The Olympics end tomorrow. Whenever possible over the last week, I’ve spent lunchtime watching the live internet feed of the track and field finals. With that done on any given day, I didn’t have much reason to tune to the NBC primetime production. I had no stomach for their endless teases and dragging out of events.
One unintended consequence of my viewing pattern has been that I’ve hardly seen any Olympic events other than track lately. What I know about them comes mostly from reading. Fortunately, some of the gaps in my viewing have been filled by excellent videos at the websites of The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal. If you have gaps too, I highly recommend their work.
The full list of Guardian videos can be found here. I was particularly pleased to see their coverage of the weightlifting final for the highest weight class. And, having missed so much of the rowing during week one, I was able to catch up on the men’s coxless four final, a thrilling matchup of Great Britain and Australia (above). Another highlight in their series is the men’s track 100 meter race:
The WSJ has their own compelling series of Homemade Highlights, including the women’s beach volleyball final:
One can never watch the transcendent Usain Bolt too often. Here is the WSJ’s coverage of his 200 meter victory.
Finally, moving outside the arenas, I can’t resist including the video from opening day that made Londoner Rachel Onasanwo an unexpected Olympics star.
I realized today that Mitt Romney isn’t running for president. He’s preparing for a Yankee tryout as Derek Jeter’s replacement at shortstop. Jeter isn’t so good at moving to his right anymore; Romney is. With his selection of Paul Ryan as running mate, he has fielded a ball all the way over in foul territory.
The adoration of Ryan over the last year as a man of seriousness, depth, and courage illustrates the bankruptcy of the mainstream press. But Ryan matches them with his own bankruptcy. I’ll save myself the trouble of explaining, since Esquire’s Charles Pierce does such a fine job. Read his piece in full. Here are excerpts:
In his decision to make Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny-starver from Wisconsin, his running mate, Romney finally surrendered the tattered remnants of his soul not only to the extreme base of his party, but also to extremist economic policies, and to an extremist view of the country he seeks to lead.
Paul Ryan is an authentically dangerous zealot. He does not want to reform entitlements. He wants to eliminate them. He wants to eliminate them because he doesn’t believe they are a legitimate function of government. He is a smiling, aw-shucks murderer of opportunity, a creator of dystopias in which he never will have to live. This now is an argument not over what kind of political commonwealth we will have, but rather whether or not we will have one at all, because Paul Ryan does not believe in the most primary institution of that commonwealth: our government. The first three words of the Preamble to the Constitution make a lie out of every speech he’s ever given. He looks at the country and sees its government as something alien that is holding down the individual entrepreneurial genius of 200 million people, and not as their creation, and the vehicle through which that genius can be channelled for the general welfare.
… get him out of his comfort zone of being thought an intellectual by the likes of Louie Gohmert, and of being thought of as a bold thinker by half the buffet-grazers in the Beltway media, and he really is quite the political coward. (In this way, he is a perfect match for the man who picked him.) He does not have the raw balls to explain to the country that, no, he does not believe in government — not the federal government, anyway, and not as it was originally conceived, as the fundamental expression of a political commonwealth. He’s grandfathered his plan to chloroform Medicare so that, despite the deficit that he considers such an urgent problem, nobody alive today who might vote against him will be affected by it. For the same reason, he will not specify the cuts that he will make or the tax “loopholes” —coughMortgageInterestDeductioncough — that he will close. In any way that will come to matter to the people whose lives his policies will make harder and more miserable, Paul Ryan is still the high-school kid living off Social Security survivor benefits and reading Ayn Rand by flashlight under the sheets. Instead, he’s a guy pretending to be something he’s not, and doing so back in Janesville in a very swell Georgian mansion, which just happens to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Which, among other things, means that Paul Ryan, who lies awake at night worrying that The Deficit will come and eat our grandchildren, lives in a house overseen by the National Park Service, which means that he qualifies for a 20-percent investment tax credit for the house he lives in. Of course, his “budget” would largely decimate the NPS, but that would be only those parts of it enjoyed by other people. Yes, Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny starver, has done very well by the federal government that he seeks to dismantle. Come to think of it, so has Willard Romney, although we may never know exactly how well he’s done by it. It turns out this is a match made in heaven, after all.
[AP Photo/James Finley]
The NYT crossword three days ago puzzled me. A typical Wednesday crossword has a theme built around several clues with long answers, ones that run at least half and perhaps the full width of the frame. This one, in contrast, had six starred clues, all with solutions that were five letters long. Even after I had filled in words for five of the six starred clues, I didn’t see what they had in common.
What’s a word ladder? I managed to get through a good part of my life without knowing. Then, on a trip to Colorado with Gail and Joel fifteen Augusts ago, I invented them (as no doubt many thousands of others have). We were staying for a few days in Estes Park, on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park, before going down to Denver to see the Mariners play the Rockies at Coors Field. That was the first year of interleague play, and the Rockies and Mariners were the biggest hitting teams, if not the most successful, in the National and American Leagues. This series was getting a lot of attention, and we were thrilled to be there. But first, Rocky Mountain National Park and word ladders.
One morning, we headed to one of the park visitor centers near Estes Park. The Moraine Park Visitor Center I would guess, as I look over a map. There was a gigantic parking lot, beyond which was a small lake surrounded by a paved path. You could grab a little brochure and take a self-guided nature tour around the lake, stopping at each numbered sign to learn about the flora, fauna, and geology of the area. Which we did, along with many hundreds. As we returned to our starting point, Gail headed toward the parking lot. In surprise and dismay, I suggested that we hadn’t come all the way here just to walk on pavement with the masses. We needed to get a ways into the woods. Joel would have been 10 years old then. I don’t recall how he voted, but off we went, with packed lunches, up a bit of a hill, then onto a relatively flat trail through the woods. A couple of miles in, we reached a pond, sat on some pondside logs, and had lunch.
The word ladder came into play because we needed a way to keep Joel occupied, and so I threw out a four-letter word, challenging him to come up with a new one by changing a single letter. Then Gail did the same, then me, and so on. At some point, we decided that the loser would be the one who couldn’t come up with a new word when his or her turn came.
This game would prove to be a great discovery. Over the next year, it was our game of choice when we needed to pass time. Some years later, I learned that what we were doing was constructing word ladders, the point usually being not to produce ladders for as long as possible but to get from a known start to a known end, perhaps with a ladder of minimal length. Now I see, in the wikipedia entry, that Lewis Carroll is credited with inventing them.
When we played our game, we didn’t allow proper names, but one might wish to make proper names the starting and end points of a ladder. For example, let’s choose the two baseball greats Willie Mays and Babe Ruth. How can we get from Mays to Ruth in minimal length? Here’s one way: mays-rays-rats-ruts-ruth. See? It’s easy. And fun.
Back to Wednesday’s crossword. (Read no further if you wish to try it yourself.)
The six starred clues were:
Brother of Moses
Von Richthofen, e.g.
Element in the cleanser 20 Mule Team
Bklyn., Queens and others
Sonny and Chaz
I got these, but I was puzzled. Enlightenment came in three stages:
1. I realized that they formed a word ladder.
2. I realized that the two ends were intended to be Hank Aaron and Bobby Bonds.
3. Two days later, by chance, I read that the fifth anniversary of Bonds’ breaking Aaron’s career home run record had just taken place.
Now I understood the puzzle’s point. Five years ago, on August 7, Bonds hit his 756th career home run. A little obscure, no? Not that one needs to know that to solve the puzzle. One doesn’t even need to know who Aaron and Bonds are. But really, did anyone solving this puzzle recognize that it fell on the anniversary of the record?