Saturday, June 30, 2012

Past Olympics

Another look back at previous Olympic games.  For more of this series, click the 'Olympics' tag at the bottom.
  • The 1984 winter games were held in Sarajevo.  It was the first time the games were held in the Balkans.  Apparently the organizers were surprised at being selected.  They had expected that either Sapporo or Gothenburg would win the games.  They had to overcome some challenges, for instance, they added an elevated start area to make the downhill skiing high enough.  It sounds like these games were highlighted by figure skating.  Torvill and Dean dominated the pairs and Katarina Witt (whom I had a crush on) also won a gold.  The Olympic facilities were apparently later destroyed ('reduced to rubble') by fighting.  
  • Los Angeles hosted the '84 summer games and for the first time in Olympic history, they were privately funded.  I think of these as the McDonalds/Coca-Cola games though that might just be skewed memory.  Peter Ueberroth (of NFL fame) did huge work in drawing in sponsors.  ABC was one of the big spenders and they were able to dictate some of the event times.  The Soviet Union and their allies boycotted the game, almost certainly in retaliation for the US boycott of the 1980 games.  These were the Carl Lewis games as he won four gold medals in track events.  Mary Lou Retton also became a sensation.  Synchronized swimming became a medal event.  The IOC rejiggered their compact so that the rules regarding amateurism were loosened. 
  • In 1988 the winter games stayed in North America as Calgary gave the Canadians their second Olympic games in 12 years.  The timeline was expanded from 12 days to 16 and big sponsor ABC again called the shots for event starting times.  Skiing events were greatly expanded and several demonstration sports were included.  These included short track skating and curling, both of which were well received.  Katarina Witt successfully defended her figure skating title, the first time that had happened since 1936 (and yes, I still had a crush on her).  The precursor to the Special Olympics started here, albeit on a small scale.  From the pictures, it looks like the skating was all indoors.
  • Seoul hosted the 1988 summer games (and man, I don't remember any of it).  The previous two summer games had been marred by large boycotts but only Cuba, Ethiopia and North Korea were large hold outs for Seoul.  Ben Johnson won a gold for Canada and a couple of days later was found to have failed a drug test.  He was banned from ever representing Canada again (for two years).  The Soviets and East Germany dominated the medal counts with 92 gold medals between them.  The American bright spot was Flo-Jo, who blossomed into a track star.  Tennis regained it's tennis spot and table tennis (ping pong) became a medal sport.  And seriously, I don't remember one bit about these games.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Repeat Repeat Repeat

DF is full into the repeat everything phase.  We watched a movie today and he updated us on everything that was said, over and over.  We tried to turn off the DF commentary track but we couldn't find that option.  Relia got annoyed and I quietly thought of it as karmic payback. 
He'll repeat something until someone acknowledges that he said it.  Which means if the FP Gal or myself is tuning him out, well, this can go on for some time.  Don't get me wrong, he's usually very interesting to talk to.  He's trying to understand everything and I love how that develops.
Today several people asked his name and he proudly told them.  Then one person simply asked how he is and he answered 'Felix'. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Past Olympics

More Olympics!  For past entries, click on the 'Olympics' tag at the bottom of the post.  Again, the book that I'm reading from is called 'The Olympic Games,  Athens 1896 - Athens 2004'.
  • The 1976 winter games were held in Innsbruck.  They had held the winter games in 1964 and they lit a separate flame for each of them.  Denver had been the initial choice but the good people of Colorado decided that it was too expensive and might cause environmental damage so they pulled out.  The games went back to Innsbruck because they were still set up for the games and only needed minor refurbishments.  Figure skating was expanded (or reorganized) and the scoring system was changed.  In a controversial move, the ice skating medals were awarded at the rink instead of at a centralized medal station.  
  • Montreal hosted the 1976 summer games and it had some issues.  Industrial disputes and an unusually long winter delayed construction.  The opening ceremonies apparently took place with building cranes all over the place.  The book says that Montreal is still paying off Olympic debts.  More than 20 African countries boycotted the '76 games because the New Zealand rugby team had played in South Africa.  The Israeli team wore black armbands to remember those killed in Munich '72.  Security was very tight.  (The whole thing sounds like it was played under a big black cloud.  Any memories from the older folks reading this would be appreciated.)  Bruce Jenner won gold in the decathlon and faded from public view forever.
  • The 1980 winter games are the first one that I really remember.  Lake Placid hosted them and (stop me if you've heard this before) they had a lack of snow.  For the first time in history, the Olympics used artificial snow.  The town was small and the press complained about a one hour walk to the press center.  Athletes complained that the Olympic village was too confined and, I guess to prove them right, it was later converted into a prison(!).  These were the 'Miracle on Ice' games where the US shocked the Soviets on route to a gold medal win.  
  • Remember the 1980 summer games, held in Moscow?  Probably not as the US didn't attend, boycotting in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.  Ever since Munich, the Olympics had undergone a terrible run and apparently there was some doubt to the future of the whole thing.  The book says that the opening ceremonies were well staged and 'gestures of protest . . . were largely ignored by the television cameras'.  The official poster is without a doubt, the ugliest in the history of the games.  It sounds like the sports themselves went well with many records and achievements met. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Happy Monday

A wee bonnie castle in Scotland for you, this Monday.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Overheard

This morning in the car, Relia started talking about going to Kindergarten.  Apparently DF feels left out because he assured her that he was going too.  She told him he wasn't and why.  He calmly responded, "I am.  I'm sorry, Relia, but I am."  At some point I told them to stop arguing about it.

Relia: We're just going to argue until we get to the mall, dad.

A lawyer, right?  She should definitely grow up to be a lawyer.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Brave - 2012

I took Relia to see Pixar's new movie 'Brave' today.  Short review, with no spoilers, I really enjoyed it.  It's visually wonderful, like you would expect from a Pixar movie.  That's probably especially true since they had the gorgeous Scottish highlands to work with.  I also thought that the story went in interesting and unexpected places.  In short, I recommend it. 

Ok, now SPOILERS ahead so don't read the rest until you've seen the movie.  Then you can come back and argue with me if need be.  Got it?  Before seeing the movie I read the first part of Ebert's review and my enthusiasm was dampened a bit.  He suggests that this is something of a Disney knock-off, "...this one finds Pixar poaching on traditional territory of Disney, its corporate partner. We get a spunky princess; her mum, the queen; her dad, the gruff king, an old witch who lives in the woods, and so on."  I really couldn't agree less. 
The story deals with some common fairy tale tropes but it does it in a different way than I've seen before.  In fact, Merida is dealt the same dilemma that Jasmine does in 'Aladin'; she is a princess that will soon be forced to marry someone for political reasons.  Jasmine side stepped the issue by simply finding someone that would work for her.  'Brave' doesn't give the heroine that option.  I'll come back to this bit.
The main conflict is one that I've never seen before in a cartoon.  It's about a mother and daughter having a knock-down, drag out fight.  It's about the pride that often makes teenage girls so difficult to live with, especially when it comes to butting heads with a mother who is trying to shape them. 
There is a set of guidelines called 'the Bechdel test' which has tests how a story deals with women.  There are three items on it:
  1. It has to have at least two women in it,
  2. Who talk to each other,
  3. About something other than a man. (Not limited to romantic relationships, for example two sisters talking about their father doesn't pass)
Very few cartoons qualify.  Princesses are usually in love or in conflict with their father.  Or they are all alone, save for some spunky animal(s).  The exception in fairy tales is the wicked stepmother.  A conflict with an actual loving mother is vanishingly rare.  And you know what else 'Brave' has that few other movies do?  The princess is the one who makes the big mistake!  In other princess movies, she may make a small mistake, or an understandable one, but in 'Brave', she makes a big one and it's not a noble one.
What else did I like?  The younger brothers are inspired. I especially like that the creators decided they should be so interchangeable that they didn't bother to make them distinct.  I also loved Billy Connolly as the king.  And the witch in the wood wasn't really wicked, just mischievous or possibly so interested in selling a wood carving that she couldn't resist.  Also, after the mother transforms, they do a wonderful job of helping her maternity peak through.
And now back to the whole marriage thing.  This was the only bit that disappointed me.  A situation where a princess is forced to marry someone she doesn't know is obviously abhorrent in this day and age.  And yet, that marriage seems to be one of the keys of keeping an alliance of clans together.  Merida suggest that they just discard this and all too quickly it is done.  As soon as the princess says that she was being selfish, she is let off the hook entirely.  I honestly don't know how they should have resolved it but this didn't taste right. 
One more thing, Ebert ends his review by saying that Merida is made into an 'honorary boy'.  I don't see that at all and in fact, I think this criticism says something bad about Ebert.  We see her practice archery, which is hardly a boys only activity.  She dresses like a woman, eats with better manners than her father and knows how to sew.  She is only a non-girl in that she isn't keen on getting married. 

Where the Hell is Matt

These always smile and bring a tear to my eye.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Have a Great Friday

Relia picked this one.  (Well, actually she kept trying to chose pictures with puppies and monkeys and butterflys and I kept saying 'no'.)  This one has an eagle.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Capture an Asteroid

(via Instapundit)

Here is an interesting proposal that suggests NASA should capture an asteroid and put it into orbit around the moon.  It sounds worthwhile to me.  And if NASA doesn't jump on this, I wouldn't be surprised of some private group did.  And soon.  Very soon.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Overheard

While driving in the car tonight we passed a park where there was soccer:

Me: Do you see them playing soccer over there?
Relia: How can they play soccer in the rain?
Me: Uh, they just do.
(pause)
DF: You put down the umbrella first, Relia!


 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Past Olympics

And . . . we're back.  For more of this series, click on the 'Olympics' tag at the bottom.
  • Grenoble, France had the honor of hosting the 1968 winter games.  The city itself didn't have enough sports facilities so the events were held in various parts of the region.  There were seven different Olympic villages which led to some criticism that the 'youth of the world' weren't really meeting together.  This was the first Olympics with both drug and gender testing.  For the first time there were two separate German teams and (surprise!) they didn't get along with each other.  From the pictures, it looks like the skating events were still held outside.
  • The 1968 summer games went to Mexico City.  There were big arguments in Mexico about the wisdom of spending money on sports facilities when there was so much poverty elsewhere.  These arguments turned into riots.  There was also concern about Mexico City's high altitude and how that would effect athletes from around the world.  It seems to have worked against distance runners but for jumpers.  Bob Beamon set a new world record in the long jump, improving the old mark by nearly two feet.  His record would stand for another 23 years.  Dick Fosbury pioneered a new high jump technique that is now standard.  The biggest image from these games is almost certainly that of American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fists in a 'black power' salute, while on the medal stand.  The two were quickly banned from the team and sent home.  Oh, and for the first time, a woman lit the Olympic flame!
  • In 1972 the winter games went back to Japan, this time in Sapporo.  Big fees were charged for television rights; up more than 300% from the 1968 winter games.  One of the big issues was 'amateurism' as the IOC banned an Austrian skier on the day before the games opened.  Many of the skiers thrived on sponsorship and this was largely seen as example making.  There were also large disagreements about which hockey players were still amateurs.  The Canadians felt there was a huge double standard between NHL players and the state sponsored players of the Eastern bloc nations so they pulled out of the hockey competition.  For the first time a winter sport was medaled only by non-Europeans as the host Japanese swept the small hill ski jump.  Emperor Hirohito opened the games.  Again, the skating looks like it was outdoors and the pictures are spectacular.
  • Munich held the 1972 summer games and these are the most tragic in Olympic history.  Palestinian terrorists attacked the Israeli team and killed 11 athletes.  There were calls to suspend the rest of the games but the IOC, with support of the Israeli government, decided they should continue.  Many athletes did leave, fearing that the security wasn't good enough to protect them.  In other political news, South Africa was still banned and the IOC was forced to expel Rhodesia for apartheid reasons.   As far as the actual competition goes, Mark Spitz won four gold medals for swimming.  Olga Kurbut became a gymnastics sensation.  But really, the terrorism overshadowed everything else.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Voyager One

(Don't dismiss this as dry science-y stuff, give it a read.)
There is news out there that Voyager One is about to leave the solar system.  Here is a pretty good article, with pictures and diagrams.  What they mean by 'leave the solar system' is that it is almost beyond the influence of the sun.  Specifically, it is beyond the protection of the sun and facing the cosmic energies that exist between the stars. 
Voyager One launched in 1977 and is now about 16 light minutes away.  That means that it takes light (or a radio signal) a full sixteen minutes to reach us.  The probe is one of the fastest man-made objects ever made and it's only 16 light minutes out there.  How fast is it going?  Let's do some back of the envelope math and see if we can figure it out. 
It took 35 years to go 16 light minutes away.  After about 50 years it will be one light day (and yes I'm rounding for simplicity.)  That means it will take 365 X 50 years (18,250) before it will be one light year away from Earth.  The nearest star from our sun is Alpha Centauri which is about four light years away.  That means an object moving at Voyager One's speed and going in the right direction would take about 73,000 years to get to our nearest neighboring star.  That, to put it mildly, is a long time.
Now 1) Voyager One is not moving in the right direction and 2) it will lose power long before then so this exercise is completely academic.  They currently think it will lose power some time in the next ten or fifteen years.  Until then they'll keep checking the sensors. 
So Voyager One is the furthest man made object away from Earth.  How long will it hold that title?  Voyager Two is only twelve some light hours from Earth and will never overtake its sister ship.  Most recent planetary probes weren't designed to go to interstellar space, instead they have gone into orbit around various planets.  NASA's current approach has been to plunge them into the atmosphere of Jupiter or Saturn.  (They want the probes destroyed so that they won't clog up the radio bands.)
Right now a probe called New Horizons is heading all the way out to Pluto.  After zooming by the former planet, it will continue further out and eventually reach interstellar space.  It had a faster launch than Voyager One but it didn't have the gravity assist boosts that the earlier probe did.  As a result it is a bit slower and will never be further away.
We can currently build a faster ship and send it out but until (if?) we decide to do so, Voyager One will remain the furthest man made object from Earth.

Happy Monday


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Overheard

The older kids, Granda D and I took a little trip down to Wabasha today to see the eagles (and get out of the FP Gal's hair).  We ate lunch in a little place across the border in Wisconsin.  As we were driving back we saw a car with a giant football helmet decal on the door.  Then this conversation happened.

Relia: He had a football on the truck!
Me: This is Wisconsin and that was for the Packers.
Relia:  Packers?  I hate the Packers!
DF: (getting into the act) I hate crackers!  I hate crackers!

Since then he has shown his 'hatred' by eating every cracker he could find.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Beautiful Rooms

This is a great list (with pictures) of beautiful rooms.  I think my very favorite is #14 but I could be talked into a bunch of others as well.

Have a Great Friday


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Magic!

We've been regularly going to the library on Wednesday morning with the kids.  The older ones love books and we are trying to fan that flame so they love them more and more.  The best way to do that is to expose them to more and more of them.  Plus, we want them to feel comfortable in a library setting and we need to find reasons to simply get out of the house.
One of the nice things about a large, connected system like the Hennepin libraries is that you can drop off books anywhere.  We don't feel tied down to one building and have wandered a bit from place to place.  Today, on a whim, I suggested that we go to the Southdale library because it is the biggest.  The FP Gal had no problem with that and we were off.
We got in and one of the librarians met us at the elevator and told us that we were in time for a magic show.  We went into their community room and, sure enough, there was a magician entertaining a large group of kids and their parents.  We sat in the back, well, the FP Gal sat and so did Leo.  Relia stood to watch and I chased DF all over creation.  At one point he tried to rush the stage. 
Even though we were late, Relia still found a way to be chosen as a volunteer.  She had to go up and tell the magic man what her two favorite colors are.  She was great and enjoyed the heck out of it.  That girl is going to be on stage, there is no stopping her. 

Past Olympics

For other entries, click on the 'Olympics' tag at the bottom
  • The 1960 winter games were held in Squaw Valley, California (which is near Reno, NV).  The area was largely developed after the games were awarded in 1955.  The developments ran short however, and the bobsled competitions were canceled.  These opening ceremonies were developed by Walt Disney (and that must have been something!).  South Africa joined the winter games for the first time and then were promptly prohibited due to apartheid.  They didn't come back until 1994.  The biathlon made it's debut as did women's speed skating.  The skating was still done outdoors and the pictures are better for it.
  • Rome hosted the summer games of 1960.  They had been in line for the 1908 games but Vesuvius went and ashed all over those plans.  They held a number of events in ancient settings and I bet it was quite something to watch.  Pope John XXIII blessed all of the athletes save those of the Soviet Union.  (I'm guessing they declined the blessing but the book doesn't say.)  The marathon was won by a barefoot Ethiopian runner named Abebe Bikila.  The official poster shows Remus and Romulus suckling from a she wolf.  I dare, no, double dog dare any future Olympic host to top that for sheer awesomeness.  In sports news, a young American boxer named Cassius Clay won a gold medal.  I wonder what ever happened to him after that?
  • Winter of 1964 finds us in Innsbruck where (stop me if you've heard this before) they had trouble with a lack of snow.  Austrian troops brought some 25,000 tons of snow down from the mountains.  The luge made its debut and the bobsled returned.  For the first time, the winter games torch was also lit in Olympia and then relayed to Innsbruck.  The pictures of the athletes look more normal to me, as they are closer to what I grew up with.
  • Asia finally hosted the games when the 1964 summer games went to Tokyo.  It had been slated to host the 1940 games but that went awry.  The Japanese had aggressively built their infrastructure for the games and there was universally acclaimed.  The games were watched by more than 90 countries on the TV, a new record.  Volleyball was made an official sport.  Judo was also introduced.  The host Japanese were expected to dominate but the first gold medal went to a Dutchman named Antonius Greesink.  The torch was lit by a student who had been born near Hiroshima on the day that the atom bomb was dropped there.  
At least one more to come . . .

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Anniversary

Happy Anniversary, FP Gal! 

State Parks Blog

(via Instapundit)  This site bears watching.  It's a review of each Minnesota State Park. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Olympics Past

For past entries, click on the 'Olympics' tag.
  • We're up to 1952 when the winter games were held in Oslo.  It sounds like Oslo went all out in building facilities that could handle the games.  This is the first time this is mentioned so perhaps Oslo was the first city to use the Olympics for urban development.  By this time the Germans and Japanese were allowed back to the games.  It says that 'certificates of denazification were mandatory for entry' but there was no real hostility.  (There is a joke there somewhere but I'll leave it alone.)  Dick Button dominated the games which, if you've seen him on TV sounds strange.  The oldest competitor for the women's cross country won gold.  Frankly . . . these games sound kind of dull.
  • For the 1952 summer games they stayed with Scandinavia and went to Helsinki.  For the first time since 1912 the Russians were allowed to compete.  They raised a stink and refused to be housed near those lousy capitalists.  Other Eastern bloc countries followed suit and accommodations were made in student quarters.  This was really the first of the cold war Olympics, with Korea acting as a sore point.  The Germans had trouble figuring out how to field a joint East/West team.  The German region of Saarland was allowed to send their own team.  In actual sporting news, the American Bob Mathias became the first decathlete to successfully defend his previous gold medal.
  • The 1956 winter games were held in the charmingly named Italian resort town of Cortina d'Ampezzo.  Weather conditions were poor so they trucked in snow from further up in the Alps.  On opening day, a large snowfall came and they ended up clearing the older snow away.  The Germans figured out their snags and fielded a Pan-German team.  These games had record participation; 818 athletes from 32 countries.  It says that this was the first winter games to have live television coverage.  That's hard to imagine now!  The Soviet Union took gold in hockey and it wouldn't be their last time.  There is a picture from one of theme games and no one is wearing helmets.  The mind boggles.  There is also a picture from the opening ceremony where one of the final torch bearers tripped over a cable on the ice rink and fell down.  I don't know if the torch went out or not.
  • So far all of the Olympic games have been held in Europe or the United States.  The 1956 games finally broke that mold as the games were held in Melbourne, Australia.  These were the first Southern hemisphere games and they were held in late November.  The timing was apparently rough on some athletes.  The Aussie government refused to relax the six month quarantine time for horses so the equestrian events were held in June in Stockholm.  High costs of travel and various political events (Suez crisis, invasion of Hungary) caused various teams to boycott or otherwise decline to go.  In actual sports, a final match in water polo was 'abandoned because of the misconduct of some of the players'.  The host Australians did well at swimming, another tradition that still continues.
Still more to come!

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Daughters and Sports

I really enjoyed this column from the Sports Guy, especially the first half.  He talks about his daughters first sports team love and how she dealt with their first big loss.  Sample:
Then I remembered something. Sports is a metaphor for life. Everything is black and white on the surface. You win, you lose, you laugh, you cry, you cheer, you boo, and most of all, you care. Lurking underneath that surface, that's where all the good stuff is — the memories, the connections, the love, the fans, the layers that make sports what they are. It's not about watching your team win the Cup as much as that moment when you wake up thinking, In 12 hours, I might watch my team win the Cup. It's about sitting in the same chair for Game 5 because that chair worked for you in Game 3 and Game 4, and somehow, this has to mean something. It's about using a urinal between periods, realizing that you're peeing on a Devils card, then eventually realizing that some evil genius placed Devils cards in every single urinal. It's about leaning out of a window to yell at people wearing the same jersey as you, and it's about noticing an airport security guy staring at your Celtics jersey and knowing he'll say, "You think they win tonight?" before he does. It's about being an NBA fan but avoiding this year's Western Conference finals because you still can't believe they ripped your team away, and it's about crying after that same series because you can't believe your little unassuming city might win the title. It's about posing for pictures before a Stanley Cup clincher, then regretting after the fact that you did. It's about two strangers watching you cry at a stoplight. It's black and white, but it's not.
I don't know if my kids will be sports fans but my guess is yes.  I care about baseball and football enough that something will probably rub off on them.  On a random morning this spring, I wound up sandwiched on the couch between Relia and DF watching the Big Ten swimming and diving championships.  None of us are swimming fans.  We didn't know the athletes and only I cared even a little about the schools (go gophers).  But we watched and enjoyed. 
The Olympics start at the end of July and I expect that we'll have many little moments like that.  Not the team sports as much but the individual ones.  I'm sure Relia will run and jump around the house for a few weeks.  DF might too.  (Frankly I'd love to see his interpretation of the shot put.)  I doubt that there will be any broken hearts as the timing is a bit short for that. 
Real heartbreak?  My guess, that will be supplied by the Vikings.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Olympics Past

For more of this series, click the 'Olympics' tag at the bottom.
  • In 1936, the winter Olympics were held in a German village called Garmisch (raise your hand if you've been there).  The run up to the games featured worries that the Germans wouldn't allow Jewish athletes to compete.  Jews living in America tried to organize a boycott, as far as I know the first serious attempt to use Olympic boycotts for political reasons.  The Germans heavily censored news and suppressed any negative coverage.  As to the actual events, it sounds like alpine skiing came of age at these games.  The Brits won the gold in hockey, upsetting the Canadians.  It turned out that a large number of the British team lived and played elsewhere but they were still eligible.  This practice is now very, very common.  I love all of the pictures of the outdoor skating.  We won't go back to that, which, from a visual standpoint, is a shame.
  • Germany also hosted the 1936 summer games, in the city of Berlin.  The IOC worked to move the games away from the Nazis but were unable to do so.  Especially since the winter games in Garmisch had gone very well.  These were the famous Jesse Owens' games as he showed up any talk of 'inferior races' and won four gold medals.  For these games, the torch was lit by the sun in Olympia, Greece and relayed to Germany.  I don't know if they still use a solar light.  Canoeing made its debut and there is a picture of the tandem bike winners.  Do they still do that?
  • The 1940 summer games were scheduled for Tokyo and the winter games for Sapporo, Japan, but, well, that didn't work out.  After war broke out with China, the games were withdrawn and St Moritz was proposed.  That didn't work out either so they decided to go back to Garmisch, Germany.  Well, that didn't work out either.  World War Two broke out and the whole thing fell apart.  The book doesn't say anything about the 1944 games.  They never took place and I don't know if any planning even took place.  The world had other things to worry about.
  • The games resumed in 1948, with the winter games in St Moritz, Switzerland.  The world was still poor and travel restrictions were in place so attendance was down.  Slalom and downhill skiing were included as full fledged events for the first time.  A demonstration was held for 'military patrol competition'.  The IOC was not happy with this.  They also had a demonstration for a 'winter pentathlon' which included cross-country skiing, shooting, downhill skiing, fencing and horse riding.  Sadly, it wasn't successful. The US somehow sent two hockey teams, one from the official Olympic committee and one from the Amateur Hockey Association.  The IOC tried to ban the amateurs but there was nothing in the rules to keep them out.  It sounds like they quickly changed the rule book and retroactively disqualified them.
  • The 1948 summer games were held in London.  The book says this was because their facilities were largely intact but I would think that the US would have been in even better shape.  London didn't build an Olympic village; instead the athletes were housed in military barracks.  Germany and Japan were kept out and the USSR couldn't compete because they didn't have IOC membership.  The Brits relayed the torch from Greece but carefully routed away from German soil.  The star of the games was a Dutch woman named Fanny Blankers-Koen who won four gold medals at the age of 30.  She was nicknamed 'the flying housewife' as she had two children.  The book makes the point that these were the first summer Olympics in 12 years, most of that in her athletic prime.  There is a picture of a Danish swimmer who had to be rescued when she fainted during the 400 meter freestyle. 

Have a Great Friday


Thursday, June 07, 2012

Stone Arch Bridge

This morning I took Relia and DF to one of my all time favorite spots, the stone arch bridge down by St Anthony Main.  Relia has become somewhat obsessed with the Mill City Museum and that whole stretch of the river.  It seemed like a good idea to go down there and let her see things from a different angle.  Plus . . . I wanted a place where they could walk freely but their avenues of escape were limited.
They loved it.  They could have spent hours clinging to the fence, looking at the falls.  (Well, I could too.)  We were lucky enough to watch a barge of gravel go through the lock and dam.  I don't think that DF got it but it made some impact.  As soon as we got home he told the FP Gal about the boat and the doors. 
We also saw an apartment building being built.  They were impressed by the crane.  DF is simply crazy for construction equipment.  Every drive is like a car bingo game where we find 'diggers', bobcats and dump trucks.  And now cranes.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Overheard

Relia: What is a 'ninjo'?
Me: Do you mean a 'ninja'?
Relia: Yeah.
Me: They are a kind of fighter. They're very sneaky.
Relia: They sneak up on people . . . and say BOO! (giggles to herself) And then they kill them.

Olympics Past

Part one here, part two here.  I should mention that the book I'm using is called 'The Olympic Games, Athens 1896-Athens 2004'.  And here is more:
  • The 1928 Winter games were in St Moritz Switzerland.  The Germans were allowed to compete again.  It took quite a while to forgive them for World War One, I guess.  The games were troubled by warm dry conditions but they struggled through.  Sonja Henie became a star figure skater.  There is a funny photo of her skating with a heavy fur coat on.  The skating rink looks like it was outdoors.  Can you picture that happening today?
  • Amsterdam hosted the 1928 summer games and they created a stir by giving a photography monopoly to one company.  Spectators were frisked for cameras before events.  Big protests ensued and the monopoly was scuttled.  This was the first game that featured a continuous Olympic flame, a tradition that continues to this day.  Women were allowed to compete in track and field (another ongoing tradition!).  In fact a German runner, Lina Radke-Batschauer, finished the 800 meter run in record time.  The other women finished in 'an exhausted state' and the IOC decided that women should be kept away from middle distance running events until 1960(!).  I love all of the outdoor pictures.  I think this summer I'll try and keep track of how many events are actually held outside.
  • Next up, the 1932 winter games in Lake Placid.  By this time the world was suffering through the Great Depression so it was rather sparsely attended.  There were 306 athletes from only 17 nations.  More than half were from the US or Canada.  Conditions were warmer than expected, a problem faced at every winter Olympics by that point.  Both curling and dog sled racing were there but only as demonstrations.  Curling didn't become a full fledged medal sport until 1998.  There were only four hockey teams.  
  • Los Angeles got the 1932 summer games.  Due to the ongoing Depression, they had more than 1400 athletes from 37 nations, roughly half of the 1928 total.  Men stayed in an Olympic village while women stayed in hotels.  LA introduced the three level podium for medal awards and automatic timing for track events.  The show jumping (equestrian?) course was so difficult that no team qualified for a medal.  The Indians dominated field hockey, something they would do for decades to come.  (I had never known of Indian domination before.)  There is a great picture of photo finish in the mens's 100 meter.  The electronic timers showed the same time for two men so they had to go to the cameras for help
More to come!

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Monday, June 04, 2012

Olympics Past

First part here
  • 1908 brought the games to London.  They were originally slated for Rome but Mt Vesuvius erupted in 1906 and the Italians decided that the money would be best spent elsewhere.  The US team accused the British judges of partiality and from then on, a pool of international judges were used.  There is a great story about marathoner Dorando Pietri of Italy.  In the last lap of the marathon he was leading but collapsed four times.  The book says "For the final few yards to the finish, the nearly unconscious Italian was supported by, among others, the stadium announcer and a second official, thought by some to Arthur Conan Doyle".  He was quickly disqualified for using 'external support'.  He was given a trophy by Queen Alexandra.  It took them awhile to figure out that whole marathon thing, no?
  • Stockholm hosted the games in 1912.  The book says that athletes from all continents were represented but I can't quite figure out how Antarctica gets in there.  For the first time, these games featured photo finish technology and electronic timers.  The Swedes modified the shot-put, javelin and discus events so that contestants would throw with both their strong and weak arms.  The results were then averaged.  (They also did the events with just the strong arms.)  I don't know if I would have wanted to be nearby as the javelin throwers were throwing with their 'weak' arms.
  • There were no 1916 games, due to World War One.  Antwerp hosted them in 1920.  Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary and Turkey were not invited due to lingering bad feelings.  The Olympic oath was started there, by a Belgian fencer named Victor Boin and is still used today.  The Olympic flag made its debut.  Apparently the track and field events had few participants as a number of athletes had been killed in the war.  Hockey was played for the first time.  There is a picture of a woman tennis player and it's comical how they played in full length dresses!
  • 1924 brings the first winter Olympics, in Chamonix, France.  At first it was a simple demonstration that such an event could work but (in a reversal of Athens 1906) later it was recognized as the first winter Olympics.  There had been pressure for such games for years but the Scandinavian countries had protested, thinking it would take away from their own regional games.  They dominated at Chamonix.  Weather was warmer and drier than usual and it sounds like they struggled the whole time to get good enough conditions to play outside.  There is a picture of a skier doing the ski jump, while bystanders are only about ten feet away!  Things have, uh, changed a bit since then.
  • The 1924 summer Olympics went back to Paris.  These are the games depicted in 'Chariots of Fire' (available now on Netflix streaming).  For the first time, an Olympic village was built.  This was the last Olympics that featured tennis until it returned 60 years later in Seoul.  There were concerns about the amateur status of the top tennis players.  Germany was still banned from the games.  The rowing contests were held in the Seine and various currents and eddies greatly effected the race participants. 
More to come . . .

Happy Monday


Japanese lanterns are so simple and beautiful.  I wish we had a spot near our house where a path like this would make sense.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Olympics Past

A couple of weeks ago at the library, I picked up a coffee table style book on the Olympic games.  It's a pretty nifty deal, with a chapter on each set of games.  There are notes and pictures for each one and I find it all very interesting.  I've been bugging the FP Gal with factoids and it occurred to me that I can bug a somewhat larger audience here.  (Warning, this will probably be a series.)
  • Olympic art has gotten uglier over time.  Back in the early day they tried to revive the Greek celebration of the body.  Today they go with swoops that almost describe a person.  Not an improvement.  (The trippiest is easily 1968 from Mexico City.)
  • The first modern games took place in 1896 and was played in Athens.  About 200 men, mostly Greeks, competed in nine events.  Things have changed a bit since then.
  • The 1900 games were in Paris and they coincided with a World's Fair (which the Eiffel Tower was built for).  The sporting events were very much an afterthought.  The swimming events took place in the Seine.  Women competed in tennis and golf.
  • The next games were in 1904 in St Louis.  The organizers didn't want anything to overlap so competition went from July to November.  An American marathoner was banned after it was discovered that he got a lift from a car(!).  This was also paired with a World's Fair.
  • Athens held the games again in 1906, only two years after St Louis.  This was the first games where nations marched in with flags.  Later these games were downgraded from full Olympic status.  How strange is that?
More to come . . . 

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Presidential Meeting

Yesterday I took Relia to the Mill City Museum, a museum that shows off the early days of Minneapolis when the mill was king.  It's a pretty good presentation and I learned a bunch.  The burned out shell down by the river?  It has nothing to do with the mill explosion of 1878.  It is the remains of the rebuilt mill that burned down in 1991.  It is thought that people had broken in and started a fire to warm themselves. 
After the museum, it was time to drive home.  We ran into an obstacle as Washington Ave was closed by the police.  We were about eight cars back so I could still see up to the street.  I had heard that the President was in town and I wondered if this blockage was related. 
After about a minute, some serious looking black cars zoomed past, followed by a limo and an ambulance.  There had been people gathered at the corner and as one of them walked back to her car, I heard her say that Obama had just passed by.  A couple of minutes later the police opened the street and we were off.*
I turned on Washington and waited at a light to turn on Portland.  There were about ten police cars behind me.  Never have I been more conscious of whether my tabs were current! 

I told Relia that we were close to the President but she wasn't impressed.  I told her that this was the closest I had ever been to a President.  She said that wasn't true, since I'd been to the Minnesota Capitol building.  There is a little bit of confusion regarding governors and presidents and that's ok.  (Frankly, I'm not sure if I've ever been all that close to a governor either.  The only big time politician that I've met in person was back when I introduced Paul Wellstone to an assembly in Austin.)  I hope that Relia and the rest of the kids get a better chance to meet the President in the future.

*Btw, I don't want to sound upset by being delayed by the motorcade.  Big time pols are (unfortunately) targets for nutcases and good security measures are important.  I do wonder why presidential candidates don't do more local travel by helicopter, where they won't screw up traffic but I'm sure some smart people have analyzed this issue.  If someone gets so honked off by being stuck at an off-ramp that they change their vote, well, that's the risk, right?

Friday, June 01, 2012