Friday, October 29, 2010

Flexibility Foils FARATS' Foliage Failure!

It would seem that Tracy's tree from yesterday's post is scaring people away from my contest because they no longer feel that they could win. Well I'm gonna fix that, because I've got two unopened tiny jugs of Jakeman's Canada #1 Extra Light maple syrup.

This stuff is pure joyjoy tree-based goodness, believe me. I will send one to the winner of the voting, and one to a randomly selected non-winner! That means that your tree could totally suck and you could still get a prize! So send me your pictures of lame, wind decimated, diseased or otherwise lacking trees! The FARATS isn't just for the beautiful. It is inclusive and welcoming, like some sort of hippie commune for 2010 foliage pictures. I still don't want pictures of lots of trees, just standouts please. You could always crop out the neighbours of a really good tree among many... slash and burn, baby! It's just pixels!

Chandra was kind enough to send some of those ineligible pics for me to post, so here they are. Thanks Chandra!

I'll post on something other than the FARATS next week, I promise. Enjoy your Halloween, everybody! Yer Pal,


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Another FARATS Entry!

Tracy Wilkins of sent me this link, telling me to take my pick for a FARATS entry. I picked the one featuring a bicycle, of course, although Tracy swears that was an accidental bonus sidewalk salmon. I probably would have chosen it anyway for its pure POW! factor.

Anyway, here's Tracy's entry:

Something else has come up. Chandra of GreenComotion has asked me if he could submit a picture from St. Louis that he took a few years ago. As much as I hate to say no, especially to Chandra, who may be one of the kindest online friends I've got, I'm saying no because I hope to run this contest annually and can't have people showing up with kick-ass pictures from previous years.

That said, I really want to see this photo. Chandra, would you send it in for me to post even though I won't enter it? Please? C'mon, you know you want to...

Thanks to all who have submitted or who plan to... I'm really enjoying this. As you know, it is really all about me. And maple-y goodness.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Encounters with Rantwick, episode fourteen: Squirl, Interrupted

As some of you may recall, squirrels love me, at least compared to cars. Recently, however, I ran afoul of a squirrel who was enjoying a piece of cake. There was no "Hi, cutie pie" this time, as you shall see...

I hope no squirrel and dwarf attack squad has my number now. I am far too big a coward to face such a danger:

I would probably just pee my pants, fall to my knees and beg for my life. Thank God all of this is just in my head. It is, right? Tell me it is.

Whenever you can, let them eat cake.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Life Is So Good

I worry about all kinds of things; work, money, family... I'm as stressed out as many other people. But I stretched out my commute this morning for the first time in ages and it had that excellent brain-tonic effect that I have always been so grateful to cycling for. The weather was perfect, kind of cool-warm-damp-but-not-raining perfect. The path and its surroundings looked beautiful despite half of the leaves being gone. I had other reasons to be in a good mood too... FARATS entries have started to show up!

Before I show you those, though, I want to show you the gift The King bestowed upon me (for my undying allegiance, I suppose) after I paid him a visit and took this photo:

The top 3/4 of The King's branches are now completely bare. Anyway, that sneaky King stuck a leaf on my shoe. Several kilometres away from him, I looked down to find he was still with me:

The King's mark remains stuck to my shoe even as I write this:

Just call me Captain Canada, or Mr. Maple! I have made no effort to keep the leaf on there, but I have been reasonably careful not to dislodge it. I wonder how long it will stay there? I will report diligently on this matter of grave importance, I promise.

Like I said I've got one (possibly two) FARATS entries to show you. The first is from Kokorosashi of
my beautiful machine:

The subject of his email to me was "FARATS entry -- woot!", and here's some info he provided about the tree:

Fall has finally ... finally ... arrived in Kentuckiana. Sadly, my best prospect lost most of its leaves in the course of one gusty night -- so here's my runner-up, from the campus of Indiana University Southeast, just over the river in New Albany, IN, where I go to school.
I believe that what this tree lacks in substance, it makes up in style, with its beautiful dark bark and flame-red leaves :D
Hope you're having a good Fall up there in Canada!

Woot indeed! Thanks, man.

The next picture was not considered an entry by its sender, by I'm thinking I may enter it anyway, because the photo is just so nice. I don't have a copy of the pic to post here, but it can be found by clicking this link. This one was courtesy of Keri from Commute Orlando, who said:

Well, I can't really submit an entry. Our deciduous trees go from green to brown to bare. Some of the maples get a hint of dark red. It's rarely enough to make the entire tree grand, but just for your enjoyment, here's a photo for you.And now I will enjoy autumn vicariously through you :-)

Keri, if you want to enter that picture, I will happily throw it in the mix... faced with very little tree to work with, you sent me something great, and I only stipulated that I didn't want bunches of trees. There's nothing preventing small parts of them from being considered. Think of the maple-y goodness on the line and let me know.

More, I want More!


PS - Having served its purpose, the leaf fell off my shoe at approximately 12:55 PM Eastern. I know because I have been staring at it non-stop ever since clicking the "Publish" button. I'm gonna go find some eye drops; you enjoy your afternoon.

PPS - Keri has indicated that she would be happy to enter her picture in the contest! Here it is!

Friday, October 22, 2010

FARATS News - Timing Is Everything

FARATS, the First Annual Rantwick Autumn Tree Smackdown, is hitting a critical time. The picture you see above is not The King, but it is one of his near neighbours.

As you can see, The King is strong in comparison. What is that almost naked tree? A jester? His Queen? Who knows? Thanks to a windy Fall in most of North America, getting that great shot of a super tree has been challenging (I stole this observation from Cafiend of Citizen Rider). Even The King was hard to get a good picture of, and I was visiting every couple of days. Yesterday it was clear that The King had passed his peak of foliage related glory for this season. Something funky happened to my camera memory and I have no pics, but trust me, he's on his way down for this year. Thank goodness I caught him on what I consider his best day about a week ago.

Brace yourselves, because what follows is my official FARATS entry:

Think you can beat it? To be honest, The King looks good, but I strongly suspect that someone will topple him. In a way, that's good, because I've laid hands on the prize for the winner!

I won't lie... when I located the prize I also bought some for myself. I have tasted it and it is everything I had hoped. Jakeman's has been voted best tasting maple syrup in Canada in recent years and always places in the top ranks of most maple syrup ranker's rankings. So, the prize is a small amount (100 mL, 3.4 fl. oz.) of pure Canada #1 Extra Light maple syrup (click here to see how freaky I am about it) from one of Canada's top producers, located only about 30 minutes from my home of London Ontario.

Don't let the tiny plastic jug (rather than decorative glass) fool you... one thing I have learned about syrup is that light affects it somehow. I forget how, but it does. So there. I purchased this prize right at Jakeman's retail store, amidst (or is it among?) some of the very trees that offered up this divine elixir. I am happy to say that in all the vast variety of tinned, bottled, jarred, candied, ice-wined and other maple-ized products, this was the ONLY one that said "Our very finest" on it. Done deal. I don't like to use crude language on this blog, but I'm sorry, this stuff is the shit.

Tell me, do you want some? Send your best tree picture to rantwick at gmail dawt com (if you don't know what I mean there, you are too stupid to enter my contest no matter how great your tree is) or link to it in the comments on any of my posts. One or just a few trees only in your picture please, since I can't have a whole forest ganging up on The King. Deadline is Dec 15. I'm gonna post pics of entries as they come in, but on Dec 16 a page will go up with all entrants and a way of voting for your favourite. After a voting period ending early in 2011, the winner will receive the aforementioned maple-y awesomeness.

Yer Pal,


PS - Some nice people I know have expressed an interest in sending me pictures of trees that are not official entries for the contest. Bring 'em on! Got an awesome mountainside of foliage madness? I'll post them with pleasure; just not in the official vote for trees post on Dec 16. Knowing this, it would be wise to be very clear that your official entry is indeed your official entry in your email or comment.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Good News! I'm Not Dead!

Wait a sec, good news for most, I should say. There are at least a few drivers out there who enjoy threatening to kill me. They might be OK with my death. I don't like going on and on about the rare jerk face (like the one I met this morning) who threatens me with his or her vehicle, so enough of that.

I'm really only writing this to apologize for my unexpected absence from this space... I am just plain slammed at work and at home right now and don't really know when I'll get back on my blogging horse. The frustrating part for me is that I have lots to write about for a change. Spectacular posts as of yet un-started include:

- prize for Smackdown located, purchased and just waiting to be won!
- another post about nihilism bridge and spray-painted messages
+ a bunch of other stuff I am forgetting

By the time I get to some of these there may be snow on the ground, while the pics and videos will be from Summer and Fall. Ah well, maybe that'll be nice.

Thanks as always for reading, especially in these times with nothing much going on. I'll get back at it soon I hope.
Yer Pal,

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Spandex / Lycra Cycling Apparel - Bring On the Hate

"why all the hate. At least the dude is going green. The funny thing is after many trips to Europe you see tons of bicycle commuters but none of them wear faggoty spandex."

- SuperSexyBoiGod , commenting on the Spandex Commuter vs. Electric Bike video (comment on that I used in an episode of Encounters With Rantwick.

I didn't respond to that one. I was too hurt deep inside to do so, having learned that I had been hateful without knowing it and was also "faggoty". I just crawled under the blankets and wept for a while.

"You are slow despite your best efforts to squeeze your plump body into spandex. This is something no one of your build or stature should ever try to do. The tight clothes aren't going to reduce drag...they're only displaying things to the world that no man, or woman should ever display... Clothing is comfortable but don't go out looking like Lance Armstrong unless you can pull it off."

- Dave, commenting on my How's My Driving sign.

These comments I did respond to, because that was the point of the sign. Click the link to see the whole conversation.

Thanks to comments like these aimed at me and many others on the Internet, I have come to realize that for many people, it isn't the cyclist that brings forth their ire, but rather the spandex he or she is wearing. They seem to hate it even more if you're wearing that stuff and you're not in tip-top shape, and god help you if you are (gasp) overweight. Apparently overweight people like myself have no right to wear it. I know that that most people commute in something other than the tight stuff. For myself, I find a pair of real cycling shorts with a chamois and everything the most comfortable, so that's what I wear. Here is a picture of my faggoty butt:

The thing is, many people also seem to find this pretentious somehow. Out come the "Lance wannabe" slurs and all that stuff without any provocation. I'm riding a bike with fenders and panniers, but apparently I am a Lance wannabe... I can't imagine how often roadies in full racing kit must hear (or read) that expression.

I guess that is one of many nice things about cycling in colder weather. My cold weather cycling pants are snug, but not in the same way as cycling shorts. Besides, in the cold and snow people are less likely to see me and think "look at this fatass Lance wannabe ****ole", they think instead, "look at this insane freak!" Much better.

Are we still tight? I hope so. Yer Pal,


PS - Before I decided to just use my own butt in this post, I tried to google up an image of a fat behind in spandex. I came across many of those images that say "FAIL" on them. I really dislike this whole "FAIL" thing. I mean, who do these people think they are, sitting in judgement "Failing" people they don't know in situations they know nothing about? Who's the bigger failure, people who get caught doing something foolish or looking silly, or people who sit around being nasty to strangers (or worse, "friends") on the Internet for fun?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Crystal Reports has a Canadian Bike Fetish!

For reasons uninteresting to anyone, anywhere, I installed Crystal Reports XI on my computer at work yesterday. While browsing around the folders it created, I came upon this "images" folder that is used by a sample database:

Upon closer inspection, those bikes turned out to be Rocky Mountain bicycles. Rocky Mountain is a cool British Columbia based company here in Canada that has produced some really great mountain bikes, especially in that golden age when Ritchey and others were perfecting the art. Ritchey even worked with them. Rocky Mountain is now owned by a bigger Canadian company, but is still independently operated and still makes great bikes. I got most of the preceding info from Wikipedia.

I'm totally guessing here, but I imagine somebody developed a database and some Crystal Reports to go with it for Rocky Mountain, and then software people talked to bike people about making it the sample database/report thing as a way of free advertising or something, complete with massively long contracts and an abundance of legalese.

What I would rather think, however, is that some software developer working for Business Objects (which owns Crystal Reports which is in turn owned by SAP) is a rabid bike junkie who worked it in to the product with nobody's permission at all. That (while naive) is much more appealing, don't you think?

Yer Pal,


PS - Rocky Mountain must have been an "early adopter" when it came to this Internet nonsense... their URL is! I wonder what that domain name is worth?

PPS - I have received no money or anything from any of the businesses linked to in this post. Actually, I'm a little afraid of some of them.

PPPS - On further inspection, the sample company in Crystal is a fictional one, xTreme bikes or something. Random picture nabbing, Rocky Mountain bicycle lover, or legal arrangement? You decide.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Panniers are Backpack Killers

If my experience is at all representative*, backpack makers must despise rack and pannier makers. I have commuted with panniers for the last couple of years. Recently I had the pleasure of taking my Trek 520 (build update coming soon) to work and back a few times as I tested it out and tweaked some things. The bike has no racks yet and thus can't carry panniers, or as some call them, saddlebags. So, I went back to how I used to do it and strapped on my trusty old backpack.

I didn't like it at all. Here's why:

1) Sweaty Back - Going by all the crap I read, this is perhaps the most popular reason for disliking backpacks and is quite self-explanatory.

2) Shifting Load - I suppose if I had the straps better adjusted, this wouldn't have been a problem, but the backpack also would have bound my jacket even more tightly to my body, exacerbating problem number 1. My backpack shifted around when I was making turns and stuff and I had to compensate by changing my body position a little. I didn't like that.

3) Higher Centre of Gravity - Riding with panniers, I have become accustomed to a very stable bicycle (particularly in the rear) with a nice low centre of gravity. Carrying more weight up high felt pretty weird and less safe, although I suspect I could adjust to this pretty easily if I had to. After all, Mutant Winter's load rides pretty high too (although not as high as a backpack).

4) The Principle of the Thing - Before I used panniers, I wouldn't have had the following thought, but here it is. Given a choice, why would one strap a load to oneself rather than letting the machine carry it? It is kind of like inventing the first wagon and continuing to carry the basket of wheat on your head, or going to the grocery store in your car and carrying the food home on your lap. Machines are supposed to help us out with this kind of thing.

I suspect that people who get a rack and some panniers may never go back to the backpack unless, like me, they have no choice. This is also the reason that if I were a backpack maker, I would hate rack and pannier makers. Thankfully for them there are still lots of people who don't ride bikes often enough to invest in racks and panniers and who will stick to the backpack they use while on foot. Keep the up-tick in utility cyclists going, though, and there could be a rack/pannier vs. backpack showdown, or even shootout! That would be so cool! Oh Crap. I have just been struck by WTF syndrome again:

Ah well. It is what it is.

* In the course of writing posts for this blog, I have come to realize that my experience and reactions and opinions may not be representative of normal people in any way, shape or form. Let me know if I am preaching to the choir or way off base in the comments!

Hey, Take A Load Off.

PS - Please note that I did not mention messenger bags. I have never owned one, so I can't reasonably comment on them. Perhaps you could, though.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Random Acts of Lottery

You know how there are things you ride past every day that catch your eye? Well, there's a sign and item on my regular "late for work" commute route that has been there for a very long time.

I want to buy that plow. I don't own an ATV and probably never will. I guess I just want to put that sign out of its misery. Sadly, I don't have $150 to throw at something don't need or even want. But if I won the Lottery, it would be one of the first things I did with my newfound wealth. I would not, by the way, buy an ATV to go with it. Perhaps I could somehow incorporate it into the decor of my new super cool small neighbourhood pub featuring an abnormally excellent stage and sound system. How about you? Do you have something small and/or weird that you would do with a sudden influx of cash? Just wondering...

Yer Pal,


Friday, October 1, 2010

5 Unrelated Things I Really Like

As we approach Canadian Thanksgiving, my thoughts should be turning to things of true value, like family and love and food to eat, but I'll save that stuff for the actual Thanksgiving Weekend; it wouldn't do to have my priorities straight on days unsanctioned by Church and/or State, would it? For now I'm going to focus on some things I just really like other than the ones that seem to keep coming up around here like bikes and/or bike accessories and trees and/or tree products or the overuse of the phrase "and/or".

Some things are just so much better than others that those lesser things should have a complex. Thankfully they are things, and things can't have complexes or get angry or jealous. If I were one of those lesser things I would have a deep jealous hatred of the following 5 excellent items:

1) Zip Ties

So simple and ingenious and handy. Like a beer drinker with only 6 beers left on the Sunday of Thanksgiving Weekend, I get a little antsy when my zip tie stash gets low.

2) The Tilt-A-Whirl

I laugh uncontrollably on the Tilt-A-Whirl. The older I get, the worse it becomes. My children like taking me on it because they almost never see me that way and I like letting them. When I say uncontrollably, I mean uncontrollably. Once I start I can't stop, and I start on the first good spin. Tears stream down my face. People in line laugh at me. It's fun.

3) Zipper Bags

I use these as parts sorters, camera rain covers, booties, you name it. Cheap. Waterproof. Yep.

4) Suspension Bridges

The bridge pictured above is the Mackinac Bridge. It connects "mainland" Michigan with its Upper Peninsula. I have travelled over it many times on my way from my current home in London Ontario to my family home in Thunder Bay. I think suspension bridges are beautiful, combining form and function, engineering and aesthetics. Seeing a suspension bridge just lifts my spirits, I guess.

5) USB Drives

USB drives are what I think technology should be... straightforward, useful little devices that just make things so much easier. I also like the physicality of them. Plug 'em in, carry them around, plug 'em in somewhere else. Computer files physically moved (rather than transmitted) from one place to another. Old Magic made new. For some unknown BS reason I don't like the phrase "thumb drive" when referring to them. I mean, who cares? I do, it would seem, because I am insane.

Well, that's it. I'm not entirely sure what possessed me to make such a list, but you know, why not? Blogging is good that way. Have an excellent weekend and keep your eyes open for contenders in the Smackdown.

What about you? Got any to add?


PS - I wrote this post on Thursday night. When I scheduled it to be published Friday morning, I noticed that the date was all ones and zeros...

mm/dd/yy - 10/01/10
dd/mm/yy - 01/10/10

Just for kicks,

100110 in binary = 38 in decimal and 26 in hexadecimal.
011010 in binary = 26 in decimal and 1A in hex.

I've become too lazy to do such conversions myself. Isn't the Internet great? No more thinking required. I used this converter.

Those numbers are completely meaningless to me. How about you? Wouldn't it be great if somebody reading this (or a friend) was turning 38 or 26 today? Or perhaps you could reach a little and freak out because today's test is in room 1A or something. Let me know.