Monday, March 16, 2009


During the two weeks of hiatus that have plagued this blog, I have been a busy little ninja. My research has progressed in leaps and bounds, I've raced my bike a half-dozen times, I've brought down the house at the ol' Karaoke bar... and I won't be writing about any of that. You've heard it all before, a thousand times over.

Instead, I will tell you about a little get-together I arranged, wherein a bunch of grad students of similar backgrounds got together to make traditional holiday cookies. And by "tell you about", I mean wimp out and post photos. At least they'll have captions.

It was messy work.

Very messy work.

Some got messier than others.

The cookies are customizable. Some are filled with apricot jam, some with raspberry.

And some are filled with liquid chocolate. Eat your hearts out.

Jay made a super-cookie, raspberry AND chocolate. And signed it.

For goodness' sake, Jay, don't sit down!

They were delicious.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Reason #438 That I Hate Time Trials

alternate title: Inescapably Creepy

apologies in advance to my punchline, who generously donated his time and worked tirelessly for the team.

First, some background. In most bike races, everyone starts together, with one foot on the ground and one foot clipped in to its pedal. In Time Trials, though, racers start one by one, with both feet locked in to the pedals. How do they stay upright? They have a holder.

The holder stands behind the cyclist, holding his or her saddle, and the cyclist trusts the holder to, well, hold.

This puts the holder in the somewhat awkward position of having his hands under the rider's butt, which is as close to the holder's body as possible. Emphasis on "awkward".

As a holder, you stay as professional as possible, and the whole process is an accepted burden of bike racing. It's no more sexual than saying "I'm inside you" to another man going into a sharp turn. Then again, we've been known to refer to the Men's C racers as C Men (it ain't just a homonym for sailors, y'see).

So when I look at pictures that were taken on Saturday morning, I can't help but cringe a little. Particularly the shots from the Women's races. Even in context, but especially out of context, they just look inappropriate.

This one's not so bad:
"It's just business, ma'am"

This one looks terrible. I'm grimacing, and I'm hunched over... as if I was caught in the middle of something naughty.
If photos had audio, this would be "grunt"

The story behind it should be a lesson for all Time Trialists. When you roll to the line, keep your butt off the saddle, so that the holder can see what he's grabbing. Otherwise, he has to reach under you, blindly grasp at where he thinks the saddle is, and hope against hope that his hands find plastic. Thus, the grimace and the strained posture.

There's pretty much no way it could get any creepier than that. Right?


Monday, March 02, 2009

Half Baked

It is a truly miserable feeling, running out of energy mid-workout and with no food. That feeling, that abject sense of exhausted desperation, is only slightly worse than the feeling you get when you buy the overpriced energy bars that stave off that wretched bonk.

Sick of paying 2-plus dollars for every bar, I resolved to make my own, and for a fraction of the cost! This was 2005. It has taken me this long to work up the ambition to attempt this noble feat.

And yet here I am, on the cusp of greatness. While grocery shopping today, I felt the urge to experiment, and with the aid of my fancy new toy, the necessary ingredients were procured. I have enough left over to make about 5 more batches, which would bring the price per bar to just about $0.15.

No one has ever accused me of being a baker. The stove top is my comfort zone, and I can stir fry with the most mediocre of them. The oven, though, is a mystery to me, a magical cavern of mysticism and convection. Still, recipes can't be that hard, can they? Right?

Don't be fooled by that fake-foreshadowing. The whole process was actually ridiculously easy. Observe!

  • 2 c. uncooked Quaker Multi-Grain cereal
  • 3/4 c. raisins
  • 1/4 c. diced pitted prunes
  • 3/4 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. b. soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • large egg
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

Step 1:Whisk the oil, eggs, and brown sugar.

Step 2: Mix in the applesauce and vanillaThe mixture should now resemble baby spit-up. You will wonder whether you've made a mistake; you have not. Carry on!

Step 3: Add everything else.
Mix until homogeneous.

Step 4: Pour into a greased 9x13 pan
Step 5: Bake at 350 for 35 minutes. Also, you should have preheated the oven to 350.

That's where I'm at. The bars are currently half-baked (hence the title), and the suspense is killing me. I cleaned up, I paced around the kitchen, and now I'm blogging. The smell has filled the air, and the apartment is abuzz with anticipation. I'll let you know how they turned out.

In the meantime, here are the lessons I learned while baking:
  • Make sure to have all the ingredients before starting. Apparently my apartment has 6 times as much baking soda as flour. There was plenty of cinnamon, though.
  • A kitchen can never have enough measuring utensils.
  • Brown sugar is a delicious pain in the ass.
  • Whisks are much better for mixing large volumes of liquid than are forks.
  • Whisks are a poor choice for mixing clumpy, sticky batters. Whisks are little prisons for the clumps.
  • You're never too old to lick the spoon


Success! Kind of! A good first attempt, anyway. They could be sturdier, like less mushy. Not sure how to go about fixing that... longer oven time? more oats? less applesauce?

Suggestions, please?

And yes, that is a tiny ninja, guarding the bars.


These bars need a name. Therefore, a contest:

You have until March 15th to suggest a name. The winner gets a free batch of the bars.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Saturday Morning Special

Will is doing a no-handed trackstand.
You just can't see it, because the sun hasn't begun to start to hint at rising

I have to echo Will's apt, if succinct, post.

Yesterday, more than 200 people showed up to race in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. It was February. It was 6:30 in the morning.

My Cat-4 field had 84 starters. The 1-2-3 field had 110, the maximum that the promoters would allow (why restrict the number of racers, by which I mean the profit? does the rulebook dictate the limit?). That is a decent size field for any race, but it's especially good for February. At 6:30 in the morning.

Jason works on his bike, 45 minutes before the start

Bike racers are a peculiar breed, and there are a particular set of foibles that characterize us, even down to the hopelessly amateur level. Yesterday morning confirmed that we are all profoundly masochistic. In case you didn't know that already.

I am pleased with my result, and I am looking forward to the season-proper. And that's all the race report you'll be getting.


Motivation: On the drive to Brooklyn, we listened to the Rocky IV soundtrack. Guaranteed to boost your wattage. SYNTH SOLO!!!

Noteworthy performances:
  • Jason should be a 3. He is a 4. To avoid the "sandbagger!" accusations, or maybe just because he could, he spent half the race at the very front, pulling us around the course at high speeds. And then his bike ceased to function, and he had to drop out. There is no justice.
  • Eric had alluded to pre-race jitters, as is customary before one's first-ever road race. He would be using this race to gauge his fitness and skills, but he had no ambitions. Well, Eric got 7th in his race. How's that for a gauge?