The Olympics Of The Best Athletes Who Can Afford It

There’s something about the winter games I don’t like. These are athletes of privilege. Not everyone who competes is rich, but no one competing is poor.

Kids can’t discover these sports unless they’re afforded the opportunity to try them. They’re not cheap. It’s a barrier to entry.

Please don’t misunderstand. We’re seeing terrific athletes. But there is a cost of this competition far beyond physical ability.

It’s really the “Olympics of the Best Athletes Who Can Afford It.”

Olympic Observation

I’m enjoying the Olympics. I’m not alone. The ratings have been very strong.

The Olympics on NBC are entertaining in much the same way a Bruce Willis or Steven Segal movie is. There’s hard fought conflict, but in the end the US will prevail in nearly everything NBC chooses to show.

The Chinese and Americans have around the same number of medals. Have you seen as many Chinese? I rest my case.

One thing I have noticed is these are great atheletes by training and genetics. The sprinters are perfectly muscular. The gymnasts are tiny. The women in the triple jump (hop, step and jump) are scarily wiry.

I wish it wasn’t that way!

I just watched 37 year old Oksana Chusovitina compete in gymnastics. I don’t care how she places, I smiled! She is not in the Olympic mold.

Basketball had 5′ 3″ Mugsy Bogues. The Phillies had Mike Fontenot. He’s listed at 5′ 8″. He’s more like 5′ 5″. These players found success in spite of what God gave them.

Is there room for a Charlie Hustle in the Olympics? I think not. Shame.

The games are fun. They would be even more fun if everyone wasn’t a superman.

NBC’s Olympic Failure To Communicate

What we have here is a failure to communicate! All these events were shown live! Every bit of the Olympics is available live as it happens. The NBC Television Network (your local NBC station) is just one of many places to see the games, but it is by-and-large not the place to see them live!

We’ve been watching the Olympics a good part of today.

“I know how this one came out,” Helaine said more than once.

That is the curse of the early 21st Century. She, along with some Facebook friends wonder why they’re suffering through tape hard drive delay? The results have already been on Twitter and Facebook. The cat’s out of the bag.

Steve Schwaid, the ├╝ber competitive Bobby Valentine of TV news directors, tweeted:

Curious – does it bother you that nbc is not showing some of the major events live- like the Phelps/Lochte? Pls send me ur thoughts.

What we have here is a failure to communicate! All these events were shown live! Every bit of the Olympics is available live as it happens. The NBC Television Network (your local NBC station) is just one of many places to see the games, but it is by-and-large not the place to see them live!

NBC (seen on WVIT-30 here in Connecticut) is more a “Best of” channel with recorded coverage that’s been sliced, diced and produced for maximum TV effect. It will be the most exciting channel with the most motivating backstories… as long as you’ve kept your head in the sand until you watch.

That TV savvy people like Steve Schwaid and my wife don’t understand the game plan is NBC’s fault! Along with my complaints about the difficulty in seeing their streaming coverage, NBC has failed in explaining and showing people how to watch what they want to watch.

What NBC is doing as far as depth of coverage is concerned is unprecedented. They’re getting almost no credit for that! No one in their audience will get it without a little educating.

The Google Play Store shows NBC’s Olympics Live app with 100,000+ downloads and around 3,000 raters. That’s a sad installed base.

There’s almost two weeks of coverage left. I wonder if NBC’s online and secondary channel strategy will change?

Olympics Streaming Nearly Gets It Right

Earlier, Helaine called me to her computer. The free online Olympic streaming was hung up at the point where her Comcast credentials were requested. The process failed by returning her to the point where she was asked to specify our cable provider.

The photo above is the table tennis venue at the 2012 London Olympics. OK, no one was playing when I tuned in, but at least I was finally able to tune in. Mostly the online Olympic video has been a pain or a fail.

Earlier, Helaine called me to her computer. The free online Olympic streaming was hung up at the point where her Comcast credentials were requested. The process failed by returning her to the point where she was asked to specify our cable provider.

Oh, yeah. You need to subscribe to cable or satellite to get the free streaming. Cord cutters are not welcome!

As it turns out most flavors of Linux, the operating system on Helaine’s laptop, are suffering this same indignity. Considering the streaming seems to come out of a custom YouTube channel and YouTube videos are usually easily seen on her laptop this is a head scratcher.

The problem is Ubuntu and some other Linux ‘flavors’ don’t automatically load the DRM (digital rights management) software necessary to protect NBC’s investment. Finding this solution was not easy. In fact my last blog entry is a small attempt to make it easier for others following in my footsteps.

Helaine can now watch Rhythmic Weightlifting and the Javelin Catch even if they’re not on TV.

For my Asus Transformer Prime tablet the problem is a little more vexing. It’s not supported, period!

The “NBC Olympics Live Extra” app will let users watch more than 3,500 hours of live events on tablets and smartphones. But only customers who have a cable or satellite subscription will get full access — and the app is available only on Apple devices and a “select” list of Android phones and tablets. — (CNNMoney)

Not only isn’t my tablet ‘selected,’ neither are those made by Samsung. This isn’t rocket science. There are already loads of streaming sites that have figured out how to serve me.

The rating for NBC’s Android app speaks for itself. I’m not the only unhappy camper this evening.

NBC Olympics Streaming Problem On Linux Solved!

For most of my usual blog readers this will be obscure gobbledygook. Feel free to move on.

If you’re trying to stream the Olympics and find yourself stuck at the authentication page it’s because your system doesn’t have the software necessary to protect NBC’s video. Easily cured! Though the streaming is done via conventional Flash technology,

A missing Ubuntu HAL (Hardware Abstraction Layer) module, which is not installed by default, causes this behavior. – Source Adobe

For Ubuntu open a terminal and

sudo apt-get install hal

After the “libhal” (HAL) library install completes, close the browser and clear the Adobe Access directories by executing the following shell commands:

cd ~/.adobe/Flash_Player
rm -rf NativeCache AssetCache APSPrivateData2

For Suse and other Linux distros head here.

This took about two minutes on my Ubuntu laptop and now works perfectly.

You’re welcome.

Tom Brokaw’s Gander, Newfoundland 9/11 Lookback

Back here in the family room I was crying like a little baby. OK, I’m a soft touch for crying, but this real story is a real tear jerker.

On March 11, 2010 NBC announced this documentary would re-air. More details here.

Helaine and I were watching Olympics coverage this afternoon when Tom Brokaw was brought on to introduce a feature piece about Gander, Newfoundland’s part on September 11, 2001. I already knew much of the story. Helaine hadn’t heard any of it.
From Gander Airport’s website:

On September 11, 2001, 39 heavy aircraft were diverted to Gander International Airport when airspace was closed in the United States because of tragic terrorist hijackings. Runway 13/31 was converted to a temporary aircraft parking ramp. The airport terminal was turned into an aid centre as food and clothing was distributed to stranded passengers. The airport and its surrounding community afterwards received high praise for their response to the tragedy.

gander airport 9-11-01.jpgAll of a sudden Gander’s 10,000 residents had 7,000 guests¹!

The piece started slowly. At two minutes in it was obvious they’d buried the lede, until I realized this was no two or three minute piece. Brokaw and team had produced and NBC was showing a full length documentary!

It’s a shame to say if NBC had told its audience they were about to see a full length documentary they would have bailed in droves. They probably did anyway in which case they missed a truly wondrous story.

There are few superlatives to describe how kind and generous these Newfoundlanders² were. They opened their schools, homes, and wallets.

Back here in the family room I was crying like a little baby. OK, I’m a soft touch for crying, but this real story is a real tear jerker.

In the crush of news this 9/11 story was mainly lost. Without this Brokaw package it was destined to become more obscure. I was surprised at how many abandoned links I found while trying to find some interesting quotes for this entry.

Mostly the Twitteratti seem to agree with my assesment:

  • cukawen : Watching the brokaw special on #gander on 9-11-01…all I can say is wow.
  • porcupineridge : Great NBC/Tom Brokaw story on Gander, Newfoundland during 9/11 ground stop. Why can’t I find it online?
  • villageous : Just saw Tom Brokaw’s report on Gander, Newfoundland. Compassion people everywhere showed that day truly is lasting legacy of 9/11.
  • trs614xc : this tom brokaw segment about Gander, Newfoundland’s response to grounded flights on 9/11 is one of the most touching things i’ve ever seen
  • RoccoDeMaro : Tom Brokaw is a legend. But his never-ending, meandering piece on Gander / 9-11 felt like a trip to my wife’s grandmother’s house.

Thanks Rocco. There’s one in every crowd!

I agree with “porcupineridge.” Why can’t I find it online?

¹ – To say Gander is rural is an understatement! I landed there for refueliing on a westbound Overseas National Airways DC-8 transatlantic flight in the mid-70s. We flew in over a deep pine forest without seeing a sign of civilization. I figured we’d see the town on the way out, but again, nothing but pine trees until we were back over the Atlantic.

² – Originally this entry contained a less elegant nickname describing Newfoundlanders. Brian J. Mallard of Memorial University in St. John’s told me, “The majority of us do not like the term.”
My apologies to anyone offended. It was a poor attempt at showing affection.

The Physics Olympics

Working down the street from Yale University must be somewhat like living next door to Jessica Alba. It’s easy to see what’s so special. You’re seldom invited over.

An exception was made Saturday. Dr. Steve Girvin, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics and Applied Physics&#185, asked me if I’d like to attend the annual Yale Physics Olympics. How could I say no?

Students from high schools in Connecticut and nearby states sent teams to Yale to compete in fun, though intellectually challenging, physics based games.

They built bridges, redesigned electrical circuits and tried to predict movement in a virtual stock market. I’m sorry – did you mention what you did Saturday?

If your local school board ever asks for a new facility to further education, send them to Yale. Sloane Physics Lab, where the competition took place, is an ancient building. The lecture hall we occupied was probably outmoded 50 years ago. It is still a center of exceptional education.

Education is dependent on an open exchange of ideas and knowledge, not furniture.

The kids who gave up their Saturday afternoon are the smart kids. Their intellect probably makes them socially awkward now, but they’ll be the one’s we’re all working for later. Think Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos and Mark Cuban.

I did a lot of helping out Saturday. I’m not sure they really needed me, but I was thrilled to be a part of the action. I poured liquid nitrogen (somewhere around 325&#176 below zero Fahrenheit) into a Styrofoam vessel for a demonstration on electrical conductivity, rode a bicycle powered by CO2, and a hovercraft lifted by a very noisy leafblower (as immortalized in the attached youtube video).

As someone who works in TV news, where the easiest way for a teenager to make air is to kill or be killed, this Saturday afternoon was a breath of fresh air.

&#185 – My knowledge of academia is limited, but I do know an endowed chair is a big deal… even bigger at Yale. As it turns out, he’s a great guy and not at all pretentious about the fact he can think us all under the table.

Out Of Bandwidth

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.

When You Don’t Know Number One

Google has announced its Zeitgeist list for 2006.

I always thought this list should be their most popular searches. It’s not. Year after year the most popular search terms are pretty much the same… and I’m sure the Google boys didn’t want to let on what people are really searching for.

No specifics, but by and large, you’re perverted!

As Google’s corporate voice explains:

We looked for those searches that were very popular in 2006 but were not as popular in 2005 — the explosive queries, the topics that everyone obsessed over. To come up with this list, we looked at several thousand of 2006’s most popular searches, and ranked them based on how much their popularity increased compared to 2005.

Indulge me a moment. There are some entries we do have to discuss. For instance, number one on Google’s master list is Bebo. Yes – the world is searching for Bebo. I have no clue what Bebo is (and until a moment ago, I was going to type ‘who it is’)!

Let’s put this in perspective – each time I type Bebo, my spell checker reminds me I’ve done something wrong!

From Wikipedia: Bebo (pronounced “Bee-boh”) is a social networking website, designed to allow friends to communicate in various ways. It has developed into an online community where users can post pictures, write blogs and send messages to one another, and is similar in format to MySpace,, Xanga and Yahoo! 360.

Inferred in that is, I’m too old (or too married) to ‘get’ a social networking site. That’s depressing.

There are a few other interesting tidbits to be found. There was lots of buzz off the net (aka – the real world) this year for Dancing with the Stars and Project Runway. They’re both rounding errors compared to American Idol!

Likewise, the Super Bowl, World Series and Olympics paled in comparison to the World Cup – a non-event in the United States.

If you’re romantic, the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes wedding took 4 of the top-10 spots in the marriage list. Next year, we’ll see how the breakup rates.

Finally, who are the Cheetah Girls and why do so many people want tickets? Can a huge touring act be completely under my radar? Am I that unhip?


We’ve already established, it snowed this weekend. It snowed a lot. When you have a snowfall and use the word “feet,” you know there’s trouble.

Let the games begin!

I went to sleep around 4:30 AM this morning. As I snuggled close to Helaine, the sound began – “beep, beep, beeep, beep.” It was rhythmic, probably a beep every three quarters of a second. It was a plow.

At 4:30 AM plow drivers make the NBA minimum, give or take a few cents. His truck was pushing and then backing up the full length of my street. Helaine counted. He did it four times.

“Beep, beep, beeep, beep.”

You know, I shouldn’t care. In fact, I should be happy. My street was nicely plowed. But that doesn’t end the saga.

I walked out this morning and saw the carnage. My mailbox had become a casualty in the annual “Snowplow Olympics.”

And really, I’ll have to take the blame. After all, it was I who put it on my lawn, close enough for the postman to reach from his truck. How could I have been so careless?

Steven Wright used to tell a joke about owning the ax George Washington had used to cut down the cherry tree… except he had replaced the blade… and the handle… but it occupied the same space. In that same way, this is my one and only original mailbox.

It looked so sad, sitting there in the freshly compacted and plowed snow pile.

This morning our mailman obediently put the mail in the decapitated box. It’s nearly the same height as the poll. Will he do this as the snow melts and the box heads toward the curb below?

I’ll stop at Home Depot later today. There are kits made for losers like me. The mailbox will be back in on its stand in the next day or two.

I’ll still worry. Once a plow blade gets a taste of mailbox, it’s tough to get it out of its system. They’ve been known to attack again.