Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Blogger's Automatic Spam Detection For Comments

I hate spam comments and the idea that my readers will have to read any because they were nice enough to subscribe to the comments on any of my posts. As such, I make every effort to delete the little suckers the moment I am aware of their presence. Another thing people using the blogger platform (and others, I suspect) can do is turn on moderation for comments on posts more than x days old. Cafiend of Citizen Rider put me on to this, for which I thank him. To do this in blogger (as it looks right now, November 2010), follow this handy diagram and save your changes:

This prevents people who subscribed to comments on one of your posts from receiving email thanks to spam comments made weeks or months later. Good stuff. But what about the time period before your posts become moderated? That's where a fairly new feature in blogger, "Automatic Spam Detection for Comments" comes in. I saw it mentioned on the dashboard for my blog, but didn't give it much thought until recently, when I received this irksome bit of mail in my inbox:

Its nice Blog.affiliate marketing is a web-based marketing practice in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought about by the affiliate’s marketing efforts.

I bet I garnered this flattering "Its nice Blog" comment because I was foolish enough to put "Affiliate Marketing" in the post title. Oh crap, I just used those keywords again! I am less concerned about that today than yesterday. Here's why: I rushed to my blog to destroy the offending comment, only to find that it wasn't there! What? Where was it? Given the title of this post, you know what happened, but it took me a little while to clue in and check the Comments tab in blogger...

This is the first spam comment I have received since the automatic detection was introduced. It would seem that at least in this case, it worked just fine! Thank you, blogger!

Now if they could just add a "dashboard" link for when I'm signed in but viewing the blog, I'll be really happy. I keep clicking "design" just to get to the screens where I can select "dashboard"... not that I'm really complaining. I mean, it's free, for Pete's sake! What have I got to complain about?

Don't Stop Riding Your Bike! Hang on just a little longer...


Monday, November 29, 2010

Loading the 2nd Best Tub in Town - Winter Prep

The time has finally arrived. No snow yet, but the mercury is dipping below freezing on a regular basis. It is time to awaken the mutant. Mutant Winter, I mean. Her bottom bracket sounded like hell (think broken marbles) by the end of last winter. I have swapped it out, replaced the chain, cleaned all the gunk out of the derailleur and she's ready to roll. Except for stocking the 2nd best tub in town.

Here's a little catalogue of what will go in there.

Various batteries that fit my various lights. Especially with some of the super cheap lights that I use, this is important. They can fade to nothing super fast if they are so inclined. pic source

Zipper bags, plastic bags
A decent assortment of these will take care of all kinds of problems, from transporting wet clothes home to protecting your feet from soaked shoes or boots.
pic source

The usual assortment... spare tube, CO2 inflator things (I think I want to switch to a mini hand pump... I can see myself screwing up somehow or other with the CO2 inflator things), hex wrenches, small crescent wrench, etc. I don't even know why I bother. If I flat or suffer some sort of serious mechanical failure, I would either call Mrs. Rantwick for a rescue or throw the bike on the rack of a bus before trying to fix it in sub zero temps. pic source

Spare Socks
Even totally soaked footwear is usable if you have dry socks and plastic bags to put over them. Spare socks can also double as mittens in a pinch.
pic source

An Adorable Little Kitten
It is nice to travel with an adorable little kitten, but panniers or backpacks don't have the room to set up a comfy bed for it. The 2nd best tub in town does. If a motorist causes you to crash or wipe out, they may not care about you, but just watch their faces when you open the tub, carefully draw out this little darling and say, "what were you trying to do, kill my adorable little kitten?" Of course, it might be dead or injured, which will make them feel 10 times worse! Awesome.
pic source

A Big Bottle of Whiskey
If I am using the bike path, there is always the possibility that I will crash and break both my legs while landing squarely on my cell phone, smashing it to bits. If that happens, I am going to need access to a big bottle of whiskey. It will either kill the pain until help arrives or assist me in freezing to death in style. I don't like transporting glass bottles along with the kitten, so I go with a cheap whiskey in a plastic bottle. Using a lovely single malt scotch or something to kill pain is an insult to the whiskey anyway. Note: My bottle of Canadian Whiskey will not say "imported" on it. pic source

A Flare Gun
Once I have consumed the big bottle of whiskey, I will, of course, need something to shoot at the kitten with. Don't worry, I won't hit it.
pic source

Well, that's it! I hope some of you will benefit from my sharing. It is all about the journey, as they say, and I'm glad you are my travelling companions, because nobody else will talk to me for some reason.

Riding in Winter is Awesome. Try it.


PS - If you were enjoying the first half of that post, sorry it went all sideways. I was looking at what I was writing and all I could see was blah blah blah blah blah. There is a ton of good information on winter riding out there without me rambling on about what I pack in the tub. If for some reason you want my specific opinion on something, please ask and I will be happy to help if I can.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday Feeding Frenzy

I have been getting all kinds of emails from my advertisers about Black Friday promotions that I should pass on to my readers (you). Canadians don't really do Black Friday as far as I know. I didn't want to cave in and do too much of that kind of thing, but I went to Donkey Tees and saw that they have a pretty good deal going.

Basically, you buy three things and you get emailed a $20 gift certificate. Most of their T-Shirts are under $20 each and they have a few cycling related ones I thought some of you might dig, including "Ride A Freaking Bike", "I can ride my bike with no handlebars" and "On A Steel Horse I Ride" among others.

Click Here to Check Them Out.

Here endeth my Black Friday promotional activities. I'll be back to my usual programming on Monday.

-3 C this morning. Mutant Winter is getting excited.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Gerber Carnivore Light and How I Changed the World

Hey, remember the Carnivore Light? Well, thanks to the awesome power of this blog and it's followers (now numbering in the tens!), the flashlight's maker, Gerber, has renamed it! I was just surfing around, following up on some old interests of mine when I found this:

A new Carnivore? I was giddy with excitement. Little did I know it would be more of a surprise than I could have dared to dream... the link went to this:

See what happened? I made fun of the name of this light and the company changed the name. I feel drunk with power. I'm sure they would have changed it the day my post came out if they could have, but I understand... you know, inventories, production runs and all that. Flashlight names can't just be changed overnight. What else can I joke about to change the world? This is awesome.

Incidentally, I found it easy to find sites selling Gerber knives and tools (those first links came from one of them), some even kind of representing themselves as the Gerber company, but finding the real Gerber website was a bit of a challenge because they weren't tops in google searches. I don't think they want to be and I think I know why.

Gerber blades, the choice of many hunters, military dudes and outdoors people of all kinds, are a wholly owned brand belonging to a company most famous for their scissors, one of the most trusted names in the hardcore sewing and quilting sector, not to mention being a favourite of xtreme scrapbookers. I'm just guessing here, but I think the people being marketed to with a website like this, using a poster boy like Bear Grylls, may not want their gear to come from the makers of grandma's good sewing scissors. Like I said, just a crazy notion that popped into my head.

Yer Pal,


quilt image from here

PS - There is a slim chance that I am not responsible for the redesign and renaming of that flashlight, but really, what are the odds? Tiny. It had to be me. Right? Right.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Foreseeable Future Features FARATS Fall Foliage Field Finalized

You know, the way we all get busy and time flies at this time of year, the deadline for the First Annual Rantwick Autumn Tree Smackdown entries (Dec 15) will soon be upon us. If you are somebody who considered entering the smackdown and forgot or just someone who hadn't heard about it until now, I want your 2010 Autumn Tree picture. You could win a small amount of one of the very best potable liquids known to our species (the human one, I mean, not the bike or tree freak one).

Since we're getting close I don't want to preview any of the entries for fear of influencing votes, so here are some pictures of Autumn trees from a different angle. This little log jam has been accumulating against the footing of a bridge on one of my commute routes. On a morning featuring a nice mix of Autumn sunlight and available time a few weeks ago, I took these pics (click 'em to see larger versions):

Preceding photographs Copyright © 2010 Rantwick. No Rights Reserved. Do whatever you want with these photographs. Just don't contact me about it, especially if you make money with them somehow. Then I really don't want to know.

I want more FARATS pictures.


I've Switched to Feedburner

For those of you who have subscribed to RANTWICK with my old Subscribe links, you may want to click on the new "Subscribe To This Nonsense" item on the sidebar.

I'm told the feedburner feed is "nicer". I don't subscribe to feeds myself, so I wouldn't know. Perhaps you could let me know if this is a positive, negative or unnoticeable change if you are someone who has been using a feed.

Yer Pal,

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Rare Smart Wino Cat!

My black cat Pumpkin is one of about five truly smart cats in the world, and loves red wine. Mrs. Rantwick and I have long enjoyed the inexpensive red wines of Chili, "Gato Negro" among them...

Pumpkin looks much like this cat and she is the first and only cat we've ever had (and we've had quite a few) with a taste for the grape. She is also abnormally intelligent for a cat. I say "for a cat" because cats are generally stupid.

Cat lovers everywhere are gonna hate me now, but sorry, it's true. Don't get me wrong; I love cats. I love dogs more, but cats are cool. They can be affectionate and warm and pleasant to stroke as though you are a super villain, plus they are easy to care for and don't flip out if you're gone for a couple of days. They are good at convincing humans like me to love and feed them, but I believe that is largely our own doing. Many people believe that cats kind of play "hard to get", which is why we fawn over them. I think the reality is that they simply don't have enough brains to do anything unrelated to their immediate physical needs. They're not aloof or feigning indifference; they just aren't thinking anything at all most of the time.

Anyway, turns out our smart cat Pumpkin, who surprised us by self-teaching herself to "sit" for a treat when she watched us working with the dog, is also a wino. Here's a video... you're gonna want the sound up, because you are also in for a musical treat.

Please know that Mrs. Rantwick had no involvement in the production of that wonderful video. She would never exploit the little Rantwicks or the cat in such a manner. She would never agree with me that cats are stupid either. I, however, am a bad parent who is cool with my children singing along with me about wine drinking cats. For the record, the Rantwick children quite like our creation and had fun doing it and so far Pumpkin sticks to licking the "legs" on the side of the glass and never dips right into the wine. In any case, we would never let her actually drink up. We do love her, after all.

I might post something worth reading sometime soon. Or not. Please come back and check.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Pad Thai from Pho Haven

This Pad Thai is not from Pho Haven. It is just a picture of Pad Thai, origin unknown.

Pad Thai is one of my worst weaknesses. I love it. I crave it pretty much all the time. Good Pad Thai is something to celebrate and eat as often as possible. Pad Thai, by the way, is usually either Chicken or Seafood combined with spicy rice noodles, strips of tofu, bean sprouts and usually a few other vegetables. I have tried several times to make Pad Thai at home. My efforts haven't come close to the quality or deliciousness of good restaurant Pad Thai. I have given up on making it at home because others are just so good at it.

A restaurant called Pho Haven opened up a while ago, specializing in Vietnamese food. Despite being a Vietnamese place, they offer pad thai on their menu. It is way closer to my house than any other good Pad Thai source that I know of. I tried their Pad Thai for the first time last week and it was outstanding, the best I've had in London. The tofu was sliced nice and thin and perfectly prepared, and the veg had a fresh crispness to it that is often lacking.

Ever since I had that Pad Thai from Pho Haven, I have been a little bit obsessed about keeping my supply safe. I have not seen a lot of people eating there in the evenings, despite reading generally good online reviews for the place. Perhaps they do a great lunch or takeout business. I hope so. As we all know, making a go of it in the restaurant business is hard. I am calling on every Londoner who reads this to try Pho Haven. I'm sure most of what they make is great. It is a small, nicely decorated restaurant located near Commissioners and Wellington. It is the kind of place I would happily go on a date; tasteful but not snooty.

Pho Haven
519 686 3838
The good people at Pho Haven have no idea that I am writing this and I have not received any consideration for this review / recommendation. My motivation for asking you to go there is completely selfish. I just don't want the supplier of my personal culinary crack to go away.

Yer Pal,


PS - If anybody is in possession of a good Pad Thai recipe, pass it on. I'll think of it as insurance against a shortage.
PPS (Nov 23 Update) - Hey look, I found a video! This gives an idea of what the restaurant looks like inside. It would seem that they already knew that the Pad Thai was awesome...

Friday, November 19, 2010

RANTWICK's 2010 Christmas List and The Perils of Affiliate Marketing

I am not a greedy man. I am not a rich man. I do, however, find myself wanting things despite the fact that I don't "need" them. My material desires are small compared to many. Nice cars, for example, I am happy to enjoy vicariously through others. In other ways I am a good little consumer who has the requisite well-developed acquisition gland that made the Western World what it is today, for good and for ill.

Most of my itchings to purchase can be rationalized and paid for by yours truly, with no need for xmas listing behaviour. Other things, however, I simply can not jam into a mental framework that allows me to spend the money personally. These things belong on my Christmas List.

I am in something of a quandary this Christmas, because the things I want are also things that are advertised over there >, so if somebody buys me something I will make a small commission on the sale. It was bound to happen, of course, when I started running ads for stuff I liked rather than ads that just appeared based on what content was on my pages without my input, that I would want some of them. I guess this bit is aimed at being open and honest about it. Now, to what I desire!

Here is my Christmas List. Attention, friends, family and anybody else who wants to buy me something, I want:

1) This WWF T-Shirt (size XL)

End of list.

I'm not kidding. I want it bad.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Commuter Cycling and Secure Parking - Bike Tree

Maybe everybody else has already seen this thing, but I hadn't. It really appeals to me somehow. It could be that I'm just an aesthetics junkie, but I think this thing looks great and the way it is powered and operates seems pretty nifty. Seems difficult to scale or steal from too, and your bike is out of the rain. It looks like it has been tried in Geneva. I have zero information on how well it works and if it has been implemented seriously anywhere else.

What do you think? Ever used one?

Nihilism (King Street) Bridge in London Ontario is Open Again!

Writing about this bridge the other day made me want to go see if it was open yet, and it is! You would have to live here to get it, but that little walking bridge being closed was really quite a pain in the ass for a great many people. Now it is finally back and it is better than ever.

It used to be two narrow wooden walkways that made villains out of cyclists that didn't dismount and walk. I was one of them, although most times I wouldn't even try to pass any pedestrians and ride at walking speed. Here's some video of the old bridge, when it was used to make impromptu music...

Then a cocoon was made for it...

So it could emerge sometime recently as something better. A new, wide bridge with all the charm of the old one and then some...

Still wooden, still stick-music ready and nice and wide. It was worth the wait. To all those who worked on it, from planning to execution, thank you. It is great.

Yer Pal,


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rantwick vs. The Pesky Strap - Ortlieb Hack Round 2

The last time I tried to solve a problem nobody else had I failed miserably. To review:

I didn't like using the shoulder strap to hold down the sides of my Ortlieb front roller panniers and didn't need it for my usual daily use. I also felt that doing what a normal person would do, just clicking the sides over the top, worked against the waterproof design of the bag.

So I went out and got items that in my mind would create a new and better way of doing things. It was terrible. A failure. These things happen.

As much as I dislike this whole "FAIL" thing people do online, I figure I am allowed to FAIL myself. I do so partly because since I am not in any way hip, cool or popular, my doing it might spell the end of this irksome activity for all who wish to be so. In addition, this may represent the most cryptic "FAIL" image I have ever seen. I like that.

I know now where my troubles began. I tried to use things I don't love. Like a bird trying to love a nihilist, it just couldn't work. Aluminum crimps? Shock cord? Pull-adjuster things? I do like shock cords, but none of these things can come close to how much I like zip ties, and duct tape, and velcro. I love these things.

You know sometimes people say of certain foods that you can "taste the love"? If I couldn't find a recipe for pannier hack success with this veritable Holy Trinity of MacGyvering goodness, I never would. The solution I came up with is one in which I totally "felt the love" of zip ties. And duct tape. And velcro.

So here's what I did. First, I covered the clicky ends of the pannier top with duct tape.

This created a flat stable surface suitable for the application of velcro. I opted for the prickly side for these.

Next, some small zip ties to prevent the velcro from curling back or trying to un-stick from the clicky things.

Then I tried filling the pannier as full as it go and rolled the top to see where the clicky tabs would land on the side. I then rolled it up empty and checked again. This told me where and how long the velcro "landing strip" should be.

Done. It works great and the pannier is very quick to roll and close with these new velcro tabs.

What remains to be seen is whether the velcro landing strip will curl or un-stick. I don't want to compromise the waterproofiness of the bag by trying to sew it on. That velcro strip stuff is very sticky, so I have high hopes.

Yer Pal,


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ah, That Autumn Morning Light

Steve A of DFW Point-to-Point posted something recently about how the time change brought some welcome sunlight to his morning ride. It made me think about how much I have been enjoying my morning commute rides lately. They have been nicer partly because I've been leaving home a little earlier which leaves me enough time to take lots of path instead of street. It's tough to enjoy the light when riding on the street, but does Autumn morning light combined with a coating of frost, some mist and a river ever make for a sweet, soul-feeding ride. It's like... heaven!

Woah, did you see that? I went into the light for a bit there! I think the graffiti on that cement thing was some sort of ancient spiritual gateway stuff! I sure am glad that I am blessed with so many good reasons to want to stay here with my family and all you fine people, because I think that is what pulled me back to this plane of existence. Be careful this time of year... that Autumn Morning Light might just suck you in, leaving you completely blissed out forever, but your loved ones sorrowful and mystified.

Seriously though, who gets to commute like this other than cyclists? Nobody, that's who. I wish I could convey properly to others what they are missing. At least many of you cycling freaks get where I'm coming from. I think.

Keep Your Wheels on the Ground,


Monday, November 15, 2010

Reading the Signs at Nihilism Bridge

This one bridge near my house seems to be a natural focal point for cool happenings and spray painted messages. I have always liked it, even before the random bridge music. Next, I was sent on a philosophical journey that resulted in me calling it "nihilism bridge" these days. Way back then in early summer, the bridge was being re-built. It has been closed all Summer and may be closed still; I haven't been by lately. At the time I took these photos, it was quite literally shrouded in mystery...

In the near environs of the bridge, spray paint was again at work. First, another message asking me to do stuff:

Unlike "try nihilism", I didn't know how to follow this particular instruction. Since it seemed to involve leaving leaving your shirt behind, I chose not to try too hard to figure it out. I turned my attention to the bridge. That shroud was driving me crazy. What were they doing under there? I wanted to take a closer look, but I found two messages discouraging me from doing so.

Studying these two messages taught me something important. Vertical, hand spray-painted warnings are way more scary than horizontal, prefabricated ones. That's because each type of sign suggests a certain kind of author. The store-bought sign stinks of somebody from Head Office who is mostly concerned about liability and such. If they caught you on the work site, it would probably go down something like this:

If that's the worst that would happen, I just might trespass and take a little look around.

The hand done, vertical sign brings forth images of an entirely different sort. I mean, if I had hopped the fence with the author of "keep out" around, I imagine something like this would have been more likely:

With that image in my head, I decided to just carry on home and stop being so nosey. As I left that neighbourhood, I saw the symbol below painted on the sidewalk. The arrow was pointing into the street. If somebody could tell me what it means, I would appreciate it.

Anyway, that's it for today I guess. Remember, if you want to scare people off with a sign sometime, make the effort to spray-paint it yourself. It works better.

Yer Pal,