Friday, August 31, 2012

Suck It, Mosquitoes

The University of Cape Town in South Africa thinks they might have managed to solve one of the more intractable problems in the developing world: malaria. Malaria treatment right now is a very difficult, labor-intensive thing with a long recovery time, if you fully recover at all. What the Cape Town researchers have come up with is a single-dose pill. Which is kind of an improvement.

It's also an improvement that Africa was able to develop it internally, without needing to bring in the more traditional nations in the scientific world. As professor Kelly Chibale explained on Tuesday, “This is the first ever clinical molecule that’s been discovered out of Africa, by Africans, from a modern pharmaceutical industry drug discovery programme. The potent drug has been tested on animals and has shown that a single oral dose has completely cured those infected with malaria parasites.”

The animal testing reports a 100% success rate; clinical trials are scheduled for late next year. If that pans out, as Chibale claimed, it could mean 24% of child deaths in sub-Saharan Africa would have a cure waiting for them. And further than that, it's possible, given how effective the pill has been in animal testing, that it could not only treat malaria but prevent its spread as well, which would be a path to killing the disease altogether. Best-case scenario, it could be on the market around 2020.

Sri Lanka is way ahead of Cape Town. They're closing in on eradicating malaria by 2014. Despite a civil war spanning decades, Sri Lanka has gone from over a quarter-million cases of malaria as late as 1999 to 175 cases in 2011, 124 of which originated in Sri Lanka. The big drop finished in 2005- when they'd gotten it down to 591- and since then it's been a matter of mopping up those last several hundred.

Cambodia, whose local strain of malaria has a reputation for being the first to resist any new drug, is going to be the acid test if the Cape Town drug gets to market. If it can eventually make headway there, the odds of eradication increase dramatically.

But eradication's still a long way off. Don't start popping champagne yet. The drug has to get approved, get to market, get distributed to all manner of remote regions and wipe the disease out without trace. Disease eradication is exceedingly rare. Only two have actually been knocked out: smallpox and rinderpest. (Polio and guinea worm are not, though they're on their last legs.)

The conversation can start to happen. But don't end it.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Rule 34 (a) Of The Internet

Rule 34: No matter what you can think of, there is porn for it on the Internet.
Rule 34 (a): If you put something on the Internet and allow comments, sooner or later someone will take you up on the offer.
Rule 34 (a) (1): The more views something on the Internet gets, the more comments it is likely to get.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Probably The Single Most Important Sentence To Be Spoken From Here To November

"Fact checkers come to this with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs, and we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers."

-Neil Newhouse, pollster for the Mitt Romney campaign

The only possible thing you could translate this to is 'Facts are irrelevant to the Romney campaign. We are going to lie so brazenly, so often, about so many things, that we're betting you simply won't be able to keep up with it all and at least some of those lies will end up going unchallenged.'

This is one of those occasions when saying anything else will dilute the point.

Stay on your toes, folks.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Next SOPA Clone

It's called the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) now. You know what to do by now. Kill it with fire.

Yes, they're probably going to keep trying this until they slip one through the cracks.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Rapid-Fire Book Club, So How Much Do You Think It's Worth Edition

Yesterday I went into Madison for the farmer's market. During the day, I found one book that I figured worth a pickup: The Eastern Stars: How Baseball Changed the Dominican Town of San Pedro de Macoris, by Mark Kurlansky.

San Pedro de Macoris is an MLB factory. Dozens upon dozens of players have come out of the city, which is listed at about 264,000 people in population, a bit larger than Lincoln, Nebraska and a bit smaller than Plano, Texas. Among the locals: Alfonso Soriano, Fernando Tatis, Mariano Duncan, Guillermo Mota, Rico Carty, Luis Castillo, Sammy Sosa, Robinson Cano, Pedro Guerrero, Juan Samuel, Tony Fernandez, George Bell, Jose Offerman, Johnny Cueto, Joaquin Andujar, and Jose Valverde. (Lincoln, for comparison, has only sent ten players total to the majors, chief among them Alex Gordon and Joba Chamberlain. Plano has sent only a single player, pitcher Jordan Tata, whose career consisted of 11 games for the Tigers in 2006 and 2007.)

However, the book itself has an interesting little quirk to it: it's an advance copy. As you may have heard on any of the 62 billion 'here's a bunch of weird crap and how much money it's worth' shows (Antiques Roadshow, Pawn Stars, American Pickers, Auction Kings, etc.), book collectors look for 'first editions'. What is generally meant by that is the first published edition of a book. When people line up to buy the latest Harry Potter/Twilight/Hunger Games/whatever the hell book during a midnight release event, they're buying first editions. An advance copy comes before even that. They are the very first books off the press, sent out to reviewers, people who you're trying to get blurbs and endorsements from, the people in bookstores who make decisions on whether to stock it, people who need to see the book before release in an effort to have the word out when the book does get released. If a collector can get an advance copy, they will do so every time- there will be more errors and typos than in a release copy, but to a collector, that's actually kind of a good thing, like printing a stamp upside down.

Advance copies generally aren't supposed to be for sale. The one I've got says right there on the back cover, 'NOT FOR SALE'. But, well, you can see how well that works out sometimes, seeing as I've got one right here bought out of a bookstore. I wasn't even looking for one; that quirk just came with the book that I was going to buy anyway.

So how much do I think it's worth? About $7. That's what they charged me for it.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Republican National Convention, Or At Least It Should Be

So there's a chance that the Republican National Convention in Tampa, beginning on Monday, will be at the very least inconvenienced by the approaching Hurricane Issac. It's not expected to do anything like curtail or cancel the convention, although you never know. In the event that something crazy does happen, though (UPDATE: It appears it actually has), I have taken the liberty of supplying the GOP with a replacement convention.

Oh, look, it's starting now.


"Welcome back to Campaigns. The Red Jaguars have made it through the Temple Games and have proven themselves worthy, and now have earned the right to enter Olmec's Temple. But first, Olmec will give them some information to help them retrieve the 270th Vote of the Electoral College."

(NOTE TO CHILDREN OF THE 90'S: You are now reading the following in Olmec's voice.)

"You could start by heading up the stairs to the Room of the Vanishing Snowe. Reaffirm your faith in debate before entering the Primary Room. Rearrange the temple so the Primary Room comes first and head west to the Doctor's Office. After single-paying, you might choose to go down to the Yahd. If you remember to hit the campaign actuator at Fenway Park, you could go to the Isle of Rhode, or perhaps the Room of the Sore Loser. Drop Joe Lieberman down the Mine Shaft, and you could open the way to the Vault. After raising all the money, you might proceed to the Tomb of the Headless Kings. Attach the traumatized child to his proper football king, and you could move on to the Room of the Greasy Mandarin Hand. After placing all four fingers around the money, you can climb down to the Foundation Room, and then to the Lair of the Crabs, where you must gorge yourself for the camera in an effort to enter the Throne Room. Register as a Democrat and it might open up the Tomb of the Ancient Warriors. If you can severely overestimate the area's national political clout, you could proceed to the Rock Quarry. Frack everything that hasn't been buried under the shorn mountaintops and you may gain access to the Factory Ruins... where you can find the 270th Vote of the Electoral College. After grabbing it, you may decide to go north towards the Pit of Despair. After making all the trees the right height, if the ferry is in, you could then swing across the lake to the Jester's Court. Arrange your body to match the markings the Koch Brothers have drawn and travel down to the King's Storeroom. If you can avoid angering the mayor of Chicago, you may be headed to the Ancient Circus. Take the pace chariot for a lap around the room, and it could reveal the way to the Royal Stable. Then, pretend you know something about horseracing, or failing that, pick a horse's name out of a hat, and you could open up the Grand Concert Room. Hit the actuator and proceed swiftly east to the Smoke-Filled Backroom. From here, you could proceed to the Barracks, and then down to the Dining Room. Down the 14-pound, 96-patty bacon cheeseburger, and if you can still move, waddle your way south towards the Hurricane Room. If you survive, you might choose to head back up to the Room of the Secret Password. Find the tablet with the correct inscription- 'SEC', 'Roll Tide' or 'War Eagle'- and shout it out to open the door to the Room of Heavenly Purity. Banish the threatening scourge of Sharia Law and pass through to the treacherous Swamp. If you escape, you may be on your way to the Marketplace, but watch out! You cannot be carrying more than ten items if you wish to proceed! From here, you could move below to the southwest, or northwest to the Cave of Winds. If you can avoid being blown away by the tornadoes, you could try to climb north to the Room of the False Prophet. Picket the military funeral and you might have a chance to enter the Parchment Room. There, Kick Todd Akin square in the balls and it might lead you to the Royal Pantry. Assure the farmers that ethanol is still the way forward and head north to the Garden of the Many Ponds. Next, cross the ponds without collapsing the bridge and, if the door to the west opens, you could find yourself in the Void. Find the lone inhabitant and climb down to the Gallery of Heroes. Pose for a photo-op before heading to the Heartland Room. There, find the hidden electoral vote and you could opt to go west to the Winter Greenhouse. Grow the kindest bud before proceeding to the Devil's Observatory. It is important that you sculpt the mashed potatoes here, because it could open the way to the Cloister, where you must defend against all who come near your property before you reach the Confederate's Secret Passage. After placing the manifesto in the hands of the authorities, you could smash your way through to the Imperial Harem. Kneel in front of the underwear and you may be headed west to the SHRINE of the SILVER STATE Monkey! Assemble the economy and pass through to the Dark Forest. But beware of the Sierra Club Guards whose spirits may inhabit the trees! Grab the key from a tree, and continue up to the Aquaduct, where only cool people may make the long trek north to the Frozen Throne of the Pretender. Diagram the sentence and sail down the shaft to the Bamboo Courtyard. Pick your way through, and swing past the moat to the Room of the Golden Idols and reconstruct the budget there. Then, pass through Maricopa Dungeon, climb through Carlsbad Ledges, race through the Armory and back through the Temple Gate. The choices are yours and yours alone!

You won 1,438 delegates at the Temple Games. Who's going first?"

"I am!"

"Very well, Mitt. When Kirk gives the signal, you'll race through the gates and into the temple, and make your way towards the 270th Vote. Hidden inside the temple are Temple Guards, assigned to protect three specific rooms. You can trade your delegates for an extra life and go on, but, if you're caught without a delegate, you'll be taken out of the temple, and it will be Paul's turn to enter and try his luck. Hidden somewhere inside the temple are the other 493 delegates. If you find them, and you're carrying the other delegates, you will get an extra life. If you can reach the vote, all of the doors in the temple will instantly unlock, and the Temple Guards will vanish. Return through the gates with the 270th Vote of the Electoral College in three minutes, and you'll both be handsomely rewarded! And here's how!"

"First, you get skateboards! Variflex's Airwalker! A versatile skateboard with microwheels and concave design plus pads, and a helmet which meets industry safety standards. All from Variflex!

Grab the 270th Vote within three minutes and you'll also get the Presidency! You and a guest will fly to Washington DC and spend four years as chief executives of the United States of America, where you'll get to sign legislation into law, give annual addresses on the state of the Union, meet fellow heads of state, and stay in a mansion convenient to many local attractions!

If you can bring the 270th Vote out of the temple before the three minutes is up, you'll both be going to SPACE CAMP! You'll float like an astronaut and perform a shuttle mission during your action-packed week at Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama or Florida's Space Coast. From U.S. Space Camp!"

"Space Camp! Let's see if we can get them to Space Camp. Let's get set, Mitt's gonna get his mouthpiece in. Olmec, lower your gate."


"Let's put three minutes on the clock.


On your mark, get set, GO!"

Friday, August 24, 2012

Perhaps The Two Are Related

Two items that have recently come out of the Maldives.

Item #1: Back in February, the president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, was forced out of office in what he maintains is a coup, at gunpoint. Nasheed had made bringing attention to the Maldives' impending doom from rising sea levels a cornerstone of his administration.

Today, his successor, Mohamed Waheed Hassan, who has denied anything about a coup, has gone on record as saying the Maldives will not in fact sink beneath the waves. Presumably, he has gotten the Indian Ocean to pinky-swear to this arrangement.

Item #2: The country is trying to get $250 million to build a floating golf course. (A course which merely through someone mentioning the idea seems to have gotten most of the media to completely forget about the sea level and start fantasizing about 5-irons.) Surely the presence of Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy will solve everything. And after all, nobody would build such a thing in a country they thought would soon cease to exist. That would just be crazy. Any sort of actual usefulness of such a project appears to stem from the fact that, by creating manmade islands, you can pile them as high above sea level as you need them to be. A usefulness that should be tempered by the fact that you'd be basically trading an entire sovereign nation for a nation that is literally nothing more than a golf course.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Things You Can Buy In China

Someone to serve your prison sentence for you.

What we have here is a practice called ding zui- 'substitute criminal'. What happens is, you get really rich, you commit a crime, then you get some poor person who may or may not look kind of like you, and you pay him to do the time. This is apparently a practice dating back to at least the 1800's, and back then you could even hire someone to be executed for you if the price was right. I'm not sure what kind of DNA testing or fingerprinting the cops do over there, but it seems not to matter, as they appear to not only not give a rat's ass, but they in fact have never given a rat's ass. After all, they figure, the rich guy who actually did it has paid 'market value' for the crime, right? Whatever the hell that's supposed to mean?

So it's basically been left to the Internet to try and bust people attempting to ding zui their way out of their sentence by, oh, I don't know, comparing some goddamned photographs. Not that this stops the cops from shrugging their shoulders and going 'meh, they're probably wrong or something, pass the donuts'.

This is a thing that happens.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

How To Sell Beer To Underage Customers

1. Do not sell beer to underage customers.
2. If you think a customer might be underage, check their ID.
3. You should check ID if the customer appears to be under the age of 40.
4. If the ID depicts an animated cartoon character, such as Bobby Hill, it just might be a fake ID. You should refuse the sale.
5. Bobby Hill is underage.
6. If the ID also says outright that the customer is underage, refuse the sale.
7. If the customer presents you with an ID depicting an underage animated cartoon character, refuse the sale.
8. If someone is audacious enough to present you with a fake ID depicting an underage animated cartoon character, they just might be a legal-aged customer who is also part of a police sting.
9. Police stings are perfectly happy to bust six stores at once after they all sell beer to the same customer using an ID with an underage animated cartoon character.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Put Your Sippy Drinks Up

So while at work last night, working in the back room, I came across the Playskool Rocktivity Sit to Stand Music Skool.

This is not normally anything I'd think twice about. A lot of products cross my path every day. That's retail life for you. But the Rocktivity proved... slightly disturbing. You see, this is a toy intended for ages 6-36 months. Being a 'music skool', it plays music. Most of the music is what you would expect and want out of a toy for that age group. London Bridge is Falling Down, the alphabet song, the like.

But listen to this report from the 2012 New York Toy Fair and see if you can spot the song that got my attention:

'On The Floor' by Jennifer Lopez? (featuring Pitbull?) Really?

Just to get the idea across, here is a lyric video of On The Floor:

I mean, thankfully it's just an instrumental, and there are certainly worse songs to come out of a toy for babies and toddlers, but... club music? With exhortations to drink (the refrain, including the words 'grab somebody, drink a little more', being the part of the song cued up in the Rocktivity), references to 'badonkadonks', and I noticed an expletive in there? Really? All the hit songs you could have picked for ages 6-36 months, and you picked club music by J-Lo and Pitbull? Are you serious? At their prices you could have gotten the rights for just about any song you wanted. Any song. Flick on the radio, whoever's voice comes out, you could have gotten them. Kelly Clarkson. Owl City. Jewel's done two children's albums.

Or, you know, J-Lo can get 'Donkey Konged'. Your call, Playskool.

Monday, August 20, 2012


A brand-name drug is patented in the United States for about 10-15 years. After that, generic versions of the drug come on the market, offered at prices drastically lower than the brand-name drug. The vast majority of consumers immediately switch to the generic. The companies that make the brand-name drug hate it every time this happens, because it means a big bite out of their profit margin.

Right now, there's a particularly large glut of brand names coming off patent, which has the drugmakers very concerned. If they thought they could pull it off, you'd probably see them try to get patent law warped to Steamboat Willie levels, but since that isn't going to happen, they've come up with the idea of offering coupons to try to hang on to at least a few of the people who would otherwise bolt for the generic. (Or at least, people on private insurance. People on government insurance don't get to use them.) Even hanging onto a small number of people for a short time makes a big difference given the amounts of money we're talking about.

This is what you'd call 'Step 1'. Step 2 would be offering the coupons while the drug is still on patent, and Step 3 would be to offer them at lower prices in the first place.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Countries You Didn't Expect Would Be Working On Visits To Mars By Now


When you think about it for a second, it's not all that far-fetched, because India has made its economic name on technology in recent times, and they've sent up all sorts of satellites, but you probably weren't aware of India's mission to the moon in 2008- much less the fact that the probe they sent worked, or that it of all the lunar missions was the one to find water on the moon. The fact that India scored that scientific coup got them here, to the point of aiming for a Martian orbit. (Although if you were thinking of the whole squalor-and-poverty imagery, don't feel bad, because some local politicians are thinking of the same thing in an effort to get India's budget focused more on domestic concerns instead.)

Here's the Wikipedia page about India's space program.

Assuming the money's not diverted, they're planning for late next year, on the grounds that there's a 26-month orbiting cycle to work around, and they want to hit the point in the cycle when Mars is closest to Earth. Late 2013 is the next such point in time; the next points are in 2016 and 2018.

Obviously, best of luck to them.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Videogaming's Most Perfect Crime(s)

In the world of videogames, you get away with one hell of a lot of random wanton mayhem. You can break into houses and steal things right in front of the homeowners. You can smash pots for money; heck, you can smash anything for money, up to and including the prostitute you just had sex with. You can play punt-the-bystander-for-distance. The thing is, though, a lot of these acts of mayhem come with some sort of punishment- or at least a stated punishment, which might just end up being an excuse to commit more mayhem. You get the authorities to come to fight you, or more and stronger authorities.

Which leads to the question: what act of mayhem results in the least consequences and sees you make the cleanest possible getaway? What is the videogame world's most perfect crime of all time?

I submit E.V.O.: The Search For Eden, for the Super NES, for two candidates back-to-back. Spoiler alerts from here on in if you had any intention of soon playing an obscure 16-bit game nobody really cared about even when it came out.

In E.V.O., you play a creature selected by Gaia to work your way through various evolutionary time periods with the goal of eventually reaching Eden. You start out as a fish in the time before life first made its way onto land. Along the way, you kill other creatures in order to gain 'evolution points', which you then use to evolve in various ways. You eventually become an amphibian, a reptile, a bird, a mammal, and by the end there's every chance you'll have evolved into the game's highest lifeform, which is of course a human being. At the end of a time period, Gaia sets up what the game calls a "Time-Trans", which is basically a magic door you step through to get to the next time period, because you don't have 65 million years to wait around. (This is how you ultimately survive the meteor that kills the dinosaurs. You go through the door and skip right past it.)

So that's the basics for you.

The most perfect crime in videogame history comes at the close of the Ice Age. The game refers to this as 65-36 million BC; let's go with the close of this age and say 36 million BC. It is, as with all things, a murder, in this case of the Yeti. Skip to 2:30 in this video for the act and watch the rest of the way through.

Okay, now, granted, he came after you first, but let's recap. First, you killed the Yeti. That was required. But then you ate him right in front of his grieving son. Then you went and killed the Yeti's wife, who was standing right there while you killed her husband. Then you ate the wife in front of the kid and left him in hysterics, screaming for daddy and mommy. And then you make your getaway... which comes in the form of Gaia with the Time-Trans, which drops you in the age of Early Man, 33 million years later in 3 million BC. (At bare minimum, you might be at the start, 26 million BC, which is still 10 million years, but given that you can evolve into a human, let's skew late.) There may officially be no statute of limitations on murder, but I think it's safe to say that if your getaway vehicle allows you to vanish from the face of the Earth and then reappear 33 million years in the future with the direct and sentient assistance of the very spirit of the planet, you're going to get away with it.

Meanwhile, look what you've left the kid to explain to the Ice Age animal police. (Let us assume there are Ice Age animal police.) 'Sir! Sir! A shapeshifting animal killed and ate daddy, then killed and ate mommy, and then a magic door appeared and he traveled 33 million years into the future and the door disappeared YOU HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!' What the hell do you do with that?

As it turns out, once you get to the age of Early Man, there's actually an answer. After you get to Early Man, you go to the Cave of Monkey Human, which the world map places in what is now Brazil. Skip to 2:00 into the following video, and you'll find yourself, as a human with an axe, in- of all the things- a Yeti burial ground.

That is one determined grieving Yeti kid. He is hell-bent on making the time-traveling shapeshifting daddy mommy eater pay. He has shouted his grief to a descendant 33 million years into the future. But, of course, you've since turned into a human with an axe, so a burial ground priest is only going to result in more food before you flee to the next stage down in Argentina.

When you get there, you see a desolate region populated by birds who also tell you a tale of woe that stems from something else you did in the Ice Age. Namely, what you did in that first 2:30 you skipped in the first video. They had a castle in the clouds out in northern Africa and you broke it all to hell. They do nothing but walk around and mourn what "some strange force" did, but having no child that can scream through time to warn them of you, they are utterly unaware that the guy with the axe is the time-traveling shapeshifting castle-crashing destroyer of worlds. They are little more than free food.

So what's this about you killing a prostitute in Grand Theft Auto?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Random News Generator- St. Kitts and Nevis

St. Kitts and Nevis made a headline or two during the Olympics, but that was mainly because they sent their top sprinter, Kim Collins, home for a violation of team rules before his event came up in the program. He wasn't the first person they'd sent home. Another sprinter, Tameka Williams, was sent home as well after disclosing that she had taken a banned substance.

St. Kitts and Nevis didn't have a very enjoyable Olympics, basically. And it is four long years for another chance at it.

What they go back to is an environment where the national amateur basketball association has just installed, or at least is in the process of installing, glass backboards and a shot clock for the first time.

Sri Lanka is including them as part of an overall diplomatic expansion in Central America and the Caribbean, for example- but the main issue of the moment is that there's a fairly outsized police blotter going. The population of the country was estimated in 2005 at 51,300, and there have been 14-going-on-15 murders so far this year; last year there were 34, and there were 20 in 2010. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the country ranks as having the 9th-highest murder rate in the world in the most recent year, at 38.2 per 100,000. (The United States has 4.2. Washington DC had 24.0 per 100,000 in 2009.)

In December 2010, the Minister of Tourism found out that NBC's Today Show was on the island to investigate and scrambled to try and pacify them. This past February, police commissioner CG Walwyn announced that crime statistics would no longer be made public, starting with the 2011 numbers. That kind of stat withholding tends not to happen when the statistics are flattering. But ultimately, many know things like that can only paper over the problem. Shawn Richards, a minority member of St. Kitts' unicameral legislature, was quoted above in one of the previous links, saying,

"My thoughts and prayers are with the families who are suffering today. Enough is enough!! No more excuses for why this government cannot secure its citizens. No more excuses for why we cannot after so many years get a handle on the crime crisis in this country. This government has failed [recent victim] Stephen Connor and the family that grieves for them today. Enough really is enough.

The federation can no longer afford a government that stands idly by while our young people are slaughtered and lay in rivers of blood on our streets. This country deserves a government that makes the security and well-being of all its citizens the #1 priority."

 Of course, Richards is in a minority party. We'll have to see what, if anything, the majority party does.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sent Down

The thing about keeping a Journalism All-Star Team is that it's not a Hall of Fame. Being added to the team can't be a permanent thing, just like any all-star team. Just because Ryan Braun is an all-star one year doesn't mean he's going to be on every all-star team the rest of his career.

We've dropped two names from the team before- Jim Lehrer retired, and we put Shepard Smith on a 'disabled list' until such time as he leaves Fox News. But this is the first time we've kicked someone out on their own merit.

I didn't expect it to be Fareed Zakaria, and I certainly didn't expect it to be on a plagiarism charge, which Zakaria now has on his record. He is serving out a one-month suspension after lifting passages from an article on gun control by Jill Lepore of the New Yorker, slightly altering the wording, and placing them into his own article for Time. One example is shown in the link.

(The remaining people on the team, just as a reminder: Bob Ley, Matt Taibbi, Sanjay Gupta, Jon Stewart, Christiane Amanpour, Rachel Maddow, Andrew Sullivan, Gwen Ifill, Louis Theroux, Laura Ling,
Mariana van Zeller, Anderson Cooper, Jeremy Schaap, Lisa Ling, Nate Silver, Stephen Colbert, Soledad O'Brien, and Kaj Larsen.)

Plagiarism is a cardinal sin in the industry. Heck, in any creative work. You simply don't swipe someone else's creation and call it your own. Comedians aren't supposed to steal jokes, artists aren't supposed to forge paintings, and writers don't swipe someone else's writing without attribution.

Because Zakaria has to this point been a highly-respected journalist, there have been those rushing to his defense, saying that it's the result of taking on so much work. Taking on that much work is his choice. An increased workload is not an excuse to let standards slip. It's always worth taking the extra time to make sure what you're putting out is quality, and more to the point, your own. If you can't improve on how someone else said something, that's fine. Just quote them and give credit where credit is due.

A lesser journalist would see their career come to an immediate and screeching halt over a plagiarism charge. Zakaria, presuming that we don't find a whole bunch of other plagiarized material when the inevitable examining of previous works takes place (one additional charge was levied, but falsely so), can still pull it back and recover. I hope he does.

But for a smart man, this was really, really stupid.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Primary Day Again

Go vote again, Wisconsin. Remember, if you don't make your voice heard in the primary, the general-election ballot is going to be that much worse for it.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Okay, So The Flight Out Of London Got Delayed

I guess we're not leaving Great Britain quite yet. First off, we have a medal change to announce. The original gold medalist of the women's shot put, Nadzeya Ostapchuk of Belarus, has failed her drug test and has been stripped of her gold medal. Everyone below her thus moves up one spot.

The new gold medalist in the women's shot put is Valerie Adams of New Zealand. Evgeniia Kolodko of Russia trades her bronze medal for silver. And Lijiao Gong of China will be sent a like-new bronze medal in the mail.

So because Adams didn't get her moment in London... ladies and gentlemen, would you please rise for the national anthem of New Zealand.

That handled, we return to post-Olympics regular service, and... well, we're still in Britain, as there's a TED talk to share out of Edinburgh, presented by Ivan Krastev of Bulgaria, who theorizes that an increase in democracy brings about a decrease of trust:

Sunday, August 12, 2012

London 2012: Denouement

The Closing Ceremony has now concluded. Unless you're watching NBC. As provided at the close of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver two years ago, we close out London 2012 with this recap of the 30th Summer Olympiad.

DAY 1: The 2012 Olympics get underway with women's soccer. Great Britain plays New Zealand in the first match of the Games; Great Britain wins 1-0.
DAY 1: NBC's online coverage, touting complete live coverage of every event, fouls up in its very first task, offering only a dark screen for the first 11 minutes of the first only-live-online match between Japan and Canada in women's soccer. (Japan wins 2-1.) They then fail to air the first 16 minutes of the match between Cameroon and Brazil, waiting until NBC Sports commences coverage to go live online. In the process, they miss two goals by Brazil. Then they privatize a live feed of Sweden/South Africa for about the first 10 minutes of the game.
DAY 1: The North Korean women's soccer team delays their opening game against Colombia for over an hour when the person working the Jumbotron accidentally displays a South Korean flag next to a picture of a North Korean player. North Korea wins 2-0.
DAY 1: Nine athletes are removed from the Olympics for doping violations via the Athlete Biological Passport program, in use for the first time in London. The athletes represented Bulgaria, Greece, Morocco, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.
DAY 2: Japan's men's soccer team stuns Spain by the score of 1-0. Meanwhile, Gabon similarly shocks Switzerland by achieving a 1-1 draw.
DAY 2: Two members of the Moroccan men's soccer team are held for two and a half hours after their 2-2 draw against Honduras in order to satisfy a drug test. The athletes had little fluid to supply, as they were fasting in observance of Ramadan.
DAY 2: Triple jumper Voula Papachristou of Greece is kicked off the team after tweeting the message "With so many Africans in Greece, the West Nile mosquitoes will be getting home food!!!"
DAY 2: Greece loses another athlete as high jumper Dimitrios Chondrokoukis fails a doping test and is pulled from the team.
DAY 3: The Opening Ceremony takes place. Seven different athletes act as final torchbearers. The true final torchbearer, however, is 1948 torch relay runner Austin Playfoot, age 82, who relights the cauldron after it is temporarily put out after the Opening Ceremony (and the flame saved in a miner's lamp) in order to move the cauldron into the field level of the stands.
DAY 3: NBC comes under fire for, among other things, failing to recognize World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, cutting the athlete's, judge's and coaches' oath, and cutting a tribute to the victims of terrorism, specifically the London bombings that occurred soon after London won the right to host. Instead of the segment honoring the victims, Ryan Seacrest interviewed swimmer Michael Phelps of the United States.
DAY 4: Shooter Yi Siling of China wins the first event of the Olympics, taking gold in the women's 10-meter air pistol. Sylwia Bogacka of Poland wins silver. Yu Dan of China wins bronze.
DAY 4: Swimmer Park Tae-Hwan of South Korea is initially disqualified after a perceived false start. After an appeal, it was found no false start existed, and Park's time qualified him for the final. Ryan Cochrane of Canada, originally in the final, was bumped by Park, and Cochrane filed an appeal; that appeal was rejected. Park eventually wins silver. Sun Yang of China wins gold. Peter Vanderkaay of the United States wins bronze.
DAY 4: Held shortly after the Tour de France, cyclist Alexander Vinokourov of Kazakhstan wins the men's road race. Vinokourov had announced his intent to retire after the Games. Rigoberto Uran of Colombia wins silver. Alexander Kristoff of Norway wins bronze.
DAY 4: The first post-Opening Ceremony failed doping test takes place, ejecting weightlifter Hysen Pulaku of Albania. Pulaku was stripped of credentials and kicked out of the Olympic Village.
DAY 4: Swimmer Michael Phelps of the United States fails to medal in the men's 400-meter individual relay. NBC tape-delays this so that Ryan Seacrest can interview the United States women's gymnastics team. Ryan Lochte of the United States wins gold. Thiago Pereira of Brazil wins silver. Kosuke Hagino of Japan wins bronze.
DAY 4: Judoka Ilgar Mushkiyev of Azerbaijan and Hovhannes Davtyan of Armenia, two nations that are severe rivals, are drawn against each other in the men's 60kg round of 32. The match passes without incident, save for a moment where Mushkiyev is inadvertently rendered shirtless. Davtyan wins. Arsen Galstyan of Russia wins gold. Hiroaki Hiraoka of Japan wins silver. Rishod Sobirov of Uzbekistan and Felipe Kitadai of Brazil win bronze.
DAY 5: Great Britain takes their first medal of the Games in cycling, as Elizabeth Armitstead takes silver in the women's road race. Marianne Vos of the Netherlands wins gold. Olga Zabelinskaya of Russia wins bronze.
DAY 5: Shooter Kim Rhode of the United States medals in her fifth consecutive Olympics by winning gold in women's skeet shooting, tying a world record in the process held by bronze medal winner Danka Bartekova of Slovakia. Rhode is the first American to medal in five straight Olympics, pulling within one of that record, set by fencer Aladar Gerevich of Hungary. Wei Ning of China wins silver.
DAY 5: Kazakhstan's Zulfiya Chinshanlo wins gold in the women's 53kg weightlifting competition with two lifts to spare. She uses her second lift to set a world record with a 131 kg clean and jerk. (The 226-kg total is an Olympic record.) Her third lift, used to try to set another record four kg's later, is unsuccessful, but by then it's just for fun. Shu-Ching Hsu of Chinese Taipei wins silver. Cristina Iovu of Moldova wins bronze.
DAY 5: In men's weightlifting, 62-kg division, Om Yun-Chol of North Korea, weighting 123 pounds, hoisted 168 kg (370 pounds) in the clean and jerk, becoming only the fifth known weightlifter ever to have successfully lifted three times his body weight. Needless to say, he won gold, lifting 293 kg overall. Wu Jingbao of China won silver. Valentin Hristov of Azerbaijan won bronze.
DAY 5: Reigning world champion gymnast Jordyn Weiber of the United States is eliminated from the all-around competition in qualifying. Only two athletes per nation are permitted to advance, and Weiber came in third amongst American gymnasts, behind Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas. Qualifying in Weiber's place is Aurelie Malaussena of France. Eliminated in similar fashion are Anastasia Grishina of Russia (replaced by Marta Pihan-Kulesza of Poland), Jennifer Pinches of Great Britain (replaced by Rie Tanaka of Japan), and Yao Jinnan of China (replaced by Ashleigh Brennan of Australia).
DAY 5: Swimmer Cameron van der Burgh of South Africa sets a new world record in the 100 meter breaststroke for that country's first medal, with a time of 58.46 seconds. Christian Sprenger of Australia wins silver. Brendan  Hansen of the United States wins bronze.
DAY 5: The World Cup champion Spanish men's soccer team is eliminated from contention after a second consecutive loss, this time 1-0 to Honduras.
DAY 5: Opening Ceremony choreographer Akram Khan, who produced the segment tributing the victims of the London bombing, as well as loved ones lost by those in attendance, first learns that NBC had cut the segment for an interview between Ryan Seacrest and Michael Phelps. He is visibly upset and confused as to why NBC would possibly do such a thing.
DAY 5: Divers He Zi and Wu Mingxa of China win gold in the women's synchronized 3-meter springboard. After winning, Mingxa is first informed by her parents that her grandparents had both died and that her mother had been battling breast cancer. A firestorm of criticism ensues over the lengths China will go to in order to ensure Olympic success. Kelci Bryant and Abigail Johnston of the United States win silver. Jennifer Abel and Emilie Heymans of Canada win bronze.
DAY 6: Soccer player Michel Morganella becomes the second athlete ejected from the Games for a racist tweet, after referring to South Koreans as "mentally handicapped retards" in the wake of his team's 2-1 loss to South Korea.
DAY 6: After winning gold in the men's individual sabre, fencer Aron Szilagyi of Hungary sees his medal ceremony tarnished when the Hungarian national anthem, conducted by the London Philharmonic, turns out to have been off-key. The Philharmonic is asked to rerecord the anthem for any future Hungarian golds. Diego Occhiuzzi of Italy wins silver. Nikolay Kovalev of Russia wins bronze.
DAY 6: Some highly controversial judging leaves Ukraine out of the medals in men's team gymnastics. A disastrous performance leaves the United States in fifth place. China wins gold. Japan wins silver. Great Britain wins bronze.
DAY 6: In women's individual epee, fencer Shin A Lam of South Korea lodged a formal appeal after losing a semifinal match to Britta Heidemann of Germany. Shin was contesting a late lunge by Heidemann that was scored as the match-winning point. She sat down on the piste while the appeal as filed by her coach, as leaving the piste would constitute acceptance of the decision. After over an hour, the appeal fails and she is escorted off the piste. Yana Shemyakina of Ukraine wins gold. Heidemann wins silver. Sun Yujie of China wins bronze.
DAY 6: Lithuania claims their first-ever swimming medal as Ruta Meilutye wins gold in the women's 100-meter breaststroke. Meilutye is only the second Lithuanian woman to win gold in anything. Rebecca Soni of the United States wins silver. Satomi Suzuki of Japan wins bronze.
DAY 7: Rower Hamadou Djibo Issaka of Niger, dubbed 'The Sculling Sloth', completes his three-race program, finishing far behind the field in all his competitions but becoming a crowd and media favorite for having gutted it out and enduring despite clear exhaustion and the known lack of Nigerien rowing infrastructure. Djibo Issaka has been rowing for only three months, making it in on the back of the Tripartite Commission. The public-address announcer joins in cheering him to the finish line.
DAY 7: The United States cruises to a convincing gold in the women's gymnastics team competition, a victory punctuated by eventual silver medalist Russia collapsing in their last apparatus- floor exercise- and China stumbling to fourth place. Romania wins bronze, their tenth consecutive medal in this event. The last time Romania failed to medal in women's team gymnastics was Munich 1972.
DAY 7: Fencer Alaeldin Aboelkassem of Egypt becomes the first African ever to medal in fencing, after defeating Byungchui Choi of South Korea in a thrilling semifinal match of men's individual foil. Lei Sheng of China beats Aboelkassem in the final. Choi wins bronze.
DAY 7: Tennis player Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France wins in the longest tennis match in Olympic history, beating Milos Raonic of Canada 6-3, 3-6, 25-23 in men's singles. Adding to the length of the 3-hour, 57-minute match itself was a rain delay lasting nearly three hours.
DAY 7: In the final of the men's 200-meter freestyle, swimmer Michael Phelps of the United States is pipped at the line by Chad Le Clos of South Africa. Phelps still, in winning silver, ties the all-time record for most medals won at the Olympics of 18, set by gymnast Larisa Latynina of the Soviet Union. Takeshi Matsuda of Japan wins bronze.
DAY 7: Phelps, later in the day, passes Latynina in the 4x200 freestyle relay for medal #19 as the United States wins gold. France wins silver. China wins bronze. Latynina, now 77 years old and in attendance for the event, offers to present Phelps with the record-breaking medal herself, but is prevented from doing so by IOC regulations.
DAY 8: Four women's badminton doubles teams- two from South Korea, and one each from China and Indonesia- are disqualified for trying to throw matches in order to secure more favorable draws in later rounds of competition. The crowd watching their respective matches booed vigorously while the throwing was taking place, erupting into cheers when one of the South Korean teams and the Indonesians were simultaneously disqualified. However, the teams were reinstated moments later and finished the "match". One of the disqualified players, Yu Yang of China, promptly retires from the sport.
DAY 8: The boxing competition also comes under fire as the judges stand accused of fixing bouts. In one instance, Satoshi Shimizu of Japan is ruled to have lost his fight with Magomed Abdulhamidov of Azerbaijan despite knocking him down six times in the final round, a decision later overturned. The referee, Ishanguly Meretnyyazov of Turkmenistan, who failed to count any of the knockdowns as a knockdown, is subsequently expelled from the Games and sent home, as well as technical official Aghanian Abiyev of Azerbaijan. Two bouts later, Ali Mazaheri of Iran accuses the judges of corruption following his disqualification against Jose Larduet Gomez of Cuba. The referee, Frank Scharmch of Germany, is suspended for five days; however, the result of the fight stands.
DAY 8: The host nation wins their first gold medal as rowers Helen Glover and Heather Stanning of Great Britain win the women's pair. Kate Hornsey and Sarah Tait of Australia win silver. Juliette Haigh and Rebecca Scown of New Zealand win bronze.
DAY 8: The second British gold quickly follows in the men's cycling time trial, with Bradley Wiggins claiming victory to set a British record of seven all-time medals. Tony Martin of Germany wins silver. Chris Froome of Great Britain wins bronze.
DAY 8: Weightlifter Ghada Hassine of Tunisia becomes the first Olympic weightlifter to compete in a full-body unitard including hijab in the women's 69kg class. Weightlifters until 2011 were required to leave arms and lower legs uncovered. Rim Jong Sim of North Korea wins gold, that country's third weightlisting gold in these Games. Roxana Daniela Cocos of Romania wins silver. Maryna Shkermankova of Belarus wins bronze.
DAY 8: The men's gymnastics all-around competition is won by Kohei Uchimura of Japan. Marcel Nguyen of Germany wins silver. Daniel Leyva of the United States storms back from 19th place in the 24-person field to win bronze.
DAY 8: Swimmer Rebecca Soni of the United States sets a world record in the women's 200-meter breaststroke in a semifinal, with a time of 2:20.00.
DAY 8: Gymnast Luzia Galiulina of Uzbekistan becomes the second athlete to be formally expelled from the Olympics and have her athlete credentials revoked after failing a drug test. She had been provisionally suspended after her A sample failed on Day 1; her expulsion comes on the back of a failed B sample.
DAY 8: Swimmer Nathan Adrian of the United States wins the gold in the men's 100-meter freestyle, edging out James Magnussen of Australia by .01 seconds. Brent Hayden of Canada wins bronze.
DAY 8: The Spanish men's soccer team's humiliation is complete, as a 0-0 draw against Morocco sees the defending World Cup champions leave London without scoring a single goal.
DAY 9: Basketball player Yi Jianlian of China, that nation's flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony, twists his knee during a loss to Australia.
DAY 9: Equestrian rider Jan Ebeling of the United States takes Rafalca, the horse co-owned by Ann Romney, wife of Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, into the dressage competition. Ebeling scores 70.243%, barely enough to qualify for the second round.
DAY 9: The men's cycling team from Great Britain sets a world record in the qualifying round of the team sprint, and then another in the gold medal final against France. Germany wins bronze.
DAY 9: Gymnast Gabrielle Douglas of the United States wins gold in the women's individual all-around competition. Victoria Komova of Russia wins silver. Aliya Mustafina of Russia wins bronze, winning a tiebreaker over Ali Raisman of the United States. Of the four who qualified under the two-per-country rule, Rie Tanaka of Japan places highest, finising 16th out of 24.
DAY 9: Swimmer Rebecca Soni of the United States follows up her semifinal world record in the 200-meter breaststroke with another in the final, winning gold with a time of 1:19.59. Satomi Suzuki of Japan wins silver. Iuliia Efimova of Russia wins bronze.
DAY 9: Michael Phelps makes it medal #20, and gold medal #16, with a third straight gold in the 200-meter individual medley. Ryan Lochte of the United States wins silver. Laszlo Cech of Hungary wins bronze.
DAY 9: It takes an entire week, but the underperforming Dutch team finally manages to win gold in the pool as Ranomi Kromowidjojo takes the women's 100-meter freestyle after setting an Olympic record in the semifinals. Aliaksandra Herasimenia of Belarus wins silver. Tang Yi of China wins bronze.
DAY 9: The United States men's basketball team sets an Olympic single-game scoring record as they steamroll Nigeria 156-73.
DAY 10: Rower Nadja Drygalla of Germany leaves the Olympic Village. She personally had done nothing wrong, but she leaves on reports that her boyfriend was a far-right extremist and a member of a Nazi-inspired political party, an ideology not tolerated in Germany in modern times. Drygalla had already completed her program.
DAY 10: Hammer thrower Ivan Tsikhan of Belarus is found to be guilty of doping in a retest of urine samples from Athens 2004. He was pulled from the team before competing in London.
DAY 10: Shooter Sergei Martynov of Belarus becomes the second athlete in Olympic history to shoot a perfect score of 600, doing so in qualifying for the men's 50-meter rifle prone. The first was done by Christian Klees of Germany in Atlanta 1996, who went on to win gold.
DAY 10: The boxing competition, under fire again, sees the result of the match between Errol Spence of the United States and Krishan Vikas of India overturned, as four points that should have been given to Spence as the result of penalties against Vikas were not given, altering the result of the fight.
DAY 10: The first female athlete to compete in the Olympics for Saudi Arabia takes the field in the form of judoka Wojdan Shaherkani, wearing a traditional Islamic headscarf. She loses by ippon to Melissa Mojica of Puerto Rico in her first bout in the women's +78kg weight class. Idalys Ortiz of Cuba wins gold. Mika Sugimoto of Japan wins silver, ending a disappointing outing for Japan's judo team. Karina Bryant of Great Britain and Tong Wen of China win bronze.
DAY 10: During a women's soccer quarterfinal between Japan and Brazil, NBC goes to commercial during the run of play in the second half. While in commercial, Japan scores a goal to put them up 2-0, the final score.
DAY 10: The Tsonga/Raonic tennis match's record length is beaten by the semifinal between Roger Federer of Switzerland and Juan Martin Del Porto of Argentina, with Federer winning 3-6, 7-6, 19-17. It is the longest three-set men's match of the Open era, at 4 hours 26 minutes.
DAY 10: Michael Phelps makes it 21 medals with a third straight victory in the 100-meter butterfly. Chad Le Clos of South Africa and Evgeny Korotyshkin of Russia tie for silver.
DAY 10: Runner Amine Laalou of Morocco is banned from entering the United Kingdom prior to his scheduled appearance in the 1,500 meters upon failing a doping test.
DAY 11: Runner Kim Collins of St. Kitts and Nevis, that nation's flagbearer, is sent home by his team officials hours before his event, the 100-meter dash. According to team officials, he broke team rules by leaving the Olympic Village. According to Collins, he was in a hotel room with his wife. Collins subsequently tweets, "Even men in prison get their wives to visit", and "For those who saw me run in Mexico. That's the last time I represent my country."
DAY 11: In the women's 100-meter dash, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica narrowly defeats Carmelita Jeter for gold, with a time of 10.75 seconds. In so doing, Fraser-Pryce is the first repeat female 100-meter winner since Gail Devers of the United States. Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica wins bronze.
DAY 11: Runner LaShawn Merritt of the United States, defending gold medalist in the men's 400 meters, pulls a hamstring in his qualifying heat. He does not finish the race.
DAY 11: North Korea and South Korea are drawn against each other in the first round of men's team table tennis. South Korea wins the match 3 sets to 1.
DAY 11: Rower Kissya Cataldo da Costa of Brazil is forced out of the women's single sculls event for failing a drug test taken in July. Costa had to that point qualified for the C final, a race without medal hopes conducted to determine final placement.
DAY 11: The women's triathlon ends in a photo finish between Nicola Sprig of Switzerland and Lisa Norden of Sweden after 1:59:48. After a review, Sprig wins gold and Norden wins silver. A Swedish appeal asking for two golds to be awarded is denied, Erin Densham of Australia wins bronze.
DAY 11: Guatemala wins its first ever Olympic medal as Erick Barrondo wins silver in the men's 20k race walk. Ding Chen of China wins gold, setting an Olympic record of 1:18:46 in the process. Zhen Wang of China wins bronze. Valery Borchin of Russia collapsed on the track, did not finish, and was carried off in an ambulance.
DAY 11: In Michael Phelps' purported final Olympic swim, the United States takes gold in the men's 4x100-meter relay. Phelps ends the Games with 22 medals, 18 of them gold. Japan wins silver. Australia wins bronze.
DAY 12: To the delight and relief of beleaguered British tennis fans, Andy Murray of Great Britain wins gold in men's singles at Wimbledon, defeating Roger Federer of Switzerland 6-2, 6-1, 6-4. Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina wins bronze.
DAY 12: A tightly-contested women's marathon is broken only in the final kilometer as Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia wins gold with an Olympic record time of 2:23:07. Priscah Jeptoo of Kenya wins silver. Tatyana Petrova Arkhipova of Russia wins bronze. The last finisher is Caitriona Jennings of Ireland, who completes the course in 3:22:11.
DAY 12: Fencer Shin A Lam of South Korea gets her Olympic medal, as part of the women's team epee competition. China wins gold. The United States wins bronze.
DAY 12: Women's boxing makes its Olympic debut. The inaugural bout sees Elena Savalyeva of Russia defeat Kim Hye-Song of North Korea.
DAY 12: The once-feared Indian men's field hockey team drops to 0-4, with a 4-1 loss to South Korea assuring their elimination in the group stage and a berth in the 11th/12th placement match, in a field of 12, with one group match still to play against Belgium. India would lose that match as well, with Belgium winning 3-0.
DAY 12: In the men's final of the 100-meter dash, Usain Bolt runs a 9.64 to defend his title of Fastest Man On Earth, a new Olympic record. Yohan Blake of Jamaica wins silver. Justin Gatlin of the United States wins bronze. Asafa Powell of Jamaica pulls up and finishes with an 11.99.
DAY 12: The boxing competition is hit by scandal twice more as Siarhei Karneyeu of Belarus and Jose Larduet of Cuba file protests over clearly erroneous losses to Teymur Mammadov of Azerbaijan and Clemente Russo of Italy. Teddy Atlas, NBC's boxing announcer, is so incensed at the decisions that he offers to pay the protest filing fees himself. Protests are filed, but both are denied.
DAY 12: After qualifying out of his heat the previous day, runner Oscar Pistorius of South Africa, the runner with his two amputated feet replaced with carbon-fiber blades for track purposes, is eliminated from the 400 meters after finishing last in his semifinal heat. Upon his defeat, the event favorite, Kirani James of Grenada, trades name bibs with Pistorius.
DAY 12: In the unlimited-weight class of women's weightlifting, Zhou Lulu of China sets a world record total of 333 kg to claim gold, while Tatiana Kashirina of Russia sets a world record snatch of 151 kg on her way to silver. Hrissime Khurshudyan of Armenia wins bronze.
DAY 12: Equestrian rider Ahmad Saber Hamcho of Syria, the son of the financial adviser for Maher al-Assad, brother of dictator Bashar al-Assad, is eliminated in the second day of qualifying in individual show jumping, finishing 62nd out of the total field of 75.
DAY 13: Runner Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria, a medal contender in the men's 1,500 meters, is excluded from further competition after an incident in the his heat of the 800 meters. Makhloufi, who had not wanted to run in the 800, deliberately pulled up and stopped shortly after the start of the race. The referee ejected him from the competition for failure to try. However, the possibility is left open for him to return pending a note from a local doctor citing injury, and after such a note is obtained, Makhloufi is reinstated.
DAY 13: Two referees in the men's water polo competition, Boris Margeta of Slovenia and Radoslaw Koryzena of Poland, are dismissed from further duties after disallowing a legitimate goal by Spain in their group-stage match with Croatia. Croatia won 8-7, a result upheld on appeal.
DAY 13: Judoka Nick Delpopolo of the United States is formally expelled from the Games after testing positive for marijuana, the result of eating a pot brownie. Delpopolo had already competed in the 73kg weight class, finishing 7th. Race walker Alex Schwazer of Italy is also expelled after failing a doping test.
DAY 13: The Great Britain men's basketball team wins their first Olympic game since London 1948, soundly beating China 90-58.
DAY 13: 34-year-old runner Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic comes out of nowhere to reclaim gold in the men's 400-meter hurdles, after having previously won it in Athens 2004. Michael Tinsley of the United States. Javier Culson of Puerto Rico wins bronze.
DAY 13: Grenada wins its first ever Olympic medal as runner Kirani James dusts the field for gold in the 400 meters. Luguelin Santos of the Dominican Republic wins silver. Lalonde Gordon of Trinidad and Tobago wins bronze.
DAY 14: Runner Liu Xiang of China, 2004 gold medalist in the 110-meter hurdles, stumbles into the first hurdle, is injured for the second straight Olympics, and for the second straight Olympics, fails to clear a single hurdle. He ends up symbolically completing the course hopping on his one good leg. He kisses the last hurdle.
DAY 14: Cyprus wins its first ever Olympic medal when sailor Pavlos Kontides takes silver in the men's Laser class. The medal brings a brief bit of good news to a nation sorely in need of something to celebrate after their economy was pounded by its proximity to that of Greece. Tom Slingsby of Australia wins gold. Rasmus Myrgren of Sweden wins bronze.
DAY 14: Rafalca, Ann Romney's horse, scores 69.302% in the second round of the dressage competition, not good enough to advance. The United States is knocked out of the team competition as well.
DAY 14: Swimmer Cameron van der Burgh of South Africa admits to the Sydney Morning Herald to having cheated during a world-record performance in the men's 100-meter breaststroke. van der Burgh took three dolphin kicks instead of the one permitted at the start and after each turn prior to commencing the breaststroke. He notes that when there is no underwater video judging keeping track of swimmers, as was the case in London, things like this commonly happen out of fear that, if you don't do it, your opponent will and is unlikely to get caught, but when underwater judging is in place, nobody tries it. His admittance, unlikely to result in personal consequences having come a week after the actual swim, appears to be mostly an attempt to embarrass FINA, swimming's governing body, into adopting the technology.
DAY 14: The men's triathlon is not only won by Alastair Brownlee of Great Britain, but his brother Jonathan crosses the line 31 seconds later for bronze. Javier Gomez of Spain wins silver.
DAY 14: 36-year-old cyclist Chris Hoy of Great Britain wins gold in the men's Keirin, the final event in the velodrome, setting a British record for most golds by an Olympic athlete with six. Hoy also has one silver medal from Sydney 2000. The results make for Great Britain's 8th gold and 12th medal in cycling during these Games, and their 7th gold and 9th medal in the velodrome. To this point, with only mountain biking and BMX to go, no other nation has more than one cycling gold or five overall cycling medals (or three in the velodrome). Maximilian Levy of Germany wins silver. Simon van Velthooven of New Zealand and Teun Mulder of the Netherlands win joint bronze after a dead heat for third.
DAY 14: Iran takes gold and silver in the men's unlimited-class weightlifting division, with Behdad Salimi winning gold and Sajjad Anoushitavani winning silver. Meanwhile, Matthias Steiner of Germany, in an attempt to lift 196 kg during the snatch portion of the competition, drops the barbell on his head. He does not take part in the clean and jerk, and is taken to a hospital for observation. Steiner suffered ligament and muscle injuries but no spinal injuries or anything permanent. Ruslan Albegov of Russia wins bronze.
DAY 14: There are three bronze medalists in the men's high jump: Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar, Derek Drouin of Canada, and Robert Grabarz of Great Britain. Ivan Ukhov of Russia wins gold. Erik Kynard of the United States wins silver.
DAY 14: Seven members of the Cameroonian delegation are announced to have "absconded" from the Olympic Village two days prior, suspected of wishing to remain in the United Kingdom for economic reasons.
DAY 14: A 49-year-old fan from Essex, Conrad Readman, collapses and dies of a heart attack at the velodrome. Readman had tickets for every day of the Games and had attented nearly every sport on offer to that point, in addition to the Opening Ceremony.
DAY 15: Runner Caster Semenya of South Africa, the athlete forced to undergo gender verification in 2009 to prove she was female, runs her preliminary heat in the women's 800 meters. Semenya finishes second, taking one of the heat's three automatic qualifying spots in the semifinals.
DAY 15: Elsewhere in the women's 800 meters, Saudi Arabia's first female track athlete, Sarah Attar, takes her heat. She finishes last, in 2:44.95, but nobody really minds.
DAY 15: Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria, after his reinstatement into the men's 1,500 meters, wins gold in convincing fashion, leaving some less than convinced that the injury he claimed in the 800 meters was legitimate. Leo Manzano of the United States wins silver. Abdalaati Iguider of Morocco wins bronze.
DAY 15: A swarm of flying ants descends on the Olympic Stadium. The bugs are ultimately harmless, but result in a stadium-wide swatfest.
DAY 15: During post-match interviews of the women's gold medal match in beach volleyball, the floor of the interview zone gives way under the weight of all the reporters. Nobody is injured. Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings of the United States win gold. April Ross and Jen Kessy of the United States win silver. Larissa Franca and Juliana Felisberta Silva of Brazil win bronze.
DAY 16: Cyclist Gijs Van Hoecke of Belgium is sent home by his national Olympic committee after pictures appear in British newspapers of Van Hoecke drunk and covered in liquid, with his eyes closed, and being carried by teammate Jonathan Dufrasne after a night partying.
DAY 16: The South African men's 4x400-meter relay team fails to complete their semifinal heat after a runner from the Kenyan team runs into Ofentse Mogawane, sending both runners to the ground. However, after a successful protest that rules Kenya to have obstructed South Africa, they are permitted into the final anyway. Kenya is disqualified. Meanwhile, the United States qualifies out of their heat despite Monteo Mitchell breaking his leg during his section of the run.
DAY 16: The women's 10-kilometer swim ends in not one, but two photo finishes for the medals. Eva Risztov of Hungary beats out Haley Anderson of the United States by 0.4 seconds to win gold. Martina Grimalri of Italy, three seconds later, wins bronze by another 0.4 seconds over Keri-anne Payne of Great Britain.
DAY 16: Botswana wins its first ever Olympic medal in the men's 800 meters, as Nigel Amos takes silver. David Luketa Rudisha of Kenya wins gold, setting a world record of 1:40.91 in the process. Timothy Kitum of Kenya wins bronze.
DAY 16: Jamaica sweeps the men's 200 meters, with Usain Bolt winning gold, Yohan Blake winning silver and Warren Weir winning bronze.
DAY 16: The decathlon is won by Ashton Eaton of the United States. Trey Hardee of the United States wins silver. Leonel Suarez of Cuba wins bronze.
DAY 16: In a rematch of the 2011 Women's World Cup final, the United States flips the result, beating Japan 2-1 in the gold medal match. Canada wins bronze.
DAY 16: The first ever gold medal in women's boxing is won by flyweight champion Nicola Adams of Great Britain. Ren Cancan of China wins silver. Marlen Esparza of the United States and Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom of India win bronze.
DAY 16: Montenegro, first recognized by the IOC in 2007, assures itself its first Olympic medal after beating Spain 27-26 in a semifinal of women's handball.
DAY 17: The IOC formally strips cyclist Tyler Hamilton of the United States of his gold medal in the road race time trial from Athens 2004 after Hamilton's admission of doping. Gold is to be reawarded to Viatcheslav Ekimov of Russia. Bobby Julich of the United States is upgraded to silver. Michael Rogers of Australia is upgraded to bronze.
DAY 17: Runner Hasan Hirt of France fails a doping test and is formally expelled from the Olympics. Hirt had finished 11th in a first-round heat of the men's 5,000 meters.
DAY 17: The men's 10-kilometer swim is won by Oussama Mellouli of Tunisia. In doing so, Mellouli becomes the first person to win gold in both the pool and open water in the same Olympics. Thomas Lurz of Germany wins silver. Richard Weinberger of Canada wins bronze.
DAY 17: The United States women's 4x100-meter relay team sets a world record of 40.82 seconds, claiming gold. Anchor leg runner Carmelita Jeter knows it immediately, pointing at the timing display as she crosses the finish line. Jamaica wins silver. Ukraine wins bronze.
DAY 17: The South African relay team finishes eighth in the men's 4x400-meter relay, coming in ahead only of Cuba, who did not finish. The storyline about Oscar Pistorius's final run never really materializes, as South Africa was out of contention well before his anchor leg. The Bahamas wins gold. The United States wins silver, their first non-gold performance in this event since Los Angeles 1984. Trinidad and Tobago wins bronze.
DAY 17: Five members of the Ukranian boxing team sign a professional deal with AIBA, amateur boxing's governing body, as part of an attempt by AIBA to create a pro league, AIBA Professional Boxing (APB). APB boxers, unlike other professional boxers, would retain Olympic eligibility.
DAY 17: The South Korean men's soccer team wins the bronze medal match, beating Japan 2-0. In so doing, the South Korean team earns exemptions from otherwise mandatory military service. However, the IOC requests that one player, midfielder Park Jong-Woo, be barred from the medal ceremony after holding up a sign supporting Korean ownership of the Dokdo Islands (or, as Japan refers to them, the Takeshima Islands), as per IOC policy prohibiting political statements. Park complies, misses the ceremony, and, at as of the close of the Games, does not receive his medal.
DAY 17: NBC boxing announcer Teddy Atlas and co-commentator Bob Papa are asked by officials to leave their ringside booth, stating that Papa and Atlas had been "very disturbing" in their commentary. They are offered space with the rest of the broadcasters, but Papa and Atlas opt to leave London entirely and return to New York.
DAY 18: In the longest footrace of the Games, the men's 50K race walk, Sergei Kirdyapkin of Russia wins going away, setting a time of 3:35:39, a new Olympic record by a margin of 1 minute, 10 seconds. Jared Tallent of Australia also would have set an Olympic record had he not come in 54 seconds behind Kirdyapkin. Instead, he wins silver. Si Tianfeng of China wins bronze.
DAY 18: Modern pentathlete Hwang Woojin of South Korea suffers a catastrophic fall in the equestrian portion wheh his horse, refusing a jump, falls backwards on top of him. Woojin eventually gets back on the horse and completes the riding portion. David Svoboda of the Czech Republic wins gold, the first to combine shooting and running in one final event. Cao Zhongrong of China wins silver. Adam Morosi of Hungary wins bronze.
DAY 18: In the men's soccer final, Mexico stuns Brazil 2-1 to claim their first soccer medal, and deny Brazil their first gold.
DAY 18: Elena Lashmanova of Russia passes countrywoman Olga Kaniskina on the home stretch and wins gold in the women's 20K race walk in 1:25:02, setting a new world record by six seconds. Qieyang Shenjie of China wins bronze.
DAY 18: Runner Mohamed Farah of Great Britain not only becomes the first Brit ever to win gold in the men's 5,000 meters, but in doing so, he completes a double to go with the 10,000 meter gold he had won earlier. In the 5,000 meters, Dejen Gebremeskel of Ethiopia wins silver and Thomas Pkemei Longosiwa of Kenya wins bronze. In the 10,000 meters, Galen Rupp of the United States wins silver and Tariku Bekele of Ethiopia wins bronze.
DAY 18: Trinidad and Tobago wins its first ever medal in a field event, as Keshorn Walcott wins gold in the men's javelin. Oleksandr Pyatnytsya of Ukraine wins silver. Antti Ruuskanen of Finland wins bronze.
DAY 18: Caster Semenya of South Africa takes silver in the women's 800 meters. Mariya Savinova of Russia wins gold. Ekaterina Poistogova of Russia wins bronze.
DAY 18: Runner Ghfran Almouhamad of Syria is expelled from the Games after failing a doping test. Almouhamad finished last in her heat in the women's 400-meter hurdles. She is the second athlete, after judoka Nick Delpopolo of the United States, to fail a test in competition.
DAY 18: The Jamaican 4x100-meter relay team demolishes the world record, setting a new mark of 36.84 to win gold. The United States wins silver. Trinidad and Tobago wins bronze after would-be third-place Canada is disqualified.
DAY 18: Montenegro's first Olympic medal is a silver, as the women's handball team loses 26-23 to Norway in the gold medal match. Spain wins bronze.
DAY 18: Gabon wins its first-ever Olympic medal as taekwondo fighter Anthony Obame wins silver in the unlimited-weight men's division, losing to Carlo Molfetta of Italy in the gold-medal match. Robelis Despaigne of Cuba and Liu Xiaobo of China win bronze.
DAY 19: After spending the entire Games under fire for refusing to provide a live feed of the Opening or Closing Ceremonies, NBC announces that they will provide a live feed for today's Closing Ceremony.
DAY 19: Runner Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda wins the first gold medal for Uganda since Munich 1972 in the signature event of the Olympics, the men's marathon. Abel Kirui of Kenya wins silver. Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich of Kenya wins bronze. South Sudanese runner Guol Marial, competing as an Independent Olympic Athlete, finishes 47th. The last-place finisher is Tsepo Ranomeme of Lesotho, who comes in 85th, ahead of 20 people who failed to complete the course, including the entire Ethiopian and French delegations and two of the three Americans.
DAY 19: The boxing competition concludes. After all the controversy surrounding Team Azerbaijan's alleged attempts at bribery in an attempt to secure at least two gold medals, in the end Azerbaijan manages only a single bronze, in the super heavyweight division, won by Magomedrasul Medzhidov, as well as Ivan Dychko of Kazakhstan. Anthony Joshua of Great Britain wins gold. Roberto Cammarelle of Italy wins silver.
DAY 19: Cyclist Marco Aurelio Fontana of Italy wins bronze in men's cross-country biking despite losing his bicycle seat and seat post with approximately three miles yet to ride. Jaroslav Kulhavy of the Czech Republic wins gold in a sprint finish. Nino Schurter of Switzerland wins silver.
DAY 19: Once again, the United States men's basketball team wins gold, beating Spain 107-100 in the final. Russia wins bronze, their first medal in basketball since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
DAY 19: The final gold medal of the Games is won in the women's modern pentathlon. Laura Asadauskaite of Lithuania takes the honor. Samantha Murray of Great Britain wins silver. Yane Marques of Brazil wins bronze.
DAY 19: The Closing Ceremony takes place. The cauldron is extinguished, and the Olympic flag passed from London mayor Boris Johnson on to Eduardo Paes, the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, due to host in 2016. NBC's broadcast catches one final beating for heavy editing, including, among other things, cutting the marathon medal ceremony.

See you in Sochi, two years hence.

Actually, could you head over there now? The preparations are... well, they'll be on time for sure, but they're being very not-nice in how they prepare.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Nice Horsie, Nice, Slow Horsie

We're in the medal rounds of every remaining event, or at least we' essentially are. It doesn't matter how unheralded you were coming in. When you show up at the Olympics, you have a chance, however slim, at gold, at hearing your national anthem. The chances may be almost nil, but even if you come in seeded dead last and staring down the defending gold medalist, you can't tell me there isn't at least the germ of a dream in there somewhere. They've still at least laid out a path to gold for you, if you're able to traverse it.

In Berlin 1936, though, that was not entirely the case.

In the last-ever appearance of polo, five nations entered: defending gold medalist Argentina (from Paris 1924, the last previous appearance of polo), Germany, Great Britain, Hungary and Mexico. (India and the United States were invited but declined.) Only three of them were deemed to have any real shot at winning: Argentina, Great Britain and Mexico. Normally, that would just be allowed to play out. Here, though, not so much. Germany and Hungary, neither of which had entered a previous Olympic polo tournament, were considered so far back on the other three that the tournament was structured so that they literally could not win. Argentina, Great Britain and Mexico were tossed into a three-team round robin. The top two got gold and silver. Meanwhile, Germany played Hungary for the right to play the loser of the Argentina/Great Britain/Mexico pool in a bronze medal match.

Argentina took gold and Great Britain claimed silver while Germany and Hungary played, as it would happen, two games, because the first one ended in an 8-8 tie. In the rematch, Hungary won 16-6, for the right to play Mexico for the bronze.

Mexico duly brushed them aside 16-2.

Maybe Hungary and Germany were terrible at polo. It would have been nice to at least be given a shot like everyone else, though.

Friday, August 10, 2012

First, Except Actually Third

So let's talk NBC.

Yeah, we have to.

In spite of all the storylines coming out of the Games, the biggest one, arguably, has been NBC's coverage of them. At the start of the Games, I decided I'd go ahead and mock what I knew was going to be bad coverage, kind of MST3K-style, using the hashtag #nbcfail. I picked that hashtag because I'd seen an earlier one, #cnnfail, used to criticize CNN's coverage of the attempted revolution in Iran a few years ago. I figured some other people might already be there, but it'd be a good place to camp.

Boy, was that an understatement.

I was expecting bad coverage, but I was still taken aback by the depth and breadth of bad coverage I proceeded to witness and will still be witnessing for a few more days. The ubiquitous tape delays, and American viewers being the only nation in the world to have to worry about spoilers. The Opening Ceremony going to commercial 24 times when other nations' coverage subsisted on four. The lack of caring to even get countries' names pronounced correctly, and to constantly bring up how terrible life is and has been in virtually all of them save the United States. The cutting of a tribute to the victims of the London bombings so that Ryan Seacrest could interview Michael Phelps. The cutting of the athletes', judges' and coaches' oaths so one of those 24 commercial breaks could be taken. The constant perceived need to air fluff pieces, interviews, and just about everything except actual events. When events are aired, the gross overreliance on volleyball, especially beach volleyball. The commercial breaks during soccer games. The online feeds requiring a cable or satellite subscription. The feeds not allowing live coverage of the Opening or Closing Ceremony, sending those lucky enough to be sufficiently Internet-literate scrambling to find a foreign or pirated live feed. The feeds going to constant, unreasonably incessant ad breaks that crash Firefox browsers. The feeds of events intended for primetime airing being locked down after their live airing until after primetime. The unending drumbeat of American athletes and American victories, where American victories are glorious and defeats a cause to rage against the unjust heavens for allowing such a thing; where foreign victories are mentioned only in passing if at all and defeats to be condescendingly pitied, as they are merely more proof of American superiority, especially if they were defeated by Americans. (That is, unless the foreign athlete trains in the United States, in which case it's presented, as if to say 'Don't worry, even if this person wins a medal for their country, the United States is the country that REALLY won it.') The pervasive feeling among viewers that they are being treated like infants unable to comprehend what they're seeing, or more to the point, not seeing. The myriad of other, smaller mistakes, blunders and crimes that have made for a most miserable glorious two weeks.

These people will be covering a Presidential election for the next few months.

But last night, it got intolerable.

As said yesterday, the spirit of the Olympics is not in the win or the loss, but in the participation. When you watch the raw, uncut online feed, you will notice a lot of contests, races mainly, where one athlete or team falls far behind the rest of the pack. The PA announcer at the venue can often be heard, and for major events, various teams of commentators whom I've never managed to get the names of and seem to be a mix of American, British and Australian are provided. (Though I did catch that the gymnastics team included Shannon Miller.) The commentators are neutral, though there's a bit of mild, very mild rooting for their respective home teams. The PA announcers are true neutral. When someone is chugging along in last, every one of these people will cheer them along as best they can, and when all the others have finished and they're the only one still on the course, they will inevitably drop everything to cheer them home. Because it's about doing your best. About honoring the best athletes on the face of the earth, but ultimately showing up and participating on the world's biggest stage. That is the spirit of the Games: a two-week period when all nations are asked to put their differences aside for a little while, shut up and watch sports together, cheering on the world's greatest athletes wherever they may be from.

But it is not the spirit of NBC's Games. For NBC, the spirit is about American glory at any cost. Last night were the finals of the first-ever Olympic women's boxing competitions. There were three weight classes: flyweight, lightweight and middleweight, with the finals contested in that order.

First was flyweight. The winner here would be the first-ever women's boxing Olympic gold medalist. To the London crowd's utter delight, that honor went to Nicola Adams of Great Britain, who defeated Ren Cancan of China.

CNBC aired the fight, and briefly noted the historic achievement. But it was rather downplayed, with only a brief glimpse of the four medalists (including co-bronze medalist Marlen Esparza of the United States)... because these fights were run on tape-delay and they knew what was coming later.

In the second fight, the lightweight final, Katie Taylor of Ireland defeated Sofya Ochigawa of Russia. The crowd, much of which was Irish, again exploded in joy. NBC barely acknowledged it after the fight ended.

In the third and final fight, the middleweight final, Claressa Shields of the United States defeated Nadezda Torlopova of Russia. This was what NBC has clearly been waiting for. It was their turn to explode with joy. Shields was the first American woman to win boxing gold- and the only American boxing gold at these Games, as none of the ten American men made the medal rounds.

She was the first American woman to win gold. But NBC let the qualifier 'American' drop from conversation in a hurry. Adams and Taylor's earlier golds effectively ceased to exist at that moment. Shields, in conversation, was referred to almost exclusively as 'the first woman' or, eventually, "First! First! First! You're the first one!" They drove home the simple qualifier-less word "first" so pervasively that one man on the #nbcfail tag, which was focusing more on the fact that she only merited a 'by the way' sidenote on NBC's primetime coverage, ended up believing that Shields was the first gold of the night. A top-rated tweet from Oliver Willis (@owillis) stated, "yeah, yeah so claressa shields WON THE FIRST GOLD MEDAL EVER IN HER SPORT, lets not even show her face so we can show BMX BIKERS. #nbcfail"

This set me off. It's bad enough that NBC barely pays attention to non-American athletes who aren't Usain Bolt or someone that gets heavily covered outside the Olympics anyway (e.g. Roger Federer or Maria Sharapova). It's bad enough that all you see on NBC is Americans winning, and then you go to the actual medal count and you see that China, until the events of last night, had more golds than the US did, and that host nation Great Britain had been putting up some big-time numbers itself. But when NBC begins to misrepresent events almost to the point of outright lies, when a major achievement by another nation, the HOST nation, is essentially taken away from them by NBC so that an American can have it instead, we have crossed into the realm of propaganda.

They're not the only ones to make it appear as if the United States is always winning. The fact that the United States actually IS winning right now is irrelevant. They haven't been leading wire-to-wire, but you'd never know that from NBC's coverage save for a little late-night blurb at the tail end of the night where the medal count is shown and, some nights, China is sitting on top. And they didn't go quite as far as the blog Fourth Place Medal, which put the United States on top of China by removing all the sports that require judges and calling it the 'Real Medal Count'.

This is sports. Your team won't always win. Even the Harlem Globetrotters have lost games. A basic part of sports is making one's peace with that fact. If only one side ever won, people would lose interest. Another basic part of sports is accepting the results. If we do not believe the results to be accurate, we either take measures to correct them, or we do not put stock in the sport and watch something else. What we don't do is take perfectly legitimate results and alter them to say that we won when we really didn't, or that an achievement attained first or best by someone was in fact achieved by our team instead, at least not without evidence. If we disagree with what happened on the field, we give reasons. We give evidence of blown calls. We check replays. We check rule books and historical accounts. We don't just go and claim something that's not there. Even with national pride on the line.

Except, apparently, now.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Lanterne Rouge

The most iconic event of the Olympics- and the last ever since Los Angeles 1984, at least for the men- is the marathon. And since we're nearing the close of the Games, we should give it a mention. The stories of runners towards the front of the pack are legion. Those who win may not become celebrities like those in more ratings-grabbing events. You won't see the fawning of media here like you will towards the likes of Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, or Nastia Liukin. They don't need to become celebrities. Through victory, or near-victory, the names Spiridon Louis, Abebe Bikila, and Emil Zatopek, among others, instead become legends. Coming close to finishing and faltering near the end can also make a legend of you, such is the case of Dorando Pietri and Paula Radcliffe.

But the marathon is a long way to run. Even finishing last means you finished. You completed the Olympic marathon. And as the Olympics are fond of saying, it is not about winning or losing, but about having participated; about showing up, playing fair, and doing your damnedest. And a small little footnote in every marathon- and that's always what it seems to be, a footnote- is who came in last in the men's edition, sometimes hours behind the medalists and sometimes not even permitted to finish in the stadium like everyone else, because the preparation for the Closing Ceremony has already begun.

Today, we focus purely on last place. What follows is a listing of every last-place finisher in the marathon, and their time (if available):

Athens 1896- Sokratis Lagoudakis, Greece (9th place, 6 DNF's, 1 DQ)
Paris 1900- either Dick Grant, Canada, or Ronald MacDonald, Canada (6th/7th; the records are unclear as to who finished ahead of whom, but it's most likely MacDonald, 6 DNF's)
St. Louis 1904- Andrew Oikonomou, Greece (14th place, 17 DNF's, 1 DQ)
Athens 1906- Arnost Nejedly, Bohemia, 3:40:00.2 (15th place, 38 DNF's)
London 1908- George Lister, Canada, 4:42:45 (27th place, 27 DNF's, 1 DQ)
Stockholm 1912- Otto Osen, Norway, 3:36:35.2 (34th place, 34 DNF's)
Antwerp 1920- Eric Robertson, Great Britain, 3:55:00 (35th place, 13 DNF's)
Paris 1924- Elmar Reimann, Estonia, 3:40:52 (30th place, 28 DNF's)
Amsterdam 1928- William van der Steen, Netherlands, 3:19:53 (57th place, 12 DNF's)
Los Angeles 1932- Margarito Pomposo, Mexico, 3:10:51 (20th place, 8 DNF's)
Berlin 1936- Jose Farias, Peru, 3:33:24 (42nd place, 14 DNF's)
London 1948- Stan Jones, Great Britain, 3:09:16 (30th place, 11 DNF's)
Helsinki 1952- Artidoro Berti, Italy, 2:58:36.2 (53rd place, 13 DNF's)
Melbourne 1956- Kurao Hiroshima, Japan, 3:04:17 (33rd place, 13 DNF's)
Rome 1960- Alifu Massaquoi, Liberia, 3:43:18 (62nd place, 7 DNF's)
Tokyo 1964- Chanom Siriangsri, Thailand, 2:59:25.6 (58th place, 10 DNF's)
Mexico City 1968- John Stephen Akhwari, Tanzania, 3:25:17 (57th place, 18 DNF's)
Munich 1972- Maurice Charlotin, Haiti, 3:29:21 (62nd place, 12 DNF's)
Montreal 1976- Lucio Guachalla, Bolivia, 2:45:31.8 (60th place, 7 DNF's)
Moscow 1980- Abel Nkhoma, Zimbabwe, 2:53:35 (53rd place, 21 DNF's)
Los Angeles 1984- Dieudonne Lamothe, Haiti, 2:52:18 (78th place, 29 DNF's)
Seoul 1988- Polin Belisle, Belize, 3:14:02 (98th place, 20 DNF's)
Barcelona 1992- Pyambuugiin Tuul, Mongolia, 4:00:44 (87th place, 23 DNF's)
Atlanta 1996- Abdul Baser Wasiqi, Afghanistan, 4:24:17 (111th place, 13 DNF's)
Sydney 2000- Elias Rodriguez, Micronesia, 3:09:14 (81st place, 19 DNF's)
Athens 2004- Marcel Matanin, Slovakia, 2:50:26 (81st place, 20 DNF's)
Beijing 2008- Atsushi Sato, Japan, 2:41:08 (76th place, 19 DNF's)
London 2012- TBD

Los Angeles 1984- Eleonora de Mendonca, Brazil, 2:52:19 (44th place, 6 DNF's)
Seoul 1988- Mariana Ysrael, Guam, 3:42:23 (64th place, 5 DNF's)
Barcelona 1992- Christine Bakombo, DR Congo, 3:29:10 (37th place, 9 DNF's, 1 DQ)
Atlanta 1996- Marie Benito, Guam, 3:27:28* (65th place, 21 DNF's)
Sydney 2000- Sirivanh Ketavong, Laos, 3:34:27 (45th place, 8 DNF's)
Athens 2004- Luvsanlkhundeviin Otgonbayar, Mongolia, 3:48:42 (66th place, 16 DNF's)
Beijing 2008- Oksana Skliarenko, Ukraine, 2:55:39 (69th place, 12 DNF's)
London 2012- Caitriona Jennings, Ireland, 3:22:11 (107th place, 11 DNF's)

*Atlanta had two runners classified as 'unofficial competitors', whose times were not placed in with everyone else. However, one of those times, that of Virginie Gloum of the Central African Republic, was an estimated 3:33:00, behind that of Benito.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Where The Dead Rats Are Fresh And The Condoms Crisp

Sailing is one of the more maligned events of the Olympics. It's boring. It's too long. It looks like a screensaver. It's just for rich people. I'm not in disagreement. Even I can't stand it. But there are instances when it can be interesting.

You just need the completely, totally wrong venue.

In Barcelona 1992, the sailing was set to be held in Barcelona harbor. The problem was that Barcelona harbor had what might be described as a 'shit-ton' of garbage in it. Bruce Kendall of New Zealand, in the runup to the Games, noticed what the Los Angeles Times described as "five rats and two refrigerators" within a day of showing up in town.

The Olympics have a way of making dirty towns clean up nice for the neighbors. And if athletes are coming in to town telling you about refrigerators in the harbor, by God those refrigerators have to come out of the water no matter how apathetic you were about them when it was just the locals using it. And also maybe the rats. And the condoms. Four garbage ships were sent in to get all the trash out of the harbor in time for the Games.

They didn't get enough.

Mike Gebhardt of the United States was in the men's Windsurfer division. He won silver, to go along with a bronze he'd won in Seoul 1988. The way Olympic sailing works is, you run a series of races, each of which gives you points based on your position. The winner gets zero points. At the end of the competition, you drop your single worst result, and whoever has the least points after that wins. By the seventh race (of 11), Gebhardt had already run what would end up being his drop race, an 11th-place finish in race 4.

During the last lap of race 7, with Gebhardt cruising along in fifth, a garbage bag stuck to his boat, forcing him to spend time getting it off. Six sailors took the opportunity to pass him, and he ended up in 11th again, which this time would end up on his score sheet.

The way things ended up, if he'd even so much as come in 10th, it would have been enough for gold. Instead, gold went to Franck David of France.