By Popular Demand

01.9.2009 | 3:06 pm

This Monday is the last day to nominate people for the 2009 Bloggies Awards. And you all gave me one last year, I’m not particularly stressed about getting one this year. So instead, take a few minutes and go nominate some of my favorite blogs for these categories.

And after you fill in your nomination form, make sure you scroll all the way to the right edge of the page (?!) and do the following:

  1. Fill in the captcha nonsense.
  2. Check the checkbox saying you’d love to be on the panel that chooses the finalists.
  3. Enter your email address.
  4. Click the Submit button.
  5. Check your email inbox (and your junk mail folder) for the confirmation email.
  6. Click the link in the email to confirm your vote.

Not that I’m trying to rig the vote or anything.

More Shot Bloks Experiments, By Popular Demand

As a reward for your efforts in nominating these blogs, I have conducted the most-requested Shot Blok experiments: microwaving and blending, for your weekend time-wasting amusement. Here you go:

Have a splendid weekend.


My Bike Philosophy

01.8.2009 | 3:51 pm

A Note from Fatty: Today’s post is topical, but has a startlingly small number of jokes. I don’t understand why this happened or whether I make any sense here, because I’m trying to articulate something I believe but don’t have fully worked out even in my own head. Anyway, here it is.

Every once in a while, as I’m riding along, I will consider the bike I’m riding on. By which I mean, I don’t think: “Hey, I’m riding a bike.” No, what I think is much, much deeper. I will try to picture in my head all the various motions that my bike is making.

I picture the movement of the chain, and how each link pivots and straightens constantly. I picture the motion of the pedals and try to imagine what it each pedal would look like to an unmoving observer as I go by: an oscillating, strangely-shaped wave. I try to picture that wave, but get lost; it’s too complex.

I picture the action of the freehub, and I start to panic. I picture the motion of the rear derailleur and nearly black out from the effort.

This longing to be able to visualize what my bike is doing has led to my bike-owning philosophy. I’ll even put it on its own line, in italics and initial caps, for emphasis:

Ride a Bike You Can Understand.

For me, this means a bike like my WaltWorks rigid singlespeed:


I totally get this bike. All the moving parts are simple and obvious. And that’s useful to me even when I’m not trying to be At One with my bike.

For example, I like the way a rigid fork feels as I’m riding, because the distance from my front wheel to my handlebars never changes. When I hit a rock or rut, there’s no brief contraction followed by expansion of that distance like I’d have with a suspension fork. I feel it pretty much the way I’d feel it if I walked over it.

What does this mean? Well, it means a couple of things:

  1. It means that I’m not very good at visualizing things. This is true in other aspects of my life, too. It’s a trait I inherited from my mother, who is even worse. My mom’s very smart, but I once watched her get completely defeated by the seatbelt latch on a baby carrier. And the only way she can tell if a tupperware lid fits a bowl is to try it out.
  2. It means that I’m happiest on simple bikes.

About the Frame
The drivetrain and front suspension are really the smallest part of my philosophy, though. The most crucial part of my “Ride a Bike You Can Understand” philosophy has to do with the frame.

Specifically, full suspension frames blow my mind. Look at this Specialized SX Trail frame:


When you hit a bump, the four (that I can count) different hinges pivot. How am I supposed to picture that?

Or, worse, consider this frame (the Judge) from Cannondale:


As near as I can tell, when you hit a bump riding on a bike with this frame, a series of events is initiated, the conclusion of which is nine minutes after you hit that bump, and is manifested in the form of ejecting you thirty feet into the air.

It’s like some product manager said to an engineer, “Give me a frame that has a bare minimum of seven hinges. I want it to take a quart of grease per week to keep this sucker from squeaking.”

Seriously, is it even possible to picture what happens to this frame when your bike hits a bump?

And this leads to my bike frame philosophy:

Don’t Buy a Bike Frame You Can’t Draw From Memory.

If the bike doesn’t make sense to me, how can I possibly ride it in a way that makes sense?

What My Philosophy Means To You 

Do I expect my bike philosophy to be useful to anyone but me? No, I do not. Chances are, a lot of people don’t need to understand what’s going on in their bikes to ride them. Instead, they just ride their bikes, and do so without looking like a middle-aged doofus.

Indeed, I wish I had that ability: to just have a “feel” for the bike, no matter what its internal workings. Maybe then I’d be able to ride my bikes like they’re a part of me, instead of a device I’m thinking about.

Maybe that’s what distinguishes a rider with style and flow from riders like me: feeling the bike versus thinking about the bike.

Meanwhile, I think I’ll stick with the double-diamond, simple bikes that fit in my brain.

PS: Hey, you kids get offa my lawn!

It Started at 6:05am

01.7.2009 | 12:46 pm

A Note from Fatty: Nominations are now open for the 2009 Bloggies. Ordinarily, I’d gross you out by begging for your nomination for the Sports category, the Most Humorous category, the Best-Kept Secret category, and Best Topical category. And maybe Best Australian / New Zealand blog category, because I really liked the Lord of the Rings movies.

But this year, I think I’ll ask you to nominate some other deserving folks instead. Specifically, I recommend you head over to the (very strange and hard to navigate [Side scrolling? Really?]) Bloggies site and make the following nominations (you’ve got to make at least three nominations or your nomination won’t count):

And after you fill in your nomination form, make sure you scroll all the way to the right edge of the page (?!) and do the following:

  1. Fill in the captcha nonsense.
  2. Check the checkbox saying you’d love to be on the panel that chooses the finalists.
  3. Enter your email address.
  4. Click the Submit button.
  5. Check your email inbox (and your junk mail folder) for the confirmation email.
  6. Click the link in the email to confirm your vote.

Thank you. Thankyouverymuch.

About That Mysterious Post I Wrote Yesterday Morning

Of course, yesterday’s main post was about the properties of ancient Shot Bloks. Earlier in the day, however, I posted a short message saying that I was going to be a little slow with my main post, because my morning had been “pure insanity.”

I did not, however, describe the insanity, nor how it had reached such purity. I was still too close. I hadn’t recovered from the trauma.

Enough time (24 hours or so) has passed now, though, that I think I can talk about it.

All times, except the first one, are approximate.


“Something’s wrong, Elden.” That’s how Susan woke me up. Well, actually she was considerably more specific about what was wrong, but I’ve decided to obscure a couple of facts because of Too Much Information Syndrome concerns.

Suffice it to say that it was a minor emergency that requires a nurse’s help, and that the emergency becomes more and more urgent with every moment. Also, this emergency had happened before — a number of times — so I knew what was going on.

I called the hospice number, which said they’d send out the on-call nurse for the area as soon as possible.

The thing is, the on-call nurse was an hour’s drive away (in Payson, for those of you UT County locals) on a dry-road day…and it had snowed about six inches during the night. It would likely be more like 90 minutes or two hours before the nurse got here.

Meanwhile, I had four kids to get up, ready, and off to school.


I ran downstairs and woke up the oldest boy. Luckily, he’s totally self-reliant in his school prep. He doesn’t need — or want — any help or company first thing in the morning. Having been married to Susan for twenty years, I totally understand (I’m chatty and awake right from the get-go in the morning; Susan is not).

I ran back upstairs. I have twenty minutes before I need to wake the next child. This gives me the time I need to help Susan get some temporary relief while we wait for the nurse to get to our house. This means some lifting, moving, pulling and removing, and then more moving and positioning that I would never have guessed I’d be capable of three months ago.

I get it done in a reasonable amount of time, then leave Susan to herself while I prepare to wake our second boy: the vampire.


I go to the cat’s known hiding places until I find it under my bed. Using a broom, I scare it into the open and pick it up. This may seem like a spurious step, but it is in fact very important. By bringing the cat with me when I wake the vampire, I effectively distract the thirteen-year-old and give him a new target for his early morning grouchiness.

My method is this:

  1. Open the bedroom door.
  2. Throw the cat onto my son’s sleeping form.
  3. Laugh as hilarity and hijinks ensue.

Sure, I could be gentler. But you shouldn’t coddle vampires.

After talking — lightly, carefully — about unimportant things (very important to keep the things unimportant) for a few minutes, I am confident that my son is awake and I head back upstairs to check on Susan.


Susan says that my efforts toward bringing her some temporary relief have failed. She says this apologetically, as if it is somehow her fault. The thing is, though, there’s nothing more I can do for her but move her back onto her bed.

I’m virtually panicked at this point, knowing that Susan is becoming more and more uncomfortable with each passing minute, and it’s now been an hour, and the only technique I had for helping hadn’t helped at all.

It sucks to feel helpless when all you want to do is help.


I have fifteen minutes before the vampire should be upstairs, at which point I usually make his school lunch and talk with him — lightly, carefully — for a few minutes before he heads out the door.

This is a perfect opportunity for me to shovel the driveway, making it possible for the nurse to park at our house, and making it further possible for me to drive to work once all the kids are off to school.

The snow’s deeper than I expected. It takes half an hour instead of fifteen minutes. I do not realize this until I come back inside.

More important than my own lateness, though, is my son’s absence from the kitchen.


I run downstairs and find — to my horror — that the vampire has gone back to sleep.

Something snaps and I punch the door jamb (because even in my fury I know that punching drywall is a bad idea) half a dozen times, yelling at the vampire that today is not a good day to sleep in.

My son has never seen me punch anything before, and hence realizes that he probably ought to get up.

A leisurely riser, he usually takes a full hour to get himself ready for school. Today, he has ten minutes.

Telling him — repeatedly — that there is no way he is going to miss a second of school today because he went back to sleep after I woke him up, I rushed him through the routine and get him out the door.


As my son heads out the door, the nurse — finally! — arrives. Traffic was even worse than she had thought it would be.

Luckily, she does not need my help, which is good, because right as the nurse enters, one of the twins comes downstairs.

It turns out that in a (common for her) burst of creativity after I put her to bed last night, she had gotten out several small hair rubber bands and had given herself around ten very small ponytails.

Leaving the bands in, she had then gone to sleep.

The women among you know what this means. My girl’s hair — which I usually plan on “styling” with just a brush-through and a mist of hairspray in the morning — was not fixable without a shower.

And I do not factor shower time into the morning routine.

Rushing both the twins into the shower, I tell them to wash each other’s hair, get clean and towel off. They had five minutes.

They took ten. But to tell the truth, ten was what I was hoping for.


I get the girls out the door, having gotten them cleaned, dried, dressed, styled, fed, and packed in record time.

I talk with the nurse, who is just finishing up — but with the same kind of equipment that contributed to Susan’s discomfort in the first place.

But that was all she had with her. I shook my head, saying that I’m sure they’d be hearing from us again soon.

I then got Susan comfortable, dressed for the day, and fed. Everything was caught up.

Except me. I hadn’t even begun getting myself ready for work.


I head out the door, calling my coworkers that considering my 40-minute drive (when the roads are good) and the 25 minutes I have until our scheduled meeting, I might be a little tardy.


The roads are better than I expect — no ice, no accidents — and I’m only half an hour late for my first meeting of the day.

All things considered, I’m pretty pleased with that outcome.

So, how was your morning?

PS: At 9pm, the exact same problem happened to Susan again, for the exact same reason. This time, I believe this time we’ve got things properly fixed.

The Shot Blok Experiments

01.6.2009 | 12:31 pm

In 2007, Margarita Shot Bloks were a big part of my Leadville 100 race plan. With all calories and the extra sodium, they seemed like a great idea.

If you go back and read my race report, though, you will find that this plan didn’t work out so well. After less than half the race, I found myself completely unable to eat this particular kind of Shot Blok without gagging.

The question, heretofore unanswered, is: "What happened to all those 2007 Margarita Shot Bloks, then?"

Well, they sat on the bike food shelf in my kitchen pantry (yes, I have a bike food shelf in my kitchen pantry. Don’t you?), deeply buried and sadly neglected.

Until now.

Over the Christmas break, I was cleaning house and discovered these Shot Bloks.


After the shudder of recognition passed, I took a look at the "Best if used by" date on the back of the package.

These Shot Bloks had indeed expired in December…of 2007.

Furthermore, they were now as hard as carbon fiber. And in fact they may make a decent carbon patching material, since they are clearly horizontally stiff, though I would definitely not call them vertically compliant.

Eating them was clearly out of the question. But since I had paid $2.00 for each of these bags (two of them), I didn’t want to just throw them away.

Very well, I thought to myself. Let’s use these Shot Bloks to contribute to the sum of human wisdom. Let’s conduct some experiments with them.

Experiment #1: Bike Tire Resistance

The most natural experiment to conduct with a severely hardened Shot Blok is to find out what happens to it when you ride over it with a bicycle. So I got out the trusty camcorder, put it on a tripod, and found out.

And, since I am a Very Thorough Scientist, I first used a control Shot Blok — a strawberry one — to see how a fresh Shot Blok reacts to being rolled over.

Though, now that I think about it, anyone who has been to a mountain bike race in the past 18 months already knows what Shot Bloks look like once they’ve been rolled over. In fact, the real trouble is getting the gunk cleaned out of your tread and drivetrain.

In any case, please take the time to edify yourself by watching the following video:

What do we learn from this? Several important things:

  • Expired Shot Bloks are impervious to bicycle tires
  • Non-expired Shot Bloks are squishy
  • Expired Shot Bloks could probably be cut into sharp, pointy shapes and used as improvisational tire shredders in my upcoming mountain biking action adventure movie script.
  • My neighbors now think I am a very strange person for setting up unidentifiable tiny objects and filming myself riding back and forth in the driveway on a sub-zero late afternoon.

Experiment #2: Resistance to Pressure

Clearly, these Shot Bloks are made of stern stuff, though this stern-ness clearly manifests itself mostly after its expire date.

But how well does an expired Shot Blok hold up under pressure?

(Procedural Note: I did not do a control version of this experiment because I knew that fresh Shot Bloks would squish right into the floor, and then I’d have to clean them up. Plus, fresh Shot Bloks are too expensive and delicious to waste four of them in such a manner.)

First, note how they are completely undeformed when a heavy (~20 pounds, give or take five pounds) wooden chair rests on them.


Next, note only the mildest deformation of the Shot Bloks when a 50-pound child sits on the chair.


It’s only when a vampire — my thirteen-year-old son, who only (willingly) arises at dusk — applies his supernatural weight (about 120 pounds), compounded with the chair’s weight (~20 pounds, still), that there’s any significant deformation of the Shot Bloks.


And here’s a close-up.


That’s about 40 pounds of pressure being constantly applied to the petrified Shot Blok, and it still doesn’t completely deform.

Afterward, in fact, they now look like rather expensive toffees.


Experiment #3: Shot Blok Burnination

The question you — a naturally curious student of the sciences — are bound to have is, "Well, how do they burn?"

The following video should help answer that question:

The astute viewer will glean many crucial gems of information from this video. These key learnings include:

  • For some reason, the hard Shot Bloks burn both sooner and brighter than the fresh Shot Bloks. The "sooner" part I attribute to the probability that old Shot Bloks have less water in them than fresh ones. the "brighter" part might be due to the extra sodium in the Margarita Shot Bloks. I’d have to conduct more experiments to substantiate these suppositions, however, and I’m probably not going to.
  • Burning Shot Bloks — whether fresh or old — smell almost exactly like burning marshmallows. Which leads me to conclude that marshmallows would probably make an awesome on-bike energy food.
  • Having a little torch like this is absolutely the best way to light fireworks on the 4th of July. Or to light anything, for that matter. Torches are just plain cool.

Experiment #4: Exploring Alternative Uses

Once a Shot Blok has metamorphosed into pure kevlar, what is it good for? Well, obviously as an awesome way to stop bullets, but it was simply too time consuming (and exceeded the Fat Cyclist insurance policy) to create a vest made out of Margarita Shot Bloks and test its stopping power.

What then might a packet of expired Shot Bloks be good for?

The answer is obvious, when you think about it:

Yes, dice. They look the part, and they’re certainly hard enough. Two minutes with a Sharpie is all it takes to make an excellent semi-biodegradable gambling device you can use out in the field.

By the way, I’m quite pleased with my Yahtzee turn in this video. Four of a kind with 6’s is very respectable.

Experiment 5: Edibility Test

All other experimentation is merely preamble to the final test of an ancient Shot Blok.

The real question I set out to answer — so you won’t have to try it yourself — is: are they edible?

As a scientist and also a fearless and handsome man, I hereby provide video evidence that they are.

Sort of. If you’ve got a while.

Three days have elapsed, and I am still picking Margarita Shot Blok (2007 Vintage) out of my teeth.

Questions and Next Steps

After conducting these (Very Important and Thorough) experiments, I still have questions.

  • Why are they hard? I have proved conclusively that expired Shot Bloks are indeed ridiculously hard. But why are they so hard? I don’t know of any other food product that transmogrifies so completely while sealed in its package, regardless of its expire date (and I eat a lot of expired food). Is this something Clif did just to be mean?
  • What’s next? I actually have one more package of 2007 Margarita Shot Bloks. What other experiments are desperately in need of being conducted?

I am happy to have informed and educated you.

Thank You for Your Patience

01.6.2009 | 9:11 am

Last night I got all the pictures and videos for my “Shot Blok Experiments” post all ready, so all I needed to do was write the text this morning.

This morning, so far, has been pure insanity. I will not be writing anything, at least until my lunch break.

As a consolation to myself, I am confident that I have learned enough about home care that I could get a job as a nurse’s assistant.

If such a thing exists.

Meanwhile, here’s a teaser photo from my upcoming post: a photo showing that four old Shot Bloks can easily sustain the weight of a vampire (look at the larger version of the photo to see the mild deformation of the Shot Bloks under the chair legs):


And in answer to your question: no, he is not using his power of vampire levitation to make his weight less. At least, so he assures me.

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