Sunday, April 11, 2021

Brompton phone mounts


I'll keep this mercifully brief (especially given that it's my longest video ever).

If the Brompton were a motorbike, this would be a farkle post. I'm not sure what the term is in the cycle world since I'm new here. I suspect that it's just an accessory. In time I'll learn the patois, most likely.

As I mention in the video, our smartphones are our R2D2's and there is therefore a compelling need (speaking for myself, of course) to have them anchored to Bromptons in the same way that they're anchored to our hands, arms, pockets, cars, Vespas, furniture...

I asked Siri "are you related to R2D2?", and she feigned ignorance. We all know the truth though.

This episode is about installing the RAM X-mount on our Bromptons. There are 239 reasons I couldn't find any videos about RAM mounts on bicycles, and 59-60 reasons why there is no shortage of videos on Quadlock and Trigo mounts. Watch the video. I think it's a little funny.
  
I compare the RAM X-mount to the other more popular mounts by referencing Victor's Quadlock and Trigo product review video. Victor is a brilliant product reviewer. I'm only fair to middling. My RAM X-mount review leans heavily on Victor's methodology and scoring metrics.


For the very few among you who are now craving a RAM X-mount they are available at GPSCity.com and GPSCity.ca.

The music for this episode (that I really like) is Parisian Street by Martin Carlberg, and Enough to Get By by Daniel Gunnarsson, both available on Epidemic Sound

Friday, March 12, 2021

Bromptons in the house!!!

It seemed like it would be forever until we receive our Bromptons, but they are finally here.

I can't begin to say how great it is to have these iconic bikes sharing our home.

Today's video explains how a pair of House Red Bromptons wormed their way into our home.

It all began... well, no. That would spoil the video.

We haven't really begun to enjoy them. Well, that's not quite true.

Yesterday I took mine out on its first little trip in the real world, a modest jaunt down the street to Starbucks at Mel Lastman Square to share a coffee with my friend Glenn. I realized that I hadn't seen a friend since last fall when I dropped in on Ed. The full sense of the deprivation sinks in when you meet that first friend in many, many months...

Not quite unexpectedly, my Brompton became an instant star of the encounter. Glenn needed to see it unfold, and fold, no surprise there. But the only passer-by stopped to marvel and ask twenty questions about my mechanical jewel. I guess that's something I'll have to get used to. Imagine when someone spots my Brompton riding pillion on my Vespa, because that day is near.

If you think that yesterday was my first time in my Brompton's saddle, think again, and watch the video, it may just amuse you.

If you are reading this and you are intrigued, and a little unsatisfied and frustrated that I am not really providing nearly enough detail, having perhaps piqued your curiosity... watch the video and be prepared to take notes. Actually, put the pencil down, the details are in the show notes, or... well, that's not fair because the video says that there are show notes here, as well. 

So here goes:

We bought our beautiful Bromptons at Curbside Cycle at 412 Bloor Street West in Toronto. They had to be special-ordered from the factory in London, because there is no such thing as Brompton inventory. Just as well, because there are many, many different configurations. You can occasionally find one for sale, second hand, but be prepared to pay double the retail price, no kidding!

The life-changing eleven best YouTube channels for everything you might want to know about Bromptons but that you didn't learn just by watching my video, are, in no particular order [drum roll]...

  1. Brian's i bike unfolded
  2. Gianni's Brompton traveler
  3. Christine's Chris by bike
  4. Victor's Everyday cycling
  5. Hannah's Brilliant bikes
  6. Pam & Gilbert's 2bikes4adventure
  7. Peter's Petrelli on wheels
  8. Susanna's Susanna Thorton
  9. Heather and Pier's Bromptoning and their blog Bromptoning.com
  10. Michelle's One car less (was called Ride on cycling)
  11. and the Brompton commuter channel Cycle every day

Be prepared to be amazed, and maybe even tempted!. If you want it all in a brilliant nutshell, then click here to watch Victor's brilliant summary "What makes it so special".

The special music for this episode is Jazz in Paris by Media Right Productions, and my favourite outtro track, Minor Blues for Booker by E's Jammy Jams, both courtesy of the YouTube audio library.

Be prepared, there will be more Brompton content, and Vespa content, and even Vespa-meets-Brompton and Brompton-meets-Vespa content. That is not a joke. You'll see.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Guess what?

Yesterday evening  I got an email I have been waiting for since September of last year.

Hey David,

Your bikes have arrived YAY!

The mechanic will call when the bikes are ready for collection.

Timm

I can't begin to express how exciting this is! 

I just had to post to mark the occasion.
 

Sunday, February 7, 2021

What's with branding and logos?

 My friend Steve Williams of Scooter in the sticks fame asked questions, and he deserves answers.

"Where will the new logo appear? A new logo for the blog? A new blog? On a T-shirt?"

Some answers are simple and straightforward:

Definitely not a new blog. If this blog's confines become too much, the blog will evolve, there won't be a new blog; but... 

... the YouTube channel will adapt to featuring bicycle content and as I began to prepare for that, I felt that the Brompton bits will need their own context, hence the logo. It still needs words. This morning in the shower "the fold" came to mind. I think that works for me.

On a T-shirt? I've never done that. Bill Leuthold of Rocket and me gave me a T-shrt with his blog branding on it. I generally avoid all branding on clothing if possible. To every rule there are bound to be exceptions. My two armoured moto jackets are those exceptions. I have badges sewn on those jackets for ModernVespa.com, the world's best Vespa forum, for the Vespa Club of Canada, to commemorate my Vespa jaunt in Tuscany, to mark the first 10,000 miles commuting on my Vespa, and yes... the logo for Life on Two Wheels is sewn on there too.

I have debated getting stickers made for the new Brompton adventures logo and sticking them on my bike and on the Vespa. The jury's still out on that one.

Mostly the new logo will serve on the vlog to brand videos that are Brompton specific.

Why bother?

I suppose that's really where I should focus this post.

I have always been interested in branding.

Branding was something that was only an option for the largest fanciest companies, and logos were the sine qua non of every branding exercise. Growing up with 1960's TV culture in the suburbs, logos were prominent everywhere, for grocery and drugstore chains, gas stations, TV and radio stations, and other large national retailers.

When, many years later, building my own web presence became possible, branding became something I could do too.

And so it began. I could brand myself, brand my ideas, brand the vehicles of my modes of expression, both tangible and intangible.

My first logo was for my personal web site. I wrote the code for that site from scratch. Computer technology went from the beast I thought would doom my career, to a beast I managed to tame and that helped to advance my career. I personally wrote all the code for my firm's web site with the result that my firm was one of the first law firms in Canada with a web presence.

My early-adopter computer literacy made it a no-brainer for me to co-opt @, one of the dominant iconic internet symbols as a basis for my personal logo.

My personal web site dates from 1997. Until then I used my law firm's web site to publish my ideas. In 1997 I left the firm to take on new challenges. I couldn't give up having a web site. My dear friend Andrew got in touch at about the same time to suggest that I snap up my name in the .org domain. and that is how masse.org was born. The logo came along just a little later.

My next foray into branding came along much later, in 2015, when I redesigned this blog. That was when the Life on Two Wheels logo was born.


That was back when my life was caught up in a slow motion explosion. I am glad I documented that. It was among the most amazing and enriching experiences of my life.

An opportunity came along in the wake of all that change to teach records management in the context of corporate governance. Once more branding exercises more or less imposed themselves: one for the cover of the book I wrote...


... and one for the related governance consulting business...


So perhaps now the inevitability of the new logo for Brompton adventures becomes more apparent.

None of the foregoing branding exercises generate anything resembling income. In that respect these are are not sources of tangible value. In fact, after mulling it over, even if Brompton videos generate a lot of traffic, I'm pretty sure that I don't want to monetize the YouTube channel. I find YouTube advertising increasingly annoying and intrusive. It's as if the algorithm is being used to make the experience of watching YouTube videos you like so painful that you'll opt for the paid subscription to get rid of the advertising.

There you have it Steve.

My love of branding is just a hobby. Something I do just for fun, as I enjoy masquerading as a bunch of logo-worthy enterprises.

10-year-old me would be so impressed.

Although in truth, my logos would fail to tear his attention away from flat screen TVs, iPhones, iPads, AirPods, GPS, proximity sensors in the car, all the remote controlled lights and thermostats... 

Friday, January 29, 2021

The story of life on two wheels

 

One more than one occasion I have told the story here about the two-wheeled path my life has often taken. I won't cover the same ground again today. Those stories are easy enough to find on the chronology page above. I re-read them just now. They brought back fond memories, and while I read, it was like traveling in time. I could see the scenes unfolding in my mind, experiencing the same emotions I felt all those years ago. That is the wonder of keeping a journal, and the amazing thing about keeping one online, like this.

I don't recall explaining how Life on Two Wheels became the new name for this journal. I looked over the posts I wrote when the new look was unveiled, but I didn't find that topic covered.

 Life on Two Wheels owes its name in no small way to my mom.

My mother was someone who was always ready for whatever the day's mission was a good half-hour to forty-five minutes earlier than the most punctual person would have dared.

It was annoying. 

Picture Queen Elizabeth, standing ramrod straight, in a signature bland sky blue cloth coat, her purse hanging on her arm bent at the elbow, a matching bland hat topping off the look, with a slight  but unmistakable "we are not amused" scowl.

That was my mother standing in the hallway, visibly annoyed that she was the only one in the household poised for departure. When, moments later, my mother would begin hectoring us to leave without further delay, she would often plead "Please, I want to get going, I really don't want to be heading there on two wheels!"

"... on two wheels..."

Whenever that happened, I pictured a car careening around a corner on two wheels.

Perversely, I developed a certain appreciation for things going off on two wheels. In my way of seeing things, it evoked a dashing adventure rather than the impending disaster my mother always feared.

And that's a part of how this journal got its new name.  The other part is well... two wheels.

Today is, by my reckoning, 31 days to Bromptons. By that I mean that our Brompton bikes are supposed to be in the production line, in London, within easy cycling range of Buckingham palace, on week 7, from the 15th to the 21st of February. Once built, they arrive here within two weeks. Hence the 31 days. Yes, I know, that's foolishly optimistic, what with Covid mucking up the works.

If it sounds like I'm counting down the days, I certainly am not. I have an Excel function doing that for me.

What to do as the dawn of a new two-wheeled adventure remains just over the horizon?

Work on a logo of course.

A new adventure like this deserves its own branding.

I wouldn't dream of misusing or abusing the manufacturer's logos, that just wouldn't do. 

So I came up with my own that is mine and mine alone, to do with as I please.

 
I also ordered two new bike helmets, a white one for Susan (her choice) and a black one for me.

Hmmmm... the temptation to order stickers...

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

No caller ID... a tiny act of kindness

This afternoon I received an anonymous call.

Anonymous in the sense that my phone said "No caller ID".

For some reason I resisted the temptation to dodge the call, which is my first instinct, and the thing I usually do.

I answered in my usual guarded tentative way.

"... hello?

The voice on the phone didn't sound one bit like a telemarketer. If anything, the voice seemed polite, earnest, and measured, and, if anything, sounded a little like I would expect a call from the North Pole might sound.

But what the mystery caller was saying I was having a difficult time coming to terms with.

"I sent you my business card?"

What the... ?

I denied sending anyone my business card. It was weird. Why would I do that?

He was doing his best to explain, to ease my obvious concern. I mean, how else did he get my number, Mr. No Caller ID?

The call was going sideways quickly, until he said that his daughter was the one who had solicited my business card...

My suspicious, wary, slow-motion brain finally made the connection, just in the knick of time. The dark murky veil that was about to eclipse the call suddenly fell away as a warm ray of sunshine finally appeared. 

Back in late November, I received a message from a lawyers' email list I subscribe to. It's what I would call a serious message board and the members tend to be prominent highfalutin legal eagles. I tend to be a lurker, not a mover and a shaker.

99.09% of the emails, as you might expect, stick to the legal topic at hand.

Then there's that 0.01% that stray from the path.

In this case, the lawyer, apologizing for the interruption, inquired ever so politely, if anyone on the list would mind sparing a business card.

Good morning, 

My dad collects business cards (hey, everyone needs a hobby!).  He is 74 years old and lives in an assisted living seniors’ residence here in Winnipeg.  Due to COVID restrictions, I have not been able to visit him for several weeks.  I’m not sure what Christmas will bring.  But I know that he would LOVE to get more business cards for his collection.  So, if you (a) have a business card; (b) have access to same; and (c) can spare one business card, an envelope and a stamp, please respond to this e-mail and I will send you my dad’s mailing address.

Thanks for your help with my little Christmas project.  Apologies for trespassing on the list with this personal request.

How could I resist? I lost no time rustling up an envelope and gathering some cards, including one of the precious few of my late Dad's pre-retirement circa 1993 business cards (I knew my Dad would be pleased).

 Hi...

It's on its way:

Denis Masse - Kodak, VP Ottawa (retired)

David Masse - Caravel Law, lawyer

David Masse - Governance View, consultant

David Masse - Governance Professionals of Canada, Chairman (former)

David Masse - Life on two wheels, explorer

Warm regards and best wishes to you and your Dad for Christmas!

 Roy was calling to thank me for the cards.

I have to say, I think that my little November gesture brought me as much joy on this cold dreary grey January afternoon, as it may have brought for Roy.

We had a great chat. I asked Roy who the most important person was in his collection. He paused to consider, as he cast his mind's eye over the more than 17,000 cards in his possession. "Pierre Trudeau" he said. I had the honour to meet our former Prime Minister in 1997, and if I had his business card it would be the top of my collection too.

I am sharing this little story because we are all in serious need of small acts of kindness.

Do what you can.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Art therapy for the 2020 blues


Finally, episode 47 of my video journal is one for the history books. The last upload for 2020. It's 9:37, the clock is ticking fast now.

This process of creating video content is truly challenging.

I have an idea that I want to share, I have a vague impression in my mind, I know enough about the tools I have at my disposal to figure out how to combine the pieces into a whole that approximates my vision for the piece, and I have the time to devote to the project.

I really enjoy the work, and sometimes I feel that I have come fairly close to producing something that I like, at least in some respects.

The interesting thing is that every episode is built with content layer upon layer, upon layer, all created to some extent by me, or at least content that I select for inclusion. Sometimes, as here, my contribution is small compared to the work of others that I have sampled and mixed into the ultimate end product. Yet the soundtrack, the images, and the video clips are included, sequenced, and presented in a way that is unique. 

The only thing that is all mine, for which I am solely responsible, beyond the editing, is the narrative that seeks to bind the overall experience.

In this case, the biggest challenge was creating a narrative that conveyed the message I was striving to share. As the layers accumulate, each editing step adds an element of structure that, as the work progresses, creates a larger and larger shape that becomes less and less malleable.

The fear that wells up, is that there may not be a path through the content for a coherent narrative that conveys my intended message.

The thing that makes the challenge really exquisite is that while the vision for the ultimate message is constant, the narrative remains vague.

There are drafts of bits and pieces, outlines, snippets, that I create as the work progresses, that guide the editing, but, no final narrative that I know will work.

An easier path would be to write the narrative as I would with a paper, or an essay.

The reason I don't do that, is that reading a prepared script destroys the most important aspect of the narrative. When I have tried that, it ends up sounding stilted, like a middling high schooler reading a composition in the classroom.

The approach I used for this episode is to record the narrative once the editing is almost done.

I try to imagine that the camera I am speaking to is you, the viewer, and that we are having a conversation. 

While doing that, I need to make eye contact with you, to look you in the eye, not with so much intensity as to be unsettling, but with enough engagement with you that you will stay with me until my message is complete.

While striving to do that magic trick, I need to avoid hemming and hah-ing, and repetitive annoying speech mannerisms that is a large part of how we humans, who aren't network news anchors, tend to communicate with each other.

Finally, exspecially with the topic of this episode, how do I not come off as someone whose only incentive is to show off an art collectiion in a self-aggrandizing, pompous way.

The cumulative effect of doing this kind of creative work is that the fear of failure grows within me with each step I take. Every time I return to editing, I come to the keyboard with a feeling that I have missed the mark, that I will hate the thing that I thought was more or less allright when I last stepped away. 

Fortunately, so far, it's never quite as bad as I fear.

Then the tweaking continues, and the clips that I cut litter the virtual cutting room floor, and pile up as the episode progresses and approaches its final shape.

I hope I have achieved something close to what I was seeking.

Happy new year to all of you. Soon time to pop the cork on the bubbly!

The music for this episode of Life on two wheels is Hovering Thoughts by Spence, Sarabande by Joel Cummins, Night Snow and Hopeful Freedom by Asher Fulero, all made available courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library.

It's 9:49. I made it.


Monday, December 28, 2020

Taking stock as a new year looms

 I did something today I rarely do. 

Looking to copy a New York Times recipe for fried chicken and looking for a medium on my iPad paste the recipe into, I opened Pages, the Apple word processor. 

It was like opening a chest in the attic. Bits and pieces of draft correspondence, work-related memos from a time that has lost most of its relevance. Like a trove of old snapshots of infants long since adults, cars that are no longer, homes that have drifted from view.

Among the litter was an introspective piece I wrote that was intended as the landing page of a new blog that never saw the light of day. There is nothing I wrote that is not still absolutely true. Other than the dragon blog that never became more than a passing fancy. I did write here about dragon themes. You can find them with the help of Google, or click here where I have done the search for you.

Now I remember that I also used my iPad to create an image for the would-be blog. A dragon, for reasons that will shortly become apparent. I tried to find the image, but somehow. all my content in the app I used has somehow been blitzed into oblivion.

All that was in the fall of 2013, just over seven years ago. It turned out that the horizon I imagined where my world would change in a slow dreamy whirlwind was only two years away, events that I barely could have imagined at the time, with extremely positive outcomes I could never have foreseen. I wrote about that here.

I am struck by the candor of what I had proposed to publish for the world to see back in the fall of 2013. So struck, that I am publishing it here. I am setting it in italic to delineate past from present. 

“What's up?

I'm up!

I'm moving up, moving out, growing up, reaching out.

I was born in the year of the Dragon, but I didn't know it.

My mother gave me a Chinese autograph stamp one Christmas.  Made of jade, its base served as a pedestal for a dragon.  She told me my name was engraved in Chinese characters on the base and that it was a dragon stamp because I was born in the year of the dragon.

I no longer remember when that was, but it was many years ago.

2012 was the year of the Dragon.

For a long time, I didn't have a firm sense of who I was.

I recognize my mother's shy little boy in me.  That boy became a teenager, then a man.  A faithful husband.  A loving, caring father.  Not in any sense a dragon.

Somewhere along the way I struggled to understand who I might become.  Confidence was elusive.  Success was hard won.  I often felt that others achieved more easily, more certainly.   When I look back, I see a tentative me.  Some part of me always holding back.  Wary of committing myself.  Content to accept what was on offer.  Cautiously keeping to the middle of the road. 

My outlook was deeply coloured by my earliest experiences in school.

When I think about this (and I have to say that I thought about this many times in my life) a memory often comes to mind.  The flaming carrot-top, outspoken, goody-two-shoes, earnest-to-a-fault, whip-smart, front-row-sitting, teacher's pet, first grade class president.

And there I was, lurking in the back rows, one of two non french-speaking kids in a sea of glib easy-speakers, unable to understand, barely coping, a fish out of water, isolated, wary, sometimes mocked, usually ignored, I might as well have been on an alien planet learning to breathe water.

I consoled myself by thinking that carrot-top had made the critical error of peaking too early.  In first grade.  I liked to think that by sixth grade he was slowly cruising to the bottom, headed to the back of the class, washed up, soon to be expelled.  I am now certain that he excelled all along. 

That early French immersion challenge my parents tossed my way was the right thing for me.  Eventually, pretty quickly in fact, I became fluent in my father's mother-tongue and the culture of Quebec.  A critical skill that serves me well to this day.  It was a harsh way to learn though.  No mercy.  Thrown into the deep end to learn how to swim on my own.

Those early years in school coloured my life.  They made me a believer in the importance of surfing the life-curve, moving slowly and warily to find the right wave that would let me ride to safety.

At some point this strategy began ebbing, threats loomed.  By then I had responsibilities to shoulder.  It wasn't just me.  My family depended on me.  For food, for shelter, for lessons.  If I was content to live quietly, it wouldn't do for those who depended on me.

In time, facing my fears, forcing myself into the unknown, I began to find confidence that I never had.  I found it easier to venture out when the objective was to serve others.  To ensure I was a reliable source of support for my family.  To contribute to the success of my firm, my community, my profession.

Today, I can say this.  I have the curiosity and courage to meet challenges head on.  I have learned to walk, eyes open and looking forward, towards the things that intimidate.  I have learned to deal with the fear of the unknown that paralyzes, by reaching out to learn.  I have, more than once, found myself in challenging situations, when the risks were tangible.  I always felt that learning was the key.  That's my weapon of choice.

That attitude led me to volunteer.  

More recently, I have learned to reach out for things I want.  To assert myself.

All those lessons.  And here I am.

I may be close to becoming the dragon that was lurking in me all this time.

That is the theme I will explore here.

I'm in no rush, so don't expect a flood of posts.

I'm working on a huge project.  Although I have enjoyed a lot of success, and the beginning of an amazing adventure is in sight, there is still a lot to do.  I think of it as rolling a boulder up a hill.  I'm close to cresting the hill.  I have some momentum.  The rest, as they say, may well be a downward slope with less pushing and more guiding to do.

Time will tell.

One of the skills I have is that I can write.  I just don't know how well I can write.

Like many would be writers, I have a novel in the works.  So far I haven't had much time to devote to it.  I have too many full-time jobs at present.

I may decide to try some of the material from the novel out here.  Just to see if anyone likes it.  One of the harshest critiques of someone's writing I have come across is this: "That's not writing, that's typing!"  I sincerely hope never to hear any criticism quite that mean-spirited 

So there you have it.

The bare beginning of yet another blog.”

I like what I wrote back then. The novel? I haven't touched it. Still too many jobs. It's a little sad, if I have to maintain that soul-bearing candor.

Maybe 2021 will be a year that sees me return to the draft.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

A different kind of Christmas celebration

Well... it was just the two of us here, cloistered and sheltered from the pandemic in our intimate warm physical space.

With just our presents, just our presence, and a light sparkling blanket of fresh snow to console us.


Until kids and grandkids burst on the scene, virtually. Thanks to Zoom, FaceTime, and some creative and thoughtful planning, we were able to share brunch, open gifts, marvel and laugh with the toddlers, shed some tears, comfort each other, and chat with family, and friends... almost all the ingredients for a successful Christmas celebration.

Against tall odds, my darling daughter and 2020 secret Santa, managed to get her hands on gifts that I had regretted having put on my Elfster wishlist.

I know, it sounds like I no longer wanted them. Not true, I truly wanted them very, very much.

The regret was because the gifts I was most hoping for are rare and possibly really, really hard to get. I regretted setting a task doomed to almost certain failure.

In the end Lauren's tenacity was no match for mere rarity. A mad eleventh-hour dash to Curbside Cycle following a series of online misunderstandings and e-commerce snafus, made my Christmas wishes a reality.

Wow!

Presenting for the first time on this journal, a couple of Brompton accessories that ensure that Susan and I  will be able to go anywhere we want with our Bromptons, and take them into even the most discerning destinations, be it tucked in beside our table for two in a fancy restaurant, or the cloakroom at the museum.

To the left, a black bag for the Brompton that discretely cloaks the bike from the prying eyes of doormen, concierges, maitre D's, limousine drivers, and other stern, watchful guardians of civility and good order. It's a discrete saddlebag and rides out-of-the-way until it gets its call to service. Think of it as the Brompton's go-anywhere tuxedo.

To the right, the ingenious Brompton tool kit.


It's ingenious first because all the tools needed to do 90% of the mechanical tasks that might become necessary to allow a Brompton adventure to reach a successful conclusion are stored in a crafty custom round container : three wrenches, a ratchet with the necessary bits to fit the Brompton's bits, tire levers, an inner tube patch, and some sandpaper. Flat tire? No problem. Need to re-install the seat you removed to fit your Brompton into your suitcase? No problem.


The other reason that it, like the Brompton itself, is ingenious, is that the toolkit tucks right inside the front section of the Brompton frame that is accessible when the bike is folded. With a tiny bit of ingenuity, you can store a brand new inner tube in the rear section of the frame. 

All invisible and hidden out of the way until the inevitable flat tire becomes an issue that might otherwise put an end to a delightful Sunday escapade.

Thank you Lauren, you are amazing!

My very best wishes to all of you for safe and happy holidays, with the hope that 2021 sees an end to all the drama of 2020.

There is nothing I want more than this.

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