Friday, February 26, 2010

A Bad Case of Crusty Eye

If you came here hoping to hear about or see gross pictures of a crusty human eye, you're pretty weird, man. It would seem that I titled this post like that just so I could insult you when you got here, so I guess I'm pretty weird too. Welcome! This post is really just about my camera, and promises to be very boring, so leave now if you can.

It is a small miracle that the handlebar-mounted camera that I use to get video of my rides continues to work. If there is actual precipitation going on I cover it with my custom waterproof shell:

Many winter days, however, it is out in the open, the better to see you with. Two days ago I took a look at the lens and was surprised how much dried salty stuff was on it. I should have taken a picture of it then, but I just cleaned it off. Upon inspecting my camera lens again this morning, I was once again surprised how dirty it was, especially since I had only taken one short ride to work since cleaning it last:

Dave, could you please remove the crud from my eye? Could you, Dave? I'm afraid I can't do that myself, Dave.

click image to see full size version

That salty crud just floats in the air around traffic when the streets are even a little wet, as they are much of the winter here in London Ontario. I wonder if salty crud road mist is good or bad for my lungs? You know, "salty crud road mist" kind of strikes me as a good band name or Interpretive Dance title or something... I'm going to work out some cool new age music and choreography as soon as I'm finished this post, I think, because as you know high art is what I'm really all about.

Well, I know that if you're reading this sentence that you either found the preceding content fascinating (in which case you are seriously understimulated) or are resenting me for wasting your time, in which case join the club because I resent myself even more. I mean, you only had to read it. I actually spent precious time thinking about and typing it. Hmph. See you later, I hope.

1-2-3, 1-2-3... and step, and turn... cue the Crusty Squirrel King! Yes, yesss...


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

This Just In: Cycling Is Fun

The more time I spend immersed in cycling blog-o-land, the more I learn about how to ride better. Unfortunately, I also learn more about how cyclists are being treated unfairly in this or that place, which bums me out. I also find myself diving into the very complex world of cycling advocacy which, frankly, is a quagmire. Don't get me wrong; I think people working toward what they believe will make things better is important. If you take the time to look into such matters, you learn that there are many conflicting agendas among cycling advocates. In my opinion, the people who seem to be gaining the most ground right now are those interested in separating cyclists from other vehicular traffic. That bums me out too, because I have come to believe, through ongoing experience and careful reading of smart people's work, that I am better off (more safe) as part of the general traffic flow.

Some might say that if that is the case I should join the cause or fight or whatever and make my voice heard. Perhaps a better me would do so. However, I don't. I don't follow local developments and try to shape whatever our planners are cooking up. I don't affiliate myself with any cycling groups at all. This probably indicates that I am just selfish and lazy. All selfish and lazy people have highly developed rationalization skills. Here is my rationalization for not wanting to engage my community in these matters:

I love riding my bike. It brings me joy, soothes the spirit and feeds my soul, if you'll excuse the hippie-speak. Cycling is really Fun. It is fun even when I'm tangling with traffic. I don't want these things I value so highly to be diminished or watered-down by too many thoughts of how things should be. I'm having a great time just the way they are. I don't want every time I saddle up to represent a political act. In a life jam-packed with stuff to get done, I commute on my bike because it is a chance to have some fun, by myself, on the way to work and back.

So, this blog will remain a lightweight in terms of cycling advocacy. I'm finding that writing it and relating with the people who read it very fun too. Maybe someday I'll get burned by my own apathy, get ticketed for good riding practices or be forced to ride in lanes or paths by law. That would suck, for sure, but I guess it is a risk I'm willing to take, because right now, Cycling is Fun.

Yer Pal,


Monday, February 22, 2010

Customizer III - Revenge of the Customizer

I have referred to my customizer a few times on this blog. The first time was when he brought his formidable skills to bear in updating my sunglasses until they were truly cutting edge technology. The second time the customizer worked on my glasses, however, his genius was beyond my grasp and the work he did finished my glasses off entirely, which contributed to me looking silly in public. Believe me, I need no assistance with that kind of thing. It was at that point that I determined, with a heavy heart, that he had gone somewhat mad and I could no longer allow him to work on any of my gear. Months passed in relative peace as the customizer grew more mature. His experiments on household objects came to a near stop.

Recently, however, the tables were turned. My friend had become unkempt and out of control in the grooming department. Drastic action was required and I ended up customizing him. The results were dramatic and his revenge was swift. But enough words. To the Pictures!

Because I am nothing if not a sensitive and considerate person, I immediately starting calling him "Dobby" because, well, he kind of looked like him...

But Dobby the Customizer wasn't going to take this lying down. Oh no. I left a big bag of kitchen garbage within reach (I couldn't have been gone for more than five minutes, I swear) and he customized that thing into oblivion:

That bag of garbage started out on this side of that gate. After some angry yelling, a little deep breathing and a slow count to ten, I cleaned up the mess while the customizer spent a little time outside. Even when he displays his mad proclivities, it is difficult to stay angry with this guy for long. Which is why there is already a sequel to "Customizer III - Revenge of the Customizer"...

Thanks for swinging by. Yer Pal,


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Canada's Pride or Shame?

I'll bet you thought this post would be about the Olympics or Celine Dion or Howie Mandel or something. Despite the fact that Mrs. Rantwick and I are rabid Olympic watchers who despise all music and/or comedy, that is not the case.

You know those familiar radio jingles used to adverstise this or that business? In Canada there is a nation-wide chain of stores called Fabricland. I must admit that I don't know if the jingle is the same out west, but I'm guessing that it is.

Click the link below to hear this outrageous piece of marketing artistry. There is a period of elevator-type music meant for radio commercial voice-overs, but then they hit you with it, like, WHAM!

I don't know if other Canadians share the same malady, but any time a trip to the fabric store comes up, Mrs. Rantwick, myself, one of our two kids or even all four of us may burst into this bizarre 6 syllable song. It's over before we even realize we did it. And we do do it, almost without exception. It's sick. How do you resist something you don't know is coming and is over before you can stop? It is stuck in our heads largely because it is so lame, yet we repeat it in all its lameness almost against our will. It is maddening.

I resent this jingle for wielding this strange power over me and my family. I must ask my fellow Canadians: are we just freaks, alone in our illness, or does it happen to you too? Answer me! I must know!

Yer-er Pal, Yer-er Pal!


Ennis, Texas: Shame On You

Early reports seem to indicate that our man ChipSeal AKA Ennis the Menace has lost his first court case. It would seem that if you are slow, you lose. Wait a sec, you have to be on a bicycle. Then you lose. Otherwise you're good.

I wanted to write something clever and angry, but all I've got is a kind of sullen disappointment going on. Way to go, Ennis Texas. Lookin' good.

Hey ChipSeal: Chin Up, Man. We know you were in the right. Which is why this sucks.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Clergy Spouses Pay Me A Visit

Today is "Family Day" in Ontario Canada and President's Day in the US. As such, I'm not even going to try to do a good post and go do something fun with my family instead. I'm thinking some sliding followed by a movie.

Before I go, I just wanted to comment on something I find cool. Like many bloggers, I keep web stats and can see what pages have linked to mine. A few days ago, I noticed a few visits coming in from a site called Pastors wives? Turns out somebody in their forum had linked to my page on Canadian Milk Bags. It made me curious. Somebody named Shash had left a nice comment on that post and I followed her profile link to find that sure enough, Shash was a Pastor's Wife with a nice blog of her own.

The fact that my blog in all its random mostly cycling related oddness could reach a group comprised of Pastors Wives makes me happy somehow. Although my writing has never been raunchy or expletive-ridden, it was a nice reminder not to sink into that kind of low discourse. Maybe there's hope for me yet.

Yer Pal,


Friday, February 12, 2010

Click Clack: I Ain't Pretty

The click-clack of some cycling shoes or boots is usually mildly annoying or entertaining, depending on your outlook. There are times, however, when those sounds create disappointment or discomfort and even possible revulsion for others.
Allow me to explain. Most mornings I run a little late. Although I have some old runners (sneakers, trainers, whatever) that I keep where I leave my bike at work, I rarely change into them because I'm in a hurry. As a result I click-clack through the office when I arrive and leave most days. When you can see me coming, no problem. But what about when you can't see me, as happens when I leave the office? At this point I think a diagram may help explain:

I think many of you now know where I'm going with this, but just in case, I have created a video to illustrate the problem...

That, by the way, was really me superimposed on that hallway. I'm not sure who I pity more, myself or them. I need to leave myself more time in the morning, I think.
Walk the walk, baby.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sweet and Sour

Frequent visitor and commenter Steve A has described a "line of sweetness" on his blog, which is the line he likes to ride in when taking the lane. I would like to claim that I was experimenting with lane position and taking video like Keri and Mighk did recently, but the truth is that during a mental/riding lapse I discovered what I consider the "line of sourness" yesterday morning on my way to work. I don't normally ride the "line of sourness". I'll show you what happens in a second, but first, a picture to make clear where these lines are:

Steve A's visage used without permission. I hope he's not the litigious type...

As you can see, I wasn't hugging or riding in the gutter at all. What happens when you ride the line of sourness is that most cars see you and straddle lanes to pass. The trouble is that the odd car will try to pass you within the lane. In the video that follows, you'll see how close that can be and hear my reaction, a reaction I must say I'm rather proud of:

Did you hear that? No profanity, reasonably calm. No hand gestures either, by the way. I am getting better at finding my road zen. I have a pretty high tolerance for close passing, but that was too close even for me. Video from the bars makes all cars look close, but that white car had to be about 6 inches away and was moving fast. Cyclists often complain about being "buzzed"; unlike some I'm not convinced it is something most drivers do out of hostility. I think many treat the painted line like a wall, and if their car will fit between me and it, even by a small margin, they will drive through that gap. I wouldn't do it now, of course, but when I was young and stupid, I did it too. It had nothing to do with any animosity toward cyclists and everything to do with an overconfidence in my ability and a desire to go fast.

I don't think it is fair to rant and rave about people doing something I've done myself, whether it was eons ago or not. That's why the arguments made against a "culture of speed" really appeal to me. They attempt to address root causes rather than just calling individual people mean names.

I find the centre of most lanes I use every bit as good as the rest (not usually rough or oily) and for me, that is probably my own personal line of sweetness.

Keep it Sweet,


Monday, February 8, 2010

The Lost Videos - volume 1

Another Monday, another mental blank. I tried digging through some of the pictures I've collected, but I didn't really have any good ones left. So, going with that general idea, I've cobbled together a video out of bits I thought about using in the past, but never did. To be honest, I'm not sure I like it. You probably shouldn't waste your time on it. Then again, you are wasting your time already, so without further ado:

Don't let that daily grind get you down,


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Before and After

I saw an online ad the other day that kind of puzzled me, so I grabbed the image:

Click to enlarge. Don't worry, it's not a real ad, just a picture of one.

Now, I know this is not a weight loss ad. It is about building muscle. Just the same, I thought the "before" was awful close to the "after". I was planning to do a big stupid post in which there would be before and afters of me before and after taking up commuting by bicycle, because the pictures would look very much the same, blah blah blah. As I write this, however, it occurs to me that I was about to make fun of an ad that didn't picture outrageously dramatic results. What does it say about what I (and many others, I suspect) have come to expect from "normal" advertising?

"Before" I started writing this post, I thought I could do something funny. "After" thinking about it, it isn't funny... curious maybe, but not worth getting any more wordy over.

BEFORE you leave, take a moment to think about something that makes you feel good. AFTER that, go ahead and bugger off.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

In A Position to Help

I recently read a blog post from Keri at Commute Orlando in which she describes removing obstructions (garbage cans) from one of the bike lanes she uses. I thought that was nice of her. Coincidentally, I was also able to help others out on my way home today:

I know it looks for all the world like I made a conscious effort to stay out of the shot, but I had forgotten about the camera and when I remembered the video, I fully expected to see myself pushing that car. What's also interesting to me after the fact is that I was helping to obstruct a bike lane! I guess the global karmic balance of bike lane blockage needed to be upheld somehow, so I proceeded to undo Keri's work in my own way.

Cyclists and pedestrians are in a unique position to be helpful. Beyond the ease with which we can just pull over and dismount (or, um, stop and walk in a different direction), we are more likely to respond to the people and things around us because 1) we're not speeding by too fast to react and 2) we're not encased and insulated by a metal box. I am sure the good cycling people who read this blog have all kinds of stories where they were able to help out a little and were more likely to do so thanks to being on a bike. For myself, I most often find myself removing stuff from the roadway, like garbage bags:

I wouldn't have gotten out of my car in the rain. For everyone who stops to help, no matter how you get around, thanks!

Yer Pal,


Monday, February 1, 2010

What's Your Poison?

I have some ideas for blog posts that will take some time to create/compose, but life did not permit me to work on them in time for today. As you may know, I almost always post something on Mondays, even when I've got nothing.

More and more of these Monday posts seem to be about nothing lately, and I apologize. Perhaps I will re-find my blogging stride soon; I sure hope so.

Anyway, while hanging around my house late last night wondering what kind of nothing I would write about for this Monday, I paid a visit to the fridge. Therein lay both my inspiration and my shame, because my eyes seized upon my greatest nemesis when it comes to bizarre/sickening food consumption: maraschino cherries.

image source

I had one and put them back. A few minutes later I swung by again and had three or four more. About ten minutes later I returned and ate the rest. I polished off a 2/3 full jar of maraschino cherries and then drank the sweet syrupy juice that was left in the jar.

I have a sweet tooth, but no other type of food makes me do anything this freakish. Thankfully, it is not a normal thing for the Rantwick household to stock my strange personal poison. Please feel free to go ahead and judge me for my disgusting behaviour. It is, after all, pretty gross. While you're busy wagging a mental finger at me, however, I would be curious to know if any of you have any strange and hard to resist nemesis foods, foods that cause you to deviate from what I am sure are your otherwise completely normal and non-freakish consumption patterns.

I'm almost afraid to ask, but what's the strangest thing you ever pigged out on?

Yer Pal,