Saturday, August 27, 2016

"I Can Do All Things"

The verses below reportedly were written on the wall of Mother Teresa's home for children in Calcutta, India, and are widely attributed to her. Some sources say that the words below were written on the wall in Mother Teresa's own room.  In any case, their association with Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity has made them popular worldwide, expressing as they do, the spirit in which they lived their lives. They seem to be based on a composition originally by Kent Keith, but much of the second half has been re-written in a more spiritual way.  Both versions are shown below.
The version found written on the wall in Mother Teresa's home for children in Calcutta:
              People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.
            If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.
            If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  Succeed anyway.
           If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  Be honest and sincere anyway.
            What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  Create anyway.
            If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.
            The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  Do good anyway.
         Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  Give your best anyway.
         In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.


The Original Version:
The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith
  1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
    Love them anyway.
  2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
    Do good anyway.
  3. If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
    Succeed anyway.
  4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
    Do good anyway.
  5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
    Be honest and frank anyway.
  6. The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
    Think big anyway.
  7. People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
    Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
  8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
    Build anyway.
  9. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
    Help people anyway.
  10. Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
    Give the world the best you have anyway.
© 1968, 2001 Kent M. Keith
"The Paradoxical Commandments" were written by Kent M. Keith in 1968 as part of a booklet for student leaders.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

4WD vs. AWD


It Starts With a Differential

When you take a turn in your car, truck, or AWD wagon-cum-SUV, the outside wheels travel farther than the inside wheels, so, they need to spin faster. To allow this speed differential, there’s a device called a differential between the wheels on an axle. Your front wheels also travel further than your rear wheels, so in an AWD or 4WD vehicle, there’s a need for a differential between the front and rear axles as well.

This system is great on the road, where you have good traction. But all this fancy no-crashyness in high-traction road conditions gets in the way once you encounter the kind of low-traction situations you’ll find off-road or in bad weather. You see, the nature of a differential is to direct all an engine’s torque down the path of least resistance—the tire with the least grip.

If you’ve ever tried to drive up a snowy slope, you’ve probably noticed this. When you hit the gas, one wheel will spin freely, while the other does nothing. To find grip in these conditions, you have to lock the wheels together. And how a vehicle does that is what defines its capability.

Why Drive All Four Wheels? 

Let’s stick with the short answer: Traction. Everything else being equal, four wheels have twice the traction of two. Of course, as we began to get into the above, getting power to all four wheels is pretty complicated. 

How All-Wheel Drive Works

Thanks to that differential between your axles, an AWD car will send your engine’s power down the path of least resistance—the wheel with the least grip. Where a two-wheel drive car can only choose between two wheels, an AWD system looks for that least resistance across all four wheels.
To counteract this, the better AWD cars are fitted with a center differential that contains a clutch or viscous drive unit. This splits torque front-to-rear, directing it away from the spinning wheel. Because it does this on-the-fly, automatically, without any driver intervention, good AWD vehicles can help a driver maintain traction through variable conditions. AWD can go from grippy pavement (where the differentials need to allow different speeds side-to-side and front-to-rear) to slippery snow, rain, or dirt (where torque also needs to be apportioned to wheels with grip), virtually instantaneously. That’s why AWD is the better choice for most drivers and why it helps you safely navigate both inclement weather and light off-road driving. A big differentiator in AWD systems is how much torque they’re able to apportion—the more the better. Make sure to look for that number when researching your next car purchase.

How Four-Wheel Drive Works

4WD works by locking the front and rear axles together, splitting torque 50:50 between them. This provides great traction, but a vehicle locked in 4WD cannot safely be operated on dry pavement because its front and rear axles are forced to rotate at the same speeds. In addition to potentially causing the vehicle to spin out of control, that also causes a lot of stress on the powertrain and can damage it. Locked in 4WD, a vehicle needs wheel slip to compensate for the different axle speeds—in 4WD, a truck is able to find traction on loose surfaces, but also needs loose surfaces to work. So you only really ever use 4WD off-road, or in deep snow.

Just to make matters as complicated as possible, some 4WD vehicles can also operate in AWD. Wes’ Land Rover Discovery is a great example. While driving around Hollywood, on paved roads, he won't have the front and rear axels locked together. To repeat our previous topic, that means torque is sent to all four wheels, but not split front to rear. Torque goes to whichever of the four wheels has the least grip. Then, when he’s off-road in Baja, he locks that center differential, enters 4WD, and power is split evenly front-to-rear, doubling his traction. With this arrangement, a full-time 4WD vehicle is able to operate safely on the road with its center differential unlocked, then traverse loose terrain by locking that differential.

While 4WD can split power evenly front-to-rear, it can’t apportion it side-to-side, across an axle. This means that in 4WD, torque is still traveling to the wheel with the least grip on each axle. To fix that, you need a locking differential, which forces both wheels on an axle to rotate at the same speed. This is the last piece of the puzzle to maximizing mechanical traction off-road. With a locked center differential, and locked differentials on both axles, torque is apportioned equally to all four wheels.
“Lockers” can work via mechanical, electronic, or pneumatic means. Advanced off-road vehicles such as the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon or Mercedes G-Wagon, come outfitted with front and rear lockers as stock, which means they’re the only vehicles truly capable of simultaneously driving all four wheels in low-traction conditions. If your vehicle does not have front and rear lockers, they’re the best investment you can make to achieve more off-road capability. ARB’s air lockers are completely invisible to your vehicle’s handling, until you hit the switch, engage them, and get instant grip.

Low Range Multiplies Torque

If you’ve ever tried to drive your car up and over a curb, you’ll have noticed how much gas it took just to creep over that simple obstacle. And your car probably didn’t like it. Wondering how 4x4s crawl up giant, steep rocks? It’s not with more power, it’s with lower gearing. Low-range gearing multiplies an engine’s torque (typically by a factor of two to four). It’s like shifting into the granny gear on your mountain bike—suddenly climbs require much less work. This also has the effect of multiplying the effects of engine braking; low-range gearing allows you to go down very steep terrain without using the brakes.

By enabling you to tackle technical terrain at lower speeds, low-range gearing also makes the obstacles easier on your gearing, enabling your suspension to absorb the bumps, and maximizing safety. Always be in low-range if you’re around anything steep off-road.

Technology Is Replacing Mechanical Capability

Off-road, your vehicle’s capability used to depend on 4WD, locking diffs, and other specialty components. Technology is changing that. These days, people want the vehicles to be able to crawl the Rubicon Trail and lap the Nurburgring. Traction control is making that possible.

Who needs an expensive, seldom-used locking differential when you can just trick your ABS system into doing the same job? By selectively actuating the brake on a spinning wheel, this technology mimics the effect of a locker, directing torque to the wheel with traction. These days, traction control has become so effective that it’s able to catch a spinning wheel within 1/100th of a rotation. It automatically provides the benefits of a locker, without you needing to know when to use one. The only downside comes from the fact that you’re robbing torque from the engine to get traction—fine, if you have more than enough torque, but bad if you don’t have the gearing to find it.

You can actually use your left foot to mimic this. The next time your AWD Subaru is stuck, with one wheel spinning uncontrollably, try left foot braking while modulating the gas pedal with your right. That should send power towards the wheel that has grip, allowing you to drive right on out.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Dawes - "When the Tequila Runs Out"

Along with Dawes' album announcement comes the official video for “When The Tequila Runs Out,” the California folk-rockers' fuzzed-out, boozed-up lead single. The Kevin Hayes-directed visual captures a wild party in slow-motion, as if the camera itself tossed back one too many. The track itself sounds a little slicker than your average Dawes song, with heavy emphasis on its fun-loving hook: “When the tequila runs out, we’ll be drinking champagne.” Works for us.

We’re All Gonna Die was recorded in Los Angeles and produced by Grammy-nominee Blake Mills, who was actually a member of an earlier iteration of the band alongside Goldsmith. The ten-track album includes contributions from Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe of Lucius, Mandy Moore (who appears in the “When The Tequila Runs Out” video) and Will Oldham.

“The record sounds so fresh—yet fills me with a strange nostalgia for things that haven’t happened yet,” James said in a press release. “I hear it at the beach and blasting out of car windows on future summer nights … easily having become a natural part of people’s lives.”

Monday, August 15, 2016

Spotlight: Woodstock Music & Art Fair (August 15-18, 1969)

Billed as "An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music", it was held at Max Yasgur's 600-acre (240 ha; 0.94 sq mi) dairy farm in the Catskills near the hamlet of White Lake in the town of Bethel. Bethel, in Sullivan County, is 43 miles (69 km) southwest of the town of Woodstock, New York, in adjoining Ulster County.

During the sometimes rainy weekend, 32 acts performed outdoors before an audience of 400,000 people. It is widely regarded as a pivotal moment in popular music history, as well as the definitive nexus for the larger counterculture generation.

The event was captured in the Academy Award winning 1970 documentary movie Woodstock, an accompanying soundtrack album, and Joni Mitchell's song "Woodstock", which commemorated the event and became a major hit for both Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Matthews Southern Comfort.

Very few reporters from outside the immediate area were on the scene. During the first few days of the festival, national media coverage emphasized the problems. Front page headlines in the Daily News read "Traffic Uptight at Hippiefest" and "Hippies Mired in a Sea of Mud". Coverage became more positive by the end of the festival, in part because the parents of concertgoers called the media and told them, based on their children's phone calls, that their reporting was misleading.

Max Yasgur refused to rent out his farm for a 1970 revival of the festival, saying, "As far as I know, I'm going back to running a dairy farm." Yasgur died in 1973. Bethel voters tossed out their supervisor in an election held in November 1969 because of his role in bringing the festival to the town. New York State and the town of Bethel passed mass gathering laws designed to prevent any more festivals from occurring.

In 1984, at the original festival site, land owners Louis Nicky and June Gelish put up a monument marker with plaques called "Peace and Music" by a local sculptor from nearby Bloomingburg, Wayne C. Saward (1957–2009).

Attempts were made to prevent people from visiting the site, its owners spread chicken manure, and during one anniversary, tractors and state police cars formed roadblocks. Twenty thousand people gathered at the site in 1989 during an impromptu 20th anniversary celebration. In 1997 a community group put up a welcoming sign for visitors. Unlike Bethel, the town of Woodstock made several efforts to cash in on its notoriety. Bethel's stance changed in recent years, and the town now embraces the festival. Efforts have begun to forge a link between Bethel and Woodstock.

Approximately 80 lawsuits were filed against Woodstock Ventures, primarily by farmers in the area. The movie financed settlements and paid off the $1.4 million of debt Woodstock Ventures had incurred from the festival.

The ashes of the late Richie Havens were scattered across the site on August 18, 2013.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

2016 Summer Olympics: The Recap


In all, Team USA earned 121 medals over two weeks, finishing off on Sunday with yet another gold in men's basketball, an Olympic sport the U.S. practically owns. The performance was so dominant that the U.S. has more gold medals, 46, than all but three other countries managed to win total. Team USA’s 121 medals are the most ever for a U.S. team in a non-boycotted Games, topping the previous high of 110 from Beijing in 2008.

Michael Phelps has proven himself to be the greatest swimmer of all time — and perhaps the greatest athlete of all time. He’s broken so many records, including his own, in Rio that gold medal performances are expected.

With last night’s win he also became the first swimmer to earn four consecutive gold medals in a single event. He also became one of only three American athletes to win an individual event four times, along with track and field Olympians Al Oerter and Carl Lewis.

As if that wasn’t enough, Phelps also beat an ancient Olympic record, surpassing Leonidas of Rhodes’ 12 individual Olympic titles with a 13th individual gold medal. Leonidas won his title over four Olympics (Rio is Phelps’ fifth), earning his last three titles in the 152 BCE Olympics– a 200m race, a 400m race, and a shield-carrying race.

At 31 years old, Phelps says Rio will be his last Olympic performance, fair enough considering he’s already the first American man to make five Olympic swim teams. Last night he told reporters he was proud to have finished out his Olympic career this way, saying, “The biggest thing for me through the meet so far is I’ve been able to finish how I wanted to.” But who knows, Phelps might be back; after all, Leonidas won his 12th individual Olympic title at age 36.

Despite the familiarity with Phelps’ record-breaking performances, these Olympics have been anything but boring. Thursday night, in what may very well have been his last race against teammate and rival (or at least as close to a rival as the GOAT can have), Phelps beat Ryan Lochte soundly in the 200m individual medley. Once again Phelps penned his name in the history books, earning his 22nd career gold medal and fourth gold medal in Rio. Phelps time of 1:54.66 was the fastest in the world this year and only 0.66 seconds off Lochte's 5-year-old world record.

A photo posted by Ryanlochte (@ryanlochte) on

But lost in that perfect outcome is the work it took to get there. It wasn't always this way. When Phelps first returned to training in 2014, he lost sets to female teammates in training. He finished ninth in the 200 freestyle at a May 2014 Grand Prix meet in Charlotte, North Carolina. And just this past June in an Olympic trials tuneup meet in Austin, Texas, he finished fourth in the 200 free and second in the 100 butterfly.

"I feel like a kid again, and that's the difference," Phelps said. "I feel like I did when I was 18. That was the only way to get back and race at this level consistently."

Added Bob Bowman: "It isn't because of the talent; it's the work. The work is what did it -- particularly this time around."

Katie Ledecky earned her fifth medal in Rio when she defended her Olympic title in the 800m freestyle. Ledecky made a statement with each lap, pulling first half-a-body-length then a full body and finally, by the last lap, several lengths ahead. She wasn’t racing the field but the clock, spending most of the race more than a second-and-a-half under her own world record pace, set earlier this year. With two laps to go, she was nearly two seconds under that pace and in the final 50m, crushed it with a final time of 8:04.79–still nearly two seconds ahead of her own world record. The win gave Ledecky her fourth gold of these Olympics to go along with one silver.

Athletes with ties to Maryland have earned 11 gold medals in total, which means that in gold medal count, the state would be the third-ranked country behind the U.S. and China. So far, all of the Maryland’s medaling has come from the swimming: Katie Ledecky, Michael Phelps, Allison Schmitt, Cierra Runge, Jack Conger and Chase Kalisz are each Maryland-area athletes, and they’ve all won medals.

Ashton Eaton joins the USA’s Bob Mathias (1948 and 1952) and Great Britain’s Daley Thompson (1980 and 1984) as the only two-time decathlon winners in Olympic history.

“The decathlon is exclusive company,” Eaton said. “I’m just happy to be part of the family, the decathlon family. To be with the other two-time gold medalists is great, but it’s great to just be a decathlete.”

Add two golds to his growing collection of hardware, which includes two World Championships and three heptathlon titles in the Indoor Championships, the latest coming in his home state of Oregon in March. In doing so, Eaton has staked a strong claim for being the greatest decathlete of all time — and in turn, for being viewed among the greatest athletes to ever participate in the Olympic Games.

To his coach, Harry Marra, there’s no question. Eaton is the greatest, he said. And in a way, this gold was the most meaningful. It will be the final Olympic Games for Marra, who tutored not only Eaton but his wife, Canada’s Brianne Theisen-Eaton, who took bronze in the women’s heptathlon.

“It’s historic. I wish the rest of the world understood that. Repeating in the decathlon? Repeating in the decathlon? When so many things can go wrong? That’s impressive.”

The 4x400m relay featured another close battle between Jamaica and the United States before the baton fell into the hands of the most decorated female in American track and field history. Allyson Felix anchored the women’s 4x400-meter relay to a gold medal in 3:19.06, which brings her career count to six Olympic gold medals and nine total. She ties Jamaica’s Merlene Ottey for the most Olympic medals all-time by a female track and field athlete. Jamaica took silver in 3:20.34. Great Britain crossed the finish line five seconds later for bronze.

The men’s race was close until the final leg when 400-meter bronze medalist LaShawn Merritt pulled away from the field to put the United States back atop the podium in the 4x400-meter relay. The Americans lost to the Bahamas in 2012 and settled for silver. Botswana was the main challenger for the first three legs of the race before anchor Goane Leaname Maotoanong tied up and was passed by Jamaica and the Bahamas for silver and bronze.

Matthew Centrowitz used his closing speed to hold onto the lead before becoming the first American gold medalist in the metric mile (1,500 meters) since Mel Sheppard’s win at the 1908 Olympics in London.

Since winning the NCAA title in 2011 and a world championship bronze medal at the world championships later that summer, Centrowitz has emerged as one of the best American middle distance runners ever. At just 26, he also became the first American to win gold at any distance longer than 800 meters since Dave Wottle’s gold medal at the 1972 Olympics. Centrowitz is also the third-fastest American at the distance.

But Phelps’ performance wasn’t the only record-breaking swim of the night. American swimmer Simone Manuel broke the Olympic record in the women’s 100m freestyle race and became the first African-American woman to win an individual event in Olympic swimming.

She told reporters that the win was bigger than herself: "It's for a whole bunch of people that came before me and have been an inspiration to me,” she said. “It's for all the people after me, who believe they can't do it. And I just want to be inspiration to others that you can do it."

Additionally, Simone Biles and the American women’s gymnastics team continued to assert their dominance. Biles took gold in the individual all-around competition and teammate Aly Raisman took silver. Biles became the fourth straight American female to win gold in the individual-all around, winning by 2.1 points, a larger margin of victory than in the past nine Olympics combined.

Last night Biles also became the first woman in twenty years– and the first American woman ever– to hold the World Championship and Olympic all-around titles simultaneously. (The last was Lilia Podkopayeva of Ukraine).

Aly Raisman entered the final rotation of the women's individual gymnastics all-around in third place Thursday, but a marvelous floor exercise flipped the 22-year-old gymnast to a silver medal. With a look of confidence and determination, Raisman entered her final tumbling pass and landed with precision. She wouldn't bow to pressure or gravity on this day.

With that final routine, Raisman secured a medal and found both success and redemption. In 2012 at the London Olympics, Raisman finished third in the women's all-around, but lost out on the bronze based on tie-breaker scoring. But 2016 was Raisman's year and she earned her spot on the podium.

20-year-old Kyle Snyder becomes the youngest wrestling gold medalist in U.S. Olympic history

Carmleo Anthony became the first men’s Olympic basketball player to ever win three gold medals, and broke Team USA's record for career Olympic points (276). He also holds the American record for points in a game with 37 against Nigeria in 2012.


Brazil's captain and star player Neymar scored the winning penalty, booting the ball into right corner as the German goalkeeper dove the wrong way. He broke into tears as his teammates swarmed him in a rapturous Maracana Stadium in Rio.

The gold medal he won for Brazil fills the empty space in the country's trophy case. Brazil has won five world cups, most recently in 2002, when they defeated Germany in the final thanks to two goals from striker Ronaldo, a legend in his own right.

Brazil had won the silver medal three times and the bronze twice. Four years ago, it lost to Mexico in the final in London. Germany was playing in the Olympics for the first time since 1988, when it won bronze competing as West Germany. It had never won the gold, either.

The bronze medal went to Nigeria earlier Saturday, as Sadiq Umar scored a pair of goals in a 3-2 victory over Honduras in Belo Horizonte. It was Nigeria's third overall Olympic medal in soccer. The West African nation won gold at the 1996 Olympics with a 3-2 victory over Argentina, and won the silver in 2008, falling to Argentina 1-0 in the final. Honduras, which challenged with a pair of late goals, heads home from Brazil empty-handed but the team's appearance in the medal round was its best-ever finish at the Olympics.


Usain Bolt produced a moment of human ultimacy in Rio on Sunday night, pulling himself up to his full thrilling height in the final few strides of the 100m to claim an unprecedented third Olympic gold medal in his final Games. This was in many ways Peak Bolt, the last Olympic appearance in the ultimate event for the human race’s ultimate speed freak.

As the 100m men emerged for the final act of the night, the air seemed to disappear out of this grand concrete bowl. The American Justin Gatlin, billed without nuance or sympathy as a kind of anti-Bolt, a convenient super-villain for the wider audience, drew some graceless boos from the crowd.

There remains a basic spasm of accommodation in absorbing and processing such exceptionalism in a sport where history assures us even touching greatness – one or two fine exceptions aside – is to emerge somewhere down the line as tainted, boosted, chemical-fed. Of the 30 fastest 100m times ever, nine – including the top three – are by Bolt. The other 21 were run by athletes who have tested positive at some point for doping. In terms of clean speed the order goes: Bolt fresh air, more fresh air, the rest of the human race. What are we supposed to make of this surplus brilliance?

Something else stood out in Bolt’s moment of crowning glory in Rio.

This was an old man’s race. Bolt turns 30 in a week. Gatlin, who took the silver is 34, the oldest man ever to get Olympic 100m gold or silver. Bolt and Gatlin together are the oldest top two in Olympic 100m podium history, and by some way on the overall spread. The bronze medalist Andre De Grasse of Canada is 13 years younger than Gatlin, but he finished a 10th of a second off the front. Beyond this there have been 55 sub-9.81 second runs in 100m history, but only Bolt and Gatlin have done it in the last four years.


Simone Manuel tied with Penny Oleksiak of Canada who won her fourth medal of the Games, the most medals won by a Canadian at a single Summer Olympics. At just 16 years old, Oleksiak also became the youngest Canadian gold medalist in Olympic history (Winter or Summer Olympics).


Mo Farah became the first man to defend his Olympic titles in the 5,000 and 10,000 since Finland’s Lasse Viren accomplished the feat at the 1972 and 1976 Summer Games.



Joseph Schooling of Singapore met Michael Phelps in the summer of 2008, before Phelps' historic eight gold medals in that Olympics. In 2016, Schooling beat Phelps for gold in the 100m butterfly, and Phelps took silver in a three-way tie with Laszlo Cseh of Hungary and South Africa's Chad le Clos.

With the victory, Schooling won Singapore’s first Olympic gold and became just the third person to beat Phelps in an individual Olympic race. “It’s all kind of a blank really,” Schooling said after beating his idol, whom he met in 2008. “I need time for all of this to sink in. Just being beside [Phelps], walking alongside him and celebrating — I’ll cherish that for the rest of my life.”

Schooling said of his win: "I'm just ecstatic. I don't think it has set in yet. It's just crazy. I hope that Michael can stay around long enough for me to race him again. I'd love that."

Phelps on #Schooling: "What he is able to achieve is up to him. It's as big as he wants to dream."



Fiji's men's rugby 7s team has made history by defeating Great Britain and claiming the country's first-ever medal — a gold. The men from the former British colony dominated their opponents, towering over them with a 43-7 victory at the final whistle. Fiji's first ever medal happened to be in a sport that hasn't been in the Olympics for 92 years.

Fiji have been competing at the Olympics since the Melbourne games of 1956 but have not claimed gold until now. It's the first year rugby, popular in Fiji, has been included in Olympic competition since 1924. The moral to the story? If at first you don't succeed, keep trying and maybe 60 years later you'll absolutely wipe the floor with your competition.

'E Da Sa Qaqa' is a gospel song, translated as 'We Are Winners Because Of This World.'

The team often sings it, along with other hymns like 'Oqo Noqu Masu' (This Is My Prayer) during training camps and games.


The tiny, nutmeg-producing island nation in the Lesser Antilles — population 106,825, or about the same size as Green Bay, Wis. — took home all of one medal: Kirani James’s silver in the men’s 400-meter dash. But that was good enough to take home the per-capital medal title for the second straight Summer Olympics (James won gold in the 400 in London four years ago, as well). The Grenadians edged out the Bahamas, which won two medals, one for every 194,009 people.

More information:
» NBC Olympics Video: "The World Records of the 2016 Rio Olympics"
» NBC Olympics Video: Team USA Basketball routs Serbia for third straight gold medal
» Twitter: "Photos capture athletes staring at their table tennis balls"
» CNN: "Record number of LGBT athletes at Rio 2016"

Friday, August 12, 2016

Perseid Meteor Shower/Outburst

"The Perseids show up every year in August when Earth ventures through trails of debris left behind by the ancient Comet Swift-Tuttle as it makes its 133-year orbit around the sun. This year, Earth may be in for a closer encounter than usual with the comet trails that result in meteor shower, setting the stage for a spectacular display. An outburst is a meteor shower with more meteors than usual. The last Perseid outburst occurred in 2009."
Some forecasts are predicting that during its peak, meteor rates could be double the traditional rate expected for this shower that occurs each year around this time. This means there could be as many as 200 shooting stars per hour.

According to NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke, forecasts are showing that Jupiter's gravity has pulled some extra debris from the comet into Earth's path this year, meaning that the planet will pass through a thicker stream than usual.

"This year, the models show that Jupiter’s gravity has tugged streams of particles ejected from Comet Swift-Tuttle back in 1862, 1479, and 1079 closer to Earth’s path, which will lead to us seeing more Perseids than usual, perhaps double the normal rates," Cooke said.

If early morning on Friday won't work, however, you should still be able to see some Perseids shooting through the skies all week, it's just that the best rates should happen on August 12.

“Forecasters are predicting a Perseid outburst this year with double normal rates on the night of Aug. 11-12,” NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke said in a statement. “Under perfect conditions, rates could soar to 200 meteors per hour.”

It should be noted that "perfect conditions" are difficult to achieve for most people in the United States or in populous areas around the world.

The highest rates of meteors will only be visible to people in deep darkness, far from artificial light.

Stellar Scintillation
Stars twinkle because… they’re so far away from Earth that, even through large telescopes, they appear only as pinpoints. And it’s easy for Earth’s atmosphere to disturb the pinpoint light of a star. As a star’s light pierces our atmosphere, each single stream of starlight is refracted – caused to change direction, slightly – by the various temperature and density layers in Earth’s atmosphere. You might think of it as the light traveling a zig-zag path to our eyes, instead of the straight path the light would travel if Earth didn’t have an atmosphere.

Planets don’t twinkle because they are closer, and thus appear larger in our sky, as tiny disks instead of pinpoints.

The Autokinetic Effect
The autokinetic effect (also referred to as autokinesis) is a phenomenon of visual perception in which a stationary, small point of light in an otherwise dark or featureless environment appears to move. It was first recorded by a Russian officer keeping watch who observed illusory movement of a star near the horizon. It presumably occurs because motion perception is always relative to some reference point. In darkness or in a featureless environment there is no reference point, so the movement of the single point is undefined.

The direction of the movements does not appear to be correlated with the involuntary eye movements, but may be determined by errors between eye position and that specified by efference copy of the movement signals sent to the extraocular muscles. Several researchers, including Richard Gregory, have shown that autokinesis occurs when no eye movements are recorded. Gregory has suggested that with lack of peripheral information correcting movements that prevent eye movements due to muscle fatigue are wrongly interpreted as movement of the light.

Alexander von Humboldt observed the phenomenon in 1799 while looking at stars with the naked eye, but thought it was a real movement of the stars. Thus he named them "Sternschwanken" i.e. "Swinging Stars". It was not until 1857 that G. Schweitzer (Schweitzer, 1857), an early German psychologist, discovered that it was a subjective phenomenon. The US Navy started studying this in 1945 in order to explain vertigo experiences related by pilots. Today this "kinetic illusion" is categorized as a vestibular-induced illusion, see vestibular system.

Many sightings of UFOs have also been attributed to the autokinetic effect's action on looking at stars or planets.

More information:
» Space: "Meteor Showers and Shooting Stars: Formation, Facts and Discovery"

Sunday, August 7, 2016

2016 Summer Olympics: The Opening Ceremony

Hollywood Reporter:
President Barack Obama spoke to NBC ahead of the opening of the Rio Games., saying the Games build a sense of "common humanity" as countries pursue the ideal of sending their best to compete "in a spirit of goodwill."

Before the show, in a video broadcast, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the games "celebrate the best of humanity" and appealed for an Olympic truce, calling on "all warring parties to lay down their weapons" during the two weeks of sporting achievement.

The President of the International Olympic Committee said the Rio Games will promote peace. Thomas Bach said all Brazilians "can be very proud tonight," then went on to talk about the importance of these Olympics.

Bach said, "We are living in a world of crises, mistrust and uncertainty. Here is our Olympic answer: The 10,000 best athletes in the world, competing with each other, at the same time living peacefully together in one Olympic Village, sharing their meals and their emotions."

Bach added that in this Olympic world, "we are all equal" — words that were met with applause.

Greece, the historical and spiritual home of the games, led the march by athletes from 205 nations and territories into the stadium.

Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, led Team USA, the largest with 549 competitors. After 18 gold medals and 22 medals overall in his storied Olympic career, Phelps as the flagbearer led the contingent of red, white and blue-clad American athletes. History's greatest Olympian will be looking to add to his record haul of 22 medals, in three individual swims plus relays.

More than 500 Americans are on the Olympic team, though as was the case with Phelps in past years, not all of them marched in the opening. Phelps' competition schedule kept him from attending the first four openings of his Olympic career, and many athletes from around the world — if they're competing on Saturday — tend to pass on the ceremony.

Tennis star Andy Murray — who has Olympic gold, two Wimbledon titles, a U.S. Open crown and is currently the No. 2 player in the world — was the flagbearer for Britain. He will play both singles and doubles in Rio, the latter alongside his brother Jamie.

Iran picked a woman, archer Zahra Nemati, as flag-bearer for its team made up overwhelmingly of men. Nemati, who is competing at the Olympics and Paralympics, where she's a defending gold medalist, had a big smile and a wave for the crowd as she carried Iran's flag into the opening ceremony in her wheelchair.

Russia is paying the price in the shape of a smaller team, whittled down from a 389 athletes to around 270. Yet the International Olympic Committee decided not to ban the entire Russian Olympic team despite a detailed report last month by the The World Anti-Doping Agency that found evidence of systematic, state-sponsored doping in Russia dating back to 2010. The report last month found there were recurring cases of "disappearing positive samples" at the Moscow lab where athletes and para-athletes were tested. That investigation produced 35 names of Russian para-athletes who had disappearing samples, the IPC said.

Now, Russia's entire Paralympic team is banned from next month's Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro as part of the same doping scandal that also cost Russia a large part of its Olympic team. The Olympic Games, which opened Friday, run through Aug. 21 in Rio, while the the Paralympics will be held in the city from Sept. 7 through 18.

With fireworks forming the word "Rio" in the sky, hip-wiggling dancers and supermodel Gisele Bundchen shimmering to the tune of the "Girl from Ipanema," the 78,000-seat Maracana Stadium welcomed the world to the first Olympic Games in South America with a serious message: Let's take better care of our planet.

The ceremony, which was a showcase for Brazil's history, culture, diversity and hopes, was something the opening ceremony creative director would be "a drug for depression in Brazil." Fernando Meirelles, the Oscar-nominated and renowned Brazilian director of 2002's City of God, took to Twitter earlier on Friday to say the GOP presidential nominee "will hate the ceremony." Meirelles said their budget was slashed by half as Brazil's economic recession bit ever harder.

The show wasn't all frivolous and fun. Images showed swirling clouds of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, in the Earth's atmosphere and images of world cities and regions — Amsterdam, Florida, Shanghai, Dubai — being swamped by rising seas. The peace symbol, tweaked into the shape of a tree, was projected on the floor of the stadium where Germany won the World Cup in 2014.

"The heat is melting the icecap," a voice intoned. "It's disappearing very quickly."

The athletes were being given tree seeds, plus cartridge of soil. When they sprout, they will be planted in a Rio park. There's 207 species of trees being planted, one for each delegation at the games. Years from now, organizers of the Rio Games hope there's 11,000 new trees in Brazil — one for each athlete at the Games.


"Perhaps it was fitting that Brazil chose to raise awareness about climate change when the world was tuned into the opening moments of the Olympics. The country is home to about one-third of the world’s rainforests, and more than half the Amazon rainforest lies within its borders, according to Climate Central. Significant chunks of that land has been lost to deforestation, and drier, hotter weather is expected to stress the rainforests only more in coming years."

Daily Beast:
0: The number of times the Brazil men’s soccer team has won Olympic gold. Led by Neymar and guided by new coach Rogerio Micale, the team hopes to change that—and redeem themselves after a truly substandard Copa America performance in June.

1: The number of Olympic Games hosted in South America (including this one). Rio de Janeiro won the bid in 2009 beating out Tokyo, Chicago, and Madrid.

3: As of April, Rio had three times the number of identified Zika cases of any other city in Brazil. Due to the high infection rate, over two months ago scientists made the recommendation that the Olympics should be postponed or relocated due to the threat of Zika.

3 teaspoons: The volume of water open-water athletes would need to ingest to be “almost certain” of contracting a virus. Bob Costas advised athletes competing in the open water swimming competitions: “Try to keep your mouth closed.” Seems like solid advice.

10: The number of athletes competing for the Refugee Olympic Team. They will compete under the Olympic flag. The team includes two swimmers from Syria, two judokas from the DRC, a marathon runner from Ethiopia, and five runners from South Sudan.

112: The number of years since there has been an Olympic golf tournament. The IOC decided to reinstate it after its extended hiatus, and commissioned American architect Gil Hanse to design the course. Golf was only in the official Olympic program in 1900 and 1904. 41 countries will compete in the Rio 2016 Olympic golf tournament.

480: The number of Olympic-size swimming pools that would be required to hold the sewage that flows into Rio’s waters every day (that’s approximately 1.2 billion litres of raw wastewater daily).

450,000: The number of condoms the IOC will provide for the 10,000-plus athletes staying in the Olympic village. According to the Folha de São Paulo newspaper, the IOC will provide 350,000 male condoms, 100,000 female condoms, and 175,000 packets of lube. That’s approximately 42 condoms per athlete.

More information:
» The Atlantic: "The Olympics Haven't Always Been an Economic Disaster"

Thursday, August 4, 2016

"Inside David Chang's Secret Momofuku Test Kitchen"

David Chang wants me to put on a hairnet. He hands one to me as he pushes open a dented, unmarked door in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that hides the entrance to the baking operation of Momofuku Milk Bar–the dessert capital of his culinary kingdom. Inside, Chang’s addictive Crack Pie batter churns in industrial mixers and an endless stream of raw Compost Cookies slide by on conveyer belts. Even for the casual foodie, this is Willy Wonka territory–but I’m about to glimpse something even more elusive.

We walk by shelves of Ritz Crackers, Crisco and cornflakes to another scuffed door. “You’re only the fifth civilian to ever see this,” Chang says as he leads me to his windowless Momofuku culinary lab, where his team of food scientists and chefs are trying to invent new tastes for his growing restaurant empire. “I don’t know any other way to get my guys to embrace failure,” he says. ”I just want them to go for the big fuckup.”

There have been a lot of those in the five years Chang has run the lab. Hundreds of turkeys have been sacrificed in his noble attempt to create the perfect turducken. Experiments with modern gear to make ancient rice paper, rice noodles and rice balls were all disasters. Then there was the pressure cooker explosion that almost destroyed the place. “The top cracked in half–lima beans were going at 1,000 miles per hour . It looked like a grenade went off,” Chang says, as he shakes his head and laughs. “It was scary. I feel like something really bad could have happened.”

Of course, the secret lab has had breakthroughs, too–and they usually involve fungus. “We had an idea to just naturally ferment everything–making soy sauce, misos, pickled everything and hot sauces. We discovered, through a lot of trial and error, ways to make stuff no one had made before.” Those new creations typically center on Hozon–his take on Japanese miso paste but made from American ingredients like chickpeas, sunflower seeds and lentils instead of the traditional soy. He hands me a Hozon jar and a spoon–it’s sweet and salty, with an umami kick that hits you in the back of the cheeks. Next, we sample the rye “soy sauce” (aged in old charred bourbon barrels and squeezed through a hand-cranked cider press) with layers of char and spice. After that comes the sweet and thick Hot Sauce No. 22 (the previous 21 versions having failed to meet Chang’s exacting specifications): “We finally have one that tastes good on pizza.”

The endgame is to take these concoctions mainstream: “Go to Whole Foods–there’s a whole aisle with 100 olive oils. With Asian food becoming more accessible, we can do that with these sauces. Make it here in America–make the best version of it and hopefully create that trend.”

But for now these lab experiments have found their way to dishes at Chang’s New York Noodle Bar and Ssäm Bar (ramen, sardines and baby beets) and non-Chang restaurants such as Wylie Dufresne’s Alder (uni jalapeño poppers) and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Perry Street (soft-shell crabs). “I just figured we’d do it sort of like drug dealers,” the 37-year-old culinary mogul says, “just send it to our network of chef friends and see how they incorporate it.” As this open-source approach works itself out, he continues to force his sous-scientists to keep playing with their food: “It’s imperative that we learn the scientific process and document what happens. I want people to own their mistakes and to just go for it–really great flavor comes from the failure.”

If only we could all fail like David Chang. In the decade since he opened Momofuku Noodle Bar, he’s turned a meager, 600-square-foot East Village noodle joint into a food cartel that now includes Canada and stretches all the way to Australia. Along the way he’s yanked the white tablecloth out from under the fine-dining scene, proving haute cuisine can come in the form of country ham, pork butt and kimchi–all served in raw-plywood-lined spaces with a large helping of Guns N’ Roses. “Momofuku had an attitude that said, Park your expectations and preconceptions of fine dining at the door and let me feed you really good food,” says Danny Meyer, founder of Union Square Hospitality Group. “He’s liberated hundreds of young entrepreneurial chefs to open places they can afford to open.” Adds Ken Friedman of Spotted Pig fame: “It was like going to a bar, but he was serving the best food in town.”

For his efforts, Chang has become the Meryl Streep of the James Beard Awards–he has won five in the past eight years, including Outstanding Chef in 2013. Lucky Peach , the literary food magazine he launched in 2011, wins Beard Awards, too. And Chang has long ago crossed over into pop culture: He starred in the PBS food series The Mind of a Chef , played himself convincingly on HBO’s Treme and appears in commercials for the Audi A3 (he gave back the car since he rarely drives).

Not that any of this success was intentional–or expected: “If you look at ten years of Momofuku, almost everything has come out of a mistake–a terrible fucking mistake,” Chang says as we lean over bowls of lychees covered with flakes of foie gras in the 12-seat Ko, which has two stars from Michelin and three from the New York Times . The Noodle Bar got popular only after Chang failed at making noodles and started adding other dishes to the menu. His Ssäm Bar didn’t take off until imminent bankruptcy forced him to keep the kitchen open late and serve bold food to off-duty chefs. Lucky Peach was born as an iPad app–but transferred to print after the developers shipped a flawed product. Even Ko–Momofuku’s crown jewel, which occupies the original Noodle Bar location–was the product of bad luck. Chang couldn’t get enough hot water to keep up with Noodle Bar traffic, so he transformed the space into a tiny, high-end place to make up for the lower volume. “You know when you catch up with old friends and say, Did you hear what that guy is doing now?’ I’m that guy.”

David Chang grew up in northern Virginia, where his dad ran restaurants and later a golf shop. Young Dave himself was a promising golfer until the sport’s notorious head game drove him away as a teenager. He attended Georgetown Prep, where he played right tackle on the football team before enrolling in Trinity College, majoring in religion. “I was a mess in high school–I got into Trinity because I was Asian.” After three summers interning at PaineWebber (“I set up trust funds for rich Connecticut kids”), Chang spent a year teaching English in Japan. He returned to the United States and took another finance job. He was miserable. “One night I got drunk at an office party and told everyone I hated them.”

A fascination with food, which started when his dad took him to noodle restaurants as a kid, led Chang to the French Culinary Institute in 2000. He worked at Mercer Kitchen and Tom Colicchio’s Craft before landing a job doing cold prep at chef Daniel Boulud’s Café Boulud–one of New York’s hottest kitchens and a mandatory stop for an ambitious young cook. But when his mother got cancer amid other family turmoil, Chang couldn’t keep up in the kitchen. “I felt like a free-agent bust,” he says now. And when his hero, Alex Lee, a Chinese-American chef who had run the kitchen at Boulud’s Daniel, quit the business at age 35, Chang was ready to throw in his chef’s apron. “I knew I’d never be as good as he was. And I had to find something else to do,” he says. “You want to know why I’m a neurotic weirdo? Golf really broke me–constantly looking at the leaderboard and thinking, I’m not going to beat them, so what’s the point?’” So when he believed he couldn’t make it in haute cuisine, Chang quit Boulud to open a Japanese noodle bar. “I thought, I can’t have an influence in fine dining, but maybe I can help pockets in the underground of the culinary world’–I remember telling my shrink that for sure.”

But Chang had a bigger problem when he launched Noodle Bar, in 2004. “He couldn’t boil noodles,” says Peter Meehan, a former New York Times food critic (his review would eventually kick-start Chang’s career) and an editor of Momofuku’s Lucky Peach . Adds Chang: “We were a terrible restaurant.” There were no waiters, bussers or dishwashers–or glasses. “We thought we could get everyone to buy bottles of Poland Spring.” Noodle Bar was a total failure–and, as it would turn out, the best thing that could have happened to him. “I really believe that if I just had a little bit more experience and a little bit more wisdom, Momofuku would never have happened,” he says. “I viewed it as a death sentence. Like when people learn they have a year left to live–they finally start living.”

In Chang’s case, he finally started cooking. He ditched the typical ramen and gyoza and served punk-rock takes on pork buns, tripe and headcheese. “I’m a super-angry guy and think some of my best work and best creativity came in those darkest moments when I was as rageful as I’d ever been.” The rage inspired shrimp and grits with porky ramen broth and asparagus and eggs with miso butter. “His flavor combinations made Noodle Bar the most exciting place to eat in the city,” says Meehan. Soon Noodle Bar was the darling of restaurant critics, food bloggers and, of course, diners. “I joke that he made a deal with the devil,” says Milk Bar founder–and inventor of the Crack Pie and Compost Cookie–Christina Tosi. “Dave risked everything he had, because he knew if he didn’t he wouldn’t have anything.” Before long, Chang was doing millions in sales in that 600-square-foot space.

Riding the momentum (and a million-dollar loan with his father’s golf shop as collateral), Chang set out to launch his next restaurant. He opened Ssäm Bar down the street in an East Village building that had been vacant for 13 years (the ground floor had been a dirty Chinese restaurant, the basement prep kitchen a bordello). His plan was to make Korean burritos. But as with the early days of Noodle Bar, it was a flop. The seed money vanished fast, and Chang once again found himself in a corner. To juice revenue he kept Ssäm open late, abandoning burritos and (after 10 p.m.) cooking whatever he felt like: veal head, grilled sweetbreads, corn dogs. Soon every kitchen crew in town was stopping in for a post-shift meal. The food bloggers followed and then the celebrities. “We had no idea what we were doing, again. But the hit ratio for successful dishes was extraordinarily high. It became infectious. Then we got reviewed by [ New York Times critic] Frank Bruni, and things got crazy. We got two stars. People were pissed. It was cheap, and it was in a shitty location–in a wooden box. There were lots of people who would kill to have two stars who had spent a lot of money and time–I was 29.”

Ssäm Bar brought Chang a James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef, endless press and offers to open a mega-Momofuku in Las Vegas (he once had a contract with the now-failed Echelon casino–and doubts he’ll ever open a restaurant on the Strip). And there have also been offers to buy the Momofuku brand. “If I sold out, I would be retired. I’m a pretty unhappy guy already,” he admits, “and I’d be really unhappy because of the guilt. I’m looking forward to the day where everybody on the team can benefit financially and have the creative freedom to do what they want.” He continues, “I’ve told people, if I wasn’t doing Momofuku, I’d be making food in cafeterias–I really would.”

I witness Dave Chang cook only once during my week with him. We are at Booker and Dax–Momofuku’s chemistry set turned cocktail bar (liquid nitrogen, centrifuges, rotary evaporators and a seltzer machine that could carbonate the East River). It’s cooking in its most primal form–adding heat to meat. In this case, Chang is blasting a salmon filet to demonstrate the Searzall, a Momofuku-made blowtorch invented by David Arnold, the mad food scientist who runs the Momofuku Chinatown equipment lab Chang declares too dangerous to visit. Chang hasn’t really cooked in years (at home he uses Seamless more than his stove–his current favorite take-out spot is Motorino Pizza). Then again, he hasn’t had time to. In 2012, Chang opened four spots in a single modern glass cube in Toronto that he dubbed Momofuku World. “It felt like a restaurant opening every week. I was waterboarding myself. I could feel the years coming off my life.” And then came the opportunity to open a 47-seat restaurant in Sydney, Australia. Chang spent about a year and a half Down Under to open that restaurant because his partners helped fund his “dream kitchen” (including two custom Molteni ranges, which he calls “the Lamborghini of stoves”).

A decade ago, Chang had one employee. Today, he has 500. “Cooking and running a kitchen is not easy, but managing is so hard. It’s just such a struggle for me,” he says. “I would love for other people to do it. But for right now, there’s no one in the company that has the credibility to talk to the chefs and talk to the office and tie it all in.”

And then there’s the pressure of the kitchen. “I never understood how stress could fuck up everything. In 2007, I had shingles on the face–lost vision, had paralysis on the left side of my jaw. Doctors would literally make me go on vacation. It’s not a coincidence that when things get super-stressful my back hurts.” There was also the anxiety of keeping critics happy and maintaining those precious stars, the financial strain of employing hundreds of people–and the stress of unexpected fame. “Even though I was successful I still had the insecurities and problems I had all along. I started cooking with the intentional choice to be on the periphery. Somehow the opposite happened. It was flattering but hard to understand.”

These days, he seems to be more at peace with his good fortune. In August, Chang appeared on The Tonight Show looking relaxed, confident–even happy–as he faced off against Jimmy Fallon on a hot-wing-eating challenge (Chang splashed his with Tiger chili oil dispensed from an eyedropper). And after a terrible 18 months of personal and professional setbacks (he called off a wedding, his parents were both diagnosed with cancer, a Momofuku chef died), Chang believes he’s as motivated and focused as ever. “I haven’t been this engaged in a long time,” he says. “I think I was scared of making the wrong decision, and now I realize that was stupid. I haven’t felt this way in a while–where if I fuck everything up, I don’t care.”

Among the projects slated for this year, Chang is moving Ko to a slightly bigger location on the Bowery and is planning a Lucky Peach television show (think Vice TV with food). There is even a book series in the works. And if one medical marijuana company in Colorado has its way, Chang will move from Crack Pie to pot brownies–he’s been approached to create a delicious delivery system, but at this point he plans to pass.

For now, he’s most excited about opening a new restaurant and Milk Bar in Washington, D.C. It’s as much another big Momofuku experiment as it is a homecoming–a step toward taking Momofuku national. “It is our attempt to make the best sort of casual dining restaurant. We went really deep into trying to make a quick service restaurant, which we still might do. The future of food is not going to happen in a traditional restaurant. It will happen in delivery, schools, hospitals and offices. That’s where I want Momofuku to focus.”

And the man with the secret food lab believes that experimentation is the key to it all. He cites El Bulli’s legendary chef Ferran Adrià, who famously closed his restaurant for six months every year so he could turn kitchen catastrophes into gastronomic gold. “I believe that all the good ideas are where the bad ideas are, at least in the culinary world,” he says. “Real innovation’s going to hit you across the head with something as simple as a TV dinner.”