Thursday, August 21, 2008

Olympics Musings Day 13

So much has happened it's hard to recap it all. We've finished all the swimming events, with just a bit of diving and the ever mesmerizing synchronized swimming yet to come. Leading the way in the primetime excitement now are the track and field medal events which will carry us through to the closing ceremonies on Sunday. I have yet to see any table tennis yet, but that may just be because I haven't been following as closely lately as I did in the beginning. It's a good thing the Olympics are only two weeks long, because I don't think I could handle much more than that.

In Team USA news...

* The best womens beach volleyball duo of May and Walsh took home back-to-back Gold Medals for the first time Olympics history. The Gold Medal game yesterday was amazing, especially considering it was in the pouring down rain.

* USA Softball got upset for the first (and probably last) time in Olympics history, as they take the silver, with Team Japan taking the Gold.

* Women's Soccer defeated the powerhouse of Brazil in extra time to secure the Gold Medal for the 3rd time in 4 Olympics bringing their medal record in the past 4 games to (3-1-0) having medaled in every Women's Soccer event since the event began in 1996.

* Of course, in Women's Team Gymnastics, I'm sure we all saw Team USA take the silver.

* In rowing, the Women's 8 took Gold for the USA, featuring two ex-Huskies. Go Dawgs!

* Venus and Serena took the Gold in doubles tennis. But I have to say, does tennis seem to be something that has transcended the Olympics by this point? It's a mainstream sport that doesn't really seem to fit in the Olympics to me. I say the same about basketball and soccer, and the soon-to-be-removed baseball, actually. The Olympics are all about amateur sports competition, these games that really have become professional events, need not be in the Games.

* While I'm on the topic of team sports, women's water polo, in case you didn't know we had a good team, took silver.

I was thinking today, what unique, one-of-a-kind, unlike anything else events are there really in the Olympics? In case you didn't notice... these are the same games:

Soccer, Field Hockey, Handball, Water Polo, Basketball
Tennis, Table Tennis, Badminton, Volleyball, Beach Volleyball
Judo, Taekwondo, Boxing, Fencing, Wrestling
Canoeing, Kayaking, Sailing, Rowing
Cycling, Swimming, Track & Field, Triathlon

Sure they're all slightly different, but the game is the same. You've got hitting the ball into goal, hitting the ball over a net, hitting each other, racing on water, and racing other ways.
That leaves the following semi-unique events:

Archery, Shooting (different enough to be interesting)
Baseball, Softball (really, there's nothing like these)
Equestrian (definitively unique)
Gymnastics (skill)
Rhythmic Gymnastics (artistic with skill)
Synchronized Swimming (I think they invented synchronized diving to make it feel better)
Trampoline (arguably like gymnastics, but odd)
Diving (same as trampoline, odd)
Modern Pentathalon (unique only in that who would think to put those events together in the first place?)
Weightlifting (in a class by itself)

So maybe there is more uniqueness than I had first thought. Still, there's a lot of repetition. Someone should invent something really unique... like curling.

Las Vegas

A bit of a lack in blogging, after I had appeared to be on quite a roll of the Olympics. Don't fear, there's still more to come there, but first a recap of my Vegas trip last weekend for Jonell and Chris' wedding.

Thursday morning, I had a 7AM flight to Vegas, but decided to try something different and fly down on Virgin America for the first time, rather than my typical Alaska. What a spectacular airline. Now, despite the fact that they don't have any non-stop flights between Seattle and Vegas and I had to transfer through San Francisco, the flight was great. Every seat has satellite television, so I was able to watch plenty of Olympics action throughout my entire flight. Quite comfortable, made the time go by quite nicely.

I met Andrew at the airport (his flight arrived just minutes before mine did), and we got our bags and took a taxi to the Venetian (where the wedding was, and where we were staying). As I was leaving SFO, the captain came on to let us know that "weather in Las Vegas is typical for this time of year, clear skies and a million degrees." Certainly correct on both accounts. As we stepped outside of the airport, it was about eleventy billion degrees, so hot that the real temperature doesn't really matter (can YOU tell the difference between 100F and 110F? I didn't think so.)

The wedding was on Friday afternoon, and was actually very quick and nice (about 10 minutes long) and the about 20 friends and family that were all there had a great time. For dinner that night there was a big dinner planned at B&B Ristorante in the Venetian, which is one of Mario Batali's restaurants. WOW. If that food wasn't some of the tastiest, most amazing Italian food I've ever had (sorry mom), I don't know what is. :) Dinner ended up being about a 3-hour event, after which a bunch of us went upstairs to digest and watch the Olympics.

Saturday night a few of us went to see The Beatles' LOVE by Cirque du Soleil show at the Mirage. I'd seen this show before, but none of the others had, and I certainly didn't mind seeing it again, despite the price. :) Again, an amazing show. We all had a good time, after which we went back to the Venetian and were gambling the night away. Andrew and I survived the longest, not making it back to the room until about 4:15am. But surprisingly, it didn't feel that late. Overall for the weekend I ended up rather than down, so that was a good victory considering my goal is always just to break even.

Came home on Sunday and back to work on Monday, though a bit tired catching up from the weekend. Now I can relax and watch the Olympics in the comfort of my own home! :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Olympics News Roundup 8/12

Today's Olympics news features "things are not what they seem to be":

* Spanish basketball team poses for offensive picture - The headline says it all. This begs the question, are these guys as "estupido" as they look?

* NBC's Big Olympics Deal: Armchair Play-by-Play - Thousands of hours of Olympics coverage over half a dozen networks. Think of each sports commentators who had to make the long flight to China, breathe the heavy smog, eat Chinese food for three weeks... oh, wait, didn't I see you last night at the Sbarro under Rockefeller Center in New York? Yes, yes I did. Much of the commentary you hear accompanying NBC's Olympics coverage is coming right from 30 Rock as they watch exactly like you do, on television.

* Olympic opening uses girl's voice, not face - In yet another attempt to make the opening ceremonies perfect, that cute girl who sang "Ode to the Motherland" during the opening ceremonies so beautifully... lip synching, but not to herself, to another girl who had laid down the tracks earlier. Apparently the girl with the beautiful voice, wasn't beautiful enough to sing it at the ceremony. In tomorrow's breaking news, confirmed reports that the spectators who thought they were in the Bird's Nest for the opening ceremony were in fact in the world's largest virtual reality simulator ever constructed!

* Olympic dream a nightmare, thanks to CBC - It only goes to show, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Apparently Canadian viewers can't stand CBC's coverage so they watch NBC instead. Maybe CBC should provide US coverage and NBC can handle the Canadian coverage, then everyone might be happy.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Olympics Musings Day 4

Plenty of excitement in today's events, especially in swimming with the Americans killing more records and raking in the medals. Team USA also starts off their Olympic Softball competition with a mercy-rule rout of Venezuela, 11-0 in a 5 inning no-hitter. Interestingly, this game being live in the early afternoon China time, the stands are all but empty. Even in the US where softball probably doesn't get so much credit, there's a loyal following of fans, but I guess they didn't make the trip to Beijing and the locals don't even want to go.

A few additional observations on Day 4 of competition:

* Michael Phelps claims his 3rd gold medal of the games in the 200m Freestyle.

* Why is it called "Freestyle" if everyone's swimming the same way? What kind of example of freedom are we setting for the world? Sounds pretty conformist to me.

* Phelps Phans close your eyes, because here comes my Michael Phelps Phailure of the Day... he has won 9 gold medals now (6 in Athens and 3 so far in Beijing), which means he's been on the medal podium 9 times, and proudly watched the Stars and Stripes rise 9 times as the Star Spangled Banner played 9 times... HE MUST KNOW THE WORDS BY NOW. Don't just stand there like a doofus, AT LEAST move your lips to the words when the national anthem is played. We get brilliant high-definition closeups of Phelps' face throughout the entire anthem, America deserves more than his glazed over look with his mouth half open. Ridiculous. At least in the 200m Free Peter Vanderkaay, who won the bronze for the US, moved his lips to the music. Thanks, Peter, maybe you could teach Michael the words for next time.

* Speaking of national anthems, very nice orchestrations the Beijing committee organized this year. I remember clearly many of the more recent Olympics using performances of the Star Spangled Banner that sounded like they were taken off of a vinyl record back in the 50s. This year's are well performed and have some very nice harmonies that are fun to listen to. Approved.

It's now 11:25pm Pacific, or 2:25pm Beijing, with Day 4's events continuing through our night.

Olympics News Roundup 8/11

A brief update on the latest Olympics news bites:

* Part of Olympic fireworks faked in broadcast - The spectacular fireworks flyover of Beijing at night was completely bogus. While the fireworks in and around the Bird's Nest stadium were real, the rest were digitally animated (using no doubt pirated CGI software) in a presentation that even Pixar would be impressed by. Now, when I initially watched this on Friday night, I thought it looked computer generated myself, though didn't think much of it. What I find more amusing is that this has become a "big story", which is probably only due to the fact that the Chinese organizers weren't forthcoming in saying it was staged. It was still pretty impressive.
* NBC Universal off to fast start with Olympic ratings - Friday night's opening ceremonies averaged 34.2 million US viewers, despite its 12-hour tape delay on the east coast (and 15-hour delay in Pacific time). The Beijing games currently have the highest viewership of any Summer games held outside the U.S. NBC's obvious attempt to increase advertising revenue by time-shifting everything to prime time is worth it to them, as they have apparently secured over $1 Billion in ad revenue (NBC payed a record $800 Million to be the US broadcasting network for the Olympics, so it seems to be paying off).
* Chinese hush up serious injury to acrobat - In what I can only describe as "an extreme case of mistaken priorities," apparently the opening ceremonies were not without injury, as one acrobat apparently fell during a rehearsal and was left for nearly an hour before receiving medical attention due to the high level of secrecy surrounding the ceremony preventing an ambulance from arriving. Insanity.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

I Love the Olympics

The first of probably many posts on the Olympics and my obsession with them.


Friday night were the Opening Ceremonies, which I have to admit had many moments of "WOW, that was AMAZING!" The overwhelming theme I use to describe the ceremony is "Synchronicity." I still can't believe how those synchronized light-up drums were. And the "box" people were equally amazing. Though all of them were probably a bit too long.

Then there was the Parade of Athletes. For goodness sake people, 2 hours?! That was way too long. My only observation here is that I seem to recall in previous opening ceremonies, the athletes dressed much more like, well, ATHLETES. This year our American athletes sported a wardrobe by Ralph Lauren, which made them look like they were getting ready to board a sailboat.

Overall, China definitely set the bar high with their opening ceremonies, though I wouldn't necessarily say they were the best ever.

Now in the dawn of Day 3 of competition, a few interesting observations:

* What's the deal with all these swimming world records being broken IN THE PRELIMINARIES?! Save some for the finals people! Of course, apparently they were, as in the mens 4x100 freestyle relay, the US broke the world record in the semi-finals, then proceeded to OBLITERATE the world record they just set by 3.99 seconds in the finals, along with 4 other teams which were ahead of the semi-final WR time. What a race, what a finish!

* Badminton is interesting to watch.

* Beach Volleyball is not the same in the pouring down rain. Seriously.

* There's been a lot of boxing on. I still don't get it. Just seems an odd sport for the Olympics.

* Michael Phelps is very good at posing for the cameras. I think he likes having his picture taken.

The Beijing medals are definitely unique. Though I think I like the Bronze medal the best, actually. The green jade is hard to beat.

* And finally, thank goodness for CBC's Canadian coverage of the Olympics. At least I don't have to wait 3 hours to watch things "live" on the west coast, even if it's not in HD.

More to come...

A Chorus Line

Slightly delayed review of A Chorus Line, which I saw on Wednesday night...

One... the legendary showstopping number from the show does a good job of describing the show as a whole.

One... act, with no intermission.
One... scene, the entire show takes place on an audition stage, no set changes necessary.
One... costume change, to prepare for the big finale, that's it.

I'll step out on my own limb here and say that the music isn't the main reason to see this show. A Chorus Line won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, something that only seven musicals have ever achieved. As the Pulitzer claims to be awarded "for a distinguished play by an American author, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life," the award is not unjustified. The depth of character development is rarely matched in musical theatre. This show is a brilliant play, with associated music. The story is brilliant, the music is present.

A Chorus Line made its mark as the longest running musical of its time, playing from July 1975 through April 1990. That mark has since been eclipsed by Cats, Les Miserables, and the still running Phantom. I say with confidence that this show would not have such a run if it opened today. Though despite that, it was an oddly compelling story that really captured your attention.

As for the ratings:

Cast: 3 stars - perhaps unfairly due to my lack of enthusiasm for the musical.
Script: 4 stars
Music: 2 stars - I am not a fan.
Technical: N/A - What's there to be technical? There's no set, there's not much of anything.
Overall: 3 stars - I've seen it.

One... show I probably don't need to see again.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Summer Olympics Quiz ANSWERS

And now the answers to the Olympics quiz:

1) Which of these sports has never been a medal event at a Summer Olympic Games?

D. Lawn Bowling (Bocce)

Lawn Bowling or 'Bowls', was a demonstration sport in the 2nd Olympic Games in 1900 in Paris, but never has been a medal event. The early 1900s saw medals awarded in such diverse sports as Golf (1900 & 1904), Croquet (1900), Motorboat Racing (1908), and yes, even Tug of War (1900-1920).

2) The USA has won more medals at the Summer Olympics than any other nation. How many has it won?

D. 2188

894 of those have been gold medals. Incidentally, the former Soviet Union (1952-1988) still remains in 2nd place overall with 1010 medals, and Great Britain trails far behind in 3rd place with 668.

3) What is the only year that the USA did not participate in the Summer Olympic Games?

E. 1980

In response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, 61 nations joined the USA in boycotting the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow. Not to be outdone, 13 nations joined the Soviet Union in boycotting the 1984 Olympics held in Los Angeles. The only country boycotting both the Moscow and Los Angeles games? Iran.

4) In 1956, Melbourn, Australia hosted the games, but due to Australian quarantine laws on foreign horses, the equestrian events were held 5 months earlier where?

A. Stockholm

Only the second time that events were held outside of the host nation. In the 1920 games in Antwerp, Belgium, the final races of the 12-foot dinghy sailing event were held in the Netherlands. The only two competitors were Dutch.

5) The 2008 Beijing Olympics will be the final appearance of baseball and softball as Olympics events. When did each of these sports first appear as medal events?

B. 1992 & 1996

A demonstration sport as far back as 1904, baseball first was granted medal event status in Barcelona in 1992. Four years later in Atlanta, women's softball joined the ranks. Leading the medal counts in baseball, Cuba claims 3 of the 4 gold medals awarded. In softball however, the USA looks to remain undefeated in Beijing, having won every gold medal ever awarded in the event.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Summer Olympics Quiz

This Friday will be the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China. In honor of this occasion, this week's quiz will be dedicated to the history of those games:

1) Which of these sports has never been a medal event at a Summer Olympic Games?

A. Golf
B. Croquet
C. Motorboat Racing
D. Lawn Bowling (Bocce)
E. Tug of War

2) The USA has won more medals at the Summer Olympics than any other nation. How many has it won?

A. 839
B. 1293
C. 1644
D. 2188
E. 2851

3) What is the only year that the USA did not participate in the Summer Olympic Games?

A. 1904
B. 1928
C. 1948
D. 1972
E. 1980

4) In 1956, Melbourn, Australia hosted the games, but due to Australian quarantine laws on foreign horses, the equestrian events were held 5 months earlier where?

A. Stockholm
B. Rome
C. Los Angeles
D. Munich
E. London

5) The 2008 Beijing Olympics will be the final appearance of baseball and softball as Olympics events. When did each of these sports first appear as medal events?

A. 1936 & 2000
B. 1992 & 1996
C. 1992 & 2000
D. 1936 & 1996
E. 1996 & 2000

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Have we really reached this point?

Picture this...

You're on vacation at Disneyland, and while standing in a painfully long line waiting to get some overpriced food at the nearest buffeteria, you notice that there's a second line that's completely closed while the one open line stretches all the way to Fantasyland. You casually pick up a comment card and sarcastically suggest that when it's busy they open the second serving line. Next year you return to the same place, and lo and behold, both serving lines are open.

What do you do?

A typical response would be: "Hey, they took my suggestion! Look at how much better it is!"

But apparently, far too often the response has been: "Hey! I gave them that idea! Now Disney owes me money for using it."

Seriously? Is this what our American society has come to?

As reported this morning on MiceAge, it's exactly what it's come to:

"In late July all Guest Relations offices in Disneyland and DCA stopped allowing any visitor to fill out a comment card or leave any comment in writing.
Whether it's a compliment about a great Jungle Cruise skipper, or a complaint
about cold gumbo in New Orleans Square, you can no longer write anything down at
Disneyland Guest Relations. Believe it or not, this new decree comes from
Disney's legal department who was getting tired of being threatened with
lawsuits from angry park visitors upset about something they had put on a
complaint form at City Hall."

The article goes on to explain the lengths to which Disney is going to ensure that in no way will any suggestion/complaint/compliment ever get any attention by the company whatsoever.

Obviously these aren't isolated incidents, and obviously they have their own various success rates based on the fact that Disney is so afraid of them. It's utterly ridiculous that our society actually allows such frivolous lawsuits to occur--that we are so consumed by greed and entitlement that no good deed goes unpunished. While many frivolous lawsuits regarding the perceived negligence of companies have become perhaps less favorable in the eyes of society, we've moved onto the age of protecting "intellectual property", in whatever form it may conceivably take. Soon, the world will be left to fend for itself. Nobody will help anyone else for fear that their good-intentioned help will be seen as a hindrance punishable by gobs of monetary damages. Is this really protecting our interests and the freedoms we hold?

Friday, August 01, 2008

Is It Good Eats? ANSWERS

This quiz proved to be harder than even I had imagined, but for your own amusement as well, the answers include the feature of each real episode as well.

1) Wake Up Little Sushi - REAL - Sushi
2) Alton Crown Affair - REAL - Crown of Lamb
3) Okraphobia - REAL - Okra
4) It's Up, and It's Gouda! - BOGUS
5) Bird is the Word - BOGUS
6) Steak Your Claim - REAL - Steak (very first episode of Good Eats)
7) Withering Bites - REAL - Dried Fruit
8) Send in the Clams - REAL - Clams
9) Starfish Wars - BOGUS
10) Rice, Rice Baby - BOGUS (the actual rice episode was "Do The Rice Thing")
11) Chops Ahoy - REAL - Pork Chops
12) Field of Greens - REAL - Greens
13) Fry Hard - REAL - Fish and Chips
14) Pretzel Logic - REAL - Pretzels
15) Ifs, Ands and Butts - BOGUS
16) Your Pad Thai or Mine - REAL - Pad Thai
17) Let Them Eat Foam - REAL - Angel Food Cake
18) Ginger and Rosemary Ann - BOGUS
19) Melondrama - REAL - Melons
20) House of the Rising Bun - REAL - Sweet Yeast Breads
21) Summer of Salmon - BOGUS
22) Churn Baby Churn - REAL - Ice Cream
23) Grand Salami - BOGUS (but he really needs a salami episode)
24) Puff the Magic Pastry - REAL - Puff Pastry
25) Great Balls O' Meat - REAL - Meatballs
26) It's About Thyme - BOGUS
27) The Icing Man Cometh - REAL - Icing and Frosting
28) Please Sir, Can I Have S'More? - BOGUS
29) Mission: Poachable - REAL - Poached Fish
30) This Spud's For You - REAL - Potatoes