What a way to end a vacation

Welcome home

Imagine coming home from your March Break vacation to find this sign taped to the padlocked entrance to your apartment. Welcome back!

Update:  This isn’t my place; the sign was attached to a Danforth Ave. apartment the other day. I doubt I would have had the presence of mind to take a picture if I’d returned home to such a sight.

By-law roulette #3

Chapter 400-14 of the Municipal Code of the former City of Toronto (which is still in effect, as far as I can tell) states:

C. No person shall throw any stone or ball of snow or ice, parcel, bundle or other dangerous missile or use any bow and arrow or catapult in any highway.

No bows and arrows or catapults on the streets? There go those meddlesome bureaucrats again, interfering with innocent medieval childhood fun. Next thing you know, they’ll be regulating flails and quarterstaffs.

Time to revise that forecast

Stump of an old telephone pole in the oxbow marsh

As we sit through yet another storm, it’s worth remembering what this winter was supposed to be like:

Environment Canada, which issued its winter outlook Friday, says Toronto will be about normal in terms of temperature and precipitation, while The Weather Network, which issued its forecast on Thursday, is calling for above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation for the Toronto area. “We don’t think that,” Environment Canada’s David Phillips said. “They use a different model than we use.”

So reported the Star way back on November 30 (under the hopeful headline “City spared hard winter?”) just a week after we’d dealt with our first snowfall of the season. How did the prognosticators do? Thanks to Environment Canada’s tattletale forecast verification tool, we can tell just how far off they were.

The precipitation forecast was wildly inaccurate for virtually the entire country, with most areas marked in blue for “below average” on the forecast (bottom map on the link) ending up as red for “above average” after actual observations (top map). The temperature forecast was just as inaccurate, with almost everything except for a sliver of the extreme north and a patch of sea between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia ending up colder than normal. The less said about the Weather Network’s forecast the better.

So what’s ahead for the spring? The Weather Network (PDF) and Environment Canada are both telling us to expect normal temperatures and above-normal precipitation. If this past winter is any indication of their ability to predict the seasons, you may want to start planning for that spring drought.

I give up

Have a nice day

I like winter.

No really, I do. I like the crisp air. I like the bright sunshine reflecting off fields of snow. I like seeing my breath.

I like exploring the city in the winter. I like stomping around the Don Valley with boots, gaiters, and snowshoes. I like taking off my toque after a hike and watching the steam rising from my shadow. I like skating. I like watching the wildlife in the backyard and park. I like looking out the front door on a Saturday morning and seeing a fresh snowfall. I like dodging all the piles of snow on side streets that make drivers slow down and be courteous to pedestrians and cyclists. I like stepping in little piles of slush and feeling it squirt out between my boot treads. I like walking through big puddles at intersections with my waterproof boots. I like being the first person to walk on the sidewalk after a storm.

I like shovelling at 2 a.m. after the snow has stopped but before anyone has packed down the sidewalk. I like hearing people say “Thanks,” when they reach the snow-free sidewalk in front of the house. I like watching drivers with summer tires trying to pull out of snowbound parking spots. I like cycling. I like talking to my neighbours about the weather. I like making fun of reporters who raise a huge fuss every time it snows.

I like wrapping my scarf around my face and pulling my toque down to my eyes. I like dressing in layers. I like wearing my lobster gloves. I like putting on long underwear. I like shaking snow off my jacket before I come inside. I like wearing Merino wool socks.

I like curling up on the couch with Risa and a hot chai. I like crawling under the duvet at night. I like rubbing Fletch’s belly while telling him how lucky he is to be an indoor cat.

But seriously, enough is enough. I’ve been ready for a few weeks now to start liking spring again.

Supermarket finds: Hard-boiled edition

Naturegg hardboiled eggs

The first time I saw them in the supermarket, I was a little put off by the very thought of Naturegg hard-boiled eggs. I mean really, who needs to buy hard-boiled, peeled eggs at the supermarket? How lazy do you have to be? But the more I thought about it, the more I thought it wasn’t such a bad idea after all. If you’re the kind of person who likes to have an egg or two at lunch every day but just can’t bring yourself to prepare a dozen ahead of time on Sunday night, you could do much worse in terms of a convenience food.

The package is nice enough when you look at the label, but picking it up is another matter. I don’t know if you’ve ever held one of these, but let me assure you that holding two hard-boiled eggs in a small plastic bag feels a lot like holding a pair of testicles. The sensation doesn’t exactly make it appetizing for me; of course, your mileage may vary. It doesn’t help that eggs in a little bag are probably the saddest-looking food you’ll see in the store.

Once removed the package, the eggs are fine. My pair was a little squished out of perfect egg shape, but otherwise looked, felt, and tasted just like Mom used to make. Better than homemade? Certainly easier, but not so much that I’d buy them again for the once in a blue moon that I’d use them. I just don’t think it’s so hard to boil and shell eggs that I’d want to keep a bag of these in the fridge.

A lifetime of saving

A lifetime of saving

The Star published this graphic (available online with the original article or as the second picture in this slideshow) about the proposed Tax-Free Savings Account as part of yesterday’s report on the federal budget. The $30,000 renovation and $15,000 wedding seem like wishful thinking, but no more so than the $10,000 car that doesn’t need replacing for 40 years.

What struck me about the graphic was how neatly it illustrates the effects of life’s big expenses. Of course, for the sake of simplicity, it leaves out major money-drainers like supporting your university-educated children until they’re 35, buying your new hip in the States because you don’t want to wait 12 months in Ontario, and digging your poker-addicted son out of debt.

But what I’d really like to know is who are these people who are still saving $150/month after they retire and hit the road in their new RV? It’s an awfully optimistic view of the average person’s retirement income potential.

Highway Traffic Act Roulette #3

Section 148-7 of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act offers up this requirement:

Where one vehicle is met or overtaken by another, if by reason of the weight of the load on either of the vehicles so meeting or on the vehicle so overtaken the driver finds it impracticable to turn out, he or she shall immediately stop, and, if necessary for the safety of the other vehicle and if required so to do, he or she shall assist the person in charge thereof to pass without damage.

I cite this as proof that drivers people (and the law) used to be civilized. I’m sure this clause had application at some point in our distant past, but it seems quaint and head-pattingly naive to suggest that someone today would get out of his car and help another driver to pass him. Unless flipping the bird and shouting out the window could be considered “assistance” in this context.

DineSafe roulette

After seeing this particularly disgusting picture over at BlogTO a while ago, I did some digging in Toronto Public Health’s DineSafe database. You’d be surprised at what turns up beyond the usual rodent infestations, improper hand washing, and temperature control issues. In particular, these two recent infractions stood out:

  1. Operator fail to maintain premises free of sewage back-up (Eikona Chinese Restaurant, January 2, 2008). This issue is surprisingly popular, with at least two other restaurants being closed for the same problem since 2006. How can you possibly not keep your restaurant sewage-free? And when you do notice the sewage, how can you not close down immediately? More to the point, how long does it take customers to notice? “Hmm, the chicken smells a little off today.”
  2. Operator fail to provide approved meat (Huy Ky Pork Skin, December 21, 2007). Ah, the old myth of mystery meat isn’t such a myth after all. The report doesn’t say whether the meat (or maybe “meat”) in question was true mystery meat, or simply uninspected meat. Either way, it wouldn’t be a welcome surprise.

Rodent infestation? Bah, that’s for amateurs.

Where'd the snow go?

A mountain of snow from Toronto’s streets

Ever wonder where the snow goes after the parade of dump trucks takes it away? It goes to a dump like this one on Unwin Avenue, where the grey, brown, and black mess is currently piled at least four storeys high. Once here, it melts directly into the lake, releasing all of its contaminants untreated into the environment. Other dump sites drain directly into rivers and creeks before emptying into the lake.