Thursday, August 30, 2007

Two Big Years

This site is two years old today. I started it off with no big plans and no expectations. Back then, I had this feeling that my comments on other peoples' sites would give the impression I was a little bit crazy. I decided I wanted people to know that there was a real person behind the comments, so I would start my own blog. What better way is there to show you’re real than to talk to a computer a few times a week?

Since I'm feeling all reflective, I'll say something about the tag line for the site. "Finding Freedom on a Bike". At the time, I was entirely sick of hearing George Bush talk about freedom loving people (the good guys), and freedom haters (no, it's not complicated of course; those are the bad guys). I had this impression this site might turn into a big rantfest against George Bush, so I wanted to make it clear I was a freedom lover in case his employees (or his managers) found this site. They would see the word "freedom" in the corner, and say "Hey, it's no flapping stars and stripes, but he's a freedom lover. No need to worry about this guy." So far, it's been very successful.

There seem to be so many of us who know bikes are something special but are surrounded by people who haven’t yet caught on. Until they do, we’ll be considered "into" bikes, and that’s not such a bad thing.

Thanks for reading, or maybe skimming, and thanks for all the comments. I really appreciate you stopping by. Maybe we even got to meet in real life. Even better. I still find it amazing how people connect through this network.

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Darren J 8/30/2007 11:59:00 a.m. | 6 comments |

Thursday, August 23, 2007


The cottage I was visiting a few weeks ago was missing a way to take care of garbage. It's my wife's family's cottage, and her parents usually bring the waste back to the city or find a nearby dump. I thought it was a good time for me to try building a composter. There's no garden, but the compost can eventually be spread anywhere.

There was a lot of wood available, probably left over from when they built the shed or added a veranda on the cottage. I was able to make the composter without a trip to the store.

Before you make an exact copy, I'll mention a couple things wrong with it. Feel free to point out anything wrong you notice, too. Maybe I'll be able to fix it next time I'm up there.

The design was based on what I could remember from a design online. There were no hinges available, so the roof essentially rests on top. The roof has a frame that slips between the frame of the box. It'll probably be the first point of failure. I'll bring up some straps or hinges next time I visit.

Another thing I did was I used treated wood on the base. Apparently that's not good. (Maybe because the chemicals get in the compost?)

The design is fairly simple, but it took me 2 afternoons to make it. The whole thing is basically a 2 foot cube. It has a solid base, made of 2x6's. 2x2's up the corners. The back wall is made of plywood. The side walls are a combination of plywood and metal window screen. I put some lattice over the screen on one side of the box for purely aesthetic reasons. That's why it looks so fancy.


Darren J 8/23/2007 07:46:00 a.m. | 6 comments |

Monday, August 20, 2007

Long Friday

Friday evening ended with me pushing myself through a freak north headwind as I worked my way up Yonge Street. I had failed to find the memorial ride for Charlie Prinsep after riding all over Cabbagetown and the east end, following some guys on fixies around who were also looking for the group, and hanging around at Jet Fuel Cafe thinking people might return.

Since I heard about Charlie being killed by a driver on the transcanada highway, I've been reading his blog, and getting to know him, in a way. The whole thing is a painfully sad story. He was doing what I think many of us would dream of. And on top of that, as his blog proves, he was obviously a really nice guy, and would have been an interesting guy to know. He clearly had a big impact on a lot of people.

Riding into the city after work, I felt like there was a chance I was going to make it to the memorial ride on time, thanks to a freak north tailwind that was keeping me moving steadily at around 30 km/h. After about 10 minutes, I got a flat. It was my second flat of the ride this evening. As I looked down at my rim that was barely above the asphalt, I remembered what I had just read on Charlie's blog about glueless patches sucking. I didn't want to use one, but I had no choice, and now I'd use one again. The second time it seemed to work, and eventually got me downtown, although half an hour late.

Until I left work, my day was dominated with talking to people about my morning ride in. It was an eventful one. A driver of a minivan hit me while trying to pass me. I won't get into details because it's going to court, but I can give you a summary. A minivan pulls up at a red light behind me. We're on Yonge Street, and the lane is a little bit narrow here. The light turns green. He knows I'm in front of him. After we reach the other side of the intersection, he attempts to pass without changing lanes and hits me with his right side mirror. Fortunately, the mirror folded in, and I managed to avoid falling over. He didn't slow down, but I managed to get his license plate number. I called the police.

The police arrived in about 15 minutes and took my statement. I hear a lot of things about how the police in Toronto don't care about cyclists, but I have to say that my experience was the exact opposite. The police officer (inspector?) was very understanding and concerned about what happened. I would not hesitate to call the police if something like this happens. One thing I'm not sure about is calling 911. I called the non-emergency number, but I think I was routed to an emergency dispatch when I told them what happened.

To be continued (in about a year?) ...

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Darren J 8/20/2007 06:11:00 p.m. | 9 comments |

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Helpless Criminals

There's something so backwards about this.

In the Calgary Herald today, there's a story about people recklessly driving their cars on Alberta roads. Other people on the road, afraid, called the police to complain. The RCMP caught drivers with cars matching the descriptions from the complaints. No one has been charged.

The fact they haven't been charged is surprising since all the cars were very unusual cars: Ferrari and Lamborghini. There are only so many people with these cars, because you have to be both rich enough and stupid enough to buy one. I'm not a lawyer, or a police officer, so maybe I'm missing something needed to press charges.

But I am a reader, and in this case of a reckless, criminal act, the sad part is the way it was reported. and the Calgary Herald have an image taken from a Lamborghini marketing handout with the line below: "With cars this gorgeous, who wouldn't feel tempted to open them up!" Actual marketing content! The Edmonton Sun describes the criminals as "drivers of some hot, luxury sports cars". Hot ... Luxury ... These writers are going to need new keyboards from all the drool they just generated. Focus!

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Darren J 8/14/2007 06:05:00 p.m. | 2 comments |

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Packaging Matters

I'm a sucker for good bit of packaging. I found this beer in a small depanneur where it was stacked in the aisle next to the Molson, Labatt, Coors, and Keiths. (By the way, a depanneur is a Quebec convenience store. I like to learn key words like that so when I speak severely broken french, it sounds like know something. If you're taking notes, try ending most sentences with "la", and starting them with "donc". They don't teach us this valuable stuff in school.)

It's nice to see a place that doesn't restrict itself with ancient laws like Ontario. The result is quite foreign to an Ontarian. Any rural convenience store is expected to have the chocolate bars, ice cream and plumbing supplies, but in Quebec these items are squeezed between and behind stacks of Labatt product higher than my head. It gives me a hint that Ontario's Beer Store is making some money.

I took time off from cycling last week. I was with my wife and some friends up at a cottage (in Quebec, obviously). Some time I'll probably try biking in that area, but the roads don't look very welcoming. Loose gravel, washboards, winding roads with people driving at unbelievable speeds cutting corners. It would probably be better to try to find the snowmobile trail map and use those trails. People love their ATVs there, so I'd have to look out for them, but there's no doubt I'd be able to hear them coming.

I used to ride a snowmobile when I was a teenager, and I remember the routes were like minor highways in some places. There were clear lanes separating each direction, and they could provide relatively direct connections between towns. Perfect for cycling, as long as I used a wide tired bike. The only problem would be the lack of ice covered lakes.

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Darren J 8/08/2007 01:55:00 p.m. | 2 comments |