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Monday, November 30, 2009

Mrs. Rantwick calls Me, A Panting Freak

I was looking at and listening to some video I had taken from the bike a few days ago, using one of the two laptops that dwell in our living room, when Mrs. Rantwick looked over at me in alarm. She had an unusual look as she asked, "WHAT are you watching?" I returned her alarmed, somewhat accusatory gaze with my customary blank, clueless one.

A few seconds passed before I managed to figure out what was up. Here's a sample of what she was hearing:

So, with Mrs. Rantwick feeling some concern and with the panting still coming from the speakers, I happily said "that's me ... hang on, we'll hear you in just a few more seconds..." That got Mrs. Rantwick out of her chair in a hurry. Here's what she joined me in watching:

That was Meadowlily Road, one of the few real hills to be found in East London. Those of you who live in mountainous regions would scoff at it as a "climb", but as you could hear, it was enough to work me pretty darn hard even in the lowest of Mutant Winter's eight gears.


See? I Would Never Use The Internet for Anything Interesting.

R A N T W I C K

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Sign of the Times


As I mentioned in a recent post, London Ontario is currently experiencing a transit strike. The ninja salmon are ninja-ing and salmoning with more confidence now that they have had a little practice. I hope the cold that appears to be on the way doesn't give the unprepared frostbite.

Anyway, it would seem that at least some of London's citizens aren't expecting a speedy resolution to the labour dispute, and have repurposed some things accordingly...



I saw that sign at Wavell and Edmonton, which is kind of near Clarke Road Secondary school. The cat's name is Pixel. I am reluctant to post somebody else's phone number on the Internet, so if you've seen him, send me an email and I'll give you contact info for the owner.

If it weren't for the strike, I would have thought positioning your missing cat picture like that could be a bad omen...


R A N T W I C K

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Was 1-1/2 Months Ago




So I don't know what all this Thankful talk I'm seeing all over the Internet is about. Not that I mind, you know. Spontaneous feelings of thankfulness are great. For example, I'm thankful that the visitors to this blog come from all over the world. From Thailand to, say, oh I don't know... the USA, for instance.

I'm also feeling thankful for turkeys, 4 downs instead of 3 in football and the ancestors who made trips across the Atlantic to settle new lands. What's that all about? I do puzzle myself sometimes, that's for sure.

For example, these random feelings of Thankfulness are mixed with abnormally high levels of "I shouldn't be at work" and "I'm being left out somewhow". Why would I feel that way? I don't get it. Ah well, I guess I'll just get back to work and forget about it. I'm sure these strange feelings will pass the gravy. 




Yer Pal,


R A N T W I C K

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mo Newsflash: Shaving Accident Results in Reduced Flaire

The word 'flaire' in the title is not a typo. You see, as I was shaving very hastily this morning, I accidentally lopped off a lower corner of my Mo. Corrective shaving for the sake of symmetry was then required on the other side.


click image to enlarge


Since a picture is worth a thousand words, the preceding pictures are worth approximately three thousand words! Aren't you glad I decided to go with them instead of typing up a description of what transpired? We would have been here all day!

Anyway, you know how sometimes you make a mistake and then your efforts to correct it just make things worse instead of better? So it was with my corrective shaving this morning; I lost a lot of hard-grown Mo today. If you can feel my pain, please visit my Mo donation page and help make it better, because the only thing standing between "flaire" and "failure" is "U"! Well, sort of. You know what I mean.

Please forgive my lame attempt at cleverness, and as always, thanks for reading.

Yer Pal,

R A N T W I C K

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tubby Gets Toasted

I left for work early today so I could stretch out my ride and use the bike path along the river instead of the street for a change. It was great. I rode about 13 km (8 miles) instead of my usual 6-7 km "late for work" route. It was dark and misty and peaceful. I arrived with time to spare, so I'm thinking about stretching it out some more tomorrow.

I've been riding Mutant Winter for about a month now, waiting for the snow and ice she is designed for. I have found that although she's heavy and has big knobby tires, I go almost as fast as I do on my light fixed gear commuter thanks to the presence of higher gears to pedal in.

When it comes to riding on the path, I have become accustomed to passing most other riders and being passed quite rarely. This morning, however, some dude on a road or cross bike passed me big time. He was wearing cycling gear and had his bike set up with commuter lights. I don't remember fenders or panniers, but my memory is sketchy on this one. He was not showing off or sprinting as far as I could tell, just riding at an impressive steady pace.

He politely rang his bell when he was ready to overtake, and for my part I got over a bit and gave him the "Keri wave", for which he thanked me as he passed. Often when somebody passes me I end up on their wheel for at least a little while. Not this time. This dude was going considerably faster than me, even though I felt like I was doing a good clip.

I comforted myself with the knowledge that given Mutant Winter's setup and big plastic tub, the other rider wouldn't have expected anything else. I know that commuting is not a race. I was just surprised at how slow I was. Many would say that comparing a heavy mountain bike and a lighter road bike is silly, but I'm pretty sure the bigger difference here was in the engine department. I've been eating way too much junk lately, and it is showing on the scale. I need to ride more and eat less crap. I already knew that, but I would like to thank this morning's passer for the reminder. Lots of cyclists always feel like they need a lighter bike. I feel like my bikes need a lighter rider.

Would a Clydesdale by any other name still pull the beer wagon?

R A N T W I C K

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hey, Nice Lid!

I drink a fair bit of coffee. I do not attempt to buy, carry or consume coffee while I'm commuting on my bike like some do. Nonetheless, I frequently buy coffee from Tim Horton's, Starbucks, etc. when I'm in the car, and Mrs. Rantwick and I are more likely to go buy take-out coffee than to brew a pot at home. How lame is that?


Anyway, here in London Ontario, McDonald's has been giving away free coffee again. I suppose the only way they can combat the popular notion that their coffee sucks is to give some of the new stuff away. I had a free cup on Saturday morning, and that ridiculously iconic restaurant chain has really pulled out all the stops this time.

The coffee was fine, better than any I've had from McDonald's before. It was as scorchingly hot as the last cup I had from there about 5 years ago. Does anybody know if the old lady suing McDonald's for serving hot coffee story is true or urban legend? I guess I could snopes it up, but I'm too lazy. I believe it though... everybody expects coffee to be hot, but not leave-it-alone-for-half-an-hour-if-you-want-to-keep-your-tongue hot. I'm not complaining; the stuff was good once it was down to a drinkable temperature.


What really struck me about the free coffee was not the coffee, but the lid. I am very interested in coffee lid design. Remember the days before plastic lids with sippy holes, or the perforations to create them? The first time I saw somebody manually create a sippy hole in a plastic coffee lid while riding in a work truck, it was a revelation. These days, of course, most plastic coffee lids offer this option, but the McDonald's lid brought even more to the table. Bear with me now, because without a review of the other offerings, this post would just be short and boring. As any of my more regular readers can attest, long and boring is more my thing.


First up, THE dominant Canadian coffee and donut chain, Tim Horton's:



Sippy hole perforation, works well most of the time, but sometimes I need to rip the tab right off because it won't stay locked down. Branding on lid.



Now, the US-based competition, Starbucks:



Starbucks doesn't bother with custom-branded lids, or perforations and tabs. They just assume that if you're using a lid, you want a sippy hole. In terms of pure function, this is my favourite lid. Aesthetically, though, they look kind of nasty when coffee dries on the lid after you use it. I washed this one off before photographing it. Dark brown like the other lids would be better.





The long-established chain Country Style Donuts:




I don't know who designed their lid first, but as you can see, Country Style's is almost identical to Tim Horton's. The sippy hole tab, however, stays down better.


OK, so what about this free coffee from McDonald's? Its lid was something else entirely:


Leave it to McDonald's to design a lid that reaches deep into your mind with hypnotic voodoo eyes on a face straight out of some deep and ancient ancestral memory, with a sippy hole tab/nose that stays down better than any I've ever used before.


Sorry, all you other coffee lid contenders. Only the McDonald's lid makes a face, and only a face can be crowned with some dinosaur head!



This reminds me of an ewok. I'll bet McDonald's knew that some dude with a blog would put hair on a picture of their coffee lid, and they didn't want to miss the opportunity to cash in on some of the most pervasive pop-culture imagery ever. Man, talk about market research...


In case that last theory got you wondering, yes, I did go to a bunch of coffee places to get comparison lids after seeing the freebie lid from McDonald's and conceiving of this post and yes, I bought and drank a large coffee from every one. YeeeeeHaaaaa! See you again after the inevitable crash.


Am I Jittery? No, not at all!... now stop vibrating like that, you freaks!


R A N T W I C K


PS - A reader sent me a lid pic from a growing Ontario coffee chain, Coffee Culture. As tempting as it is, no face, no dinosaur head; here it is:


You know what? I will add a picture of any and all coffee lids (except repeats) that anyone cares to email me or link via comment. This post could become a coffee lid dictionary!

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Place For All of Your Awkward Family Moments

Feeling some family tension this Holiday Season? Estranged daughter? Desperate Dad? There's a place that can help.


Is there some really big demographic that I don't know about that will be inspired to go get a Festive Special after seeing this? It creeps me out, and I just don't get it.

What do you think? Am I just being weird, or is the commercial the weird one?

Wishing you comic relief cranberry sauce for all your awkward moments,
R A N T W I C K

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I've Got a Question

image source: torontoist.com

I recently read a post on ibiketo.ca that spoke of some new promises to crack down on people who park in bike lanes. I've got nothing against bike lanes where they are practical, but I don't think it is as simple as painting some lines and saying "don't stop or park here". When you put bike lanes all over the place, you effectively make all curb sides a no stopping zone, so here's my question: where are cars supposed to pull over for a second? Where the alternatives to parking in the lane are limited, the temptation to use them for quick stops will be very hard for most to resist.

It is easy for people who never drive to answer "I don't care where they stop, so long as it is not in my bike lane". Should people who need to make a delivery or run into a shop in a downtown core go find a full-blown parking spot and pay for it? It simply isn't practical, and the lengths people might go to in order to stay out of heavily policed bike lanes could cause different kinds of traffic snarls that are just as bad for everybody.

How would us cyclists like it if we were only allowed to lock our bikes to designated racks because they were getting in the way of pedestrians? No poles, no sign posts, nothing like that. It would greatly reduce the wonderful flexibility of our vehicles. Would that be cool with everyone? Cars are inflexible to begin with, and not being allowed to pull over for short periods makes them even more so.

Regulars on this blog know that I ride my bike to work and back every single day. I am not "pro car" by any means. Cars and trucks, however, aren't going away any time soon, and making it harder for people to move around and conduct their business just doesn't make sense to me. In an ideal world there would be way fewer cars, more transit and cycling and walking, lower speeds and increased civility. Even when we get there, however, vehicles are going to need someplace to pull over once in a while.

In a great many areas of most cities, there will often be an alternative to blocking a bike lane, and where alternatives exist, drivers should be penalized for being lazy or selfish by blocking the lane. In areas like Toronto's downtown core, however, I just don't see any value in it or, frankly, the bike lanes themselves. Downtown traffic is slow. Cyclists don't need bike lane protection in downtown cores (or anywhere else, for that matter, but that's another, bigger, issue). They can find greater safety riding in and among traffic, especially if they avoid messenger style riding and behave like the cars, or more accurately, behave like cars driven by law abiding, civil drivers.


That's it, I've got to pull over and mellow out.


R A N T W I C K

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Trauma - A Dude Licked My Mo

At the Dog's Breakfast show I was promoting a few days ago, the other Dog in the act started suggesting to our audience that people could touch my Mo for a 50 cent donation. That was fine with me, and some nice ladies did exactly that after they got few drinks in. It was funny and fun.

Then a good friend of mine showed up at the stage with a $5 Monation. He just handed over the money and was leaving the stage when the other Dog reminded him that he may touch my Mo. He came back up. I closed my eyes, expecting some sort of mild violence like a slap or a tug on the Mo. Instead, said friend proceeded to LICK my Mo. It got a big reaction from the crowd, let me tell you, and I was left speechless and unable to anything but stagger back in horror. That was one expensive $5 Monation. Pity me, and if you could find it in your heart to translate that pity into a nice clean, dry Internet Monation, I would be very grateful. Click Here to do that.

I had nearly overcome the trauma of the event, but writing about it has brought it all back. I've got to go wash my face now. See you again soon.

Yer Pal,

R A N T W I C K

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Transit Strike Spawns Wild Ninja Salmon!

There is currently a transit strike underway here in London Ontario. As a result, many people are having to find alternate ways of getting around. You see a lot more people walking and cycling, and oh, the cycling you'll see!

What happens when people who don't normally ride their bikes past Labour Day or anywhere except the bike path or around the block on the sidewalk get them out of their sheds and garages in November to go to work or school? You get a ton of sidewalk salmon, street salmon and every other variety of dangerous cycling going on. And with the sun setting just after 5 pm this time of year, a great many become completely unlit and largely un-reflectorized accidents-in-waiting during the PM rush. I almost hit a couple of them myself on my way home from work on my own bicycle as they darted across my path from between parked cars and launched themselves off of sidewalks and into traffic.

I was taking video as I rode home, hoping to put together a montage of danger and idiocy. Sadly, the low light made pretty much all of the video unusable. I have seen very few extra cyclists in the morning on my way in when the light is better, which seems a little odd. Perhaps I will have better luck soon.

I was young once and have been stupid lots of times, but the reckless abandon with which some people are riding takes my breath away. It's like they think they are invincible or immortal or both. It is great to see so many people cycling; I suppose they aren't all insane... Perhaps some new people will join me in staying on the road as things get colder and more slippery. I just hope they are the types who are likely to do so without getting squished.

Let's All Get Lit! That should help!

R A N T W I C K

Monday, November 16, 2009

Encounters with Rantwick, episode nine: I Couldn't Scare a Squirrel

Squirrels are smart in their own squirrely way. The squirrel you will see here has an excellent sense of the relative dangers posed by an automobile and a bicycle.



Maybe he would have been afraid of me if I had been sporting my new Mo... difficult to say.
Being squirrely is terribly underrated.

R A N T W I C K

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Losing My Identity Rocks!

Over the past few days I've been intentionally slipping on maintaining my anonymity. It all started with my Movember fundraising efforts. Then I signed up for the evil facebook using my real name to promote that event to my friends. So, after about a year of actively hiding my name from everybody, it is now pretty findable for anyone who cares to know it. Since I really like my little squinty-eyed alter-ego, I have every intention of continuing to publish this blog as RANTWICK and to keep pictures of my ugly mug off the Internet as much as possible.

One nice thing about loosening up a bit is that I can now engage in shameless self promotion of new kinds! I play and sing in an Acoustic Guitar Duo called Dog's Breakfast here in London Ontario:


I am the dog on the left. We're playing at the London Music Club on Friday (the 13th!) night. The half-dozen or so gigs we've had so far have been a blast, so if you want to come have a beer (or ten) and a listen, click here for more details. It would be super fun to meet one of my local readers in person, unless of course you feel compelled to inform me that the music sucks. In that case please just slip on out of there and leave me alone in my musical fantasy world.

Yer Pal,

R A N T W I C K

Remembrance Day

It's coming up on Eleven AM as I post this. Please take two minutes of silence at 11 to remember and give thanks for the veterans who have fallen in wars great and small.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.


We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.


Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


— Lt.-Col. John McCrae (1872 - 1918)


R A N T W I C K
PS - For my American friends, where it is Veterans Day, a note: According to wikipedia Canadians' Remembrance Day more closely resembles your Memorial Day in May... I didn't know that until just now.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Encounters with Rantwick, episode eight: My Tub Gets Thumped

It is a wonderful thing to run across a kindred spirit. When the kinship extends to extruded polymers, of course the relationship can take on an even deeper meaning...


Keep it sealed,
R A N T W I C K

Friday, November 6, 2009

I Like People I Don't Know

You know, I find that people I don't know are often really easy to like. Like the people responsible for the content of the following video. I like them, and the strangers I met on the bridge that morning too.



Make Some Music Of Your Own This Weekend,
R A N T W I C K

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Movember - Team Fatty Canada


If you have seen this post already, scroll to the end of it for pictorial Mo updates!

I hope some other Fatty (Fat Cyclist) fan doesn't get mad at me because they were "Team Fatty" in some other event, but after reading Fatty's post about Movember and being unable to join his team, I have started Team Fatty Canada, with the blessings of Fatty himself.



So, all you Canucks, if you were in the same boat as me, you can join Team Fatty Canada and start raising money for men's health. In registering for this event I was forced to part with my REAL NAME, since I didn't want to gum up something charitable by using an alias. If you visit my donation page just to get a peek at my full name, please be cool and at least donate something so I feel like it was worth it.




Here's a quick rundown of the whole thing:














So, visit my donation page and support Men's health in Canada. If you are Canadian, join Team Fatty Canada and start growing your Mo and collecting donations yourself! I didn't shave this morning, so I've got one day of feeble growth as a start.





Mrs. Rantwick is going to Love and Hate this...




R A N T W I C K






Mo development log follows...







Definitely not "me"... but that's the point!





Hmmm. Not sure about this.






Greys in the Mo. Ah well, fewer than up top, anyway.





The Cutoff for Shorts

original, undoctored photo is at icebike.com



When temps start to drop and I begin bracing myself for winter riding, I always start wearing my long cycling pants a little too early. I end up overheating for a few days and return to cycling shorts soon thereafter. I have found that in terms of covering up in the Fall, my legs are the last thing that need it. I need gloves (or socks) for my fingers, a jacket and something around my neck long before I need pants.


A couple of days ago while I rode in to work, I determined that the temperature was about as cold as I like to go without long pants. In an effort to stop being subjective about the weather and provide a benchmark for Fall pants wearing, I went straight to the Weather on my computer upon my arrival at the office. My personal cutoff for shorts is 4 deg C or 39 deg F. Anything colder and I'll wear pants. When next Fall rolls around, I'll be able to refer to this page for a reminder about when I should make the switch, and so avoid those overheating days.



What's your cut off? Do you just stroll outside and feel the weather, or do you have a Temperature scale like I do now?


R A N T W I C K

Monday, November 2, 2009

The King of Autumn

It is October 30 as I write this. I think I'll probably post it on Monday November 2. On October 28, I stopped the bike and took some video of a tree that I have come to think of as "The King of Autumn". It is not an impressively large tree, but big enough, I guess. Situated near the middle of a small, out of the way park near Wellington Road, this thing had achieved an orange "glow" that I have never seen before and that kind of blew me away. I'm not a full-time nature junkie or tree hugger, but once in a while I'll see something that kind of feeds the spirit, if you will. This tree was one of those things. Despite a thick carpet of leaves beneath it, it still looked nice and full, right up to the top. When I got home, I plugged the camera into the computer and couldn't remember anything notable happening on the ride, so I just deleted all the files. I do this all the time. No big deal.


On October 29, I rode on streets only due to time demands. I still hadn't realized that I had deleted my King of Autumn video.


This morning as I cleared the camera's files once more, I remembered the King of Autumn, and resolved to ride by and take some pictures instead, because they would be more impressive than video. When I got to the tree, it didn't look anywhere near as good. The King had lost his Crown, and was thin-to-bare on all but the lowest branches. With so many leaves fallen, the glow was gone. I was really disappointed, thinking to myself, "damn, I really wanted to post on this. Ah well, maybe next year." I rode away kind of bummed out, without having taken any pictures. I thought about how quickly some beautiful things can pass: Blink, and you might miss 'em.


I stayed bummed out until I resolved to write this post describing what had happened, and to take pictures of the less impressive King anyway, which I did on the way home. I have heard that the colours achieved by trees in the fall can vary from year to year depending on what kind of summer it has been. If the King fails to achieve the same wondrous hue next year, I would have missed my one chance to share it with anybody, and that would suck worse than showing the tree in something less than its full glory. So here it is:



Try to imagine those low branch colours all over the whole tree, although it's a "you had to be there" thing, I'm afraid.



The King is Shed! Long Live the King!


R A N T W I C K




PS - I'll definitely be keeping a close eye on the King of Autumn next Fall in the hopes of catching it at its very best.

PPS - This post ended up spawning a big fat foliage contest. Click here for the 2010 FARATS posts!