Monday, December 28, 2009

Merry Bike Existence

This blog has never been about the details my personal life and never will be. That said, I do have to admit that this Christmas has been one of the most interesting ones ever. If you are a friend or a member of my family and are thinking "oh crap, he's writing about me", rest easy. There have been several kooky aspects to this season and you're just one of them.

I was sitting on my porch, sipping a drink and mulling over all the stuff that has happened this Christmas, when my eyes settled on my bike.

My bike had all the qualities that Christmas for so many (including me) sometimes lacks; simplicity, strength and purpose all rolled up into a machine that brings peace of mind and even joy. I'm going to ride again soon, if only for the brain calming effects.

Knowing that pretty much everybody who reads this blog rides a bike, I'm gonna use this mid-Christmas season post to wish you all a Merry Bike Existence. Bikes love us all year round. Let's take a moment in this hectic season to love them back. They can feel our good vibes y'know.

Yer Pal,


Monday, December 21, 2009

Metridiplomacy: I'm A Celsius Man

Canada began implementing the metric system in 1970, the year after I was born. Metrification, as carried out by a special government body, the Metric Commission, was not welcomed by all Canadians, no sir. It was a long process, and stuff like speed limit signs were in MPH well into the 70s. As such, most Canadians my age are quite fluent in both US and Canadian units of measurement. This is particularly true when it comes to measures of length, since most people here still refer to things like height and weight in feet, inches and pounds.

I have never heard anybody say "wow, it was like getting hit over the head by a 5X10!" (2"= 5.08cm, and 4"= 10.16cm). I wasn't planning on ranting in this post, but that last sentence reminds me of a pet peeve of mine. Why the hell do we and the lumber industry refer to cut lumber in its pre-planed dimensions? After the first time you figure out that a 2X4 is really a 1.5X3.5 it is not that big a deal, but when you are using materials to build or design something, why should you have to remember something like that, huh? I'm really glad bikes aren't made of wood; well, not usually anyway:

Speaking of bikes, American cyclists are probably among the more metriliterate US Citizens, since metric units on bikes and bike components are common. Most Americans, including cyclists, however, are not very likely to use metric in referring to temperature. Temperature is pretty much the only area in which I have been completely metrified. I have difficulty thinking in Fahrenheit. I know that 100F is a stinkin' hot day, and that 32F is freezing point, but otherwise I have to stop and use a converter or table when I write about how cold it was.

The lion's share of visitors to this blog are American, and I want the measurements to be relevant to them, but it is a pain in the butt to do the conversions because math is not a strong suit of mine and I can't do them on the fly in my head. I am no longer going to stop and convert the temps I write about into Fahrenheit, because I am lazy. So: What to do?

I have added the little table on the right so everybody can arrive at a ballpark understanding without having to do conversions. I tried some conversion javascripts out, but then my page warns about scripts when you load it (at least in IE), and I hate that. I only bothered with cold weather temps for now, since I don't refer to temperature much in summer.

C you later,


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Nothing to Report

Thanks to the general madness that is the Holiday Season, I've not been thinking much about the blog or had time to write anything when I did. Knowing that things will only get crazier in the days to come, I'm going to take a Holiday Semi Hiatus from this space. Maybe just post on Mondays like I've said before... anyway, whatever your religious thing or lack thereof, please have an excellent time with the remainder of the year. May you breathe deeply of the joys you find and let the rest just slide off your shoulders.

I won't be surprised if declaring that I won't be posting much results in a bunch of posts, but who knows, maybe it'll stick this time.

Yer Pal,


Monday, December 14, 2009

My Very Best Advice On COLD Weather Cycling

If you are the type to try cycling in winter, you will arrive at a nice mix of clothing, footwear, tires and other stuff without me or anybody else telling you what to do, if you are at all determined. Same for the bike you choose to ride. That said, here's the one thing I would like to share or recommend about cold weather riding: get goggles. You won't know how you did without them if you do.
Clear (unless you only plan to ride in bright conditions) goggles have been by far the best addition to my winter riding getup. They provide a warm and protected place for your eyes, and when you're not crying or feeling your eyes dry out in cold wind, you ride better and enjoy it more.
I use motocross goggles, but I strongly suspect that most winter goggles would be just as good. That is all. It feels very strange refrain from being odd or stupid or overly personal in one of my blog posts, particularly on a Monday... but for a change I have nothing more to say, and since everybody knows what a pair of ski goggles look like, a picture would be superfluous.
Yer Pal,

PS - Doing a post this direct and nonsense-free is killing me. Stay tuned for something extra stupid sometime soon.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Is That A Camera In Your Pants, Or Are You Just A Freakish Mutant?

Hmmm, how to answer... my answer is... Yes! Yesterday afternoon I had a camera in my pants, because I am a freakish mutant. I've been noting the sad fact that I've been riding when it is too dark to get any good video lately. Well yesterday, I managed to get out of work earlier than usual and was pumped about shooting some video again. I had my doubts about the condition of my camera batteries, so I attached the camera to the handlebars but didn't turn it on at first. The same strong west wind that gave me the joy joys on the way in was COLD riding home on the return trip. That's OK, I'll happily pay for a tailwind one way with a headwind in the other; that's only fair.

When I did turn the camera on, the lens/zoom mechanism must have been a little frozen, because it tried to extend, beeped repeatedly and then just closed again. I tried warming the camera in my bare hands, but it behaved the same way. This is where the freakish mutant part comes in.

It is well known that freakish cycling mutants who mount cameras on their bikes love getting that video, even when it is totally boring video, and can't stand to miss the opportunity especially when it has been a few days since they last got their fix. I needed to warm up that camera, so I stuck it down my pants, into the warmest possible position. No one saw me as I rode along warming my camera, which is really too bad, because if you're gonna shove a digital camera down your spandex pants, my bike camera must be among the most flattering models ever made:

Warming that thing in my pants worked like a charm; the lens/zoom recovered! Thanks to some of my unspeakable zones I can now show you the admittedly boring video, which includes some footage of the tree Mother Nature took out just to teach me a lesson. You may notice that I am moving very slowly in some shots... that headwind was a killer.

London usually gets lots of snow. I can't believe we haven't gotten the snow that seemingly everybody else did!


Extra Special Friday PS!

image source: here

I have posted the above image only because 1) it is Friday and 2) I don't trust myself to comment on it in a tasteful fashion. Done. Gone. Whew.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mother Nature Sets Me Straight

You know how I was taunting Mother Nature in my last post? That was a mistake, as is messing with your real Mother. I was hoping to goad her into some good snowfall in my city, but I should have known better. My longtime friend and adversary Mother Nature knew precisely how to hurt me in retribution for my insolence, and it was not with the heavy snow I had hoped for. No, she knew better than to reward the manipulations of a transparent and petulant child with precisely what they desired. Instead, she punished me. If I had thought before I wrote, I would have remembered that Mother Nature has a temper when challenged, as even the advertisers of my childhood knew well...

The morning after my last post on Tuesday, Mother Nature responded to my taunting. Remember, what I was after was snow. As I left the house, I was treated to precisely 2 flashes of lightning and 2 claps of thunder, which are pretty damn rare in London Ontario in December. It was as though she wanted me to know that she, and not chance, was at work.

She gave me 0 degrees C, a strong headwind and lots of cold, cold rain. It was miserable by almost any standard. My gear, while pretty good in rain, was no match for what she laid on me. I was soaked. One of the beauties of cycling, however, is that so long as you are working, you remain reasonably warm. My goggles were a godsend and freak that I am, I quite enjoyed my gnarly ride.

If there was any doubt that Mother Nature was at work, it vanished in the afternoon as the strong East winds I battled in the morning changed to even stronger West winds for me to fight on the way home. She tried to knock me down with the wind several times, but was unsuccessful. My best guess is that she was accustomed to knocking over thin, fit roadies rather than a 200+ lb man riding Mutant Winter. I came away from my PM commute energized by the fight and ready for more, so much so that I considered writing an open letter to Mother Nature here on RANTWICK, telling her she had been unsuccessful in keeping me off the bike, and that I had enjoyed the cold, wet and wind because I am a masochistic freak. I was tired and went to bed instead.

This morning it was -5 C, with the wind still strong out of the west. An inch or so of snow had fallen overnight, but it was the nice light, blowing kind. I thought my ride complete with beautiful tailwind was a sign that she had given up on trying to punish me. Sadly, not long into my ride I discovered that Mother Nature, like a thug who knows their enemy will not be broken, had lashed out at something I loved instead:

The tree pictured above was a favourite of mine. It used to make that sharp corner of the bike path extra interesting by sprinkling it with pine cones that could wipe you out if you weren't careful. As you can see, it was kind of on its own, a landmark tree along the path. I liked that particular tree quite a lot. Mother Nature took it down:

The destruction of that tree bummed me out, and took some of the fun out of the remainder of my ride. Much like a parent who has meted out some stern justice, however, Mother Nature followed it up with a little tenderness, reminding me of how magical she can be.

The ride included several of those wondrous moments when you are riding with a stiff tailwind and your speed matches that of the wind precisely. The air seems as still as it would be in your living room despite the fact that you are moving fast, which is just so cool. Throw in some light snow cover unspoiled by the track of any other foot or wheel with just a few ice patches, and it was great. If it had not been tainted by the sadness of losing such a great tree, it would have been as close to a perfect winter ride as I have ever experienced.

It was too dark to get any good video, which kind of sucks, but snippets of video are incapable of conveying how good Winter riding can feel anyway. If you haven't tried it, take a few steps to keep your important bits warm and give it a shot. There is an excellent chance that you will love it, maybe even as much as I do.

Man I Love My Bike.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I'm A Patient Man, but A R I Z O N A ?

Take a look at the lack of weather occurring in downtown London Ontario as I write this, from live webcams I took a screen shot of. We have had tantalizing little flurries that didn't add up to anything, but as you can see, no snow worth mentioning.

I have been eagerly awaiting snow and winter riding for 2 MONTHS, as evidenced by this post. It is common for London Ontario get some real snow in November, but this year, nothing yet. For some mysterious reason some of my most regular readers are from the Southern United States, and I have been dying to deliver some sweet unspoiled snowy bike path video among other things. Instead, I get to watch this:

image links to video on CNN , sorry it starts with a commercial.

Now, I can handle being out-snowed by places in the Northeast and Midwest of the USA, but ARIZONA, complete with video of people on bicycles? GAAH! At least that dude looked pretty miserable. How am I supposed to play the Canuck Card this way? It is Maddening I Tell You, Maddening!

What is it Mother Nature, huh? Is it because I ENJOY tangling with you every winter? Are you punishing me? You are a selfish, insensitive little... besides, I thought you kind of enjoyed our crabby relationship, as I do. In any case, enough with the passive, my quarrelsome darling; bring on the aggressive. There is snow in the forecast. I DARE you, Mother Nature, to show me what you've got. I'm not afraid of you. Bring it on, ya little wimp.

Hoping I don't get struck by lightning and carried off into the upper atmosphere in a freakish blizzardicane of vengeance and fury, I remain Yer Pal,

PS - One of my many knowledgeable readers filled me in on the fact that Flagstaff AZ is way above sea level and gets snow normally. Oops! Mother Nature, please know that my challenge still stands despite my inattention to detail.

Monday, December 7, 2009

No Matter How You Say It

Products intended for use on your nether regions have names that sound stupid or weird. I suppose that is a simple function of trying to name something nobody wants to talk about. Let's take a quick look at the ones aimed at cyclists. I've never used any of these products and I hope I never have to. I'm not really interested in which ones work best or anything like that (I suppose I will be if I ever need the stuff); a recent discovery that I'll get to in a minute has sent me into this review of the funky names.

DZ Nuts - Dave Zabriskie's chamois cream. Somebody naming a product after their own nethers has got to be a sign that naming such items is difficult. The fact that people are quite willing and able to use something named after somebody else's junk is puzzling to me.

Beljum Hard Core Budder - Perhaps the suggestion that the product is "Hard Core" makes people feel a little tougher or serious about cycling or whatever. I don't know. I do know that applying this stuff would not make me feel all Marlboro Man though.

Chamois Butt'r Eurostyle - Word play on Butt and Butter. I guess it helps avoid the distasteful notion of applying foodstuffs to your privates. I wonder what makes it "Eurostyle"? European styling helps to sell all kinds of things, I suppose. I guess anything that makes such substances seem more cultured or refined helps people forget the ugly truth of its purpose.

Assos Chamois Creme - Assos decided to just play it straight, since any word play combined with their unfortunate company name would probably just result in something unsellable.

Betwixt - I think this is perhaps the classiest name for such things that I found in my brief search. Kudos to whoever came up with this subtle and simple name.

Like I said earlier, I (or more accurately, my 8 year old son) made a discovery at a local drug store recently that got me thinking about the difficulties of naming such things. Mrs. Rantwick and I were looking at something else when our boy exclaimed "hey, look at the Anti Monkey Butt!" We began shushing him and were preparing to scold him for his crude turn of phrase when we followed his pointing finger to this:

What can I say, the kid has an eye for intriguing products. Mrs. Rantwick and I, being the lovers of all things odd that we are, immediately scooped up the 4 containers available on the shelf, because nothing says Merry Christmas to friends and family like a $6 bottle of Anti Monkey Butt. My Mom is gonna love it.

While not strictly for cycling and a powder rather than a cream, Anti Monkey Butt lists cycling as one of its best uses. Being curious about which company might use such cutting edge marketing, I checked the small print on the label. I didn't get the satisfaction of linking Anti Monkey Butt to some big manufacturer; I got something better. It is produced by Anti Monkey Butt Corp. I went to their website and found some excellent and bizarre stuff, including videos! Check them out: Video 1 Video 2. I love this company. They are obviously being funny as a method of marketing their hard to market product, but what I like best is that they aren't trying to be cool in any way. They are the reverse of cool, which is cool.

I guess I should state for the record that I am not affiliated with Anti Monkey Butt Corp, and that I have received absolutely nothing in return for posting about their product. I also have no idea if the stuff works. I just like the approach. It speaks directly to my inner 8 year old, and managed to do so directly through my actual 8 year old!

If you live in London, please don't go buy all the Anti Monkey Butt you can find. That's my plan.

PS - For those of you about to comment about the prevention of saddle sores being very important to competitive or long-range cyclists and no laughing matter, etc., I know. I just wanted a cycling-related way to introduce my discovery of Anti Monkey Butt, so forgive me.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Encounters with Rantwick, episode ten: Industrial Bright And Tragic

My cycling specific garb for winter riding has been joined by several bits of industrial work wear lately, three bits to be precise. One thing I've begun wearing only recently is a pair of clear safety glasses:

I really like my clear goggles for cold weather riding, but that's the problem. This year it has become dark during my commute without becoming cold enough to warrant the goggles, which can be quite warm when you're working much. So, I tried the clear safety glasses, and I must say I quite like them.

The next item is one that I haven't really felt the need to use until recently. My work has had me commute to some new and different locations lately, some of which force me to ride on some roads that most sensible cyclists would rather avoid. I wasn't feeling quite visible enough some of the time on these roads, so I added a reflective vest to my usual getup:

I must say that I like what the vest does, but I hate wearing it. It makes me feel like a nerd, which is totally stupid because Mutant Winter with her pink cables and plastic tub have already completely established that I AM a nerd, so why should I care? Perhaps I attach more importance to clothing; after all "clothes make the man", right? If that's true, do "gloves make the hands"?

I've never really believed that specialty mitts or gloves, like "lobster claws" and stuff like that were necessary for winter riding, as evidenced by the stuff I was forced to retire thanks to being worn out:

I've only had those $5 gloves for about a month! I must have super strong thumbs. Damn video games!

I came across my replacements when I was at a work wear place buying jeans. I am really excited about these (not a nerd. right.) because they may well be the perfect winter cycling glove despite the fact that they were not designed for the purpose:

They are fuzzy on the inside, the backs are a knit material and the palms and fingers are rubberized. They are extremely grippy on the handlebars regardless of weather conditions. Last but not least, they are really hi-vis! I have read Steve A and others talk about lights to make wrists or hands visible so that their signals don't get missed; these wouldn't do in the summer of course, but in the dark of winter when these things might matter most, I think they are a pretty darn good solution. Last but not least, they were $16. But never mind all that. These things make me look cool, because they make my hands and fingers look like those of Master Shake:

If you don't know who Master Shake is, shame on you. You are so un-cool. I didn't know who he was either, but a young colleague of mine said my hands looked like his in those gloves, so I looked him up. I don't get the channel needed to watch Aqua Teen Hunger Force, but I really wish I did... it seems like my kind of strangeness.

OK, where was I? Ah yes, I was stylin' in my industrial evolution:

So, I am Industrial Bright and lookin' special. Where's the Tragic? I was in my full industrial bright splendour when the following occurred:

The tragedy lies not in the fact that the truck driver didn't like me being where I was and using his air horn. The tragedy is that for reasons I can't explain, I lost my temper and flipped him off very clearly with my new hi-vis finger held high for his rear-view mirror. He didn't miss that signal, because he touched his brakes for no reason while I did it, like he might stop for a chat. I know lots of cyclists would consider that pretty normal, but it isn't for me. That was the first time in my many years of driving and cycling that I have ever given someone the bird, and therein lies the tragedy. I pride myself on keeping my cool and refraining from reacting to stuff like that dude's air horn. Civility is important and as my Mother would say, two wrongs don't make a right.

Keep Yer Cool. Until Next Time,


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hell No, Mo Won't Go!

I've come to quite like my Mo, mostly because Mrs. Rantwick does too, so I'm gonna keep it for a while. Movember is over. If you are one of those people who thought, yeah, I should donate to Rantwick (Patrick), this is your last chance. Click here to visit my Mo Donation page before it is too late! It is a completely secure donation site run by a legitimate charity, and you'll get a receipt for tax purposes you can print right away since you'll be using your credit card. I'm the team captain, but other people on the team are kicking my butt! Help me save face, please!

Here is the last Mo update picture you will see until Movember 2010.

Thanks for putting up with my Mo promotions this last month, and see you again next year!


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Something I Couldn't Do

I'm working on a post about some funky new stuff I've been wearing on the bike that will prove without a doubt that I no longer care very much about how I look. Wait, that's wrong. If I didn't care, I wouldn't write about it. Let's say instead that increasingly, function trumps form when it comes to my choices. Sadly, that means I look a little more freakish with each new development. Thank goodness I'm not single and looking... my prospects would be grim. Not as grim, though, as they would be if I were sporting one of these:

image source:

That is Something Even I Just Couldn't Do.


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.


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...


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,


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,


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?


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!


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,

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I've Got a Question

image source:

I recently read a post on 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.


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,


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!


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.