Well, what on earth could I write about today other than the mighty Sandy? In the past I would watch the news of events like this and feel sorry for the people I saw in an arm's-length, rather cold kind of way. I hate the Internet because thanks to it and this blog and other people's blogs, now I feel like I "know" people in some of the worst hit areas and I worry about them. I watch for posts or tweets telling me they're OK despite the fact that if they have their heads screwed on straight they won't be bothering with those things right now but rather be helping their families and neighbours get through it all alright.
I know I shouldn't worry. I'm sure my Internet acquaintances are all quite resourceful and intelligent and will be just fine. I can't help worrying anyway though, especially about the New York City dwellers, some of whom were likely a little complacent after Irene didn't do too much harm (at least in NYC) last year. The big city is a tough place to go into survival mode, I bet.
All I can do, I guess, is send out my best hopes and prayers for everyone who was in the path of this storm. Be safe and stay well, everyone.
What can I say? I whined and complained and a whole bunch of TARATS entries came in over the weekend and this morning!
I was gonna post about them one at a time, but that seems a little too work-like. So, visit the entries page available on the sidebar >>> to see the 8 new arrivals in the contest!
Here is some of the stuff that was in the accompanying emails:
Eat your heart out Mr. Rantwick. Here are my FIVE, count'em, FIVE entries. If you can't handle FIVE knock-down gorgeous photos of spectacular Vermont trees, then you get to decide which ones to enter in your silly contest. May the best VERMONT TREE win!
Oh, I can handle it, anniebikes, no worries. You just keep talking that Vermont smack.
This contest does not discriminate based on colour, creed or even species... here's email from Leroy's Dog:
Trees. Prospect Park. Brooklyn. Before the hurricane.
It's not easy taking pictures when you don't have an opposable thumb.
I was not surprised that a dog used fairly few words, but I was surprised he knew the word "opposable". Impressive.
Last but not least Recumbent Conspiracy Theorist is staying in the hunt (and seasonally apt) for sure with his Cemetery Tree.
Hey hey rantwick! Here's another for the slide show. Not sure of the species of this one. Some kind of nut tree think. Here's a hint for leaf snoopers as to where to look for nice single trees; your local cemetery. I rode my bicycle to a cemetery here in town and saw this nice one. Didn't see any spooky ghosts though. Cheers, -RCT One of anniebikes' trees was from a cemetery too... I wonder if those trees are, ahem, better fertilized? Was that too much? If so, sorry. For myself, I'm thinking I could (and well may) do a lot worse than feeding a tree after I kick off...
It wouldn't be October if I wasn't whining and wailing about wanting more trees, so here I am. I have decided to try web voting for the entrants in TARATS again this year and I have made a display page for the entrants that I will add a voting widget to when the time comes.
Until then, all current entrants can be viewed on this page, from now until the end of the contest or even longer, I guess.
If you follow that link you will find 4 trees in the slideshow. 4 is a paltry number. I fear my contest is losing what little popularity it had, perhaps because I am constantly whining about it.
I know many parts of the USA (my largest trading partner) aren't ready yet, so I'm hoping I'm just being stupid and all kinds of entries are going to come flooding in soon.
Anyway, that page will always be up to date with the latest and greatest for anyone needing a foliage fix.
I am really happy with Chain Reaction Cycles right now. Remember how one of my new Schwalbe Marathon Winters had a cut in it? I said I would report on the customer service I got. The news is very good.
Here's the timeline:
Tuesday, Oct 16, 12:01 PM - I emailed CRC a filled-out warranty claim form (easily found on their web site) and a picture of the cut tire.
Tuesday, Oct 16, 12:02 PM - I receive an auto-reply from their "Warranty Team" saying that based on current volume I could expect a reply to my specific claim within 2 to 3 working days. Fair enough, I thought.
Wednesday, Oct 17, 11:04 AM (the next day) - I receive an email from a real person:
Thank you for your email.
We are sorry to hear that your tyre is damaged. On this occasion we are sending you a replacement and there is no need to return the faulty item.
This should be dispatched within the next 24 hours.
We trust this helps.
I had mentioned in my original claim that there was no way I had cut the tire by accident or anything. Still, I was super pleased that there wasn't any nonsense at all from CRC. They simply said sorry and were sending a replacement. Perfect.
Yesterday, Tuesday Oct 23 (one week after sending my first email) - The replacement tire is delivered to my house. No duties, taxes or shipping charges because they filled out the paperwork properly. I pay nothing.
Call me crazy, but 5 business days from warranty claim to complete replacement and resolution, from a company based in the UK (as in across the Atlantic Ocean) seems pretty stinkin' good to me.
Now, some would say that I simply got the good customer service we all deserve, and I suppose they would be correct. The fact is, however, that in my experience things rarely go this well and I truly appreciated it. I've been aching to ride this bike before real winter snow and ice comes, so that we're really good buddies by the time we need to trust each other.
I mounted the tire last night and rode Mutant Winter III to work today. I must say that after riding fixed all summer, gears sure are weird and fun! Here are some pics of this year's winter bike:
I decided to skip real fenders on this one (sorry, fellow fender freaks). The tires will clear their treads of snow better, and the clearances with this frame and the 35c tires were kind of tight anyway. I strapped a flexible plastic fender I had lying around to the downtube as a kind of crud guard for the drivetrain, and the rear rack / plastic tub blocks spray from hitting my bum or back.
I can't wait to see how the "skinny" 35c tires do compared to wider MTB tires. It is my hope they will cut through snow to find hard surfaces for the metal studs to grip. We shall see.
R A N T W I C K
PS - I think I'll send the warranty people at CRC a link to this post. It is important to praise good work, especially if you want free reign to complain about just about everything else.
Over the last several years I have come to inhabit a new reality. While reviewing video the other day, I saw something and said to myself, "woah. When did I get used to that?"
The clip that actually made me think that was worse, with closer passes and more transport trucks, but you get the idea. When I step outside of my new reality and look at those buses and trucks rolling past on either side of me, it looks downright scary. In my new cycling reality, however, it doesn't even make me nervous. Alert? Yes. Daunted? Not at all. I am dauntless! In this way only, but dauntless!
I also inhabit a new work reality in which the following voicemail message makes perfect sense:
You see, I arrive at work in my cycling gear, including stretchy bike shorts, every day. Everybody knows that I change in my office. Sometimes I shut my office door and work for a while still in my cycling gear, cooling down before putting on long pants and sleeves. It is well known that people choosing to knock on my closed door do so at their own considerable risk.
Even knowing that in this context the voicemail made perfect sense, it made me laugh pretty hard when my good friend and colleague delivered that snappy line in such a deadpan, matter of fact way. In my new reality I am pantless! In the way described above only, but pantless!
Congratulate me on my new found dauntlessness and pity my widely known pantlessness, brothers and sisters of the bicycling universe! I think they balance each other quite nicely, don't you?
I'm curious what my North American friends will think of this... I'm almost 100% that riders from Europe and Asia etc will think it is fine, since lane splitting is common in a lot of places. It is decidedly uncommon where I live, though, and that means doing it is UNpredictable behaviour. Just the same, I would do what I did in the the video again without hesitation.
What would you do if you were riding the bicycle?
Just got another entry for the Third Annual Rantwick Autumn Tree Smackdown!
From Kenny's email:
I took this picture just today at the CVS distribution center near my home in Fredericksburg, VA.
Since you like bikes, I leaned my large internet special on the trunk to add a sense of imposing scale.
Thank you and have a great day!
I mowed the lawn, helped Rantwick Jr. with a school project and made a truly kick-ass pot of chili today. That is good news because my chili has been strangely acidic the last couple of times, but this time it is spot on. I wish I knew what I did right, but I don't really follow a recipe.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, I know why I mentioned all that stuff! I was already having a great day, Kenny, so your tree entry has upgraded it to outstanding! That is almost unheard of with me on a Sunday, because I traditionally take Sundays to wallow in undeserved self-pity and feel generally bummed out. Leaning your bicycle on the trunk of your entry is also a common and welcomed approach in my tree competition, since bikes rock and trees rock and bikes and trees together really rock. I mean, check this out:
I really can't win TARATS now, because I gots me a entry from another person, one who like, is not me.
The first real entry for this year's whacked out foliage competition comes from Skyers, a local reader from right here in London Ontario. This is the first time he has entered, which is awesome, because new blood is new and everyone knows that new is always better. Skyers noticed that my rules did not exclude multiple entries and he plans to submit more trees. Bring it, I say. The more trees the foliagy-er, as the popular saying goes. He must really crave the validation of a second-hand rantwick-modified trophy, or maybe he just likes breadcrumbs a lot, like everybody does!
Here's his (first) awesome tree, which he tells me is located behind Fanshawe College somewhere:
Well, I have not received a single entry in my tree contest yet, and I becoming rather worried. I know many of you are still waiting for peak foliage joy-joys, or at least I really hope so.
Here's something to get us started: the official entry of my tree, the soon to be dethroned King of Autumn himself!
He can't win, so he's no threat, except for the fact that he might kick the butt of your puny "winning" entry in votes, sucking all the fun out of winning at all! HAhahahaha! Think I'm over confident? Show me. Send me that devastating tree picture of yours as soon as you have it.
R A N T W I C K
PS - For anyone new to my tree contest, I enter the same tree every year, no matter how good or bad. It is usually pretty good, but thus far has never been as good as the first time I noticed it.
My new winter bike was ready! Ugly tub? Check. New front fender / splash guard kludge? Check. Awesome new studded tires? Check. Lights transferred from Summer bike? Check. Test ride. Uncheck awesome new studded tires... deep sadness.
I got about half a block from home before the tube squirted through this hole and popped in a nice loud way. I thought I must have mounted the tire poorly and suffered a pinch flat at first, but discovered the problem once I had the wheel off. On the up side, I will be able to report / review on chainreactioncycles.com's warranty handling and response time, I guess. I just emailed a warranty form and photo to them today.
Just in case you thought maybe you could blame me for this, you suspicious bastards, I opened the box this tire arrived in with my keys, not a sharp knife, so it weren't not me done this badness.
Now for the filth! I work with computers. I see (as I am sure many of you have seen) computers full of dust bunnies all the time. The following pictures, however, are of the filthiest computer I have ever opened up. Compressed air barely moved some of this stuff. It was gross. So, of course, I thought I would share!
I think the King will be revealed as TARATS first entry this evening... stay tuned for his glorious 2012 debut!
To be honest, I don't really like the video I'm about to post. There's a kind of lameness about it that I can't quite put my finger on. Last night when I made that same observation Mrs. Rantwick said, "well, you worked on it for a couple of hours; you should just post it anyway. It's cute." Mrs. Rantwick being someone who is very seldom wrong, here we are.
I had never seen a raccoon 1) sprint or 2) on open ground in the daytime until one morning last August. Here he (or she) is:
Hey, who knows? Given my often poor understanding of what people like, this may turn out to be my most popular video ever! Which will be great! And sad.
When I bicycle on the paths running along the Thames River here in London Ontario, I often say good morning to those I meet. Not always, though. I'm sure you are familiar with this: When approaching a stranger on foot or on a bike, your gut tells you whether to smile and whether to speak or greet, based on factors like age and gender and other vibes that are largely intangible or unconscious. I probably say good morning to about half of the people I approach. Because I'm on a bicycle rather than on foot, they often don't have enough time to respond; I would say that about one quarter manage to do it in time. I'm working on saying it sooner, but with increased distance comes increased volume, and with increased volume comes increased startle / "you're a freak" assessment factor.
Is it strange that I don't greet people in the same way in the afternoon or evening? Are you the same? I never say "good afternoon" or anything along those lines, or even "Hey" or "How's it goin', eh?". I only greet those I meet in the morning, which I have only just realized. It must be that what optimism and kindness I've got hasn't been stomped out of me yet. Or maybe I'm just tired after work. Let's go with that. It's a little less negative.
On Thursday morning I came across an older guy with an off-leash dog. That doesn't bother me in the least, by the way. If your dog is obedient and predictable, why not? Nicer for the dog, nicer for you, and everybody else should just relax, in my opinion. Unless you are the parent of a baby who smells like bacon. Don't relax then, or ever: If your baby smells like bacon, potential biters are EVERYWHERE and are not limited to dogs, not by a long stretch.
Anyway, that off-leash dog made me slow down more than usual, which is awesome because I recorded the best return "Good Morning!" I have ever received:
That solid, energetic "Good Morning" set the tone for my whole damned day! Thanks, oldish guy! Now, just gotta put in one good day and it's the long Thanksgiving Weekend! Superb.
In last year's Autumn Tree Smackdown I received my first entry on October 12. This year it seems to me the trees in London are peaking a little sooner. The King, for example, is getting close to maximum crimson:
If I can catch him in the right light, I think he's got a good chance of "winning"; although I won't allow myself to win the contest. If he garners the most votes, the runner-up will win the awesome second-hand Rantwick-modified Trophy of Arboreal Distinction naming the tree King Of Autumn, 2012. I have also just decided to throw in a tub of breadcrumbs.
The "real" winner of FARATS (long story) was yellow/orange:
SARATS was won by a well-lit red tree:
What robes will the new King (or Queen) wear as he (or she) ascends the throne? Only time will tell.
Having seen these images, I'll bet you know of a tree that could be a contender. Don't wait! Get out there and get that picture! Hover around that tree, day after day, hoping to get the best damn foliage picture EVER! Or, snap a pic of it on your way by with a crappy old phone while riding your bike over bumps. I don't care! I want submissions, (click here for rules) and I'm getting nervous. I want to beat last year's record of 18 real bad.