Posts Tagged ‘the Olympics’

 

Wow, It’s Garrett Brown (Again)

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

garrett-brown-steadicam.jpgI just filled out a website form and dropped a line to Garrett Brown. His name came up as I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about the camera rig that allows Olympic TV coverage to follow divers from the diving board to the water. As cool as the shot is, the device is even cooler in its simple use of Sir Isaac Newton’s observations about gravity. .

I know the name Garrett Brown and have for years. He invented the Steadicam (other shooting toys too)–no small achievement. This single invention made hand held shots for movies and television ‘do-able’ as never before. He won an Oscar for it.

The Steadicam isn’t quite as simple as the Olympics camera solution, but it is noteworthy and well known in the ‘business.’ You have seen the hand held film effect it enables hundreds of times. Garrett’s not only the inventor, he’s been the steadicam operator in major motion pictures.

If that’s all Garrett Brown had done it would be pretty impressive. But, like a TV infomercial, there’s more!

Garrett Brown was the male voice on one of the most effective radio ad campaigns of all time, for Molson Beer. The commercials featured giggling dialog between Garrett and Anne Winn. I went back and listened to their “Border Guard” spot a few minutes ago. It’s still one of the most creative ad series of all time–so good it ran for 13 years.

And here it is!

Nothing To Hide

Saturday, August 9th, 2008

beijing-smog.jpgThere’s been a lot of talk about Beijing’s air quality problems, especially with the Olympics underway. What some observers have called smog has been characterized by the Chinese as mist.

The official government air quality numbers have been surprisingly good–considering the weather has created the ideal set-up for bad! Some of us have suspected they’re cooking the books. There’s really no way for me to know.

There is an independent group from Cambridge Environmental Research Consultants in England who have been monitoring the air and issuing their own forecasts which have been much more pessimistic than the official government version. Now that forecast is gone!

From Telegraph.co.uk: British scientists monitoring air quality in Beijing have been ordered to close down their website after their readings clashed with official statistics showing the city was meeting its pollution targets.

Until now, something about Beijing’s air didn’t smell right. Now it’s two things.

I’m Not Excited By The Olympics

Friday, August 8th, 2008

Maybe things will change as the games get underway, but at-the-moment I’m not excited by the Olympics. Other than one or two notable exceptions I know no names. I feel no xenophobic urge to kvell for the USA team, though it’s probably nice if we they bring home medals.

Are there any real amateurs participating in the games anymore? Our society has come around to accept that change I suppose.

China has shown itself to be incredibly adept at keeping the world’s largest population under close watch. Now it’s extending that skill set, watching the world’s largest contingent of tourists and press. No matter what is said to the contrary, the press gladly reports on its own troubles. If minders are too restrictive, you’ll hear about it.

I worry about terrorism. I’m less concerned about protest than the Chinese government probably is.

The weather and air quality have been fairly close to the worrisome scenario painted months ago. I’ve been checking meteorological observations every day, finding the dew point at Beijing’s airport in the mid and upper 70°s on a regular basis and visibility of 1-2 miles common.

Back in February I wrote of the potential Olympic weather:

So, when the deputy chief engineer of the Beijing Meteorological Bureau says, “Even if the rare extreme weather hits Beijing in August, people will not feel muggy. High humidity will not accompany the hot weather in August because their climax periods are different, ” I’d hide the silverware and other valuables.

Good call Geoff!

The well trained Olympic athletes will work under these conditions, just as Beijing’s citizens do. They will breath the foul air, just as Beijing’s citizens do. I suspect the athletes will not suffer irreparable harm during these few weeks. I cannot say the same for Beijing’s citizens.

Out Of Bandwidth

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

In England, the BBC has just started streaming TV shows through a proprietary program call iPlayer. People must be watching because the ISPs (the companies that deliver the Internet to you) are worried.

From DownloadSquad: iPlayer is causing all sorts of other trouble for ISPs. The player, built for viewing and downloading popular television shows onto computers through the special application is taking a toll on the ISPs bandwidth. So much so that they are looking for compensation from the BBC, threatening to initiate traffic shaping that would slow down service and render the player unusable if they don’t pay up.

I had been thinking about this on my own before the British scare. Internet bandwidth isn’t infinite. There are choke points all over the place that can get swamped with traffic. High quality video is about the most bandwidth intensive you can run!

I wasn’t too concerned about the BBC originally. My worry is closer to home. Imagine the traffic for NBC and the Olympics.

From the NY Times: NBC Universal Sports will stream 2,200 hours of live Summer Games coverage free from Beijing next year on its Web site, nbcolympics.com.

It is the first time that NBC, or any network, has carried the Olympics on the Internet. NBC has shown six of the past nine Olympics since 1992.

Donald Trump’s Jet

Saturday, February 25th, 2006

trump-jet.jpgI’m not a huge fan of Donald Trump. I’ll admit that. Trump is the classic case of a guy born on third base who thinks he hit a triple.

In the early 60s, my grandparents sold their little Cape in Laurelton, Queens and moved to Trump Village in Brooklyn. This huge and unwieldy cluster of co-op apartments, erected for the middle class a few blocks from the ocean in Brighton Beach, was built by The Donald’s dad, Fred.

I’ve got nothing against Fred. My grandparents were glad to have this apartment to call home.

On the other hand, I remember stories of Donald as a landlord, doing his best to make life difficult for older residents in luxury Manhattan buildings, renting at below market rates under New York City’s controversial rent control laws¹. He didn’t come off as a sweetheart to me. In fact, he came off with no heart to me.

Can I maintain a dislike for decades? I guess so.

The reason I bring this up tonight is because Helaine and I are sitting here watching the Olympics. A few moments ago a promo for The Apprentice came up, with video of Donald’s beautiful 727.

It struck me funny that it’s Trump’s plane, because the callsign is VP-BDJ. All US registered planes begin with “N”. The “VP” designation means it’s registered in a British Overseas Territory.

There are loads of photos of VP-BDJ – and it’s a beaut. The shining colors belie the age of this airplane, first delivered to American Airlines a few days before I turned 18–back in 1968!

My question: Why is this plane, Donald Trump’s plane, registered outside the United States? It seems to be based at LaGuardia Airport in New York. I hope it’s maintained there… crewed there… certified there… taxed there. I suspect it’s not.

I hate it when success is built on avoidance rather than accomplishment. That’s what I’m scared of here.

¹ – When I went to double check the facts about Trump, an entry of mine came up first in the Google search! Did I have it wrong? Was I sustaining my own cruel fable about Mr. Trump?

As it turns out, a deeper search found this revealing story, published in the New York Times on June 4, 1983.

The Olympics

Sunday, August 15th, 2004

I have found myself watching very little of the Olympics. I know it’s the greatest achievement in sports – but they’re mostly rather esoteric contests with people I don’t know.

The men in the Olympics look just like the guys I didn’t get along with while growing up: tall, muscular, good looking. As a rule, my friends could not throw a ball.

In the few events I’ve seen, the stands were empty. That’s sad. Considering what Greece has paid, and will continue to pay, empty seats give a bad impression. There’s also the implication their peripheral businesses are not doing well on anticipated Olympic revenue. Restaurants and hotels which put up with the massive construction until now face no payoff.

I read this evening that the International Olympic Committee is encouraging the Greek Olympic Committee to paper the house. That’s sad.

ATHENS (AFP) – IOC (news – web sites) officials, worried by the television images being flashed around the world of athletes competing in near empty stadiums, have told the Athens Games organisers to give tickets away for free if necessary.

For years I’ve heard a story about ABC’s Wide World of Sports in the 60s and 70s. When they would cover swimming, track and field, or other events that weren’t well attended, they’d make everyone sit together opposite the cameras. In this age of handheld shots, that wouldn’t work.

I’ve seen Olympic coverage on NBC, MSNBC and CNBC. I think there’s some on Bravo too, though I’m not totally sure.

I wonder how the ratings will be? Will the lack of fans in the stands along with the poor showing of the USA basketball team and dashed hopes for a record number of records in swimming turn people off? What about the ability to watch events on multiple channels? Will the affiliates get hurt?

Adventures in Spam

Tuesday, March 16th, 2004

I swear by Popfile to rid my inbox of spam – but it’s failing me now as spammers are getting more crafty. Within the past few weeks, messages that look very ‘spammy’ to the naked eye have been buzzing through Popfile. It was easy to figure out how.

Popfile compiles a ‘corpus’, a list of words that normally do or don’t appear in my emails. Spammy words are likely to get an otherwise nice mail kicked out.

These new emails take a paragraph or two of text (it looks like AP wire copy or something similar) and inserts it in the message. The text is so long, it overwhelms the spam content.

The really sneaky part is how this long text is displayed. Unlike the ad copy, these innocuous words are displayed in the smallest possible size. It is so small that the letters aren’t even formed. It’s just a blur of small smudges. I had to copy it into a text editor to see what was really going on.

It’s my guess that Popfile will be strengthened to fight this new scourge. And the spammers will come up with something else. It seems to be a never ending saga.

Here’s the part that I totally don’t understand. Hasn’t everyone who wants Cialis or Viagra, and is willing to blindly buy on the net, already gotten it? I’ve gotten thousands upon thousands of solicitations for this kind of drug. I understand why someone wouldn’t want to go to their doctor or pharmacist to explore this problem, but the numbers can’t be this great.

Then there’s the question who is going to ingest a substance that comes from a website which has to spell Viagra, V1@GR@ and falsifies its return address?

The products sold using spam have changed greatly over time. Bootleg software and prescription drugs seem to be the hot items at the moment. Many things I might have seen advertised a year or two ago are gone.

The quantity has also changed. Since January 6, 2004, 61% of my email has been spam (and that doesn’t count the untold thousands of messages I filter out before they get to my mailbox)

It all boggles the mind.

Blogger’s addendum – This morning, another similar spam came in. Here’s what it looks like:

A new head start for elite women, a new course and an Olympic year couldn’t stop Meb Keflezighi from making it the same old story at the Gate River Run.Keflezighi, of Mammoth, Calif., became the first man to win four consecutive River Run titles, catching Colleen De Reuck on the Hart Bridge and outrunning Abdi Abdirahman to the finish to win by 2 seconds on Saturday.”It was a fast pace from the early going and Abdi gave me a run for the money,” said Keflezighi, 28, who finished in 43 minutes, 10 seconds, to win $15,000, including a $5,000 bonus for being the top finisher.De Reuck, of Boulder, Colo., led most of the race after being one of 25 elite women to get a head start of 5 minutes, 16 seconds, longer than the 5-minute planned advantage because of technical problems. The head start was instituted for the first time to add drama to the race. De Reuck, 39, said she knew her split times were not fast enough to hold off the men.”At least for the first 7 miles, I was just trying to secure the [women's] lead,” said De Reuck, who finished first among the women in 49:02 and took home $10,000. “When I heard [from spectators] they [the top men] were there, I knew they were going to fly down the bridge.”But the men’s leaders really made up most of the time on the bridge incline, cutting a 40-second deficit in half.Race officials said the finish was one of the closest in the 27 years of the River Run, but did not have records available to confirm where it ranked.A clock problem caused the extra advantage for the elite women, but USA Track and Field men’s championship liaison Mark Zenobia said the problem would have been more damaging if De Reuck had finished first overall and by less than 16 seconds.Race officials said they had to be certain the start was done properly because the race is the U.S. 15K championship. The event had 7,601 finishers, a River Run record.Abdirahman, who finished second last year by 28 seconds, said he ran a strong race but was not happy with second.”I thought I might outkick him, but … he had a little more surge at the end,” said Abdirahman of Tucson, Ariz. “I wish I had another 50 meters.”Catching the women was not important. I knew I would catch them, but I didn’t get the bonus, so it didn’t matter.”But Keflezighi, a late commitment to the race because he was recovering after qualifying for the Olympics in the marathon last month, said he didn’t think he would have caught De Reuck without the 25-year-old Abdirahman pushing the pace.Keflezighi beat the record of Todd Williams, who won three consecutive titles from 1994-96.Race director Doug Alred said the extra 16 seconds made the race more exciting and he might adjust the equalizer bonus based on the field next year.De Reuck pulled away from Sylvia Mosqueda by 25 seconds in the fourth mile and won by 1:06 over the fellow marathon trials qualifier.”I felt OK for the first mile and a half,” said Mosqueda, a Los Angeles resident. “But right around 3 miles, my legs were like lead. I didn’t feel like I was racing; I felt like I was running.”Tatyana Pozdnyakova, a Gainesville resident who won the Los Angeles Marathon on March 7, finished third among women (50:15) and first among Masters women — ages 40 and older. Pozdnyakova, 49, won the $50,000 challenge bonus in Los Angeles where women received a 20:30 head start in the 26.2-mile race. Dennis Simonaitis, 41, of Draper, Utah, was the top men’s finisher in the Masters division. He finished in 48:31.Kim Pawelek, who finished 10th among women (52:54) and is also going to the marathon trials April 3 in St. Louis, was the top women’s finisher from Jacksonville. Zepherinus Joseph was the top Jacksonville runner (23rd, 48:34) and is awaiting word on whether he will be representing St. Lucia in the Olympic Games at Athens.One of the worst runs of his career probably helped Dale Earnhardt Jr. save his season.A week after he nearly was parked for running too slow, Junior zoomed by Jeremy Mayfield with 15 laps to go and sprinted to an easy victory Sunday in the Golden Corral 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

He also won the season-opening Daytona 500.”Last week was as bad as it ever gets,” Earnhardt said. “But we didn’t get on each other too bad, and we stayed pretty focused.”Rookie Kasey Kahne was third — his third straight finish in the top three — and Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman followed him across the finish line.Defending series champ Matt Kenseth, who had won the past two races, rallied from a lap down to finish sixth.At Las Vegas last Sunday, Earnhardt started 26th and quickly drifted to the rear of the field at the start. His Chevrolet was so far off the pace that NASCAR warned his crew he was right at the minimum speed.After eventually finishing 35th, Earnhardt and the team spent Thursday testing at Kentucky Speedway. Just as their session was ending, they hit on a setup that worked, and Earnhardt was fast all weekend at Atlanta.”We went testing, and we’re going testing this week,” Earnhardt said. “We’re going to test, test, test, until we lap the field.”I’m determined and devoted to running like this every week, no matter what it costs.”He qualified seventh and stayed near the front, then dominated the latter stages. He passed Mayfield’s Dodge for the lead with 60 laps to go and held the top spot until the leaders made their final pit stops under green.Mayfield came in with 26 to go and his crew changed four tires in 14.3 seconds, then Earnhardt followed three laps later. His stop was nearly a second faster, but he came back on the track in third, behind Mayfield and Johnson.With 20 laps left, Earnhardt drove by Johnson on the inside and set his sights on Mayfield. He didn’t take long.Junior ran up high in Turns 1 and 2 to get momentum, then swooped underneath Mayfield down the backstretch, moving into the lead with hardly a struggle.”We had a great car to start with, but it just seemed as the race went on, the tighter we got,” Mayfield said of his car’s handling. “Dale Jr. and those guys got ahead of the track and we didn’t.”Kenseth started 30th and was up to 13th after 15 laps, and eventually got to sixth before the first pit stops. But he made a rare mistake, spinning his Ford as he came into the pits, and dropped a lap down after a drive-through penalty.He made up the ground during the second caution for oil on the track, because he was the first lapped car behind the leader, and got his fourth straight top-10 finish to start the season.Kenseth leads Tony Stewart by 82 points, with Earnhardt another eight points back.

And, here’s what those little lines say:

A new head start for elite women, a new course and an Olympic year couldn’t stop Meb Keflezighi from making it the same old story at the Gate River Run.Keflezighi, of Mammoth, Calif., became the first man to win four consecutive River Run titles, catching Colleen De Reuck on the Hart Bridge and outrunning Abdi Abdirahman to the finish to win by 2 seconds on Saturday.”It was a fast pace from the early going and Abdi gave me a run for the money,” said Keflezighi, 28, who finished in 43 minutes, 10 seconds, to win $15,000, including a $5,000 bonus for being the top finisher.De Reuck, of Boulder, Colo., led most of the race after being one of 25 elite women to get a head start of 5 minutes, 16 seconds, longer than the 5-minute planned advantage because of technical problems. The head start was instituted for the first time to add drama to the race. De Reuck, 39, said she knew her split times were not fast enough to hold off the men.”At least for the first 7 miles, I was just trying to secure the [women's] lead,” said De Reuck, who finished first among the women in 49:02 and took home $10,000. “When I heard [from spectators] they [the top men] were there, I knew they were going to fly down the bridge.”But the men’s leaders really made up most of the time on the bridge incline, cutting a 40-second deficit in half.Race officials said the finish was one of the closest in the 27 years of the River Run, but did not have records available to confirm where it ranked.A clock problem caused the extra advantage for the elite women, but USA Track and Field men’s championship liaison Mark Zenobia said the problem would have been more damaging if De Reuck had finished first overall and by less than 16 seconds.Race officials said they had to be certain the start was done properly because the race is the U.S. 15K championship. The event had 7,601 finishers, a River Run record.Abdirahman, who finished second last year by 28 seconds, said he ran a strong race but was not happy with second.”I thought I might outkick him, but … he had a little more surge at the end,” said Abdirahman of Tucson, Ariz. “I wish I had another 50 meters.”Catching the women was not important. I knew I would catch them, but I didn’t get the bonus, so it didn’t matter.”But Keflezighi, a late commitment to the race because he was recovering after qualifying for the Olympics in the marathon last month, said he didn’t think he would have caught De Reuck without the 25-year-old Abdirahman pushing the pace.Keflezighi beat the record of Todd Williams, who won three consecutive titles from 1994-96.Race director Doug Alred said the extra 16 seconds made the race more exciting and he might adjust the equalizer bonus based on the field next year.De Reuck pulled away from Sylvia Mosqueda by 25 seconds in the fourth mile and won by 1:06 over the fellow marathon trials qualifier.”I felt OK for the first mile and a half,” said Mosqueda, a Los Angeles resident. “But right around 3 miles, my legs were like lead. I didn’t feel like I was racing; I felt like I was running.”Tatyana Pozdnyakova, a Gainesville resident who won the Los Angeles Marathon on March 7, finished third among women (50:15) and first among Masters women — ages 40 and older. Pozdnyakova, 49, won the $50,000 challenge bonus in Los Angeles where women received a 20:30 head start in the 26.2-mile race. Dennis Simonaitis, 41, of Draper, Utah, was the top men’s finisher in the Masters division. He finished in 48:31.Kim Pawelek, who finished 10th among women (52:54) and is also going to the marathon trials April 3 in St. Louis, was the top women’s finisher from Jacksonville. Zepherinus Joseph was the top Jacksonville runner (23rd, 48:34) and is awaiting word on whether he will be representing St. Lucia in the Olympic Games at Athens.One of the worst runs of his career probably helped Dale Earnhardt Jr. save his season.A week after he nearly was parked for running too slow, Junior zoomed by Jeremy Mayfield with 15 laps to go and sprinted to an easy victory Sunday in the Golden Corral 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

He also won the season-opening Daytona 500.”Last week was as bad as it ever gets,” Earnhardt said. “But we didn’t get on each other too bad, and we stayed pretty focused.”Rookie Kasey Kahne was third — his third straight finish in the top three — and Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman followed him across the finish line.Defending series champ Matt Kenseth, who had won the past two races, rallied from a lap down to finish sixth.At Las Vegas last Sunday, Earnhardt started 26th and quickly drifted to the rear of the field at the start. His Chevrolet was so far off the pace that NASCAR warned his crew he was right at the minimum speed.After eventually finishing 35th, Earnhardt and the team spent Thursday testing at Kentucky Speedway. Just as their session was ending, they hit on a setup that worked, and Earnhardt was fast all weekend at Atlanta.”We went testing, and we’re going testing this week,” Earnhardt said. “We’re going to test, test, test, until we lap the field.”I’m determined and devoted to running like this every week, no matter what it costs.”He qualified seventh and stayed near the front, then dominated the latter stages. He passed Mayfield’s Dodge for the lead with 60 laps to go and held the top spot until the leaders made their final pit stops under green.Mayfield came in with 26 to go and his crew changed four tires in 14.3 seconds, then Earnhardt followed three laps later. His stop was nearly a second faster, but he came back on the track in third, behind Mayfield and Johnson.With 20 laps left, Earnhardt drove by Johnson on the inside and set his sights on Mayfield. He didn’t take long.Junior ran up high in Turns 1 and 2 to get momentum, then swooped underneath Mayfield down the backstretch, moving into the lead with hardly a struggle.”We had a great car to start with, but it just seemed as the race went on, the tighter we got,” Mayfield said of his car’s handling. “Dale Jr. and those guys got ahead of the track and we didn’t.”Kenseth started 30th and was up to 13th after 15 laps, and eventually got to sixth before the first pit stops. But he made a rare mistake, spinning his Ford as he came into the pits, and dropped a lap down after a drive-through penalty.He made up the ground during the second caution for oil on the track, because he was the first lapped car behind the leader, and got his fourth straight top-10 finish to start the season.Kenseth leads Tony Stewart by 82 points, with Earnhardt another eight points back.