Thursday, November 19, 2020

The 2020 Distinguished Gentleman's Ride, that wasn't

 


That's right, at long last I have breaking news to report!

But... you'll have to watch the video.

I mean, this may be the first time ever that I have stooped to click bait. So bear with me.

This episode is about how often life throws curve balls.

What I am now seeing more often on YouTube are creators (influencers?) bearing their souls in the most intimate ways. Casey Neistat, Iz Harris, Johnny Harris, Kylie Flavell, to name a few extremely talented individuals who open themselves for all to see and dare to share their humanity. They are braving the trolls and reaching out to us.

This may be an antidote, a balm, that can sooth us, remind us of the best that we can be, and lift our sights to encourage each of us to reach out and help others.

There is something compelling about that.

For more than four years now we have been bombarded from on high with insensitivity, lies, the lowest of low insults, and way too much deeply inappropriate public behaviour that leaves us feeling adrift in a sea of evil and division.

I feel that there is a growing, gnawing desire for the reverse of that. For truth, compassion, empathy, integrity... the glue that binds our communities, instead of the invective and lies that cut deep into society and sow seeds of distrust that threaten to take root and destroy our peace and prosperity.

There's that, and the Covid-19 pandemic that is literally killing hundreds and hundreds of thousands of good ordinary people, driving distance wedges into our families, and separating us from our best friends, day after day, after day, as we attempt to mitigate the invisible risks that surround us.

This episode explores how a worldwide, socially-distanced, charity motorbike ride fell apart for me under the pressures of the pandemic, then bloomed into an unexpected opportunity to build a friendship.

In an upcoming episode that is already in the works, I plan to dive deeper into the best that we can offer each other. It's a tall order, and I'm not yet sure how to produce something that can be a source of inspiration for me, and for you.

No, it has hardly anything to do with Vespas, or Bromptons, or food, or... stay tuned, and wish me luck.

The music for this episode of Life on two wheels is Minor Blues for Booker by E's Jammy Jams, made available courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library.

Monday, November 2, 2020

My awesome new sit-stand desk



Welcome to my office.

It's awesome!

If you have a home office, and you would like to make your home office more awesome than it already is, this is the episode you have been waiting for.

This is the story of how, after some hesitation - I don't like change any more than any of my fellow primates - I bit the bullet, ditched my very modern and functional metal-and-glass L-shaped desk that served me well for many years, and went for a Progressive sit-stand Corner-Ryzer desk. It's a slice of heaven that maximizes my workspace like nothing I have had before, while giving me the flexibility to work while standing, just as easily as I do sitting.

There is no point in going into too much detail here, because the video pretty much says it all...

Well almost all.

If you pay close attention in the video you will see a couple of little tempting tidbits that went unmentioned.

The trashcan solution 

I have long been an early adopter of technology that makes my life more enjoyable and efficient and I have been adopting and taming computers for a very long time. I was among the very first lawyers (first in my firm, among the first in Canada) to begin using a computer in my practice and I have never looked back. I love what computers have allowed me to accomplish, but I hate, loathe, and despise the sprawling mess of wires that snakes from the computer to monitors, keyboards, mouses, printers, scanners, modems, routers, and all the rest of the digital universe.

Bluetooth and WiFi eliminated a lot of wiring, and iMacs eliminated a bunch of other wires, BUT there are far too many wires still left to corral.

In the video if you pay very close attention you will notice that there is only one wire that tethers my new Progressive desk to the ground. That lone wire is the power cable that goes to the surge suppressing power bar that now lives on the Signum rack. But why does it seem to come out of a trashcan?

That's because it does.


I have been using trashcans for a long time to tame wire messes.

In this case, what you don't see is that there is a power bar in the trashcan. There is a rectangular hole in the bottom back side of the trashcan. The power bar cable exits that hole and plugs into the outlet that is just behind the shredder. The power cable from the shredder, extensions from Ikea cabinet lighting in my book case, the printer, fridge and microwave power cables all enter from the back of the trashcan and plug into the unseen power bar. The power bar cable that comes down from the desk enters from the top of the trashcan and plugs into the trashcan power bar as well. There is enough excess length of cable from the desk to allow the desk to rise to its maximum height of 50 inches. When the desk lowers, that excess cable coils into the trashcan. NO WIRE MESS!

I have used that approach to manage excess wire for many years. 

The other application in our home is in the den next to my office.


This is where the network stuff does its magic. All the wires from this installation, mostly power supply wires and ethernet connections, are corralled and tie-wrapped along the back of this console table, and the excess snakes down in a kind of umbilical cord into the trash can where the power bars, power adapters, and other stuff is all jumbled into a single contained mess in the trashcan.

This approach is the best I have found to solve this messy challenge, short of cutting and splicing custom cables.

In my last real office job, I had a super modern office with a minimal desk on casters. In that case I mounted the trashcan to the bottom of the desk, and a single umbilical cord exited the bottom of the trashcan to connect to power and ethernet receptacles in the floor (the office tower was maximized for cabling so there was a raised modular floor). The umbilical cord was long enough that I was able to move my desk around my office to maximize my workflow, in that case in the horizontal plane.

Now I roam in the vertical plane.

If my office was in a loft space, the Progressive desk can have casters installed, and then I'd be able to roam in three dimensions. How cool would that be? 

The wireless lighting solution

I am as obsessed with room lighting as I am with taming wire messes.

Elsewhere in our home I use Lutron and WeMo stuff, connected to digital bridges that in turn connect to the home network via ethernet and WiFi.

In the office the connected lighting is mostly Ikea. I won't get into the Ikea cast of weird character names for all the devices. Suffice to say that there are bookcase lighting units, bookcase spotlights, and individual lamp bulbs, that all communicate via a bridge to the network, as well as via wireless remote controls.

And that is what those round controls are beside the Progressive desk control thingy.

It's really kind of cool. The remote controls come with a magnetic housing so that you can mount the housing but still pluck the remote off if it is useful to control the lighting from somewhere else.

In this case I have two remotes.

The one nearest to Progressive controller is for the office lighting.


The other one controls an Ikea smart bulb that I have mounted in an inexpensive spotlight housing. I use that for studio lighting. When I'm not recording video in the office, the spotlight is clamped to the desk frame, out of sight.



The extension that powers the light is hidden in my Distinguished Gentleman's Ride helmet that lives for 364 days of the year on the bookcase. The helmet looks cool, but it's uncomfortable, and without doubt not very safe.


With that little exposition, I have no office secrets left to share with you - unless I have to take into account my little inkwell collection, my little library, my little wine fridge, my office tool kits... 

Who knows, I may one day go there.

Here are links to the suppliers and products mentioned in this episode:

The music for this episode of Life on two wheels is Blurry Vision by Corbyn Kites, New Morning by TrackTribe, and Minor Blues for Booker by E's Jammy Jams, all  made available courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library.

Thank you for stopping by!

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Some thoughts...

 We are all in this together.

I don't have anything to share with you that will be all that different from what you are doing, feeling, and coping with.

The good news is that all is still well.

Susan and I are fine, our kids are fine, our grandkids are fine.

My sisters are fine, and their families are fine.

Our friends are fine as well.

Susan and I are blessed with a very nice home, and I am blessed with the ability to work as much or as little as I want.

We can come and go as we please. The other day we were lucky to get high-dose flu shots. Imagine, feeling lucky and privileged to get an injection. I spent years and years of my life dreading needles and basically avoiding them at all costs.

By all accounts it doesn't get much better than this, now does it?

It seems though that a noose is slowly tightening, that the virus is very slowly closing in, step by step, stalking us ever so slowly. Case totals are rising.

I know this because I follow the news. I also know this because since the beginning of this craziness I have been tracking the disease for Canada, Ontario and British Columbia, daily in a spreadsheet.

I have graphs that paint an accurate daily picture of the spread of the disease. Graphs of my making. Graphs that I never see in the newspapers or on TV. I wonder why? it's not rocket science, after all. The data is readily available.

My spreadsheet and my graphs paint a very accurate picture. I knew when we hit the bottom of the first wave before I saw it in the news. I knew we were into a second wave when the folks on the TV were warning that a second wave might be coming. I knew that the first wave hadn't peaked when some people were announcing confidently that the peak had happened.

Having that data comforts me because it means I can see clearly, I can test what I am being told, I know who to trust, and who is untrustworthy. It's like being in a submarine with access to the periscope.

Right now, things are sobering and tense. When the ICUs fill up (not if), things will be considerably darker. It will get potentially much darker even than that. Alarm bells are ringing in Europe. We lag by several months.

I can't imagine how I will feel if the virus strikes one of us, how I will react, how I will cope.

In the meantime we are washing our hands, wearing our masks, keeping our distance. So far that's working for us and for our loved ones. There are no guarantees. That focuses my mind.

I try to find the humour in life. 

I have set some goals to achieve by next spring: so far so good. The real challenge other than staying well, is losing weight. We'll see how I make out with that one. So far I am exercising every weekday. That's a start.

I'm reading Atomic Habits by James Clear.  If that ends up helping me as much as I think it could, I just might be able to declare victory in the coming months.

Today I started cleaning stuff up.

I'm not a packrat, far from it. Susan and I are both disciplined and we don't accumulate things. I plan to cull my closet. It's time that the six or seven (eight?) suits I once rotated be trimmed to two, max. Same thing for anything that doesn't fit, or isn't comfortable. Shoes, shirts, underwear, sweaters... the lot, be gone.

The good news is that there's more than enough right here at home to keep us busy, and hopefully out of trouble.

The big prize waiting in the spring will be our Bromptons. Do you have any idea how many Brompton-related videos I have watched? It's shameful. I think that I know more about Bromptons than some folks who have actually owned one for years.

I am also working on a video about my new sit-stand desk. I have most of the clips edited and sequenced. Now to record the voice-over and mix the audio. It shouldn't take much longer. It's challenging and that's good.

This feels like it felt when I first started blogging. Kind of like being perched on a rock by the shore, looking out to sea. I hope this helps someone, if only by giving you a chance to peer into my mind, share my thoughts.

So long for now.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Running errands in the rain

I last commuted on a Vespa on Friday, July 26, 2015 [Ed.: actually it was on Thunderbird, the loud, obnoxious, Honda ACE 750 cruiser]. Doing a little light math, I started commuting in the spring of 2010 - that's a little over five years as a scooter commuter. As of today, it's been a little over five years since my last commute. I still ride a Vespa. I no longer commute.

What's the point?

Commuting on a Vespa means always having to be prepared.

Always being prepared comes naturally for me: once a Boy Scout, always a Boy Scout, and always being prepared is literally the Boy Scout motto. Thank you Lord Baden-Powell.

That means that even though I am no longer a scooter commuter, the fact that I was once a committed commuter means that I still have all the gear required to be prepared for stuff that can happen when you commute, which includes the stuff that most often goes awry, the weather. If commuting on a Vespa is in your future (Massimo!), check out The Gear Guide.

I still much prefer to ride on nice sunny days. I mean, who doesn't?

This past Thursday when I climbed the stairs for my morning ritual shower in "my" bathroom off the den, I was greeted by the unmistakable sound of rain on the third floor skylights. I can't say I was thrilled, although I have to say that rainy overcast days hold their own special charm.

Definitely not a day when I would be enticed to run errands on my Vespa.

What made Thursday different was that this happened to be the day I had finally booked for the Vespa's annual service at Vespa Toronto West downtown.

Normally I had the service done in the spring, to make sure that the bike started the season on the right note. Because I no longer commute, and with the pandemic sharply curtailing my riding, I let the service slide, until now. With fall well underway, and winter looming, riding is only going to get to be less and fun, and more and more of a chore.

What's a little rain?

In addition to the service date at Lou's shop, I had some excess hardware left over from my office renovation (a video is coming, stay tuned) to return at Lee Valley a little further downtown, and my law firm had some swag promised at our recent semi-annual retreat (yes, a Zoom fiesta this fall), and I thought I'd drop by to save Samantha having to courier the stuff to me.

Off I went, once geared-up. Giddy-up, it's high time.

I can't say that gearing up was fun. It never is for me.

It took me about twenty extra minutes to swap the mid-sized windshield for the winter one, install the Tucano Urbano skirt, and wrestle into the rain jacket I stow in the Vespa's under-seat cargo compartment (Vespa cult members call it the pet carrier - due to the "no pets" warning sticker). Doing all that while waddling around in armoured waterproof pants over heavy duty and equally waterproof riding boots, well let's just say that comfortable and fashionable aren't adjectives that apply. All that gear makes me feel more like an astronaut than a care-free Vespa rider living the dolce vita.

Here's the thing though. Once in the saddle, all that awkwardness instantly disappears, and riding the Vespa feels like I am a gliding along, happy and carefree, even in the rain.

The route was east on highway 401 - sixteen lanes of constant heavy traffic sailing along in the rain at over 100 kilometres an hour - then south onto the slightly slower-paced six-lane Allen Expressway, then further south onto urban thoroughfares the rest of the way to Lou's shop on College street in the downtown west-end. 

In addition to getting the annual service done (thanks Lou!) I picked up a new Vespa coffee mug from Lou's impressive inventory of Vespa lifestyle items, to replace the one I broke when I fumbled it taking it out of the microwave in my office, a month or so back - yes my office has a microwave... doesn't yours?

Here's the deceased black mug, appropriately upside down on my pre-retirement office desk on the eve of a winter vacation to Florida in 2014 - do you remember snow-bird getaways? The iconic Starbucks Lambretta mug on the right is still going strong.

The old mug matched my 2010 black Vespa GTS. The new one is red -  a (Product)RED version - appropriately red like my new GTS.

Speaking of my new GTS, traveling in the rain is much more enjoyable now that I have both traction control and ABS.

This is particularly comforting in Toronto, because once you get downtown, every freaking main street is beset with stupid streetcar tracks. Once the public transit norm in most large cities in Canada and the U.S., including Montreal, only Toronto clung to its streetcar network from the 1890's, including the hideous spiderweb of overhead wires and the sinuous two-wheeled treacherous steel tracks that become even more interesting when they are rain-slicked. Toronto is famously archly conservative, so evolution operates in a low gear here. While the streetcars were state-of-the-art urban infrastructure in Victorian horse-drawn Toronto before the turn of the last century, today I find them embarrassing. 

Oh... and there is a steep price to pay. Toronto's streetcars have their own track-gauge, so new vehicles have to be custom-designed and built at outrageous cost in terms of funds and time.

No, don't talk to me about San Francisco's cute cable-cars, they are adorable and an asset, and have a very limited network. If I were running Toronto, I'd restore the very oldest street cars, ditch the rest, and only run them along Queen Street, plus another connecting circuit down to Queen's Quay and along the waterfront. That would be charming, and a tourist draw. That will NEVER happen.

Calgary's light rail system may also be OK, maybe, though definitely not a tourist magnet.

I know, I know, enough ranting about public transit already!

I ended my errands further south at Samantha's. She snapped a pic after handing me my Caravel swag. I pulled my Covid mask down to reveal a smile. I take masking very seriously.


The ride home was much more direct, and quite a bit wetter, because the rain by then was taking its job more seriously.

East a few blocks to Spadina, south to Lake Shore Boulevard, hop on to the eastbound Gardiner Expressway, over to the Don Valley Parkway, up to the 401 in heavy traffic amid pouring rain and mist churned up by 18-wheelers, then west to Yonge and north on Yonge back home, just south of Finch.

By the time I got home, my gauntlets were getting a little damp-ish, my bum was also a little wet from water that somehow leaked in at a seam when I shifted my weight in the saddle. Other than that I was warm, dry, and thoroughly happy.

Riding is its own reward!

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Everything's coming up Brompton!

 I know, I know!

We don't get our new bikes until the spring!

Speaking of spring, I have a list of Brompton accessories that I want to have. The list is not that long, but guess what's on the list?

That's right... spring(s).

These are clamp springs. They are 3D printed in the U.K. by Steve Wood under the name EZclamp. If you are interested in what they do, this is a link to a video by Victor that explains it in brilliant detail. I ordered them now because the cost was small, the springs are small, and they can live in my desk drawer not bothering anyone until we get the bikes. All other accessories will have to wait patiently. 

Steve cautioned that receiving the springs, that he shipped on the same day I ordered them ten days ago on September 26th, could take weeks and weeks due to the pandemic.

Well, SURPRISE!!! they arrived today.

Turning to my dear friend Peter who mysteriously mentioned about two weeks ago that he was sending Susan and I some "surprises" that we might expect in mid-October... well, SURPRISE!!! Those "surprises” also arrived today. I had no clue what was in the mysterious styrofoam packaging from a source I had never heard of. 

rustle, rustle, wrestle, wrestle, rip, rip...

SURPRISE!!!

From Peter, his and hers Brompton mugs.

Peter thought there was a chance we might recycle them.

Nope! Nope! Nope!

Susan who readily admits she is quite particular about the shape of her mugs, likes them.

Peter, Steve, you guys scored ten out of ten!!!

Here are the springs nestled between our new Brompton mugs:


Sunday, October 4, 2020

... and now the reveal!

 I felt a little silly keeping people in suspense.

Well that ends now.

The answer (Sonja was closest-ish), is that Susan and I have ordered Bromptons.

I realize that for those of you who aren't already familiar, it sounds like we have bought some kind of bespoke rubber boots or umbrellas made in London.

It's true that our Bromptons are in fact being handmade for us in London, but they aren't galoshes or brollies, they're bicycles.

To be more specific (and this may be of interest to those camper-converts among you - which it seems a lot of you are, actually), Brompton only makes one bicycle, in, so they say, hundreds and hundreds of flavours. That means that you can order a Brompton that is best suited to your needs: from Sunday riders, to serious tourers, to world travellers.

How the heck did we stumble on buying Bromptons?

Susan and I have long been walkers. Not speed walkers, but definitely walkers. I once walked so far, on a whim, about nine kilometres, in office shoes, that I overstretched my left arch and it took more than a month to heal. We have walked in London, Geneva, Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Sorrento, Madrid, Athens, Marbella... but mostly in our neighbourhoods in Montreal and Toronto. Usually in the evening, and now in semi-retirement, pleasant afternoon neighbourhood walks.

We keep ourselves busy on neighbourhood walks in a curious way.

We award imaginary prizes to homeowners for curb appeal ranging on a five-point scale from "I really like that, good job", to "yeah, it's not bad", to "meh", to "oh that is hideous", to "bulldozer!"

On an eight-hour drive to Ogunquit many years ago, Susan and I fantasized about starting a reality TV show for hideous homes where Susan bulldozes the most hideous house, and the loser (winning!) gets a brand new home with genuine bourgeois curb appeal.

So we walk and judge; and we judge and walk.

That's got to be healthy on at least a few levels, right?

That's what I thought too.

Well, happenstance upset that apple cart.

It started with a piece in the New York Times in early September: For Successful Aging, Pick Up the Pace or Mix It Up.

It makes sense that running or cycling is going to be healthier than walking, but I was surprised that all our walking wasn't really that helpful. Our judgey fake awards on the other hand did wonders for our self-righteous satisfaction, but... we're never going to be runners and nothing is going to change that.

But cyclists? That got me thinking.

We have two amazing bikes (my Norco, and my father's Specialized bike I inherited {thanks Dad} and the City of Toronto has an amazing expansive network of bike paths.

The paths follow the deep ravines along the Don and Humber rivers and their tributaries, running many winding kilometres from the north, south to Lake Ontario.

It's not that Toronto deserves much urban planning credit.

The ravines are too steep and too narrow to warrant development as anything more than parkland. The closest to urban development the ravines have come is the Don Valley Parkway, some golf courses, and Hogg's Hollow just to the south of us.

And there you have, all at once, the wonder, and the rub.

The closest path to the Don Valley ravine parkland is at Lawrence Park just south and east of Lawrence Avenue and Yonge Street. While that is only six kilometres due south of us, getting there on a bicycle, especially for Susan who has a lot less experience cycling, is very dangerous. Yonge Street is extremely busy with tight lanes, swerving cars, parked cars on both sides of the street... it's even money whether you get hit or 'doored'.

All the other paths are even less accessible, at great distances to the south and west.

That means that it we are going to cycle, have fun doing it, and stay safe, our bikes have to travel with us by car.

We live in a condo development with typical indoor parking. If I install a roof rack for the bikes we have, I know that it is only a question of time before I drive into the garage with the bikes on the roof and damage the overhead door, destroy the bikes, the rack, the massive sunroof and the rest-of-the-roof. Yikes! I can hear the dollars in damages winding up like the spinny things on a Vegas slot machine, and our bank accounts emptying like a cascade of coins but pouring in the wrong direction.

So no roof rack then. Besides, I'd need a crane to get the bikes up there.

That means a hitch carrier.

Sounds easy, but... How many cars do you see driving around with empty hitch carriers hanging off the back? I know that would be us too. And every time we would need to open the hatch there would be frustration and cursing. Not to mention the cost of installing a hitch on Susan's beloved but seven-year-old Beemer X3. I think it requires cosmetic surgery at the dealer. Ouch! And, as much as we both love that car, we have been talking about succession planning lately... definitely not the time to 'invest' in a hitch.

So how the heck do we cycle?

We obviously need folding bikes that will easily fit in the trunk of course!

And that revelation led me to...

In short order I found this gem! A couple who travel in their Smart Car with two, two, two Bromptons in the trunk of their tiny car plus luggage! 


That almost clinched it for me.

Yet how could bikes so tiny, and that triple-jointed, be any good for riding?

And that's when I discovered the many, many, many devoted Brompton cult-followers. I won't link to all of them, just one, Victor Sabioni of the Everyday Cycling YouTube channel because Victor says all there is to say, and all there is to know about Bromptons.

 

Now I was hooked.

But would Susan go along?

If she did, this would be our first real two-wheeled adventure together (Susan has only once been a passenger on my Vespa - and not for want of invitations).

We had been for a walk in the Taylor Creek ravine this summer and I think Susan saw the charm as cyclists of all ages, sizes, abilities, and sexes rolled by.

The real test was whether I could convince Susan to visit Curbside Cycle with me. Curbside Cycle is Toronto's Brompton dealer.

Well... she did, and we did.

Susan was very impressed with what she saw and experienced.

While the Bromptons are in great demand so there is no such thing as inventory, the shop keeps a number of Bromptons as demonstrators and rental bikes. Timm Harding, Curbside's Director of Operations and Bromtpon Guru (a richly-deserved title) was generous with his time and patiently introduced us:

Susan, meet Brompton; Brompton meet Susan...


Susan's mask masks her obvious enthusiasm remarkably well. Suffice to say that by the time we left the shop we had placed our orders: one black lacquer Brompton for me, one bright red Brompton for Susan.

Now we just have to wait patiently until March or April. In the meantime, our specially-ordered Bromptons are booked in the 2021 production run in London.

I was debating whether to mention this... but... in the interest of full-disclosure and transparency, guess where else our two Bromptons will fit, other than in the trunk of our car?

Imagine this next bit in the cadence of Dr. Seuss:
in our front hall closet; 
in our ancient but still-viable Samsonite hard-sided suitcases and from there on a plane to anywhere;
on buses;
on subways;
in an Uber;
in a taxi;
on a boat (even a kayak or a canoe);
under my desk;
under our bed;
in a hotel with the concierge, or in our room;
in an AirBnB in Paris;
on a train to Normandie;
in a shopping mall;
in grocery stores (where folded and with a bag clipped on the front they become shopping carts!);
in our kids' guest bedroom under our bed, in Vancouver;
in a museum at the coat-check;
in a restaurant (not that they're open);
A N D
[drum rolL... DRRRRRRRR!]


All you camper-van and camper-bus addicts, even those of you who may have tiny microscopic restored vintage VW campers, yes two will fit.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Time to transform, again

Get set for what I believe will be another transformative step in my life, and specifically, my life on two wheels.

This is a video-free and photo-free post. A rarity of late.

But this is more about philosophy. About a life well-lived. About my humanity.

Even though images may be worth a thousand words, in this case, I think less may be more. It's complicated, as you'll soon see. Bear with me please.

In large measure, this post is about some things. To be clear(er), some things, not something, or some things.

Things - inanimate objects - are not supposed to be the focus of our lives. At least... not if our goal is to rise from infancy to maturity, and enjoy a life well-lived.

That said, I can definitely point to a few things that transformed my life. They changed the way I relate to the world, and ultimately they defined much of what I am today. These few things helped me to build the part of me that explores, that cherishes independence and freedom.

This post is also about health. My health, and Susan's health.

I'll get the health topic out of the way first, so that we can then focus on fun stuff.

The reality is that I'm getting old.

As I write this, I am 68 years old.

For the past few years, maybe even longer than that, there have been aches and pains. Mostly in my left leg, my knee... no surprise.

When I was young and crazy I skied. Not always very well, or safely. My left knee has suffered sprains, twists, major impacts. So when it acts up, well that's the toll that my youth is taking on the present me. More recently, if I sit or lie for more than a few minutes, when I stand, for a few moments or so I am stiff, and I hobble like... an old man. But... I am an old man, so suck it up, smile, grin, and bear it buttercup!

Back in mid-July I did a stupid thing.

It was pointed out to me in a loving way that the push-ups I do, from the knee, are less than manly.

I have been exercising at least five days a week for the past three years or so. Back five or six years ago I received a gym membership as a gift. When they evaluated my fitness level it turned out that I could only manage two guy-pushups. Pathetic. So now, I naturally wondered, how many of those genuine pushups could I manage today?

I did five. I could have managed a few more, but I stopped. Thankfully.

The next day I had a nagging pain in my left calf. I tore muscles there in my 30's, lifting too many cement garden tiles. I figured it was a strain, and in time would pass.

In mid-September it wasn't getting any better and was actually starting to get somewhat worse.

I went to see a chiropractor. I had a positive experience with chiropractic in 2018 when I messed up my neck as a result of way too much desk work while I took six months to write the Ontario Bar Exams.

This time however, the treatment had the reverse effect. The pain became much, much more severe. No position allowed relief. I couldn't sleep.

After a trip to the E.R., consultations with our family doctor, a cocktail of pain meds, and an ultra-sound, I managed to make it to an appointment with the physiotherapist our doctor strongly recommended.

One session later (at this point I have had four, more to come), I was all but cured.

Not only that, but last Sunday our kids were over. I was sitting in the living room. I got up to get some water in the kitchen. Three steps into the kitchen, I suddenly realized, shocked, that my old-man-stiffness hadn't happened. It's now gone, a thing of my past, no longer in my present!!! 

It turns out that virtually all the aches and pains I had taken as an unavoidable consequence of my advancing age were no longer there.

I have now pledged to make twice-yearly visits to my now-beloved physiotherapist to ensure that slow creeping posture issues are caught and cured before they get a chance to hobble me again.

That's one fascinating transformation. Bit of a fluke really.

Now let's focus on those things.  

A staple ingredient of my past major transformations has been the wheel. Sometimes four, most often only two.

The shiny red single-speed pedal-brake Raleigh I got for my seventh birthday was definitely the first thing. It seemed impossible to ride, until magically one day I could. It transformed me and became the thing that allowed me to explore my world from our freshly-paved driveway, to the freshly-paved roads of our burgeoning suburban subdivision, to the tractor roads, dirt tracks, and trails among the fields and woodlots that seemed to stretch from our front door to the horizon and beyond.

Then there was the ten-speed well-worn, second-hand bike that let me travel well beyond my neighbourhood, literally hundreds and hundreds of kilometres each summer from that same driveway at 7:00 a.m. to my summer factory job, on to Vanier College for evening classes, and back home by 10:00 p.m. or so: 25 kilometres a day, five days a week, from June to August: 1,375 kilometres, for three years. More than 4,000 kilometres in the saddle of that bike.

That was followed in 1973 by my 49cc Velo Solex moped. I wore that bike out, riding back and forth from home to university, and way up north to visit friends.

An 18-speed Norco featherweight road bike is my most recent bicycle. I received it as a gift from my mentor (later my partner) Bernard Reis in 1986. Right now it sits underground on P3, seven stories below my desk, securely chained to a bike stand, its tires long since deflated, unridden for far too long. What a bike though. I rode hundreds of kilometres on that bike too.

Later on in 1993, I purchased the best car I will ever own: my 1989 mid-life-crisis-red Mazda Miata. I rocked that car for 20 years and it never did anything but spark joy until...

... that fateful day in 2010 when my Miata lost the battle for my heart to a second-hand 2006 dragon-red Vespa LX150 motor scooter. Italian beauties nearly always prevail in a battle for your affection, don't you know, but not before the spring, summer, and fall of 2009 when I pedalled close to 1,000 kilometres on Montreal's innovative Bixi bike-share bikes.

It was that 2006 red Vespa that jump-started this blog.

In many ways that was the biggest game changer since that first red Raleigh.

Learning to ride a real motorbike, learning to commute on one, graduating to a black-and-chrome Vespa 300 GTS in 2013, exploring Montreal and its surroundings like never before, road trips to Ottawa, Toronto, State College, Hartford, and Portland, moto-camping, riding in Vancouver, the Tuscan countryside and the Florida Everglades, all of which ultimately led to another dragon-red 2016 Vespa 300 GTS with ABS and traction control just last year.

That bike has already taken me from Montreal to Toronto, to Montreal, and back to Toronto in the short time I have owned it.

As I write this, I now know, with certainty, that my red Vespa GTS will not be the last thing to transform my life.

I may not truly spill the beans for a while.

No, it's not a mobility-scooter, or a walker, although... perish the thought.

This new wonder-thing will definitely not displace my Vespa, that much is crystal clear. The reality is that they will conspire with each other to expand my ability to explore my world to a whole new level. I am very excited. You have no idea.

This time, unlike with all the previous transformative things, Susan will be along for the ride.

Our orders are in, our deposits are down, our spots in the production line are booked, and the clock is ticking.

Did I mention I'm excited? You really have no idea!

I can't wait.

Friday, September 18, 2020

2019 and 2020 Distinguished Gentleman's Ride

 



This is a little like time travel.


This post is like 354 days late, yet simultaneously more timely than I would have thought possible. Like a superhero swooping in at the 11th hour to save the day.

Except I'm no superhero, and saving the day?? Well, it's a tall order.

Sunday, September 27, 2020 is the annual Distinguished Gentleman's Ride.

The Ride is amazing.

Not only is it fun. Not only is it an occasion to dress up and step out. Not only is it a stellar opportunity to join motorcyclists for a great ride. Not only is it a global event that the ride organizers told me will take place this year in thousands of cities the world over (a record)....

... the Gentleman's Ride has raised more than fifteen million dollars to support the treatment and cure of prostate and testicular cancer, and to support suicide prevention.

That's why the DGR, as it's called by insiders, is amazing

So how is this me saving the day?

Ironically the DGR, a powerful worldwide engine promoting health, is, in 2020, largely being pre-empted by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

This year the DGR is billed as a "solo ride".

But just because you can't get together with hundreds of local riders in your community and participate in a head-turning, show-stopping spectacle, doesn't mean you can't be the best version of yourself, donate a little cash to the cause, get suited up in your finest gentleman finery, and hit the road for a couple of hours on Sunday, September 27, 2020.

So here I am, inviting you, twisting your arm ever so gently and politely, and imploring you to Ride!

If you are even slightly unsure or hesitant, check out this episode of the vlog.

Go to www.gentlemansride.com/sponsor, sprinkle some cash, and join me to ride.

I guarantee you won't regret it.

The music for this episode of Life on two wheels is “El Gavilan" by Quincas Moreira and the outro piece is "Minor blues for Booker" by E's Jammy Jams, both tracks made available courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library.

 

Monday, April 27, 2020

The Amazing Ms. Yue



I am thrilled to be able to offer you a 10 minute break from the Coronavirus pandemic disaster.

I have been working on this video for longer than I should admit.

It started last summer when I found out that Stephanie Yue was coming to town. She was about to take her epic blue Vespa adventures to a new continent. She booked a flight for herself and her Vespa out of Toronto bound for Barcelona.

My friend Ed Thomas met Stephanie quite a while before I had the honour, likely in 2015 or perhaps even as early as 2014. Naturally Ed hosted a cozy Serenity kick-off brunch at his Leaside workshop and hideaway.

I set out to meet up with them planning to vlog the party.

At that point in the summer of 2019 my vlogging gear was already challenged and I was still reeling from the Great GoPro Audio Disaster. Undeterred, for this special occasion I fell back on my original vlogging setup involving a dedicated iPod and a Rode lavalier microphone. Unbeknownst to me, there was a break in the Rode microphone cable that was about to cause additional audio mayhem and much, much, much florid cursing.

All of which to say that almost all the audio tracks on the clips from Stephanie's send-off brunch were M.I.A. What to do with the defective footage, what to do???? Ed really was looking forward to the video and I had close to nothing.

I thought, and thought, and thought about it. Should I scrap the footage and write off the mess to experience?

Eventually it occurred to me that making videos is a form of artistic expression. If it was easy, everyone would do it. If the raw materials were defective, it just means that the artist needs to dig deeper and find a viable creative path that makes the best of a bad situation.

That is what I tried hard to do with this episode of the vlog.

You can follow Stephanie Yue's amazing adventures at 250superhero.com.

Stephanie's rider profile is among the other rider profiles on the blog.

Ed's vintage Puch “Twingle” motorcycle has a Wikipedia page here.

The Toronto Moto Scooter Club's meetup page is here.

The music for this episode of Life on two wheels in order of appearance is Gaiety in the Golden Age by Aaron Kenny, Bluebird, and Minor blues for Booker both by E's Jammy Jams, all made available courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library.

Stay safe all, the Coronavirus crisis will one day come to an end. Let's hope we're all here to celebrate when that day comes.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Donald Trump and the Coronavirus



I am a big fan of truth.

I guess that is an occupational inclination. The law firm I first worked in, articled for, and became a partner of, had a rule that turned out to be very rare for law firms generally.

No matter the path you intended to take, you had to litigate for your first five years with the firm. When I factor in the time I spent doing what we students called the "court run" (getting subpoenas issued, filing law suits and motions, examining court records) and my articling period, I racked up close to ten years hanging around the courts.

In that time I faced off with a fair number of lying witnesses. I learned very effective strategies to deal with perjury.

I guess that's how I developed my very low regard for liars.

I'm not talking about kids lying. Often that makes you chuckle and becomes a fond memory.

No. I'm talking about adults who lie to advance their interests at the expense of others.

Donald Trump is the most egregious example of that I have come across in my life, and that's why I hold him in such low regard.

So far his lying ways have proven very successful for him, and difficult for people of integrity to deal with effectively.

Then came the Coronavirus.

It's shaping up to be a massive challenge for governments around the world. The slightest misstep, the merest delay, any momentary uncertainty in selecting a response, allows the exponential beast to blossom and sicken more victims.

It's not a democrat or republican challenge, a capitalist or communist challenge, a white black or brown challenge, an Asian European African or Latin American challenge.

It's a brutal unforgiving scientific challenge. It's immune to lies. You can downplay it, insult it, it just doesn't care.

In many ways it is poetic in delivering to the Trump presidency a custom-made crisis that preys on all of the signature moves of Trump's administration: undermining institutions, denigrating the press, stripping down the organs of government most needed in this kind of crisis. Famously just a few days ago, questioned about his administration's move to dismantle the pandemic preparedness function of the national security council, Trump said "I don't accept any responsibility" and claimed he knew nothing about it.

It's laughable and pathetic. Words fail.

And that led me to the clown tone of this episode.

The music for this episode of Life on two wheels is Twirly Tops by the Green Orbs, and Minor blues for Booker by E's Jammy Jams, both those tracks and the sound effects are made available courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library.

I wish you the best of luck avoiding the virus.

Please remember to keep your distance (two meters, or six feet) from your brothers and sisters.


Saturday, March 14, 2020

Vlogging: iPod or GoPro, OR BOTH?? Welcome to my studio!


This is the episode where you get a better, more technical understanding of what went well, what was challenging, and what was disastrous, with the three vlogging rigs that I use in the production of the Life on two wheels vlog.

The unmentioned ironies in the whole production debacle are...
  • yesterday I had to return the brand new GoPro Hero7 Black that I received in a warranty replacement just a couple of weeks ago... because... there was another issue with the camera's USB-C port. This time it's not the audio, it's the computer interface. Nothing I could do could prompt the camera to connect with my computers and allow me to download clips.
  •   That means having to disassemble the metal cage, unplug the microphone adapter, open the camera, remove the micro-SD card (smaller than a small child's pinky fingernail - amazing that it holds up to 64 Gb of video), plug the micro-card into the standard-size SD card holder, plug that card into a USB SD card reader, plug the USB card reader into the applicable USB hub, then download the video. Way too much complexity, plus constantly fiddling with the temperamental USB-C port on the camera is a recipe for further disaster.
    After an hour or so on the phone with the GoPro support team (by the way, I have been very impressed with their product support) my camera has been shipped back to GoPro for replacement once more. I have been advised that they plan to test the new replacement before shipment to ensure that the port is working properly in every respect. 
  • I discovered to my great chagrin that my lavalier Rode mic broke. There is a break in one of the wires right at the plug. No big deal, I have two other lavaliers with long cords that I can use for future interviews, BUT... I had used that mic with my iPod to record a farewell get-together with Stephanie Yue last summer when she flew off from Toronto to Europe with her Vespa. You guessed it, the audio is buggered all to hell by that mic defect. Now I have to figure out
    • how to break that news to Ed; and
    • how to salvage what I have for an upcoming episode. 
While this video is yet another nerdy vlogging how-to video, with a (hopefully) click-bait-ish thumbnail and intro, I am genuinely enthused (in case it's not clear in the video) with the studio set up.

I love it because I think that using my iMac desktops as studio lighting is such a cool and efficient hack. So many bloggers have massive amounts of gear that turn their studios into virtually single-purpose spaces.

In my case, my studio is a secondary purpose for my home office, whose primary purpose is my law practice hence the books, the computers (MacBook, old iMac, new iMac), printer+scanner, desk lighting, shredder, back-up drives (nicely concealed I might add, I am sure you didn't notice). I actually have a green-screen in the closet that I have tested which can be set up behind my office chair and that allows me to completely eliminate the entire background with a mouse-click.

For an after-thought video production studio it works really, really well for me.

So that's it folks.

I'll be back with something on Stephany's adventure, and on the 2019 Distinguished Gentleman's Ride.

The music for this episode of Life on two wheels is Complicate Ya by Otis MacDonald and Minor blues for Booker by E's Jammy Jams, both tracks made available courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library. The ULANZI V3 Pro Aluminium Vlog Cage with cold shoe and protective housings for the GoPro USBC microphone adapter for Gopro Hero 7 6 and 5 cameras, the Saramonic SR-XM1 microphone, the Comica dead cat windscreen, and the Joby Telepod Pro are all available at, you guessed it, Amazon.

Monday, February 24, 2020

GoPro Clusterffffffail!!!


You'll learn in the video that I have been mired in a video-and-blog-production-free zone since July of last year.

Finally, I can see clearly now (sad 2020 joke). Yet I truly do think that I have found a path back to creativity and production.

The kind of bond you can build with YouTube is really odd.

It is simultaneously insanely public, yet paradoxically intimate. It's like my audience is a massive intimidating horse, but I have learned to whisper in its ear, and it listens patiently and intently. My studio is like the horse's ear.

Well, that's certainly not the most poetic description of YouTube as an artistic platform for mankind, but you get the drift.

This is episode 40 of the vlog.

As I grew progressively sidelined by the course of events, the horse wandered out of its stall, out the proverbial barn door, to become a random distant dot grazing in the meadow. The thought of slipping on a bridle, coaxing it back, and climbing back into the saddle became daunting. It was no longer the horse I knew, the one I whispered to. I began to doubt if I even remembered how to ride, or what its name was.

I can now safely say, if there are others who have lost track of their steeds, that it's akin to riding a bicycle.

My new reality is that I have two purpose-built production facilities, two mounts willing to let me ride shoeless and bareback, lean into their manes, and whisper confidently in their ears.

A studio that you see in the video (actually you can't see behind the scene at all, but it's a dedicated iPod tied to a bunch of other cool stuff), and a new Go Pro designed for roaming (with some special bullet-proof ingenious add-ons protecting the disastrously frail ill-conceived external microphone sub-system).

It all sounds so dry, nerdy, and boring, not at all like thoroughbreds who prance in their stalls and swing their heads out to greet me. And yet there they are, and they are mine.

A source of comfort.

There is still so much to learn, there always is, but I am back in the paddock, at least for now.

It's great to smell the hay.
The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.