Wednesday, April 22, 2009


I’m on a business trip. I’m a nervous traveler, always checking my watch and re-checking my bag for my wallet, and my wallet for my driver license, and confirming for the tenth time that I have my boarding pass. When I’m in the security line I take off my belt and wristwatch and stash them in my bag long before I reach the x-ray and metal detector. Then I go to check my watch again and it’s not on my wrist and I freak out for a second.

The heightened security measures at airports are so obviously absurd and useless that they don’t bear mention in this—or any—blog. A few years back I did have an especially odd episode at the airport in Munich, though: I was made to leave behind the rubber tip from my gum stimulator and my toddler’s plastic-coated fork. I thought about asking the security guy if he really thought I was going to gum the pilot to death, or try to injure him with something designed for a small person with shockingly poor motor skills. But the security guy in question was carrying a machine gun and didn’t look like he had a sense of humor, and I sucked it up.

What with the economic downturn I’m a bit out of practice with business travel, and found myself this morning getting into the wrong security line at SFO—I was in at First Class instead of Coach. I had a pretty good idea where the right line was, but I held out some vain hope that if I engaged the guard she would take pity on me for being lost and would allow me in the First Class line. The trouble was, I couldn’t come up with the word “Coach” and was having trouble finishing my sentence. All I could manage was, “Excuse me, do you know where the line is for the, uh … unwashed masses?” I hoped the guard would have a sense of humor. She didn’t. She gave me a resolutely dour and humorless stare, and didn’t even answer my question.

A couple other guys were just getting into the line and overheard me, and one of them chuckled. At first I was gratified that somebody thought I was funny. But then as he said “It’s over there,” he gestured toward the coach line a little too emphatically, slicing the air with his arm as he pointed, like a referee. I realized his chuckle was actually born of the little extra pleasure I’d given him in the exclusivity of his First Class status. The physical distance between the lines is like the curtain in the airplane between First Class and Coach, separating the wheat from the chaff, and he seemed to enjoy banishing me from his line. I’ll confess I was slightly irked, but only slightly. After all, at least he did point me in the right direction.

As I started on my sad Coach-class way, the security guard finally spoke. “You have a boarding pass?” she asked. I produced it. “You can use this line,” she said. And so I found myself in the rarified elite line, right behind the First Class guy. He looked startled to see me. “They let you in the First Class line?” he blurted out, before (I suppose) realizing how petty this sounded. I told him it must be my lucky day.

That was the high point of my airport experience. From there things unraveled predictably enough. Unlike last time I flew, I did manage to remember the quart-sized Ziploc bag for my toiletries (if we American travelers carry our deodorant and toothbrushes in anything but a quart-sized Ziploc, then the terrorists have already won), but I forgot to take my laptop out of the case and was roundly chastised at the X-ray. I boarded the plane and in stashing my stuff realized I’d forgotten the cord to my headphones. The flight attendant said over the loud speaker, “After stowing your bags please step out of the aisle and let life pass you by.” No, that’s not what she said, but it’s what I heard as I smashed myself into my seat, knees around my ears because the airlines would rather have nobody to assist the crew at the Exit Row than to give these superior seats away for free.

But then I took a moment to relive my little victory at the security line. I’d really turned the tables on the established social order, hadn’t I? Part of what those First Class travelers are paying for is their separation from the likes of me, and yet—mere moments after snubbing me—this elite guy had to share a line with me. How did it happen? Perhaps the security guard, already beaten down by carrying out arbitrary procedures all day, decided her First Class passenger was just a bit too smug in directing me to my lowly place.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tax Day

Every year at tax time, and of course at other times as well, we hear about simplifications to the tax code. I’ve generally assumed these were a ruse for the rich (damn them) to pass more of the tax burden on to the likes of me, and I’m all for adding a few new line items if I can save a bit of money. But this year I finally came around and have thought of several improvements to the code.


The software should be free, and it should be made by the WordPerfect folks in Orem, Utah, who wrote the last software of any kind that actually worked. Tech support should be live, and free. I had a problem with my Intuit product this year, and was astonished, and then immediately thereafter totally resigned, to learn that their tech support is e-mail only and has a 48-hour turnaround, which is absurd for a) any Californian (state motto: “we don’t have time for this crap”), and b) anybody waiting until the last minute to do his taxes (i.e., everybody). My e-mail to Intuit included the sentence “I am livid,” which is usually a sign that a company has earned a lifetime boycott by me.

To describe how the IRS software free tech support should work, I’ll cite a real-life example: my own phone call the other day to Electrodyne, makers of a modem line tap I occasionally use at work. To give you an idea how outdated this instrument is, the “high speed” version goes all the way up to 2400 baud. (Note to Homeland Security blog eavesdroppers: a modem line tap isn’t as sinister as it sounds. It’s no more dangerous than a TCP/IP sniffer. Now go look up “sniffer” on Wikipedia and stop bothering me.) I went to the manufacturer’s website because I feared I had the wrong power supply for my instrument, and within moments found a toll-free number listed. A guy picked up on the first ring, and he sounded like just the kind of crusty old veteran who could be of great help, which he was. “I’ve got a 2400A modem line tap and I need to know the current for its power supply,” I said. He didn’t even take time to scratch his head. “That will run about 800, 900 milliamperes,” he said. (You think Microsoft is that savvy? Huh. Their spell-check dictionary doesn’t even have “milliamperes.”) I told him what I had (700 milliamps), and he asked the voltage. He said I’d be fine. Done. IRS: take note. This is called customer service.


Unfortunately, on the day I finished my taxes, which was not coincidentally April 15, I’d had a hard workday, squinting at my modem line tap output on another venerable device, the Navtel datascope. The Navtel is more reliable than, say, a modern Blackberry, which due to an inscrutable user interface did a unilateral spell-check substitution recently such that I accidentally e-mailed a colleague to ask, “Do you still have a navel?” Fortunately, she was cool about it.

The Navtel’s screen is small and blurry to begin with, and the data on it very hard to decipher. I’ve added some extra blur to this picture to show you how it looked to me by 4:30 p.m., and because there could be sensitive data on there. (Note to Homeland Security blog auditors: see? Totally illegible. Now go bother somebody else.)

So anyway, I was already mentally fried when I went to finish of my last-minute tax effort. I managed to pull everything together, only to not have any luck finding an envelope. I looked everywhere, becoming increasingly annoyed. I finally decided to stop at Safeway on the way to the copy shop and get some COM10s there. Why was I even having to do this? The IRS should send us self-addressed stamped envelopes, and serve refreshments. My sense that this should be so only increased when I got to Safeway and discovered they don’t even sell envelopes. You can buy a three-hole punch there, and thirty different kinds of toothbrush, and chemical products for the home that probably shouldn’t be allowed to exist, but no envelopes. I’m this close to boycotting them for life.

Copy Shop Fee Holiday

On April 15, the government should subsidize tax return photocopying at copy shops nationwide. This would reward good corporate citizens like me who don’t do their personal photocopying at work. Now, I know it seems petty, me complaining about the $1.96 I spent on two envelopes and fifteen photocopies, but it’s not about the money. It’s about the time. I went to a small family-run copy shop, and they couldn’t make change from my twenty. (I’m not quite shameless enough to put $1.96 on my Visa card.) The register drawer didn’t have any fives or tens, and neither did the cashier. The owner, or maybe it was her dad, didn’t either. The manager, or maybe her uncle, finally dug out his wallet and produced the missing bills, and I was out of there in under ten minutes. But just under.

Coordinated Government Websites

Okay, the IRS is a government entity, as is the US Postal Service, and they work hand-in-hand to supply tax forms and accept completed returns. Why don’t their websites support each other? The first thing you see on either website around tax time should be a field where you type in your zip code (which surely knows all about), so the website can tell you the hours, on April 15, of your local post office, and the location of the nearest post office that’s open late. I thought about rewriting the tax code such that every post office in America is open late, but that might bankrupt this country since every town in America, including Oscuro, Colorado (population zero), has a post office. Anyway, I wasn't exactly in a rush to get to the post office, figuring it would be open late, this being Tax Day and all.

I showed up at my local post office branch at exactly 5:01 p.m. Imagine my delight when I was greeting by a uniformed postal employee at the door. Coffee, sir? Doughnut? Now imagine my crushing disappointment when I learned that he was standing there simply to bar me from entering. He told me they were closed. I said I just had two envelopes to drop off and could he please, please take me in? His reply? “Sorry, we can’t. There’s only one guy working back there.” I almost pointed out that there would actually be two guys working back there, if he’d simply lock the door behind me and report to his post, but I’ve learned never to try to reason with government employees, at least the kind who interface with the unwashed masses like me. At least I got him to tell me where the closest post office was that would still be open.

Dammit to Hell

So that is how I spent an hour and a half driving around the tangled headphone cord of highways that tie Albany and Berkeley to Oakland, and within the screwy yarn-ball of Oakland itself. Of course I got lost, totally lost. I’m hopeless to begin with, even when I haven’t spent a day staring at network protocol violations and have had my anger turned up to 11 by a postal employee. While I drove I had to listen to a radio report about how Obama has vowed to simplify our tax code. I hope he reads this blog.

When I finally reached the post office I didn’t even see it, because it was just too huge for me to make out, like an ant trying to identify an elephant from an inch away. I blew right by, as I only eventually discovered. When I got to the port of Oakland and the giant cranes that inspired the Imperial Walkers in “The Empire Strikes Back,” I turn around and headed back. (Otherwise I’d have ended up in the Pacific Ocean.) On the return trip I spotted the post office by the protesters out front, whom I considered running over with my car. How idiotic is it to protest taxation, when your audience is here to get tax dollars back?

I suppose if I were really clever I’d recommend a tax code enhancement that would keep me from getting lost, but I’m not that clever, and it’s been a long day.

Refreshments and Entertainment

Tax Day could be a really fun experience for Americans, almost like Cinco de Mayo or Carnaval, if the government made a little extra effort to liven up the post offices where so many Americans drop off their tax returns. At first I thought this was what they’d done, as a nice spread of coffee and pastries was set out on card tables, but this was only for the extra employees they’d hired to stand alongside the road and accept envelopes from passing motorists. (Yes, California is the king of the drive-thru.) Standing in the long line, I wished for something to break the ice among all the taxpayers. Music? A live band? The Las Vegas airport has a nice take on the boring security checkpoint video: they made their own, with real, famous actors and Vegas performers, some in silly costumes. The IRS and the Post Office could team up and make this American Tax Day institution more like a happy hour.

The highlight of my wait was when a woman came and asked if this was the line for dropping off tax returns. During my snottier teen and college years, I’d have been tempted to deliver some witty and rude comeback designed to convey what I’d have felt was the stupidity of her question. Instead, I basked in the realization that I’m not actually the most hapless person on the planet. This more modern reaction is called wisdom.

There was actually one other guy there who was less savvy than I. He was wandering around asking people in line for the address to mail his tax return to. (See “SASE” above.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Corn Cob

On a recent ride with my bike club, I got some ribbing about this blog from my friend Marty. (Marty can give me all the flak he wants, because the first words I ever spoke to him, back in’88, were “I have no respect for you,” in a heated moment after he beat me in a bike race.) Apparently referring to my tendency to blog at great length on trivial topics, Marty suggested I write a blog about corn cobs. Corn cob, in this context, refers to a rather small bicycle gear cluster in which each cog is just one tooth bigger than the next. This gives a racer great precision--but no range--in choosing a gear to pedal in.

"You could write an essay about each cog," Marty teased, "or better yet, you could write a sonnet, an ode to the corn cob!" So, here it is.

Ode to the Corn Cob

When I was nine I had a ten-speed bike.
I loved it, though it suffered from the curse ooooooooooo2
Of tires not as thin as I'd have liked,
And of a spoke protector, even worse.

We didn't call them spoke protectors though,
As "pie plate" better mocked how big they were. ooooooio6
They caused the largest cog to seem to grow--
A mean illusion, awful to endure.

A bigger cog meant lower gearing, see;
The stuff of weaker boys, embarrassing. ooooooooooooo10
We longed for smaller clusters, finally free
Of pie plates. Lack of metal was our bling.

At age eighteen I realized my dream:
I ran a straight-block corn cob, plate-less, clean. oooooo14

Footnotes & Commentary

Line 1: Bike

I got the bike when I was nine. It was a Fuji Junior, bright red, and it’s still on the road today, now piloted by my nephew Jake. That’s him (with his mom), on the very Fuji of my childhood, in the photo above. This was my first bike: my brothers and I were unique in a) being pretty late in getting our first bikes, and b) getting ten-speeds long before any other kids. What a glorious day that was when I had my very own bike to ride and no longer had to run alongside my brothers and their friends as they rode up and down our neighborhood streets.

I really did love that Fuji, and defended its honor passionately when my brothers called it the “Fudgie” and told me that it was made by “Fuji Heavy Industries.” My brothers also loved to tease me about my bike being called “Junior,” as opposed to their coolly-named Motobecane Nomades. It’s hard to imagine why I was so ashamed of “Junior,” but clearly I was, because at some point I actually painted over the decals with red touch-up paint. (As for Fuji Heavy Industries, they don’t make bikes. They make Subarus.)

The bike had Suntour shifters and derailleurs, which I noticed when with great delectation I examined every last feature of the bike. Suntour seemed like a really cool word. I didn’t grasp at the time that it was brand of component; I thought Suntour was a sub-brand of the bike, as though Fuji was the make and Junior was the model and Suntour was the sub-model, like they do with cars now (e.g., Honda Acura Integra Basilica XLS, Sport Series). I remember riding up and down the block joyously singing “Sun-TOO-or BYE-sick-UL!”

Missing from the Fuji now are the toe-clips. I know I had them because—like everyone—when I first got them I kept forgetting to loosen the straps, tipping over again and again.

Line 2: Cursed

The bike was not cursed—I was. I wasn’t alone, of course; also cursed was every other kid who was painfully aware of the uncoolness of his bike based on its not resembling a pro racing bike in every detail. Kids—heck, humans—make a lot of trouble for themselves scrutinizing everything and placing it within a rigorous, heartless hierarchy like this.

Line 3: Tires

The original tires were 24 x 1¼ inch. (The small wheel diameter made it possible for the frame to be a reasonable 18 inches while still allowing me to straddle the bike.) I dreamed of tires that were only 1 1/8 inch wide, which is what my brothers had by then. Oh, how they lorded that eighth of an inch over me. I became fairly obsessed about it. Eventually my brother Geoff crashed his bike (I believe he was riding at night and hit a brick) and totaled his front wheel. Unable to find a replacement 24-inch wheel, my dad bought a 600C, which had an aluminum alloy rim instead of steel and was thus much better. Not wishing to reward Geoff for his foolishness, my dad put the 600C wheel on my bike and Geoff got my old wheel. This was all well and good until the mandatory bike shop safety inspection a couple weeks before my first bike race, the Red Zinger Mini Classic, in 1981. My bike failed the inspection due to worn-out tires, and the shop only carried the 600C tire in the 1 3/8 inch width! Man, that is really fat. The mechanic lectured me at length about how tire width really doesn’t matter and skinny tires won’t make you go faster. His unspoken assumption was that aesthetics shouldn’t matter to a kid—but why not? I guarantee his tires were nice and skinny! To my great relief, my dad found a 600C x 1¼ inch tire in Denver for me.

Line 6: Mockery

Not all the mockery was in the direction of pie plates in general. Much of it was directed at my pie plate in particular, which my brothers convinced me was even larger than theirs. That my bike was different from theirs singled it out for all kinds of contempt. It didn’t matter that their French bikes had those awful plastic Simplex shifters and derailleurs. To this very day, despite having spent his teen years as a bike mechanic wailing about the awfulness of French bikes, my brother Bryan won’t concede that my Fuji was better. “Are you kidding? Never!” he says. “The Motobecanes were elusive, romantic French bicycles, with light-weight derailleurs and wedge-shaped tires! I remember loving that Nomade like it was a girl. Your bike was made by a Heavy Industries factory in Japan, mine by French people, who made racing bicycles, and knew about love and stuff.” My dad had bought the Motobecanes at Basque Sports in Boulder, and every time we drove by the store in the car, we’d all chant its name, both in homage and because it was such a hard name to pronounce. The “–sque” butting up against the “S” in “Sports” created a hissing effect that, since we couldn’t avoid it, we ultimately accentuated: “Basques-ssk-ssk sports-ssk-ssk.” (Nobody ever knew or cared where my Fuji came from.)

Line 8: Awful to endure

It wasn’t just the size of the pie plates that rankled us. I couldn’t find room within the sonnet to address the issue of pie plate rattling, so I’ll mention it here. Mine didn’t give me much trouble, but my brothers’ pie plates rattled like crazy. Finally Geoff couldn’t take it anymore and figured out a solution: he took a length of surgical tubing, maybe half a centimeter in diameter, sliced it lengthwise down the middle, and ran it along the edge of the pie plate, so it was held in place by the spokes. This worked for awhile, though the tubing tended to peel off eventually. He solved this by sewing it on there with kite string or dental floss or something. Eventually the tubing turned yellow and brittle in the sun, making the pie plate look more ghastly than ever. As you can see from the photo above, the pie plate on my old Fuji is going strong. I doubt it has ever occurred to Jake to despise it.

Line 9: Gearing

It seems intuitively obvious to me, as it did when I was a kid, that a larger cog indicates personal weakness. When I really think about this, I see that math is involved, and it wasn’t until I read my sonnet to my wife, Erin, that I realized how much I take for granted when it comes to the proportions of bike components. Imagine: she can look at a large freewheel and not pity the bike owner at all! But then, she didn’t have, as a pre-teen, a gear chart taped to her stem, showing which front/rear gear combination represented the next highest or lowest gear. Bryan, at fourteen or so, actually wrote a computer program to plot the gear inches on a logarithmic scale. Gear inches refers to the number of teeth on the chainwheel up front, multiplied by the wheel diameter in inches, divided by the number of teeth on the rear cog. Any teenager I rode with then knew by heart not only that, say, 52 x 13 was a 108-inch gear, but exactly how fast that gear would propel him at top cadence. Bikers were nerdier then, I think.

When I started racing, my brothers helped me strip down my bike, ditching the reflectors, replacing the stem-mounted shifters with down-tube ones, and removing the so-called “chicken” or “suicide” levers, those brake-lever extensions that made it possible to brake while riding on the tops of the handlebars. I distinctly remember Geoff, at age thirteen or so, sawing off the chicken-lever stubs with a hacksaw so the bolts would sit flush. We/they also removed the chain-guard on the crankset, which now strikes me as a step down aesthetically (it was a giant, pretty, chrome thing, and I remember well how often I had a grease print of the chainring on my pant leg after the chain-guard was gone). The rear mech is a Suntour V-GT Luxe, which my dad installed along with a larger freewheel to give me—you guessed it—lower gearing, which of course was a bit humiliating. Why me? Was I such the runt that I alone needed lower gearing? Oddly enough, the larger freewheel actually made the pie plate look smaller—but just try telling my brothers that. The bike never did shift very well after that “upgrade,” which is why in races I’d often get dropped in either the highest gear or the lowest. This doesn’t mean I didn’t get dropped when using other gears—I mostly used those two gears, and always got dropped.

Line 14: Straight-block

When I upgraded from the Fuji to my first Miyata, I went from a 32-tooth large cog in back to a 28, and I was thrilled at the sleeker, racier look. It still had a pie plate, but it was aluminum, and not as shiny, thus less conspicuous. A couple of years later I bought some wheels from my brother Geoff that had the same 28-tooth cog, but with no spoke protector. That was a huge step forward; I think my ego doubled that day. At age fourteen I started racing in the United States Cycling Federation races, where your smallest cog couldn’t be smaller than 17 teeth—far lower maximum gearing than I’d been riding in the Mini Zinger. (The idea was to save the youngsters’ knees.) It was practical to run a straight-block freewheel with that limitation; even with only six cogs, you could do 17-18-19-20-21-22, with 22 being a totally reasonable gear for getting up just about any hill in the Boulder area.

The next year I moved up an age group and was allowed to have a 15-tooth cog, and I went to the new Suntour 7-speed freewheels, and had an almost-straight-block of 15-16-17-18-19-20-22. Still, a 22 was the freewheel cog equivalent of sensible shoes, and I wanted something more bold. Finally, I switched to Shimano gear cassettes and for the first time could easily create custom combinations for specific races; for example, if I was racing with the adults I could use a 12-tooth cog. At last, I could build the highly impractical gearing combinations that fully satisfied my vanity: for criteriums or bike club photo-shoots I’d set up a 12-17. (Shimano wasn’t doing 7-speed yet.) What a rush that was as a teenager, to look down and see not a giant cluster with a humiliating pie plate, but this tiny little freewheel, a man’s freewheel, a svelte cluster fit for a real racing bike, and above all a highly visible manifestation of my strength. It was like the bicycle equivalent of giant muscles. It never occurred to me that to most people, perhaps even to you, it’s just a bunch of damn sprockets and whatnot that don’t really mean anything.

So did I outgrow all this macho nonsense? Of course not. I still snort at pie plates (though they’re made of plastic now). After a couple of months of dating Erin (back in ’92) I quietly removed the pie plate from her mountain bike. (She never noticed.) As for gearing, the modern-day equivalent of a giant rear cog is of course the triple front chainwheel, which accomplishes the same thing (i.e., addresses the same weakness). A triple requires a longer derailleur cage, which I equate—with a shudder—to that old V-GT Luxe on the Fuji. If a friend, new to cycling, asks me about triples, I’ll tell him they make sense given the hills around Berkeley. But a triple for my own bike? Are you kidding? Never!
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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Easy Camping Recipes

Burgers Tartare

1 pound grass-fed beef, ground
6 sourdough rolls
Heinz ketchup
Sliced tomatoes, pickles, onions

Before you leave for the camping trip, slice the tomatoes, pickles, and onions. The pickles will need slicing because they’ll be the whole-cucumber kind, and good ones. The onions should be sliced so thin you could practically read through them. This guideline always applies, but especially when you’re camping, and overconsumption of raw onions goes from “annoying” to “dire” within the confines of a tent. (Slicing these things ahead of time might be the one thing you get right on your camping trip.)

This is a great recipe for that first night at a hike-in campground when you’re exhausted and it’s totally dark by the time you get your tent set up. Say, for example, you tried to use a bike trailer but didn’t know that half a mile of the 1½-mile hike is along the beach, where a fiendishly strong, cold wind is blowing and the deep sand makes it almost impossible to push the bike along (much less ride it), and suppose also that the trailer breaks before you get to the trail and it takes another hour to drag the lurching, tipping thing to camp, and that you left the headlamp in the car and can’t really see what you’re doing, and that the wind is howling through the campsite, blowing steel plates off the table, and from the tent your children are whining about the cold and one says, “All my memories of this trip will be negative.” This is a perfect night for burgers tartare.

Separate the ground beef into six balls and smash them angrily into a large frying pan. Ignite a burner on a large heavy Coleman camp stove, setting the flame so that the burner gasps and wheezes. As the burgers cook, dink with the stove a lot, pumping more air into it and wondering what the hell is wrong with it. When by dim flashlight you can see that the patties have shrunken a bit, tear a roll in half and submerge it in the fat in the pan. Eat this. Assemble the rest of the burgers , not forgetting the condiments. (Note: it is never okay to serve a hamburger without sliced tomatoes, onions, and pickles—no hardship excuses this.)

Halfway through your first burger, shine the flashlight on it and note how raw and red the beef is beyond the thin membrane of cooked exterior. Note also that your entire family is making yummy noises. Finish this burger and eat another. Delicious. You have introduced your family to burgers tartare. (Ssssh, don’t tell!)


1 bag marshmallows
1 large Hershey bar
1 box graham crackers

This is a handy variation on the traditional s’mores recipe. Obviously, the enduring popularity of the s’more stems from its alignment with the slow food movement, but nutritionists are now questioning the health effects of charred marshmallows and dirty sticks. Meanwhile, our global warming crisis has become sufficiently dire that environmentalists are now becoming critical of that favorite camping institution, the campfire. Not sure where you come down on this one? If it’s too cold to even think about gathering firewood, and too windy to light a match, and too dark to see if your campsite even has a fire pit, the decision is obvious—but just try telling your kids there won’t be any s’mores.

Preparation couldn’t be simpler. Thrust a graham cracker, a square of chocolate, and a marshmallow into the hand that extends greedily from the tent. Enjoy.

Chocolate pancakes

Pancake mix
1 large Hershey bar
Cooking oil

One of the challenging things about camping is that even if you thought you brought enough supplies to sink a ship (or break a bike trailer), you’re bound to have forgotten something. Say, for example, maple syrup. VoilĂ ! A new recipe is born.

Prepare the pancake batter according to the directions. Oil the pan liberally. If you run out of fuel halfway through the first pancake, no problem—you are now actually glad you schlepped in that extra gallon can of fuel. Feed the botched pancake to the raccoons and start over.

After flipping the pancake, break some pieces off the chocolate bar and place them on the top. When the corners of the chocolate pieces start to get rounded and the text of “HERSHEY” begins to warp, serve the pancake. (Click to enlarge photo.)

Instruct the eager diner to spread the chocolate around with the underside of her fork. Exquisite.