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Monday, February 13, 2006

Snow 

So, i just got an email from a long-suffering reader asking how I could move to New York and not blog about the biggest snow storm in the city's history. Well, I guess because he hit on a weekend, and then today I didn't go to work* (although even when I do, I walk), so I guess the storm just didn't affect me that much. Yesterday I left home only to get a sandwich around the corner. Today, I did more, and I have to say I was glad I didn't have to drive anywhere--most streets, especially intersections, were still pretty bad, but besides negotiating crosswalks, it wasn't so bad. And the subway today worked fine for me (1 to 42nd, then N to Union Sq and back again to get a pound of coffee at 71 Irving Place).

So, yeah, mainly the snow didn't really affect me that much--but to be sure, there is a LOT of it. For much better blogging on this subject, including pics, see Steve Gilliard today and yesterday.

*I'm off this week studying for the bar exam so I can get rid of the stupid "Admitted in Illinois" disclaimer on my business card
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Sunday, February 12, 2006

More Olympics Blogging 

[Updated below]

That's right--more of the insightful analysis of the Winter Olympics you've come to expect from G&G. I just watched the Men's Downhill--in general, it was not compelling television, but Anoine Deneriaz, a Frenchman, had a pretty exciting run to win, I guess. But, more interesting is a couple of great technological developments NBC employed. First was showing static images of the skier coming off the first jump superimposed on one another--you saw 10 or so shots of the skier coming down, with the effect of being able to see his exact trajectory in a way you can't just by watching live. The second was some sort of simul-cast thing of two skiers at once, so you could see how Deneriaz won the race of that first jump--he came into the jump even with the silver medalist, but when the landed, he was a good body-length ahead. Good stuff.

Now watching short-rack speed skating. Pretty good stuff, but I can't say I know a thing about the strategy and whatnot.

UPDATE: King Kaufman touches on these topics and then some in Monday's column. First, he has a suggestion so seemingly obvious concerning the simulcast I'm pretty embarrassed that I didn't think to mention it below:
SimulCam is the result of a partnership between Sportvision -- the company that brought you the yellow first-down line, among other things -- and a sports video analysis company called Dartfish.

Here's a technical innovation that would make downhill skiing a lot more fun to watch: Live SimulCam.

You know how the TV graphic shows the leader's time at each split and compares the current racer's time to it instantly? That's helpful, because to the layperson, a great run down the hill looks exactly the same as one that's only pretty good. So you find yourself watching the clock, not the skier, to find out how he's doing.

Clearly, a great idea. Now, on to luge:
Luge: The ultimate Winter Olympics sport

So the luge is on and I'm thinking out loud: "Who invented this sport, anyway?" The wife says, "I think drunken college students."

A little online research, not that you can trust this Internet thing, reveals it was really 19th century Alpine loggers, who'd race each other home down the logging roads.

Same difference.

To me, the luge is the ultimate Winter Olympics sport. Not only does every run look exactly alike, with tenths of a second separating winners from also-rans in a three-minute-plus race, but the athletes don't even move.

"Look how flat and relaxed he is on the sled!" the announcers will say as a luger zooms down the course on his back, motionless. All around the world, kids burst into kitchens shouting, "Hey, Mom and Dad! I saw a guy today and he was flat, relaxed and immobile!"

"So did I," says Dad, an undertaker.

The worst thing about luge is that the crashes aren't even spectacular. A crash means the guy slides down the run next to his sled instead of on top of it.

Luge couldn't have been invented by drunken college students. They'd have thought of a few interesting twists.

I'd like to see the "ghost image" of the leader's run on the screen with the live skier as he goes down the mountain, so it looks like the two are racing down the hill. That would look like a real competition, instead of like a race against the clock.

Pretty much.

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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Luge 

1. Vodka shots out of an ice luge when you're 19---cool.

2. Luge, the olympic sport--uncool.

Btw, it occurs to me that if we named all our sports like we name luge and bobsled, auto racing would be "car." Then again, baseball is named "baseball," so maybe this point isn't as humorous and worthwhile as I first thought. Doesn't change the fact that i can't imagine why in holy fuck* you'd want to watch luge on TV.

*unnecessary profanity added due to make up for lack of it b/c Guth isn't posting.
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Friday, February 10, 2006

The Post-9/11 World 

I've become a big fan of Patrick Smith's weekly Salon column, "Ask the Pilot." This week's is especially good in talking about our country's insane reaction to 9/11. As they say in the blogging industry, read the whole thing, but here's the upshot (background: he's talking about taking pictures at airports):
Finally I'm asked to open my camera and scroll through each of its stored photographs, presumably to ensure I haven't snapped any shots of those shadowy forbidden items. When that checks out, and the news comes crackling back that I'm not a wanted fugitive, the officer thanks me for cooperating and lets me go. He makes sure to remind me, just as his colleague in New Hampshire had done, that next time I'd benefit from advance permission, and that "we live in a different world now."

Not to put undue weight on the cheap prose of patriotic convenience, but few things are more repellant than that oft-repeated catchphrase. There's something so pathetically submissive about it -- a sound bite of such defeat and capitulation. It's also untrue; indeed we find ourselves in an altered way of life, though not for the reasons our protectors would have us think. We weren't forced into this by terrorists, we've chosen it. When it comes to flying, we tend to hold the events of Sept. 11 as the be-all and end-all of air crimes, conveniently purging our memories of several decades' worth of bombings and hijackings. The threats and challenges faced by airports aren't terribly different from what they've always been. What's different, or "too bad," to quote the New Hampshire deputy, is our paranoid, overzealous reaction to those threats, and our amped-up obeisance to authority. [Emphasis added]
I encourage you to skim through his archives--he has a lot of interesting things to say about airport security.
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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Wire Blogging 

so, finally...finally, I've seen all three seasons of The Wire. I still think Season One is the best season, but, holy shit, that was some three-season arc they put together. I'm as excited as anyone for season four, but I can't imagine where they go from here (although, apparently they're going to take on urban schools, which, if this were any other show, I'd laugh outloud).

Anyway, the point of this post is that you need to go and see all three seasons right now. If you haven't, I frankly don't even want to talk to you anymore.

oh, and happy 60th birthday dad!
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Friday, February 03, 2006

Stupid Discovery Channel 

Notwithstanding the fact that a friend of mine is newly employed by The Discovery Channel (after some Time-Warner infighting prevented an HBO landing, according to my source), they are pissing me off. I see that Grizzly Man is going to debut on Discovery--cool, right? WRONG. It's not being broadcast on their HD channel, as far as I can tell. What the fuck? You have a documentary widely considered one of the best of the year, and you don't show it in HD? screw that.

Now, Ted Koppel--I have to say it's probably just as well if they don't put him on in HD.

UPDATE: I considered saying this in the original post, and probably should have. Considering that Grizzly Man is mostly this guy's home movie footage (right?), maybe the film quality is such that any upconversion to HD makes no sense. I'm not sure that's true, but it seems it could be true. Also, for clarity, the "source" in the above paragraph and my friend at Discovery are not the same person.
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The General Writes a Letter 

Here. The best thing is that he actually sends every letter he writes (he often posts responses, if he gets a response).
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Thursday, February 02, 2006

Racist Much? 

It seems the University of Chicago's law school faculty blog attracts the same upstanding types that infest, say, little green footballs or free republic. Check out the comments. wow.
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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

SOTU Blogging 

I watched the State of the Union for the first time since the run-up to the Iraq war. It was a pretty lame speech, all things considered. Even Fred Barnes only thought it was "more than adequate." The most striking thing to me was the continuation of the War on Straw. (For an early victories in the War on Straw, see here, here and here; for the huge victory Bush had last night in said war, see here.)

Also, via Brad DeLong, we get, really, the definitive word on Bush's SOTU:
The main reason why I didn't watch the speech to hear what Bush would say about science policy is that it doesn't matter what he says. This administration doesn't do policy, they do politics. If Bush says something in a speech, it's because they think it will sound good in a speech, period. That doesn't mean there's a concrete proposal in the works-- if the line in he speech is poorly received, odds are it will disappear without a trace. And even if the line sounds good, that doesn't mean there will be any follow-through-- ask the people of New York, Afghanistan, Iraq, and New Orleans about that.

So, yeah, "double the federal commitment to the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next 10 years" sounds great. So does "If we reverse the polarity on the flux capacitor, we can generate an infinite amount of free energy, and a pony." I'll believe it when I see the pony.
Now, Max has the best, real commentary on the speech I've found:

I'M AFRAID THIS ONE'S GOT AWAY FROM US
The president said if the U.S. left Iraq, it would be taken over by Al Queda. Not the Shi'a or the Saddamists. If he doesn't really believe this, he's a flaming liar; if he does, he's a bloomin idiot. We report, you decide.

I was struck by the effort to force democracy (equals elections) and peace into one box. Hamas won an election, so now for some reason they are obliged to make peace with Israel. Free elections in Egypt would allow the emergence of liberal, secular forces. Oh really? Instead of the fundies? Like in Iran?

I thought Tim Kaine did fine, though I was waiting for his left eyebrow to go flying away. "I'm free!" it would cry in a tiny, fuzzy voice. He punted on the war, but there's no unified Democratic position of the war, so there wasn't much else he could do.

I'm tired of the competence meme. Doesn't anybody remember Michael Dukakis? "What matters is not ideology, but competence." Anybody can claim to be competent ex ante and shift blame ex post. The MaxSpeak Competence Theorem states that both parties are more or less equally competent to govern; what matters is their ideology. By ideology I mean broad principles for governing. People who think they have transcended ideology are in the grip of . . . ideology. They just may not be aware of which ideology.

The oil addiction thing was funny. No doubt somebody could switch on the wayback machine and find Republicans heaping scorn on anyone who bemoaned the nation's dependence on petroleum. I was hoping he would get into methane production, wherein the Nation could harness the mighty wind of Bovino-Americans. Overall I liked this part, even though he still can't pronounce "nuclear."

I've already commented on the jobs thing. I'm glad GB made the standard clear: U.S. performance is great because it's better than Europe and Japan.

Where was the big health care blitz? A sentence or two about Health Savings Accounts, also known as Yet Another Tax Cut, also known as a second IRA for healthy, well-off people.

Commissions. Hey kids, let's put on a commission! Remember those movies? A Baby Boom Commission, or BBC for short. There was the Greenspan Commission in the '80s; they fixed Social Security for all time. I sat through the proceedings of the Bob Kerrey/Danforth Commission on Entitlements in the 90s. Clinton had a Social Security/Entitlements Commission. GB had a Social Security Commission and a Tax Reform Commission. Maybe we need a commission to study commissions.

That was a lot of ctrl-c/ctrl-v.
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