Sunday, June 30, 2024

Test driving the Metmo Pocket Driver, for real!

A while back, just a tad more than a year ago, I posted a narrative about what I consider to be cool tools.

I just went back to take stock of that episode, and I liked what I said back then, so I'll repeat that here:

I said that I thought cool tools were "tools that fit their purpose to perfection. Tools that take very little room, yet are reliably there when they are needed, but otherwise, are all but invisible. That is my definition of cool tools."

The tools that I covered in that post were my Leatherman Wave multitool, my Brompton tool, and a tool I didn't even have at that time, the MetMo Pocket Driver.

Here we are a year later, and, guess what?

You are 100% correct. I now actually have that MetMo Pocket Driver.

Sean Sykes, the founder of MetMo, and a U.K. serial entrepreneur, reached out to me to see if I would be willing to do a hands-on review of the MetMo Pocket Driver. He offered to send me one if I was inclined to participate and give him a hand.

As you can imagine, I quickly agreed.

About two weeks ago, the MetMo Pocket Driver landed on my doorstep.

No sooner than I had it in my hot little hands, I had to skip town for a series of important meetings in Montreal and Ottawa.

Predictably, when I got home, all the stuff that has to take priority in my professional life was somewhat backed-up and screaming for attention. One more week later, and I was finally focused on sharing my impressions of this little wonder of a pocket-sized ratchet driver.

I may have been focused, but wasn't even close to focused on how I might actually use the MetMo Pocket Driver in a way you would find entertaining, or useful.

Fortunately our cleaning lady came to the rescue.

When she cleans, she CLEANS!

Of course it's beyond unfair and inappropriate for me to blame our excellent cleaning lady for my admittedly complex home lighting setup going awry. Some of my wiring, done years back, clearly lent itself to being vacuumed out of commission.

Last weekend I vowed to rethink, and re-do the wiring.

I moved that large glass curio cabinet in the living room, got in behind that to access the wiring.

Then I crawled under that sideboard in the dining room to access the wiring there; in both those very tight places I re-thought, re-ordered, and re-routed the wiring supporting the lighting and the semi-wireless wireless speakers.

Ha! That's funny... my "wireless" speakers have... wires! Well, they have electrical supply wires. The data that drives them is, in fact, thankfully, completely wireless.

One of the challenges I faced was that the wire management device under the dining room sideboard relied on a self-sticky pad-thing. Not surprisingly, it had become unstuck. Easy fix: the device was designed to take a screw, it just needed to be screwed in.

It was quite an awkward thing to do.

It was one of those jobs that would have been a snap if I had been willing to empty the sideboard of all its fine china, glass, crystal, and silver entertaining stuff, turn the sideboard upside down and screw in the wire management device, after having drilled a perfect guide hole for the screw.

Right! You know that wasn't going to happen. 

Just wedge yourself under the sideboard and drive in that screw you moron!

Drill a guide hole? Ya, no! Just barely space for me, but not for me and a drill.

Just take the Phillips screw, and drive it in there, why don't you?

After quite a few pathetic failed attempts with a screwdriver, and some salty cursing, I gave up on that. 

Empty the sideboard? Hell no!

And that was when my new MetMo Pocket Driver wiggled itself into my consciousness. Might that little wonder do the trick, as its inventor claims?

The MetMo Pocket Driver turned out to be perfect for the job, from holding the small Phillips screw magnetically, reliably, and firmly, and then allowing me, in spite of my cramped and awkward position, to apply the significant leverage needed to drive the screw without drilling a hole. Since it has a nice, satisfying ratchet, there was no need to relax the leverage to shift my grip. Just like that, the screw was firmly installed on the first attempt with the MetMo Pocket Driver, and the wire management device now had an unshakable grip on the wiring and on the bottom of the sideboard.

I struggled out from under the sideboard, dealt with all the little tails I had clipped off the tie-wraps, and then stepped back to take a look. Ahhhhh... I was suitably impressed. Jazz playing pleasantly on the Bose speakers, soft lighting setting the stage, and no wires to be seen, or vacuumed out of their outlets. Perfect.

I was genuinely impressed with the MetMo Pocket Driver.

Its design is... I have to say, a touch peculiar.

I just love it.

It turns out, I assume from very clever and insightful British design (a little like my amazing and quirky Brompton bike), that it mates perfectly to your hand in a way that lets you drive the screw or nut, all while applying a lot of leverage.

A traditional screwdriver can't really do that because the tool is completely linear, and that limits the hand's ability to apply torque, especially in cramped quarters.

Many ratchet drivers are brilliant for applying torque since you pull to apply rotary force at 90 degrees to the rotation, but, unless you can bear down, or in my case bear up, vertically on the driver's axis (the straight line about which the driver rotates) you just can't get to where you can force the screw to bite into the wood properly.

The MetMo Pocket Driver's secret to success, in my view, lies in the hinged handle.

The shape of the handle naturally settles into the palm of your hand giving you a flawless grip at the perfect angle from the axis of the driver that lets you access that torque you need.

That angle, depending on circumstances can vary from 20 degrees, to 90 degrees, to 140 degrees. I'm a lawyer, not an engineer, but I estimate the angle that worked best for me driving that stubborn screw was about 120 degrees. A normal screwdriver is linear, so the angle to the axis is zero degrees, offering minimal leverage. A ratchet driver is typically 90 degrees to the axis of the shaft and offers excellent leverage. The beauty of the Metmo Pocket Driver is that wide range of angles that it allows. It just naturally adjusts to your grip, and to the difficulty of the task, in a way that gives you the leverage you need to get the job done.  

Now my lighting and wireless speakers, and cursed wires, are vacuum-cleaner-proof, and all but invisible to guests.

Now for the acid test... Our cleaning lady was here just the other day and... Yup! All is fine speaker and light-wise. Dust vacuumed away into oblivion, wiring all intact!

If you think that's all I have to say... well, I'm not quite done. 

The MetMo Pocket Driver needs a bit of context. More than a bit, in truth.

In fact, what it really needs are many bits. It also needs a home... for storage and travel. A travel home. Some people call that a sheath. Yes, a sheath. And bits, lots of bits.

The reality is, that as soon as I got my hands on the Metmo Pocket Driver my mind shifted to bits. It does come with two Phillips bits: one Phillips bit and one Phillips Pozidriv bit, both size 2, the standard Phillips size. They are stored in the driver's body, under the bit storage cap. 

The Pozidriv bit is the one that gripped the screw I was installing perfectly and allowed me to drive the screw home so brilliantly.

After poking around on the usual online sites, and looking at many different bit options, I eventually looked to my Leatherman Wave.

I happen to have 40 super-compact Leatherman Wave bits. They store in the Leatherman Wave's sheath, taking up next to no room. While the Leatherman Wave bits won't work directly with the Metmo Pocket Driver, the Leatherman Wave also has a driver bit-holder extension, and that works perfectly with the Metmo Pocket Driver, allowing the Metmo Pocket Driver to take advantage of all those 40 bits.

It also turns out, after a whole lot more online searching, just by peculiar coincidence, that the Leatherman Wave sheath fits the Metmo Pocket Driver perfectly. So I did the smart thing, and purchased a second Leatherman sheath. When that was delivered, it turned out to be even better for the Leatherman Wave than the one that actually came with the Leatherman Wave originally. So that original Leatherman Wave sheath is now the new home for the Metmo Pocket Driver. Perfect! The Metmo Pocket Driver now has its own perfect travel home.

And now I have the ideal every-day-carry ("EDC") tool family: The Leatherman Wave with its 40 driver bits; and the Metmo Pocket Driver that way, way outperforms the Leatherman Wave as a screwdriver. With those two tools with me, I feel that there are very few challenges that I couldn't solve.

Now am I done, you ask?

Not quite, but almost.

Not ready to rest on his laurels basking in the success of the Metmo Pocket Driver, Sean Sykes now has a new Kickstarter campaign promoting the brand new MetMo Multi Drive. MetMo calls it the ultimate desktop multi-tool.

It's a scalpel, a pencil, a scribe, a drill, a file, and a micro driver, each matched to a single precision-crafted shaft with an ingenious hex collet. This is the ultimate tool for the creator, the artist, the craftsman, the engineer, the bookbinder, the architect, or the fixer. If like me, you have a steel ruler, a pen, a pencil, and a scalpel close by your desktop, this MetMo Multi Drive is the first tool to reach for when the creative urge pokes you. If that describes you as well, I suggest you hop right over to MetMo's Kickstarter for the Metmo Multi Drive right now!

Following up: It's now July 12, so almost two weeks later. I was replacing some chrome trim on the hood of my Mini Cooper Cabriolet. Not a too complex proposition. Four easily accessible screws, and a bunch of pressure clips. I had already gotten advice from a very helpful YouTube video. I was fairly certain that all I needed to get the job done was the combination of my Leatherman Wave and my Metmo Pocket Driver. I was correct.

But the more you use what I call a 'perfect tool' the more you learn about completely unexpected features that you couldn't really predict. 

In this case, the car's hood was open, and I had to locate and remove the four small Phillips screws. Using the Metmo Pocket Driver it was supper easy loosening the screws. But the trick was not to drop any of the small screws in the engine compartment. 

This is when the Metmo Pocket Driver surprised me.

As I hope you can make out in this photo, because the Metmo Pocket Driver is so compact, and because the swivel-handle fits your palm so compactly, you can extend your thumb and forefinger to grasp what I will call the nose of the driver, and thanks to the ratchet, as the screw becomes loose, you can continue loosening the screw using your thumb and forefinger. I was even able to extend my thumb and forefinger while twisting the ratchet, to the point where I was able to grab the screw, turning what has always been a two-hand task into a one-handed wonder.

Wow, that was really an eye-opener.

Thanks MetMo!

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

A marvellous gift from Peter

Thank you for bearing with me as I set the stage for what I am about to reveal.

Peter is an amazing friend. He is very special because he chooses to live his life very differently from most people I have met.

He makes his own living in a way that few people do. He spent years working as an employee, then years self-employed as a quality control consultant, constantly travelling. It was very physically demanding and his work took its toll.

Then something snapped. Peter went from earning his living taxing his body, to doing it by taxing his mind. He re-invented his consulting practice as a virtual being, powered by software, not physical effort. He entered a realm where his thoughts were the key to his sustainability.

Lately Peter has been exploring the world of artificial intelligence. He has discovered, that if you treat the software in the way that a merciless monarch might treat a devoted selfless courtier, by making incessant demands, never accepting the initial offering, requesting that it be redone, over and over, tweaked, improved, expanded, with new features, and redone again, dropping some aspects and adding others, relentlessly... something truly worthwhile will eventually emerge.

In this way he has been using the new tool to improve his business. The results are very impressive.

Peter also  happens to use the software just for fun, often to write poetry in the same merciless way.

He wrote me a poem a few months back. I framed it and hung it on my office wall. That poem is the second poem that has been written about me and presented to me as a gift. The other poem, the first, came from a similarly unique and mystical source, but purely from the author's mind. Software was not at all involved. It was mystical in the sense that never in a million years could I have anticipated that the author would do such an unusual, kind, and thoughtful thing. That poem also hangs on my wall.

All of this narrative is to provide you with context, in the hope that you can understand, get a feeling for, the pure wonder I felt in a matter of a few hours, beginning yesterday evening, and concluding today at dawn, all thanks to Peter. It became clear that he not only enlisted help from his artificial intelligence, but also from my darling Susan.

I had mentioned to Peter that late last month I bought a 365 page journal and began writing daily love notes to Susan. I plan to do that for a whole year. Yesterday Peter sent me another poem. I read a bit of it yesterday, but couldn't finish it. It was a busy day. I did finish it this morning at the crack of dawn very soon after my alarm got me to wake up. The poem seems to allude to a mysterious gift coming my way, mentioning that it is nothing of great value, just a thought really. I was touched, as you might expect.

Mere moments later I went into my home office to set up my exercise stuff (yoga mat, elastic stretchy, things, foam blocks, etc.). With the lights off, the office was softly bathed in darkness and shadow. When I went to place an elastic and small weight ball on the bistro chair in my office, there was a small gift bag sitting on the chair.

I came down from the office to thank Susan for conspiring with Peter. She was in the shower. 

When Susan emerged, I hugged her, told her I loved her. She sat down at her makeup table. I asked her when she had placed the gift bag in my office. She looked at me in total shock. What gift bag? She was genuinely mystified. She hadn't done anything of the kind. Now we were both speechless. 

Had Peter talked his AI servant to build a Star Trek transporter so that he could place the gift bag himself. It sounds preposterous, certainly impossible. BUT Peter is a huge Star Trek fan. He has a couple of genuine Star Trek uniforms. I have seen them.

Once the feeling of incomprehension subsided, we realized that Susan had absent-mindedly moved the surplus little gift bag from where it had sat un-observed in my office closet so she could get to tax and insurance envelopes on the shelf. She had no memory of placing the bag on the chair.

T'he whole peculiar situation simply turned out to be a huge coincidence. No, Peter swears he doesn't own a fully functioning transporter.
When I shared this with Peter this morning we both had a really good laugh. You have to admit it's pretty weird, and totally funny. Peter may now be working on a transporter.

20240308 - Peter did send me an actual gift. It arrived yesterday. It is far from nothing. Peter sent me a very nice desk pen that floats in the ether on my desk supported by a precise magnetic field. It matches seamlessly the look and feel, the aesthetic, of my modern desktop. It is a joy to write with. It glides on the journal page leaving an effortless trail of perfect ink. If Captain James Kirk kept a handwritten journal, this would, beyond doubt, have been his pen.

Thank you Peter.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Happy Holidays!!

My very best wishes to all my readers for the holidays, may your hopes and wishes for the new year that is almost upon us, all come true.

With a little luck my Brompton will pop out of its perch next to the back door to rack up as many happy kilometres in 2024 as it did in 2023, plus, with a little more luck, a new adventure or two!

Tuesday, November 28, 2023


 Road to Recovery - Day 23

Only days when I exercise and ride count as the road to recovery.

This morning I did a complete 'normal' ride on the P2 level down in the garage: 34 minutes, 9.6 kms. That is what passes for 'normal'. On the exercise front, I am close to being able to do 20 full 90 degree squats. Today I managed ~80-90% of the 90 degree knee bends. There is still some minor discomfort going up and down stairs. The fact is, I am approaching a complete return to normal.

Adding to the theme of today's entry, I am also reading more than I have in the past.

I have quite the collection of books. It's not over-the-top by any means. Yet it's quite a lot of books. 

There are some key law books, as you might expect. There also works of philosophy and history ranging from Homer to Voltaire, including Thoreau. There is mostly literature, ranging from Shakespeare to Douglas Adams, including Mark Twain and Agatha Christie. A few recipe books including the Larousse Gastronomique. Even a quirky ribald collection of limericks I inherited. 

The sad fact is that, unlike Susan, I am not a reader.

Maybe it's because as a lawyer, the occupational hazard is one heck of a lot of reading. So I have read. I have read a lot... of law. Literature and the other genres mentioned above, not so much. Either I begin to read my books, or admit that they're just décor.

And yet I truly do aspire to read, so I plucked Voltaire - Mélanges off the bookshelf recently.

It's a collection of Voltaire's works, including correspondence, treatises and speeches. It's the work that made Voltaire famous, and infamous simultaneously, work that forced him to flee to England to escape the wrath of the French crown and the Catholic Church. Sounds terribly boring, I know. But it's like time travel. I'm learning a lot about 18th century Europe and the Age of Enlightenment.

If Paris can emerge as my favourite place to visit and explore in the 21st century, emerging from a truly dismal 18th century past, then there is hope for us, in these dismal times.

Oh... wait. Hope was the last journal entry. I am supposed to be focusing on progress.

Yes I am definitely making progress.

Monday, November 13, 2023


Blue skies, white clouds, red and yellow leaves, cool air, and strong gusting headwinds. 

Today in my desk journal I noted “ROAD to RECOVERY - Day 13”.

That is certainly true, but the truth needs context. 

For several years until the end of August of this year, every weekday began at 6:00 a.m. thanks to my watch gently vibrating me awake. Stealthily rising, gathering my clothes, and leaving our bedroom, doing my best not to wake Susan. Exercising, dressing, gearing up, and quietly leaving our home with my Brompton, for an 8 to 10 kilometre ride along one of three routes through our neighbourhood.

Towards the end of August I managed to overwork the many muscles in my right leg by refusing, stupidly I now see, to accept adapting my pace to the hills along my path. So ended my weekday morning rituals, terminated by pain as the soft tissues in my right leg rebelled against the persecution I had inflicted. With the benefit of hindsight I realize that as I applied significant force to the pedals to maintain my speed and pace, I was favouring my left leg and overworking my right. That was because in my lifetime my left leg was the one that suffered injuries, not my right leg. To protect the left, I messed up the right. dumb, dumb, dumb.  

Two weeks later, we were off to Europe and countless daily steps, up and down and around, with trudging up and down stairs thrown in for good measure. My leg saw this not as a well-deserved vacation, but as counter-insurgency measures intended to stifle their rebellion. 

That was September. 

We returned home and I quickly conceded defeat. 

In an earnest attempt at reparation (not that I had much choice) I spared my right leg as much as possible. Climbing the three flights of stairs in our home sparingly, with my left leg doing all the work. Keeping errands in the car to a minimum, with Susan at the wheel, as I twisted and shifted, moaning, under the constant attacks of pain and breathtaking discomfort, all meant to remind me that my right leg had won the war and had beaten me into submission.

That was October. 

This is November. 

Tomorrow I am having X-rays and ultrasounds.

My doctor, playing the role of a United Nations envoy, is assessing the war zone, searching for a path to peace and reconciliation. 

Thirteen weekdays ago, I was finally able to start a slow path to restoring my rituals. I am calling that path my ROAD to RECOVERY. 

For each step I take, for each exercise I do, for each token bike ride I take in the garage, I constantly murmur to my right leg my mea culpas, my heartfelt apologies, and my endless assurances that there will never again be persecution. That all future movement and travels will be disciplined, fair, reasonable, measured, and balanced.

Perhaps it’s the approaching medical assessment, or just the discipline of my determination to get back to ‘normal’, but I have been making slow and steady progress day after day.  

This afternoon I was able to chance my first outdoor ride since the troubles began in August. Even though it was a modest 4.69 km jaunt, it was truly joyful, and I am grateful. 

The struggles may be ending.

Peace may be in sight. 

There is hope.

Thursday, October 5, 2023


If there is something that leads to a deep sense of happiness for me, it is the feeling of being inspired. 

I felt inspired often during our recent trip to Malaga and Seville in Spain, and to Lisbon in Portugal. This was our third trip to Spain and our first trip to Portugal.

I tend to find inspiration when I am out of my comfort zone. On this trip I was quite literally seldom in a comfort zone because I had managed to mess up the soft tissues in my right leg in a variety of ways. Three trips to our physiotherapist in the week leading up to our departure was clearly too little, and too late.

Mountain ranges lie just off the Costa del Sol, Spain's aptly named Mediterranean shore. The mountains near Malaga where we were staying are known as the Montes de Málaga. It turned out that the challenge to climb fairly steep slopes pretty much started at the door step of our AirBnB. For the first few days we were there it mostly didn't matter. The parts of Malaga where we spent our time exploring were pretty flat and made it easy to stroll around. Even though we often walked more than fifteen thousand steps in a day, flat is flat. 

That's not to say that my leg wasn't complaining. If I didn't give it a break, it would steal one simply by leaping over my pitifully low pain threshold.

Things got more challenging once we rented a car to take our explorations into Malaga's mountains, to places like Frigiliana, Ronda, and the Caminito del Rey. We also managed a day trip to Gibraltar. The only parking available for our car was in the streets way up that hill at the end of the street. Mornings started and ended negotiating that hill, and in between we hiked on more slopes, hills, and stairs. 

My leg was the only one not enjoying the trip. As we dove deeper and deeper into our seventeen day adventure, my leg got grumpier, and testier. Now that we're home that leg is getting a lot more attention. I can't wait for it to forgive and forget so that I can kiss the bouts of squirmy pain adieu.

I can't really blame my leg, cause we did stuff like this:

All of this, including coping with my pissed-off leg, and breaking completely with the day-to-day of our 'normal' life back home, can't help but offer fresh perspectives and challenges, challenges for you to move on and live the adventure, when lying pain-free in bed seems to make so much more sense.

Unexpected rewards came our way every single day. Stumbling on Christopher Columbus's tomb in Seville; watching firefighter helicopters with sirens blaring slinging water at a cliff-side brush fire below us while we were on the parador lookout in Ronda; coaxing my darling wife to cross a crazy-scary narrow steel suspension bridge across a very deep gorge as massive wind blasts literally shook us as we crossed the canyon, while I pretended, with a reassuring hand lightly on her shoulder, to be her Amazing Race companion cheering her on in a loud enthusiastic voice with promises of a million dollars. "You can do this, you're doing it girl! You're a winner!!! YOU’VE GOT THIS!! One M i l l i o n DOLLARS..."

And the list goes on.

What I was finding, what was dawning on me ever so slowly, emerging from our adventure, from online browsing, from observing the very different pace, quality, and circumstances of daily life in Spain and Portugal, seemed different. It was inspiring me, offering insight into what just might be a different approach to life, a different way to be. 

I may have Jason Slaughter to thank, among others. I was already familiar with his Not Just Bikes YouTube channel. In this case, as I was lounging in our AirBnB coaxing my leg to calm down so we could stroll around looking for dinner, YouTube offered me this video that Jason posted about the benefits of a more walkable life, as opposed to a drivable life. What Jason calls the "Gym of Life".

This struck a chord for me. I was already on that path with my Brompton. I love getting around on two feet and two wheels. If you've been hanging around here and reading my journal you will know that I have explored my love of two wheel travel on many occasions. 

I would say that Jason's video planted yet more seeds. He mentioned Nebula TV and Curiosity Stream. I made a note because I am finding that, like so much of the low-hanging fruit on the internet, and particularly on YouTube, it's often just bait, and I am the fish.  Ads and commercials are everywhere, all the time. When you get to that point, to the crux of the video, when the YouTuber is about to reveal the true secret to everlasting happiness, first comes an ad, then a commercial, and another ad.

Yes there is good content, like Not Just Bikes, and yes there are amazing creators like Jason Slaughter and Casey Neistat, and there certainly are excellent videos by lots of passionate chefs, explorers, scientists, designers, entertainers, and fixers. But I am really tired of being the fish.

I absolutely refuse to pay Google to stop harassing me with advertising. I feel that it's blackmail, truly I do. This avalanche of advertising is just to make Google fatter, more bloated, and ultimately more anti-social than I could ever have imagined back when the motto that they long ago trashed was "don't be evil".

I plan to explore Nebula TV and Curiosity Stream. Yes they are pay-to-view platforms. But for less than $100 a year, that just might be OK with me. There was a time in the past, before streaming, when Susan and I visited the local video rental store and shelled out $5 or $10 a week. If these platforms turn out to deliver good content and free me from my life as a fish, it will be a small price to pay. If the content turns out to be satisfying and appeals to the creative and curious me in a sustainable way, I'll be an even happier person, I hope.

All of which to say that this vacation opened my eyes. 

Oddly, it started that way from the moment we boarded our outbound flight. 

My morning bicycle ride ritual introduced me to groups of people practicing Tai Chi in the local parks. I bought Pocket Tai Chi for Beginners - Simple Steps to a Healthy Body and Mind to read on the plane. I feel I was already open to a fresh perspective right from the start.

The final bit that capped off the sense of inspiration that was building in me was the award winning documentary I watched on the flight home directed by Nuno Tavares entitled A alma de um ciclista (the soul of a cyclist). The film explores the benefits of focusing our life on friendship, ecology, and minimalism.

Here’s the trailer. 

I actually watched the film two-and-a-half times during the flight home. Once without headphones (I just didn't have them), once with headphones, and once with headphones on and with the closed captioning switched on (my Portuguese remains virtually non-existent). Then I watched again this morning on my phone, while lying in bed, awakened courtesy of jet-lag at 4:50 a.m. 

It may appeal to you as well. You can find it on Vimeo.

This movie just resonates with where I feel I want to be. I feel genuinely inspired  

In the very last scene in the film, the leading person, Artur Lourenço, leaves us with these inspiring thoughts.

Now I see life from a new perspective.
I’ve realized that life goes by too fast, and, in the end,
we are not immortal.
We only have one life.
While we’re around, we must somehow enjoy it
 - without harming anyone, obviously -
and make it sweeter and smoother."

Friday, September 15, 2023

To blog, or not to blog, that is the question

Peter Sanderson and Steve Williams, who are dear friends and fellow bloggers, are rethinking their blogs. Peter has already discontinued his blog, and Steve revealed in a post I recently read that he is considering whether to do the same.

I mentioned in a comment I posted on Steve's long-standing Scooter in the Sticks blog that my blog is now really more my journal than anything else. Not only do I like to document things I do that give my life meaning, I also have come to appreciate the ability to revisit my past by going back to older posts. This blog keeps an important part of my past present for me.

Recording my daily life as a journal is not really why or how this blog started.

In the many months preceding the purchase of my first Vespa, I was doing research, and gathering information.

Steve's blog Scooter in the Sticks was an important source of the information I needed. Once the Vespa was a done deal, I decided to start this blog to return the favour by posting the lessons I learned on Vespa commuting, so that others who might contemplate doing the same would have yet another source of information and support. It was returning a favour, helping others in this same way I received help others who shared their insights that helped me  

Now the blog is more about me, about my life. A place where I can share my thoughts and experiences.

In the beginning I knew no one was reading.

When, over time, an audience formed, it was a little unexpected. I am blessed, because my blog led me to make some very dear friends, Peter and Steve among them.

My favourite photo of my Vespa and I was taken by Steve in the Pennsylvania sticks that gave his blog its name.

Now my audience has shrunk, I think. In truth I don't really follow my blog's statistics any more. 

All of which to say, this blog is here to stay. At least for the foreseeable future.

Monday, September 11, 2023

A break

Is it because I bought a leather saddle that needs to be broken in?

Is it because we will be taking a break vacationing in Spain this fall?

Is it because I was a little stressed-out in the days leading up to a half-day course I had to teach solo to a class of thirty or so colleagues on records management? 

It's hard to say.

Why would I stress out on giving a lecture when I literally wrote the book?

What's certain is that my body got itself into a funk that has required that I take a break. A break from my morning exercises, trading time in the saddle for time with Melina, our brilliant physiotherapist. The clock is ticking, as it always does, and I need to take this break, fix what needs fixing, and get back in the saddle.

I am closer to that this morning that at any time since the early days of this month, when my right leg went AWOL.

That's deeply ironic, because it's my left leg that has had issues, never my right. No massive skiing sprains, no dumb idiotic blows to my kneecap... my right leg has always been fine. Until it wasn't.

Melina showed me all the leg muscles on a cool application on her phone. They are the largest most formidable muscles on our bodies. They are all focused on our knee. Go figure. It seems that in the week or so before my right leg called riding quits, I was being, shall we say, a tad competitive. Resisting quiet relaxing contemplative rides, in favour of challenging myself on the uphill stretches. Can I do this hill at the same speed and pace as the level ground that precedes it?  And there I was, all hill long, focused on my cadence, feeling myself pull on the handlebars, breathing getting obvious... and YES!! I did it, WOW!

What did I do exactly?

It seems I antagonized the right leg muscle union, and the union called an unceremonious halt to the festivities. No more riding for you buddy.

And that's how my left leg muscles and I now find ourselves in mandatory mediation. Melina is the mediator. She gets the muscles' gripes. She gets mine. For a person who is much smaller than I am, she can sure work my leg muscles into submission in short order while we chat about stuff, interspersed by the occasional gasp, yelp or moan... on my part of course. Melina takes it all in stride with a smile, a dig, a pull, push, and stretch. Slowly, methodically, coaxing my right leg muscles into submission.

Thank heavens, it seems to be working.

Lesson learned (I hope).

Friday, September 1, 2023

My new Brooks saddle

 I have been a good boy.

My Brompton has been a good bike.

My Brompton and I have accomplished more than I expected when we were first introduced, hombre a bicicleta. If that sounds weird, please take into consideration that in three weeks' time Susan and I will be on the Costa del Sol...  practice is warranted. 

I felt like it was time to mark our - bicicleta's and my - considerable accomplishments, so I splurged on our new Brooks B-17 Special saddle. What makes it special are the hand-hammered copper rivets.

I hope my Brompton likes it. It matches her Ergon grips.

They say it takes roughly 250 kilometres or maybe six months to break in a Brooks. It's hard to say anything about time, because it's the actual riding that counts. I'm doing, conservatively, 8 kilometres each day I ride, so 250 kilometres is just over 30 days. I generally ride on weekdays, so in time, that's 6 weeks from this coming Tuesday. 9 weeks taking into account our - Susan's and my - Spanish adventure.

I'll be sure to let you know how it goes. And whether I'll ultimately be happy with our - bicicleta's and my - treat.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Ken Wilson

Corrie Vaus, a professional videographer and producer reached out to me yesterday in an email to request permission to use an interview of Ken Wilson I posted on my YouTube channel, informing me that Ken had passed away.

He passed away earlier this summer in June.

The news left me deeply saddened. I had no idea.

In February 2017 I was very fortunate to participate in an Oyster Tour, a Vespa tour ranging from Tampa Florida to the town of Apalachicola in the Florida Panhandle, so named by Ken Wilson and Bill Leuthold in honour of an iconic little oyster bar on the Gulf coast.

I now know that Ken succumbed to a very aggressive cancer that manifested as significant back pain in January of this year, claiming his life in June.

Bill dedicated his participation in this year's cross-continental Cannonball scooter rally in Ken's honour. Corrie Vaus' husband was also participating, and Corrie went along to record the event including its dedication to Ken.

I very much look forward to seeing the film. 

Ken Wilson was a remarkable individual. He was outgoing, inquisitive, adventurous, genuinely kind and welcoming. He had recently bought a Vespa 300 GTS that he lent me so I could ride with him, Bill and Jim Mandle on the Oyster Tour. I learned from Corrie that Ken left that Vespa to Bill, and that Bill rode it on the CannonBall Run.

As I rode my Brompton on yesterday's weekday ride, I found the flag at half-mast.

It was as if the familiar landscape of my morning ride sensed and was manifesting the grief I felt.

I can do no better than to repost my interview with Ken following that Oyster Tour, recorded in Ken's driveway in St-Petersburg. Ken gets the last word. 

Monday, August 28, 2023

Too old to ride?

 At 71, I don't think so.

Marc is my very dear friend. Susan and I went to Montreal last week to surprise Marc on his birthday. He is now 82 and he has been exploring his neighbourhood on the West Island on his bicycle for as long as I can remember.

Marc still rides his bike.

Yesterday I was on YouTube nosing around and I watched a delightful video on Susanna Thornton's channel that I am sharing with you here. Susanna's dad took up cycling at 60 and cycles roughly twenty minutes each day. Now he is 87. Have a look to see how well he toured with his daughter along the Welsh borders, in Herefordshire.

I truly feel that Susan and I are riding our bikes on the right path to longevity and happiness. Buying our Bromptoms was definitely the right decision.

I encourage you to take the time to explore Susanna's channel. You will be inspired by her singular courage, her humility, and amazing adventurous spirit. I would like to propose Susanna for a British honour for her strong character and amazing poise in the face of the challenges that life brought to her doorstep. It's not easy. So far I don't have enough information to support the application that I received from the the UK Cabinet Office.

Flat Monday

 It was my second flat.

Having already repaired one puncture, this morning I had the benefit of experience, and some excellent patches. I didn't want to give up or postpone my weekday morning ride though.

A simple alternative was obvious. I rode Susan's Brompton.

It's fascinating.

The bikes are absolutely identical other than my bike has:

  • a saddlebag holding
    • a Gerber multi tool
    • a high pressure air gauge
    • a little emergency cash
    • a rag, and
    • a packable back sack
  • a water bottle holder bag
  • a telescopic seat post
  • a RAM X-type cell phone holder
  • a loud bell, and
  • a Brompton tool kit
Individually none of those items are heavy (to be honest the seat post and the Gerber tool are not feather-light). Combined they clearly add weight to my bike. Susan's bike felt... leaner.

Her bike also feels very different. The angle of the brake levers is a little different, and even at maximum extension, the saddle is lower. I understand the saddle height test to be whether, with your bum in the saddle and your left heel on the pedal, you leg is straight. At maximum extension on Susan's bike my leg was not quite straight.

I opted for my short ~7 km ride.

Oddly, I have been having some discomfort I can only describe as tendon pain in my right leg. With the saddle in a lower position, I felt no discomfort. I suspect I have been riding with my saddle a touch too high. I plan to experiment a little in the coming days and weeks to see if lowering the saddle a little might eliminate that discomfort. 

When I got home I had breakfast and tackled the flat.

This time I didn't remove the wheel. I pumped up the tire, found the puncture site, deflated, extracted about six inches of the inner tube at the puncture site, scuffed up and cleaned the inner tube at the puncture site, applied the patch, tucked in the tube, pried the tire back on, pumped it up, and voilà my Brommie is as good as new.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

I did it!

Actually, I did 'them'.

The 'it' happened on Friday, August 18, 2023. I rode exactly 11 kilometers and that brought my kilometers logged to 3,000.03 kms. 

I wouldn't say it was a goal, it's just a milestone, yet well worth celebrating.

The other thing I did was much more complicated, very boring to many, but once done, something that came with quite a bit of satisfaction.

It’s computer-related. So if that has you rolling your eyes and stifling a yawn.  Maybe stop here. 

Oh, right… it’s all about my Apple iMac. I’m guessing a bunch more of you are already off to TikTok.

I’ll just jump in. I used to run two iMacs, with the older Mac doing double duty serving music and acting as an external monitor for my Big Mac. The older Mac died last fall. 

I bought a used Thunderbolt display, upgraded the Big Mac to 40 gigs of RAM, and soldiered on with the one computer doing all the work. 

In the last few months the Big Mac would occasionally freeze. What  pain. 

All my data is backed up to the cloud and to a local backup drive. So while there might have been cursing and much colourful language, there no tears.

Still, it’s frustrating, a waste of time, and a risk to my data. It needed to be  assessed, and changes needed to be made to tame the beast. 

I will immediately confess to being what I call a ‘RAM pig’.

I love the Mac because in addition to all the other nice features like continuity, I can have multiple desktops. Each desktop is like a separate computer.

I like to use 13 desktops. One is devoted to music, one to my activity tracker, one each to Outlook and Apple Mail, one to my browser, one to my Apple calendar, one to brainstorming and planning, one to managing my records management process, one to managing accounting and billing, and the remaining four to client work.  Technically, the Thunderbolt monitor is kind of another desktop. Photos run there, when it’s not being used as an expanded desktop. My Excel workbooks chew up the most RAM. Followed by Outlook. 

I had concluded, whenever the Mac crashed, that it was because I had basically depleted the available RAM and left my poor computer with too few resources to do my ridiculously demanding bidding. You see, I basically never shut the poor beast down. I do put it to sleep nightly but... sleep mode doesn't refresh the RAM. This became clear once I discovered the MacOS Activity Monitor. The other thing that became clear, is that my habits gobble up increasing amounts of RAM. The RAM does increase and decrease, but applications I use remain in memory when I close their windows, unless I take the trouble to actually quit them. Which I rarely did. Until things would seem a little unstable. By then it was typically too late. CRASH!

Knowing what I know now, I have changed my habits.

I now reboot weekly, whether the available RAM is below 32 GB or not. If it hits 32-33 GB I reboot. Simple.

The only issue with rebooting is setting up my 13 desktops. The fiddly bit of that is finding and opening the five Excel workbooks in desktops 12 and 13. The tricky bit to saving time and effort for that was building shortcuts in an application called Better Touch Tool. The interface is complicated and takes getting used to. It's complicated because the app can automate pretty much anything. So there are a lot of menu items. In the end, with a little bit of trial and error, I set up a one-finger press to the top right corner of the trackpad that launches all those workbooks. Cool.

And now I am back to a nice and stable, very productive work environment.

In spite of the fact that I'm definitely a RAM pig. RAM hog?

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Reasons to ride

Here are the reasons I love to ride. As it happens, they appear below pretty much in the increasing order of their importance to me. 

1. Exercise - That has to be a very popular reason, if you were to conduct a survey. In fact, it was that article in the New York Times that got me riding again "For Successful Aging, Pick Up the Pace or Mix It Up". 

Exercise all on its own, is definitely not the reason I love to ride. It was just the prompt that got me back on the saddle, pushing pedals.

2. Physics - This is the thing I love most about the act of riding. Not necessarily, or even primarily speed, but kind of that, but not really. It's hard to explain to someone who doesn't ride, and completely unnecessary to explain to anyone who does ride, or has ridden. 

The joy is rooted in the circularity of the wheels and pedals, and the friction of the ground and the brakes. It's the same thing on a motorbike... except for he pedals, but the motor performs the same magic as the pedals on a bicycle by allowing the rider to modulate the force rotating the wheels. That inexplicable feeling emerges as the two-wheeler turns, and it changes with speed. Weird things like counter-steering (press the handlebars left to go right - yes, not a mistake or a fantasy, but an actual fact) that happens at speeds mostly attained only by motorbikes, and other mystical things that happen at very low speeds, always as the bike turns. With a bicycle that has direct drive pedals, it's amazing that the rider can actually stay in the saddle with the bike upright and only moving in small tiny ways, basically at a full stop.

At normal cruising speeds, bikes handle turns by an intricate interplay of centrifugal and centripetal forces. The rider feels those forces in their body, because the rider is one with the bike.

To witness what that very complicated formula looks like, you need look no further than right here, literally mind-blowing feats. If it's speed you like, watch how motorcycle grand-prix riders handle the corners on the race track.

3. Exploration - Bikes take you places, and allow you to see things, to experience things, that walking and driving just never seem to. In fairness, walking certainly offers pleasures driving doesn't. The fragrance of freshly mowed lawns, of flowering lilac or gardenia, and the sounds of birds, insects, dogs, seagulls, and geese, to name a few. 

Bikes offer that as well. So how are bikes different?

They let you cover more ground and they are nimble.

On a Vespa you don't hesitate to explore lanes and alleyways that you would just never do in a car.

On a bicycle the range of experiences is much greater, including walkways and trails where all motorized vehicles are forbidden. When you have a Brompton, taxis, buses, subways, trains and planes also become options, opening opportunities for exploration to pretty much anywhere in the world.

4. Sights and experiences - Riding allows me to see and experience things that I am pretty sure I would not otherwise have. I can't possibly attempt an inventory here, because it would be endless, and I feel it would ultimately be pointless.

Perhaps the best I can do is share my most recent experiences in no particular order. These things stand out from my weekday rides in the last few days and weeks.

  • The hawk on Flaming Rosewood
  • The Unicyclist
I saw him in the distance on the Finch Trail last week. The way he seemed to be moving was strange. It seemed for a moment that he was prancing, his legs making exaggerated up and down motions. As the distance between us slowly closed I finally understood that he was riding a unicycle. A serious unicycle, with what seemed to be a 24" or 27" wheel. I hadn't seen a unicyclist in... to be honest I can't remember when. Was it in a circus...? The new-fangled electric unicycles, now I have seen quite a few of those in the recent past, but an honest-to-goodness human-powered unicycle? Never saw him before, haven't seen him since.

  • The Morning Tai Chi sessions

  • The corn cowboy
In the last few weeks I saw crude hand-scrawled cardboard signs in the parking lot at the southeast corner of Finch and Bathurst: "Sweet Corn". But it was always before eight o'clock, so it was just the few signs. A few days ago, on Monday, my usual morning schedule got messed up and my daily ride postponed to just past 10 a.m. When I got to that parking lot there was a guy with a pickup truck and a ton of corn in the back, selling corn. How could I not pick some up? I knew we had four ears of grocery store corn in the fridge, but this was fresh off-the-farm corn. Corn doesn't agree with Susan's Crohn's, so I am the only ravenous corn-eater. I picked up three ears. The fellow selling the corn had an English accent I couldn't quite make out... Australian? South African? Nope! He said he was originally from Nottinghamshire. "Robin Hood" he said with a smile. I asked if I could pay with my phone. He said sure I could, just do an Interac bank transfer "let me know when you're ready and I'll give the email address" he said. Finally, I was ready. "".
  • The roller-blade acrobat
A young woman, coming down the trail on rollerblades, but her long confident strides were punctuated by amazing graceful pirouettes. As our paths crossed she was rolling backwards down the trail. "Nice moves" I said.
  • The early morning sun
  • The fog

In the kind of serendipity, coincidental, totally unpredictable way that things are known to happen, the last word on this topic goes to someone else.

I was speaking to my friend Peter the day before yesterday, who, like me, is a former Vespa, motorcycle, and sports car addict. Peter, also like me, has most recently taken to riding a bicycle. He told me that the previous evening he had an errand to run. He rode to the grocery store along a bicycle path that passes through some woods. On the return trip through the woods, the canopy of leaves forming a lush green arch over the path made everything extremely dark. It was then that Peter had to stop and stare. The woods were awash in fireflies. Peter was stunned. He said it was amazing, surreal, and astonishingly beautiful, that while he had seen fireflies before,  it was the first time in his life he had seen anything remotely like this. He added, without any prompting from me, that but for the fact that he chose to ride to the store, he would never have had that experience.

For a delightful view of that incident from Peter's perspective, see his blog... [ed.: so sorry, Peter dissolved his blog.]

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

20230817 - The last word almost went to someone else. What are the odds? This morning, Thursday, August 17, 2023, I crossed paths, in the following order, with i) unicycle man, ii) corn cowboy, and iii) rollerblade acrobat. Go figure. Jamais deux sans trois... let's see if that old saying holds.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

On a failed path to discovery

 A long time ago, in 1986, we were living a few houses from Yonge Street on Fairlawn Avenue. I remember riding my Norco road bike to a park on the east side of Yonge, just south of Lawrence.

I remember riding in the park, along paved trails, down into the Don Valley ravine, all the way to the Toronto Science Centre, and back home.

Later that year I followed that same system of trails, then south, all the way to Lake Ontario, and to the very end of the Leslie Street Spit.

Since I got the Brompton I have had my sights set on a repeat performance, with a twist.

Instead of starting the ravine trails at Yonge and Lawrence, I want to start from the Finch Corridor Trail just north of where we live now.

I have literally spent hours on the satellite map on my tablet, zooming in, trying to spot the trails among the trees in the parklands from Yonge and Lawrence to the Don Valley and the Science Centre. It's certainly not obvious. Since many, if not most of the trails are paved, and since they have names that show up on the satellite map, it shouldn't be this hard.

The trail-name sequence of the route I planned to take looks like this: Finch Corridor Trail, East Don River Trail, Betty Sutherland Trail, [city streets], Don Mills Trail, [cross at York Mills ave. and Leslie], Edwards Gardens, Wilket Creek Trail, Sunnybrook Park Trail, Burke Brook Trail, Sherwood Park Trail, Blythwood Park Ravine Trail.

Last year I made my first attempt. I made mistakes and missed where the trailhead for the Don Mills Trail sits where a bridge along York Mills avenue crosses over some railroad tracks. I eventually made it to Edwards Gardens at Leslie and Lawrence, but only after riding west along York Mills quite a ways to find park trails going south, then taking city streets to get to Edwards Gardens.

I know that once you make it to Edwards Gardens, the interconnecting trails go all the way to Lake Ontario. The reality is that the trails don't currently get exactly to the lake due to construction down at the end of the Don Valley, but close enough is good enough.

This morning Susan went with a friend to do some shopping. I decided to take another stab at Edwards Gardens, now that I know where the Don Mills Trail starts on York Mills avenue.

Another failure. 

I made it to Edwards Gardens, after a detour to Don Mills road because construction has cut off the Don River Trail at the 401, and in the course of the detour I misunderstood the route, and wasted some time and energy getting back on course.

From Edwards Gardens I made it onto the Wilket Creek Trail.

At that point I knew I could get into the Don Valley trails, and eventually get to the lake. My goal however, was to find the trails that head northwest, duck under Bayview just north of Lawrence, and eventually go to that park at Yonge and Lawrence.

I failed. I was hoping I was on the Burke Brook Trail, but after a kilometre or so, as the trail went from pavement, to gravel, then over a series of derelict little bridges, it dead-ended. It was a 30 degree day. Fortunately I had picked up a couple of bottles of water before heading south from York Mills Avenue. I was tired, sweaty, disappointed, and basically lost, all by myself, on a decrepit trail, in a forest, deep in a ravine. 

Of course 'lost' is relative. My phone had a good charge, I had the satellite map, and at that point I activated the compass utility on the iPhone. I doubled back, keeping an eye on the compass. 

I found a road leading west out of the Don Valley at Sunnybrook park. It's a climb. I pedalled my way out, in first gear, but it was a chore. I got out of the ravine at Sunnybrook Hospital. Went north on Bayview to Lawrence, then west on Lawrence to Yonge where, mercifully, I folded the Brompton and hopped on the subway up to Finch station.

I lugged my Brompton up the stairs out of the Finch subway station, then basically coasted downhill and back home. That's where Bromptons truly excel. Fold and ride public transit. It's truly a game-changer.

Here is this little adventure by the numbers: duration 2 hours and 40 minutes; 26.3 kilometres from the beginning to the Lawrence subway station, then 0.61 km back home, for a total of 26.91 kms in the saddle; 177 metres of elevation gain; average heart rate of 137 beats per minute, 102 min, 164 max; 9.8 kmh average speed.

Overall, I enjoyed the exploration, I really did, but I still haven't unlocked the path I took in 1986. I need to tackle it again, next time starting at the opposite end at the park south of Yonge and Lawrence. It's quite possible that in the 37 years that have passed, real estate development wiped out the path I took back then.

We'll see.

Here are some photos I took along the way. They provide a glimpse of the amazing network of parkland trails that are available in the heart of Canada's largest metropolis. You can go very long distances, kilometre after kilometre, isolated from the urban sprawl and city streets that surround you, enjoying nature, far from cars.

Finch Corridor Trail

East Don River Trail

East Don River Trail

East Don River Trail

Don Mills detour over the 401

End point Don Mills Trail

Wilket Creek Trail

Wilket Creek Trail

Wilket Creek Trail

The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.