Monday, August 30, 2004

Big Fat Cow Day!

Y'ever have those days when you feel like you're just a big fat cow?

I went clothes shopping tonight.  I had McDonald's for lunch.  You do the math.

I'm going someplace extremely warm and toasty over Labor Day weekend (Arizona) so I thought I'd go pick up a sundress or something.  Nothing really nice -- just a casual little dress.  Something that's just a step up from a beach cover-up. 

I used to have a dress like that -- the fabric was light, the dress had a nice short flowing skirt -- you could easily wear it in the desert and then slap a thin sweater over it when you went inside and experienced the arctic air conditioning.  So I knew exactly what I wanted.

I figured this would be a really good time to get something like that on sale, seeing as it's the end of summer now, so all the stores are starting to stock their fall lines, so they're moving the summer stuff.  I decided to go to Loehmann's -- big discount clothing store.  They just opened a branch near me and I had a coupon and everything.

First disappointing discovery -- they had lots of dresses, but the only flirty summery frolicky ones were labelled "Junior."  Apparently, someone believes that "women" only need velvet party dresses or conservative items for work -- as nothing in "Women's Dresses" was even close to what I was looking for.  So, I resigned myself to the rack of Junior dresses.  There were a few that seemed like what I was looking for.  I had a moment of confusion when trying to figure out what my size is in "Junior," but I went with "Medium" and grabbed about a half dozen dresses.

OK, now, despite what you may have heard, Loehmann's does have private fitting rooms.  Second disappointing discovery -- they were all full.  I could use the "public" fitting room.  Mirrors all around the walls, several other women trying on clothes and trying really hard not to catch a glimpse of each other getting undressed.  (I imagine this is much easier for men, as they have "urinal experience" in the art of Not Looking.  I had to think back to Junior High School gym class.) 

How fun is this?  Cramming my not-so-Junior butt into Junior-sized clothing, in freakin' public!  Bad enough I had to endure the humiliation of seeing myself in this attire, but I knew total strangers were looking over at me doing acrobatics to get into this stuff, wondering, "What is she thinking?"

Third disappointing discovery -- I'm not even a "medium" in Junior clothing.

Fourth disappointing discovery -- An astonishing percentage of Loehmann's clothing has rips.  I found one dress that very nearly fit, but there was a huge hole in it where they'd pinned the price tag.  I later tried on a suit (just to make myself feel better) and the zipper was pretty much ripped out of the pants.

I left Loehmann's and tried a couple other stores -- stores that cater to grown-ups, thanks very much.  They had some summery dresses on their sale racks, but each time I tried one on, I looked ucky in it.  I don't know if it was because my hair was flying all over the place (hazard of pulling all those dresses on and off), my ankles look absolutely ridiculous (I have an unfortunate tan stripe across each ankle from a misadventure in applying sunscreen a couple weeks ago), or the result of the Super Value Meal at lunch, but nothing I tried on looked like I had any business wearing it.

On the way out of the last store, I told the saleslady that I had no luck, but asked if she could spare a parking validation for trying.  She gave me the validation, and a sympathetic look -- "We all have those days," she said.  Big fat cow days!

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Wave 'em if you've got 'em

Ah, the Olympics are coming to an end.  Well, actually, they're already over, but with tape delay, we've still got a few hours to go as far as television is concerned.

I watched the men's marathon today.  Don't think I've ever watched a marathon from start to finish before -- I'm generally used to the summary coverage that they do after the race, where you just see the highlights and the whole thing is over in about 10 or 15 minutes.

I think my favorite part of the marathon coverage was watching the crowd cheer on the runners from the side of the road.  Because they cheered on all the runners -- not just the ones they were there to cheer on.  When the only runner in sight was from Brazil, or America, or Italy -- you'd see flags waving that were not, in fact, Brazilian, American, or Italian.  Or even Greek (which you sort of expected, what with it being in Greece and all).  But people were cheering and excitedly waving whatever flag happened to be at hand (I distinctly remember seeing an Israeli flag bouncing up and down -- although the nearest Israeli runner was several minutes back).  But, y'know, dude, you run 26 miles and change, I don't care who you are, I'll applaud you.

And in line behind the South Koreans

Brazil is apparently protesting the marathon result, seeking a second gold medal for its runner, Vanderlei Lima, -- who managed to finish third after some, er, "spectator interference" totally messed with him when he was in the lead.  (A guy jumped on the course and pushed him off the road into the crowd.)  Lima, for his part, says, "Never mind the result of the appeal. I was very happy to win a medal. The moment I'm experiencing now is the result of very hard work. I was well trained and I was expecting to win a medal. I have achieved my goal. No matter what happened, I am happy to be on the medal podium with these athletes."  He's tops in my book.

And who was this idiot?

The guy who interfered with Lima was making some sort of statement -- he was wearing a placard on his shirt, but the freeze-frame on my DVR player wasn't good enough to tell me what this bonehead thought was important enough to interfere with an Olympic marathon.  I was so pleased when the rest of the crowd took him off Lima, but was somewhat disappointed we did not then get a shot of Greek police hauling this jerk off in handcuffs.

Found this breaking news story (an hour ago) identifying the fellow.  The key points here are:  1.  Nutball.  2.  Who has previously interfered with another sporting event.  3.  Who was (according to what he told police), "preparing for the Second Coming."  Er, right.  Here's another article discussing the guy -- comes from after his disruption of the British Grand Prix.  He sees himself as a messenger of Peace -- hey, I'm all for peace -- but his methods of calling attention to himself leave something to be desired. 

Seriously.  I tend to think that the Olympics -- proceeding along in their intended fashion, unimpeded by political or religious statements -- are one of the best things we've got going in favor of the whole peace thing.  To see someone interfere with the Olympics -- in a way that is now getting one country all upset over the results -- is not exactly helping the cause of peace, in the long run.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Book Learnin'

For this week's homework, Scalzi asks:

>>Weekend Assignment #21: Everyone had a subject in school they like better than all the rest. What was yours? And what's the most memorable thing you learned?

Extra Credit: Class pictures!<<

I loved school.  I loved every subject -- well, almost.  I majored in math (in college) for the simple reason that I was good at it.  And why should I major in something that would be, y'know, hard?  Math came easy for me, so it was a no-brainer to major in it.  And, to tell you the truth, I also continued in math because it impressed people that I was good at it.  What with being a girl and all. 

That is, in fact, the most memorable thing that I didn't learn -- that girls aren't supposed to be good at math.  My mother was a math teacher, so I always assumed that math was just fine for girls.  Nobody ever told me otherwise.  It wasn't till sometime in High School that a teacher mentioned that girls were traditionally better in English and that I was something of an anomaly being so good in Math.  By this time, though, I was solidly established as a math overachiever, and it seemed too late to turn around and go be a good little English student instead.  Besides, the fact that I was doing something that some people thought I shouldn't be doing seemed to just harden my resolve to be even better at it. 

In that sense, then, the most memorable thing I learned is that everyone has their own abilities, stereotypes don't mean squat, and (bonus) you can really blow some people's minds by playing against their preconceived notions of your limitations.

(And boy did that ever come in handy once I got out of law school and started litigating.  What?  Me?  Sweet, innocent, short, soft-spoken young lady in the pink suit?  Naah, she's nothing to worry about at all.)

Extra Credit Kindergarten Photo:

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Fascinating Olympic-Related Fact About Me

I have a diving bathing suit.  Well, come to think of it, I guess it would just be called a "diving suit," although that sounds rather like that whole tuxedo-under-the-scuba-gear thing James Bond wears.

But, last year, I found myself in need of a bathing suit, and I needed it around, say October.  You try finding a bathing suit in the department stores around October.  Especially if you're kinda particular about the suit you want what 'cause you don't have one of them bodies that's made for every swimsuit, if you know what I mean.

And then I discovered ... the internet!  The internet has bathing suits for sale all year 'round!  And the selection was extremely spiffy.  You can actually decide exactly how high you want your suit cut up your thigh!  I ended up with a Speedo model diving suit, which looks exactly like the one the American springboard diver was wearing in competition today.

So, when watching the diving, I've been trying to figure out what exactly makes a diving suit a diving suit.  I mean, I know runners are aiming for aerodynamic and swimmers are aiming for hydrodynamic -- but what do divers look for in their suits?  I'd like to know the full set of advantages of my own personal diving Speedo.  So, from watching the diving semi-finals, I've concluded the advantages of a diving suit are:  (a) nothing is particularly binding so you have full range of motion--particularly in the arms and back; (b) it doesn't ride up all that much; and (c) it is quite high in front, apparently designed to keep one's Northern regions from bouncing around during a reverse two-and-half with one-and-half twists.

I'm good with that.

My Dinner Will Be Bland

Haven't shopped in ... way too long.  I've got some meat in the freezer, but since I didn't bother defrosting it, it isn't really an option.  Which means that -- given my lack of recent grocery shopping -- I'm stuck with some sort of food in a box.  Whatever happens to be in my pantry.  And I had the Easy Mac (with tuna added) last night, so it was going to be a challenge to stay away from the Cup O' Lunch ramen noodles.

The winner was one of them Betty Crocker Chicken With Biscuit meals.  The "Better If Eaten By" date was sometime in June, but it didn't say, "You'll drop dead if you eat it in August," so I figure I'm ok.  I hope.

The instructions are horribly simple:  Mix the biscuit mix with water.  Pour the cans o' chicken & veggie stew mix (well, that's what they look like) in a pan.  Stir in the seasoning mix.  Plop the biscuits on top.  Cook.

I mix the biscuit mix.  I pour the stew cans.  I plop the biscuits.

I look at the unopened packed of seasoning mix.

I look at my pan with nine biscuit puddles delicately floating in the stew.


I ultimately poured in a small fraction of the seasoning mix in the corners of the pan, the mixed it with a spoon around the biscuits.  Like it's one of them Olympic kayak races and I lose points for touching a gate.  I might've used a quarter of the seasoning mix packet and I drowned about three biscuits, which I'm sure is a major deduction.

And, of course, if it tastes bad, I'll never know if it's because it has expired, or because I didn't stir in an adequate amount of seasoning.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

More on Track & Field

-- Who is "Flag Guy"?  Anytime an athlete wins a gold medal, someone is there to hand them a nice, fresh, clean, folded-up flag of their country -- for the athlete to drape over their shoulders or wave during a victory lap.  I have some vague recollection in the olden days that such victory laps used to be spontaneous, with the athlete grabbing the flag from someone in the stands.  Man, those Greeks are organized. 

-- Ok, here's the thing I don't like about Track:  when NBC runs the race again in slow motion and you see the athlete's face moving around on his or her skull.  It isn't pretty.  A runner at top speed is pretty.  A swimmer in slow-mo -- with their body smoothly cutting through the surface as the water cascades down their head -- is pretty.  A runner in slow-mo, however, looks like they're doing something extremely unpleasant to their body, what with moving so fast their facial features don't stay in the usual positions.

-- Unrelated to that, Marion Jones is pretty.  I don't know whether she's guilty in this whole doping scandal -- and I truly hope she isn't -- but you just want to give her the benefit of the doubt because nobody with the grin of hers can be bad, right?

-- As we are now firmly into the second week of Olympic coverage on NBC, I have a couple memos for our corporate sponsors: 

           1.  I am sick of the Sprint ads with Mary Lou Retton telling small children they've used up their half-Nelson minutes.  Please, make it stop.

           2.  At first I thought "Father of the Pride" might be cute.  I have now watched so much of it in 30-second increments, it no longer seems fresh and new.  Can't imagine watching the damn thing now.

Moderation, people!  I'm being a good little consumer and watching 4 hours of Olympic coverage every night.  D'you think I might get sick of the same ad by the fortieth or fiftieth viewing?


Tuesday, August 24, 2004

"But with two of them going down so close together, it's awfully ominous."

I have nothing to add to that.

Taken from this article here about the near simultaneous crashes of two planes in Russia.  When you hear of a single plane crashing, it's horribly tragic -- you pray there are survivors and your heart goes out to the families of the victims.  But when two crash at the same time, you get that horrible sinking feeling that some jerk is back in the business of hijacking planes and killing people for some sort of political ends.

That a hijacking alarm went off on one of the planes before crashing (so says the current news), that both planes left from the same airport within minutes of each other, AND that witnesses say one of the planes exploded before it crashed ...


And now... Thoughts on Track & Field

-- Are these particularly malicious hurdles they got in Athens?  I don't watch loads of Track & Field so can't say whether this is usual, but it certainly looks like these hurdles are attacking more than your regular hurdles.

-- Is it just me, or do some of these guys need to get, um, athletic supporters?  I mean, on some of 'em, it's downright distracting.

-- I wanna try throwing the javelin.  Or the shotput, or the hammer, or the discus, or anything you get to yell when you throw.  I love the yell.  I particularly love when they yell after the item leaves their hands.  As though they can throw it silently, but then help it in flight by sending waves through the air with their lung power.

-- Do Track & Field athletes trade countries the same way professional baseball players change teams?  Seems that in every race, we're introduced to a runner who had some sort of problem with his home country so took up citizenship elsewhere "and is now competing for" their new country.  I always thought it was a little harder to trade nationalities than that. 

-- Did I mention the cup thing?


Monday, August 23, 2004

Should I Be Disturbed By This?

I heard some unusually loud noises from down the hall.  When I went to investigate, this is what I discovered....

She seems quite proud of her work here.  I wonder if it's a cry for help.

A Post About Sports With No Mention of Gymnastics

Remember P.E.?  I sure do.  Bane of my existence in Junior High.

P.E. was all about playing all sorts of sports for two weeks each.  With a grade at the end, based on ability.  How many pull-ups can you do?  How fast can you run?  Can you score a basket?  Cam you catch a football? 

Nobody ever taught me how to get better.  It always seemed like a test of my then-current abilities.  Sorta like how your mom would mark your height on the wall every year.  You couldn't make yourself get taller.  You just were whatever you were.  Tests in P.E. were the same way -- just a test of whatever level of ability you happened to have in seventh grade.

As an adult -- only as an adult -- I learned that you could genuinely get better.  (It's no wonder I never picked this up in junior high; it takes an awful lot longer than two weeks of practice.)  But I finally got there -- when figure skating -- when I actually experienced the feeling of teaching my body, through repetition and miniscule adjustments, how to do something it had been unable to do.  Wild.

But there's something else they never taught me in P.E. -- and I'm absolutely livid about it.  They never taught me how much thought goes into success in sports.  Sure, I knew about "teamwork" (well, I knew about it in theory -- you can't really put it into practice during ten days of flag football when everyone wants to play quarterback) -- but nobody ever took the time to teach us how much more goes into victory than sheer physical ability.

I'm sure getting a crash course in it from watching the Olympics:  watching a swimmer get close to the lane line to take advantage of another swimmer's draft; watching a high jumper choose when to pass; watching a long jumper make a "safety jump"; watching a middle-distance runner decide when is best to make a move on the field; watching volleyball players decide when to set and when to kill; watching basketball players draw a foul to make a three-point play; watching fencers predict their opponents; watching judo athletes use their opponents' moves against them; watching a sprinter (a sprinter!) make a decision that is ultimately crucial in a ten-second race.

I wish someone had tried to teach me some of this in school.  I would have had a greater appreciation for sports -- and maybe I could've found some common ground with the "jocks."

That Ain't Right

Well, gymnastics judging hit rock bottom today.  I understand (it hasn't aired yet in my time zone, so I'm talking off of news reports I've read -- and I'm being purposely vague so as not to spoil results)...  ANYWAY, I understand that today, someone's score was soundly booed by the audience.  Soundly.  Booed.  And the judges changed the score.  Not by much, but that's not the point.  As far as I know, there was no official complaint registered by the gymnast -- the judges just took another look at their marks in order to, well, calm the crowd that was apparently lighting their torches and getting ready to storm the lab.

Now, don't get me wrong here -- I think it is wrong to boo judges (at least with that level of enthusiasm -- the stray "kill the ump!" is an accepted part of sports).  It's equally wrong to boo an athlete (which I understand also happened tonight).  But for judges to change a mark in response to audience pressure says -- as clear as day -- that gymnastics judging doesn't mean diddley.  (And to those who would say, "oh, the judge was just correcting an error," I respond, "And the error would never have been discovered if the crowd didn't get all riled up.  Boy, that gives me faith in the system.")

There were those who said Figure Skating Judging wouldn't survive the scandal of Salt Lake City.  The result was a huge revamping of scoring (which, in some ways, looks a little bit like the gymnastics system in use now) -- in an attempt to make scoring more "objective" (and less subject to illegal manipulation).  And I'm sure there are those who are going to say the problem in the men's all-around is throwing gymnastics judging into the pisser.  (And, as Melissa pointed out in the comments, now we've got Svetlana Khorkina complaining about partisan judging in the women's all-around.  Yeah, and they made you fall off the bar in the event finals, too.)  I digress.  Point is, as far as I'm concerned, none of this makes gymnastics judging look as subject to manipulation and mistakes as a change in marks in response to audience whining.

I'm so disgusted with the whole thing, frankly I don't care what color medal Paul Hamm has anymore -- because the top three gymnasts were all separated by a tenth of a point, and clearly gymnastics judging is nowhere near that exact of a science.



Sunday, August 22, 2004

I'm not the only one

Here's a columnist at MSNBC who agrees with me that Paul Hamm should just give up the medal.

Hamm, for his part, is standing firm.  He's sticking by the no-questioning-the-result-after-the-game-is-over rule.  Which is all well and good, and I can't blame him for taking that position.  Then again, if the situation had been reversed, and Hamm had been the one who earned but didn't receive a gold medal because of a judging mistake (which couldn't be corrected because US Gymnastics didn't complain on time) -- well, I guarantee there'd be an awful lot of complaining, protesting, calling for lopping off heads, throwing weight around, and general foot-stampiness coming from Hamm, the Gymnastics team, and the general population of the United States.  So why stand on the procedural rule and let an injustice happen when the sneaker is on the other foot?

Final note.  Hamm says, “I’m glad I’m able to clear the air here and make sure everyone in the U.S. understands that I’m not a silver medalist. I’m a gold medalist, and once the meet is over, it’s over.”

All of which may be true -- but I think everyone in the U.S. also understands that Yang is a gold medalist, who happens to have a bronze hanging around his neck, and you're the only one who can do something about it.

I do SO look like an athlete.

I happened to catch some of the midday coverage on Friday -- when you get to see sports that don't make it into prime time, like table tennis, kayaking, judo, and weighlifting.

The more sports I watch, the more I realize that there's a sport for every body type out there.  Them tall thin leggy women play indoor volleyball; the short ones are gymnasts; the huge muscular ones lift weights; people with developed upper bodies kayak; those with larger overall mass engage in judo; and people with no hair on their bodies swim.  OK, I kid on that last one, but you see my point.

So, I just need to find a sport where you don't have to have six-pack abs, can be under 5'2", and needn't wear sparkles in your hair.  Perhaps trap-shooting?

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Everyone With A Problem With Gymnastics Judging... Line Up Over Here

(Right behind Blaine Wilson.)

I kid.  As far as I know, Wilson's complaint during the preliminaries -- although bearing a similarity to current complaints about the all-around -- is not, in fact, the same thing that just resulted in the suspension of a few judges, threw Paul Hamm's win into doubt, and (for good measure) got the Greek Team's shorts in a bunch over the upcoming high bar final.

To review:  Every gymnastics routine has a start value based on the difficulty of the elements in it.  Ideally 10.0, but sometimes rather less.  And then, when a gymnast screws up on an element in their routine (as they will inevitably do) there will be small deductions taken off of that value.  This results in the score.  So, I mean, if you have .15 worth of deductions and your routine had a start value of 10.0, you'll walk out with a 9.85.  But if your routine had a start value of 9.9, your score will be only 9.75.  Which is, you know, less.  So having a high start value is key.

But what is absolutely critical is to have the correct start value.  Which is to say, if your routine has a start value of 10.0, the "start value judge" damn well better put 10.0 into the computer, rather than 9.9. 

It's a different sort of judging mishap than if a judge just says, "Dude, your performance was worth .1 less than you think it was."  That is, by nature, a more subjective determination.  That's the sort of risk you take by competing in a subjectively judged sport (rather than one judged by, say, a clock).  But the start value is supposed to be objective.  Every judge should be able to look at the same program of elements and go, "yep -- start value of 10.0" or whatever.

So.  Paul Hamm wins the all-around.  Korean Dae Eun Kim comes in second.  Korean Tae Young Yang comes in third.  They're all less than .1 apart.

Yang says there was an error in determining start values.  That his high bar routine was scored with a start value of 9.9, when it should have had a start value of 10.0.  His evidence of this (which is pretty good evidence) is that they gave the same routine a start value of 10.0 in the preliminaries and team final.

Had the routine been given the higher start value in the finals, he would have earned an extra .1 and won the all-around.

South Korea files a protest.

South Korea is right.

The International Gymnastics Federation agrees.  Yep, a mistake was made.  Yep, Yang should have won.  Yep, three judges are getting suspended.

Nope, they're not changing the result.  Once a result is set, it's set.  (Interesting point there.  Seems that if the protest had been lodged at the time of the event, a change in result could have occurred.  Suggesting that Hamm keeps his gold medal just because South Korea missed the statute of limitations for filing a complaint.  Which would mean Yang should be extremely miffed at his country for not following the right procedure.  The South Korean delegation, for their part, says that they did complain on time -- and the judges told them to proceed as they did.)

Here's what follows:

South Korea will take it up with the International Court of Arbitration for Sport, saying they'd like their gold medal, please.

The Greeks get miffed, too.  One of their gymnasts had a pretty nifty high bar routine in the preliminary round, but it got a low score (low score, not low start value) and he didn't make the event finals (ending up as the first alternate).  The Greeks note that one of the judges that got suspended was the one who gave their gymnast a really low mark and sort of suggest that someone drop out of the event finals to make room for this guy, in order to make up for the inequity.

Brett McClure (the other American in competition) also had a complaint regarding start value.  His rings routine was given a 9.5 start value rather than 9.7.  The extra .2 wouldn't have earned him a medal(would've made the difference between 9th place and 7th).  He's not complaining about it, though. 

I think it's important to note, however, because it illustrates that Americans both benefitted and got screwed by erroneous start values -- which suggests that what happened with the start values wasn't cheating but a mistake.  I'm sure that doesn't make Yang feel a whole lot better about his bronze medal, but I think it makes the sport itself look less tarnished.

Paul Hamm, not surprisingly, is being real quiet right about now.  They've basically told him he can hang on to an Olympic gold medal and an all-around title that he didn't -- when you get right down it -- actually deserve.

Ironically, given how far behind he was going into his final routine, I think he would have been pretty darned happy if he came from behind and won the silver, which he apparently did deserve.  Which is to say, had the judging error not occurred, everyone would have been pretty happy with the result of Yang/gold; Hamm/silver; Kim/bronze.  Of course, when they've played your national anthem and called you the first U.S. men's all-around champ, you look at the idea of a silver as, y'know, a little less appealing.

Which brings us all to the very interesting question of what Paul Hamm ought to do just now (other than go into hiding).  I expect that, should he choose to take the honorable route and yield the title to Yang, it would be a pretty good thing for him.  He would end up getting loads of positive press for doing the right thing, which would likely result in him being more of a media darling for giving up the gold medal than he would be for just winning it.  (I mean, really -- look at how the media fawned all over Michael Phelps for his "gesture" in letting Crocker swim the final relay -- and while it was nice and all, it didn't cost Phelps anything.)  And it would certainly help America's image right now -- when the rest of the planet thinks we have a habit of just steamrolling over everything in our way, doing the right thing on the international sports stage might be a refreshing little reminder that the American spirit isn't always about winning at all costs.  Not to mention, of course, if Hamm is the sort who, y'know, would have a hard time forever being called an Olympic champion knowing that he got the title only because of an error in start value and a team's failure to protest on time.

On the other hand, the ice dance controversy in Salt Lake City set a dangerous precedent.  I mean, Hamm could be sitting there thinking, "Y'know, if I just keep my mouth shut, they'll award a second gold to Yang -- thereby resolving the mistake and letting me keep the title."  It certainly provides an incentive to not give up the medal -- when the whole have cake/eat cake scenario is a possible result.

I hope that, were I in his situation, I'd do the right thing here.  Then again, I have no idea what it must be like to win something you've always wanted to win -- and then be told you really didn't earn it.  I mean, there really is a good argument for the finality of results -- and that you don't go about taking titles away from people who've already written them on their resume.  But now that the Gymnastics Federation has as much as said Hamm didn't deserve the title, the only remaining question is whether Hamm is going to keep the undeserved win.

Over the next few days, I think we're going to find out whether Paul Hamm's character is as strong as he's shown his body to be.


Friday, August 20, 2004

Homework: How Cool Am I?

For this week's homework, Scalzi asks:

>>Weekend Assignment #20: Tell us about your favorite entry of your own from the last 366 days (it's a leap year). Tell us why it still resonates for you. And "favorite" can mean anything you want it to mean: Most amusing, most heartbreaking, most affirmative of yourself, whatever. One good way to think of it is if you could show someone only one entry from your Journal, which one would it be?

Extra Credit: Show us your favorite picture from your Journal in the last year.<<

I'm not shy.  I'll toot my own horn.

The interesting thing about this assignment is it sorta makes me think about what I think this journal is supposed to be about, y'know?  When I started the journal, it had a theme to it -- it was all about me getting in shape (physically and mentally) for an adventurey-type vacation in New Zealand.  But now that the trip has come and gone (and, sadly, so has my resolve to go to the gym), the journal has sort of settled down to something different and rather undefined.  (This fortnight, it seems to be all about my thoughts on the Olympics.) 

That said, what I like best about my journal are the entries I've had fun writing.  The playful stuff.  The stuff where I'm stretching and trying to see what I can do.  My favorite one of those was an entry of increasingly shorter movie reviews (which I wrote to meet another journaller's challenge).

My favorite picture is, of course, this one.  I even have it on my cell phone.  It is entitled, "There's hair in my sink!"

Yeah, OK, I'll get all sentimental over this

Y'know, sometimes the commentators get all worked up over an athlete whose Olympics is really short.  Like that "vault specialist" we've heard so much about.  With Al explaining that "Her Olympics comes down to just doing this one vault."  (Which, of course, is false, as she'll be competing in the event finals -- but stick with me for the thought.)  And we also saw some guys crash early in the bicycle road race -- their Olympics ended before they'd gone a mere fraction of the first mile.

And today there's Robina Muqim Yaar, who ran in the women's 100 meters.  Her Olympics was 14.14 seconds.  She didn't make the next round.  She actually came in 62nd of 63 runners.  (By an interesting coincidence, the runner who came in 63rd happened to be in her heat -- so Yaar actually got to experience crossing the finish line ahead of someone else at the Olympics -- which is probably pretty darned cool.)

Yaar is picking up some media attention though, because she's the first female track & field athlete from Afghanistan to compete at the Games.  She's quoted as saying that girls "should come forward and join any sport they like, and, who knows, someday they might succeed."

When she crossed the finish line, she clapped her hands over her head in victory, and waved to the cameras in celebration, as though she'd won something.

And, of course, she had.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Everything I Haven't Yet Said About Gymnastics

- D'you think when Carly Patterson watched the instant replay of her bars routine, she thought, "Hmm, how can I wipe that chalk off my crotch without betraying my cool exterior?"

- We call them the "uneven bars."  According to the Athens2004 website, they are the "asymmetrical bars."  Sounds snootier, but still not quite accurate either.  (I'm sure they're symmetrical if you find the right axis of rotation.)  They're "a couple of bars at different heights" -- not catchy enough, I guess.

- When did that thing they vaulted off of change from a horse to a platform?  (Also inaccurately named.  It's a platform like Salvador Dali would paint.)

- OK, I understand that they're girls, on TV, and they want to look nice and pretty.  So I understand the makeup.  But when did the sparkles in your hair become part of the standard gymnastics uniform?  You wouldn't catch a track athlete putting sparkles in her hair.

Suspensions for Drug Use

We hear a lot of talk around these Games about suspensions for performance-enhancing drug use.  (Either people getting suspended or people returning from suspensions.)  Here's my position on that:  There should be no such thing as a suspension for drug use.  It's either expulsion or nothing.

Here's my reasons:  1.  Drug use should not be tolerated.  2.  Athletes' careers should not be messed with.

Which is to say -- if there's someone who you catch dead to rights willfully using performance enhancing drugs, their career should be over.  End of story.  It shouldn't be something they can come back from.  Willful use of a banned substance should prevent you from ever setting foot on the competitive stage again.  It's sorta like betting on baseball when you're playing it -- you should be banned for life. 

On the other hand, maybe we can't prove you willfully used a performance enhancing drug.  Maybe you accidentally popped a sudafed.  Maybe you missed a test (which gets counted as a positive).  In these cases, I don't think you should be suspended at all.  Because we don't really know that you took a banned substance, and we shouldn't take years of your (all too limited) athletic career away from you if you didn't actually do anything wrong.

So ... set up some rules as to how a bad test is proven -- or presumed -- willful.  And if someone has a willful bad test, kick 'em out of the sport.  But if they didn't do anything on purpose -- fine 'em, disqualify them from the particular competition that generated the dirty test, and test them frequently and randomly to make sure they stay clean.  But no suspensions.  It isn't fair.

The seats are still empty.

Just so you know, tickets for Torino 2006 go on sale this November.  You know you wanna.

Different Way of Watching the Olympics

I've been having so much fun doing Journal posts rambling about the Olympics, but I have to take a little break from them today.  (Although, if you still want to read me on a tear, we've had a little action in the comment thread of the Blaine Wilson entry.)

But today, I didn't watch the prime time coverage (I had theatre tickets).  Knowing this, I watched the Olympics live, on the internet.  The only problem was there weren't any actual, y'know, images to watch.

I watched scores.  If you click on the official Olympics website when an event is in progress, there's a little button the right-hand side of the screen that says "live" which will lead you to a screen of live results.

And let me tell you -- for a math geek/Olympics geek like myself -- it can be pretty exciting.  Before the final rotation in the men's all-around, I was cross-referencing the athletes' scores in the qualifying and team final rounds -- to figure whether Paul Hamm had a chance based on the apparatus each guy had left to do.  (Yes, I'm my very own color commentary.)  I realized it was gonna be close and started emailing my friends about how this was gonna make damn good television, whatever happened.  And, of course, when Paul Hamm's score appeared at the top of the "live results" screen, I was just as pleased and shocked as I would have been had I watched on TV -- excepting, of course, that I didn't actually see the routine that earned the mark.

(And it wasn't just gymnastics.  I also watched swimming results this afternoon.  Was quite pleased about the women's 4x200 -- only because I was just getting geared up to make a comment about how this pool must be slow because we haven't seen a whole lot of world records fall -- and then the US team shatters the longest-standing record out there.  Woo.)

I have to admit, I have a little practice "watching" the Olympics this way -- I did it with the Sydney Games.  It was extremely frustrating to me to know that I was never experiencing anything when it was actually happening.  Watching the scores when they were really happening -- even without seeing the actual competition -- still had something going for it, knowing that when I was sitting there cheering (at 2 in the morning, watching my computer screen), it was at the same time that the audiences were cheering in Sydney.

I felt some of that today, watching the gymnastics scores pop up.  And I really felt like I was connected to the celebration in Athens when I was sharing the shock that Paul Hamm actually won this thing.

And then I came home, and watched the tail end of the competition on TV.  And Paul Hamm's high bar routine was certainly well-executed -- but seeing as I had known his score, I already knew it would be well-executed.  And since I had already seen that particular routine a couple times -- it wasn't particularly interesting viewing.  And I thought, "gee, I really didn't miss much by just watching the scores." 

And then I saw that shot of the Korean athlete with his head in his hands, as he was inconsolable at the (extremely close) loss.  And I realized, now, I've seen the whole picture.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Could Someone Please Feed Svetlana Khorkina?

Holy freakin' cow, that woman looks anorexic.  (A gymnast?  With an eating disorder?  Couldn't be.)  I kept expecting her little legs to snap like twigs whenever she made a rough landing.  They say she's a model in Russia -- I guess that "starving waif" look is still in over there.

OK, here's the problem with the new "3 gymnasts, all of their scores count" system:  it blows from an "up close and personal" point of view.  Which is to say, we didn't get to know and cheer for the team members in the way we used to.  Remember the "Magnificent Seven" from Atlanta?  You can probably still name half of 'em.  But we felt like we knew them -- from sweet-yet-solid Shannon Miller, to young Karolyi-favorite Dominique Moceanu, to uneven bar specialist Amy Chow ... and, of course, Kerri Strug, who held it together playing hurt when everyone around her was falling apart healthy.  The six women who made up our team this year included Annia Hatch -- the "vault specialist," who we only saw on one event -- and Courtney McCool, who actually never performed at all during the finals tonight.  Of the others, the only one who really made any sort of impression was Mohini Bhardwaj.

Actually, I was going to write about Bhardwaj after the preliminaries, to point out one of them little known facts I so enjoy pointing out.  Y'know how the commentators kept calling her a "vault specialist" (along with Annia Hatch) and saying that's why she was brought to the Games?  She actually competed in every event in the qualifying round.  Do you know how well she did?  Eighth overall.  Over-freakin'-all.  She would have qualified for the all-around were it not for the fact two other Americans qualified ahead of her, and only the top two from each team can go on.  She outscored (the presumably non-specialist) Courtney McCool in beam and floor, which probably explained why the so-called vault specialist found herself competing in three of four events in the Olympic finals.

And I, for one, couldn't be happier.  I like seeing the face of American ladies gymnastics being a little older.  (There was once a joke where a representative of figure skating said, "At least our girls have breasts.")  I am thrilled to pieces that a female gymnast who achieved success at the college level was then able to rejoin the competitve arena, show us what she could do, and end up with an Olympic silver medal.  (Heck, when they first reported Courtney Kupets was injured, my first thought was, "Hey!  Mohini's alternate for the all-around.")  So, y'know, yay for Mohini.  Score one for the grown-ups.

And before I get off the topic of breasts

Do you think they have so much coverage of the women's Beach Volleyball team because they're scantily-clad, pat each other on the butt when they win, and engage in full-body hugs which are the closest thing to "girl on girl action" that NBC can get away with in prime time?

I saw none of this on prime time coverage, but

USA basketball did manage to beat Greece.  Although not by much.  Not only is it looking like we do not have the gold medal in the bag, it also looks like we might be in for some good basketball games this Olympics -- which would be pretty exciting.

Is it or is it not a hat?

So Michael Phelps took off his little wreath of olive leaves during the national anthem -- he was the first athlete I saw do that (others may have -- I generally don't watch the medal ceremonies).  He seemed to do it by reflex, as though he just knows you take off whatever happens to be on your head at the time.  Funny.

I dig the wreaths.  I dig all the little touches Athens is doing to celebrate the special history Greece has with the Games -- and the idea of doing the shotput from the original stadium in Olympia is really too cool for words.  (That they didn't have shotput during the original Games is something we'll overlook.)

And finally... a word about me!

Check out AOL Keyword:  AOL Movies: Movie Talk -- the nice folks there linked an entry of mine.  :)

Monday, August 16, 2004

Michael Phelps

I blame NBC.

Well, no, not really.  I blame the American psyche that doesn't seem to be freakin' interested in an Olympic swimming gold medalist.  We seem to only care if they're a multiple medalist.  Or even better yet, if the athlete in question is breaking records with the number of medals earned.

So NBC switches from saying "Michael Phelps can break Mark Spitz's record of 7 Olympic gold medals" to "Michael Phelps can tie Mark Spitz's record of 7 Olympic golds" to "Michael Phelps can be the first male swimmer to earn 8 medals of any color in a single Olympics."  And what's so amusing about that is that when they interviewed Phelps about that, Phelps seemed to have not even heard of that particular record and said (in classic guy-who-has-seen-Bull-Durham-fashion) that he's just taking things one event at a time.

One event at a time?  "Oh no!" cries NBC, because if Phelps is just a good natured 19-year-old who picks up a gold and few other colored medals while experiencing the fun of competition with the world's best, well, sorry, that just isn't going to bring the viewers in droves now, is it? 

And again -- it isn't really NBC's fault -- they're just doing what they know they have to do in order to get the Average American Viewer worked up over the Olympics.  Roasts my cookies that when Aaron Peirsol snags a gold in the 100m backstroke, we simply chalk that up as "another U.S. swimming gold" without even bothering to take note of who the guy is unless he's got himself even more medals to go with it.

Peeved About Diving

I caught the Olympic Trials in the 10m platform.  Interesting, they were.  The U.S. can send two divers in the 10m platform competition.  However, we did not send our top 2 divers.  This because our synchronized divers get an advantage here.  Which is to say -- the top scoring synchronized diver gets one of the two spots, no matter what. 

As it turns out, the top scoring synchronized diver was not top 2 in our trials.  (I think he was third or fourth).  But he gets to compete individually because of the advantage we give our synchronized team divers.  The kid who came in second -- who was pretty darned young -- will just have to wait another 4 years.

Was it worth it?  Our synchronized team came in 8th of 8. 

If I was that kid who came in second at the trials, I would be pretty peeved.  And I wondered -- while watching our synchro team crash & burn -- whether not sending that second-place (individual) kid to the Olympics this time will ultimately come back to bite USA Diving in the butt four years from now, when the kid maybe could have used this experience to rely on.

A Quick Word About Women's Gymnastics

Yes, OK, Romania beat us in the qualifying round.

But somebody forgot to give them the mandatory deduction for bad costumes.  Seriously, what genius decided to put all the Romanian gymnasts is white leotards through which you could see their undies?

Our gymnasts might not be better, but we've got the better clothes.  U.S.A!  U.S.A!

Yet Another Word on the Blaine Wilson Thing

Olddog asks if it the rule change had any effect on the individual all-around.  As a matter of fact, I think it might have -- but not in the way you'd think.

The top 24 overall scorers make the all-around.  However, only the top 2 from each country make it.  Paul Hamm is our top scorer, and he most definitely made it.  Our second place guy was (ironically) Brett McClure -- I say "ironically," because he's the third guy who was hit with the rule change -- he's the one who didn't change his routine because it was still out of a 10.0.

So the question is ... if the rule hadn't been changed, would Blaine Wilson have outscored Brett McClure?  And the answer is, maybe.  I don't know which events each of these guys is good in -- I can only go by the scores they actually put up in the qualifying round.  And, as it happens, Blaine Wilson was ahead of Brett McClure on 3 out of the 6 apparati.  (By a lot.)  They tied on a 4th.  The 5th was the high bar, which Wilson fell off of (and McClure didn't), and the 6th was the pommel horse -- which Wilson sat out after his fall.  BUT, McClure had a really crappy pommel horse routine -- he ended up scoring 9.00 on it.  The odds are pretty good that if Wilson had gotten on the horse and simply not fallen off of it, he would have outscored McClure on the horse.  And if he had, he would have outscored McClure overall even with the fall on the high bar.

Which means, quite obviously, that -- all things being equal -- if Wilson had simply eaten the 2-tenths on the high bar (thereby not falling off and not having to skip the horse), he most definitely would have beaten McClure's total score and made the all-around.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Do You Believe in Butt-Kickings?

Boy, just watched the USA Basketball team get its clock cleaned by Puerto Rico.

Interesting game for me, from a casual fan perspective, in that, partway through the fourth quarter, I couldn't quite decide who to cheer for.  I mean, yeah, sure, "Go U.S.A.!  Rah!  Rah!" and all that.  But then I started thinking about how totally depressing it would be for Puerto Rico if they collapsed and lost what was a 20+ point lead.  I mean, Carlos Arroyo was playing some serious basketball and was most definitely the MVP of this game -- and if the USA came back, the news reports would just be, "USA wins in a squeaker," rather than, "Carlos Arroyo has the game of his life."  Ultimately, I did end up applauding for Puerto Rico from my living room sofa -- they deserved it.

Props to Allen Iverson and the rest of Team USA for taking it with grace.  When you're dealing with these multi-gazillion-aire NBA stars who have just suffered a pretty humiliating loss, you almost expect them to be whiny and petulant about it -- but post-game handshakes and interviews showed a Team USA that gave credit where it was due and accepted blame for being outplayed.

And speaking of post-game interviews...

More on the Blaine Wilson non-story.  This here article (AOL link:AOL News - P. Hamm Will Cap U.S. Quest With Risky Routine) points out an interesting change in scoring I'd been unaware of.  Up until now (including the qualifying round yesterday) gymnastics competition worked like this:  you got 6 guys on your team.  You put 5 of them up an each event.  The top 4 scores count.  But for the finals; this is how it will work:  you still got 6 guys on your team.  You put 3 up on each event.  All 3 scores count.

What does this mean?  Well, for starters, it means that the so-called last-minute rule change (which Blaine Wilson thought was an attempt at cheating) doesn't mean diddley -- because, seeing as it only affected 2 gymnasts, they don't even have to perform on the high bar in the finals.  (And it isn't likethe U.S. was in any danger of not qualifying, which is all that mattered yesterday.  The scores don't carry over.)

I further read that the rule-change affected a third US gymnast, although he didn't change his routine because his routine was otherwise scored out of a 10 anyway (because it was hard enough without it).  In which case: no harm, no foul.  That gymnast -- Brett McClure -- will join two other (non-affected) US gymnasts on that event in the team finals.  (And those other two -- being as they were good enough to make the Individual Event Finals in the event -- were most likely expected to be in the team finals on High Bar anyway.)

To sum up -- what Wilson says was "cheating" on the part of the Japanese head judge would have exactly zero affect on the team competition. 

Blaine Wilson, Grow The Hell Up

OK, to be fair, Andrea Joyce baited him, and maybe he was still a little woozy from the fall, but that's no excuse.  In case you missed it, here's what I'm talking about...

Perhaps in recognition of the fact that everyone got all excited about the Salt Lake City Games because of the ice dance judging controversy, NBC found itself a judging controversy in Men's Gymnastics.  Specifically, during practices, the head High Bar judge informed the U.S. team that a move (or combination) used in the High Bar routines of two of our gymnasts will not, in fact, be scored as highly as we thought it would.  In other words, the routines won't have the high "start value" that we thought they had.

Pause for a short digression into what little I know about this subject.  Seems that the Powers That Be in gymnastics got all bummed about the proliferation of 10's some years ago, so they came up with this new and convoluted judging system.  Under the system, different moves and combinations are worth different points -- and you need a certain amount of "bonus points" to have your routine be scored out of a total of 10.0.  AND, in order to keep things tough, every four years, the Powers That Be get together and rewrite the lists of bonus points -- so that the "perfect 10" routine always remains just out of reach of all but the most freakin' amazing of gymnasts.  Got all that?

The other thing I know is that gymnastics coaches go out of their way to find quasi-loopholes in the system.  Which is to say, to find the easiest possible way there is to get the necessary bonus points -- I mean, why work harder if you don't have to, right?

OK, so, the U.S. team had routines that were scored high enough (out of a 10, I assume) at last year's Worlds.  But the Olympic head judge said, "Dudes," -- well, I paraphrase; I don't think he actually said "Dudes" -- he said, "Dudes, I've double checked with the magic code of points, and your routines aren't ACTUALLY worth what you think they're worth.  They are in fact worth two-tenths less."

(Important point here:  NBC never showed us the skill in question or told us how the points had changed.  We haven't been given an opportunity to judge for ourselves whether the judgewas being unfair or if the Americans had simply been playing fast and loose with the code of points.)

So.  The NBC commentators (Tim Daggett and Elfie Whatsherface) explain to us how absolutely HORRIBLE this is for the U.S. team -- because now these two gymnasts have to CHANGE THEIR PROGRAMS at the very last minute (OK, two days before) in order to be eligible for the full point score. 

As if to prove their point, the first American affected by the change gets up on the high bar -- and although he gets through his new and improved routine unscathed, Tim points out all these "form breaks" that he clearly wouldn't have had if he'd practiced this routine for the past year.  (And I ask myself, if each form break loses you one-tenth of a point, and you're going to make all these form breaks because you hadn't practiced this routine, wouldn't you be better off just doing the old routine with the lower start value?)

Blaine Wilson gets up there.  He does a release move which he had decided to insert in order to make up for the lost points from the rule change.  He misses the bar and falls down.  He doesn't appear hurt, but apparently is -- and gets all woozy after competing in the next apparatus and decides to sit the next one out (which, Tim is quick to point out, TOTALLY messes with the heads of the U.S. team, because someone who hadn't planned to compete that event at all has to get up there and compete).

So, after the Americans finish the competition (and end up qualifying second anyway), Andrea Joyce sits down with Tim and asks him how the rule change affected him.  And, first, Tim is a good guy and comes up with the right answers -- saying things like, "Well, you have to deal with whatever they throw at you," and "We're just focussed on doing well in the finals."  And Andrea Joyce keeps pushing him and says, "Are you angry?"

Yes, Blaine Wilson is angry.  He thinks it's unfair.  He says, "If they can't beat us fairly..."  He's referring, no doubt, to the fact that the head High Bar judge is Japanese, and the Japanese team is going to be in the gold medal hunt with the Americans.  And, in case his statement on NBC wasn't clear enough, I found this here article where Blaine is quoted as saying, "It's cheating."

Way to show that Olympic Spirit, Blaine. 

Funny that you don't see anyone else complaining.  Were the two U.S. gymnasts the only athletes in the Games who had this particular move that won't be scored as high as expected?  If not, why wasn't anyone else raising the hue and cry against this call by the head judge?  And I'm sure there's some sort of International Governing Body for Gymnastics.  Why aren't any of them standing up for Blaine?  For that matter, if the U.S. Gymnastics team feels screwed by this ruling, why aren't they taking this up with the governing body rather than throwing around accusations against the judge?  Could it possibly be because they know the judge is within his rights to make this call?

And there are also practical implications here.  Is it a really good idea to accuse the head judge of cheating when the competition is still going on?  And if changing your program is so amazingly difficult, why not just do the routine you've practiced for the past year and take the freakin' two-tenths deduction? 

Here's what it looks like to me, Blaine:  A judge made a ruling he was totally allowed to make, which could've cost you up to two-tenths of a point.  In response to that, you thought you could change your program to make back those two-tenths.  You fell.  It was disastrous for you -- it dropped you out of the all-around, hurt the team's score way more than the two-tenths would have, and you even had to sit out an event due to injury.  Rather than be a man about it and accept that you made a bad call in response to an unfortunate situation, you get all whiny and accuse a judge of cheating and favoritism.

Way to represent America.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

This Week's Homework

Oh man.  After the easy one last week, Scalzi gives us this:

>>Weekend Assignment #19: Tell us about an entry in someone else's AOL Journal or blog that really left an impression on you in the last year. Why does it stand out for you? Include a link to it within your entry (come back here and link to your entry in the comments).

Remember: It has to be the Journal or blog of someone else -- no pointing to your own entries (we'll get to that later). Also, logically, the entry itself should be from the last year if at all possible. Don't feel limited to just citing AOL Journals if a blog outside of AOL really moved you in the last year. The whole idea here is to share the writing that inspired, challenged and moved you over these months -- and made you want to write more.<<

And I can't answer it.  I absolutely can't.  Not to say that entries haven't left impressions on me -- many have.  But not in the way I can point to it as something I've ever wanted to go back and read again, or share with others as something they ought to read, or anything like that.

And while I was skipping down this line of thought, I realized there is one thing I once read that fits the bill.  Which is to say, it was a journal entry that "inspired, challenged and moved" me.  Although it isn't in AOL, it wasn't in the past year, and -- when you get right down to it -- was, sorta, fiction.

Still, homework is homework, so I gotta give what I've got.

I have made mention, I'm certain, of the summer (2001) I spent playing the web game based on the movie A.I.  Before the movie game out, some nice people (at Microsoft! -- can you believe it?) put together a huge, online, free(!) gaming experience.  It was "immersive fiction."  It mostly involved websites, but the game also incorporated telephone calls, faxes, newspaper ads, and so forth.  But for our purposes, what's important are that some of the websites in which the game was played out were written in the form of journals.

One journal in particular -- one entry in that journal -- changed the way I look at the internet forever.  Because I wept when I read it.  And I sat at my computer, through my tears, realizing that if a piece of fiction written for an interactive game had moved me this much, I really had no clue as to the power of this medium I'd been playing around with.

The game players made an archive of the game, so I can link you to the journal entry in question.  You'll need a little background...

The journal is that of Martin Swinton.  If you remember the movie A.I., David (the little robot boy) has an older (human) brother, Martin.  This is his journal, when he's all grown up.  He is an architect, who designs houses which each possess their own artificial intelligence.  He lives in a house of his own design, named Brutus.  (Martin quotes Shakespeare a lot.  It's part of his charm.)  Brutus communicates with Martin through pictures he posts on a screen -- so Martin's journal entries frequently recount conversations with Brutus in which Martin speaks and Brutus responds with pictures. 

(And many of Brutus's pictures really are worth 1000 words.  Although, if you need help with the meaning of one, right-click to read their "properties," as they are given titles that summarize what they're supposed to mean.)

The introductory part of the journal entry is story-specific, so you can just ignore it.  But about halfway down -- right after the picture of two people sitting back-to-back in the sunset -- Martin's journal goes someplace amazing.  The story takes place on the day of the "Mann Act II" vote -- where humans are going to decide whether to give artificial intelligence equal rights or whether to keep treating them as slaves (there's a reference to "Belladerma" -- a company that manufactures robots for sex toy purposes).  And Martin realizes there's something he has to say to Brutus...

That's an awful lot more set-up than I thought this would take.  Anyway, you can read the entry here.

(In the interest of full credit, we subsequently learned the game was written by science fiction author Sean Stewart.)

Opening Ceremonies

So, as I sit here watching the women's air rifle competition (the first medals of this Games!), I thought I'd write up a few random thoughts on the Opening Ceremonies.

(Although, first, may I ask why the shooting commentators feel it is necessary to whisper?  Yes, I know, the competitors need silence for concentration, but I really don't think they can hear you in the booth.)

On to the Opening Ceremonies then:

- I only wanted to throttle the commentators 3 or 4 times.  Then again, I put the TV on mute for at least a half hour.

- As far as the "artistic" portion of the Opening Ceremonies goes, I have to say I was pretty impressed.  Then again, I'm impressed by anything that doesn't involve Elvises.

- Really, though.  I totally dug the people all dressed up like statues.  I was having major Art History flashbacks -- they looked just like the statues, right down to the blissful facial expressions.  Just wonderful.

- Damn that Janet Jackson.  I bet we would've gotten some tastefully done artistic type nudity if everyone didn't have their panties in a bunch over her Super Bowl stunt.

- Hooray for NBC!  I'm so pleased they went back and showed the countries whose entrances were lost during commercial breaks.  Last time they did this, they didn't go back, and skipped countires just got lost.  I sent them a nasty email over that, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one.

- 202 countries.  Three of them, I'd never heard of.  I don't just mean I couldn't find them on a map or don't know what language they speak.  I mean I was all, "Dude, there's a country by that name?"  I am somewhat embarassed by this.

- I love watching the uniforms -- from the countries that put together a nice traditional costume to those that look like they just sent around a memo saying, "Buy a blue blazer -- we'll supply a tie."

- And may I say ... with a good deal of national pride ... that you can say what you like about race relations in our country, but I don't think any other country has a team that looks less monochromatic than ours.  You can't look at the American team without thinking, "Nation of Immigrants."

- Was I the only one who thought, while watching all those kids singing the Olympic Hymn, "Hey!  Who gave 'em all ipods?"

And, lastly... the flaming Olympic rings were gorgeous; the fireworks that nearly encompassed the stadium were impressive; and the flooding of the arena breathtaking.  With all that glorious imagery, why did they choose a design for the torch that looked -- at its best -- like a cigar?

Friday, August 13, 2004

It's Time! It's Time! It's Time!

Oh yay.

Every two years I totally geek-out over the Olympics.

Two reasons for this:

The first, and less important one, is the bit about watching sports.  I generally don't watch much sports.  But I do like watching the best in sports -- any sport.  And the Olympics is the freakin' grand-daddy of them all.  It's like the Super Bowl, the World Series, the NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup and Wimbledon all rolled up into one.  For two weeks, I get to watch the very bestest the world can offer in everything from archery to wrestling.  Eeeeeee!

And the second reason is that I fall for the whole "share a moment with the world" vibe.  (And bless NBC this year for all the live coverage they're giving us -- because it is much more fun to share a moment with the world when the rest of the world is having the moment at the same damn time.)  But I'm looking forward to the opportunity to see people at their best -- not just athletically, but the human spiritness of it all.  When I think back at great Olympic moments, it isn't just the tenths-of-a-second victories.  It's watching an athlete from a former Soviet Union country weep as he sees his country's flag fly over the Games for the first time.  It's watching a young judo athlete refuse to go for his opponent's injured ankle, because that's not how it's done.  It's watching young men and women from North and South Korea marching together in the Opening Ceremony. 

The Olympics are an opportunity for national pride, but also an opportunity to celebrate other nations, and check in on the overall progress of the planet.  How wonderful to watch Kuwait send its first female athlete to the Games, or the swimmers representing the Cayman Islands (even though the entire country does not have an Olympic-sized pool).  We'll also see the first female Pakistani Swimmer in the Olympics, and -- heck -- we haven't had the opening ceremonies yet and already the Iraqi soccer team (making its first appearance in 16 years) had a stunning upset victory in its first game.

Man, I haven't even watched anything yet and I'm already getting all misty-eyed.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Women are Princesses Too!

I just got my latest Disney catalog -- this is the one with all the Halloween costumes in it.  And it has lots more costumes than previous years (which is a good sign).  But I've noticed a theme here which I find somewhat troubling.

There are no "Princess" costumes for grown-ups.  There are all sorts of Princess costumes for little girls.  Little girls can be Belle, or Jasmine, or Cinderella.  Tinkerbell, Snow White, or Sleeping Beauty.  Ariel, Mulan, Esmeralda or Pocahantas.

Women can be The Queen of Hearts, Cruella De Vil, the Evil Queen, Maleficent, or Ursula.

Have you noticed a pattern here?  In case you've missed it, they even have people posing in the costumes together...  Mom is the Evil Queen; her daughter is Snow White.  Mom is Maleficent, her daughter Aurora.  Mom is Ursula on the same page as a cute little seven-year-old Ariel.

Disturbing much? 

I mean, I've known for years about the whole bad rap that Disney (and fairy tales in general) gives to Stepmothers -- but here we're talking about Princess characters that are supposed to be teenagers or young adults being purposely made younger so the Elemetary School set can dress up like them, while the only alternatives for the over-12 set costume-wise are their evil counterparts. 

I wouldn't mind so much if we're talking about child characters (like, say, Alice) to begin with -- but when you're dealing with characters who are actually much older (Pocahantas, Esmeralda) -- it's just wrong to have the only properly licensed costume be for the pre-training-bra set.

To be fair, there are a few alternatives.  Minnie Mouse is available in all sizes.  And the Jack Skellington/Sally pair can only be purchased by grown-ups.  But, mostly, if you're an adult female and you want a Disney costume, you're stuck being the Evil Villain to some six year old in a frilly dress.  Unless of course you buy this one -- a thought which is too hideous to contemplate.


Monday, August 9, 2004

The Saturday Six on Monday

And, Patrick's Saturday Six for this week...

1. How many E-mails are in your mailbox that you have already read, but are "holding" there anyway?

In this account, just 1.  And it's an email I sent to myself with "journal ideas" I haven't yet written.

2. You learn that a loved one committed murder.  You are the only one who knows besides the loved one himself.  Would you turn him in?


3. How much was your total bill the last time you filled up your car's gas tank?

I don't remember exactly, something on the scale of $23.

4. On an average day, how many AOL Journals do you visit?  How many do you have set up to send you an alert when a new entry is added?  How many AOL Journals do you have on a subscription list such as "Bloglines?"


I prefer to read journals via email alerts, so I read my six regulars that way.  The one exception is Scalzi's By the Way, which I visit regularly because I know how often he updates.

5. What particular sport are you most looking forward to seeing in the Summer Olympics?

Most all of them.  I am an Olympics Junkie.  But my absolute favorite is the men's gymnastics.  Individual Event Finals.  Floor Exercise.

Armand: If you could choose the one statement (of your own) that you would be popularly quoted for after your death, what would it be?

I have absolutely no idea.  Seriously.  I saw the Saturday Six on Saturday and didn't answer immediately because I couldn't think of an answer to this one.  The closest I can come up with is something someone once said about me, rather than something I said.  He said, "You're right; but you're not as right as you would have been had you been more right."  For some reason, I find this extrememly amusing.

Saturday, August 7, 2004

Tattoo WHO?

For this week's homework, Scalzi asks:

You have to get a tattoo. Explain what image you would choose and why -- and where you would put it.

I have to, huh?

Well, in that case, I would go for the world-famous "love dot."

You remember the "love dot," right?  It's that tattoo that sitcom characters always end up getting when they plan to get some other tattoo, but then -- as soon as the needle actually touches their skin -- they realize that tattoos involve a certain amount of pain and they run screaming from the shop with only that first dot on their skin.

So, yeah, being the major wuss that I am -- I'd get me a dot.  On some ... fleshy part that doesn't hurt much.

In the extremely unlikely event that the whole tattooing process isn't painful, and I'm really not bothered by it at all, I think I'd get a mobius strip tattooed around my ankle.  (The link is not a link to a photo of a tattoo of a mobius strip -- it's just a link to a picture of a good, old fashioned mobius strip -- for the non-mathematically inclined.)

Friday, August 6, 2004

And the winner is...


"Daniels" seemed to be the big winner for the name of the new laptop.  (Although I was tempted to go with something like Lazarus, what 'cause this is my second version of this computer after the early one died.)  Nonetheless, I couldn't go with that directly because (a) it seems weird to name my computers "Jack Daniels" when I've never ever drunk the stuff and (b) "Daniels" doesn't actually sound like a NAME. 

But the suggestion itself was a good one, so I just thought I'd friendly it up a bit and call the new machine Danny.

So far, Danny's integration here hasn't entirely been smooth.  He didn't want to get along with Pearl (the wireless router) at ALL.  (It took about an hour to get them to recognize each other, and I'm still not sure what I did that finally made them start talking.)  And then, AOL wouldn't connect.

This latter was EXTREMELY frustrating, as the failure of AOL to actually WORK on my old laptop was one of the (many) reasons I had for finally getting a new one.  Seems the problem was that AOL doesn't actually have a connection script that works for a Mac connecting to AOL via a home network riding on a cable modem.  (Well, maybe they do -- or they did -- because it used to work before, but it don't work now.)  ANYWAY, the nice new version of AOL preloaded onto Danny comes with a whole BUNCH of new and exciting scripts that might be the one to work ("home network" "cable modem" "TCP/IP connection") and after a few frustrating attempts, I found the right combination of scripts to enable me to be here, updating the journal on Danny for the very first time.

It's a little slow-going, getting used to the new keyboard and all.  Danny has a very small shift key on the right-hand side, whereas I have a very long pinky fingernail over there -- and the combination seems to be a recipe for accidentally hitting "pg up" and/or "Enter" and doing things to text I hadn't intended.

Still, Danny appears capable of many new and exciting tricks (in addition to actually, y'know, working) and I'm looking forward to learning them all.  Just wait till I figure out the built-in camera.  Oooo.

Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Quick! Name My Computer

All right.  You all know Jack, my desktop computer.

My laptop has been due for replacement for some time, and the new machine just arrived in the mail today. 

(Actually, that is a summary of a huge pain in the butt process of which I will spare you the details.  Let's just say that:  (1)  this is the SECOND new machine; (2)  Sony does NOT have enough customer service people on the night shift; (3)  trying to return something to for replacement can be extremely frustrating; and (4)  hopefully, it's all worked out for the good by now.)

So.  New computer.  It needs a name.

It will be sharing a wireless connection with Jack.  The wireless router is called Pearl.  When I got the FIRST version of the new laptop, I called it Will -- just keeping with the whole "Pirates of the Caribbean" theme.  Seeing as Will was a lemon that didn't work after the first hour or so, I don't really want to call the NEXT one Will.

When Will stopped working, I had to wipe its memory and do a great big reboot (for all the good it did).  When I booted him up the next time, I decided that maybe it didn't like its name, so when I hit the screen that asked for the computer's name, I went with Diane.  (You know, "Jack and Diane.")  Seeing as the reboot ultimately didn't work, I'm thinking that Diane is a name I probably shouldn't use again either.

So... what should I name the nice new laptop that will (hopefully) be working with me and Jack for a good long time?

Tuesday, August 3, 2004

Tired. Fun, but tired

I don't want to say I'm tired or anything, but today I walked out of the bathroom without remembering to zip my fly.


Yesterday was my third trip to Disneyland in 11 days.  And while they were all wonderful and great fun and even kinda special -- dude, I am pooped in the way only  three times twelve hours crammed in an amusement park with thousands of other people can make you. 

Plus, when I got home last night, I found Jasmine had left me some little puddles of cat puke on the bathroom floor.  I cleaned them up and prepared for bed, only to find more puddles of cat puke on the living room floor. 

'cause, boy, nothing tops a full day at Disneyland better than getting on your hands and knees with the "Kitty Mess Wipes," to clean up cat barf at midnight.

More journalling when I'm awake.  Hopefully tomorrow.