NBC’s ratings are on track to outdistance numbers from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which many TV industry executives had figured would be a high-water mark. The last Summer Olympics to consistently attract such large crowds were the Montreal Games in 1976 — long before cable TV networks began splintering the audience.
Wow, NBC had 32 million people watching every night!
As the Olympics begin to wrap-up and I take a Yoda-moment to reflect on the dedication and drive required to, not only be an Olympic athlete but to win gold in such prodigious company, my thoughts gravitate to an interview I watched with Michael Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman.
Bowman revealed how during training, he would create unexpected challenges for Michael to navigate, including stepping on the Olympic athlete’s goggles before a swim so that the eyewear would fill with water and Michael would have to accommodate the new circumstances. In 2008, Phelps encountered this exact scenario in the 200-meter butterfly, but because he had prepared for it, he knew exactly how many strokes he needed to touch the wall and was able to swim without disruption to win the gold. If you look up the definition of sang-froid in Wikipedia, it links to this exact event. Okay, not really, but it should.
This ability to practice and execute, no matter what the circumstances, is the key to excellence, the difference between “nailing the landing” — or not.
As a writer, I can cite every distraction in the book, from noise to lighting to the “comfiness” of a chair, to keep me from getting the pages written. But these are just excuses, and weak ones at that. As Yoda says, “Do or do not. There is no try.” What he was really saying to Luke was, “I don’t want to hear your frickin’ excuses!”
There’s a Buddhist saying: If you can practice even when distracted, you are well trained. Champions are made, not in spite of the distractions, but because of them.
There’s no pay from the IOC (International Olympic Committee) when they win a medal. But many countries Olympic committees pay their athletes for winning medals. Among them, The U.S., Russia, Canada, China & Italy and many more countries.
$20K-$50K per gold medal is typical in bigger countries. The smaller countries actually tend to pay more, $50K-$100K, since a single gold is more important to their country. Some athletes receive cars, houses and promise of jobs when they retire.
If Orange County was a nation it would have ranked among the top 10 in gold medals at each of the past two Summer Olympics. At the 2004 Games in Athens, Orange County athletes won as many golds (nine) as Great Britain, or one more than Brazil and Spain combined. Four years later, O.C. athletes brought home 19 medals, as many as Ethiopia, the Czech Republic and Argentina combined.
Athletes with O.C. ties also produced two of the most iconic moments of the 2008 Beijing Games. Irvine’s Jason Lezak kept Michael Phelps’ bid for a record eight gold medals alive in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay with what has been called as the greatest anchor ever. Phelps later edged Serbia’s Milorad Cavic, a Tustin High grad, by a mere hundredth of a second to win the 100-meter butterfly to equal Mark Spitz’s then-Olympic record of seven golds.
In London, Orange County athletes could put up even bigger numbers.
A record 79 O.C. athletes will compete in the 2012 Olympic Games in London, more than double the 31 who participated in the Athens Games just eight years ago. And unlike some other Olympic hotbeds like Kenya’s Rift Valley or Australia’s Gold Coast, Orange County’s Olympic success is not limited to just one sport. In London, O.C. athletes could win gold medals in as many as nine sports.
Here is a new exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art:
Children of the Plumed Serpent: the Legacy of Quetzalcoatl
You may remember the name Quetzalcoatl as the so-called white-bearded God in Atzec lore. Which Hernán Cortés was supposed to represent and then use to his advantage when he conquered the greatest empire of the Americas.
That understanding is in some dispute but what is not are the enemies of the Aztecs. The Nahua, Mixtec, and Zapotec kingdoms were resisting the Aztecs when the Spaniards arrived. They quickly allied with Spain and established a thriving culture, language, and trade that survives to this day.
These cultures have a strong history and a powerful modern presence in Mexico and the United States. This exhibit presents artifacts from their ancient and colonial history. A fascinating look at Native Americans who somewhat escaped the ravages of colonialism.
The exhibition examines the art and material objects of late pre-Columbian and early colonial societies across Mexico to explore Quetzalcoatl’s role as founder and benefactor of the Nahua-, Mixtec-, and Zapotec-dominated kingdoms of southern Mexico. These socially and culturally complex communities successfully resisted both Aztec and Spanish subjugation, flourishing during an era of unprecedented international entrepreneurship and cultural innovation. On view are painted manuscripts (codices), polychrome ceramics, textiles, and exquisite works of gold, turquoise, and shell that reflect the achievements of the Children of the Plumed Serpent.
Not since Prohibition have there been this many craft beer breweries. It’s a small business revolution and I am lucky enough to live next to one, San Diego:
This year’s World Beer Cup lived up to its international name, with winners coming from all corners of the globe — including San Diego County, where breweries took 16 awards.
The annual convention boasted a record turnout (4,500 attendees) and the every-other-year World Beer Cup also witnessed an unprecedented 3,921 entries — 600 more than in 2010.
That may be one reason why San Diego’s breweries saw their total number of medals fall from 2010’s 21.
“We had a good showing,” insisted Marty Mendiola, brewmaster at Rock Bottom La Jolla and the San Diego Brewers Guild’s president. “But the quality of the beer is stepping up around the world.”
Yet local brewers had reasons to rejoice this year. Pizza Port Ocean Beach won three awards; Pizza Port Carlsbad, Lost Abbey, AleSmith and Green Flash all took two apiece; Alpine, Manzanita and Rock Bottom La Jolla one each.
Karl Strauss also captured two awards, including its second consecutive World Beer Cup gold for Red Trolley Ale
In the Gold Rush town of Rescue, Brenda Salveson, a wife and mother of two, read a local news article about the meteorites. The area scattered with them, about three miles wide and 10 miles long, included Henningsen Lotus Park, where she walks her dog every morning. She noted what to look for: a rock that seemed out of place — different from anything around it. It would be dark and delicate.
On Wednesday, near the end of her stroll with Sheldon her dog, Salveson picked up a rock the size of a spool of thread that seemed to match the description.
She walked over to a group with metal detectors.
“I opened my hand and they all let out a collective gasp,” she said.
The geologists, as they turned out to be, wrapped the 17-gram stone in foil and told Salveson to get it into a bank vault.
A few minutes before, a firefighter had stopped to search at the park on his way to work and found a 2-gram meteorite in less than 20 minutes. A dealer paid him $2,000 on the spot.
An interesting story from the New York Times shows how current president of Harvey Mudd College, Maria Klawe, turned her school into a computer science powerhouse for women.
She started her work in 2006, amidst a big downturn in female computer science graduates. “As recently as 1985, 37 percent of graduates in the field were women; by 2005 it was down to 22 percent, and sinking.”
Harvey Mudd was even worse with graduates in the single digits. This year that rate is nearly 40% and here’s how it happened:
In 2005, the year before Dr. Klawe arrived, a group of faculty members embarked on a full makeover of the introductory computer science course, a requirement at Mudd.
Known as CS 5, the course focused on hard-core programming, appealing to a particular kind of student — young men, already seasoned programmers, who dominated the class. This only reinforced the women’s sense that computer science was for geeky know-it-alls.
To reduce the intimidation factor, the course was divided into two sections — “gold,” for those with no prior experience, and “black” for everyone else. Java, a notoriously opaque programming language, was replaced by a more accessible language called Python. And the focus of the course changed to computational approaches to solving problems across science.
“We realized that we needed to show students computer science is not all about programming,” said Ran Libeskind-Hadas, chairman of the department. “It has intellectual depth and connections to other disciplines.”
Dr. Klawe supported the cause wholeheartedly, and provided money from the college for every female freshman to travel to the annual Grace Hopper conference, named after a pioneering programmer. The conference, where freshmen are surrounded by female role models, has inspired many a first-year “Mudder” to explore computer science more seriously.