packaging engineers determine how rugged each product is, and tailor the optimum amount of packaging for the product without compromising protection during tough simulated transit testing.” I think the packaging engineers are building in a bit too much of a huge margin of safety, especially considering that comparable equipment from other manufacturers is not packaged quite so heavily.

I had been planning to salvage the foam for other purposes, but the office cleaning crew beat me to it. At least I got to make a nice foam tower before it was carted away.

World’s tallest freestanding foam tower

Ootes defies warning, taunts Happy Fun Bin

Case Ootes newsletter Spring 2008

Case Ootes, just barely Ward 29 councillor for another two and a half years, sends out these wonderful newsletters to his constituents every so often. Earlier this month, the lead story in his Spring 2008 newsletter was about the new garbage and recycling bins that are being rolled out across the city. In four passionless paragraphs, Ootes waxed bureaucratic about the recently-arrived blue bins and the process residents would use to select their new garbage bins. “By now,” it concluded with no hint of rancour, “you likely have had your new recycling container delivered to your home.” Indeed, we were among the last in the ward to get the new recycling bin, and we’d had it for close to six weeks before receiving the newsletter.

About two weeks after the Ward 29 Report bounced into our mailbox, we received a further Special Bulletin, in which Ootes went on the rampage against the very bins he’d just helpfully informed us about:

Last June, in a 26–18 vote, Mayor David Miller and like-minded Councillors voted in favour of the program. I foresaw many problems with the new garbage and recycling bins; that was one of the reasons I VOTED IN THE NEGATIVE. Also, homeowners should not have to pay an extra fee (between $39–$190 / year) on top of property taxes, for garbage collection. The city’s cost to purchase the recycling and garbage bins is a staggering $57 million! This is a shameful waste of taxpayers’ money. (All emphasis in original document.)

The bulletin goes on to level the usual FUD against X (where X is anything that’s different from what people have done or used in the past), claiming that because X isn’t appropriate for a small number of (usually vocal) people, the entire project must be scrapped so that we can do things the old way. It’s funny how this criticism didn’t make it into his newsletter, especially if Councillor Ootes has been as staunchly opposed to the bins for the last year as he claims to have been.

I think it’s completely fair to criticize the new bins over their real or perceived shortcomings, but I think it’s pretty lame for a councillor to pander to his constituents like this. For what it’s worth, I have no problem with the bins, but understand that they can cause problems for some people on some properties. As for whether the big blue bin is ugly, it’s certainly no worse than the lineup of small blue bins that we kept at the front of the house. And the lid is a welcome improvement.

For garbage, we elected to go with the smallest bin. We currently produce only about one shopping bag full of garbage every two weeks, and I only put a single can of garbage out once every four to six weeks. Having a small bin will encourage us to continue to reduce even that amount of garbage.

And now I’m going to go run both newsletter and bulletin through the shredder and line Fletcher‘s litter box with the result.

Wasteful packaging

That’s a lot of boxes for a little bit of computer

One of the things I love about my day job is getting to play with a lot of technology. One of the things I dislike is that a lot of the technology is packaged very wastefully. The picture above provides a good illustration. Yesterday’s shipment included a very large box that opened to reveal the 10 boxes shown here.

Power cord in a boxEach of those boxes then opened to reveal a very loosely packed component: five power cords (three of them individually boxed!), a keyboard & mouse, two sticks of RAM, two small internal expansion cards, and three slimline DVD-ROM drives. Everything removed from these boxes is in the little pile on the left in the top picture.

Now I understand why you’d want to put delicate optical drives in a nice sturdy box with foam padding, and why a company with a lot of inventory would value having a few standard-sized boxes instead of a bunch of loose components. I also understand why a company selling servers would want to ship each server and non-standard component separately and have me assemble them.

Man vs. BoxBut I’m at a loss to understand why each power cord required its own crush-proof box rated to hold 65 lb and with a burst strength of 200 PSI. When I repacked all this stuff after checking it against the packing slips, it all fit into just one of the pictured boxes with the exception of the keyboard. The rest of the boxes went straight out into the blue bin, having served basically no purpose but to consume space.

Why ship in ten sturdy boxes (plus yet another box to hold all of the boxes) when just two will do? Why does each individual power cord need to be shipped in a separate box that a fully-ballasted man can stand on without crushing it? I’m sure the answer is “efficiency,” but I’m not seeing it.

Spring on the Spit: cormorant nests

Cormorant nests

Winding up our Spring on the Spit series, this photo was actually taken early in the fall, after nesting season is over and the cormorants that nest in these trees have abandoned them for the season.

The area that contains these trees is off-limits to people during nesting season (April through August, if memory serves). After all, cormorants are Important Birds and need their privacy. Exploring this area each autumn, I always think it’s a shame that cormorant droppings destroy the habitat here. I’d like to think that it’s all part of nature’s cycle, but it’s possible that there are just too many cormorants here doing too much damage. It’s an eerie place to walk through when the birds are gone, and it looks like a war zone to boaters in the Outer Harbour.

Toronto and Region Conservation is hosting a public meeting on April 3 (PDF notice) at the Mennonite New Life Centre on Queen Street East to discuss possible approaches to cormorant management in Tommy Thompson Park.

Spring on the Spit: busy beavers

Beavers have done a real job on these trees

There’s a good-sized beaver lodge not too far from the southern tip of the Leslie Street Spit. It’s in the pond behind these trees, just out of camera view. Even if you miss the lodge during your visit, you can’t miss the work of its residents throughout this section of the park. The tree in the foreground of this picture has a large pile of fresh shavings at its base and will probably be felled by the industrious beavers within a few days. Their impressive lodge is big enough to be seen on Google Maps.

I didn’t notice whether the beavers on the Spit have been tackling any trees as large as their Don Valley cousins have been.

Spring on the Spit: pointing the way

Moon & pylon, Leslie Street Spit

Today’s spring picture from the Leslie Street Spit shows us an artfully-placed traffic pylon pointing up at last week’s waxing gibbous moon, already high in the sky in the late afternoon.

As an aside, I always used to think this phase of the moon was called a waxing gibbon until I was old enough to realize that the term would more accurately describe an ape with a Brazilian.

Spring on the Spit: bridging the gap

Old ship’s bridge at the Outer Harbour Marina

Today’s photos of the Leslie Street Spit take us to the peninsula that contains the Outer Harbour Marina. The old ship’s bridge sitting on the peninsula’s tip is a familiar landmark to Outer Harbour sailors but is virtually invisible to most people visiting Tommy Thompson Park.

These pictures were taken in March 2004, before I had a high-quality digital camera. Looking at them reminds me just how much I miss Velvia and a proper fisheye lens. What I don’t miss is endless hours spent scanning slides. Still, I’m tempted to run a couple of rolls through the old camera this weekend. Maybe someday I’ll get a nice full-frame DSLR and have the best of both worlds.