Mike Kueber's Blog

July 23, 2011

A special relationship with Cadel Evans

An exciting Tour de France concluded today, with Australian Cadel Evans winning the yellow jersey by having an outstanding time trial in the penultimate stage of the three-week event.  As the time trial unfolded, I realized that I was rooting for Evans to prevail over the two German brothers (Frank and Andy Scheck) who were ahead of him.

The thought occurred to me – my heritage is German, so why was I rooting for an Australian to defeat the Germans?  My heritage is also Norwegian, so why wasn’t I rooting for Thor Hushovd, the so-called God of Thunder?

Upon reflection, I concluded that I am thoroughly assimilated into America and place little stock with my personal heritage.  I believe that America and the British commonwealth have what Winston Churchill called a “special relationship” based on shared history, culture, language, and values, and, all other things equal, that relationship causes me to root for an Australian over a German or Norwegian.

February 18, 2011

A die-hard fan

Earlier this week, with little fanfare, Lance Armstrong announced his re-retirement from cycling.  To most people, this was a non-event because, like Brett Favre, he had retired before.  Furthermore, most people have concluded that both Armstrong and Favre had failed in coming out of retirement, unlike Michael Jordan, who went on the win three more NBA championships after his first retirement.

I disagree with the conclusion that Armstrong and Favre failed.  Armstrong finished third in the Tour on his first year back and dropped to 23rd this year because of a series of mishaps.  Nevertheless, he was a contender who gave his fans reason to believe.

The same is true with Favre.  In his first year back, he brought the Jets to an 8-3 record until he injured his throwing arm.  The next year, he led the Vikings to within an eyelash of the Super Bowl.  Like Armstrong, his final year was marred by a series of disasters.  Nevertheless, he was a contender who gave his fans reason to believe, and there’s no better feeling than believing.  

Some friends accuse me of being a die-hard fan.  Well, die-hard means stubbornly resisting change or clinging to a seemingly hopeless or outdated cause.  A fan, sometimes called aficionado or supporter, is a person with a strong liking and enthusiasm for a band, team, or player. 

So when people accuse me of being a die-hard fan for Armstrong or Favre, I say what other kind of fan is there.

July 26, 2010

Thanks for the memories, Lance

Filed under: Sports — Mike Kueber @ 3:10 pm
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In this morning’s paper, the Associated Press reported that Lance Armstrong’s career came to an ignominious end yesterday.  That sounded a bit harsh, but first I needed to confirm what “ignominious” meant – humiliating, shameful, embarrassing, disgraceful.  I think it is disgraceful for the Associated Press’s Jamey Keaton to mischaracterize Lance Armstrong’s performance in the 2010 Tour de France. 

What did Lance do to deserve Keaton’s harsh assessment?  True, Lance finished in the 23rd position out of 190 riders, and this was a significant drop from his 3rd position the previous year.  But you can’t blame a guy for trying.  Last year’s 3rd-place finish was his first back after a three-year retirement, and it was not unreasonable for Lance to hope there might be some room for improvement this year before age started catching up with him.  In fact, that hope seemed justified when Lance took 4th place in the prologue while defeating last year’s time-trial champion, Alberto Contador, and last year’s runner-up, Andy Schleck.

But I would argue that bad luck caught up with Lance shortly before age did.  In the cobblestone 3rd stage, Lance suffered a flat tire at exactly the wrong time and lost two minutes to the leaders, which completely erased his great prologue result.  Then a few days later, in the eighth stage, Lance was involved in three crashes and lost twelve more minutes to the leaders.  Immediately after that stage, Lance calmly and dispassionately concluded that, “This Tour is finished for me.”

From that point on, Lance’s goals shifted to helping his team win the overall championship of the Tour, which they did, and for him to personally win a stage, which he gallantly, unsuccessfully attempted in Stage 16.

Yesterday, before the final, ceremonial stage, Lance said, “I wish I were younger, faster.  But there are lots of memories, too many memories, and a lot more good ones than bad ones.”  I agree.   Thanks for the memories, Lance.

July 10, 2010

Bicycling potpourri

Filed under: Fitness,Investing,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 4:05 am
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My mind has been on cycling lately.  The Tour de France probably has something to do with that.  Plus, spending an hour a day in the saddle is probably conducive to that, too.  My dad probably felt the same way when he was in the saddle on a horse when he was young and later when he spent his days on a tractor.  Among my biking thoughts are the following three: 

Flat stages in the Tour de France.  As a biking aficionado, I have enjoyed watching the Tour de France every morning for the past week.  But the event could be significantly improved if the organizers did something to make the flat stages less predictable.  Flat stages comprise about half of the 21 stages in the Tour, and they play almost no role in determining the winner of the Tour.  Instead flat stages are the days when the serious contenders usually coast anonymously in the peloton while a few undistinguished riders are allowed to breakaway from the peloton only to be caught shortly before the finish so that a few sprinters can sprint to the finish.  The only uncertainty in a flat stage is wondering whether the breakaway riders will be caught (I believe they are is caught more than 80% of the time) and which of the sprinters will win. 

In my opinion, there is no reason that all of the sprinters should be around at the finish.  In other racing events, the non-sprinters would try to push the peloton so hard that the sprinters would be left behind.  Inexplicably, this doesn’t happen in the Tour.  The peloton doesn’t allow the breakaway group to breakaway if it contains any serious contenders.  So why doesn’t a contender join the breakaway and force the peloton to follow him.  That would drain the energy from the sprinters and cause a real race by the contenders in each stage instead of giving them a bunch of days off while they rest up for the mountainous stages.

Harnessing the power of gyms.  This past winter, I would ride a stationary bike at Lifetime Fitness for an hour each day.  Although this was not as boring as you might think (I had a choice of an MP3 player or a TV with a dozen channels to distract me), my mind would sometimes wander.  One day my mind wandered into wondering whether anyone had tried to harness the energy that I was spending each day spinning that stationary wheel.  After a bit of cogitating I concluded that harnessing that energy would be much less cost-efficient than harvesting wind energy, which itself was only marginally feasible. 

Turns out that my cogitating was pretty accurate.  There was an article in the Texas Tribune today that reported on a pilot program at two Texas colleges (and about a dozen out-of-state colleges) to harness the energy expended by students in a gym on some elliptical machines.  See http://www.texastribune.org/texas-energy/energy/texas-universities-harness-human-power/.  According to the article, preliminary results indicate that the power-cost savings may not justify the cost to retrofit the gym equipment, but the sponsors are rationalizing that the program does teach students to be greener – “They think it’s neat, cool and progressive.”

The business sponsor of the project is a Florida company called ReRev, and its website (http://rerev.com/default.html) indicates that a 30-minute workout produces 50 watt-hours of electricity.  That amount of energy could power a CFL bulb for about two and a half hours, a laptop for about one hour, or a desktop computer for 30 minutes.  That’s not a lot of power, but perhaps future improvements will make this process (just like wind energy) a feasible energy source. 

Although I admire the entrepreneurial spirit of ReRev, I question whether its partners should have been for-profit gyms instead of not-for-profit public universities.         

Dying to cycle.  I am fortunate to have a 20-mile bike route beginning and ending at my apartment doorsteps.  Although the route provides an excellent training ride in a relatively rural, hilly area, I am continually passed by vehicles traveling only a few feet from me.  A few months ago, a couple were killed on my route by a distracted motorist who drove over them on the road’s shoulder.  That is a risk that I have to accept if I want to ride.  I have an exercising-fanatic friend at my apartment complex who would love to ride a bike, but he doesn’t because he thinks it is too dangerous.  That’s too bad. 

Unfortunately, I can’t imagine a time when San Antonio will be able to afford separate roads for bikes and cars, but I can dream.