"Real" Medal Count

As a follow-up to the announcement that all judged sports are being eliminated from the Olympics, I'm publishing below an updated medal count. Unlike the medal counts you've seen, this one only counts the "real" medals; events that aren't ridiculous.

You'll notice that China, which leads the gold rankings by a fair amount in the link above, is by far the most affected by this correct ranking. Indeed, only three of the American golds are improper, while 25 Chinese golds are trash, which is just less than half their total. Eliminating judged sports is not anti-China, it just happens that China focuses on those kinds of events. Many other nations, including the USA, lose a fair number of overall medals due to this modification.

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Gateway Cycling


I recorded the BMX races last night out of curiosity. (I've included some HD screen grabs of crashes for your enjoyment; click on them for the full size image.) BMX has been introduced to increase the interest of young people, those who like Xtreme sports. NBC even has a BMX crashes compilation (link broken) for you to watch while you drink your Mountain Dew or get another tattoo.


This is the first year BMX is being contested at the Olympics and I'm conflicted about it. While I support any kind of cycling, in order to introduce this kind of cycling, the Olympic Organizing Committee cut two track events (the men's 1000m and women's 500m time trials) to make room for the BMX events. This was done to conserve the number of cycling events. According to this page (link broken) there are 18 cycling events. Swimming has 34 events. So increasing the number of cycling medals wouldn't have given it a ridiculous number of medals (unless you think swimming has a ridiculous number of events, which I in fact do). Granted, Olympic cycling isn't as popular as Olympic gymnastics, and that only has 14 medals, but at least gymnastics takes place on different equipment. The cycling events range from 40 seconds to over six hours on four different kinds of venues that require very different types of skills and strategies. Each medal rewards a clearly different set of accomplishments. All but two of the swimming events are in the same damn pool (the 10K open-water swim is new this year) with the same equipment, only the strokes and distances change, and the distances vary by far less than cycling. It's not clear that adding BMX is a net gain for cycling in the Olympics, and they could have very easily increased the number of cycling events, in my opinion.

Of course, cycling has the Tour de France every year, while swimming has ?


I think the best thing that can happen is if BMX becomes a kind of gateway drug into cycling. Get the young ones into the sport and then push them into the real hard stuff, like the velodrome and road cycling. Then they'll really be hooked and there's no going back.

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Cancelled Olympic Events

Olympic Rings

Breaking news: These sports will be immediately eliminated from the Olympic games, due to the fact that they are incredibly lame and arbitrary. Any sport that is judged is "inherently flawed and unfair," the UN ruled today, and subjecting the worldwide public to these events will be deemed an "act of cruelty." Any medals already awarded in these sports in the undergoing Olympics will be reclaimed and turned into equipment for legitimate sports, like weights or shot puts (much like turning "swords into plowshares").

  • Boxing: A borderline event, it does have a clear scoring system, but matches can be called when "in the referee's opinion, (a boxer is) being outclassed or excessively punished." Also, boxing is brutal and thuggish.
  • Diving: Until and unless the diving competition becomes quantifiable (e.g. splash height and distance in the belly flop competition), diving is prohibited from the Olympics.
  • Equestrian: While this isn't always judged, any Olympic sport that uses another animal is so obviously disqualified it needs no further comment.
  • Gymnastics: The king of judged sports. Incredibly popular world-wide. This event pits tiny men and girls (and they're almost entirely girls, see the "16" year-old Chinese girl) in events where grace and style are actually part of the scoring. There have been scoring controversies every year. Until and unless scoring can be done by an objective computer, this event is banished to the WE channel between reruns of Hallmark movies.
  • Judo & Taekwondo: While these are awesome events, they are judged. An electronic scoring system, similar to fencing, would be acceptable.
  • Modern Pentathlon: See equestrian, above.
  • Rhythmic Gymnastics: See gymnastics, above. Also, no real sport needs a ribbon which one twirls artistically.
  • Synchronized Swimming: While the world loves a pool full of young women in swimsuits (see Baywatch), any sport set to music and that has choreographers is clearly eliminated from the Olympics. Dancesport isn't in the Olympics, and Synchronized Swimming shouldn't be either. (*)
  • Trampoline: Most don't even know this is in the Olympics. So most won't miss it.

The UN also ruled that in evaluating future Olympic sports, the IOC will only consider events that Stephen Skory cares about.

(*) With apologies to my good friend Chris S., it seems to me that Dancesport is hijacking the word "sport' like so many humanities hijack "science.' If dancing was obviously recognizable as a sport, it wouldn't need to append the word at the end. We don't call it Baseballsport. Or Physicsience.

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No, You Are Not Cool


I've seen this Lotus Elise parked on campus often, but recently it got this "007" sticker. Putting the double-oh-seven on your car is about as bad as putting random Japanese characters on your windshield. James Bond did drive a Lotus Esprit in The Spy Who Loved Me, but it went underwater. This Lotus doesn't even have a roof. And yes, this is the same parking lot where I saw the Hawaiian GT-40.

After I took this photo, the driver came up and I chatted briefly with him. I did not say to his face that he's a doofus, but I was thinking it the whole time. Apparently he has the numbers on because he took the car to a race course, but there are 998 other three digit numbers he could have chosen that were less ridiculous than 007. He said his other car he races has "666" on it and he calls it "The Beast."

In the same lot today I saw this Smart Car. While I disagree with the color choice (red? on a 71 HP car?), the owner of this car is ever so much cooler.


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Tour of California 2009

I have previously groaned about the Tour of California ignoring everything south of Los Angeles. But today it was announced that next years tour will visit San Diego County! The final stage is Rancho Bernardo to Escondido. They must plan a circuitous route as those communities aren't very far apart.

I'm excited.

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My Lacerated Digit


Be careful around those sharp coconut milk can tops, or else you could cut your finger. Then you'd have to go to the emergency room to get your finger glued and a tetanus shot.

I'm just saying, I think it's best if you take my word for it.

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Music History Graph

Music History

Above is a small part of my music listening history as reported to last.fm over the last year and a half. Time is plotted left to right, overall number of tracks by the width of the shape, and the colors represent individual artists. I used LastGraph3, which if given your user name will make a set of graphs from your data.

If you click on the image above, you'll see the full history. It looks like I go through periods where I listen to a fair bit of music, and then stop, and start again. I think there's a fair amount of smoothing of the data. I think my history would look even more jagged without smoothing.

I like plots like this because they show multidimensional data using colors and shapes in an intelligent way. Of course the classic example is Minard's famous depiction of Napoleon's 1812 Russian campaign. I think everyone should have to learn how to make good plots, and understand how to read one. When I was a TA, I constantly had to remind students the point of making graphs - I think nearly all of them felt it was busy work rather than a way to organize and visualize data; a way to recognize a physical effect.

Just like significant figure errors (I am bothered enough by those to contact newspaper reporters: I've done it in the past), I cringe at the sight of misleading or poorly organized graphs. The worst offenders tend to use Excel, whose plots are instantly recognizable as probably being garbage. I also dislike the USA Today charts and many plots seen on the various network evening news shows. Too much artistic influence from graphics artists (no offense K.P.!), and not enough substance.

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Uncle Dubya’s Money

I finished my taxes over the weekend and I discovered that in 2007 I made a whopping three dollars more than in 2006. Three dollars is three dollars, right? Not so fast, according to this page, I actually made an inflation-adjusted 5% less in 2007 than 2006. Good times for grad students!

Actually, it's not quite that simple. In 2006 I was paid more for a higher-earning TA position (66% vs. 50%, for those of you in-the-know), and in 2007 my investments covered that difference. So unless the economy collapses (it's possible!) I can count on my investments continuing to pay off in the long run.

TurboTax told me that I can expect a $600 check from the Treasury. I am sophisticated enough to realize that money is never free. As the government is already running a huge debt, this largesse is just more debt. And who gets to pay for this, why, I will! Depending on the next few congresses and presidents, it could be sooner or later, less or more, but in the end the $600 is not going to be free to me.

So, I give to my dear readers, a list of what I can do with Uncle Dubya's Money:

  • Save/invest the money to prepare for the eventual increase in taxes that has to come.
  • Buy some more RC helicopter stuff. I haven't flown my helicopter since December mostly because I've been forcing myself to focus on school. But also to keep me from spending too much money on it. With this money I could upgrade the parts, buy a bunch of spares, or buy a whole new toy! Like a nitro-power RC car.
  • Buy a flat-screen television. But then I'd have a nice TV, and I could watch what on it? I'd have to pay for cable or satellite, or buy a Blu-Ray player.
  • Convince Melissa to use her $600 with mine and we could do something really fun, like a trip to Europe. Except then we'd be spending all our money on either airfare or in a foreign country, which isn't the point of the money, right? And what with today's weak dollar $1200 buys approximately a nice dinner in Europe. At McDonalds. Maybe Burger King.
  • I think now is the time to enter the housing market. The $600/$1200 could go for a down-payment on a nice condo here. And in a couple years we can sell it for huge profits due to the raging San Diego real estate market. A good idea? Maybe not.
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Busted Elevator


There is nothing moving in this image - the doors are stuck half open and the elevator mis-aligned with the floor. This is why I try to use the elevators in my building at school as little as possible. People get stuck inside with regularity.

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2008 Presidential Primary


Today is my presidential primary, even though for most Californians it's on February fifth. I am a permanent absentee voter so I got my ballot in the mail yesterday. Besides the convenience of voting at home, I advocate absentee voting because it guarantees a paper record of your vote. All the paperless voting systems out there cannot be trusted. I'm not worried about fraud and conspiracies, I'm just familiar with how fragile most computer systems are. Without a paper record that the voter visually verifies before locking in their vote, I will never use a computer voting system.

Another benefit: now I get to ignore any and all advertisements that will be flooding the airwaves in the next four weeks.

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Crazy Italian Men

Ghastly Pink

From the January 1 2008 Velonews, p. 70

When I was in Europe, I could always pick Italian men out of a crowd. They were the men willing to wear fashion even women aren't brave (stupid?) enough to wear. Before huge wrap around sunglasses became popular for everyone, I saw Italian men wearing them. Somehow I don't think Paolo Savoldelli's hideous pink thing will take the world by storm. Is he wearing two turtle necks below it? Or is the inside gray? Maybe he's wearing it in honor of his two pink jerseys from his Giro wins, but couldn't he have found something a little less ghastly?

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Amusing Spam

Amusing Spam

This is actually quite a clever spam in that they're not quoting a ridiculous amount of money. But in other respects they've make mistakes. I like how "IWP" seems to stand for some kind of action, like Input With Prejudice, but who can really know? It's also nine days until the end of year. It's very kind of the IRS to already have calculated my entire 2007 tax burden already, all my exemptions, and capital gains/losses, before the end of the year. I especially appreciate the Christmas greeting (see the full size).

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North Mesa Apartments Lawn

Mesa Lawn

Everyone likes a nice grass lawn. They're soft, aesthetically neutral, and you can recreate on them better than plain dirt or asphalt. They require lots of maintenance and water, but there are definitely situations when they're a wonderful thing, like in a large public park. You can play touch football on it, or croquet, or play with your dogs. You can also have a picnic on a lawn under a shade tree.

They are not a wonderful thing in the apartment complex where I live. San Diego is in the desert, even though we are next to the ocean. Nearly all of our water is imported from the Colorado river or points north. Water resources are finite and San Diego cannot continue to grow without heeding this fact. I find the lawn where I live to be completely ridiculous, and the photo above shows many aspects of why I find it so excessive.

  • It has been raining almost once a week for the last few weeks, but not enough to make the kind of mud seen here. Furthermore, I see mud like this all year, including the summer when it never rains. These lawns are either over-watered, poorly drained, or on really bad soil.
  • Just beyond the muddy track you can see some dead brown spots. There are spots like this everywhere. Too muddy here, dead just over there. Something is wrong.
  • There are concrete paths between all the buildings. The maintenance workers drive around in little carts, usually on the paths. Even so, they feel their time is precious enough to cut off the paths and ruin the lawn like this. Why even have a lawn here when it's going to get ruined?
  • In the corner of the photo you can see some entirely reasonable shrubberies that cover the minority of the ground in the complex. They require much less water and care then the lawn. I see them being tended only a few times per year, perhaps as often as once a month.
  • Once a week I see a horde of men (I guess 4) on lawn mowers tear nosily past my apartment. Another day a week someone comes by with an edger, grinding the cutter between the path and the lawn. The next day the leaf-blower comes to blow away leaves and grass cuttings. By adding these up, my guess is that the lawn costs about six days wages per week. That's a more than a whole employee, and I get to pay for this.
  • Because so many of the lawns are either muddy, or brown, I rarely see people recreating on them. It also has to do with the fact we're all graduate students and have other things to do (like write complaints like this). Since this isn't a city park, technically the surrounding community can't use it (there are "no dogs" signs at the entrances), so the number of potential lawn clients is small.

If things were the way they should be, there would be considerably less lawn coverage. There would be some lawns that were kept in good condition, well drained and large enough to recreate on. Places seen above would be turned into something less water and labor intensive, like a path, or native shrubberies.

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2007 Big Game

Cal: 13 Stanfurd: 20


Like me, Oski tries to keep a strong face (and two thumbs up!) but can only keep so much disappointment inside.

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There are two stories that are big in the news right now, the Hollywood writers strike and identity theft. They aren't related, but I see them as almost the same issue.

Hollywood writers are striking to force the producers of scripted shows to share online revenues with them. As long as you agree that the writers are due residuals for their work, it makes sense for them to demand their fair share. The producers say that there isn't any money online and therefore are standing their ground. (Side note: If there isn't any money online, why are the producers not willing to give a percentage of nothing?)

Copyrights are a big deal, that's the base of Hollywood's riches. Hollywood has fought hard to preserve these riches by convincing Congress to pass questionable legislation to protect these rights. Recently a professor at the University of Utah calculated that over a normal day he commits $12.45 million in liability - and he doesn't even use P2P software. The point of the study is that copyright laws are so ridiculous that ordinary, everyday activities that everyone feels are fine are illegal, so the laws should be changed. Simply making a copyrighted work available for infringing is illegal. My point is that congress has agreed with the content owners enough to enact these highly punitive laws that nearly everyone agrees are insane and no one respects.

Over the last few years there have been numerous cases of personal information being lost or stolen from governmental or private sources. Hard drives and laptops are lost and websites cracked. There are also the simple cases of dumpsters with unshredded confidential information. People are having their identities stolen every day which costs them time and money.

The parallel between copyright and what I'm calling identityright is this: we need laws to punish those who lose confidential information to the same extent we punish copyright infractions. Just like a person is criminally liable for simply making works available for theft, companies (and the government) need to be criminally liable for making identity information available, even if no harm has befallen the individual. If the CEO of a company was personally liable for any lost information, you can bet identity theft would decrease almost overnight. Just like the Hollywood writers feel any use of their creative work deserves compensation, I feel that any misuse of my identity gives me cause for redress.

Is this idea any more ridiculous than the current copyright laws?

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