Into the wild


The next time you’re exploring the wooded trails near the marsh in E.T. Seton Park, you may stumble upon a weathered sign overlooking a wet meadow. Still barely legible, it reads:

Trees in this area
were planted by the
Outing Club of East York
in honour of
Charles Sauriol
who was instrumental
in the preservation of
this valley
August 1980

The Outing Club of East York‘s Diane Vieira told me that in its early years, OCEY was very active in planting trees in and around Toronto, including at this location and others in the Don Valley. Unfortunately, they had to stop planting a number of years ago when they could no longer obtain trees from the Ministry of Natural Resources.

Charles Sauriol is best known to Torontonians—especially east enders and naturalists—as the man who spent virtually his entire life fighting to preserve and enhance the Valley’s natural heritage. His half-dozen books, including Remembering the Don, Tales of the Don, and Pioneers of the Don, together form the closest thing we have to a definitive cultural history of the Don Valley.

Named a member of the Order of Canada in 1989, Sauriol’s contributions have been recognized in parkettes, conservation areas, and even an annual fundraising dinner all named in his honour. I can’t help but think that of everything bearing his name, Sauriol would be most proud of the little sign that gets a little more lost in the budding wilderness of the Don each year.

Related: Joe Cooper wrote about OCEY in last week’s East York-Riverdale Mirror.

A version of this article originally appeared on Torontoist.

A real man's SUV

Best scooter ever. I can’t decide whether this beauty from the latest Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue is the best sport utility vehicle ever or a mere curiosity. It doesn’t really matter either way, because I really want one.

With a range of 15 miles (24 km), it could handily transport me and my lunch to work on those rare days when I really don’t feel like cycling. But I imagine its primary use in my life being for grocery shopping, picnicking, making Risa embarrassed to be seen with me, and impressing the hell out of the neighbours.

A vehicle like this reduces motorized personal transportation to its essence: wheels, an electric motor, and a trunk to carry your stuff. Most people don’t need more than that for commuting and running errands. And just imagine the jaws dropping when you steer this sweet ride up to your next tailgate party.

Image from Hammacher Schlemmer.

A mystery no more

Meter on a stick

A few weeks ago, I wondered about the presence of electricity meters placed randomly around the city, measuring power consumption for, well, something or other. After noticing more and more of these as I rode and walked the city this spring and summer, I felt compelled to ask Toronto Hydro for more information.

They finally responded to my query earlier this week, going well beyond what I expected by sending a supervisor out to examine one of the mystery locations. He reported back that the meter on Overlea Boulevard near Don Mills Road (pictured above) is for the City’s Works department, and is most likely hooked up to a sump pump in a chamber below street level. The same is probably true of another meter at Kingston Road & Celeste Drive that I’d asked about. This kind of installation is rather common.

Another mystery solved. I still think that my curiosity will eventually earn me a visit from some Men in Black, but I seem to have escaped that fate so far.

A version of this article originally appeared on Torontoist.

This is retirement?

I caught separate interviews with Derek Foster, Canada’s self-proclaimed “youngest retiree,” on both Breakfast Television and CityNews today. Both interviewers (Dina Pugliese and Jee-Yun Lee) repeated the “retiree” line, with Lee’s teaser going so far as to proclaim Foster as “the youngest person to retire in Canadian history.” I’m certain that the crack fact checkers at Citytv verified this ludicrous statement with the federal Department of Dubious Data before going to air with it. Foster’s story has also recently appeared in the Star and the Sun.

But wait a second, why all sudden attention on Foster, who retired three years ago? It turns out that he’s flogging copies of his new book, The Lazy Investor. Both Lazy and his first post-retirement book, Stop Working, purport to share his investing secrets so that you, too, can retire in your thirties. You can buy both books directly from the author’s book-selling web site.

Now I don’t know what Foster does all day long, but my guess is that he writes his books, contributes articles to Canadian Money Saver (and possibly other publications), and has occasional speaking engagements. Oh, and he probably spends more time at home than when he was employed in traditional workplaces.

Dude, I’ve got news for you: you’re not retired, you’re self-employed. And by that measure, I retired when I was 25, handily beating you for the title of “Canada’s youngest retiree” by 9 years. But neither one of us is really retired, are we?

The Dark Knight


The only thing more pathetic than a cat dressed up as Batman for Halloween is a cat owner who dresses his cat up as Batman for Halloween. I really should be ashamed, but the Dark Knight will be greeting neighbourhood kids with me for the fourth year running.

For those who are wondering, his utility belt holds his most important and versatile tools: a crinkle ball, a piece of string, and a little pouch of food.

Who did Jesus's 'do?

Jesus is the answer

This barber is located on Finch Ave. between Weston Rd. and Islington Ave. If the question is, “Who’s going to cut my hair?” I’m pretty sure the answer is wrong. If the question is, “Who’s upstairs at the ‘aroma massage’ place?” I’ll give 50-50 odds.


Mini-me & minier-me

My newest toy tool arrived last week, a tiny Fujitsu Lifebook U810 ultra-portable computer. This is a full-fledged PC running Windows XP (and Linux by next week) that weighs only 1.5 lb and fits into an oversized pocket. It’s pictured above with my formerly tiny, and now suddenly enormous, 12″ laptop and below flipped over into tablet mode on a standard 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of paper. Fujitsu is not calling this an Ultra-Mobile PC (probably because the term conjures some negative memories among mobility-loving geeks) but that’s effectively what it is.

Jib on a sheet of paperIts real purpose is to replace my aging HP Jornada 720 as my go-everywhere computer. The J720 set a virtually unbeatable standard for portable computers seven years ago. With a touch-typeable keyboard, built-in modem, dual expansion slots, a powerful (for the time) processor and almost too much (for the time) memory in a pocketable, one pound package, the Jornada 700 series heralded a bright future for portable computing. I took the 720 as my only computer on both business and camping trips as recently as 2003, which is saying a lot for a geek whose livelihood depends on having access to a computer most of the time.

In fact, the Jornada 720 was so unbeatable that both Microsoft and HP abandoned the handheld computer market shortly after it was introduced, focusing instead on the flashier (but ultimately less practical) Pocket PC. The J720’s successor, the Jornada 728, was unsupported virtually from the moment it hit the shelves.

I’ve been hunting for a worthy J720 replacement for at least three years now. Enter the Fujitsu U810. I’ve been playing working with it for almost a week now and couldn’t be happier. It fixes most of the problems I eventually had with the Jornada—including a relatively dim screen, unsupported software, and incompatibility with modern devices and software—and even takes care of a few issues I have with my regular laptop. Best of all, it fits easily into my man-purse and doesn’t appreciably increase the load of technology that I already carry around every day.

It’ll never be a desktop replacement, but it’s one fabulous travelling computer. My favourite feature so far? That would be the control-alt-delete button.

The Man in the Mug

The Man in the Mug

I noticed a little man in my tea mug on Friday afternoon. He was flat up against the side, doing a little jig, two big sad eyes staring back at me as he raised his arms in greeting. Hmm, tea can do interesting things to mugs, I thought to myself. I was quite surprised to see him still clinging to the side this morning, even after I’d scrubbed my mug in preparation for a new day of caffeine. Maybe there’s more to my new friend than just a bit of tea stain.

Risa says that he looks like a cave painting. I say that he looks like a visitor from a distant land. Other people may have different ideas about what a random stain represents.