June 17, 2018 § 7 Comments
I always love it when people talk about the health benefits of cycling, as if punishing your internal organs to the brink of failure is somehow good for you.
Yesterday’s Donut was filled with about as much cholesterol, fat, sugar, enzymes, dextrose, mono and diglycerides, soy lecithin, xanthan gum, karaya gum, wheat starch, cornstarch, sodium stearoyl lactylate, artificial flavors, sodium propionate, and food dyes Yellow No. 5 and 6 as the finest Dolly Madison Little Gem.
Before we started, Destroyer looked around. “You can win today, Wanky,” he said.
“Yes. But you can’t attack at Kilometer 1.”
“In the race to the radar domes, every single pedal stroke counts. But there’s no one here today who can beat you. With cunning and wheelsuckery you’ve got this.”
“What about Sausage? He’s ripping legs at the Flog Ride.”
“One-off. He has peaked for the state ITT and won’t be a factor.”
“Ivan the Terrible? He is so fit right now.”
“Yes but he’s focused on crits and honing his sprunt. The climb to the domes will be a bridge too far.”
“But look over there. Medium Banana has brought his wrecking crew from D.C. They are lean and look like they just had a bucket of chum for breakfast.”
“D.C. is flat. They won’t digest their first Donut very well.”
“What about Goggle? He’s in razor sharp form.”
“He’s competition, but smart riding from you and you could collect your first Donut victory since that last one you fake lied about in your blog.”
I spied Tinkerbell as she rode up, resplendent in her pro outfit. My heart sank. “There’s Tink,” I said.
“Conserve every stroke. Do not attack. Wait until the climb. Today is your day.”
Conservation and wheelsuckery
We bit into the Donut at 8:00 AM pointy-sharp, an 80-strong phalanx of ill-tempered cyclists dreaming of glory, savoring that first taste of sugar and soy lecithin as our mouths watered from wrapping our tongues around the glory hole of fresh donut.
As we approached the starting gate in Malaga Cove at Kilometer 1, I reflected on the wisdom of Destroyer’s words. To eat this Donut I would need to nibble around the edges and only chomp when the final ramp was in view. Restraint was the key. Cold calculation. The young man is strong, but the old man is wise.
I thought of the countless years that Surfer Dan and I had attacked at Kilometer 1 and even earlier, out of the parking lot, and of the futility in which virtually all such moves had ended. I reflected on my recent Km 1 accelerations and how they always flamed out early, a soggy lump of donut clogging my windpipe and arteries as I went down in paroxysms of indigestion.
This time would be different.
As we rolled past Km 1 an uncontrollable urge surged over me and I attacked, exactly as Destroyer had enjoined.
“This is futile,” I told myself.
“Don’t do it,” I told myself.
“Ease off,” I told myself.
So I pedaled harder and didn’t look back until I had passed Pregnant Point a couple of miles later. The wankoton was invisible, and my passengers were three: Dennis, Tinkerbell, and Goggle.
Tink and Dennis had no appetite for any more Donut at that point and were steadfastly chewing; only Goggle crammed more donuts between his teeth and began sharing the load.
I figured we’d get caught soon but that perhaps we could at least make it to Golden Cove. Dennis took a couple of pulls but Tink declined the invitation, masticating her chunk of Donut into smaller and smaller easily digested bits while Goggle and I stuffed ever larger pieces into our maws.
Dennis tailed off and then it was us three. Tink took a couple of token pulls, seemingly amused at our faces, which were covered in white donut powdered sugar.
We hit the bottom of the Switchbacks and Tink accelerated with the ferocity of a rider who had won the QOM at last year’s Tour of California, which she had. “Rest day,” she smiled as we struggled back to her wheel. She slid to the back and we pushed on, littering the way with crumbs and the gummy spew that lines your arteries and creates artheriosclerosis of the aorta.
Goggle and I took turns, passed the flat spot on Crest, and began to get that feeling like maybe we shouldn’t have downed the whole sleeve at once. Maybe we shouldn’t have punched it at Km 1. Maybe this was a bad idea.
At exactly that moment Tink jumped us like a schoolyard bully, her rear wheel waving wildly from side to side like a flounder on the deck of a fishing boat. Goggle conveniently had a flat tire, or so he claimed, and I was left to respond with two flats of my own, a right one and a left one.
Somehow I latched on. Tink relented once she saw my shadow. We were only a hundred meters from the final turn, and she took a quick look back to check my temperature.
What she saw was the twisted rictus of a gasping, heaving, choking, shuddering, worn out old shoe, and she stood once more on the pedals, gleefully chewing her Donut and leaving me to twist in the wind, choking on mine.
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June 28, 2017 § 6 Comments
It was a nasty little evening. Hot. Windy. And a full roster of seal clubbers … Frexit … EA Sports … Tothenstein … Destroyer … the Hun … Heavy D. … Bader the Bad … Alx Bns … various members of Team Lizard Collectors … various members of Le Bleu Blow …
And then we started. Lap One, chatty, easy, leg-stretchy.
Lap Two, Frexit attack, four-man break for three laps.
Lap Six, absorbed by the gassed wankoton.
Lap Seven, a handful of weak accelerations.
Lap Eight, Frexit attack, shattered the already broken field, and the six-wanker break was firmly established, quickly putting 1:30 on the crushed and hope-deprived chasers. The break consisted of Frexit, Tothenstein, Destroyer, EA Sports Inc., Bader the Bad, and Wanky.
After we settled in, Bader the Bad began shirking pulls. I rode up to him. “Dude,” I said.
“Yeah?” he answered.
“This six-man break only has room for one worthless, weak, lazy, scheming, shirking, no-good piece-of-dung rider. And that rider is me. Everyone else, especially the 19-year-old unemployed dude who isn’t in school and who rides full time, has to take their fuggin’ turn at the front.”
Bader the Bad shrugged and took a half-hearted pull before going to the back of the bus. EA Sports, Inc. was none too pleased, and he showed his displeasure with a 1500-watt explosion that detonated the breakaway. We struggled up to his wheel, and he swung over. Everyone made it across except for The Bad, who was kicked out the back like a reporter at a White House press conference and sent to the chase group to reflect on his errant ways.
However, what looked like a race that would end up pitting EA Sports, Inc. against Frexit and Tothenstein in a sprunt finish, was not to be.
Various lapped members of Le Bleu Blow fell in with the chasers and it was all legs on deck as Heavy D., the Hun, and Alx Bns undertook Mission Highly Unlikely: Bring back the break! With Foxy whispering the gap times so that it sometimes sounded like we were 50 seconds up and other times 5 seconds down, disarray reigned as everyone waited in vain for Frexit to tow us around at 30 mph.
The Hun and Heavy D. bridged across with three laps to go, and then the entire remnants of the chase caught back on. Everyone sighed as we waited for the “new” formulation of the race finish, which would, instead of pitting EA Sports, Inc. against Frexit and Tothenstein in a sprunt finish, would now pit EA Sports, Inc. against Frexit and Tothenstein in a sprunt finish.
With half a lap to go, Heavy D. and the Hun tiredly put a few bike lengths on the twelve-man wankoton, but no one cared. The real finish would unquestionably involve Frexit, EA Sports, Inc., and Tothenstein.
As we rounded the last corner and Frexit opened up the sprunt, a wave of terror spread through the field! Heavy D. and the Hun were still out front, if only by a few yards! Even the rockets of the fast finishers weren’t enough to close the gap, with the Hun pipping Heavy D. for the glorious win and the adulation of three people, especially me.
As we sat around and moped, complaining about how unfair it was that a group of chasers rode smart, worked together, never gave up, utilized the efforts of the Hop-in-Wankers, reeled in the break, then countered and won in a bold move, it occurred to Foxy that we were in fact going through the seven stages of Telo grief, set forth below.
- SHOCK & DENIAL. You will react with numbed disbelief as you witness the field shatter on Lap Two, and you, of all people, get kicked to the curb despite your awesomeness. You will deny that they are faster than you and that the group is gone for good. You will be shocked that you drove all the way down from Santa Monica only to participate for five minutes. You will deny that your poor training, absence of stamina, weak resolve, and general worthlessness had anything to do with it. You will tell yourself that “It’s all coming back together in a lap or two and I’ll have a second chance!”
- PAIN & GUILT. You will feel excruciating pain everywhere and feel profound guilt at having abandoned your work and family obligations simply to get your head staved in and your precious seal pelt stripped shamelessly from your back. If you are in the break you will feel pain at sitting on Frexit’s wheel and feel waves of guilt at being a leech who sits on the back doing nothing (unless you are The Bad). The pain will crescendo if you’re in the chase and people begin berating you or worse, attacking you and causing you to utterly fail and get lapped.
- ANGER & BARGAINING. You will shout back at your oppressors and strike crude bargains in the break to allow them to allow you to hang on. “I promise I won’t sprint,” “I’ll give you ten bucks,” “Do you like my wife?” and other nonsensical trades will be offered, all of which will be ignored. If you are in the third chase group or have been lapped you will feel rage at everyone who races by. If you are in the first chase you will feel fury at those whose inattentiveness allowed that fuggin’ break to roll away.
- DEPRESSION, REFLECTION, LONELINESS. After doing five laps solo you will feel sad, very sad, and people standing on the sidelines will note your sad facial expressions. You will reflect on the stupidity of the endeavor, the slowness of your legs, the dullness of your talents, and the incredible stupidity of spending $2,000 on full carbon wheels, made 100% of pure carbon, only to get dropped five minutes into a training race, which is itself an oxymoron. If you are one of the chasers you will feel great loneliness as you do all the work and your wheelsucking chasemates wait for the opportunity to dump you and bridge solo to the break.
- THE UPWARD TURN. Now the chasers will catch sight of the break! Suddenly it will all make sense. You were doing this for a reason! The carbon wheels and 3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit were worth it! Your wheelsucker douchebag chasemates are pals after all! Just a few more laps and you’ll have reeled them in!
- RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGH. Now the breakaway, caught, gassed, and thoroughly chastened, works through the steps that led to its demise. What could we have done better? Why did we start soft pedaling? Now that we’re all back together, it’s time for a new strategy. Perhaps it’s time to do some more TT intervals or buy a different (but more costly) set of carbon wheels that are 100% carbon. Hey, it’s only a training race.
- ACCEPTANCE. Everything happens for a reason. The Hun is a sorry sonofabitch but he rode tough and outsmarted everyone. That bastard Heavy D. acts friendly but is actually a badass. It’s okay to lose sometimes. I am who I am. Telo is Telo. Plus, just wait til I get that shipment from China. Then I will flay some sealskins for realz.
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April 1, 2016 § 11 Comments
Our fools here in the South Bay are not limited to April. Every Thursday morning at 6:35 AM we do the Flog Ride, which consists of six loops around the Palos Verdes Golf Course and a finish on Via la Cuesta.
Each lap is very hilly, and the finish on Via la Cuesta is pretty steep.
The ride is pretty foolish year-round because:
- It leaves really early.
- It is really hard.
I know that it is possible nowadays to quantify “hard” with watts and Strava and kilojoules and TSS’s and amperes and such, but those methods are sterile. The best way to quantify the ride’s difficulty is in human terms, which is to say that hardly anyone ever comes back to do it twice, and many of the best riders in the South Bay have never even done it once.
How hard is the Flog Ride? After the fourth lap yesterday one of the new riders dismounted in the regroup parking lot and began fiddling with his bike.
“Everything okay?” I asked.
“I think my brakes have been rubbing,” he said. “I just can’t keep up.”
“It’s not your brakes that are rubbing on the rim,” I assured him. “It’s your lungs rubbing against your rib cage.”
At the Flog Ride, you can say with almost 100% certainty that when someone shows up to try it out, the rider will be a Reverse Terminator. He won’t be back.
The ride is only a year and seven months old, but two riders do keep coming back, and every week they have two goals:
- Don’t be last.
- Make it to the second turn with the group.
No dreams of beating the Wily Greek, no dreams of holding Destroyer’s wheel, no prayer of following Davy Dawg, no fantasy of ever even coming close to being first atop the climb, no goal of shattering the group on the puncher past the stop sign, no, none of that, just don’t be last and please, please, please dog let me make it the second turn before I get hammered, pounded, Mercury-in-retrograded into a quivering pile of gasping meat and flicked out the back.
But every week, with the precision of autocorrect, Michelle and Tom show up and get mercilessly vaporized. They are friends and teammates and good people, so we crush them.
Until yesterday. It was the last lap. We were all tired and dreading the final climb up Via la Cuesta. We made the first turn and Riddlebarger jumped away. Alan, a Big O teammate commuting to work who had jumped in with us, motored the tiny group into a tiny line. Michelle was second wheel and I was on her wheel.
Three riders launched at the stop sign but the group stayed intact. Atop la Cuesta, while the rest of us sat on the curb panting, Michelle and then Tom rode up. “We made it to the second turn!” she shouted, delirious with joy. Tom’s smile was bigger than a trophy bass’s.
“One and a half fucking years!” she said. “And we finally weren’t the caboose!”
We collected our lungs and got ready to descend to Redondo Beach for post-ride coffee and lies. “You coming?” Michelle asked Tom, who was standing on top of the hill, on top of the world, and gazing off into the distance, pleasure diffusing across his face.
“No,” he said. “I’m going to savor it.”
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March 31, 2016 § 22 Comments
We have a training crit called Telo. No one is sure what it trains anyone for, but on Tuesday at 6:00 PM we do it anyway.
Telo, pronounced “this really fuggin’ sucks,” has one main feature, wind. Huge buckets of it sweep off the coast every afternoon without exception. Yesterday the buckets were Rubbermaid Industrial Sized; I’m guessing 25 mph.
The course is a long tailwind section, a short right-hander, then a long headwind section, a chicane, more headwind, another right-hander, and back to the tailwind part. You would think that the headwind section is the worst part and you would be right.
One of the great things about the Internet and being really famous is that when you announce you’re going to be at Telo a ton of people show up. So I announced my presence and got to see what kind of weight I pull in the South Bay as a tiny group of maybe twenty-five riders appeared.
The only thing that makes Telo harder than huge wind buckets is a small field. Yesterday the field included Evens, Smasher, Fireman, Destroyer, Surfer Dan, SB Baby Seal, Hair, and Family Jules. Clearly the worst thing to do would be to attack from the gun. All I had to do was mark Destroyer and I’d make the split, which is exactly like the old Aesops’ fable of Belling the Cat. All the mice have to do to stop the cat from eating them is put a big bell around his neck. Yep, that’s all.
Junkyard, who showed up to flash lap cards, waved us off. By refusing to participate, he once again proved himself the wisest person there, although as he scampered back and forth across the course with riders whizzing by he almost achieved the Trifecta of Bike Crashes: Falling on the Road, Falling on the Track, and Getting Run Over at a Bike Race While Not Even Riding.
I attacked from the gun, if “attack” is what you call dangling 50 yards ahead of everyone on the neutral lap. However, it served its purpose, which was to make sure I felt droopy and lacticky when the real attacks began, of which there was only one, and which came from Evens, and which was into the headwind, and which everyone could simply look at and drool hangdoggedly “You go.” “Nuh-uh. You go.” “Fugg tha, you go.”
The field had about fifteen people left and they all appeared to be small and thin and useless for my purposes, which was finding a good wheel to gasp onto.
I followed a couple of hapless moves and never slipped back more than fourth wheel, all the while wondering “Where are Destroyer and Smasher? Where are Smasher and Destroyer?” Nothing would happen without them, except what had happened, which was that the winning break of one had morphed into the winning group of five and I wasn’t in it.
Fireman, though, was. He had told me before the race, “Just follow my wheel and you’ll make the split.” So I followed several other wheels while he made the split and I didn’t.
As I took a few ineffectual pulls I kept wondering, “Where are Destroyer and Smasher? Gee I’m tired and exhausted and tasting that salty sour bitter stuff in the back of my throat and my legs have that ‘stop’ feeling but where are they? What are they doing? Smasher is always patient and waits until the first 30 seconds to attack but not today. Is he tired? Weak? Sick? Too much Cal-Mex queso before the ride?”
Of course I could have looked, but it’s hard to turn your head when you’re rollicking through massive pavement cracks dodging oncoming angry cagers and delivery trucks whipping out of industrial park driveways and 25-mph gusts that stand you up when you slam from the sheltered short top section into the wind and your eyes have switched sockets.
If I had looked back I would have seen D&S chillily sitting in the back not having yet pedaled. Which would have been a bad thing to see.
“When are they going to attack and bridge?” I wondered. So I slipped back and got on Smasher’s wheel, who was on Destroyer’s wheel. “Okay fuckers,” I said. “Do your worst and drag me up to the break.”
On cue, Destroyer hopped hard on his pedals and Smasher hopped with him. Surfer Dan slotted in ahead of me and it was just the four of us. First we went fast. Then faster. Then really fast. Once we hit the apex of this-hurts-so-bad-if-we-go-any-faster-my-face-will-come-off, Destroyer started going fast.
Surfer gapped, which was great because now I had an excuse. IF ONLY HE HADN’T GAPPED ME OUT I WOULD HAVE MADE IT. REALLY, MOM!!!
I watched the two of them pedal merrily off, satisfied that I now had an excuse and, since we’d slowed down, could breathe again and uncross my kidneys.
Ten riders came up to us. Everyone else who hadn’t already been dropped got dropped.
We rode the next forty minutes in a single line. Each time you got within three riders of the front the pain was unendurable. My pulls went from weak and ineffectual to lightning-brief cameos where my pull consisted of one pedal stroke, a 5-mph decrease in speed, and a wildly flapping elbow.
One by one the group shrank. Every couple of laps someone shuddered and quit. 11. 10. 9. 8. 7. 6.
This is what it must have been like to be stuck in a life raft with nothing to eat but each other, and nothing to drink but blood, salt water, and urine. When SB Baby Seal melted into a wet stain and slithered off the back with only a couple of laps to go I knew things were bad. With Hair, Boozy P., Jay L., and Surfer Dan the only people left in our pitiful chase group that wasn’t really a chase group so much as it was a don’t-get-lapped group, and with us all broken the only thing left of the glorious dreams from 60 minutes earlier, we each struggled across the line, downcast, downtrodden, filled with futility, defeat, and the reality that no matter how bad you are on a bike, racing will make you worse.
Up ahead the shenanigans had been vicious. Heavy D. and Brokeback Brokeleg had been ridden out of the break. Fireman had been worked over. Family Jules had been denied his second Telo victory despite cagey wheelsucking, sagging, pull skipping, and work avoidance of every kind. Evens had ground everyone up into fine powder. Destroyer and Smasher had attacked every lap the last five laps until one of them beat everyone else.
However, I finally realized that I had gotten it all wrong. Telo isn’t a training race. It’s a funeral train. And you’re the guest of honor.
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November 9, 2014 § 26 Comments
I know what you’re going to say. “He’s even older than you are.”
“That guy hasn’t won a race in years.”
“DJ? He still rides?”
And, of course, “Who?”
Yeah, well, whatever. We all have benchmarks, and Dave is one of mine. “The day I beat Dave Jaeger up a climb,” I have often said, “is the day I will quit cycling.” I’ve made that promise to myself because it’s something that will never occur.
“Never say never!” chirp the Pollyannas. “Ya gotta show up to win!” Oh, horseshit. There are some people you’ll never beat, and it’s not because you don’t train enough or have the right equipment or the right dietitian or whatever, it’s because they are faster than you. That’s Dave. He’s faster than me when he hasn’t been training for a year and I’ve been on the EPO Diet.
He’s faster than me in races. In training. He’s even faster than me getting out of bed, I just know it.
I used to do an early morning Saturday training ride with him but I quit doing it for the same reason I quit buying lottery tickets. There was no chance of winning.
It’s no big deal to me that he’s richer, better looking, has an uber-hot wife, and wonderful kids. That stuff counts for zip. All I ever cared about is beating Dave Jaeger on a climb. He has beaten me every year for the last six years on the French Toast Ride, cruising up Balcom Canyon in his big ring, putting minutes on me even when I hit the climb with a several-hundred-yard head start. He has beaten me so many times on the Donut Ride that on the few times a year that he bothers to show up I immediately call it my “off week.”
Worst of all, when everyone else beats me everywhere else I get to smile and say, “Yeah, but I’m 50,” even when the other guy is 49. Not with Dave. He races 55+ starting in 2016. He’s waaaay older than I am. And worser than the worst, he’s always nice about it. “Good job, wanker,” he’ll always say after putting a few football fields in between me and my dignity. And he’ll mean it.
Yesterday was going to be more of the same. The Donut Ride started slowly, thanks to the absences of Smasher and Ollie. Manny Fresh did a pointless attack on the downhill, and SBBaby Seal rolled away only to make the fatal mistake of turning down the alley. No one followed and he wasn’t seen again.
Once we hit Portuguese Bend the pace picked up, but not too much. We had some Belgian dude named Jan riding with us, and just the word “Belgian” was enough to make most of us shart in our shorts. Even the Wily Greek was eyeing him.
Jaeger always gets irritated when people go slow, and this day was no exception. “What are you wankers doing, holding hands?” he asked. I nodded. He shook his head and attacked off the front, from the front. The last time I saw him do that was at the Lake Castaic Road Race. In fact, the situation had been identical.
“Did you wankers show up to hold hands or race your bikes?” he had asked.
“Hold hands, hopefully,” I had peeped.
That time too he had shaken his head, punched it, and soloed for 47 miles to victory. It was my only top-ten road placing of the year, but that’s just because everyone from #11 on down quit.
DJ rolled away from the Donut. We lollygagged some more until we hit the bottom of the Switchbacks. There are usually a half-dozen wankers left by this point, as the repeated accelerations have shaken the dingleberries out of the weeds, but today we were still thirty or forty strong. There was a feeling of joy in the air as the larger specimens enjoyed being with the lead group at the bottom of the climb, a point at which they were usually alone, defeated, struggling, and swearing off pork rinds at least for the next hour.
The Wily Greek leaped away. Chatty Cathy followed. Davy followed. Destroyer followed. I followed. With a few pedal strokes I glanced back and the wankoton had evaporated. Then as Wily punched it again, I evaporated. After clawing my way back we went around a couple more turns on the Switchbacks and Wily surged again, taking Destroyer with him.
Chatty Cathy pulled for a while then cracked. I passed him and continued on to the wall. Up ahead I could see Wily Greek and DJ, who had hooked up, with Destroyer in No Man’s Land. Jaeger then came unhitched, and I passed him on the wall.
Please re-read that a few dozen times. “I passed him on the wall.”
Yep, that actually happened. Wankmeister passed David Jaeger on a climb.
Somehow I got onto Destroyer’s rear wheel, “somehow” meaning “he let me.” Then he towed me to the flat spot. Then I towed him for six or seven feet to allow him to recover before swinging over to let him share some more of the work. Then, a quarter mile before the end, with Wily dangling out in front doing his nails and wondering why no one was riding up to him, I spied a shadow on my wheel.
I didn’t need to look back, because there was only one rider yesterday who had the legs to chase down Destroyer on a climb, and the outline of the head meant that it was Jaeger. My glorious victory, the one time I was going to actually beat the best bike racer, nicest guy, richest man, dude with the hottest wife … it all crumbled in an instant.
The only hope I had, and it was a slim one, was cunning. Destroyer swung over and I took a massive 180-watt pull. DJ came through like a bull. I went to the back and recovered from my 180-watt effort. We rounded the bend. The imaginary finish line was in sight. Wily, who had arrived slightly before, had finished the finance section of the Times and was halfway through “A History of Modern Computing in Twelve Volumes.” I dropped back a few feet and took a run at Destroyer’s rear wheel.
Destroyer laughed at the tiny acceleration and easily sprunted away, but to me, he was small game, tiny fish, he was nuttin’. As I passed the imaginary finish line I heard that familiar voice on my right-hand shoulder. “Good job, wanker.”
“Best ride of my life,” I said.
He laughed. “Oh, I’m sure you’ve passed me before.”
“I’m sure I haven’t.”
‘November 8, 2014, the day I beat Dave Jaeger on a climb.’
The artist told me to keep the ink out of the sun for two weeks, which will be hard because it’s on my forehead in 36-point Courier and kind of winds down over my ears and neck, and yes, tattoos hurt a bit, and yes, it’s my first one, but this one is worth it.
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