Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How Events are Selected for the Olympics

Over on Facebook I did a long list of jokey suggestions for Olympic events.  This has led to people associating me with strange former Olympic events.  Which is fine.  I've gotten to see some articles I otherwise wouldn't have, including this one here
But that's not what this post is about.  I told you that so I can tell you this: the article has a paragraph on how the Olympics chooses what events it will have.  I haven't seen that anywhere before so I thought I'd share.  From the link:
At the first modern Olympic Games held in Athens in 1896, nine sports were contested: wrestling, fencing, athletics (track and field events), cycling, tennis, swimming, weightlifting, gymnastics and shooting. Over the years, that number has increased significantly with the inclusion of everything from table tennis to taekwondo, from basketball to badminton. While many of these new additions have stuck around, others have been phased out indefinitely for one reason or another by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which in recent years capped the number of sports contested at the Summer Olympics at 28 (there will be only 26 at the 2012 Summer Olympics). Some sports, such as tennis and archery, have been discontinued and then, years later, reinstated. Currently, to be included in the Summer Olympics, a sport must be practiced by men in 75 countries spanning four continents and by women in 40 countries across three continents. Also, unlike some early Olympic events, no motors are allowed.
So there you have it.  You'll note that the article mentions that there are two open spots for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.  What will replace it?  From Wikipedia:
The 2016 Summer Olympic program is scheduled to feature 28 sports and a total of 38 disciplines. There were two open spots for sports and initially seven sports began the bidding for inclusion in the 2016 program. Baseball and softball, which were dropped from the program in 2005, karate, squash, golf, wake boarding, roller sports, and rugby union all applied to be included. Leaders of the seven sports held presentations in front of the IOC executive board in June 2009.[10]
In August, the executive board initially gave its approval to rugby sevens—a seven-man version of rugby union—by a majority vote, thus removing baseball, roller sports, and squash from contention. Among the remaining three—golf, karate, and softball—the board approved golf as a result of consultation. A decision regarding the remaining two sports was made on October 9, 2009, the final day of the 121st IOC Session at which Rio de Janeiro was named as host. A new system was in place at this Session; a sport now needs only a simple majority from the full IOC for approval rather than the two-thirds majority previously required.[11]
On October 9, 2009 the IOC voted to include rugby sevens and golf on the program for the Games in Rio. The other 26 sports were also confirmed with a large majority of the votes.[12] International Golf Federation executive director Antony Scanlon told Olympic news outlet Around the Rings that the top players, including Tiger Woods and Annika Sörenstam, would show their continued support of golf's Olympic involvement by participating in the events.

Rugby and golf to be added.  That gives us all four years to figure out how the heck they play rugby!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Opening Ceremonies - What Could Have Been

I covered the Opening Ceremonies yesterday.  Today I want to talk about what I would have done with them. 
Pretty much every one agrees that the Beijing opening is now the gold standard for Olympics ceremonies.  What did they do?  They decided that they would show off their history and progress.  They wanted to show the world just how far they'd come.  If anyone had visions of China as poor people in huts, tending rice, they wanted to show how wrong they were.  The planners did this with stunning visuals (remember the giant screen on the floor?) and a stunning multitude of people (remember the hundreds of drummers?).  You came away thinking 'wow, China has its problems but they can really put something special together'. 
Two years later Vancouver hosted the winter games.  Their budget was less than half of what they used for Beijing.  What did they do?  They used a methodical and easy to understand format to introduce the country.  They moved east to west from region to region, showcasing different music and dance types.  Each section was introduced by a bit of poetry from a Canadian writer; the poetry was read by a famous Canadian actor.
The London ceremonies started that way with the transition from agriculture to the industrial revolution.  The announcers said that Danny Boyle considers the industrial revolution to be one of the more important moments in history, which, well, he's right.  After that was a muddled mini-section where apparently the 20th century happened.  (This was when we saw Sgt Pepper outfits at the same time as the British naval veterans.)  Only two other bits pointed to any kind of national pride: the praise for the NHS and the celebration of pop music. 
What did they miss?
  • Shakespeare is arguably the most important writer in the history of the English language.  They used him for one short snippet.  Imagine if they'd introduced each section with more of the bard, using various big time Shakespearean actors to voice each one.  Think of Patrick Stewart reading the St Crispin's day speech!
  • One of the most important steps in our modern day understanding of human rights was the Magna Carta.  And yet it isn't recognized very often.  This would have been a good chance to correct that.
  • Is there any country that has gotten more out of naval power in the last 500 years?  And yet they navy got very little attention.  In addition, you can make a strong argument that the British navy did more to end slavery world-wide than any other institution (with the exception of the church).  
  • What about a section praising great thinkers of science?  Off the top of my head you could cover Bacon, Newton, Hume, Darwin, Wren and Turing.  Finish this off with Tim created-the-web guy.
The overall tone of the ceremonies seemed to say 'we've made some good music recently, and we do some good children's stories' but that's it.  There was very little grandeur and pride.  I would have done it differently.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Opening Ceremonies - London Olympics

The FP Gal and I watched the opening ceremonies last night and I wanted to get some thoughts down.
  • The time difference thing was very strange.  Before it had even started we both read some leaks and spoilers.  We both heard that it was very strange.  There were a couple of weird moments but for the most part it didn't strike me as that strange.  
  • The whole first segment was amazing from a technical standpoint.  I'm referring to the 'agricultural' segment where people milled around and did farm-y type things.  The switch-over to the industrial revolution was quite a bit of work.  Amazing.  (Note, I'm not saying that it made for good TV...)
  • The forging of the ring was very impressive too.  And when it rose up and joined the other rings?  That was the one time that I really, really wished I could be in the stadium watching it all live.  
  • The high point of the whole ceremony was certainly the pairing of the Queen with James Bond.  Their arrival by helicopter was inspired.  I loved every bit about that.
  • I also loved Rowan Atkinson.  At first.  Then it went on a bit too long.  
  • Ok, the bit celebrating the NHS is probably best described as 'strange'.  If Chicago hosts the 2024 games, I'm guessing they won't do a section on the greatness that is, well, any given government agency.  
  • I liked the idea of mixing the bedtime stories but I didn't think it went far enough.  We got a cross section of various villains but the only hero we got was Mary Poppins.  This was one of the areas that I thought the narrative got away from them.
  • The next bit was the long story celebrating a) the internet and b) British pop music from the 60's on.  Did it work?  Eh.  I would have been disappointed without some kind of tribute to recent English music.  And a nod to the inventor of the web was a nice nod.  Out of place, mind you, but nice.
  • NBC cut a bit before the parade and frankly they made a terrible choice.  The full story is here.  There was a part of the program dedicated to the terrorism victims of 7/7 and terrorism victims in general.  NBC opted to give us some stupid interview between Michael Phelps and Ryan Seacrest.  They deserve to get a lot of heat over this.
  • The broadcast kept saying that the parade of nations was the quickest they had ever seen.  It looked like they used the time zones to their advantage and clipped the heck out of it.  (Frankly I fast forwarded through most of this bit.)
  • The final torch was amazing.  As each nation came in they were escorted by a young girl carrying a small pot, or funnel.  All of these were placed in an area in the center of the athletes.  A handful of them were lit and fire was spread to the rest.  Then they rose up and formed a giant torch.  Very, very cool.
  • And then some Paul McCartney.  The FP Gal enjoyed him but then she would.  I simply can't stand 'Hey Jude' so I'm not the right one to talk about his performance.  
I really liked parts of it but only had one 'oooooh' moment (with the final torch).  Now, if it was up to me...  You know what, this is already a long post.  I'll put that one up tomorrow.

Friday, July 27, 2012

On the Bookshelf

I've pretty much abandoned the 'What I'm Reading' list on the sidebar but I thought some of you might still be interested to see what books have been coming into my life.  In the past few weeks I've gotten:
  • The Tipping Point - Gladwell, heard a bunch about it and should read it at some point
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins - O'Dell, remember it well from when I was younger
  • Philosophy of Aristotle, will come in handy with the book project
  • The Story of Dr Dolittle - Lofting, another old favorite, I'm reading it to Relia right now
  • The Voyages of Dr Dolittle - Lofting, next in the series
  • Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids - Caplan, very interesting reading on making parenting easier
  • Gamesmanship - Potter, was highly recommended
  • Remembrance of Things Past - Proust, on my 'someday' list
  • The Looming Tower - Wright, featured in yesterdays picture, fascinating book
  • Football Outsiders Almanac 2012, to get ready for the upcoming season, go Vikes!
  • Little Britches - Moody, a recommendation from Steve Bremner
  • Hamlet - Shakespeare, up next for the reading project
And then I said to the FP Gal, right now I don't feel like buying more books.  Don't worry, I'm sure it will pass quickly.

Have a Great Friday

Thursday, July 26, 2012


  DF and I are trying very hard to understand the world around us.  (Very interesting book, btw.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

100 Things I Love About Movies

Inspired by Siskoid.

1. Tense endings
2. The 'actual' El Guapo speech
3. Ghibli Studios
4. Harrison Ford: "No tickets."
5. The song 'One Hand, One Heart'
6. The opening to 'Manhattan'
7. The score to 'In Her Majesty's Secret Service'
8. Sentimental Christmas movies
9. Bill Murray in 'Lost in Translation'
10. The light-cycles in Tron

11. "I have wasted thousands and thousands of kisses on you."
12. The soundtrack to 'Amelie'
13. The set to 'Rear Window'
14. The wisecracking skills of Han Solo
15. The Goat Herd song
16. Susan Sarandon in 'Bull Durham'. ("Oh my.)
17. Racing through Paris in 'Ronin'
18. Racing to find a fix in 'Apollo 13'
19. "I want my two dollars..."
20. The Marx Brothers

21. Kenneth Branagh
22. Smart war movies
23. Blooper reels in the credits
24. Every theory in 'High Fidelity'
25. The cast of 'It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World'
26. The schemes of Scarlett O'Hara
27. Introducing movies to my children
28. Clint Eastwood in, oh, pretty much everything
29. The clever writing of 'Shakespeare in Love'
30. The French Riviera in 'To Catch a Thief'

31. Every positive father figure
32. Stanley Tucci and Oliver Platt in 'The Imposters'
33. Subtitles
34. That post film feeling that your life has been changed.
35. The Delorean in 'Back to the Future'
36. The St Crispin's Day speech
37. Gene Hackman in 'The Royal Tennebaums'
38. The clubbing scene in 'Trainspotting'
39. "Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary."
40. The Time Bandits

41. The sustained cleverness of 'Four Weddings and a Funeral'
42. Having no idea what was really happening in 'The Game'
43. The underwater scenes in 'Hunt for Red October'
44. The doomed love story of 'Forrest Gump'
45. "So I've got that going for me, which is nice."
46. Swelling orchestra over the closing credits of 'Shakespeare in Love'
47. VINCENT from 'The Black Hole'
48. Heist movies
49. Movie casts that obviously had a lot of fun
50. Dr Teeth and the Electric Mayhem

51. Special effects from before CGI
52. Good book adaptations
53. "Oh pointy birds, oh pointy pointy"
54. Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines in 'Running Scared'
55. Road trip buddy movies
56. The one good Jim Carrey movie
57. Tevye talking to himself
58. Women who can take care of themselves
59. The collected projects and productions of Max Fischer
60. "Freedom!"

61. The hope inspired by a great movie trailer
62. Tropical island scenes
63. Colin Firth's story in 'Love Actually'
64. Emma Thompson's breakdown in 'Sense and Sensibility'
65. Figuring out who is voicing various animated characters
66 "Deserve's got nothing to do with it."
67. The spot in 'Rattle and Hum' where they switch from black and white to color
68. The love between E.T. and Elliot
69. Watching Josh Baskin go home at the end of 'Big'
70. Zero Mostel

71. Movies about baseball
72. "Not my gumdrop buttons!"
73. Watching Anthony Hopkins in 'Silence of the Lambs'
74. Watching Anthony Hopkins in 'Remains of the Day'
75. The time nesting of 'Inception'
76. The battle of Helm's Deep
77. The obvious dedication and work behind 'Tora Tora Tora'
78. Bruce Willis's career arc
79. Cybil Shepherd's career arc
80. Totoro waiting for a bus in the rain

81. The music from 'Moulin Rouge'
82. Gene Wilder's early career
83. That certain blend of serious and comic that only Bruce Campbell embodies
84. The crew of Serenity
85. The Dude abides
86. Any time Morgan Freeman narrates
87. The scenery in 'Snow Falling on Cedars'
88. Andy's escape plan in 'Shawshank Redemption
89. "She turned me into a newt!  (pause)  I got better..."
90. The desert in 'The English Patient'

91. The search for Harry Lime
92. The artistic models in 'Sirens'
93. The music from 'Chariots of Fire'
94. The music from 'Titanic'
95. Steve Carrell in 'Dan in Real Life'
96."They look like big, good, strong hands, don't they? I always thought that's what they were."
97. Baron Munchhausen's courage and bravery

98. The tiger cubs in 'Two Brothers'
99. When the guy finally gets the girl
100. Someday, I want to be Ferris Bueller

This was a lot of fun to put together and I'd encourage the few of you that are still blogging to give it a shot!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Blessed Cool

This morning it was gray and drizzly.  And wonderful.  Still more humid than I'd like but such a welcome break.  We've had plenty of hot days, not quite the heat from earlier in the month but still 88 degrees and high humidty is no fun either.
More cool rainy days, please.

Suggestions for Improving the Olympics

Some suggestions I put on Facebook:

1. Give Cirque du Soleil an automatic entry into the gymnastics events.
2. International karaoke competition.
3. Dance marathon
4. Competitive weight loss
5. Frisbee golf/Ultimate frisbee
6. Amish style barn raising race
7. Abstract art contest
8. Six shooter quick draw tournament. Single elimination format
9. An 'In Memoriam' film montage. Those things always get me.
10. Have the sprinters chase a rabbit.
11. The ‘Get-Clothes-on-a-Toddler’ rodeo.
12. Lawn curling.
13. Long distance running competitions to be done on a figure eight track where the runners must criss cross.
14. Long distance ocean swimming. (All swimmers start at the same time and swim until they can’t go any further.)
15. Child/parent three legged race.
16. Competitive dramatic monologue
17. All countries pick one athlete to compete in a King of the Mountain style event
18. Have the sprinters be chased by a tiger
19. Mariokart tournament
20. BMX off road unicycle racing
21. A round the world balloon race
22. Find better artistic ideas for the official mascots and programs. Use pre-1950 guides for example if necessary.
23. Random non-track athletes are selected to compete in decathlon.
24. Hide and seek, using the whole of London
25. Lunar volleyball (and if they mandate all countries provide their own transportation, we could colonize that sucker in about three Olympiads)
26. More cowbell!

Sunday, July 22, 2012


While at Target today, Relia got into a conversation with the check out lady.  It used to be my goal to be the most interesting (in a positive way) customer that a check out person/restaurant server/retail salesperson would deal with in a given day.  Now my kids have taken over that job.  I mostly just smile, nod and try not to upstage them.

Relia: (deep in the conversation) And what's your name?
Target lady: (amused and enjoying herself) Nancy.  And what is your name?
Relia: Aurelia.
Nancy: Oh, what a pretty name.
Relia: I know.  Everybody says that. 
(laughs all around)
DF: And my name is Felix!
(more laughs)
Me: Yeah, I don't really have shy kids...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Olympics Misc.

With just under a week to go, I thought I'd do one more post on the Olympics with various whatnot.  Ready?
  • While the Opening ceremonies are next Friday night (July 27th), some of the events start earlier.  Notably the soccer games start on Wednesday.  Otherwise they can't fit the whole tournament into just two weeks.  You can find the schedule here
  • The 2014 Winter games will be in Sochi, Russia.  2016 will have the first Olympic games to be held in South America as Rio de Janeiro hosts.  (Those Opening ceremonies will be something!)  In 2018 Pyeongchang, South Korea will have the winter games.  2020?  That won't be selected until September of 2013.  It's down to Istanbul, Tokyo or Madrid.  For reasons of geographical diversity, I'm guessing it will be Madrid.
  • The U.S. hasn't hosted since 2002 in Salt Lake City.  When will they do it again?  For the past few years there has been an ongoing dispute between the U.S. and the IOC over various funding issues.  That was recently settled, opening the door for us to host again.  There will be an aggressive bid for the 2024 summer games.  Right now the candidates are Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia or San Francisco.  
  • Apparently the Brits are leaning heavily on the 'Chariots of Fire' theme music in the run-up to the London games.  The movie has been remastered and rereleased in London.  How fun is that?
  • We're planning on getting a page of national flags so that Relia can match them up.  We have a world map on our wall and I think it's going to get quite a bit of use over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Bit of History of Austin

Last weekend I found a book at a garage sale called 'A Minnesota Travel Companion' by Richard Olsenius.  The book is arranged by major byways and tells little stories about various towns and counties.  Most of stories are about when places were founded.  It includes this story of Austin:
An interesting story surrounds the naming of Austin as the county seat in 1857. In northeastern Mower, a town by the name of Frankford was the original county seat. But Frankford neglected to build a courthouse. newly elected commissioners from Austin were unhappy about the distance they had to travel for meetings. They reasoned that since a courthouse had never been built, wherever the 'tin box' containing the county records was kept, would be the site of the county seat. One day they stole the box while attending a meeting at Frankford and rode for Austin with the sheriff and townsfolk of Frankford following in hot pursuit.
The posse caught up with the men at the stage way-station in High Forest and arrested them. The hotel was searched, but not before the tin box had been ditched in a snowbank. The people of Austin, some carrying guns, gathered in Frankford to insure a fair trial for the jailed commisioners. The men were eventually released and a county-wide election in 1857 turned the county seat over to Austin.
I don't remember ever hearing this before.  Who knew Austin was such a rough and tough place 'way back when? 
Also of note, the Austin area was a prime hunting area and groups would come down from Fort Snelling to do so.  During an 1841 winter hunt, 2000 deer, 50 elk, 50 bear, five panthers and a few buffalo were killed there.  How crazy is that?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Learning to Count

After DF woke up today it was snack time.  He asked for a cookie.  As I was getting them out I decided to give him two.  (These are sandwich cookies, or as they are called in our house, beef cookies.)  He looked at them and this conversation happened:

DF: Two cookies?
Me: Yes.  I thought I'd be generous.
DF: Thank you daddy!  (pauses and looks at them again)  Can I have three cookies?

Happy Monday (Joyeux Lundi)

I'm late for Bastille Day, but what the heck.  Also, I'm enjoying the heck out of watching the Tour de France each morning.  What a beautiful country to see in HD.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Fields of Fire - Big Country

This was played in the car today. After it was done the kids said I was singing too loud...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sailors and Superstitions

In a little over four months, the greatest of the sailing races, the Vendee Globe, will start.  I'm interested in it so I'll be doing some blogging as it gets nearer.  On their website right now is a short interview about sailors and their superstitions.  It's very interesting and I learned a lot.  Before this I never understood the custom of christening a ship, for instance. 
Also, there is this bit with a coin:
For instance you have the golden coin that yachtsmen are supposed to put down under their masts. Once again, it is about the notion of sacrifice: when putting a very precious gold coin under the mast, the sailor will obviously not be able to use it later. Thus, by doing so, he proves his « good will » to the gods of the sea.
Do they do this with navy ships too?


A couple of weeks ago we went out to the garage sales and I found a serious bargain.  A very nice lady was selling a full set of World Book encyclopedias for $1.50.  This is the same set that we had in my house as I was growing up.  Possibly the same edition.  The FP Gal wasn't sure it was a good purchase but for that small an amount I could hardly go wrong. 
The nice lady told me that she had offered the set to each of her children and they all refused.  It's not hard to figure out why.  If I have question about a subject I go to Wikipedia or maybe just Google for an answer.  Someday when I have a smart phone I'll be able to check them out anywhere I can get decent phone service.  So why but a set of very heavy books?
I remember times when I was young when I'd look something up.  Sometimes I'd just page through and see what kind of interesting things I would run across.  And I want my kids to have that same joy.  Also, I'm very much looking forward to when they can read so when they ask me a question I can say, 'What does the Encyclopedia say?'.  Working with bound research materials is a skill that everyone should have.  That will be a challenge for the Google generation.
We already looked at the article on 'flowers' and I had her look at the one on 'flags'.  I might tie that one in with the Olympics in a few weeks . . .

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Practice Day

The FP Gal took a last minute gig examining some test questions so, for the first time, I had all three kids today.  Now, I've done quite a bit of solo parenting so this wasn't that big of a deal.  But it's a little different when you're watching a two year old and a three month old.  There is more balancing that has to be done, more planning.
It went . . . ok.  I had hoped to get them all out to the MOA.  It's a controlled environment and it kind of feels like home territory for me.  But when I was trying to plan out the timing I realized that I would need to feed Leo a bottle while we were out there.  And I couldn't think of any way that I could do that while keeping DF nearby.  Relia, I wasn't worried about.  She is responsible enough that I can trust her to stay near.
So we stayed in and did stuff.  The kids didn't have quite the fulfilling day that I had hoped for but, well, c'est la vie.  When the FP Gal got home we talked about it and she had some suggestions.  (I'm kind of kicking myself for not thinking of putting DF in a stroller with a snack to keep him busy!) 
Anyway, I stretched some mucsles that I haven't used in months.  I'll be using them plenty in about six weeks so I have to get them back in shape.  I'll be ready.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Don't Pretend, Actually Read Them

An interesting list from io9, listing '10 Science Fiction novels you pretend to read, and why you should actually read them'.  The idea is that these are books that people have and talk about but haven't actually read through.  Here is the list, with my comments:
  • Cryptonomicon, Stephenson - A very long book with lots of interesting stuff.  A bit weak on the ending.  I've read it twice and almost certainly will again at some point.  
  • Dune, Herbert - I'm surprised that this is on the list as plenty have people 'actually' read it.  It didn't tickle me but I've read it.  From what I understand the sequels aren't nearly as good and I've avoided them.
  • Gravity's Rainbow, Pynchon - I've tried one of Pynchon's books, 'V'.  Got about sixty pages in and put it down, maybe forever.  'Rainbow' has a reputation for being impossible to finish.  I would need some major convincing before I'd even pick this up.
  • Foundation, Asimov - Another one that I'm surprised to see on the list.  I've read the three original Foundation books and I'd certainly recommend them.  The writing is strong without being overwhelming.  The books are really collections of short stories so pacing is no problem.
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Clarke - This is a big book that won the Hugo award in the mid 00's.  I've got it on my shelf and will absolutely get to it at some time.  The story is about rediscovering magic in England and it looks very good.
  • 1984, Orwell - This is one of the most talked about books of the 20th century and I don't really have a feel for how many of those talkers have actually read it.  I haven't done so in at least ten years.  Probably time to do so again.
  • First and Last Men; Starmaker, Stapledon - These are a pair of important early sci-fi books from the 30's.  I've never read them and frankly, haven't heard much discussion of them.  I'm sure they're worth it.
  • The Long Tomorrow, Brackett - A post nuclear war novel from the 50's.  I've never heard of this before so I'm wildly unable to comment on it.  
  • Dhalgren, Delaney - This one I've heard of but haven't read.  I think I'll put it on my 'look for' list.  Samuel Delaney is one of those authors that I should probably read more of.
  • Infinite Jest, Wallace - Another huge book.  I've got it on my shelf but haven't read it (yet).  I hear glowing reviews from those who have.  
These books fall pretty heavily into two categories: old and/or long.  It's not hard to see why a more casual fan hasn't read them.  Or has started them but never finished.  The thing about a long book is that at some point it has to justify its length.  I'll fight through the first fifty or a hundred pages of a difficult book but after that there simply must be some payoff or I'll move on.  Life is too short and there are too many other books that I want to get to.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


We made a quick run down to Austin today to meet up with the Bremners.  They are on leave and back in the States.  We met at the bandshell park, somewhere I had not been in some time.  (Got to see how they changed it for the flood plans.  The church down there is no longer a church.  Instead it's a pavilion with picnic tables.  Who knew?) 
It was very nice.  Our kids got swept up into the tornado that is the Bremner children and they loved it.  We got to sit with Steve and Micah and talk about adult stuff.  Yay!  And then it was over, all too quickly and we went back to the Cities.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Olympics Past

This will be the last of these posts, though obviously I'll have more to say about the Olympics when it actually starts.  For the rest of this series, click on the 'Olympics' tag down at the bottom.
  • The 1998 winter games were held in Nagano, Japan.  The organizers worked hard to make certain that the games were all held in a centralized area.  Nagano was the most southerly city to ever host the winter games.  It suffered weather problems, this time they had too much snow.  Some of the skiing events had to be postponed.  New events included curling and women's hockey.  Denmark won the curling gold even though there was not a curling rink in all of Denmark.  US women won the gold in hockey.  (Nagano is located about 125 miles west of Tokyo.  Any readers ever visit there?)
  • Sydney hosted the 2000 summer games and they were a huge success.  During the closing ceremony, Olympic president Samaranch declared them the best games ever.  The opening ceremony was the most spectacular yet (though it is probably overshadowed by Beijing, 2008).  The television audience had grown to 3.5 billion people.  The only bad mark is that 35 total athletes failed drug tests.  The host Aussies won 58 medals to place fourth.  The UK had a very strong showing, with 28 medals.  The US got 97.  (I don't remember many specifics about these games.)
  • 2002 found the winter games back in the US as Salt Lake City hosted.  At the time, this marked the largest city to host, though Turin and Vancouver are both even bigger.  The run up to the games were marked with delays and a bribery scandal.  The games themselves were also marked with controversy as more and more athletes were disqualified for drug use.  Even worse, a French judge in the pairs figure skating was found to have been pressured to give the Russian skaters high marks.  The Russians and Canadians both shared a gold medal.  The US bobsleder, Jill Bakken became the first African-American to win a gold medal at a winter Olympics.  Australia also won its first winter gold as speed skater Steven Bradbury missed a big pile up in short track skating.  Canada won it's first men's hockey gold in 50 years(!).  
  • This book ('The Olympic Games, Athens 1896 - Athens 2004) must have been written before the actual 2004 games.  It talks about the great efforts that Greece took to win hosting duties.  They had wanted the 1996 games, the 100 year anniversary, but lost out to Atlanta.  My memory is of them being fairly certain they would get them and being bitterly disappointed when they didn't.  Per Wikipedia, before the 2004 games the torch was relayed around the world, the first time that has happened.  I remember there was some question with the athlete's parade because traditionally the Greeks open the parade and the host city closing.  They fixed this by having the Greek flag open up and the actual athletes march last.  Also per Wikipedia, there was nudity in the opening ceremonies (male and female) but NBC kept US viewers from seeing it.  
That's it.  Hope you all enjoyed the trip!

Happy Monday

With all of this warm weather, I could use a bit of cool weather.  I'm not ready for winter by any means . . . but, well, maybe I could spend a weekend there.  (This pic is from Germany.)

Sunday, July 08, 2012


In the backyard, talking with a neighbor over the fence.

Neighbor: (to DF)  It's a good thing you're so cautious!
DF: Actually, I'm two!

Saturday, July 07, 2012


For the past week or so we've been 'enjoying' a heat wave.  Well, no, that's not true.  We've been enduring a heat wave.  Temps up above 100 degrees and of course Minnesota doesn't understand the concept of a 'dry heat'.  Miserable stuff.
Until last night, that is.  We had some thunderstorms roll through and it immediately became much cooler.  We lost twenty, twenty-five degrees in a couple of hours.  The change is heavenly. 
Today we had the door and the window open.  We were outside playing at a park.  We could simply relax.  The weather didn't seem like something that must be beaten at every turn. 
I could still use a good five or six days of overcast and drizzle but, for now, this is fine.  Better at least.

This is Our World

This time lapse video from orbit is amazing. I especially liked the aurora from orbit, which is nothing short of spectacular. Near the end you can see flashy clouds. That's what a thunderstorm looks like from far above.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Seams of the Rainbow

Here is a very interesting article on how different cultures divide the colors in the world.  What is especially interesting to me is how recently developed cultures like the Japanese divided up blue from green.  (Hint: It wasn't that long ago.)
DF is working on colors.  He knows that we talk about red and green when it comes to stoplights but he doesn't always get them right.  He also knows that one of our cars is the 'black car' but again, I don't know that he has the color actually figured out.

Have a Great Friday

Thursday, July 05, 2012


DF has taken to calling elevators, 'alligators'.  Which is kind of fun when we're at the Mall and getting into the glass ones. 

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

4th of July

We had a very hot Independence Day.  In fact, we're in a stretch of really hot days.  I mention the hotness today because we had some power issues.  A transformer on our block blew out.  We still had power in some places, notably the air conditioning and TV.  We did not have any internet(!) and, even worse, all of my work stuff was down.
After a couple of hours the rest of the power went out for about 45 minutes or so as they replaced the transformer.  Then it all came back up, with the blessed, blessed cool air.

We went back and forth on whether DF could stay up for fireworks or not.  It turned out no, he could not.  So I brought him home early and missed the fireworks.  He went down nice and easy.  And it turned out that my neighbors across the street put on a very professional fireworks show of their own.  (I'm curious, if you added up all of the fireworks bought in a two block radius of our house, would it exceed the amount spent on the fireworks at the big show down at the park?  It might, and I mean that in all seriousness.)

I hope everyone had a wonderful and thoughtful 4th of July.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Past Olympics

For earlier posts in this series, click on the 'Olympics' tag at the bottom. 
  • The 1992 winter games were held in Albertville, France, making France a three time winter games host.  Albertville is in the Savoy region and they saw the Olympics as a chance to develop their winter tourism.  The events were spread out, leading to protests from environmental groups.  After this the IOC declared that future games could be spread further to reduce environmental damage.  Big political changes had happened since '88.  The Baltic States competed under their own flags for the first time since the 30s.  The former Soviet Union competed as 'the Unified Team' and German athletes were unified into one team.  Short track ice skating and mogul skiing were new events.
  • Barcelona got the 1992 summer games.  The IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch had helped to bring the Olympics to his home region.  He was a big supporter of commercialism and openly thanked Olympic sponsors.  This caused some tension, especially as event starting times were closely aligned with television interests.  South Africa returned to the games for the first time since 1960.  The former Soviets still competed as a Unified Team.  Cuba and China garnered some criticism for not participating in drug testing before the games.  The Opening Ceremonies were quite the spectacle, at one point pitting Hercules ships against sea monsters (video here).  I remember this as the 'Dream Team' Olympics, as the US put together one of the greatest basketball teams ever, using pros for the first time.  There are pictures of the swimming and diving and it looks like it was held outdoors (and it looks great!).  The French won a medal in windsurfing, which is not in this year's games.
  • In 1986 the IOC realized that it was tough for them to get all the network funding that they needed if both winter and summer games were held in the same year.  They decided to alternate in two year intervals, starting with winter games in 1994 in Lillehammer, Norway.  When the games were awarded, Lillehammer was a town of only 21,000 but it was soon developed into a first rate site.  There was no more Unified Team, instead the former Soviets competed as their newly independent home countries.  Free style aerial skiing was added.  The biggest story was that of the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan competition in skating, which ended up with assault charges and much unpleasantness.  Sweden won it's first men's hockey gold.  
  • In 1996, the summer games were held in Atlanta.  The book mentions several things which bring back strong memories for me.  There was Muhammad Ali lighting the flame with shaking hands.  There was the Centennial Park bombing, which (thankfully!) was a much smaller event than the terrorism in Munich '72.  Michael Johnson became the first person to win both the 200m and 400m sprints and Carl Lewis won the long jump.  The most dramatic was probably gymnast Kerri Strugg vaulting on a badly sprained ankle in a an attempt to secure a gold medal.  Her coach had to carry her to the medal stands. 

Monday, July 02, 2012

Happy Monday

2012 Olympic Events

Per the FP Gal's request, here are the various events for the upcoming games.  I've gotten my info from here and rearranged it in a way that makes sense to me.  There are 26 total recognized sports.  I've grouped them together in various categories.  For event schedules you can go here
  • Athletics - These are the track and field events: running, throwing and so on.  I'd also group some other things in the pure athletic heading such as the various gymnastic and weight lifting events.  The ancient Greeks would have recognized these without much problem.
  • Aquatics - These are the swimming and diving events of various distances and heights. 
  • Boats - Three different categories here: canoeing, rowing and sailing.  It's a shame that they can't somehow incorporate the Vendee Globe challenge that will be held later this year. 
  • Fighting - Two people, trying to best each other in an immitation of actual combat.  Here you would find boxing, fencing, judo, taekwondo and wrestling.  I have no idea why judo and taekwondo are in but not karate or just some general 'martial arts' category. 
  • Net sports - Hitting a ball (or shuttlecock) across a net to an opponent.  This gives us badminton, tennis and table tennis.
  • Horses - The various equestrian sports including something called 'dressage'. 
  • Road sports - Cycling and triathlon.  Though my label might not be the best since quite a bit of the cycling happens on dirt and the triathlon involves water. 
  • Targets - Shooting stuff, best shot wins.  Archery and, well, shooting.  The Olympics had to get a special dispensation to use actual guns.  Let's hope it doesn't start an Olympic crime wave!
  • Team Sports - Things played as a team.  I arbitrarirly didn't include relays in swimming and running here.  This gives us basketball, field hockey, football (soccer), volleyball, synchronized swimming, water polo and handball
There is one random event I have no idea what to do with: modern pentathlon.  Per wikipedia it combines 'pistol shooting, epee, 200m freestyle swimming, show jumping and a 3km cross country run'.  I have no clue how they picked those five things.  In my mind there was a ceremony where events were pulled out of hats and put together to form this.  If that isn't how they selected them . . . well, they should have.  They could even televise the selection process.  Wouldn't that be fun?
I also found out that after 1992 the Olympics, they decided not to do any demonstration sports anymore.  A demonstration style tournament can be held at the same time as the Olympics, giving officials a chance to look at it.  There was an attempt at doing so for cricket and something called 'netball' but it didn't happen.  For the life of me, I don't know why cricket isn't an Olympic sport.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Olympics Writing

Due to popular demand (or the closest that this blog gets to such a thing), I'm going to keep writing about the Olympics.  The book I have goes up to the 2004 games.  That's eight more sets, which is about two more 'past Olympics' entries.  Bonus points to anyone who can remember the host cities for all eight without looking it up!
I've got a couple of other related items in my head that I'll write about as well.  For instance, the FP Gal asked me to write something about the events that will happen in London.  I've checked that out and it looks interesting to me, so expect that sometime this week. 
I'm open for other suggestions so if you have any post ideas or questions you'd like me to dig into, please leave a comment.