Monthly Archives: December 2007

LSU Beats Ohio State 23-21 for BCS Champsionship . . .

LSU's Jacob Hester

according to the Whatisports.com game simulation. That’s right, a computer simulation determined that the Tigers triumph over the Buckeyes with a 124 yard, 2 touchdown performance by Jacob Hester.

I don’t think it will be that close. I do think Hester will have a big game (BTW, I also think he will be a solid 3rd down back in the NFL and will open a lot of eyes with a good performance at the NFL Combine). I think the Buckeyes will have a difficult time with our two-quarterback system and team speed (similar to the problems they had with Florida last year).  I’m also expecting one game-breaking play from Trindon Holliday.

My birthday is Jan. 2, but I would gladly take a belated birthday gift in the form of a 3rd Tigers’ National Championship. We’ll find out in 7 days . . .

New Arundel Bike “Bling”

Arundel Dave-O Cage

So Christmas for my bike continues with two new Arundel Dave-O bottle cages. I had some carbon bottle cages on my bike already (the Performance Bike house brand – Forte), but recently they have started to “eject” my bottles (lost a couple bottles crossing railroad tracks). Not a big deal in training, but with the first race of the season just around the corner, it was time to find a solution.
So I decided to upgrade and got a couple new Arundel cages from Fort Worth Cycling. The Dave-O cage is specifically designed to not eject bottles and it looks pretty trick too (the carbon wrap identically matched the wrap on my Kuota Kredo). The other benefit is that Arundel is a local company here in Fort Worth and I ride with the owners (Dave-O and Chris) pretty regularly. Very cool that we have a company here in Fort Worth that is making such progressive cycling gear. My next upgrade just might be one of their seat bags, The Dual, with the grey piping of course ;)

A “Power”ful Christmas

Kuota KredoKuota KredoKuota Kredo

So I got myself a Christmas gift that I have been wanting for a little while now. For those of you that know my bike, you might see the picture above and say, “Ben, you got new wheels for your Kredo”, and that would partially be true. The wheels in this picture are different than my “normal” wheels (Mavic Ksyrium SLs). But if you look really closely at the pic above, you will see something else special about these wheels.

Powertap 2.4 hub

These wheels are laced to a PowerTap SL 2.4 wireless power meter. I’m a pretty analytical guy, so the idea of training with power has always had some appeal for me, so I decided to bite-the-bullet and get a PowerTap. I looked at power meter options – SRM, iBike, etc., but the PowerTap made the most sense. The toughest decision when getting a PowerTap is deciding what type of wheel you are going to lace the hub to. Since I will train and race on my PowerTap, I wanted something durable, but light/aero enough that I wouldn’t feel like it was a hindrance for racing. I found the perfect combination by using a wheelsmith in Florida named Mike Garcia. Make laced my PowerTap to some Niobium 30mm rims with black Sapim CX-Ray spokes (the best spokes you can get).

Mike Garcia built front wheel 

I have 24 spokes in the front (laced radially) and 28 spokes in the rear (laced 2x on both sides). So these wheels will be plenty durable, but amazingly the total weight, (even with the heavier PowerTap hub) came in within 50 grams of the weight of my Ksyriums (plus these wheels are more aero). Mike did a great job on the build and the wheels look/ride awesome. His price was also very competitive and I basically got the whole set for about the same price as what just the rear hub laced to a mavic open pro rim would have cost me buying from anywhere else.

I’m in the process of doing my various power tests now in order to determine my training zones. However, one thing I can already tell you from putting a few rides in on these wheels is this – you are rarely working as hard as you think. The PowerTap really lets me know how often I am “dogging it”. Speed is a horrible measure of effort and I’ve quickly discovered that many of my favorite stretches of road, where I can nail it for 30 mph, I am doing at very low effort (under 200 watts). I’ll keep you posted.

Christmas @ Home

Grant and Dad Xmas Morning

This year was the first time that we didn’t go back to Louisiana for Christmas. With the exception of my Parents (who live in Dallas) and my Sister’s family (who just moved to Forney, TX) the rest of Jess’s and my  extended family live in South Louisiana. We always go home for Christmas, but decided this year to stay home. We want Grant to have the experience of opening his Christmas gifts at home and starting our own family traditions. It worked out great. My Parents and Sister decided to do the same thing. So we went to my parents on Christmas Eve and Grant had a blast opening presents with his cousins.

Then this morning Grant woke us up at 6:30 a.m. to “go see what Santa left”.

 Grant and ambulance Xmas Morning

As you can see from the pic above, Grant was very excited about his ambulance. He loves any type of service-vehicle, ambulances, police cars, helicopters, but especially firetrucks.  Staying home worked out great and made for the most “stress-free” Christmas ever.

Merry Christmas . . . Go Elf Yourself!

Ben Elf Yourself

Many of you have probably already got an email from a friend that “Elf’d Themself”. But if not, I will spread the holiday cheer by giving you mine here.

You can create your own version at http://elfyourself.com.

This is a pretty ingenious promotion that OfficeMax does each year and the site gets millions of visitors every December.

Why are we all fascinated with “train wrecks”?

So the list of the year’s most memorable quotes was just release. #1 on the list was “Don’t tase me, bro”. However, my favorite was #2 – the answer of Miss South Carolina, Lauren Upton, at the Miss America pageant. In case you can’t understand some of her mumbling in the video above, here is the actual quote:

“I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because some people out there in our nation don’t have maps and I believe that our education like such as in South Africa and Iraq and everywhere like such as and I believe that they should our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S. or should help South Africa and should help Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future for us.”

Keep in mind her question was why are one-fifth of Americans are unable to locate the United States on a map. Big props to Mario Lopez (the host and AC Slater from Save by the Bell fame) for not losing his cool and laughing-out-loud. I don’t think I would have been able to control myself.

To Leadville, or not to Leadville?

Leadville 100

Last year I signed up to do the Leadville 100 mountain Bike Race. Each summer Leadville, Colorado, a city rich with mining and Wild West history, is host to a number of challenging endurance events. The town is 10,152 feet above sea level, so endurance events take on the added challenge of dealing with altitude. One of the events, the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race, is so popular that racers enter a lottery in January to secure one of the 750 available starting line spots for the August race. The ride starts at 9,200 feet, with the highest point at the famed Columbine Mine aid station at 12,600 feet, and covers over 12,000 feet of climbing over the 100 mile course.

Leadville 100 MTB Under 9 hour buckle 

The goal of Leadville is to get a “buckle”. Racers that finish in under 12 hours get a silver commemorative belt buckle. Those finishing in under 9 hours get a gold & silver buckle. Many consider Leadville the toughest race in the U.S., so these buckles are literally & figuratively “worth their weight in gold”.

But to race, you must win the lotter. The lottery works like this:

  1. You send in your registration and a check for $240 before Jan. 31.
  2. Then sometime in February you are notified if you “got in”
  3. If you do get in, your fee is not returnable and you can’t transfer your entry to anyone else (so you better be committed). 
  4. Preference in the lottery is given to people that have competed in past Leadville’s (with those completing 5 or more times getting a guaranteed spot).

So last year, partially inspired by Bernie’s Leadville story, I sent in my application the first week of January . . . and waited . . . and waited. It seemed like an eternity. I had my training program designed, I had the plans for a new “Leadville-specific” mountain bike ready, I had  travel plans ready . . . and then . .. I didn’t get in. The race received a record number of entries last year, mostly because Floyd Landis and Lance Armstrong were rumored to participate (only Landis did, getting 2nd). He was pretty dissapointed and put Leadville out of my mind.

Since then I’ve started racing (on the road), moved up to Cat 4, and joined the Moritz Chevrolet Cycling team. I had totally put Leadville out of my mind. Then I get the postcard above from the Leadville organizers, reminding me to get my registration in. So now I have a dilemma . . . do I register, or not. We’re having a baby in April, so do I think I can really put in the training time needed? Can I juggle a full road racing schedule and prepare for Leadville? Is there anyway I can convince Jess to let me buy another bike? In the end, I think the competitor in me will win-out and I’ll send in my registration, but I’m still on the fence. Anyone want to join me for 9-12 hours of tortuous climbing on steep fire roads at 12,000 feet?

The Big Chill II

frozen bike

So my first really cold ride of the season was back on Thanksgiving. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to sneak in some rides on warm days and have been doing a lot of riding on my indoor trainer . . . until yesterday.

I rode with the Minyard’s group yesterday (Brian, Dave-O, Tammy, Chris, Steve, the usual suspects). We rolled out at 8 a.m. and the temp was about 35 degrees. The forecast was for the temperature to continue to drop through the day. The temp. wasn’t the problem, it was the wind. It was constant 20 mph winds with gusts north of 40 mph. This means the wind chill was around 20 degrees with it sometimes dropping into the single-digits. The wind was blowing out of the NW so we headed that direction, through Aledo, around Lake Weatherford and back.

Ended up doing about 70 miles. My layering strategy worked good and I stayed pretty warm, except for my fingers. By the time I got home they were basically icicles. The other casualty was windburn. Jess, Grant and I went shopping in the afternoon at Central Market and I could still feel the wind on my face.

My friends think I’m crazy for riding in this weather . . . I still say it is better than sitting inside.

Scariest Tackle Ever!

For those of you don’t know, the tackle in the video above is courtesy of Kimbo Slice. Kimbo is an Internet celebrity/phenomenon. He has a series of backyard brawls (fist fights for money) that are some of the most viewed videos on YouTube. He became so famous that he recently signed a deal with EliteXC (a mixed martial arts league) to become a legitimate MMA fighter. ESPN’s E60 did a feature on Kimbo last night. He also is developing a show for BET called The Iron Ring. In the video above, someone is dumb enough to get tackled by Kimbo for $100 – the results aren’t pretty.

The Internet truly is amazing. It makes me think of a memorable quote from the movie Fight Club. Brad Pitt’s character, Tyler Durden, has a great line in one of his monologues:

Fight Club

“We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”

Tyler might have a different opinion as we head into 2008. With YouTube, blogging, etc. Everyone has the opportunity to become a “micro-celebrity”. Some of those “micro-celebrities”, like Kimbo Slice, even cross over to the main stream.

TV Christmas Classics

Seems like we have “list-fever” at ThinkCash. Kevin just added a new movie to his top-10 list, and Ken (our CEO) is the master of list (he actually puts together some amazing lists on movies, music, etc.). So I decided that I would put together my list of essential, classic, campy, holiday-themed, TV shows. 

1. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. This classic 1964 television special featuring Rudolph and his “misfit” buddies set the standard for stop-motion animation for an entire generation before Tim Burton brought it back in the early 1990s. Burl Ives narrates as Sam the Snowman, telling and singing the story of a rejected reindeer who overcomes prejudice and saves Christmas one particularly blustery year. Along the way Rudolph meets an abundance of unforgettable characters: his dentally obsessed, and somewhat elfiminate (pun intended) elf pal Hermey; the overly-bearded miner Yukon Cornelius and his motley crew of puppies; the hilarious Abominable Snow Monster (although I’ll admit that his shriek scared me a little as a kid); a legion of abandoned, strange, misfit toys; and a somewhat grumpy Santa (am I the only one that thought he came off as mean?). Plus there was the king of the misfit toys, King Moonracer (a lion). I’m still convinced he must have been some obscure drug reference (like Puff the Magic Dragon). This show was also crammed with musical numbers that I didn’t really care for as a kid like “Silver and Gold” and “Holly Jolly Christmas.”

2. Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town. 1970 animated film tells the story of Santa’s origins, in which Kris Kringle decides to get toys into the hands of poor children in gloomy Sombertown.  After the huge success of their 1964 stop motion musical Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Rankin/Bass studios created no less than 14 more Christmas specials, from a total of 35 specials of which many covered other holidays. This one had the best voice cast of any of the Rankin/Bass animated specials. The cast included Mickey Rooney as the older Santa, Paul Frees as Burgermeister (what was Rankin/Bass’s obsessions with “…meisters/meisers”), and Keenan Wynn as the Winter Warlock. The Mailman’s voice and songs were by the great Fred Astaire, and they recreated him perfectly in a mailman figure (plus he drives a super cool snowcat). Also, who can say that they didn’t cry when the Winter Warlock finally “defrotsted” and become a nice person.

Mr. Magoo

3. Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol. “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” manages, in just one hour, to accomplish what every hackneyed, phony Hollywood version of Dickens’s immortal story has failed to do - communicate the theme of the tale and all of it’s emotion and beauty with immense charm,
fun, and humor. Even 50+ years after it’s release, it still works.  If you know what “Razzleberry Dressing” is, then I’m guessing you’re a fan as well. Plus, it’s Mr Magoo, he’s blind-as-a-bat so hilarity always ensues . . .

Heat Meiser

4. The Year Without a Santa Claus. Even Santa gets depressed around the holidays. In this 1974 Rankin Bass classic, Mrs. Claus sings and tells about the year her hubby felt too tired and too unappreciated to prepare for his annual Christmas trip. Mickey Rooney stars as the voice of Santa, a rosy-nosed puppet who travels incognito (as a fat guy with a white beard) to Southtown in search of his tiniest reindeer, Vixen, and two elves. Seems Mrs. Santa sent them to find proof of Christmas spirit–but all they’ve discovered is ambivalence about Santa’s year off. Luckily, when Santa arrives he meets a buck-toothed young lad named Ignatius Thistlewhite, whose spirit saves Christmas. But the only thing you need to know about this one is this . . . it is the Heat and Snow Miser special. Their vaudevillian song-and-dance numbers are classics. I watched this one with Grant this year.

Grant:  Daddy, why is his hair funny?

Me: That’s Heat Miser. His hair is actually made of fire.

Grant: That’s silly. (then a pause and a worried look on Grant’s face) Daddy, I don’t like Heat Miser.

Frosty

5. Frosty the Snowman. Jimmy Durante narrates this Christmas story that is based on the song of the same name. What kid didn’t hate Professor Hinkle (the crappy magician that tried to kill Frosty). As an adult I now realize that the kids’ teacher hired Professor Hinkle to entertain the kids to make up for the fact that her students are in school on Christmas Eve. Talk about tough school districts. This one also gave a whole generation of kids a phobia of poinsettia-filled green houses.  Also, please never watch the 1995 follow-up Frosty Returns (starring John Goodman). It is maybe one of the worst holiday specials ever.

Nestor

6. Nestor, The Long-Eared Christmas Donkey. I was born and raised Catholic. So I have an appreciation for the Nativity story and the true meaning of Christmas. This one captures that story without beating you over the head with religious dogma. This simple tale, which takes place in the days of the Roman Empire, is about a humble couple about to take a long journey to Bethlehem and a small, insignificant donkey that is destined to help them along. Essentially, Nestor is Rudolph to Mary and Joseph’s Santa. But a word of warning, this one does have a scene that still brings a tear to your eye. I won’t spoil it for you, but let’s say that it beats Bambi for the “saddest way to lose your momma” award.

Jack Frost

7. Jack Frost.1979 special in which Jack Frost fell in love with a human girl and so asked to become human. Father Winter granted his wish, but told him that if he did not have a house, a horse, a bag of gold, and a wife by “the first sign of spring” he would become a sprite again. Funny thing is my parents gave me the same advice when I left for college. I’ve got everything, but the bag of gold ;) As a kid I liked to pretended to be Jack Frost kickin some Ka-Nights butt. This one was makes the list partially because it is unique in two ways - it doesn’t have a happy ending and it’s narrated by a groundhog.

I’m sure this list will cause lots of controversy and everyone has their favorites. The most notable absentee is probably A Charlie Brown Christmas. This one fell off the list this year after I watched it again with Grant (you see things differently through the eyes of a parent). I hadn’t realized how negative it is (they constantly call Charlie Brown “blockhead”, “stupid”, “idiot”, etc.). I know it all works out in the end, but I think that message is lost on really young kids. Plus Lucy always pissed me off . . .