Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Away the Camp Road

As noted in my last real post, I am gonna drop off the grid for almost two weeks! Be well, and I'll be back in mid July.
Backing Away from the Keyboard... NOW! R A N T W I C K

Monday, June 28, 2010

Encounters with Rantwick, episode twelve: Kicking the Wagon to Tip the Bucket Fantastic

Euphemisms are fun. Like "kick the bucket" (die) or "fall off the wagon" (start drinking again) or "trip the light fantastic" (dance). Metaphors are also good, like "that Mrs. Rantwick is a gem" or "that RANTWICK is a hog" or "A rose by any other name flocks together". That last one was a mixed metaphor, as you no doubt know. They happen, especially to politicians. Much more rare is the mixed euphemism. Now, you might hear somebody speak a mixed euphemism once in a while, but witnessing one happen out in the world is something else entirely. Last Friday I got to see a crazy mixed euphemism, acted out LIVE! Now I'm gonna make you see it too!

See? She kicked the wagon to tip the bucket fantastic! A LIVE mix of no less than three euphemisms. You don't see one of those every day, no sir! Unless you start coming back to this post every day. Then you would, but you would also be pretty freaky, so don't do that.

There is other business I must take care of now. The Rantwick clan is going on vacation! It feels like it has been forever since we got away. We're going to camp. Not that we will be camping. In my home town of Thunder Bay, Ontario, everybody calls cottages "camps"; as in I'm going out to the camp this weekend. When I was a kid the dirt road to our family camp was so narrow that leaves came in the windows of the car sometimes. These days the road is paved and wide enough for two cars to pass each other pretty safely. I kind of wish it could have stayed the way it is in my childhood memories, but that isn't how things work. In any case, I can't wait to be travelling that road once more with my own kids. We're bringing bikes to ride up and down those hills and twists and turns both familiar and nostalgic; I can't wait.

There's a Scottish euphemism for dying that I learned from reading Iain Banks; "Away the Crow Road". Now I'm gonna mix up a new euphemism of my own... I'll be "Away the Camp Road", my very own brand new euphemism for getting away from it all. Have fun while I'm gone, and I'll be back to announce the winner of the Obstructionist Art contest in mid July.

Yer Pal,


Saturday, June 26, 2010

18 Days in Jail for Taking the Lane

This is the story of my man ChipSeal from Texas. No offense to all my nice Texan cyclist readers (of which there are a few), but if I ever visit Texas, I'll fly there on a plane and drive a car. I pretty much never swear on this blog, but Holy Shit! 18 days in jail, springing from the simple fact that you pissed off some drivers and cops by taking the lane somewhere they didn't figure you should?

Use my donate button. Bail was originally set at $5,000! It was for some form of not attending court charge (I think) that is nonsense because my man ChipSeal craves his day(s) in court. Thank goodness it was dropped to $300 and some good people who know ChipSeal made a trip and got him the **** out of there.

Right now, details are scarce, (latest here) but the big court date is July 29. I will publish more details as I am able. I have passed from disdain to disbelief to speechless consternation on this one. What the hell is going on when a dude like this can get treated this way for riding his bike "wrong"? Grrr.
Yer Pal,

Friday, June 25, 2010

Are You #%^&1n' Kiddin' Me #2

I saw this ad on TV recently. I am heavily skeptical.

Here's something from their website:

"hmm..." and highlighting added by me, in case you're dead stupid.

"Results May Vary" seems to be a popular claim among charlatans. Are you hearing me "Ab Exploder" and "Extenze-a-lator"? Are you? AAARRGGGH.

I can believe claims of attracting more birds than other brands, like by producing the birdseed with a loving approach rather than a nihilistic one, (since birds prefer love over nihilism) or perhaps by using some industrial espionage and installing nihilists as employees for your birdseed producing competition. But 2X as many colourful birds? Wah? Are colourful birds attracted to different foods than their more plain cousins? I suppose it could be possible, but somebody would have to show me the data and methodology on this one.

Maybe it was "leaked" (on purpose, perhaps?) that they were making a commercial that day, so all the colourful and bizarre wanna-be Hollywood bird stars came out like it was America's Birds' Got Talent or something.

Oh man, Wait! What if the birdseed works by poisoning the non-colourful birds? That would be terrible. Attractive birds (and people) already have an advantage over the more typical and/or ugly. Killing off the plain birds just seems like adding insult (i.e. death) to injury to me. I'm sure that isn't how the birdseed works. Maybe that's why I don't see certain cartoons on the air any more. They resulted in grownups like me having unhealthy, strange thoughts.

Alright, enough with my crazy and dark thoughts of death by birdseed. A nice big responsible corporation would never dream of such a thing because big corporations care about us and our winged backyard buddies.

I know I'm going out on a limb with this one; there is a possibility that these claims are correct and there is real science to back them up. Ornithologists professional and amateur, please come to my aid in reducing the incredulity that has prompted me to exclaim, "Are You #%^&1n' Kiddin' Me?" once more.

Yer Pal,


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Minor Updates

Update 1 - I rode with my "How's My Driving?" sign today and yesterday, but not on the weekend or Monday. No responses other than a single "omg wtf lol" as of yet. Mrs. Rantwick thinks the people/cars that see me often may get more curious over time... we shall see.

Update 2 - Time is running out to make a play for $5 in real Canadian Tire money in my Obstructionist Art contest. In hindsight I wouldn't have put the submission deadline so far away (July 1), especially because I am embarking on two weeks of vacation on July 1 and probably won't be touching a computer in that time, so no winner will be announced until July 15... foresight is not a strength of mine.

Update 3 - My Trek 520 build has been dead in the water since powder coating the frame. I did Boeshield the innards of the frame as suggested by Cafiend, knowledgeable bike mech and author of Citizen Rider. I like that Boeshield stuff. I've used it on a few other things lately too. Anyway, I have high hopes of continuing with the Trek 520 build soon, but no promises.

I think that's it. Yer Pal,

Monday, June 21, 2010

Paint and the Battle for my Soul

Given the fact that I often refer to bicycle related road markings as "bike paint", one might imagine that this post is about my love/hate relationship with bike lanes, or, as Kevin was kind enough to make me aware of, the new sharrows that have appeared on Dufferin (on Ridout too, I've now noticed) here in London:

I guess I don't mind a painted reminder that I may co-exist on the roadway with cars, but I don't really need them. Anyway, the real reason for this post has nothing to do with "official" paint, but rather spray painted advice left by unknown philosophers and theologians!

I mentioned this philosophically loaded ride over a week ago, and this is the post that describes the battle for my soul that ensued while I rode it. That particular Friday I had booked the day off and decided to go for a ride, taking the paths leading North that I never take because they have nothing to do with my commute. I avoid these particular paths after work and in the early morning because they are stuffed full of joggers; in general I like joggers because they understand how the path works, but big groups of them slow me down an awful lot despite this fact. On this day, however, I was riding on a weekday, around 9 AM. All those kooky joggers were back at home or arrived at work. Perfect.

As I headed north out of my neighbourhood, I thought I would stop and take a peek at some path/bridge construction that is affecting lots of path riders near downtown:

As you can see I was treated to a pretty cool looking view of some interesting construction in full swing. I could watch this kind of thing all day, and if it weren't for the fact that pudgy middle-aged men wearing spandex aren't among preferred gawkers, I might have. The bridge being worked on is the one featured in this post, which is a big favourite of mine. No stick music until it is back, I guess. As I checked out the scene, I saw the graffiti (highlighted by WAH? above) that would turn my bike ride into a philosophical journey:

Most "Try" statements you read finish with "our new ____" or "Me!" But this "Try" message was so much deeper... Try Nihilism! Wow. I found the fact that the message prompting me to try it was painted on a girder that even under-bridge dwelling weirdos would have trouble finding or seeing if it weren't for the construction very interesting. The fact that I had stumbled upon this message despite its bizarre location made me want to honour it, follow it. I resolved to be a Nihilist until I decided not to be one any more.

What is Nihilism? Although I have a pretty good idea, I'm smart enough not to answer that question without some consultation to protect me from looking like a total moron if I'm wrong... Let's ask Wikipedia!

Nihilism (from the Latin nihil, nothing) is the philosophical doctrine suggesting the negation of one or more meaningful aspects of life. Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value. Moral nihilists assert that morality does not inherently exist, and that any established moral values are abstractly contrived.

Now, I ain't no big thinky-man, but it seems to me that a Nihilist thinks that nothing really matters, including being good or nice. That sounds pretty liberating, don't you think? Always open to new ideas and ready to follow the spray painted advice of strangers, I rode on with a new way of perceiving things, starting with stuff that gets in my way; when being good or nice doesn't matter...

Nihilism was proving not only liberating, but fascinating! Geese respond to it. Old Ladies ignore it. Woah. What could that mean? Well, let's think now... Old Ladies go to Church. Geese do not. Was it a God thing? Nietzsche, a big name in the Nihilism game, was famous for the phrase "God is Dead" and St. Peter's Seminary was on my route...

At this point I was thinking Nihilism kind of sucks and involves random acts of construction. But what to do? Now that I was a Nihilist, how would I manage to care enough to change my modus operandi? Nothing really matters, man, and if I am out of luck in the whole philosophy thing, who cares? Another spray paint theologian, that's who!

So there you have it. Birds prefer Love over Nihilism. Also, love of your fellow humans clears Multi-Use Pathways better than a deep sense of meaninglessness. Go and figure! What a ride. I was spiritually bushed, let me tell you. I might show more caution in following the teachings of the spray paint crowd in future... it can wear a person out.

Watch for the Signs, Man.
PS - As much as this was a post-ride mental construction, the painted messages, places and events of this post are from a single ride and are in their real chronological order, if you believe in that whole "reality" thing.

Friday, June 18, 2010

How Low Can You Go?

Back in late 2008 when I started this blog, one of my earliest posts was about the arrival of London's first ghost bike. It was installed in the memory of Caleb Losier. I could have sworn that first ghost bike disappeared for a while, removed by the City or somebody else at some point, I think. A few months I ago I saw a new bike in its place, or my brain malfunctioned and it was the same bike the whole time; I am uncertain.

Anyway, today I noticed that somebody had stolen the bars, stem and front fork. The wheels are somewhat bent, probably from drunk people kicking it or something. That I can understand. Drunk people do dumb and destructive stuff, or so I have heard. But removing the bars and fork from a ghost bike requires some tools and deep lack of respect for just about everything or a staggeringly special brand of stupidity. I mean, the bike has stuff written on it and sentimental items attached to it. Who the hell would want that stuff after it was painted white anyway?

I am at a loss for words. How Low Can You Go?


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Unexpected Results

Well, yesterday went by without anybody responding to my sign. Here's a picture of it on the bike:

Riding around with that thing on the bike did, however, yield some results, just not the ones I had expected. The first one was that it seemed to me that most drivers were a little more deferential and careful as they overtook me. My feeling was that they suspected a trick of some kind, or were simply reminded that how we both "drove" was important. I expected at least a few to yell out their answers, but that didn't happen.

Secondly, I rode much more responsibly. Far from perfect, I had nonetheless thought that I was riding about as well as I could. I was wrong. I signalled more, waved more, smiled more, and took almost no "grey area" risks or liberties with the rules. That damn sign put me on my very best behaviour. It makes me wonder how everybody would behave if their phone number was displayed on their vehicle...

OK, I know that my Rantwick address isn't exactly my home phone number, but knowing that people may be contacting you regarding your on-road behaviour has a definite effect.

Lastly, I felt like a pretty big weirdo nerd freak. It is one thing to be odd using your blogging alter ego, but quite another to display your strangeness on the streets where you live to both friends strangers who probably won't get you. Some of the comments on yesterday's post comforted me that some people out there appreciated what I was up to, but as I neared home yesterday I saw something near the river behind Labatt's brewery that really put true weirdness into perspective:

That fish and line were simply too far from the bridge or the water for it to have been an accidental thing. I may have to call the City about it, if only because I ride past that spot often and its presence will creep (and gross) me out. I'm hoping a bird or something will take care of it for me.

Anyway, while that image seemed a little surreal and vaguely disturbing to me, it eased my mind about my weirdness. Compared to whoever hung that poor little river fish from a telephone line, I am super normal. A model citizen and psychologically stable dude. Right? Right? Tell me I'm right.

I'm gonna keep using the sign, maybe not every day, but often, in the hopes that sooner or later I'll get a nibble.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Reaching Out to Motorists

ATTENTION PARENTS: The comments on this post contain colourful language that you may not want children to read.

One of the things I find frustrating about cycling stuff online, especially the "educate cyclists and/or motorists" stuff, is that we Internet cyclist types, in the main, debate amongst ourselves on the finer points and rarely seem to reach the people who hate us most, the angry/misinformed motorist.

When people do comment on mainstream newspaper articles and such, the tired old arguments begin anew, with the way over the top, rude and stupid proponents of cycling or motoring turning what could be a good discussion into a big stupid mess.

I'm going to try something. It may not work at all, but if it does, I think it could be kind of cool. I am going to stick this sign on the back of my bike:

I hope some of the motorists who see me will show up here and comment. If they do, it won't be about "those cyclists", it will be about this cyclist and possibly the specifics of how I behave on the road. Now here is the important part, and the reason for this post: If you can't comment on what these people have to say without being COMPLETELY polite and diplomatic, please don't. I have been praised in the past for my diplomacy in responding to comments from people who really disagree with me, and I want to try and get real discussions going, not rude and thoughtless shouting matches.

If someone is being mean or derisive or crude, please don't try to defend me... I will kill them with kindness and can take care of myself if that doesn't work.

Of course, there is an excellent chance that nobody will ever comment on my stupid little sign, in which case I am sorry for having wasted your time and mine yet again.

Wish Me Luck,


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Safety in Loudness

One of the very cool things about riding a fixed gear is that they can be almost perfectly silent. One of the reasons that Monday's post was so late was that I was doing an overdue chain replacement on my fixed gear bike in the early evening. A clean fixed gear with a new chain makes about as much noise as a whispering ghost on Valium, which I can assure you is very quiet indeed. You know how a perfectly tuned geared bicycle can be super quiet as you pedal along? Fixed gears can be even quieter since they have no derailleurs or freewheels of any kind. Thanks to this quietness, I need to take special care to announce myself as I come up behind people on a path, because otherwise I may startle them badly, and startled people jump around in sometimes unexpected ways:

The silence thing scares me when the silence is on the four wheeled side too. A world full of nearly silent electric cars may pose some new risks. I forget whose blog I read it on, but apparently in some parts of the world electric cars are being fitted with noisemakers of some kind for precisely this reason. I rely heavily on my ears when I ride and use my eyes for confirmation when it comes to overtaking traffic.

So far I have used my voice (or human honking) for all of my audible communication needs. I don't really like bells, not sure why. Some cyclists use whistles, but I don't want to ride around clenching anything between my teeth other than a bubble pipe.

Yes, the pipe thing just screams high society style, but unfortunately it doesn't make any noise. Those insanely loud air horns seem like "startle in a can" to me, which I don't want. Maybe I'll just hang some pots and pans from my handlebars...

image source

What freaks me out sometimes is that just about any nonsense I can think of has been photographed and posted online by somebody, somewhere. It reminds one of how many stinkin' people live on this planet. Let's hope we don't all honk at once.

Keep It Cranked,


Monday, June 7, 2010

Bad News - I Am Invain

Alright, it's late Monday, but it is still Monday. I hate posting nothing on Mondays so I am pleased to have something to write about, late or not.

I took last Friday off work to help Mrs. Rantwick get ready for an open air community market / carnival / concert / plant exchange called the Gathering On The Green being held in my neighbourhood the next day. Mrs. Rantwick makes silver jewellery (nice stuff, too) and was gonna set up a table and hawk her wares. Anyway, I had the day off and so did Mrs. Rantwick. She wanted to sleep in a little before we got to work, which was cool with me, because I wanted to take off for a bike ride.

Now, nothing short of a battle for my soul occurred during that ride, but that is for another post when I have more time to write and edit video and stuff. That will happen, hopefully this week, but for now I want to talk about yet another way in which my head is just not right.

Having had a nice (if philosophically demanding) ride, I found I was becoming thirsty. I have never installed a water bottle cage on my fixed gear commuter, because I rarely ride for more than an hour on it and don't really need water. In addition, I usually prefer to stop and drink like a camel rather than drinking while riding. Don't know why. On the odd occasion that I've taken that bike for a longer highway ride I have stashed bottles of water in the panniers for that purpose. So anyway, I pulled into one of those ubiquitous neighbourhood mini-malls that always has a convenience store to get some water, and found this:

apologies for the whacky angles... this was stolen from poorly taken video

A new bike shop I hadn't previously known about! Totally distracted from my water needs, I immediately went inside. It was small but well stocked and carries Salsa bicycles, which I'm not sure I've seen anywhere else in town. I chatted with some guy I presume was the owner, who seemed like a nice dude. Having pulled over for water, a cheap plastic bottle and cage hanging on the wall caught my eye and I bought it. After all, give a man a bottle of water and he drinks for an afternoon, but give a man a water bottle and cage and he searches for places to fill them up for a lifetime!

I departed the store with an empty water bottle and cage stowed in my panniers. I completely forgot to buy any water for my immediate needs and rode home. I guess a rest is as good as a drink.

New stuff being exciting always, I installed the new cage and bottle almost as soon as I got home. As I stepped back to admire my handiwork, I was struck by something:

That bottle and cage looks like it was made to match my built-from-scratch bike! I swear I did not think about that at all when I bought it. This is where the Invain part comes in. I have been riding that bike for about three years and never bothered to get a water bottle cage for it, despite countless opportunities. Then, pretty much on an impulse, I get one, and it turns out to be almost freakishly perfect for the bike.

When one acts without understanding one's motivations, some might classify one as Insane. When one unconsciously matches their water bottle and cage to the graphics and colours of one's bicycle frame, one should be classified as Invain. What is with me, man? Do I subconsciously care about something that minor and superficial? Geez, I hope not. I am a puzzle that I must struggle with daily. Saves me money on Rubik's cubes and crossword books, I guess. Sudoku sucks, by the way. I don't understand why people like it and I always mispronounce and misspell its name.

I had better go before I type any more. I do want you to come back.

PS - Outspokin Cycles is at 994 Huron Street, near Briarhill. They seem like a decent shop, with a focus on MTB. They don't know I wrote this and sure didn't give me any money or anything.
11:49 PM! Holy Cow, talk about cutting it close! It's still Monday, though!