Hoarding for Humanity

Hoarding for Humanity

“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.

The scent of a blogger

Blog pour homme eau de toilette

Now you too can smell like a real blogger without all the effort of sitting in a chair and typing.

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.

Public bike repair stands

I was riding downtown a couple of weeks ago and decided to pop my bike up on one of the newly installed public bike repair stands to give it a quick once over:

Old Faithful on a public bike repair stand.

Each of the three stands downtown (plus one more on the university campus) includes a full set of tools for most basic on-the-go repairs and adjustments:

Tools available at the public bike repair stand.

The stands even feature bike repair videos and tips, via a QR code that links to a helpful website.

QR code for bike maintenance instructions on the public repair stand.This is the kind of cycling infrastructure that I love: it’s incredibly useful for both casual and seasoned riders and just sits unobtrusively in the background until it’s needed. The only thing missing from the stand is a pump, which is probably the one tool that would be used the most. Susan Sauvé, a transportation planner at the city, told me via email that pumps were originally included with the stands when they were installed in July, but they all broke within a week. The city currently has more durable pumps on order from the manufacturer and hopes to re-install them soon.

My bike checked out fine on this occasion, but I definitely could have used one of these stands when my pedal broke near Grange Park last year and I needed to conduct some emergency repairs before finishing my commute. It’s good to know that if it happened again today, I’d be just a short 163 km ride away from this stand at the corner of George and Simcoe Streets in downtown Peterborough. The two other downtown Peterborough locations would be a smidge closer, and the one at Trent University a bit farther. The stands were installed this summer through a partnership of the City of Peterborough and B!ke, a local DIY bike repair shop. Oh, you didn’t think these were in Toronto, did you? Doncha know there’s a war on the car here? The last thing we want to do is make things easier for those dastardly bikers.

Peterborough to Hastings rail trail


The Peterborough to Hastings rail trial curves away from the Trent River after kissing the shore.

After our thoroughly enjoyable trip on the Peterborough to Omemee rail trail a few weeks ago, I decided to take a trip down a second Peterborough-area rail trail this weekend, heading east out of town this time. Risa was unable to join me for the ride, so I packed up my day-trip kit and did this one solo.

The Peterborough to Hastings rail trail is not yet part of the Trans Canada Trail, but is listed as a proposed addition and there is some work afoot to make it official (PDF) and make improvements where necessary. As it stands now, the trail is formally maintained only in winter as a snowmobile trail, leaving summer maintenance to volunteers acting on an ad hoc basis with no coordinating body.

Compared to the Peterborough to Omemee trail, the lack of coordination shows: the route to Hastings is a little more wild and a bit more of a challenging ride. Unlike the smooth wide bed of gravel dust on the Omemee trail, the ride to Hastings is mostly on dirt double-track with some large gravel, loose sand, and other trail hazards along the way. Some of the bridges seemed to be in rough shape, with some surface planks rotting away and exposing holes big enough to see through to the rivers below. The trail is probably smooth as butter when it’s covered with a couple of feet of hard packed snow but it can be a little jarring on a bike in the summer. It’s certainly in good enough condition and offers enough variation for an average cyclist to have an enjoyable trip, but you won’t find any beach cruisers on it. Front suspension on my mountain bike was most welcome by the halfway mark.

The trail was exceptionally quiet considering that it was a beautiful Saturday afternoon for cycling or hiking. The first 90 minutes of my two hour putter along the trail were blissfully solo, without another soul in sight at any time, even when crossing intersections. The last half hour was almost as quiet and I only encountered four people on the trail before I turned onto the streets of Hastings. I imagine that it’s not quite as tranquil when the snowmobiles hit the trail, but it’s a very relaxing summer day trip.

The trail ends somewhat unceremoniously in the middle of the Trent River in Hastings (see the gallery below for more information about that), but you can make connections from there to other trails that continue to Campbellford, Tweed, and Sharbot Lake. Traversing gaps to yet more trails that can get you as far as Bancroft or within hailing distance of Bon Echo Provincial Park.

The Peterborough to Hastings rail trail starts approximately 7 km southeast of downtown Peterborough at Keene Road and runs about 29 km to Hastings. Like most rail trails, it’s fairly flat and grades are slight enough that they won’t trouble even the most casual of cyclists. The scenery ranges from wide-open farmers’ fields to thick forest growth and includes views of numerous rivers, creeks, marshes, swamps, cows, and even a couple of trailer parks heading into Hastings. Intersections are mostly quiet dirt roads. There are no obvious supply facilities or rest stops along the way other than farmhouses that back onto the trail; the village of Keene is about 2 km south of the trail at the 9 km mark, but that’s about it. Be sure to pack a repair kit and adequate food and water.

Check out the gallery after the jump for the usual ride pictures and commentary.

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Todd Morden Mills

It’s a pretty remarkable coincidence that just a few steps from Todmorden Road in Todmorden Mills in the Todmorden neighbourhood of East York—all of which were named after Todmorden, England—is a pumping station named after someone called Todd Morden:

Todd Morden pumping station sign


Now you might think that this is just another careless spelling error, but Google tells me that there really is a Todd Morden, and he’s this guy:


Google can’t tell me why he has a pumping station named after him, but I’m sure he deserves it.

And just in case you still think it’s merely a spelling error, I can assure you that although there is a Todmorden Mills pumping station, it’s a completely separate facility. In yet another remarkable coincidence, the two pumping stations share a single cabinet:

Mind you, I’m just assuming that these are two separate facilities and that surely the City of Toronto wouldn’t misspell the name of one of its heritage properties on a prominent sign inside that property. And surely workers tacking up the sign would have sent it back to the sign shop with a note as soon as they noticed the error, instead of just blindly posting it. Right?

‘sup? Just hangin’.

The rigging is checked twice by each of two different people. The harness is double-checked by each of three different people. Even your shoes are checked twice to make sure they’re on tight. You have to pass a breathalyzer test, get frisked with a metal detector, remove all jewellery and personal items, and be swabbed for explosives and narcotics. By the time you step outside onto the 1,168-foot-high walkway, you’d probably be in more imminent danger if you were swaying in a hammock reading a book. Yet casually leaning over the edge of the CN Tower requires your still-unconvinced brain to override your body’s instinctive resistance in order to push your centre of gravity out beyond the relative comfort of the walkway. After all, the next step down the staircase is a ten-second freefall away. By the time you’ve done it forwards and backwards and get around to posing for pictures, it’s almost second nature. Almost.

Right to left: Felicity, Val, and four other people with nothing to do on a Thursday afternoon.

So Felicity and I went on the CN Tower EdgeWalk last week. The walk itself takes about 30 minutes to circumnavigate the Tower on a 150-metre-long track, with nothing between you and your view of the city but the weather. The whole experience starts about 30-45 minutes before you step outside with the signing of the waiver, the donning of the red jumpsuit, and undergoing the aforementioned security and safety checks. Most of these preparations take place in a glassed-in room just off the gift shop at the base of the Tower, allowing a disbelieving public to watch six people calmly preparing for a short urban stroll. When the harnessed and jumpsuited walkers stride out of the prep room toward the elevator, staff and onlookers applaud and cheer. You can’t help but feel like a dorktastic version of the Mercury 7 strutting down the passage to the admiration of all and expectation of glory to come.

In addition to just walking around the deck and seeing the sights, the guide takes everyone through a series of exercises: stepping your toes over the edge, leaning backward, and leaning forward over the abyss. Then it’s picture time and you’re back inside almost before you know it. The funniest thing about it is that walking on the outside of the Tower quickly comes to seem so normal that all of the locals start doing what they usually do whenever they go up to the observation deck with out-of-town friends: they trace streets and scope landmarks, trying to pinpoint their houses somewhere below. I got as close as an apartment building on my street. The EdgeWalk is an expensive way to spend the afternoon, but it’s worth every loonie. I highly recommend it unless you’re completely jaded. And then I’d recommend it just to restore your sense of fun.

Peterborough to Omemee rail trail

This is why I don’t understand why people pay to ride stationary bikes in windowless gym basements.

Risa and I rode the 22 km from downtown Peterborough to Omemee this weekend via an old railway that’s now part of the Trans Canada Trail. Starting from its origin in Peterborough, this rail trail runs between backyards and along a small stream before quickly leaving the city, pavement, and crowds behind on the way to Omemee and beyond.  It has everything you’d expect along the way: scenic vistas, a well-maintained gravel bed, planked-in bridges and trestles like the one shown above, and an utter lack of traffic and hills. The trail continues past Omemee to Lindsay, where you can connect to other trails that will take you to Uxbridge, Fenelon Falls, or all the way up to Haliburton.
Peterborough to Omemee rail trailThe trail is an easy and relaxing ride for the entire length. It passes a few rural intersections and driveways at grade, while busy Highway 7 and some other driveways are carried over the trail on bridges. The urban intersections in Peterborough are similar to the ones on Toronto’s Beltline, but have curb cuts to actually let cyclists cross at the trail. The trail itself is well-maintained and can be ridden by the most casual of cyclists. Along the way you are treated to views of farms, valleys, and the rolling hills that you are not constantly climbing up and down. That’s the real joy of rail trails: you may be climbing, but the grade is so slight that it doesn’t hurt when you’re going up and it’s like having a slight tailbreeze when you’re going down.

Check out the short gallery with some of the sights along the way after the jump.

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Happily ever after

Happily Ever After booklet by Julius Schmid, Inc.

Happily Ever After: Allow Julius Schmid, Inc. to explain the secrets of a happy marriage to the new couple.

This booklet on making a happy marriage was produced by Julius Schmid, Inc. in 1956 and comes from the big treasure trove of stuff accumulated by my family over the last century.

Happily Ever After booklet by Julius Schmid, Inc.

The booklet is ostensibly a guide that steps a soon-to-wed couple through an initial consultation with their doctor, where the MD will explain the proper sexual role and expectation of each partner in a happy marriage, as well as moderate discussions about frequency and duration. It’s published by the makers of Ramses and Fourex condoms and is obviously a subtle marketing vehicle, probably distributed solely in doctors’ offices, and almost certainly the most direct birth control advertising that was allowed at the time.

Looking back through old documents like this, it’s hard for the casual observer to tell for sure whether the era was really so wildly different from today, the author was hopelessly naive, or the company was winking and nodding while playing along with the sensibilities of the time in order to market its product. I suspect it’s a combination of all of the above, though it’s mostly nodding and winking as Julius Schmid surely would have expected most of these to end up in the hands of curious teenagers. Either way, it’s interesting to compare the condom marketing of 1956 with the ads on TV today.

Incidentally, if this booklet came to my family at the time of its publication rather than being a later novelty acquisition, it dates from the time when my mother was nine years old and my grandmother was embarking on her second marriage. Which, in either case, ewww.

Scans of the complete booklet are below the fold.

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