I’m taking several vacation days to be able to spend some time with Susan and the kids, as well as to focus on a couple of for-fun writing projects.
Also, I plan to reboot my diet and fitness plan. But that’s another post.
Well, actually, it was going to be today’s post, but now today’s post is about why there’s no possible way I could write something entertaining.
Here’s why: today I confronted the labyrinth of insurance and medical expenses.
It took all morning to figure out which things are really bills, which are just statements, which are bills that are redundant to bills sent concurrently to insurance, and which bills my insurance company has paid, but which I have been sent angry letters demanding payment for anyway.
I believe that I have now given my credit card number to every medical establishment within a 300-mile radius.
I then sat down to begin writing something fun for the blog. At which point, I realized that there is no possible way in the world I would be writing something entertaining today, what with my blood boiling, my stomach churning, and my soul sucked dry. And whatnot. I simply don’t have it in me to be fun right now. Which is a weird sensation for me, and not very pleasant.
I tell you what: there’s a lot that sucks about cancer that has nothing to do with the cancer.
Hey, look! I think I just saw a tumbleweed blow across the windswept, barren deathscape that was once my checking account.
For each of the past three years (2005, 2006, 2007) I’ve posted a list of Christmas gift ideas you can use to either help you shop for other cyclists in your gift-giving circle, or to forward around, in the hopes you might get something you like.
I just reviewed these lists and am happy to confirm that they’re top-notch. You can and should still use them.
For this year’s list, then, I’d like to get a little more thematic.
Basically, for Christmas this year I want two things:
- To have the means to learn to start doing some basic bike maintenance.
- To fight cancer.
And since I (rightly, I’m sure) assume that each of you is exactly like me, I will now expand on these two “wants,” and then you can forward them to friends, families, and coworkers with the subject line “hint hint” as you like.
1. I Want To Become Less Clueless About Maintaining My Bike
I intended to start this section by saying it’s ironic that I’ve been cycling for fifteen years and yet have not yet learned to do even basic bike maintenance. Except if you know me, you’d realize that it’s not ironic at all.
Why? Because I don’t do even basic anything maintenance. I don’t mend the fence. I beg neighbors to assist me in draining the sprinkler system each fall. I buy Hondas so I don’t ever have to worry about fixing the car.
So why do I suddenly want to start fixing my bike? I don’t. I just want to be able to do some basic maintenance — the equivalent of putting gas in the car’s tank. I want to be able to properly degrease a chain. I want to be able to adjust a derailleur. I want to be able to adjust the brakes so they don’t squeal. I want to change my single speed cog. And maybe — I know this is pushing it — I’d like to be able to swap out the brake pads.
Why? Because my two favorite bike shops — Racer’s Cycle Service and SLC Bicycle Company — are each about a 45 minute drive from my house. (Yeah, there are several closer shops, but they either don’t know me or don’t like me at those shops.) It’d be nice if I could take care of a few things myself.
And that means I’m going to need some stuff. Here’s what I’m thinking:
- A bike stand: As a home mechanic, I’m going to want a more sophisticated way to keep my bike upright than my current technique, which is to lean my bike up against my car. I’ve been looking around and am tempted to get a wall-mounted bike stand. I am, however, interested in counter-arguments and recommendations.
- Some bike tools: Really, all I want is the right tools to do the basics that I mentioned above: clean a chain, make adjustments to derailleurs and brakes, and maybe — when I’m feeling ambitious — swap forks. The problem is, though, I have no idea what tools I need for all this. Is there a pre-fab toolkit I should buy? Or should I get the parts piecemeal? Also, should I buy a tool apron, to make me look dapper?
- Lessons: I know, I know, I should just buy a Lennard Zinn book, but I’ve bought DIY books before, and they just make me sweat and panic. I need to hire Racer to just teach me how to do the stuff I want to do. I’d hire Brad, but I’ve noticed that his bikes break more than anyone else’s, which isn’t all that confidence-inspiring. Is anyone aware of bike maintenance classes? If there isn’t such a thing out there, why not?
2. I Want to Fight Cancer
OK, the truth is I don’t even really care very much about whether I get the stuff I need to start doing some DIY bike maintenance. In fact, come to think of it, I think it might be best if I don’t get that kind of stuff, because I know it’s just going to sit in a corner, unused. And then when I go to the shop to get my bikes worked on like I always have I’ll just feel even lamer about my lameness.
And — trust me — while it sucks to feel lame about not knowing anything at all about bike maintenance, it sucks even more to feel lame about your lameness because you have everything you need to fix your bike…but you don’t.
So, instead, what I want to do is fight cancer for Christmas. Here’s the letter I’m sending out to friends and family — anyone who might conceivably be buying me a present, and many who would never buy me a present, but I think I can shake down, anyway:
Dear [person's name here],
I know you’ve been lying awake at night, wondering what you ought to buy me for Christmas. I imagine that your train of thought goes like this: “What should I get Elden for Christmas? Something really unique? Something really functional? Something really expensive? Something all three?“
And while I would normally be glad to encourage and facilitate that line of thinking, this year I’d like to ask you for one very specific thing instead:
Help me fight cancer for Christmas.
See, I’ve signed up to raise money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, because I’ve seen firsthand what good work they do. And frankly, I can’t think of any cool toy in the world that I’d rather have than help someone who has cancer, or help someone who’s working on a cure for cancer.
So if you want to give me a Christmas present this year, here’s what you do.
1. Go to this website: http://seattle09.livestrong.org/fatty
2. Donate as much as you would normally spend on a present for me.
I’ve seen too much cancer in my family — my sister’s had it, my grandma’s had it, my dad’s had it, my stepfather’s had it, my stepmother’s had it, and my wife has it. I can’t think of another fight that is this personal, or this important.
So, if you want to get me a present for Christmas, help me fight cancer, and know that I’ll regard it as the best present you’ve ever given me.
PS for Team Fatty Members: Feel free to use a variation of this letter yourself.
PPS: As of today, Team Fatty has raised more than $50,000, and have 312 team members. Thanks to everyone who has helped Team Fatty — especially Shimano, Masi Bicycles and Twin Six — with a great start!
This morning I had a poser of an ethical dilemma I had to solve. Luckily, I solved it easily, thanks to a little help from a friend. I’ll explain more about this in a minute.
Caps for Sale
But first, I want to let you know some very cool news: My good friends at Twin Six have just let me know that Fat Cyclist cycling caps are now in. Behold (click either for a larger version of the image):
Here’s the left side:
And here’s the right:
They’re soft wool, they’re extremely comfortable (I know; I wear one pretty much every moment of the day), the graphics are embroidered — not screened — on, and they’re $30.00. Seems to me that a cap like this might make a fine Christmas gift — as long as you order by Friday. But why wait? If I were you, I’d order one now.
2009 Fat Cyclist T-Shirt Now In
You know what would go great with that hat? The new Fat Cyclist T-Shirt would, that’s what. Here’s what it looks like:
I love this new shirt. It’s black (which is slimming), it’s $22 (which is also slimming), and it’s cotton (which is comfortable). And it’s available now, both for men and for women.
I’d suggest that this might make a fine Christmas present, but you already knew that.
Why I Love the Twin Six Guys
As you may know, Twin Six has been designing and selling my jerseys (and t-shirts and bibshorts and women’s shorts and hats and armwarmers and socks) ever since I’ve had them to sell.
And, as you may know, they do an incredible job.
What you may not know is this. This is Twin Six:
Yes, that’s right. Twin Six is two guys — and two part-timers — in Minneapolis. They’d put the “small” in small business, if it weren’t for the fact that they’re both about 7′ tall.
Which is all prelude to the fact that last Friday, Twin Six joined Team Fatty by setting up their own LiveStrong Challenge Fundraiser page — and then immediately donated $6600.00 to it.
Yes, that’s right. These two guys just basically donated their company profit for the year toward fighting cancer.
Weirdly, Dr. Lammler seems to have pitched in $66.66 to their page, bringing the Twin Six total to $6666.66. In support of Spalm, evidently. That guy’s such a kidder.
This makes Twin Six, in addition to being really excellent guys to do business with, the current top fundraisers for Team Fatty.
Why Mark Should Love Twin Six
Here’s the thing (and here’s where I’m getting back to the ethical dilemma, by the way). That much money in your fundraiser page buys a lotta raffle tickets. 1333 of them, in fact.
And so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Twin Six won the Masi Soulville 10 in the raffle drawing last Friday night.
The thing is, the Twin Six guys won it fair and square — like everyone else, they created a LiveStrong Challenge page and contributed their own hard-earned money to it. Then they had won the bike by luck of the draw, bolstered by the fact that they had improved their odds of winning by being extremely generous.
But I didn’t feel good about it. I was worried it wouldn’t look right to some people. So I called Ryan (he’s the one who’s eyes aren’t crossed out), planning to walk him through how he won but how it didn’t seem right to me.
I never got to my speech.
“No, no no no no no no. No,” said Ryan as soon as I said they had the winning ticket.
And so I drew an alternate — Mark M — to win the Soulville. Mark is, by the way, a good guy who is — like a lot of us — fighting against cancer for intensely personal reasons. And he’s excited to get the Soulville. As he should be.
A word of advice, Mark: you may want to go buy a Twin Six jersey or two, just to balance out the karma a little, you know?
Why You’re Going to Love Twin Six
So, right this very minute, the guys at Twin Six are hard at work at the special Team Fatty: Fighting for Susan jersey design. I haven’t seen the preliminary designs yet, but Twin Six has never disappointed me yet.
If you’re a member of Team Fatty, you’ll definitely want to pick one up. And you may want to pick one up even if you haven’t signed up for the LiveStrong Challenge, because Twin Six is going to be making a hefty donation to the Lance Armstrong Foundation for each one of these sold.
I know I’m gushing, but these guys rock.
A Note from Fatty: Tomorrow is the last day of the raffles for the Shimano Dura-Ace Wheelset of your choice and the Masi Soulville 10. If you’ve joined Team Fatty but have a balance of $0 in your fundraising page, you should definitely either lean on friends and family or open your own wallet before the end of Friday. Because you can’t win if you haven’t got a ticket. And you get a ticket for every $5.00 you’ve got in your fundraising page.
If you’re not a member of Team Fatty, you can still win a chance — ’til end of day Friday — at the Shimano Dura-Ace Wheelset — a $2000 value — by donating at my Fundraising page. Click here to do it now.
Shaggy Dog Prologue
Really, this post doesn’t belong on my blog, at least as my blog’s mission statement was originally defined.
What, you didn’t know my blog has a mission statement? Of course my blog has a mission statement. Every popular and successful blog has a mission statement. If your blog doesn’t isn’t popular and doesn’t have a mission statement, that probably explains why your blog is not popular. Write a mission statement, adhere to it, and watch your traffic explode (not literally, because that would be both gross and deadly).
For your information, here is the Fat Cyclist Mission Statement:
Fat Cyclist Mission: To provide synergistic excellence through the medium of a holistic and collaborative approach to the creation and extrapolation of (usually self-deprecating) cycling community comedy. Means toward this end include but are not limited to: anecdotal recitation, weight jokes, fake news, ad analysis, petulance, open letters, gushing and absurd praise of things that may or not be praiseworthy (or may be praiseworthy but for reasons other than the received praise), and the occasional limerick. Also, to promote mayonnaise as the best condiment ever.
Truth be told, however, I think it’s safe to say that my blog has been off-mission for quite some time. I do not apologize, but I hereby commit to, in the near future, revising my mission statement to include my expanded focus.
Of course, some of you may be wondering what other cycling blogs have mission statements. Well, I think I can quite nicely prove my point — that a good mission statement can give focus and ensure popularity to a blog — by citing the mission statement for Bike Snob NYC:
Bike Snob NYC Mission: To write 50 words more than the previous day; to read, dissect and ridicule every Craigslist post ever written; and to confound fixie hipsters by making them forever uncertain whether to be flattered or insulted when featured. Or both. Also, to be very, very anonymous, so people won’t find out that he is actually Greg Lemond.
Anyway, this post — the part I’m about to write, not the part I’ve already written — doesn’t even fit within my soon-to-be-revised blog mission. Curiously, however, it does fit nicely within my friend Dug’s blog mission:
Dug’s Blog Mission: To explore every nook and cranny of scat humor.
It’s a worthy mission, and I think Dug’s blog will go far.
And now, 4000 words into today’s post, I am ready to describe yesterday’s event. Which, if you reach waaaay back into your memory, you will recall I mentioned would fit nicely in Dug’s blog.
At Long Last, the Anecdote
I work at home three days out of the week. This lets me stay close to Susan. However, my job has me on the phone pretty often, making it so I am not able to come to the door easily. Thus, I have instructed the nurses who stop by from time to time to just come on in.
Yesterday, following a long phone conference, I quickly ran downstairs to see how Susan was doing. As I ran through my list of things I always check on — does she need anything to eat or drink, is her oxygen tube crimp-free, are her legs comfortable, does she need to be shifted to a different position — I became acutely aware of the fact that during the prior 90 minute conference call, I had consumed roughly 1.5 litres of Diet Coke (with Lime, but the lime is not relevant to the story. Pay no attention to the lime.).
Clearly, it was time for me to use the restroom. Luckily, we have a restroom just outside the room (formerly the living room) where we have Susan’s bed set up. This restroom is also just off the entryway.
Do I even need to finish this anecdote? No? Well, I’m going to anyway.
Of course, since this was during school hours and Susan and I were the only ones home (and it’s not like Susan was going to come invade my privacy), there was no need whatsoever for me to close the door to the restroom.
So I didn’t.
No sooner had I embarked upon my moment of blessed relief, however, than the front door opened, and — naturally — in walked a nurse.
Now, the truth is, this anecdote could have ended quite uneventfully. The nurse would be walking from the entry to the living room, and would not be passing the restroom. Unless I did something stupid, she would not see me at all.
Let me reiterate: in order for me to remain unseen, all I had to do was just keep peeing. My best course of action was to make no change to my course of action.
Before I continue, I need to make three contextual points:
- The restroom door swings out of the restroom, so that when open, the doorknob is nicely visible from the entryway.
- As I stood and faced the toilet, the door was on my left.
- While I am generally right-handed, I am not right-handed for certain activities. I have no explanation for this, and do not wish to elaborate further.
Not wanting to disappoint the thousands of people who would feel hurt and slightly betrayed if I were to behave rationally, I engaged, rapidfire, in the below sequence of events:
- With my right hand, I reached left, stretching for the doorknob. It was too far.
- I continued to pee.
- I leaned left, reaching with my right hand, trying to get to the doorknob.
- I continued to pee.
- I made a magnificent effort, leaning and pivoting hard left, while reaching with my right.
- I continued to pee.
- I exposed myself to the nurse.
- I made an inarticulate, strangling, gurgling sound, meant to convey surprise, embarrassment, and an apology for having greeted her in this manner.
- Also, I peed on the floor of the entryway. And on the wall of the bathroom.
- Finally — after what seemed like days of peeing and self-exposing — I reached the doorknob and closed the door.
You may be interested to know that, so great is my humiliation, that I have not since exited the bathroom.
I am not certain that I ever will.
A Note from Fatty: Today’s the last day you can win the Stylus 1030 SW, which is shockproof to 6.6ft, waterproof to 33 ft, crushproof to 220lbs of pressure and freezeproof down to 14 degrees. Jill Homer of Up In Alaska fame is raffling it off as part of Team Fatty. You can win it by donating to the LiveStrong Challenge on Jill’s Fundraising page . Every $5.00 you donate today gets you a raffle ticket toward this camera (as well as a 1GB xD card and carrying case). You might also win an autographed copy of Jill’s new book, Ghost Trails: Journeys Through a Lifetime. Click here to donate.
Another Note from Fatty: Want to win a nice $2000 wheelset? Of course you do. So donate on my LiveStrong Challenge page; every $5.00 you do earns you another chance at any Dura-Ace wheelset you want. Which rocks. Also, if you’re a member of Team Fatty, every $5.00 you have collected on your own donation page gets you a raffle ticket toward this wheelset, as well as toward the Masi Soulville 10.
Recently, I have noticed several things about myself, none of which are important or substantial. Indeed, I reference them here merely for my own amusement, and not out of anything like a growing sense of alarm or panic.
Also, I see each of these changes as coincidental and unrelated. Which is to say, I do not see them as part of an obvious pattern, nor as clear symptoms of any particular circumstance.
I believe I have made myself clear.
With that said, I hereby present Several unrelated items, none of which are symptomatic of anything. At all.
Peculiar Burning Sensation at Top of Stairs
As you are no doubt aware, I live at very high altitude: more than 4,000 feet, in fact, and I believe that by some mathematical methodologies I am allowed to round up to 5,000. Which is practically a mile. So let’s just say I live at an altitude of 5280 feet and leave it at that. Or, perhaps for simplicity’s sake, we should round my home altitude up to 5300′. Yes, that sounds about right.
Anyway, some of you may also be aware that until recently (June, 2006), I lived in Sammamish, Washington, which is altitude best described as “essentially underwater.”
With that huge altitude difference in mind, it’s no surprise that I am noticing some lightheadedness, shortness of breath, and burning in the legs when I climb a set of stairs here. In fact, I have to be careful, because I don’t want to give myself a high altitude pulmonary edema.
Which is why I have recently started taking the elevator to my fourth-floor office at work.
What’s peculiar is that until recently, I didn’t notice any of these effects. My theory is that sometimes high altitude sickness can take a while (2.5 years, in my case) to manifest itself.
I’m just glad I caught it before it’s too late.
Certain Articles of Clothing Have Become Unattractive to Me
I hate the way cotton shrinks, don’t you? And what’s weird is I have these jeans that are more than two years old. You would think they’d have done any shrinking they’re going to do by now. But no. I must have washed them (along with my other clothes) in extra hot water and then dried them extra double-hot a few times in a row, because these pants have become uncomfortably tight. Sure, if I spend a few minutes hand-stretching them before putting them on they’re OK, but still.
These things are supposed to be loose-fitting. It says so right on the tag. I should complain to the manufacturer. Does anyone have Michael Ball’s email address?
Uncomfortable Sensation When In the Drops
I have never been a big fan of riding in the drops on my road bike. Lately, though, it has occurred to me that riding in the drops is childish. I’m not in a wind tunnel, for crying out loud.
Furthermore, it lately occurs to me that riding in the drops is extremely uncomfortable. Thanks to my very large ribcage and massive lung capacity, it is not uncommon to have my knees mash into my stomach when I ride in the drops.
I am positive this is not a new phenomenon, so it is surprising to me that I am just starting to notice it now. I think this is very likely similar to the way that you don’t notice a shoe is rubbing your heel until you have been running for several miles.
My Cycling Clothing Seems to Be Defective
I really don’t know why I ever liked my size Medium bibshorts. The entire lot of them are ridiculous. I am so glad that, a few years ago when I was overweight, I had the foresight to also purchase some size Large bibshorts. They look much better.
And it’s really starting to bother me the way Twin Six has started mis-sizing all their jerseys. It used to be that a Medium fit me pretty well. Lately though, even their Larges have been tight. Hey Twin Six, quit screwing around with your jersey sizing!
Scales: Not to Be Trusted, Nor Used
Lately, I have decided that the scale is not a valid way of determining my leanness or fitness. Consider: if I were to start an intensive weightlifting program, I would likely lose fat — not that I have much to lose — and gain muscle. What would the scale tell me about this positive change? Merely that I have gained weight!
(Note: I have not actually started a weightlifting program, but this is still a valid hypothetical argument.)
Furthermore, I have noticed — in times past — that when I stop training, I usually lose weight, at least for a little while, perhaps from muscle loss, though I am quite muscular even in the worst of times.
In short, the bathroom scale — which I do not in any way fear — is an unreliable way of measuring my progress (or, hypothetically, regress) as an athlete, and I choose not to see what it says.
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