Tuesday, 30 September 2014

"Victorinox" Delémont Evolution S17


This is my "everyday carry" Swiss Army knife - it has the Victorinox logo, but in most respects it's a Wenger knife.

I love lost causes, and this is my latest.

I've been using Swiss Army knives for over 30 years - I've used both Victorinox and Wenger knives, but I have a soft spot for Wenger - they always seemed like they were willing to change and innovate, whereas Victorinox seemed staid and monolithic. Still, most of the time I bought Victorinox knives, probably because their marketing worked on me.

I hadn't been keeping up with developments in the world of the Swiss Army knife (there's no real need to because these knives are made tough and don't need replacing very often), so it was only recently that I found out that Swiss Army knife manufacturer Wenger is now effectively extinct. After Victorinox bought the smaller company in 2005, they promised that Wenger would be kept intact ("that's great," I naively thought - "maybe co-operation will improve both brands"), but as of January 2013 that is no longer the case. All that's left of the knife making part of Wenger are some of their knives, which have been rebranded and are now being sold under the Victorinox name. In my view, a classic case of a better company being overwhelmed by a more regressive but bigger company's ability to fund more aggressive marketing.

Yay capitalism!

So the knife in the image may have a Victorinox logo, but to me, that's always going to be a Wenger knife: the ergonomic handle, the main blade, the cap lifter, the corkscrew, the scissors, the saw and the nail file were all designed by Wenger. Victorinox have added their own can opener (which is definitely not an improvement - Wenger's was less intuitive but it opened cans faster). On the bright side, Victorinox also added their own awl, toothpick and tweezers, all of which are admittedly improvements, and which is why I use this knife rather than hunting around on eBay for a "real" Wenger.

I guess I should be happy - after all, the result has kinda given us the best of both worlds (albeit in a two steps forward one step back kind of way), but I just wish we could have gotten here without hardworking people having to lose their jobs, and without a beloved brand name going the way of the Dodo.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

We drove to Walt Disney World


We drove down to Disney World this month - that's nearly 2,000 miles of driving that my wife did (I don't drive). We took the 95 almost all the way and in nearly 2,000 miles I never saw a single motorist obeying the speed limit except in traffic jams or exiting the freeway. In all that time (24 hours of driving), I saw only one motorist getting a ticket. We even got honked at a few times, because we weren't going fast enough for the driver behind.

On a related note, this month we also had a karmic moment, when a motorist overtook my wife's car unsafely, forcing her to jam on the brakes. About a mile later, we saw this same car pulled to the side of the road behind another car - apparently the idiot had rear-ended someone.

And motorists say cyclists are the scofflaws!

Friday, 22 August 2014

Degenerative Disc Disease


Whoa! It's been a long time between posts. But now I finally have something to write about.

I have degenerative Disc Disease - kind of an invisible illness. I've had it for about 15 years and unfortunately, I'm one of the few who has chronic pain because of it. I'm not on disability - not sure I could even qualify for a disabled parking sticker - haven't even tried to get one (I don't drive anyway).

As regular readers know, I'm a commuter cyclist and I'm very lucky that I have no pain while riding - it's the only time I'm (thus far) guaranteed to have no pain at all. So I'm often seen riding around my neighborhood like a totally fit athletic person, which I am while I'm on the bike - I can cycle for 60 miles or more, no problem. But recently my illness has become worse - another disc gone kaput - still no problems cycling, but if I walk more than a couple of blocks, I need a walking stick; if I walk for an hour or so, I need a back brace, and if I'm out for more than an couple of hours, I need a wheelchair. I avoided even considering a wheelchair until my wife suggested I use one while we were at Disneyworld (they rent them out for $10 per day - pretty good deal, so I went for it), and afterwards I was convinced, because it made it possible to join in all-day family activities that I had subconsciously canceled from my routine.

So I just bought a wheelchair for the first time today, yay! But I'm a bit worried about what friends and neighbors are going to think of a person who's out and about on a bike 5 days a week, but who occasionally uses a wheelchair. When I rented a wheelchair I was even kinda embarrassed to get out of it and stand up or walk around for fear of being labeled a disability scammer or a joyrider. There's a lot of ignorance out there about disability - for so many people it seems like there are only a few kinds of health states - amputee, paraplegic, quadriplegic and perfectly healthy. If you don't fit into the first three categories, because your illness is invisible, that means you're fine. It's nuts, but I'm anticipating puzzled looks and perhaps even questions.

Anyway, just thought I'd share. Does anyone have any thoughts? Any similar experiences or friends with similar issues?

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Motorists' Sense of Entitlement


Yup. It's that time again. Time for the perennial patent pending Desegregated Cyclist anti-motorist rant.

Speaking as a person who has received training as a cycling safety instructor, speaking as a person who knows the laws and rules of the road and puts them into practice every day without fail, and speaking as a person who has been commuting by bike for over 30 years, I have to say it's getting ridiculous for cyclists out on the road these days. Motorists seem to be getting far worse - I estimate 90% or more don't have a clue as to their responsibilities or even the rules of the road (and they talk about "scofflaw cyclists" as if motorists never speed, never talk on the cellphone while driving, never drink, never run red lights or stop signs, etc., etc., etc.). With that overwhelming ignorance comes a sense of entitlement a mile wide and an arrogance that often seems to lead to violence.

I find 90% of motorists to be disgusting and frightening (by which I do NOT mean they frighten me by honking or buzzing me - I mean that they don't practice the rules of the road because they don't know them, nor do they care to know them, which means they pose a real danger to cyclists on the road). That's something I would never have thought 20 years ago, but today's motorists appear to be a different breed: they seem to have no consideration for other road users, and they seem to act as if the road is their private property rather than a facility that exists for everyone to use, no matter what vehicle they choose to use on it.

The problem, I think, is that there is nowhere near the same respect for cycling that there was 30 years ago. Today's motorists don't have a grounding in cycling culture - many did not commute to school by bike when they were kids and many now view bicycles as mere toys rather than transportation, so they view cyclists as errant children rather than equals on the road. The prevailing attitude is that cyclists are joyriders, whereas the reality is that we are engaged in the very same commuter activities as motorists. The only difference is that when cyclists disobey the rules, they aren't driving a 2-ton chunk of metal that can easily kill. That difference is why motorists should be held to a higher standard. I think the fact that they are, all too often, NOT held to a higher standard is shameful.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Yay! I'm No Longer a Lardass!


Okay, so maybe I wasn't quite that big, but I was bigger than I liked.

So I finally got motivated enough to do something about the extra 25 to 50 extra pounds I've been carrying around for the past 15 years. Around October 15, I weighed myself and found that I was at my lowest weight in 15 years, but at 180 lbs I was still 25 pounds from my optimum BMI. So I looked online for a website that could help me dump that last 25, and I found it at caloriecount.com.

I started my diet on October 21st. I knew nothing about dieting, so at first I cut back my calories way too much, but the website helped me to figure out how to lose weight in a healthy and effective way. After a week, I was getting all my proper nutrients and losing weight at a good (but not too extreme) 2 pounds per week. I managed to get through Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year with only minor alcohol-fueled setbacks (yay!) and thanks to caloriecount.com, lashings of motivation and self-control and a healthy amount of cycle commuting, after 12 weeks I reached my goal weight of 155 pounds on 12 January 2014.

Woohoo!

Now I fit into trousers of a size I haven't fit into since the 1980s - okay, there's a downside - I had to buy new trousers of a size I haven't fit into since the 1980s. Still, it feels freaking great and now I even notice that cycling uphill is much easier without the spare tire I was dragging around.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

A True Cyclist Makes Excuses To Cycle, While Wannabe Cyclists Make Excuses Not To.


Recently, I've been going through a bit of a tough time getting myself out on the bike. In the weeks before Christmas I had a lot of safety issues with motorists honking. I decided to address each one by stopping the bike and (with a smile on my face) asking what the problem was, in order to address the issue and maybe educate them a bit in a non-threatening way. This did not work at all - no one listened, no one wanted the little flyer I offered them, and one guy - a nice West Indian guy - started honking every single time he drove up behind me, just to say hi!

Also, for some reason, being friendly towards motorists seems to make me more nervous for some reason. It may be because I'm an introvert by nature, so the anticipation of one-on-one interactions with motorists adds a lot of stress. This asocial aspect of my personality is why I chose not to become a League Certified Instructor when I took the LCI course in 2010: I'm just not cut-out for interaction with humans.

So I, being the way I am, became a bit of a nervous wreck. I am not off the bike altogether: I have to take my daughter to school, and cycling is the best way, and even on days when my daughter gets a car or bus ride to school, I'm still cycling two miles to pick her up. But I am trying to cut back as much as possible and getting my wife to take my daughter to school on days when she can, to give myself a bit of a rest - maybe until Spring Break. I just need a breather.

One of the problems is that I'm going against one of my maxims, which says, "A true cyclist makes excuses to cycle, while wannabe cyclists make excuses not to."

I fear falling into the "wannabe cyclist" category.

So does anyone have any advice, stories, tips?