Tag Archives: Olympics

Is there nothing Google Earth cannot do?

Pax Arcana

Well here’s a bit of serendipidous news for you. Not only can Google Earth spot north-south facing bovines on the plains of Nebraska, but also it can win you a gold medal in the Olympics.

Cyclist Kristin Armstrong ventured to Beijing last December and rode the time trial course for her event wearing a GPS unit in order to track the course elevation metrics for training purposes. She then returned to the states and mapped the GPS data using several different technologies, including Google Earth. Then she went back to China and won the time trial in a stirring race that might have been on TV if not for NBC’s 4-hour block of Olympic Bouncing Sexy Asses.

On a Google blog, Armstrong describes how this process helped her train for the event:

I was then able to trace the entire course from the comfort of my home half a world away and find a similar route to train on back in Boise. This capability along with having the elevation profile proved invaluable in my preparation for my Gold Medal race. It was also very nice to be able to show family members and friends the course from the excellent satellite views presented by Google Earth.

By coincidence, last night I used Google Earth to show my friends and family where I trained to be an astronaut. The resolution wasn’t sharp enough to see all the details, but I know an abandoned refrigerator when I see one.

How Google Earth Helped Win a Gold Medal [TechCrunch]
From Google Maps to gold medal [Lat Long Blog]


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Ms. Jackson, if you’re Nastia

Father Scott

Thanks to a repeatedly botched cable installation, I’ve been watching an assload of Olympics. That’s a lot.

Historically I haven’t been that into it, but as I said, extenuating circumstances. I’ve found myself pretty intrigued by them this year — even events like synchronized diving and pommel horse have me weighing in like an expert.

One thing I thought last night while I was watching a re-run of the women’s gymnastics floor routine (really), was: good Lord, NBC has devoted a ton of people to this effort. They’ve got inside stories about everybody. They’ve got cameramen everywhere — so many that you can’t get a clear shot because there’s always a cameraman in the shot. Hell, during the marathon they had blimps overhead with the commentators giving history lessons. How much does this effort cost?

As the New York Times points out (via FanHouse), the better question is: How much is NBC making? The answer is: a lot.

The Beijing Games have become the hottest event of the summer, with numbers that so far have been certifiably big — far beyond the network’s expectations. The Games have drawn an average audience of about 30 million a night on NBC itself, millions more on NBC’s cable channels, 30 million unique visitors to NBC’s Olympics Web site, 6.3 million shared videos from the coverage streamed on the site and an ultimate profit that network executives project will surpass $100 million.

Late last week, the chief executive of NBC Universal, Jeff Zucker, released the additional inventory to clamoring advertisers, especially movie companies hungry to put their latest releases in front of viewers. “We don’t have any more costs, so that will go straight to the bottom line,” Mr. Zucker said.

The article becomes a little too meta for my tastes, as NYT goes on to consider the viability of network television henceforth. That’s lovely. And there’s this crazy bit of commentary:

In some ways, NBC has been lucky. There have been no significant protests and no crackdowns by Chinese authorities, and the record-breaking quest of Michael Phelps and the gymnastics showdown between China and the United States were made-for-TV successes.

There are like eight bajillion people at or involved in these games. Are we that shocked that there is a record-breaking quest, a hard-fought showdown, and a bunch of tears? Decent point about no protests, though.

Anyway, for an $894 million investment, plus god-knows-how-much in employee compensation and travel, returning nine figures is sweet. They may be botching some of the coverage — women’s gymnastics is maybe the most popular Olympic sport, and it aired past midnight, with the re-run coming at 11 on Sunday — but all in all a fine job.

Which is good news for us GE stockholders.

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Marvin Gaye is the national anthem

Pax Arcana

The jury is still out on whether the US Olympic basketball team can reclaim its former glory in Beijing this summer, but one thing is certain — this Nike commercial almost made me forget that our squad is a bunch of pampered millionaires who should be embarrassed to finish with anything less than a gold medal.

Let us now commence the run for the gold in honor of Marvin Gaye, and his spectacular rendition of the national anthem:

Hat tip: FanHouse


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Ancient Greek computer had an Olympic calendar widget

Pax Arcana

The Antikythera Mechanism is widely thought to be the oldest analog computer ever found. Hauled from the depths of the Aegean Sea in 1900, the computer was constructed of a series of interlocking gears of different sizes that worked together to reconcile the lunar month calendar with the solar year calendar.

Researchers used new 3-D X-ray tomography technology to identify the names of the months on the back of one of the dials. They were surprised to learn that the computer’s origin was likely Corinthian, and not Rhodesian:

The mechanism’s connection with the Corinthians was unexpected, the researchers said, because other cargo in the shipwreck appeared to be from the eastern Mediterranean, places like Kos, Rhodes and Pergamon. The months inscribed on the instrument, they wrote, are “practically a complete match” with those on calendars from Illyria and Epirus in northwestern Greece and with the island of Corfu. Seven months suggest a possible link with Syracuse.


Anyway, the cool part of the story is buried near the bottom. It turns out that while they were at it, the Greeks attached a separate dial for tracking the pan-Hellenic games, otherwise known as the Olympics. The four-year cycle was a “common framework for chronology” in ancient Greece, according to the researchers.

It is likely that some researchers will reconstruct the mechanism and demonstrate the power of ancient computers. Then the open source community will demand to see the specs on dial sizes and numbers of gear teeth. Then Apple will come out with a smaller, easier to use version that also stores 50,000 MP3s. Then Google will come out with its own Olympic calendar widget. Then someone will develop a Metonian calendar Facebook application. Then someone will coin the phrase “Web 2.Ω” and write a best-seller about how applying the ancient wisdom of Greek computer makers can improve your bottom line.

Man. I’m full of ideas.

Discovering How Greeks Computed in 100 B.C. [New York Times]

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I would have been an awesome plunge diver

Pax Arcana

If you’re like me, you’ve rolled your eyes at somebody’s suggestion that ballroom dancing, animal husbandry, or mime should be an Olympic sport. Then you had your servants peel another bushel of peaches and lob them at neighborhood children.

Anyway, it’s easy to make fun of the hobbyists and delusionals that desperately want to represent their country in whatever goofball endeavor they pursue in lieu of a personal life. But according to this article (via Deadspin), we’ve probably lost more ridiculous Olympic events than we could ever gain in the future.

For example, the 1904 Olympics boasted an event called plunge diving, in which the athletes simply dove into a pool — or lake, probably — and tried to coast farther than their competitors without taking a stroke. Then there was dueling pistols from 1906, in which contestants took aim at mannequins in frock coats.

I’m also partial to tug-of-war (1900-1920), club swinging (1904), and one-handed weightlifting (1896).

You don’t want to know what they used to do with the ball

These outmoded contests got me to thinking about potential events at which the authors of Pax Arcana would excel. Here’s my list. Add your own thoughts in the comments:

Pax Arcana: Hands-free Peanut M&M catching, chest hair lather building, and competitive margarita mixology.

Perry Ellis: The booze-making heptathlon, Hüsker Dü trivia, and (when in the appropriate physical condition) jowling.

Father Scott: Bearding, Maine-specific wardrobe compilation, and precision butt cheek manipulation.

Fallen Angel: Anger, Vitriol, Wrath.

Reverend E: Speed mustache-growing, bar trivia, Irishness.

Also, because there is still hope for men’s synchro:

Strange discontinued Olympic sports [AP]


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